A marriage was made

‘twixt mystery and the unknown

They walked down the aisle in black.

An invisible force bonded them

to a sound of strange music,

a blend of the scary and the absurd,

a union made in some dark heaven

with no one to give them away.


But once a year

out of obscurity glory flares

in decisive moments every year

far from where bullets tore at the fabric

flags are hoisted high

to a grave whisper of tattered dreams.


No questions asked of why,

better to do and die.

Then the fabric is once more re-stitched

at small shrines again

tributes dusted down, candles lit

trying to make some sense of it,


why wars can always be justified.

We mumble to our inner selves

Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory,

our men.



The means tested poor

are watching food channels

from between their toes.

Every consumable product known

flashes up then disappears

as the double chime of a doorbell goes.


The staffy bristles in the fading light

as turgid day turns vampire dark.

Teenaged Connor, the dysfunctional son

is about to be collared for peddling skunk.


From amongst the pile of ascending junk

a remote is levelled

a change of diet,

Connor is nowhere to be seen

while PC Perkins waits at the door

calls for backup

hearing the telly much too loud

knowing full well that three’s a crowd.


Shortly after Crewe we’ll be going through a tunnel

where a dozen men lost their lives while working inside

on subsistence wages sleeping in makeshift huts

eating bread and potatoes


so that you could make this trip today

in this glorious Pullman carriage, so

ladies and gentlemen, spare a thought

as you sip your wine

tackle your turbot

on gleaming plates with silver cutlery,

freshly laundered napkins expertly folded


spare a thought for those poor souls,

their wives and bairns exploited so badly

the navvies, who toiled to provide

banks and bridges

cuttings and tunnels –

ponder if you will that social divide.


And now the sun is coming out as you can see

so enjoy the rest of your ride.




On Hallowe’en I saw a sight

two mothers with daughters of the night

in supermarket skeleton clothes

all breathless with excitement there

and in my headlights as I passed

they gave their elemental game away

no element of surprise you see


a conformity of plan no doubt

to wake the dead not yet entombed

and offer them some ghastly deal

invigorated by the seventh seal

and raise nocturnal hue and cry

while yet their youth so well preserved

brought forth some joy

so well deserved.




Jacko Wiseman died in the garden

he’d be the first to own up

never take on something you can’t finish

that took him by surprise.

Apart from that he was a capable man

more than ready with his fists

and anything that came to hand.


He knew the Krays and the Richardsons

did bits of business, never went inside

would always buy you a drink in the Albion

forever showing you his Buick

column change, bench seats

girls used to slide around in the back

a bit of a lad was Jack.


Everyone was there at the wake

Rita made a going away cake

he’d have liked that would Jacko.

The hearse and horses looked great

good name for a boozer said Rita

never seen her looking sweeter.


No doubt she’ll carry on where Jacko left off

always good for a ride

no disrespect

but she still has her pride.




In a north London cemetery

sad geometry of stone

the sun strikes the righteous

lights up lives long gone,

and with uncertain footfall

we walk amongst caverns of remembrance,


chilled by reminders of our mortality.

For what lies beyond?

our grasp is a wisp in the trees

whose leaves are ready to fall

and we look up past the bedded interiors.


Will clouds lift us into a dream?

or will those rusted doors swing freely

on hinges of hope

slamming shut again on our fears

as they lock us in or out.



Will they?

only buried bones can say.


What I remember

is the balance of bike and road

as I swept round the mid summer curve


the heat stippling my legs and arms,

and  then I saw

three men with scythes

at the long verges,


the soft shake of sweet grass as they cut

in deliberate arcs.

It came back to me later that day

in retrospective moments.


Fifty years later, again those verges wait

for the high viz guy

with gloves, ear defenders,

eye protectors

on the motor mower

like a voracious whale sweeping past

with its one good eye.






Coronation year 1953

Miss Winterbourne in the school hut

horn rimmed glasses and pencil skirt

gave us clay to make small Everests

to celebrate Hilary and Tensing.


In the same week I watched the Coronation

the slow wet snake of the royal future

in black and white.

The community let their hair down on a local field,

George Bunce’s lorry took us to a dance.


Our school maps still dripped red with Empire

old money rang true

went much further

weighing us down with history

before Britannia waived the rules.