Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Poem, news


News! My poem "All Souls' Night" is going to be published in the next edition of Pomegranate.
There is also talk abroad of further readings in future, which I'm not going to jinx by giving details. SO! Here's a poem, about this exhibit.

Menashe Kadishman - Shalechet


You examined maps and counted
unfamiliar coins,
haggled with hostellers
in respectable German.

Jackdaws flitted on the pavement
pecking at apple cores
and brown horse-chestnut leaves,
retreating at our footsteps.


There was silence
in that room,
silent space
and a square
of clarity
three storeys above,
stressing the dust
that settled
on mountains of shoes,
mountains of luggage
chalked with
catalogues of names,
chalk drawing air
from the room
that had space
for more silence.


A jackdaw flapped away as we came to the surface,
apple core in its mouth, into peppery clouds.
Traffic droned in the distance. We walked home.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Change We Can Blog About

So on Wednesday some folks from creative writing put together a poetry/prose night upstairs in the Meadow Bar. The guys did awesome, particularly Natalia, Struan and Niki, who were all doing a public reading for the first time (whoo!). The crowd was lapping that shit up. Honorable mention for Aiko's mad performance skills. I opened with some old poems and a couple of new(ish) ones, one of which is here.


Taking my arm in the simmering buzz
of the crowd, through the diabolo-spinners
and gyring, half-naked drummers,
she led me under canopies
and curtains that climbed into sundown,
staining the air red and purple, stirred
with the neon bar-lights that awoke hot-
humming, weaving charms in the eyes.

Her mid-Atlantic accent melded
with the calls of rucking bodies,
reflecting soundwaves from London
students and New York sightseers;
she tripped among puddles
and the bedlam of dancers, her skin
highlit and spinning away
from my melding mid-British accent.

Once the band sent the crowd re-singing
the setlist through the streets I found her
hands, found her pallor under the moonlight –
her tawny eyes, cold silver, her Indias of spice –
and exchanged nights, eye-freckled and glowing
in the shifting light of a new year,
til our voices reflected in each other’s ears
and she might have been my twin.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, March 07, 2009


I was sure I had more material than I actually do. Shucks. Here's a rewrite of my first ever poem.

Giant’s Causeway

Mist crawled upwards from the surface,
the cluttered sky turned grey and we retired
from tectonic sea and gathering smirr
to a pub you knew. Only the birds knew
what the sea had said, what it kept to itself.

Earlier that morning a hundred feet above the basalt,
I caught my breath and followed you
a few steps behind along the machair.
You gave nothing away as you gathered
palm-sized stones from a cairn by the cliff-face.

I named haresfoot, razorbills, chimney-stacks,
causeway-tales. You sent skimmers over
the cliffs as I yammered, disguising
cover-stories in the tide’s howl and skirl.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Turns out I'm doing okay! Here's a new one based on the Odyssey. That's Sean Bean in the picture, being a legend.



Lacking options, he summons
the weak-necked dead,
hoping for counsel
and direction home
from long-winded Tiresias.

Lacking a spade, Odysseus hollows
out a sump with his sword,
sweetens the soil with honey-wine,
wheat-flour and water.

His mother, Anticleia,
breezes by his elbow
without meeting his eye,
as oblivious to their reunion
as any of the dead.
He reaches out to her
for the first time in years.
His arms pass through her like mist.

Anticleia danders on
among the crowd, still avoiding his gaze
like an embarrassed acquaintance.
With a sacrifice her eyes are opened. Heart
in bloodied mouth, she dithers for words.


Her voice barely holds long enough
to tell the whole sorry tale:
Penelope harassed by lechers;
Telemachus herding pigs;
Laertes nothing but skin and bone
in a miserable gardener’s get-up.
She stretches her ghost arms to his flesh
and bones and glides through them like air.

Odysseus gathers his nerves and speaks,
“What evil brought you here?
Some wasting disease? Artemis’ dart?”
“There was no violence about it, son.
I lost heart waiting for you to come home.”

Strong-shouldered Odysseus stumbles
to his knees and reaches for the hems
of his mother’s robe, which vanish like dew.

See you tomorrow,

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Small poems are fun to write

So in two hours' time I'll be going to a supervisor meeting to see how much work these things need before they turn into something awesome. I'm quite fond of a bunch of them, maybe because they remind me of a good time or someone I like. This one does neither of those things, it is about birds, snow, and seeds.

[Rolling back the blind uncovers]

Rolling back the blind uncovers
a courtyard changed by snow

(last night a loft of pigeons
patrolled a continent of seed,

baiting coal tits or blue tits
that hustled round their hindfeathers,

pecking at the scraps), breath melting
in rorschach blots on the cold glass.

Hasta mañana,

Monday, March 02, 2009


Today's poem asks what could have happened if things had been different.


She looks at him with a tender kind of sadness.
As she walks backward through the closing door
they grow unfamiliar through similar dreams
of things they may some day do. Fingers pulled
together as if by magnetic opposites
recall the times they will warm ill-heated beds,
crooked inside each other like lightning bolts.

Crosses fade from refurling calendars
that survey a systematic withdrawal
of tokens of affection, habits of speech,
a spreading air of innocence as they sleepwalk
into mutual ignorance.
A night will come
when the last rough edges are filed into smoothness,
as lips lean close, then further (much further) away.

Thanks for reading, more tomorrow!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

By golly it's that time again

February has been obscenely busy. BUT it means I've backlogged seven brand new poems for y'all to have a look at. Also Ireland beat England and that makes me happy, even if the game was a lousy kick-a-thon. ALSO the new edition of Read This is available all over Edinburgh, and online here. This is a poem about getting it wrong. Or maybe not.


Sitting elegant above the mantle,
simple as silk, a crafted sword,
he fingers the blade, grips the handle

of beaten iron, as woven and tangled
as the history of his fathers, each of whom had sworn
allegiance on what sits above the mantle.

Renouncing roman decadence, their eagles, furs and sandals,
the chieftain keeps his clansmen, who, at the given word,
will finger the blade and grip the handle

to rout imperial menaces, whose angle
of attack appears absurd.
Sitting elegant above the mantle

is the rapine of his armies, every bracelet, every bangle
further proof – if proof were needed – of the prowess of his horde.
He fingers the blade and grips the handle

of the souvenir he bought in Reykjavík which may dimly hold a candle
to the real McCoy, or Thordarsson, or however it occurred.
Sitting elegant, unsullied, in a crook above the mantle,
he fingers the blade and firmly grips the handle.

See you tomorrow,