Some of my Poems
These poems are from the “On The Same Page” submission to Wildfire Words, January 2023
Named for the tree
Ever squeamish I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone,
beyond the relief we have to feel. The end of pain.
Her long life, lived full. But this day, this ritual is my first.
No body. No fuss. An empty box. We remember,
without her, the way she folded, blended, welcomed,
warmed all visitors, from kin to friends to passing strays.
Alert, bright-eyed bird, maker of Welsh cakes, her kettle
always just off boil, her teapot cosied, ready. Hazel,
named for the tree, laden with the silent wisdom
of a thousand casual confidences, wearing her prescience
lightly, easy as dust, as flour. No flowers to coat this truth:
she has flown. What’s left will now be shared, studied,
dissected, giving to science, as she gave in life.
We’ll dwell instead on fragments – on linen pressed
ready for those guests expected, and as yet unknown,
on fresh bread doorsteps sliced, on endless baking,
on days spliced with old observance, throwing salt,
curtseys to a lone magpie, A wooden spoon,
a hazel wand, her span of kitchen kindnesses,
Three or four bottles into the evening,
post-theatre supper with old friends,
the kind you don’t meet up with often
but, when you do, it’s like you saw them
yesterday: and you’ve done politics,
the kids, the state of the planet, had
some hilarity, some banter after all those…
those extremes of on-stage emotion, your friend
starts weeping, wild, raw sobbing in the ladies,
all restraint gone. A diagnosis.
And it’s unjust, premature, final, cruel.
Nothing will ever be the same between
you all, and everything, the catch phrases,
the not using our names any more,
the same old anecdotes – it all makes sense.
Even the last time, when he drove round
the roundabout the wrong way,
and no one said a word.
Checking up on Dad
You needed to see it for yourselves – the last time
wasn’t so bad, after all. You’d taken him out
to eat. He’d had some, spilled his half of shandy,
seemed pleased at news of next year’s wedding.
When you drove him back, he’d not asked you in.
You could live with that. You put it down
to tiredness, left. If not content, satisfied.
Duty done. Now there’ve been calls, texts. The door barred
to the lady who pops in to check and clean.
He’s not left out washing; been absent, missed.
So you go. Just three weeks, not the normal four.
He seems thinner. Uncombed, unshaved, unwashed.
The flat’s neglected: the fridge bare. An air
of quiet decay, despair. You find a shirt,
sweater, coat, go with him to buy food. The pub lunch
offer gets rejected. Instead he lets you
make poached eggs. Toys with them, is tearful,
trembles. When you try to shift the topic
from scolding him or fretting, he slips back
half a century. Those early rose-lit days
of marriage. On the trip home, unsaids choke
the car. At last, you turn in, stop. Your man looks away,
clears his throat.
He can’t remember Mum. He’s mixed her up
with the wife before, the one who died
at twenty four. Twelve months, they had. That’s all.
It’s just not fair. That’s what hurts the most.
These poems are from the Remembrance submission to Wildfire Words, Autumn 2022
A photo for grandpa
He’d snapped them all – his choice of verb, not mine –
Queen Mum, Princesses Margaret…and Anne, stars
of chart and catwalk, the rich, the famous
and the bad. Now here he was, winding down,
in a modest studio close to us.
The natural choice for our task.
A happy families snap for Grandpa.
The op had gone well: we were told he’d make
a full recovery, yet Grandpa was beset
by gloom, could not face the world, had turned
his chair to the wall.
We were asked to stay away, give him space, so,
having summoned, drilled, scrubbed our wayward brood,
we posed – awkwardly, the first and only time –
for this. An image with a large remit,
to tell him that he’s loved, that life is good,
that his son’s made it, that grandkids scrambled
on the cusp of adulthood.
Things were glossed over, touched up, edited out:
the scene was staged. Not all was rosy
but did it work? Grandpa’s chair did turn back round.
No visitors signs were packed away. He caged
his demons, rallied, even as reality
unravelled, soundless, at the edges of our frame.
Elvis an encounter
Darkness over ripe Welsh meadows,
las vegas, fretted
by strings of fairy lights, solar, blue,
along May hedges, elder-greening, blossom-bursting,
by cigarette glow,
by crackling and hissing of logs from the firepit –
where folks huddle warmed by blankets, chat, whisky.
Well met by moonlight, proud incarnation,
thrusting the King’s torch, rocking ‘n rolling,
owning that suit, spritelike guest
at this night’s nuptials, starblest,
incandescent, lighting up
the loin-lost gaze of his admirers,
who have seen a vision, divine
and otherworldly, (in fact from Malta),
shimmying gifts – lyric, liquidity
of hip, of lip, filling full his luminous leathers.
Now, far from home, awaiting his team,
he shivers in built-up shoes –
I AM NOT COLD; I HAVE PERFORMED.
Elvis takes his leave, cash, applause,
his black truck back,
not loving us tender yet still weaving
some chill, silvery spell,
as tail-lights reveal
sequins shed on bluebell, cow parsley and nettle
at the field gate,
our lane pitted with stardust.
He’s a man now; doesn’t kick or pass,
dribble or play a ball any more,
toe to foot to knee to head, his love
of the game faded away.
Thought it would last always, thought the years
of sunlight and wellness would last too,
restless infant gone, substituted
by a gilded child – football, success –
team, school, friends then girls. Thinking of him
then, bloodied knees, a ball, I recall
those opening bars, Nessun Dorma,
that old ice music working its spell,
pulling the crowds, despite gondoliers,
usherettes’ trays, triteness of old TV ads,
overplaying, overworking, over-hyped,
in that time before Diana went, Luciano too,
when Pav was fab and football was king,
when the blue-eyed boy was beautiful,
his demons checked, ice music, football anthem,
music of hope, limitless possibility.
These poems are from the Open Submission 2, Wildfire Words, Summer 2022
Last Samaritan in Paris
Rene Robert, a Swiss photographer famous for his images of Spanish flamenco stars, died in January 2022, in Paris, after a fall.
Not stripped, robbed, beaten this time. Not left
at the side of the road that runs
from Jerusalem to Jericho.
Left for dead. Not this time.
urban abandonment, half a world,
two millennia away. Nine hours
on a cold January night, between
the Place de la Republique and les Halles,
a route he knew well, his bedtime stroll,
A dizzy spell,
a trip, a slip, a fall and a man is down,
alien, anonymous. These priests and Levites
tonight are again too busy, too wary to bend
to check. Look the other way, cross over,
pass by, lost in our own concerns.
It takes another invisible one
to call at last for aid, (maybe another
of those six hundred who’ll die
on France’s streets this year).
Help comes too late.
If we’d had time,
had known his fame, weighed up the passion
of his art, would he have seemed at last
like one of us?
No ass or inn this time.
Just absence, indifference.
We meet by chance
in the health food shop,
gannets gathering around the last
of today’s bread delivery.
The talk, of course,
is all about the weather,
this heat we still find alien,
and the unexpected benison
of a summer shower.
‘Come into the garden, Mark,’
she says she said. Apparently,
there have been forty-eight hours
of no kissing.
Intimacy too sticky
to bear. So, the woman in front of me,
with her pain de campagne,
the unbleached white, rye
and wholemeal sourdough,
and five shiny croissants for the morning,
tells us, the queue,
how they revelled
in some luxury
of slow uxorious smooching
in the warm, Welsh rain.
Just now, there were two thunderclaps,
that prescient pause, and then rain.
At first it seemed to be a passing shower,
but we thought wrong. The clouds
unburdened themselves. You drank
your coffee, laughing as I ran to rescue
newly pegged out washing.
These last few weeks, I have become used
to trusting the weather, to trusting the sun
to persist, to trusting that there will be
the smell of line-dried linen come the evening
What folly! I fumble with unclipping, mocked
by fat, hot, earthbound tears.
Twenty minutes and it’s over, but the air
is thick, the sky still laden, my skin sticky.
Outside the kitchen, the decking dries fast. Pets
are on shutdown, eking out energy
in furry torpor. I am a creature
of temperate climes, loving the lusciousness
of a Mediterranean summer, yet
barely able to function when it comes here.
I will need to adapt.
This poem is from Welsh Counntry magazine, Nov 2022
Illustration by Cerys Susannah Rees.
On the First Day
On the first day of Christmas my new love gave to me
a lift to the station, on oat milk skinny latte,
a text with smiley faces, and, as I seemed like
the kind of bird who wouldn’t mind, one bird – to mind –
for the night.
On the second day of Christmas my new love gave to me
two texted silly jokes, avian-themed, two strange close-up photos,
rather intimate, the items already itemised, and,
if she wasn’t causing any hassle, could his partridge
just hang out for a while
in my tree?
On the third day of Christmas my new love gave to me
three calls to arrange the evening,
three lukewarm Pinot Grigios, and so, as I was feeling
somewhat mellow, I said – the cat’s just ignoring her.
It’s ok, she can stay a bit longer, while you get yourself sorted,
a little longer
in my pear tree.
On the fourth day of Christmas my new love surprised me
with four tickets to the footie
with two of his mates, who bought me four cuppas
because I was freezing, and I just gave that smug bird
a frosty glare as I shivered past it on the doorstep.
P.S. Too cross to list
the other things.
On the fifth day of Christmas my not-quite-so-new love
turned up with a £5 box of chocolate truffles,
(I know as he’d left the ticket on). He’d spotted
my snuffles from the footie, and, to keep me company,
he said he’d leave Polly,
for the week.
On the sixth day of Christmas, what was my treat?
I remember it well. An all-you-can-eat-for-£16 Indian buffet,
(far too much to be honest), and six mints,
and an After Eight, and all of the items
I’ve told you before, but I couldn’t taste anything,
and that bird, that cheery bird, chirruping away,
she kept me awake
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
seven minutes of passion – I could be wrong about timings –
at the end of Jools Holland, at least I think
that’s what it was, unless he’d lost the remote, or my Kleenex.
He passed out. The partridge was wide-eyed though,
staring at me.
Was too confused for lists.
On the eighth day of Christmas he brought me nothing,
except eight hours of insomnia. He seemed distinctly distant.
So what did I have to show for the other seven days,
just a cold that wouldn’t budge, and my role
as unpaid bird minder?
On the ninth day of Christmas my love brought me
nine carnations and an I’m sorry card and a £9 set
of undies from the M&S sale. I know – I was with him
when he paid, and yes they do very nearly fit. We agreed –
not a tweet about birds, or pear trees,
for the day.
On the tenth day of Christmas it was strange, all change,
ten words I didn’t know I’d hear – We don’t want
to rush things, let’s take it slowly. Somehow the bird
picked up the vibe, stayed quiet
On the eleventh day of Christmas, what happened? Right.
Eleven hours of worrying as I was late;
eleven minutes of coming to my senses as he was late;
eleven seconds of shouting, but it was too late. And that partridge,
well she was still here, but
she kept well out of it.
On the twelfth day of Christmas – twelve minutes of grieving
as I packed up his stuff. You’d be amazed
how much a man can spread around in twelve days.
He took one load, said he’d be back for the rest,
but that was twelve hours ago,
and the partridge hasn’t gone…