Saturday, 18 February 2012

The exorcism of migraine

I have not had a migraine since 2007. Atenolol keeps me off them. But I remember well enough what they used to be like. This poem was written in 1995, probably following recovery from one of them.

It was published in Streetwise 18, 1995, p. 28.


The blackness pooling round my brain
begins to drain.

The extra filing-cabinet up there
(I have to step around
its bruising corners and its spill
of order on the floor)
fades into air.

The lobes relax their grind
and re-engage. I have a mind.

Monday, 13 February 2012


This poem was written for Radio 3's 2001 'Sonnet Tree' competition, taking its cue from the competition's working definition of a sonnet, but not entered there. It finally found a home in the Ver Prize 2009 anthology, p. 42.


A sonnet's any stretch of fourteen lines,
a church is any group of thirty people,
a garden's any ground that has a fence,
a surgeon's anyone using a scalpel,
marriage is any stay for two or more,
victory's yours whatever the event,
a lecturer's a person you can hear,
a student's anybody under twenty.
Perhaps those bring a sense of things deficient,
the estate agent's way of talk run wild.
But you must grin and use such definitions,
and find in them the space to dig and build:
though they may seem inadequate to you,
no law of nature renders them untrue.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Checking a possible emergency exit

I hope this one is self-explanatory. There's nothing metaphorical about it: it's straightforward reporting of an incident in December 1993. In the Haddon Library, where I work, a staircase door was found unexpectedly open. The door had been understood to be locked and its key lost. Finding it open meant checking its security risks and safety possibilities.

The poem was published in Cous-cous 9, 1995, p. 6.

I was reminded of my own poem by tonight's snow -- less my own observations of same than pictures such as this from Cambridge incognito photographer Sir Cam.


The staircase didn't lead to Uncle Andrew,
mad in his study, with the magic rings,
nor to a wood, all winter, Lantern Waste,
nor upwards through four hours' climb to the cellar,
nor to the same floor, fifty years ago,

but through a cupboard -- lurch to sudden birth --
large, unexpected -- standing in a lab.
A woodcut's demons!
Mythical enough.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The ring

This is another poem of mine that's followed my classic pattern. It was my entry in the 2011 National Trust Landlines competition, had no success there, and has now found publication in CILIP East of England's Sunrise magazine. The quoted tweet is one that I posted using a dumb phone in the summer of 2010.

And yes, rain really was leaking into the carriage around the lights. The sort of thing one doesn't expect, and resonating in my mind now with last night's dream of a high-risk (tracks in the water? train overloading rickety boat?) train journey to an island in the Indian Ocean.


Nature to see: nature that stands,
nature that spreads, nature that glows.

Nature to work with: nature that shines,
nature that grows, nature that blows.

Nature to fear: nature that drowns,
nature that tears, nature that burns.
Nature has nature's ways to kill.
Appeasement's temporary. Nature will.

From train I saw wind turbines across miles of rainy fen, flashing in cloudlight at each turn. In the carriage rain fell between lights.

And that was a tweet, and a tweet is small,
but it was made from the ring of them all.