Category Archives: Poems

The Book Spider

When I moved to Yorkshire last year, I took my books with me. Like
you do. Unfortunately, the house wasn’t ready to take all the books until I’d
put up some shelves, so I stacked all the books, in ASDA carrier bags in the
garden shed. I never did get around to putting up those shelves, and I’m no
longer in Yorkshire – but for a few months my library was stored in a shed in
bags. I’d look out of the window into the garden and in the gloomy evenings I’d
feel the potential “weight of knowledge” stored behind the clapboard,
dammed up in that damned shed.

Occasionally, I’d get a hankering for a particular book, perhaps
three and I’d go to the shed, and start the onerous task of searching, one bag
at a time, for the book I wanted. It was then that I encountered that spider.
Biggest one I’d ever seen. And it really didn’t seem bothered by me, other than
to seemingly say, “Turn off the light and bugger off eh? I’ve got some
important snickering to do.”

THE BOOK SPIDER
The shed strained under the weight of books,
Opening revealed its cool dusty dark,
Green plastic bags filled with my library,
Too much for the house before shelves are made.
Each ASDA carrier a paper brick,
A wall built against the shed’s clapboard hull,
Like a water tower stories were stored
For when my page drought broke to DIY.
And like a water tower, the mood grave:
The grim potential thick weight of something
Stored where it shouldn’t be: mid-air water
And unreadable words, both floods held back.
I’d come for two books in particular,
Three thousand guesses against my method,
Bend, shift, bend, shift another, shrink the floor
With the rustling mosaic; confined dance.
A blind finger fumble then dance some more.
I dismantled a whole library in
solitary, then banged it up again.
That’s when the spider came; scuttle, flicker,
An unconcerned eight legged suspension-bridge
Between bags. A balloon basket cut loose,
A smudge in hard pressed doodle legs
That would be sharp enough to cut through paper.
Web whispers, tumbleweed’s rotting train-set.
Slung inside her electric etch-a-sketch,
Hairy librarian stalking my fingers.
Wanting me to be quiet, wanting me to roll
The dark back over and leave her alone
To catch words like flies and beetles in webs.
Dotted crumbs from the librarian’s lunch,
A spider big as Hemmingway’s head; ancient.
Twist in the torque pull of the alien
A bugger the size of Yorkshire, steadfast
Not concerned by any of the eight of me.
Screwed down cold space. Earth’s blank of silence
I didn’t dare breathe the sudden vacuum.
Making contact with the chill certainty
Of extra-terrestrial existence,
I extended my finger to see who
Was more unsettled by the encounter.
The spider held against my finger,
Didn’t budge, it was the fulcrum
Over which the blunt reality of
Being human pivoted, it held me
In balance, looking at me, knowing me,
Reaching in me, climbing the alien
Right inside me, sliding the legs of its
Otherness neatly into my brain folds.
It knew that even when it walked away,
Slowly; bored, that its space Doppelganger
Would remain locked in the darks above my
cerebellum, Its web there strong as stretched
Diamond wire tempered in reactors.
It knew it could hinge open my head
And snicker out whenever it wanted.

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Night Poem

Afterwards there are rucked covers,
Lost pillows and a bed at sea in a storm.

Before there was skin, hair in the wind,
Saliva blown from mouths, a dark slow river twisting

Through the jungle night. We kept our voices low,
In the hunt across the starlit stillness of water –

The ju-ju drums of our hearts beating scary magic.
I held you tight and squeezed you to sleep; you would need

your strength for the journey, I reasoned. And anyway, there are
Bright native eyes glittering between the leaves

I figure you’ll not want to see them. So I pull
You closer, sweat with you, taste your hair

read the Braille of your spine and imagine it would
be sublime if those words had been written for me.

And now you need to leave here – this jungle.
So, ever the gentleman explorer, I smuggle you out down river.

To a grey harbour, where I will put you on a dawn boat,
Watch you steam down to a beauty-mark on the horizon’s lip.

I turn. I breathe something in – your taste is still in my mouth.

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The Last Time I Fucked You

I’m abrading the Florida night with my sand and weather,
Scraping away the soot between stars,
To reveal a clamped down laboratory dawn that’s heavier and sweatier,
Than that two week ago coupling in Hunmanby,
Where we dissolved each other’s mistrust into a better

Moment; and as it turned out that was all it was, an exotic particle fleeting.
Then back almost immediately to that solar flare,
Like this Orange County Sun I cannot look at; both seemingly intent on greeting
Me by scorching a Bunsen hole in my face with
Sunlight and words. It’s as if a whole new science of unethical distancing

Is content to research us, proving hypotheses of switchback toying confusion.
I’ve sat and watched our enraged physics fail to explain,
Why we’re given one brief lovemaking as scant reward against the scalding reaction
Of tearing down this love atom by atom whilst still
Harnessing forces to contain our ongoing experiment in human fusion.

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You Turn Into Birds

A flock taking fright as I clump into the field
You dot the October sky like painting a myth by numbers.

I try to call you down with a handful of rough seeds
But already you’re a vee of geese migrating and I can do nothing but follow.

When you land it’s in high branches as a crow, blacker than rain
On an exposed hillside in winter, to gleam your eyes through me.

I’m mesmerised by that trickster shine of Satan curled ‘round harlequin,
And you leap into the air somersaulting with a flap into a thrush,

You want to dig worms out of my belly, so I let you.
And when you Kingfisher rise you’re as big and bright as Whitby

On a summer Saturday, all feather people and battery beaked.
On your huge Woodpecking shoulder the Abbey sits like a premonition of us.

Now the Kittiwake you are holds all the bay in wind bent wings,
You’re flung at me by weather, where you pierce me as a hawk; the clang

Of your talons magenting to my iron heart and you yank me up with you
Into the sky where you know every current and I know nothing.

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My Voyage on the Anti-Titanic

He is one hundred years full of Atlantic cold water,
He twists inside currents revelations of ice,
He soft kisses facefirst the bulkheads of wetrust
The slowdance of years in the blackness of space.

A waterlogged astronaut face dark with eyerot
He is bones only connected by an idea of life
He doesn’t have ears to register first creakings
Of the shivering liner turning up towards light.

Under the palm press of a thick limb of Neptune
The metal begins to shake loose of its’ death
At first it’s a rumour or an inkling of movement
Then it’s the creaking of iron’s first postwomb breath.

Seamagick runs down all of his long bones,
Flesh slugs the white and marrow sucks through
By the time that new eyes are rolling in sockets
The ship is shook loose of the dead silt below.

Faster and faster pronged on an impossible trident,
The ship spot welds itself back from the jigsaw of wreck
He spins his new body and gasps as the heartthump
Convulses his body in the blue dawning black.

Riding the slickdeck, autumnshedding weed hair,
Breaking his mouth on a corner sky,
Hitting him fullface another millpond night,
As the ship humps the surface funnels yelling smoke

Iceberg metal torn flank, a hole shudders closed,
Seasalt blackwater spit out of portholes
Back to Southampton dragging up bodies,
Sucking bullets from foreheads, reviving sodden violins.

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Filey Brigg

Somehow they’d got onto the subject of creation,
Two specks of Yorkshire jet traipsed Filey bay,
They held hands and he snare shuffled on physics’ drum,
M Theory, quantums and bluff formulae.

While he talked about star stuff and some bigger bangs,
She said that too soon there’d be nowt left to measure,
And when that had happened we’d lose something vital,
The spirit would pour out of humans forever.

If we are reduced to knowing all that could happen,
She said to his scientist white coated face,
What would the mystery of living then rest on?
If nothing could be uncertain or misplaced?

I’d settled for knowing if you’re going to shag me,
He thought while maintaining his superior air,
Insulting the landscape by reducing its beauty
To numbers, geometry and minutiae.

When really beneath it he was watching her breasts move
Thinking of parting her ice-cream-white thighs,
To find elegant proofs of sex verses true love,
But instead he mouthed words that were grey, dark and dry.

She warmed to her subject and he had no response,
Now his thoughts were of bedsheets and breakfast and cock,
And it so didn’t help the Brigg is Yorkshire’s stone penis,
Parting the vulva of North Sea with rock.

He shook sex out of his head like a dog river banked,
And tried to assert Dawkins’ Delusion of God,
He wanted to rid himself just for now of this canker,
This maleness that beat him down flat with its rod.

If he could listen to her without wanting to fuck her,
Just for once find the woman behind her behind
Take pleasure in the words, not just words of pleasure,
He knew there was something new he could find.

She ploughed on in summation against science’s end,
While he sweated frustration and nodded and bluffed,
Managed to string something on solar formation,
While Gods of the Sea laughed and laughed… laughed and laughed.

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I’ve Planted Poems Everywhere

Don’t move. This house is a booby-trap
I’ve written in tilt-switches under the salty plaster,
typed them into the dark between floorboards
and have pulled a razor tripwire from this pen.
Thin inklines of gunpowder crisscross the carpet.

Under the bath, a poem ticks down to zero,
it’s full of frustrated TNT and its Mickey Mouse Timer
keeps slipping on a rusty spring.
If it goes off there, you’ll be left breathless and watershocked
You’ll stumble from the bathroom spattered with liquid soap;
words sliding damp cordite into your nostrils.

This tin has a poem of sweaty gelegnite
perspiring in the hot dark of the oven.
You can smell it cooking if you get your nose close enough to the page.
If it goes off there’s going to be a plume of dead recipes
fluttering down like shot birds.
The windows will melt like scalding cheese.
Your kitchen will be a funeral for food.

You’ll pull the pin from this poem by accident,
and it’ll go off in your face. The words will be sharpnel
and you’ll shell-shock your way into the street screaming.
I lashed it to the bedpost especially to get you while you slept.
It got tangled to your hair and it’s waiting for you to roll over.

And when I come home,
be careful how you pull down the zip of my coat
and unbutton the strained cloth front of my shirt.
Suicide poems are pocketed in a vest primed to explode
when I recite my terrorist prayer about God, loving life,
riding eagles into heaven.

They are poems about death and the clawing of life out of death.
They are filled with the bolts and glass and screws of the bits of this house we’ve dismantled.

I swear if this house falls below fifty poems an hour it’s gonna blow.

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