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Nearly Normal Dream        



There was nothing to my dream, except

there were two of everything.


Two double basses; two soups.

When I had to leave you both again

and opened the doors

two brutal worlds rejected my double efforts.


I woke up drenched by twice the sadness.

Where my other heart was ached.



From Well, Against the Grain



Looking is a Full Time Job




for a moment,

a dried-up leaf

looked like the detached

desiccated talon of a starling

and the new office block

reminded of the future

with its scaffolding exoskeleton

and syncopating lights

which glinted widely because

the air spangles with particulates

and whatever it is

the city gives off

through hospital chimneys,

tunnels gawping

and open mouths between each

black suck.


It is easier to not.

Looking is an unpaid, full time job

though the other boss is Regret,

the only review timetabled

for that treacle-y time

when your heart starts to properly stop,

where the evaluation is

you didn't notice

your son begin to give up, or how

cow parsley returned every year

and grew so white

from infected muck in a crack                           

as if making an obvious point.



From Well, Against the Grain 






 Plastic Jesus

A plastic Jesus is showing me
his cartoon heart.
He is crying dryly and smiling,
opening the flesh like curtains.
There are no ribs in there,
just his plump, playing-card heart
made of plastic.
It doesn't matter to me
that it is Jesus.
It could just as well be
the woman in the park
who can't stop running. Who runs
in a coat and cheap work shoes;
she could be opening her plastic shin
to display an injection-moulded vignette
of what it was that happened
that makes her run all the time.
Or it could be a simplified stray stood up
bearing his insides with two paws,
looking in with us at
some mess from bins
and a yellowing organ.

If it was me I would be
uncovering my throat.
It hasn't even been niggling
but just seems
more there,
giving the impression that
in the dark moistness where words come from
something to do with
the rest of my life
might be about to begin to begin.


                                   The Poetry Shed 


On the Dispersal of Water



It's 1:30 am.

He takes me away from the others unpacking,

opens the front door to the first night

in our first home and squirts WD-40

over both hinges, explains

WD is water dispersal,

NASA concocted this stuff

to keep fields of rockets

from turning orange, then burnt umber.


He heard this on his pocket radio

cycling along blustery, city avenues

that curve between the reservoirs,

buffeted by daydreams of microwaves

and languorous AM waves,

walloped by the slipstreams of juggernauts

that don't recognise bike lanes

on B roads where streetlights refuse to work.


He holds up my key and lubricates it

with a quick squirt of the clear oil,

slips it still wet in the lock

to revitalise inner gubbins:

he knows all the proper names.

When I turn my back to go inside

this kind man takes the squeak from the gate.


                                                          The Hitting Game, Seren




Towards Morning


I'm searching for sleep, for its AM frequency.

I start at the top and wind down

thumbing the focus into

purple throbs, over a serious clicking -

it's that satellite in a deteriorating orbit.

I carry on through the numbers, find

an analogue sitcom in Urdu

recorded under a duvet

then a dalek giving his hurling commentary

from inside a baked bean can, then

there's a channel dealing in clean-cut chat,

talk in a forever rising tone that suggests

an answer just around the corner, or, if not,

then definitely round the next.

A fifties heat ray wipes everything out

except machinery

by some fluke transmitting its own chug,


and I'm one foot in the Land of Nod

until the fast, crunchy beat of a speeding heart

bleeds ever outwards, so I press on

get the end of a theme tune

always humming at the centre of me, then arrive

at the proper AM doldrums:

an outdoor conference in the rain in Paris,

Alpha 60 broadcasting to The Lands Without,

a brass band on its own in a barn,     

world-shattering formulae hastily chalked up,

glass rims singing, congress erupting a corridor away,

a Theremin concert audience in corduroy

being seated without word or cough,

real Morse code, trains, rain tutting on a tent,

a stylus shushing when the last

of the spiral becomes a circle in vinyl.


                  Commended, Bridport Poetry Prize








Its snowing, and settling

and he is remembering what he wore

and the names of cab drivers and travellers,


when he tells you how he slid

down the world's pocked cheek

into a trampled paradise.


But the heat pushed into him

and when the boss-sun backed off

the heat would rise out of everything but him,


so even in midnight winds

on a rented speedboat's integral diving board 

he was hot, his every atom altered for good.


Here is the lucky photo someone took

of him walking on water

a moment before he was under his element


where the splurge of electric light

caused once-in-a-lifetime anemones

to part, absent-mindedly, with clouds of milt.