Monday, 23 April 2018

Inside the Church at Collioure

I find myself inside the church
at Collioure. Out of respect for
the memory of my late father
I’m careful not to light a candle.
Instead, take an attitude I think
he would prefer far more. I may
have referenced Our Lady of Sucker (sic).


I try and shift the thing. I put my shoulder
down and push, but nothing moves. I put
both hands against the thing and push again,
but nothing gives; it stays quite still. I take
a run up and I leap with both feet first.
The thing absorbs the shock of force while I
cannon into the sky, all balance lost.


I look at some of the things
I’ve had to write about recently –
and I have had to write about them,
or else: why even be a poet?

Things like my father’s suicide,
or the strangeness of a lifetime of separation
from my family.

And I think:
no wonder I’m not writing
whimsical pieces of fluff and la,

or fast-paces comic poems
exploding with rhyme.

It’s in this frame of mind
that I pick up the latest Billy Collins collection,
but instead of helping me lose myself,
his wistfulness lights my short fuse.

Can’t you write something with a bit more impact
than a gentle breeze?

While you were looking at a bird,
drinking a cup of tea,
or ruminating on an early morning,
did Fate never stab you in the back,
and then push you down the stairs?

Apparently not.

I scribble words,
use brackets and crossings-out,
draw arrows, mark insertions,

erase the obvious misfits
and, courtesy of some rewrites,
arrive at an ending.

What a relief
to have been exercised about something
so unimportant.

I return to the collection and read a poem.
‘What a Woman Said to Me After a Reading in Nappa Valley’,
and lose myself in wistful poignance.

Lines Written While Sitting on a Beach

You sit on the beach with your head in a book,
   Ignoring the sky and the sea and the sand.
You’re not missing much, don’t bother to look,
   For the waves and the clouds are just whitishly bland,
   Instead keep your thoughts on the pages at hand.
Yes – a day at the beach is a day at the beach,
But books take you places which no shore can reach.  

Wednesday, 18 April 2018


   for Jon

You walk on tracks that are and tracks that aren’t.
The tracks that are lead up and up, until
you see that big reveal. And it’s the view,
not tired legs, which make you pause, reflect,
converse, before you set off down the tracks
that might have been, but aren’t; the tracks that do
not lead to anywhere but unexpected
places: scree slopes, grey faces, pathless halts,
sheer drops, those undrawn lines you shouldn’t cross,
until you find you have to turn around.
Footsteps can’t be retraced, and so you take
a track that might be, may be, should be… is,
that takes you to your breathless destination;
the ending point. That place where you began.

Bad Poetry on a Rainy Day in Collioure

Avoid the rain by sitting in a bar,
Or stay outside, continue getting wet?
You drink your beer, I'll sip my cup of cha,
Avoid the rain by sitting in a bar.
There's no escape, we haven't got a car,
The trains on strike, each one is marked 'Arrêt!'
Avoid the rain by sitting in a bar,
Don't stay outside continue getting wet.