Tag Archives: Poem

River of my Youth

6 Apr

Sitting on the damp grass

by the river of my youth,

more a stream

to tell the truth, though as a child

it seemed bigger.


I’ve shrunk it in growing,

but still the gleam

carries magic from afar to far

away. I like how

it’ll never stop flowing

will always be here

when I’m gone; home, city-bound,

or dead, it’ll still be going,

always cool, wet, fish-full

and refreshing.


rolling small and obscure

under mature willows

through unremarkable fields.

Appreciated by dog walkers

and their wet dogs,

cider-quaffing pot-smoking

village idiots will lounge and litter its banks.


Small Huckleberry boys

will always scamper across

its plank bridges – fishing net in hand,

sunhat on head,

hunting the clawed monster crayfish

of the muddy bed.


And the occasional dreamer

quiet and aloof,

will sit, and take peace

from its ceaseless, winding,

sea-searching movement through the fields.




The World’s Strongest 87-Year-Old

18 Nov

You were always strong, invincibly

in an elemental sort of way –

I was convinced you were unhurtable – like a hill,

or a weathered oak – all the stronger for being old.

And it’s true; Granny said you never were ill,

never even a cold (until the end of course

but I’ll get to that soon – everyone will.)

At five foot four – five five before, but you shrank –

you were never small,

though we, your grandsons (you called us “my boys”)

towered above you by a foot.


Nothing for yourself, no fuss,

you’d do anything for anyone

and eat anything near enough.

Standing outside Tesco on a freezing winter morning

rattling collection tins for charity,

or driving packs of housebound old biddies in the Lions Club

bus – to get them out the house, give them some company

and lunch.

You did that for years – till eventually you outdated half the stick-wielding



You had all the skills I’ll never learn:

with a garage full of dusty iron tools,

time and again you came and bodged jobs for us,

till eventually dad said to mum: “Whatever you do, don’t tell your dad it’s broken.”

You’d fix anything – or try at least.

You knew washing machines and cars,

Cameras, aquariums,

trees plants grass,

woodwork and electrics,

plumbing and Scalextric.

Hey – aged 80 you even figured out the internet.


A child of 1919  – your youth was strict

no toys but a rabbit’s skin – not even a hoop and stick.

That’s why you collected those model cars,

I realised that late – after you’d gone I think.

And you always had a toy for us,

no miserable ‘I never had that in my youth’ words.

But when naughty brattishness took hold of us we feared

your silent glower  over the lunchtime tabletop all the same.


I remember it all so well.


And I remember the ending too.

Your second war.

And you fought it without complaint,

fought the cancer in the piss- and chemical-smelling hospitals of Essex

Just like you’d fought the Japanese

in the damp fever-filled jungles,

of Burma, sixty years before.

You were solid, stoic, as ever,

never a cry for sympathy. Never.

And battling hard you showed titan strength

As your piss flowed back to yellow,

From red.

And the cancer died.

For a time, anyway.



And then it came back, years later, in your head,

growing in grey matter, under white skull,

pink skin, and grey hair – hair tha had always been thick whether

dark or white,

up to age eighty-six anyway, when the cancer made it begin to shed.

Of course a tumour in the head will change a person –

Somehow, so strangely, you mellowed.

No more glowers; you were softer –

strangely happy – I think more open,

perhaps at the end of a life lived well one feels that way.

You’d read about illegal raves in the local paper:

“Were my boys at that one?”

You’d ask Mum, curiously, uncondemning.

Sometimes you were confused, that’s true,

and it wasn’t easy. Well, you were dying.

But as your body and mind weakened

Your soul never could.


Holding your hand as the nurse bustled, your grip was iron strong,

And I knew you were gripping onto life,

gripping so hard, to stop the falling in your head.

It didn’t take you that night – you held tight to life –

but shortly after.

You left a family, and memories,

heaps of tools, toy cars – a nice half-page obituary

to a community figure –

and I hope a little part

of your deep strength and invincible heart

somewhere woven inside of mine.

Ever-dimming light

13 Nov

The weak-rayed sun drops over the terraced street

I see the cold beams from my basement ,

barred from street level footsteps, passing cars.

And as the pale clear light dwindles,

yellow lamp glow takes over, warms the cold room.

Foot steps tap in the flat above,

The washing machine sloshes and hums.

And I sit, passing Sunday hours.

And humdrum days too

as the clear cold light

of life

ever-dims to darkness.


13 Aug


and the masses continued to teem and grow

overflow, spilling out of all containment.

A surging mass of dark brown-to-pale pink

they spewed toxicity

covered greenness with grey

went forth and multiplied

like algae

until, algae-like again, solicited their own demise,

by drowning,


in eutrophication of their own

wanton making.

Catching the wrong bus

17 Feb

I met her at the bus stop,
our eyes met over cigarettes.
Something transmitted
and we spoke a while.
Instant obvious attraction.
She was Romanian,
living in Manchester,
flying home to see family.
She looked intently.
“You are nice man, will you watch my bag?”
and she went to find the toilets.
Then I took the English gent further;
decoding the timetable wording for her,
standing close to shield her
as she lit another fag.
Our hands touching.
“Are you going on my bus?”
she said, hopeful. Soft smile.
An hour in the wrong direction?
“No. Sorry, I’m going home.”

She asked again 2 minutes later.
An hour. To an airport. For a girl who lived in Manchester.
“No. I can’t.”
Her bus came,
she waved sadly and went.
Riding home I realised that this was the wrong bus.

In a Hot Country (a warm-up poem)

31 Aug

The sunlight saps, humidity
wraps itself around
the scene

of flattened brown feet,
and faces at ease.
People on stools
hands resting on their knees.

And the ragged dogs loll






h…. h… heat.

Coolness is a luxury

sold in cold drink cans,
a momentary iciness
of mouth and throat.

I doubt anyone here even owns a coat.

No More Heroes

8 Mar

There are no more

Hectors and Achilles

In the limb-strewn mess

of bomb-struck cities.


Death came quickly

in the glorious classics,

no shattered men screaming….

groaning…. sobbing for hours.


The post war lives

of limb deducted cripples

never featured, in Homer,



The motto: I kill more man I am more man;

a simple equation for a time

philosophical, toga-clad, collonaded,

yet brutal.