Category Archives: Poems

Poem For James

I was fifteen when I met you. You and I were never children
we were only ever boys. With nothing else in common
but the luxury and boredom to wish our lives more wanton
I fed on your hubris, you chewed on my pride.

Hot rocks pockmarked our high school ties
we pushed enveloped ciphers between fifty lines
and getting pished was reverence. Must was in our eyes.
We felt that it was right and it was good.

I remember you at seventeen in your little white car
drifting down the high street like a disabused glacier
nose at the windscreen, wrapped in a valium shawl
your hair already greying. You always looked much older than you are.

Then I left for Glasgow. You stayed. I’m glad I wasn’t there for those days
I’m glad I wasn’t there when what you needed was another bridge to burn
the central belt my arm’s length from the belt around your arm
it’s not just that I couldn’t – it’s that I wouldn’t have kept you from harm.

Now I know that habits form like stars die.
I think of us sprawled out on the golf course.
How were we to know that the twinkling in the sky
was already cold, for worse or for worse?

Let me be clear: there is no should
I’m just clearing out the must.
You liked downers, I liked hallucinogens;
that was the only difference between us.

I remember the last time we hung out together –
driving back to Guildford in your battered white van
you parked in a well-to-do suburb of Brighton
and stepped outside. I heard the back door slam.
You left me with my roll-up and Radio One
‘wait there mate’, you said, ‘I won’t be long’.
A song I liked was playing. I can’t remember the song.
I imagined you reflected momentarily in foil
snapping at your clipper in the tin brown darkness.
I looked at some trees and felt paranoid and a bit of me was jealous

because I understand completely why you lost your adult life
to the needlepointed polygraph of habit.
We both had everything we ever could have wanted
our arrogance just made us not to want it.
James, it’ll be good to see you again
to clear out some of this must.
You liked downers, I liked hallucinogens;
that was the only difference between us.

But friendships form like stars survive
despite themselves, on Earth.
The twinkle never leaves the eye
that measures what their worth.
It’s Christmas Eve, let’s stay up late
fuck knows how long it’s been.
It’s just so good to see you mate
and good to see you clean.
Let’s go to the golf course and look at the stars
whatever the fuck they mean.

Orkney Mash-Ups

On the seven-hour train ride home from my trip to Orkney and the Highlands, I fed the contents of my travel diary into Gnoetry, along with Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Orkney-centric collection of lyric poetry The Dancers Inherit The Party. Here are some of the results.

From where I sit,
at the end of the bay –
a great hunk of otherwise.

What are these little birds, oh girl of mine?
Art is a question of toast.

I see no sea,
the foam,
the swell
is there,
the great
one, two,

The hairs are on his toes! she says,
then he: they’d tie them up and glower.

oh dear, how your cold sad face
leans on the glass of necessity.

a lack of chain stores,
little hills, a wee scotch burn
and a simple girl

Meanwhile he is brown,
and I do not remember
all that I mumble.

All the boats in the fields as they settle.
All the drawings in your skin.

I remember what Engels said: freedom is the found among the rain.

Sometimes, all it takes to make a memory is to say – what a hill!
Sometimes, all it takes to make a memory is to wipe their wires.

This piece came to me:
a line, scribbled in her
dear and silly scrawl. I like it –
that’s why my heart settles in

its slow descent. Yes, it’s something
to have your skin.
Here and there’s a crooked stamp –
it means a kiss, and so it reads like this.

Am I
an awful man? This
cat’s on the

trail, there’s violence
in the rain.

Art and
poetry are the
keys to the

town. You
and everyone is

A lot of the evening sun
goes down. A writer

writes his beautiful.
Then the old man grows

inside his ears.
We have to eat.

Quite by chance –
a thunderstorm
in Gaelic!

a lack of

chain stores,
little hills, mist shops,
mist shops, mist

shops, mist shops,
mist shops, mist
shops, old and slow,

did buy
myself a kind of

After Michio Mado

One day I picked up a charming wee bilingual edition of poems by Michio Mado in the Oxfam on Byres Road. When I got home I OCR’d the Japanese text and played around with it in Google Translate to make new versions of the poems, which became the inspiration and material for the poems below.


one apple

of just
this apple!

There is
one apple

is great.

Leaves of Grass

the bitterness
of leaves


Would all the small windows
of my body
be quiet –
blind descend accordingly.

Would world events
and all kinds of life
be quiet –
blind descend accordingly.

Also one dream
and all other dreams
be quiet –
blind descend accordingly.

Field Mustard and Butterfly

field mustard
field mustard
the world
I wish

field mustard

First Star of Evening

A star is somehow
among the wide sky

or there are no
stars anymore –

none to touch
my eyelashes,

none to touch
my cheek.

Wonder the half-star.
Empty the sky.