Here is a selection of poems from my books and anthologies that are on sale. Go to ‘Brief biography & Books’ section for details. Also some recent poems that have appeared in (e)magazines.
There’s anger in Cross Houses, exhaustion in Pant;
great poetry in Homer, laughter in Fitz.
They’re minty in Minton, very hopeful in Hope;
but nervous in Twitchen and house-proud in Broome.
They’re ghastly in Astley; there’s an inlet in Kinlet;
it’s murder in Morda with tip-offs in Hints.
They’re hopping in Hopton and speeding in Rushton;
they’re gambling in Betton and sinking in Moston.
Very squat in Quatt, they’re bitter in Bitterley;
dry-eyed in Dryton but embarrassed in Willey.
Never satisfied in More, they grow phlox in Plox;
wrecked around the Wrekin, it’s always night in Nox!
Published in The Cannon’s Mouth, The Poetry of Shropshire, 2013, the 2014 Wenlock Poetry Festival anthology, and Close to Home, Headland Press, 2015
Rare now by roads, forgotten walls,
purple drupes with slate blue sheen
or, trodden in, a yellow mush.
Its tangled cage of twigs a shock,
the fierce black energy of coils.
Small white flecks of blossom became
my grandfather’s powerful wine.
Picking from inside the crown
thread your hand through sharp, dull spikes.
The ripened fruit is bittersweet,
a potent draw for those midlife,
the best to come, the season short.
Published in The Reader, The Cherry Trees of Wyre, revised edition, 2014, and The Poetry of Worcestershire, 2019
Sakura, an overlooked Japanese poet, was a contemporary of Matsuo Basho. Only his prose “Cherry in Autumn or Advice to Young Poets” has survived. This is my version of Harry Henderson’s translation (1881).
When young don’t forget
you’re a sapling among trees,
Older poets do
not wish to be outshone so
be gentle with them
and don’t try to beat
all your peers to the mountain.
There’s a way to go.
You should enjoy all
the temptations of the world,
red silk on your skin,
then put them all in
perspective, build a house where
you can live and work.
makes a different kind of pot
but it’s still all clay.
There are fashions so
be true to your inner voice,
sing your own true song.
comes like an unwanted guest
When he’s gone you can
test your work again for faults
but don’t ask those you
think are near for they’ll
tell you whatever they think
you would like to hear.
[Part of the text is missing here]
Listen to strangers;
read all the books you can find
and read them deeply,
for only in that way
do you find out what you don’t
want or need to write.
I’m old now, my need’s
just a bowl for food and drink,
a satchel for care.
I’ve travelled far and
soon must take my final leave
so I’ll give you this:
lie in your search for the truth,
but don’t sit too long
under this cherry,
make your journey to wisdom.
Never forget to
honour the old gods;
note migrations of wild geese;
always travel light.
Published in Acumen and Close to Home, 2015
A Yorkshire Garden
The limestone bird bath stands coolly detached,
invites the sparrows to evening ablutions;
a nearby blackbird sings.
The roses cast carnelian light across the damp
stone slabs. Soft pink folds of geraniums
pillow the yard.
Lavender in neat lines enchants the passers-by
with whispers of Provence, the sleepy south,
and quiet pleasures.
Honeysuckle draws in moths, dipping down
the gathering gloom while bats flit through
the heavily-scented air.
Then a chamber orchestra of owls begins;
disturbing serenades, chilling fugues,
no easy cottage sleep.
Published on the Nine Muses Poetry website
So as the traffic slowed, some novelist,
on Desert Island Discs, with his last call
named Bizet’s ‘Pearl’ duet first on his list:
I knew it was your favourite song of all.
"Au fond du temple saint",* boys see a wife,
a vision of a young goddess, a girl,
but they become professed good friends for life,
in ‘losing’ her, these lads have found a pearl.
Then, unaccountably, a tear rolled down
my cheek (I’m still eyes-strained for lights to turn)
so pondered on the power of love to drown
and without which our puerile hearts can’t learn.
I miss you now far more than you’d believe
and smile about you but, in missing, grieve.
* ‘at the back of the holy temple’
Published on the Crevice website, Romania
On the common, over towards the Lime Kiln at Porth-y-Waen, green
woodpeckers can be heard making a lot of noise, in the spring. Some call it
‘yaffling’ or ‘laughing’, take your pick, but it makes its presence felt among the
ant hills of worked-out meadows. The lime-green flash of a woodpecker
heading off into the distance is about all one usually sees.
These lumps and bumps across the slope remind us that folk used to live
here; smallholders who also worked in the quarries, grew a few vegetables,
kept a pig perhaps or a couple of poultry.
Mary Webb, the Shropshire novelist and poet, wrote of such people.
Do their spirits wander here, now, happy that all the hard graft’s over,
smiling to themselves, giggling, laughing?
across the common
a flash of livid green’s all
that’s left of farms
Published in Ripening Cherries, Offa’s Press, 2019
Into the depths of a moss green afternoon
the grass cutter moves across the field,
the engine chugging, racking its way along.
The man in charge walks steadily ahead
but scans and reads the ground for any bumps,
or nesting birds, among the thick-set grass.
Sweat trickles from his greased black, thinning hair
across his reddening shoulders, cotton vest;
his hands are oily but alert, and firm.
The scent of new-mown hay is everywhere;
it falls among the clover, rattle, vetch,
moon daisies, pays a tribute to the earth.
Behind, a young man moves his pitch fork
in a circular rhythm, scooping, dragging,
laying the hay in regular swaths to dry.
It’s taken all day to mow this acre field
with breakdowns, rests, repairs, and that too brief
all-aching break for lunch beneath the birch.
By tea the field is cut, wasps’ nests avoided,
the calculations made on numbers of bales,
the yield, the likelihood of present rain.
The Poetry of Worcestershire, Offa’s Press, 2019
They were just there in my childhood,
a much-mocked but familiar chime
a background voice in early Summer;
comical but cheerful rhyme.
It was a song more than a bird.
Not with us long, its hawk-like flight
was seen in Wyre quick through the trees,
to seek out foster nests by sleight.
And then for many years in towns
and cities, far from my green woods,
something I never thought about,
in the dull exchange of work for goods.
But now they seem so precious, rare;
I seek them out in cuckoo land,
attuned to them, all eyes and ears,
my bright binoculars to hand.
There are so many questions. Yet
if we don’t give them room by choice,
just carry on this dull exchange,
we’ll find ourselves without a voice.
Published in Orbis and videoed for the ‘In the Sticks’ project, 2020. Go to ‘Projects’ for the link.
For Basir Sultan Kazmi
Beyond the piety of holy mosques
I wanted nothing more than see the Harem.
Magnolias shed pale light on blood red roses,
marble fountains cool around the Harem.
Across the Bosphorus the boats ply wares
between two continents, ignore the Harem.
At Topkapi drank coffee in the shade,
alas, too frail for the glitz of the Harem.
My boating days are past, I’m sure, enjoy
the chirping sparrows playing by the Harem.
To be published in Poetry Salzburg Review, 2021