If I Can Just Stop You There

So how did it feel for you?
Tell me.

Did it feel perhaps
Like making a point
For the right of same-sex marriage
In a room full of people
Whom you have only just realised
After having known them all your adult life
That they are, or have become, or always were
The sort of Christians who
Shift uncomfortably in their seats
And whose eyes narrow
And whose voices chill
And whose faces set hard
When you use words like
Love and justice and tolerance and rights
And who have only just realised
After having known you all your adult life
That you are, or have become, or always were
No Christian at all, or worse, much worse
Some other sort of Christian?
Did it feel like that?
If it it did, I’ll take your advice.

If it didn’t
If I were you
I wouldn’t knock it
Until I
Had tried it.

The mystery of the European fog (for Mark Love)

We had expected to be lost in fog,
Although it never seemed to rain in Brussels.
The sopping wet opaque November mist
That had clung to us since London
Faded almost all at once
As we drove through Anderlecht;

In Brussels, we walked from our hotel
In colour-saturated sky,
Uniform in Autumn brightness and
Glassy smooth, and blue like France.
Our eyes began to hurt and we regretted
That we’d left behind our sunglasses.

Later, my contact in the Parliament
Would laugh and say to me that
Everything is transparent here,
And that she was only glad that we
Had not brought with us our
British obfuscations.

She would find my bafflement amusing.



I forget

Sometimes how lost,

how irrevocable you are

but then I recall that

both of your parents

and your sister

justifiably despise


Love the structure.

September Will Let You Down

I’ve known her all my life, which sounds glib, but she was there the day I was born.
I grew up looking forward to seeing her, and the first time I fell in love, I fell in love with her.
I still look out for her, forget everything I ever learned about life when she’s here.
I know she’s not exclusive, makes the same promises to anybody interested.
I haven’t been so faithful myself. I’ve had others, and they’ve run hot and cold.
But it’s always her I want.
I want to feel her touch on my face. I want her to make everything all right again.
It won’t work.
It’ll rain.
Our plans to meet up like we did when I was a kid
Won’t ever come off; The party won’t work out the way it should.
She’ll turn frosty and I won’t know why.
I’m holding my breath for her.
I’m biting my lip.
September will cheat on me.
September will let me down.

1. Abstract:

If the title seems grand,
Understand that the thesis
I will test is that small movements
Move all things just the same.

Deities and Demigods

You might catch your breath at the idea,
Grasp the boat’s side, knuckles not as hard nor as pale as this
Wall of sea-borne scales
Glimmering in this cold, crystalline mist.
Your stomach might harden
At the premonition of hell
In the smell of sulphur and charred meat,
In the sight of bobbing, half-finished meals:
Lost men, brave men, men like you.
The dawn might darken
In the opening of this single slitted eye,
Wider than your height
And you might rise to your feet,
Barely trusting the creaking unsteady wood,
Raise your ancestral spear,
Fear that the moon-bright blade
Will not be good
To end the serpent that girdles the earth:

But since you know its hit point total,
You kill it instead and steal its stuff.

Note: This is old. I got hired again recently by one of my old clients, a maker of role-playing games, to write for them, and I dug this out, mainly as a caution to myself to get it right. It’s about this thing that you all too often get - speaking as someone who played way, way too much in my younger years - where everyone’s like, oh, it’s all about telling heroic stories. Create new myths. Explore stirring worlds of perilous adventure. Except most of the time it isn’t. Really it isn’t. The tendency of nerd culture is always to bathos, to the classification and numbering of things. This is about that.

Every Man Has His Price (May 2011)

Every man has his price
You are bidding on the dignity
Of a thirty-five year-old man
Starting (no reserve) at fifty p.
A former writer and poet (freelance),
Now working in office administration
In British higher education.
He’s not using it right now, and needs the money
So he decided to list it. Like it’s funny.
Category: collectibles, religious objects,
Secular Humanism, abstract concepts,
Used or pre-owned, may show signs of wear.
Got any questions? Link’s down there.

Questions Received:
1. Are you also planning to list your soul? Would you consider a private deal?
2. If I win your dignity, would you mind if I donated it to Iggy Pop? I don’t need it like he does.
3. How much for international shipping?

It goes for five pounds and sixty pence at the end,
The price inflated by a single, unsuccessful last-minute bid.
With the certificate of ownership I shall send
A letter asking that he take more care of it than I did,
Although, since it is no longer in my hands,
I have no right to make demands.

Note: Yes, I did sell my dignity on ebay so I could write a poem. Yes, this is exactly how it went, and no, the auction is long gone. Only this documentary poem, a pale shadow of the actual thing, that transient artefact that was my first real concrete poem, remains.


Last night I travelled standard class
On a shabby windowless aeroplane,
With stained and battered seats and
An in-flight movie screen of the old style.

I had arranged to meet my father’s ghost
In a far-away departure lounge.
He was of course vague and distant,
As he had been in life. He said nothing new.

I flew home on the same plane,
On the same day, in the same class.
I paid no attention to the movie,
Nor even noticed what it was.

What Poe Would Have Done

What say of it? What say of Failure grim,
That spectre in my path?”

Because when you quote Edgar Allan Poe,
Even for a cheap punchline or a laugh,
It is important to misquote, to chop and combine
Modern sentiment and old-time lit
An out-of-place word in a centuries-old line
Because, you must realise,
It’s what Poe would have done,
And you must hope that when you die
Alone under mysterious circumstances,
Paupered, ignored,
That you hold tight to the apprehension
That people might appreciate your work,
Your narrative flow, your dialogue,
Your focus, your texture,
Your grasp of dramatic tension
When you are gone;
It’s what Poe would have done.

But she is like the Bible

The problem is that this
Is what our conversation might have meant and
It is a valid interpretation,
But she is like the Bible;
She admits multiple hermeneutics
And a relationship may be maintained
With her for many years
In the confidence that feelings
That another man might never have derived
From these words and glances given
Are as real as any other.

And the problem is that in
Her justification of herself she is complete and
Will never allow for her contradictions,
And she is like the Bible;
She is prone to outburts of assurance and of wrath
And a relationship may be maintained
With her for many years
And one may never know for sure
Whether paradise awaits
Or consignment to the outer darkness
Where piteous cries are made and teeth are ground.