Sunday, 15 December 2019

Alan Watts said something like

the future is a mirage made up of fanciful notions.
Bad things will happen; good things will happen.
And when the bad things have happened,
we will carve them out of stone,
add them to the collection,
and carry them with us wherever we may go;
the more awkward, the better.
Smash up these little works of art.
Melt them down in the fire of your anger.

It is not our job to create the universe;
our job is to experience it,
finally realising, in the moment of death,
that what’s inside our fragile heads
is a metaphor for the whole of the cosmos,
simultaneously real and figurative.


Cast your net as far as it will go.
Will it find any answers?

Is the best way to write different poems
to become a different person?

I ask myself too many questions.

Reality is what’s in front of you.
Reality is what is with you now.


Can words be empty, even when you take them
away from what they represent? Right now,
I place the pencil on the page and see
what words arrive. I wonder what they mean. 


I set off down the path in search of truth.
I know that I won’t find it, and I hope
that I won’t find it.

I take my mask off.
There is no cure for life.
There is no cure for existential angst.

We spend our whole life climbing different mountains
and when we reach the top, ‘What now?’ we ask.
We find another mountain, and we climb.

Why do we climb the mountain? So that we
can throw rocks at the sun. We always miss.

I know that I will never find ‘enlightenment’;
it’s not a thing which can be found.

I find that isolation works the best.

The Car Park with a View

What questions can we ask ourselves, if any?
Where do we go in life? What do we see?
Do you have your hand upon the wheel?
Or is it that the car is automatic?
What is it for? Or are these things for nothing?
And what is nothing anyway? And what
is ‘this’ that we call it? We surely mean
to call it ‘these’: the things we see; the things
we do; or write; and on and on and on.
The Car Park with a View lacks relevance
within the hazy context of this poem.

Poetry Trips You Up

Like a step that isn’t there.
Like a satnav sending you 
to the wrong place, deliberately,
and you end up somewhere 
you didn’t know you wanted to be
(if that’s possible).
Like a hatstand for flamingoes.
Like a staircase without a house.
Like entering a house in one location
and exiting it at another,
and you can’t get back to where you were.
Like driving into a wall at eighty miles per hour,
which, on impact, turns out not to be there.
Like diving into a swimming pool,
only to find that you’ve jumped off a cloud.
Like wearing make-up for a sauna.
Thus, every mortal doth from himself flee. 


The weather outside
is like the worst poem
ever written.

Or the blackest. 

The Emperor's New Words

I write from nothing; let the words fall on
the page from nowhere. This is what we have
to do: to write without ideas, meaning,
or subject matter. Life is bloody stupid.
We live it. Why? Because we have to live it.
The flow of water interrupted when
the tap turns off. We live our lives and then,
when old age has rolled on our rusted chains,
we find that all we do is ask ourselves,
‘What happened there? Was that a life?’ It was.
Today is not a day for writing poems.

No, but listen

You cannot change the world
unless you change yourself.

Catching Exclamation Marks from Frank O'Hara

What lies beneath these random lines of verse?
They are not random; they escape from far
below and years away. What lies beneath 
our thoughts? The truth of evolution’s lives;
its many lives. We strive each day - for what?
We should be useless! Strive for contemplation!
Or simply watch those thoughts go by. They are
not even ours! My best response is laughter!

A Man is Talking to Himself

‘Everyone is talking to themselves - what
would happen if we had to articulate our
thoughts out loud? We would learn to
silence them, and then what might we
find? Get on to it. Your thoughts are already
audible to the entire universe,
because that is what you are.’

Yet More Sky

Today, the sun is shining, and the sky
is blue. The sun shines every day; the sky 
is always blue. Grey clouds deceive us. Here is
your reality: no sun; no sky.
Evaporate the clouds with thoughts. Bring back
the blue sky and its sun. They never went away.


In one of those ‘misread at a glance’ moments,
my eye deceives me once again,
and this time, it’s awkward.
Not awkward as in awkward,
but awkward as in awkward -
no, wait - oh, ‘awakened’.


Disquiet barge engulfed with broken wheels
meanders awkwardly. Civilian berths 
traduced by megalomaniac pursuits.
Indelible remarks scuff lemon ears
at twilight where the rooftop tumbles always.
Boulders in tea-cups held by heavy hands.
The minimalist will only rob a bank
to rid it of its money; fortune favours
the broke. The elemental herbivore
will save the world with dietary choices.
Catch with your eyes and fill your clumsy hands;
the aftertaste of metalwork arrives.
Avoiding prepositions for the fear
of repetition. Pardoned parcels lighten
the heavy carpet testament: religion
for floors; music for armchairs; art for art’s sake.
A caravan of tables makes its way
across Saharan sand dunes, carried sideways
by time and fortune. Life will spill its life
on the nearest surface available.
Lights become lights when switched with other lights,
the ones which always/never work. Be still.
Be being. Be whatever you must be.
The last line’s not a hymn to being sung.

Guru 1

‘Inside every one of us, there is the Light of God,’
says the Guru.
‘What if you’re mistaken, and it’s actually a light-bulb?
I ask/suggest.
‘Good point,’ says the Guru.
‘I hadn’t thought of that. 
Inside every one of you,’ he continues,
‘there is a light-bulb,’
‘Hang on,’ I interrupt (again).
‘Are we talking here about an actual light-bulb,
or a light-bulb of the mind?'
‘Yes,’ replies the Guru.
‘It wasn’t a yes or no question,’ I counter,
somewhat peevishly.
‘But it was a yes or no answer,’
explains the Guru.
I can’t argue with this,
and I decide to let him carry on.
‘Inside every one of us,’ says the Guru, guardedly,
looking at me with his smile
which I can’t tell is real or imaginary,
‘blah, blah, blah, whatever, things,
spirituality, etc., etc., like a wave
on the ocean of the Universe’s Consciousness, waffle,
waffle, waffle, God/Godhead/Ego,
intuition, the Age of Aquarius, or was it Incurious?
la-de-da, peace of mind, eschew possessions, or,
in the case of a dog, chew them,
mumble, mumble, mutter,  
there’ll be a hat passed round at the end, 
calmness, hushness, thisness, stillness, peace,
your karma suggests you lend me a tenner
which will be paid back in the next life, 
leaves, breezes, clouds, God-stuff,
inner something-or-other,
love, bish-bash-bosh!
Enlightenment at two o’clock.’
He doesn’t really say any of these things,
and I curse my habit of never listening when people talk.
What if I’ve just missed hearing the meaning of life,
or the purpose of existence,
or the essence of truth,
which will sustain me for the rest of my days?
‘...and so you see,’ the Guru’s words
intrude on my thoughts, ‘that is the way of things.’
A big Oh, I see now! noise escapes
from the collective audience (minus one).
An aide to the Guru stands and walks towards the microphone.
‘We have time for a couple of questions.’
Immediately, I put my hand in the air.
‘Yes,’ he says, and, with an irony he is unaware of, 
‘if you could speak so that everyone can hear you.’
‘Okay,’ I say, ‘Did anyone catch any of that on their phone?’ I ask.
‘Only, I wasn’t listening.’ 

Monday, 25 November 2019

Whereabouts Unknown

Years later, this I learned:
your absence told me more
about you than your presence.

Empty-Flavoured Holiness

The Church sells empty-flavoured holiness,
from lollipops with Papal faces on them
to dictator-sized cathedrals.
Monuments to our vulgarity,
with more kitsch in them
than a really bad Duran Duran album,
to house and protect such ideas as:
‘blessed are the poor’.
The Church is so human, it’s actually hilarious.
How can we not all laugh out loud
at the juxtaposition of the spectacle and the congregation;
the pantomime and the foolishness?
Scripted audience participation,
as spontaneous as the reciting of a train timetable.
You can’t dogma your way into heaven.
Love can’t be compelled.
They turned God into a desperate and deranged stalker:
‘Love me or you will suffer!’
I had an epiphany once, sitting in church.
It wasn’t religious.
Forever and ever and ever and ever. Amen.
How did we get it so wrong?

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Photograph Dream

In my hand, the photograph:
two smiling children, a young boy and his sister,
standing between the blue sky
and the green grass.

I find myself in the picture,
and now there is movement,
and the sound of laughter,
and sunshine happiness.

It all changes in an instant,
as it so often does in my dreams.
My sister, lost in time,
but found in this dream,

becomes a daisy-chain –
part colour, part monochrome –
its connections broken
as it falls from my hands, scattering towards the ground.

The boy, no longer smiling,
his sunshine face overlaid
with time’s grey lines,
alone once more.

Walk Into the Sea

Working on the theory
that everything is a metaphor for something,
I decide to write a poem about the sea.

I can hear it now, behind me,
the idle rise and fall of the Mediterranean waves;
waves, which, it seems to me,
aren’t really trying hard enough;
waves which can’t be bothered.

The sea. I feel it ought only to get a passing mention
in the somewhere else of a different poem,
rather than a whole poem to itself.

After all, what does it care?
Oblivious to its salt, its water,
the fish, the sand, the boats, the plastic,
even the sky which reflects off its unstill surface.

‘Another poem about me?’ it will not say.
‘Oh, how terrifically original.’

Maybe the sea is better used as a question mark,
or a little splash of colour;
maybe a blink and you miss it hint of menace,
or perhaps the suggestion of summer –
depending on the poem it crops up in.

But an entire poem?

While you were reading this, I’ve been thinking:
what exactly is the sea a metaphor for here,
in this particular poem?
Answer me that?

While you formulate your answer,
I shall turn to face the sea and walk towards it,
anticipating the enjoyment of the water
washing the sun off my skin,
before I return, cooled enough to finish this poem.

And as I walk into the sea,
I will think about the story of my father,
into a second bottle of whisky,
staggering into Dublin’s bay at some ungodly hour,
willing the waves to take him,
not quite yet fully resolved
to end it all.

No Longer Are They Mavericks

No longer are they mavericks
against the world’s conformity, but
self-ordained priests with lunatic obsessions
regurgitating turgid rectitude,
authoritarian and rigid,
bravely denouncing anything that moves,
their blandness sprung from decadence and wealth.
They know far better than to stick their necks out
(for fear of someone chopping off their heads).
Behold the cookie cutters of the cutting edge!
I watched their sunlight fail through open windows.


Rewind the clock, rewrite the page,
the autotuning of Comrade Corbyn,
Patron Saint of Varicose Veins,
   is complete.

‘The dance of the invisibles –
what does that entail?’ he drones/screeches.
‘You can’t rhyme cat with snail, friends,
   not even metaphorically!’

Inconsistent, nihilist non-poet:
of the no one, for the no one, by the no one.
Mensae, mensae, mensas; mensarum, mensis, mensis.
   Turn the tables.

Oh, That’s Just Terrible, Isn’t It?

Terrible music blasts out of speakers everywhere.
‘Here’s another terrible song,’ says the terrible DJ,
‘from a terrible year, by a terrible band.
Don’t enjoy!’

The terrible song from a terrible year,
played by a terrible band,
vomits out of the terrible speakers
belonging to the terrible DJ.

It makes a terrible day even more terrible,
and there’s no way to avoid it.
The terrible song draws to its terrible close,
but it is too late.

‘Even the sky looks terrible now,’
says a press-ganged listener.
‘The grass, the trees, loved ones –
all completely and utterly terrible.’

Everything is terrible and made more terrible
by the terrible sound assault.
‘It’s been going on for years,’ says a daffodil,
‘and you wonder why the world is now mad.’

Everything from Here Will Only Get Worse

In a bid to be ‘the bad guy’,
the Democrats elect Gustavo Fring
to be their presidential candidate.

‘To Beat the Fascists, Use a Bad Guy!’
his campaign slogan reads, in seven languages
(English, Spanish, English, English, Spanish, English and Mexican).

‘Fake presidential candidate
at twenty-past eight!’ Republicans screech.
‘Fake President!’ the Democrats reply.

Gustavo Fring holds presidential rallies.
‘Lock me up!’ he jokes. ‘Lock you up! Lock you up!’
the delirious Democrats chant back.

‘Build a Wal-Mart!’ says Gustavo Fring.
‘Build a Wal-Mart! Build a Wal-Mart!’
the crowd of hyped-up voters shout.

Gustavo Fring runs TV ads in praise of President Trump.
‘My name is Vladimir Putin and I approve this ad,’
says the voice of Elvis at the end.

‘They’re trying to get the meth-head vote,’ says Trump.
‘And the Netflix vote. And the Breaking Bad vote.
The actor vote. The whatever vote. Sad.’

Spoiler alert: Walter White Kills Gustavo Fring again
and takes the Democratic nomination for himself.
‘Vote for me or I’ll stop cooking,’ he says.

‘Let’s smash the blue-glass ceiling!’ he growls,
and the audience of Democrat meth-heads erupt.
‘Smash It! Grind It! Snort It!’  becomes his campaign slogan.

Walter White and President Trump run neck-and-neck in polls.
Their presidential candidate debates are sullen and edgy.
Walter White takes a commanding poll lead.

‘Anyone but Trump, amiright?!’ the TV hosts squeal after the election.
America has acquired a taste for the bad guy, with Jesse as Veep,
and Walter White winning is what everyone always wanted anyway.


The steady flowing stream of poetry
comes to an end,
obliterated by the gush and roar
of a waterfall of ideas.

I find myself almost capsized,
swirling in the torrents,
clutching my notebook life-raft
as we wait for calmer waters.

I cover my ears and close my eyes.
I curl into a ball
as we bump along rocks, eddies, currents.
‘Hold tight!’ I think. ‘We’ve been through worse.’

Chaotic movements eventually subside.
It is safe to listen
and to open eyes.
To unfurl.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019


Death has been binge-watching a show on Netflix.
‘It’s called How to Catch a Killer,’ he explains.
‘I thought I might pick up some handy tips!’
I express surprise, having thought that
Death was beyond judgement
and was simply there to do a job.
‘And also,’ I say, ‘surely you know who all the killers are,
what with being present at every murder?’
There’s a bit of a silence,
belonging in the ‘awkward’ section of the Venn diagram.
‘Y-y-y-e-e-e-e-e-s….’ says Death,
as if trying to frame a suitable response.
This is unusual; Death is normally far more direct
in his communications.
He sighs a heavy sigh.
‘Okay. Look, it was an attempt at a joke.
Really, I just wanted to see how incompetent the police were.
Unsurprisingly, if you’re interested.’
I ask him how he found the show.
‘It was quite interesting, up to a point.
I mean, I already knew who the killers were, obviously.
But man – some of the procedures!
All that burden of proof, for a start.
Some people just look like killers, right?’
I explain that you can’t just lock someone up,
‘because they look guilty.’
‘Why not?’ asks Death.
‘If you look into a man’s soul,
you can see the full burden of his sins.
The eyes being windows to the soul,
all you have to do is look into a man’s eyes
to see if he’s guilty or not.
Et voila! Case closed.’
I put it to Death that he could become an expert witness
in cases of murder.
‘No, you see, that wouldn’t work because…
Oh, shit. That’s a joke, right?
Like, “Hey, Death! they should put you in charge
of the Cold Cases Unit.
You’d have a one hundred percent clear-up rate
and the unit could be disbanded in a matter of hours”
type thing.’
‘Actually, that’s not a bad idea,’ I say.
‘Really?’ says Death, excitedly.
‘Do you think… Oh, no, wait.
You’re taking the piss again, aren’t you?’
I apologise for my teasing.
And then it occurs to me
that maybe the Netflix cry for help was Death trying to find an escape:
an escape from the nature of his job;
an escape from being the ultimate and timeless
expert witness to all of the carnage,
bloodshed, war, psychosis, barbarity,
injustice, and unfairness; the ugliness;
the relentless horror of the end of existence
which has too often accompanied his appointed task.
‘You’re suffering from a very human predicament,’ I suggest.
‘You feel trapped in an endless cycle.
You have to do a job in order to justify your existence,
but you have started to doubt the job you have,
and your ability to do it until retirement.
You feel that there is no escape,
and like many people experiencing despair,
you’re trying to divert your gaze,
if only for a few, brief moments,
by watching sensationalist TV
with questionable production values.
Only problem is, you’ve unconsciously chosen a show
which is related to the cause of your angst,
like a doctor watching Casualty;
or a teacher watching ‘Big School’;
or a dentist watching ‘Question Time’,
which, admittedly, isn’t a show but more of a shower of shit,’
I conclude.
I put it to Death that he watch something
completely unrelated to his occupation,
or his general mode of existence,
and leave him to it.
Half an hour later,
I walk into the room to see
Death’s Netflix page on the screen.
Continue watching for Death, it reads,
and I see ‘Friends’, the red line indicating
that he’s a few minutes into episode 1.
A text appears on my phone.
‘Guess what?’ it starts. ‘I got my mojo back!
Thanks! D xx’