Monday, 20 April 2020


I sometimes wonder how much more ridiculous
this life could get. Perhaps we’ve reached the peak of
absurdity already and I didn’t
notice. Is someone, somewhere, terrified
of toothpaste? Has the world of fashion finally
caved in and made a range called Emperor’s Clothes?
Did Spain elect a pomegranate for
its new Prime Minister? Has the Pope
declared himself to be an octopus?
I do not follow telly, so I wouldn’t know.
‘Hello, and welcome to Mindless TV.
Today we ask, “Is arson valid as
an artform?” and meet the man who says
that setting fire to other people’s houses
prevented him from following a life
of crime. We hear about a woman suing
her mum and dad for giving her a balanced
childhood. The alienation caused has been
disastrous to her mental health, she claims.
But first, it’s competition time, where you’ve
a chance to win The Royal Albert Hall.
Simply complete this sentence: “Life is worthless
because…” and tweet it on our twitter feed.
The most banal reply will win this marvellous,
iconic building, if hasn’t been
stolen, that is. And now, because it’s Daffodil
Remembrance Day, we have a moment’s silence to
remember all the daffodils who lost
their lives in conflicts old and new; and not
just daffodils, but every flowering species
who never found their way back home from war.
It’s over to Samantha now, who has the weather.
Samantha…’ Where is anyone supposed
to keep the weather? In their hands? Their pockets?
And have these people never heard of windows?
What effect do you think you have upon
this world? You watch your television and
the bad things vanish; post your eighty-seventh
denunciation of the Trump online
and suddenly he’s not a fool; preoccupy
yourself with things you can’t control, and waste
your life. There is no point to life, if all
you do is point. We’re all ridiculous.
We’re all the world and everything that’s in it,
and everything has long since been a game to show off
how perfect we all are. Don’t fool yourself.
The past person left the building long ago,
forgot to turn the lights out, and booby-trapped
existence. We’ve been paying for it ever since.
What do I mean? Really? It doesn’t matter.

Sunday, 19 April 2020


The sky in my mind escapes
and overlays itself
onto the breezy sky
of a spring day.

It has become a grey-black, mind sky,
and the neighbours are not amused.
Where did that come from?
their faces say in unison,
as they turn in all directions.

It could be mistaken
as a depression metaphor,
so I think of a tropical sunset,
all oranges and reds, with silhouettes of palm trees
and a flock of awkwardly flying flamingos –

because who can picture an accurately flying,
silhouetted flamingo,
let alone a whole flock of them?

Like so many things, this, too, escapes my mind,
hiding the grey black.
I laugh at the incongruity of my tropical, evening sky
on the edge of a British city in April,
at two o’clock in the afternoon.

The graceless flamingos captivate the neighbours,
and I silently recite a poem about conversations.
The spring sky returns,
and all the neighbours start talking at once.

I retreat to the quiet of my house,
and think of a clear night sky.
When I awake,
the Milky Way is on the ceiling,
on the walls,
on the floor.

I sit in my rocking chair on the outer spiral:
silent, still, invisible;
more impossibly out of proportion
than I have ever been.

Thursday, 16 April 2020


Morrissey is having a conversation with Jesus
and doing all of the talking.
It’s the form and context of the exchange which matters,
rather than the words themselves.

Jesus is a bit flummoxed by the Mancunian accent
and the fact that Morrissey appears to be
better with words than he is.

‘Jesus, you should shave,’ says Morrissey,
but Jesus doesn’t get the joke.
‘The beard's good, no?’ he says.
Morrissey forgives Jesus.

Always Do What a Poet Asks You to Do

I’ve heard it said
that you should bear in mind an audience
when you write a poem.
I’ve never done this.
I did just recently read through
a really obscure poem of mine.
And there the audience are,
sitting several rows deep in my cerebellum,
each holding up a score-card,
but with words, not numbers:
‘Bored’, ‘Angry’, ‘Confused’, ‘WTF?!’, ‘Seriously?’, etc.,
which they show to each other
while shouting obscenities.
With a speed which even I find impressive,
they screw the words up,
and pelt the stage with them.
I replace this cantankerous rabble
with an audience of Ferguses.
‘I think I speak for all of us,’ says one,
‘when I say that you are the most Fergus poet
that we’ve ever encountered,’
and they erupt into spontaneous applause.

Watch It Pass

We televise the future in our heads
watching our slow collapse,
a bubble-wrapped catastrophe. Disintegration minted
by shadows, grief, imagination, anger,
misplaced like lizards on a plastic sunbed.
This screen eclipses the entire sky.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Down with Biscuits Anyway

Everyone else is entertaining themselves
with phone calls or card games,
and so I resolve to write a poem
about how much I hate biscuits –
simply for existing.

O! biscuit… I start,
before the gears in my pencil
grind to a leaden halt.

I am in the living room –
because I’m middle class –
but the sun is shining,
and I feel that I ought to engage in something
more edifying,

like going on a bike ride
down a leafy country lane,
or kicking the heads off some daffodils,
because it’s that time of year,
and, also, because there aren’t that many people
out and about today,
and I think that perhaps this time
I might stand a chance of getting away with it.

I consider lighting a fire
underneath the next-door neighbour’s car.
He spends far too much time washing it
(Don’t be ridiculous – you can’t wash a car!
my inner car-averse self comments,
in a manner which he believes to be most witty)

and I feel that there’s a lesson to be learned there,
but that’s where my putative insight ends.

Rather like this poem,
which was supposed to be about biscuits –
or, rather, my hatred of their existence –
but which somehow isn’t really
about anything much at all.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

The Language of Trees

The trees communicate in semaphore,
and whispers loud enough for decibels.
They speak as one and spend their days and nights
in stop-start conversations, where obsessions
about the wind and seasons dominate
their talk. Today, they are as happy as
a group of trees could be, excited by
the spring that’s just arriving. Here we are
again, the branches whisper. Look: our leaves
are back. Last week, we all were winter-naked,
but now we’ve made the sky turn green. It seems
like silence, but it isn’t if you listen.
A forest is a life-raft for the mind,
a vessel to go sailing in from time
to time. We are the trees, the leaves, the fallen
branches and twigs, the forest floor: all one.

Friday, 10 April 2020


The sky dispensing rain. Rain which asks questions
of the wind. Rain too late for my friend’s funeral.
Singing in the rain while dancing in the rain and laughing
at people who sing and dance in the rain.

If time could be paused on that Monday morning,
there would be rain for all time. Rain
which punches above its weight. Rain which
quotes Shakespeare but doesn’t understand
any of the words. Windswept, mysterious rain.

Irrational rain. Rain that cut its teeth on
a mountainside. The impossibility of being rain.
Rain which no one saw coming. Rain which
engineered a situation of plausible deniability.

The rain which fell because it jumped. Rain
which was never meant to be rain. Rain which
turned itself into poetry. Last Thursday,
it rained, sort of. Minuscule rain. The raging
ocean which lost its way and became

a downpour, and everyone ran out into the street
saying, ‘Hallelujah!’ Rain as punctuation.
Intellectual rain. Pretentious rain.

Rain with a philosophical bent. Pop rain.
Serious rain. Hardworking rain.
The rain which became invisible when it
played hide and seek. The rain which made
the first rainbow, somewhere unimaginably
distant from here in both time and space.

Petulant rain. Inadmissible rain. Rain
which was illegible to the other rain. Rain
with an indefinite article, just to confuse
non-native speakers. Non-rhyming rain.

Christian rain. Rain which became
dogmatic on its way to the supermarket.
The wild and reckless rain of an impulsive
thunderstorm, which didn’t pause to consider
the consequences of its drenching.

Could you point me in the direction of the
nearest rain? Rain which has no voice.
Rain which is always arguing with the
pavement. Rain which refuses to
stop raining once it’s begun. Rain
which hates similes. Basket-case rain.

Collapsible rain. Distraught rain.
Best ever rain ever.

Unless (iv)

Please refrain from smoking –
unless you’re a fire.

Unless (iii)

Dance like there’s no one looking –
unless someone actually is looking.

Unless (ii)

Do not feed the ducks –
unless you are their mother.

Unless (i)

Do not stand too close to the fire –
unless you are a marshmallow.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Deliver Us From, Part One

Lord, deliver us from all evil,
and syntax,
and pedants with slightly above average sized egos,
and, while you’re at it,
deliver us from the bad guys,
and the bent cops,
and the scary people who are bigger than us
and who know how to fire a machine-gun accurately
while under pressure,
and deliver us from the past, the present, and the future,
but especially the first one
because that’s where all of our problems started,
and deliver us from all of the obvious things,
which barely need mentioning at all
(should I mention them anyway,
at least some of them,
just to give you an idea,
in case your widely reported omniscience
turns out to be wide of the mark?)
okay, so, also, deliver us from
TV, the internet, money, processed food, America,
the world and everything that’s in it,
including, above all else, ourselves.
That’ll do for starters.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Night Questions

A question looks beyond itself and finds
a small, grey parcel wrapped inside itself.
I looked inside, and all I found was all
I saw. I laid my hand upon time’s surface.
Which way was up? Is forwards always best?
I built a house of questions. Locked the doors.
There is no inside now, I laughed. Once foolish,
twice foolish, three times – still it’s foolish as.
I came back to the present moment darkly.
Even a light won’t work in here. I switch
my torch on but it doesn’t seem
to work. It’s only when we die, we wake.
It’s shush – don’t be afraid to live! I hear.
I carry on with words but want to sleep;
consider nothing as the day slips past.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

We Are Possessed by Foolishness

The problem with humanity
(oh, here we go!)
is that we’re so fucking hot-headed
(you see what I mean?).

Wouldn’t it be better if we attempted to live our lives
peaceably, calmly,
instead of doing what we do best,
all of the time:

putting other people under the microscope,
so that we can say, gleefully,
‘Look! A fault! For shame!
Hang on a sec,
let me just magnify it so you can see…’

The next time you see someone with a peashooter,
remember the forty-seven peashooters
which you keep hidden about your person,
at all times.

The next time you see someone aim a peashooter,
remember what happened
when you fired that rocket-launcher
from your attic.

The next time,
and the time after that,
and the time after that,
and the time after that.

The opposite of infinite regress:
ad infinitum.

What’s that you say?
Sort my own shit out?
Yeah, I was totally talking to myself
(didn’t realise you were listening).

You know what they say about bloody eavesdroppers?
what did I just say?