It Takes a Worried Man

Dad understands the beauty of miles clocked
up along the corridors, no more roads
for him, the one who taught the ten to two
of the wheel, the three-point turn,
the one who wants to meet a wall at speed.

They wish he would rest, see what settles
like shapes only lain snow reveals
but motoring his body, eyes dipped under
the feathery confusion is the only way
to steer the vast drifts of reason’s traction.

My cap at an angle meant to cheer
 - Take that off.  They’ll think you’re weird.
Where have you gone, my dapper, dandy one,
who drove singing that he’d not be worried long?

His mouth trusts anything I offer
but this fierce homeopathy - anxiety
for the anxious - isn’t curing - the white room
painted to look yellowy green, all exits locked
and filmed - will I ever get out of here?

They say the drugs’ diversion will take weeks.
Should I believe them or smuggle him out,
a sack of Foyle mussels over my shoulder,
let him get lost in his own way, a fiction
walking down to the cliff in his dressing gown,
when my back is turned, his point as lucid
as the lighthouse that identifies the pier.

I leave like an accomplice in an ugly greying sleet,
a winter more unknown than any other.
He’s left with no good coat, soft shoes,
head bare - a last leaf on a lawn.

All night I’ve asked should I, could I return
to hold down a pillow over his fallen face
and if the answer lies in our pact to always
do our outmost, in any dicey situation,
to help halt the other’s pain.


Test, Orange

I am peeling a large, thick-skinned orange.
The rind gives easily as an eyelid.  It is the wettest
orange ever opened.  I thumb under the peel
and the segments break, flesh staying with skin. 
I maul it, juice flooding my fingers, face.  I want
the mess gone, the evidence of clumsy process. 
For isn’t the method of breaking something open important? 
There is no kind time for unkind acts but surely a soft
breath can be taken before speech shatters all about it,
a last touch to qualify love’s fine and final etiquette.
Then make it quick.  You want the bite of blood,
the thick emetic swallow and to hide your mouth
against the cold, the sudden hollow.  The way we first
apprize the fruit, carries its eventual breaking down –
the shy night body vanishing, the fireworks or the pulpy
blows of rage.  Tufts of orange cling to my nails.
The water will run orange.  The throat will be an orange hole,
flamed with nobler endings.  I rinse the cloth, my hands.
In our coupled bed, my wasted love, we’re tested
for the will to torture, prove abominable enough.


Il Deserto Rosso

Red gantries stalk the Ravenna docks
a sea architecture to deliver dreams.

Do you see her trying to escape?
‘Do you take passengers?’

Hanjin juggernauts emerge from fog.
Edge to edge their iron bodies line
rough decks in washed sienna, each ship
a building afloat with crates that should sink it.

She could have climbed in different shoes.

Great arcing claws rush their bent ‘r’s in and out
of the earth, its grass and trees turned white.
Everything on land is solid with disappointment, 
a language that burns and moves.
It exhales noisily.  Like something criminal she has done.

She pays a worker for his sandwich, eats as if she’s homeless.

The factory hums, the streets are empty. 
Smoke makes itself a black sky.  The management are calm,
civilly dressed.  She runs from the end of the pier,
a fast road through water, her green coat living.

To be this dislodged.  Not even love or sex can pin her down.
Though some find it appealing in the beach hut,
try to take her wharfside.  It seldom helps. 

That was the director’s best decision.
To leave her helpless.

poet's biography ->