Final Flare

I know a wild beast

Whose face is wild, whose screaming nightfuries

And twisting intestinal rictuses are wild

Whose light-filled milk-milled face is wild as a spill of moon on sea

whose rough nails snag

and pinch and tear, mooncalf in a thorn thicket,

leaving snake-tooth scratches all over my neck, my face, my chest

a blind rabbit racing heedless through brambles


I sit in meetings of pregnant women and feed you wild foods I get from the hills

I carry you like a huge lump of smouldering coal over my scorched shoulders

and your busy hands remake


womb wreaker

in the dim cinema of my water, beamed between birth and death

you jammed your bones in my bones in unlockable patterns

cracked the knuckles of your shoulders in my spine

my hips my ribs not mine

suddenly always yours, on your strings taut as bows releasing arrows that

roared through me, sloughed me off

to drift down through darkness.

in the bright lights of the hospital I saw a thousand snakes twisting glorious on the ceiling I saw my mother’s father scrubbed clean and while I waited knew I would die

you would die, your father would die

and resolved, at least and for the first time, to die bloody and wild

and drop away without trace.


You finished the job.

nothing, for our sake,

which did not break, remained.

when we were delivered and you, soft, blue

lay in your crystal case

speaking in the ugly tongue of love

while the midwives came and went

I was no longer and never enough

to hold your

effortless spiralling

up from and out of the lands we have tilled

through late, beloved autumns

like a final flare, air-grasping,

from the dim shucked coast of a forgotten war

that grinds on, all through winter.



Amitabha in the garden (for Chris)


Amitabha in the garden

Cross-legged at the heart’s bellows

Reddens like burning wood

Ash trembling on his limbs. Works quietly, as

fish glow under the dark silk surfaces

and the great heads of sunflowers tick and blaze

twisting and seed-spilling

all over the pathways.


Everywhere, the sound of bells

big as thunder, small as bees

from the mouths of the flowers

hooked on a line of sunlight

says: there is no falling back,

nothing to hide, in this limitless space,

so go on ahead

go on, everything dares you,

see how far you can go.






On the night you burned through your first fever

A demon chased you down a valley of hellfire

His huge beast claws clutched you

And raised you blistering skywards


And we touched you with river hands and cooled you with possets

And waved runes over your little lamb locks

And the demon belched louder

And twisted your arms out from their sockets


I called NHS Direct and spoke to Alan

Who told me there’s no such thing

as possession and

to use the medicines as labelled and to

make contact with a primary care provider

in the morning


And I swore in the silent presence

of the primary care provider

I’d make contact in the morning


Gone ten, sudden rain came

yammering in from the ocean

hammering windows flung open.

And the mercury dropped in the glass.


Then we all breathed out, in the draft

Of some great leathery wing

That passed on, over our bloodmarked doorframes

Over our lives, unseeing, unseen.

What it has meant

What it has meant to lose you, is like a house with the doors suddenly blown open. The dogs, running into the yard, baying, ruffled by winds. Stepping out barefoot onto the frost of an unimaginable summer, where light slowly lifts each limber leaf like a swell of cellos, and the tender blue of night creeps away into the tiniest corners of the sky. Your death raises stars, floods buds, tosses trout in the weirs, runs in the sap and the blood and the fields.


Your glasses, your cufflinks, your wooden tools, adrift in a black winter river. All of Kent, the Medway, the High Weald, Sandwich, Gravesend, Crundale, washed away like ice in the racing tides. Winters full of stamping horses, fog, distant farms, trudging uphill, through snow, to where you know you must go. Your grass, where feet were placed, your ladder on each tree, your rising, your falling, your rising, your falling and rising breath, your rasp. Your slow walk away, humped as a hill in the distance while your face tipped back. Out from the cage of the ribs you went rising. Warm arms, sweet peas, honeysuckle, wilting around you. You closed the gate.


What is has meant to love you is to look back, still looking, look on, and not to wait.



not a nomad

Caring too hard about the welfare of the red earth

under my fingernails, and in the bowels of insects

I garden. I set my fangs in travel and am not a nomad.


over further hills a new soil, a new crop

I watch as the horses go up and come back

some with the same rider

some with a different rider

some with letters and treasure and no one to guide them


but the stars are hard brilliant free market gems.

I go out only when its dark to watch the campfires in the valley

where dogs howl and tomcats claw and clutch and babies cry

and newspapers clog the gutters under the incessant downward rain.


I couldn’t leave the two beautiful

bodies, quiet, loved/ and a gentle library of night times

leaves half-moon imprints on my heart

says you’re not going anywhere

shuts off stars one by one, spits the pips


but when I sit, and suddenly I’m everywhere and

sunlight and plenty at once I know how

to walk a slow road. Drums, gods,

poems have always laid down arms

and watched the dust of long rides rise.


Luck brought me to a place of despair,
A kneeling block for the lungs,
And onto the nape of my atavism, luck dropped
this lustrous bright gold blade,
and opened a dull heaven of untold rain.

I kneel quietly.
I listen hard, and with clouds in my intent
I come back to my breathing
forest body. My breathing animal.
My pet heart. My just this breath.

Luck is stricter than I am,
more of an Empress. But I notice everything.
The curve of a bowl. A leaf. The drift
of my boat. The rain. The way we boast on facebook.
The way I grieve, when you go.
Quietly, with all tenderness,
each moment crystal under exquisite pressure.

I only mean to express what I mean to express.
I love pure words, but their drops in the silence
raise the mud from the bottom. I kneel in the mud,
I watch for the signs of rain, get herbs.
I kneel in the sun, under the blades of the trees.

After my execution is over, I sit quietly for a while.
Over the whaleback truths of the world the clouds are coming.
The rain is humming.

unread poem


In a pub, in a sad Kentish town on the brim of winter

I’m looking at lists of poems for funerals

And it’s just like my wedding all over

Great feverish feelings

Like unwelcome relatives

When really love is something tiny, and held in the palm

In a one star constellation.

None of them know about you. And neither do I.

I used to listen to Nina Simone in the car on my way to see you

Because I was 21 and still dreaming of love half-heartedly

And don’t tell but I would be doing 100 mph in a Fiat full of crystals

In the prison of youth. That you could not enter,

Like the river that goes by the rock in a whirl of bands and clothes and exams.

And I barely remember my childhood, which was short and angry. But you once,

full of winter bones, picked up a pair of chips

and put them up your nostrils, and clowned like a beacon of light,

and made me laugh for ten years.

When you were finally old

you lived in a room full of cat pictures

– you loved cats. And my mother, who never quits and never weeps without apologising,

filled your shrinking life to bursting with cat calendars, cat clocks, cuddly cats, paint-by-number cats, velour cats and plastic cats and totem spirit cats, cat gods and cat goddesses and cat angels and cat friends

all watching us with their neon plastic eyes like the ancestors –

no wonder, you thought I was a spy. And so you’d ask me in order:

How’s your mum?

How’s your nanna?

And why are you watching me?

I visited you like a selfish wind. Like a catholic still hoping for redemption, in the weight of a wheelchair uphill.

So when you died I heard the news in my campervan outside a corner shop in Brighton on a road where I’d been to some parties, and after I finished crying I went to buy milk, which is what your skin reminded me of so that I wanted to pour it in the oil of the road and stand in it barefoot. That morning, Michael had been in the hospital to start work on getting better, and so your death left us like spiders in a web spun between beams, ears cold, faces wet. And what I have from you now is two pairs of tiny scissors, and so when I sew I sew for you, wherever you are.