Saturday, 29 February 2020

Guru 2

‘Does God exist?’
asks one of the Guru’s acolytes.
‘And can I get a straightforward
Yes or No answer
without all of the usual equivocations?’

There’s a small ripple of laughter
at this stipulation.
The ripple fades to silence.
‘No,’ says the Guru.

There is a gasp of shock
from his followers.
‘How like children they are,’
thinks the Guru.
‘Fundamentally stupid,
and desperate to believe in things
which are beyond belief.’

‘But if there’s no God,
then what are we all doing here,
sitting on the floor like five-year-olds at story time?’
asks the questioner.

No to the lack of equivocation,’ says the Guru,
‘but yes to the first part of the question.’

Shock is replaced by joy,
and a few people even start clapping.
‘How do you know that?’
asks the annoyingly persistent acolyte.

‘I don’t,’ says the Guru,
‘because I don’t know anything.

‘Then how can we learn from you
if you don’t know anything?’

‘You learn from me that you know nothing,’
explains the Guru.
‘For if I, a great teacher, know nothing,
what chance do you have?
Abandon your search,’ he says to the whole room.
‘Words are the enemies of truth.’

Nobody Need Ever Know

Three minutes is the maximum amount of time
which will elapse between
a person discovering he’s talking to a poet
and said person exclaiming,
‘There’s a poem in that!’
I know this because I carry a stopwatch with me
at all times
and I’m overly fond of telling strangers –
usually in the sauna –
that I’m a poet.

It happened again today
(although this time it was in a steam room).
A delightful man
(note to self: stop judging people by their tattoos)
took a mere one minute
and twenty-seven seconds
to cheerfully intone the immortal words,
‘There’s a poem in that!’
My stock bland reply –
‘So there is!’ –
deserted me,
as I remembered a recent moment
of peevish misanthropy
when I had taken it upon myself
to be dismissively uncharitable
to the next person who uttered this
(to my ears) crass cliché.

Do painters get this?
How about composers?
There’s an opera in that!
There’s triptych in that!’
‘There’s a poem in everything,’
I replied, automatically, stupidly, meanly.

Genial, tattooed, bald, father-of-two,
recently retired, ballroom-dancing enthusiast,
(you can learn a lot about a person
in a short space of time
in a steam room/sauna),
looked momentarily taken aback, hurt,
as if I’d just said,
‘Oh, fuck off, will you?’
which is fair enough
because that’s what I had been thinking
and had been thinking
on pretty much every occasion I’d heard
‘There’s a poem in that!’
in recent years.

And I realised,
in my moment of meanness,
the enthusiasm with which the utterance
is usually exclaimed
could be the sign of a poetic awakening,
as if the person had never before realised
that such-and-such-a-thing
could become a poem!

How exciting for them!
Maybe ‘There’s a poem in that!’
is their dormant, inner poet,
waking up from a lifetime of being ignored,
suddenly invigorated at seeing
the possibility of a poem in something
for the first time,
and they’re genuinely enthused.

Next time I’m told by an over-excited stranger,
within three minutes of hearing about my poetness,
‘There’s a poem in that!’
I won’t say,
‘Ah, so there is,’
and I certainly won’t say,
‘There’s a poem in everything,’ (there is),
but, ‘That’s your inner poet,
pleading with you to write a poem.
Why don’t you write it? Go on!
Nobody need ever know.’

Monday, 24 February 2020

You Said

Even the trees give me no pleasure now.

Do You Have Limited Ambitions?

None of my ideas are original –
   and none of them are mine.
‘Where do you get your ideas from?!’
I used to think:
wind like the sea.

The Splendid Awareness of Your Own Futility

There are some things that don’t emerge with a hoover –
   the truth, for example.
What happens after we die and why do we care?
Now watch through the deleted scenes of your life.
The rebirth of lunacy.
Everything in black and white.
Everything depends on everything else.
The miracle of turning water
into a knife-throwing accident.
You again?
Nothing makes a sound –
   read that two ways.
Everything is its own background.
‘He dodged a bullet there!’
Try never to forget that everything is a game
and not necessarily a good one.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020


Taking a snow-plough to a field of daffodils tulips,
you beep the horn.
Move! Get out of the way! Stupid flowers.
The not-daffodils move. They get out of your way.
Uprooted. Not quite dead 
(how long does it take for a field of tulips to die?).
If your shoelaces are undone,
you may miss the spectacle of life,
as you fuss with knotty string,
tying pretty little bows, instead of taking it all in. 
‘This is getting us nowhere,’ you said,
and you were right.
I could not identify a starling,
only eagles and owls.
Perhaps if the starling were the size of an elephant
I might take more notice of it.
We need to address the starling in the room, darling.
How was your trip to the dentist?
Did you make it inside this time?
A line which doesn’t fit into a poem
has a line struck through it,
and then what is more important:
the line, or the line underneath the line?
The eyes are the windows to the soul.
I always thought that this meant you could see
someone’s soul by looking into their eyes,
and it never once occurred to me
that the soul looking out of its windows
was the more important part of the observation.
I’m not convinced by windows.
The eyes are simply the eyes -
it’s the soul which is made of glass:
a mirror which takes everything in
but holds on to none of it.
A blind soul holds on to the darkness,
takes it all in; not reflecting, but becoming.
The eyes do not see any more than the telephone hears.
Flowers, birds, shoelaces, 
trespassing on the border of solipsism, philosophical rambling:
I mean, I suppose that’s one way to approach a poem.
Sometimes, nothing is beautiful,
by which I mean that 
sometimes I forget to open my eyes.
Maybe the lines which are never written
are the really important ones.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

In Dreams

Do the clouds not sing to you?
Do the hills tell not you stories?
I sometimes think that there’s nothing more beautiful
than an unambitious genius.
Let’s not see unrealised talent as a tragedy.
My dream was not to live my dream
but to keep my dream just a dream,
for dreams can be beautiful all by themselves.
When you live a dream, is it any longer a dream,
or is it a drudgery, a job, a pain in the arse?
Listen to the complaints
of those successful dream-chasers.
Why try and live forever through fame
when a walk on the hills can achieve better results?
Pity the rich, who wake up
making money to make money to make money to make
yet more money;
who are owned, heart and soul,
by their bank accounts;
who spend more time fearing the loss of what they have
than enjoying what they have.
What are you now
and what might you have been instead?
Only the first one matters.


I wander among the trees in search of life.
The sky is no longer overhead,
but in my heart, where it beats in time
to my ceaseless anxiety.
The leaves don’t fall, they detach themselves
then meander earthwards in a dance with gravity.
Is this why trees exist?
So that leaves can dance with gravity?
We think of dances beginning in floors,
but a floor is where the leaf dance ends.
The merging with earth begins.
Rain, wind, time:
and the leaf becomes the floor.
How long before its atoms emerge,
as flower, grass, air, or even sap? 
It all goes on without us noticing.
The next time you see a leaf, though.
Your branches twist around my words
till branch and word are one,
waiting for blossom.
The atoms are always dancing.
Can you feel them? Is that what breathing is?
Is that what living is?
Our eternal atoms continue after
What is to become of us?
has been answered.
We cannot be left behind, not fully.
You were born into this world,
no, you were born out of this world,
and once born, you remain, forever, somewhere.
After my breathing has stopped,
I will wander among the trees again,
my heart will return to the sky,
and perhaps I will dance with the leaves.