Polkerris harbour

Polkerris harbour

The children clatter to that sudden end
flapping red spades and plastic shoes.
Their bare legs glare and ring on iron stone,
scattering the snatching gulls into the air.
We wait between the water and the land,
unsure how long to stay, or when to turn
our backs against the pulling of the waves.
We stand, like silent girls that stood before,
who bent and scraped and fretted each grey dawn,
for knuckled men who pulled at nets and oars.
You walk back first and do not see me take
a picture, poorly framed and full of sun,
the children’s sandy feet, a corner of your shirt,
your slow retreat from what we might have done.

First published in Saravasti 024 Sept/Oct 2012, Indigo Dreams Publishing

Walking away

SW Coast Path 2014-2017 Poole to Par

We walk the wrong way
against received wisdom
reading the guide backwards
with the wind in our faces
and the sea on our left.

We pace ourselves
with short bursts over years.
The dog laces our steps
as we press into contours –
sandstone, granite, slate.

We repeat ourselves
doing maths with the miles
looping back and forth
with the cars, the worsening news,
the early deaths of friends.

Walking awayWe tread in step
together on the flat
falling apart on higher ground
never quite expecting to be
where we find we are.

Soon we will turn the corner.
With the sun behind us
we will face the other way
and begin to  walk away
from ourselves.

First published in Exclamat!on Volume 1, Number 1 June 2017, Exeter University

Going back to Hull

The land changes at the turn;
spreading itself wide
as though it has surrendered.
The brown Humber
levels with the shore.
Now there is only one way
in or out.

Here there is little to distract
the eye, allowing time
to see what matters.
To look into the spaces
between the walls
to watch the clouds
to notice faces.

The buses trolley along,
the pubs are full
and those that aren’t
still mark the corners.
Municipal brass is shone.
Homeless men are left to doze.
The gulls cry.

And on this summer’s day
as plump children play
in sparkling fountains newly- built
I feel a softening
unexpected yet familiar
as though a hand was resting
lightly on my shoulder.

I am back nearer the beginning
when the days lasted longer,
walking unencumbered
in this city of sky
smiling even before I see you
look up expectantly
as I open the door.

Going back to Hull

Written September 2017 when re-visiting Hull, City of Culture


SevilleI am turning into somebody else —
somebody who makes marmalade.

Somebody who rolls a cool thick seville
against her cheek
breathing in the smell of Spain
in the dusk of Devon.

Somebody who cuts thin peel
skimming golden froth
from amber
in a January kitchen.

When did this happen?
Watching the teaspoon for the set,
boiling the jars,
writing tidy labels.

I should be wearing
a white dress
gazing up through blossom
at a Spanish blue sky

biting into olive flesh,
and running my fingers
along red walls
warm with secrets

instead of lining up
nine jars of sun.

First published in Exclamat!on Volume 1, Number 1 June 2017, Exeter University, also in The Guardian February 2020 and Moor Poets Volume IV

Louise sings soul on Sundays

Louise sings soul on Sundays,
her notes seep under the door.
The lane is pooled with a false dawn
the robin is tricked into song.

The dogs pull dead things from gutters.
Snails creep up cracks in walls.
An old man scrapes a burnt plate,
his polished shoes wait in the hall.

Bats criss-cross the eaves of the care home,
its laundry hangs from a post.
A cat slips under a parked car
half scavenger, half ghost.

The kitchen boys share a joint
in the alley behind the pub.
A woman cries, rocking her belly,
on the edge of a chipped bathtub.

School girls drink vodka chasers,
hair washed in a cigarette haze,
as moonlight drops through the curtain
on Louise, singing soul,
on Sundays.

First published in Moor Poets Volume 3