Bad Mouth


Aidan watched as

I poked a knife into

the rice-grain sized

gaps in the dishwasher

spinner. He said,

“Should you do it like that?

Don’t they need to

be pulled out, not pushed in?”

I kept on poking.

“The only way to pull

them out is by sucking,”

I said with authority.

“How would you do that?”

“With your mouth,” I said.

“How would you know that?”

“I’ve done it,” I said.

Had I? It seemed like

an unsavoury act.

I began to have my doubts.

“That’s gross. Really foul.”

And his nose crumpled

in distaste.

“I bet you wish you hadn’t

married me now.”

“Almost,” he said and turned



Cider Season



The apple that tastes

of slow days of sun,

sweetened by languid kisses

smudged red on pale flesh

and scented with

impossible morning mists,

that apple’s fleeting season

is too soon gone;

best to stick to

the cold harsh nip

of a Granny Smith.

A Bowl Of Soup To Break The Fast



We meet where moths

move to the light

and crickets rub wings.


Një, dy, tre,

one, two, three.


Beneath the veranda,

on the forest’s edge,

five girls learn

that language is

racing, tickling,

swinging and giggling

and that falling hurts

in any country

and crying

sounds the same.

The Crab and the Wild Sea



“By this age,

Esme loved the sea!”


“Everyone’s different,”

she said.


“But now you can swim –

look how the sun shimmers

on the water!”


She said, “It looks cold.

I like swimming

in swimming pools.”


“But the sea’s wild!

You should be more daring!”


“Would you like to hold

my crab?” she said.


“Not really.”


She looked like

I’d let her down.


I shrugged,

feeling a bit cross.

She held it out to me.


“I don’t have to

if I don’t want to,” I said.

“Everyone’s different.”

Piste Cirque du Lombres



The Juggler:

Face streaked

and wet

with sweat,

half stale,


confined and


not such a

big top.

No hot shot,

he slips and

drops balls

and stops,

starts up,



and shocked

that spectacle

and pzazz

has faded fast

to this:

a slow hand clap.


The clown:

Your posters promise

Coco, not this

fucking clown.

all new drink

fresh on foul breath,

with eyes that rape

and fat thighs

thrusting crotch

to cast his net.

Cold exhibitionist.

See him spit

and bite,

crack his whip.

Watch how

he plays the


his game to

touch tits,

squeeze ass,

take aim and

smile slyly

at their shame.



C’est un

monde d’hommes.

Où sont

les femmes?



The Curious Sadness of Liking Strangers



A raucous crowd of family

scramble the seats across from me,

talking loudly about their bowels

and Shannon’s newborn baby

produced before her sixteenth birthday

and ‘already sleeping through.’


Some shitty instinctive voice in me

thinks ‘crap.’ Bad luck to end up

enduring the final leg,

listening to lurid tales of

who best pissed their pants

and on which ride

and when they’ll go again.


Then the more curious side of me,

that collects characters like these,

sees this as blatant opportunity.

I abandon my short story

to scribble notes furiously.

‘Rich pickings here,’ I think.


And finally, thankfully,

they end up chatting to me

and we share friendly profanaties

about United versus City,

and suck on sour sweets.


When the train pulls in, delayed,

we go our separate ways

and I feel curiously sad about

the Sunday roasts we’ll never share,

Shannon’s boy’s first steps and

missed rituals of a different Christmas Eve.


Ridiculous, I know.

I’m sure they’ll never think of me.

For Emily



I could call you

sister slut but

you married young

and faithfully stayed

beside the man who

took your hand.


I could call you

sister slag but

you always drove past

the tempting thongs

displayed roadside

on the A1.

And This Is Not The End Of You



First softer sounds

thrum through synapses,

then breaking waves soak the

lyrical land,

lilting to the quick of you,

bitter and beautiful.


You turn your back

but that languid language

takes wayward ways around

and snags at time

and holds onto you:

emerging or escaping.


The wrecking tide

leaves ghostly shapes,

desolate somewhere and

so long love-lost;

a beach, a boat,

a place, a man.

A life unlived in.


The whispered threat

cuts silence through its

cold, shell shaped echoing,

leaving a clue;

a solid ink imprint.

Who are you?

What might you do?

Man Versus Food



Three hungry daughters

starved of trash TV,

feast on scenes of beef,

deep fried with battered cheese;

swilling down each

fresh excess.


I’m all consumed!

Shouting at his sturdy side,

urging on this dubious fight

and cheering on his next success

with every tortured bite.


I shake off shame and shun disgrace:

against the clock, against all odds

and always for the underdog,

I scream, “Go USA!”

Dumb Beat Of Blood



Soldier, you surprised me

with your dark threat,

hidden in the nave,

stark and silent, like stone.


Your cheeks were the warm

spring pink of wild roses.


And I surprised you too

when I brought the gun

up to my eye

and fixed you in my sights.


This was your game

to play, not mine.


Did you stagger

through the vestry door

to still draw breath by

winter-grey graves?


It seems I found you there,

alive in the morning grass.


And somehow, suddenly,

so keenly awake to the physical

destruction of death,

enthralled by willing flesh,

I fired and fired.


What a thrill, unfelt before!


A pause. A fall to waking,

taking stomach sinking

backwards steps to flee

the sunlit scene and let

feeling seep back in.


Soldier, I close my eyes

tight and cannot see

pink cheeks drained white.

And in the morning



Laugh like a raven bird

But make way,

For the spread wing can span

Wider than

The narrow room we sleep in.


Crow like no-one else has

Ever known

How to crush cheek to chin,

Fuse flesh and

Wear the skin that you slept in.

The road to Cork Part 1 – Denial



The petrol gauge

ticks slowly

towards empty.

In solemn stately lines

we snake the back roads

and ways to Cork;

the weight of our

sadness draining fuel.


Your Mam ahead,

laid  in the  kind of basket

‘She would have liked,’

the sun thirsty buttercups

and daisies hand tied.


And in the back, the girls,

solemn and sadly silent;

still afraid the tremor

of a whispered word might

snap a fragile chord,

drain the tank,

bring on the unbearable,

unspoken thought.


I take a breath.

‘We need to stop,

fill up, pull off.’

You nod at the needle;

a fluttered wing on red,

then shake your head.

‘We can’t,’ you say.

‘My Dad.’

and grimly stare ahead.


And somehow on some

motorway that links

somewhere here

to some place there,

the truth kicks thickly

through the grief.

‘No car can run on air.’

The road to Cork Part 2 – the grief



Exit ahead.


‘We’ll just pull off,

make our own way.’

We’ve got no choice.’

Your voice betrays

the horror of the fear

of your shoulder

absent from the weight

a pall bearer should bear.


I grasp the careful

hand drawn map and try to

shield our sorry state

from locals keen to

play a part,

and linger longer

in this sombre

final act of fate.


‘Can we have one, Dad?’


Absurd and all too real,

the whippy cone and

cheerful taunting tune

shrink any shred of faith;

the strangers fallen face,

your desperate rage, regret

and fall from grace to

lose ourselves again on

soulless, nameless ways.




You wake

later, sleepy

and slightly


and slope about

with puzzled frown

finding paper, pen,

envelope, stamp:

an exhausting list

of wishes

before even a

slurp of coffee

or a kiss.



and a yielding

kind of pride

when the final

thing is flourished

to girls

more intent on

Conor Barrying

their crunchy nut

cornflaked milk

than cheering on

your early triumphs.


So then you turn to me

seeking a smile,

some sign of

high regard

but I mutter,



‘You’ve not posted it yet.’


You nod slowly.

You know there are

challenges ahead.

Tuesday Night



Bite of outside

sweeps in

with me

and there I stop,

struck by the

click and flash

of time framed:

a simple, faltering

harmony made

more lovely

now than





If Ray Bradbury

had not made seedy

seem so satisfying,

had not put

Cleethorpes on the map,

or Jilly’s Rockworld,

dark pool halls

and telephone sex,


she never would

have lingered in

this lurid life of

lap dancing

and live sex shows.

Riverdale Road



She held the egg,

a single uncooked egg

as others bustled,

became busy

with boxes and

bubble wrap.

Sister, niece, daughters:

a gossipy gathering,

a big day.


I played two ball

against the wall

my mum had used

as a girl.

Why doesn’t she throw it away?

I thought.

Throw the egg away.


It hadn’t really

occurred to me

that buses to Ashby,

fresh garden mint

with roasted lamb,

sleeping belly up

on sheepskin rug

and dusty, red

electric heat

were today

to be packed away

beside tea towels

and other memories.


I feel now her hand,

holding that egg

and in my dreams,

I wrap it for her,


Round The Bend



I smiled slightly

from my car

to her bike.


is what I thought

she thought of me.


I winked,

I actually winked

when again


I’d looped around

from cliff to coast,

saw face falter

and reality shift


‘Who could this be?’

is what I thought

she thought of me.


And the thrill

I felt!

I couldn’t help

this circle game

just to see

her uncertainty,

my sense

of expectancy

of her wobbling


of me laughing


balanced precariously

on the edges of insanity

and ‘Why this mild cruelty?’

is what I thought

she thought of me.

Last Night



Last night

I dreamt


my husband’s

mother’s sister’s



the memory of

whose last


was comforting

and strong


but now his

arms are loose

and sad,

he hangs his head

and sighs.


‘My poor wife’

was all he said.


I turned away and cried.

Milk for Merlin



Paper pyramids

Weave in and

So dip out:

Here, then gone.


Scattered tissue stars

Smudge light on

Terraced stone:

This, the shade.


See snow angels on

Railway Street,

Magic boy:

Look! Reach high!


Catch party frocks and

Rugby tops,

Grasp tightly:

Brave, still brave.

The Black Tor Ferry – Part 1 The Wanker and his Wife



Long years of home

And if not housework

Then the responsibility

Of organising how

And why and what

Is done

And then by whom and when.


Offspring to raise

And if not rearing,

Not exactly, not directly,

At least the task

Of organising how

And why and what

Is done

And then by whom and when.


And later on

Faking mirth in age,

She sees her big church smile was wrong:

She should have laughed at him.

Prim bigotted shit,

she thinks,

Youth’s wasted on the young.

The Black Tor Ferry – Part 2 Oxygen



A whirlwind of

long tongued

wasters sinking

scheming fangs

into your time,

my love:

gnashing happily at

your younger years

and chewing

cheerfully on

the bones of

what you could

have been.


Ah my love,

the day grows late

and I kiss still

the skeleton leaves.

Old man time

has left his cloak

and now,

come dance

with me.

The wrecking season



Cold wind whips up the winter waves

and sends sea fret to seek me out

in rippled dunes of salty grass

where I lay low beneath dark skies

and only Cornish sucker fish

look up to see me cry.

Love Poem



The boy, the beach, the rocks,

The leap, the twist, the dive,

Alive. The simple lines

Of hills and sand and tide.

This happy life.

All brown and sandy blonde,

His lips, sun kissed.

Kicks, tackles, back flips,

Takes a wave head on,

Makes a fist

Screams through the surf

“Can you do this?”


A kiss, and with this “yes”

A thousand crashing waves

pause. For, on bended knee, he smiles

a while, thinks of wedded bliss.

Their happy life;

Holds close this curve of Clare

and hopes his arms are strong,

Can shield them from

This brooding sky

This changing mood,

The helpless fear,

The hurt, the heavy heart,

The salty tear.


And here was where they stood,

Painted rocks in hand and

Heard the tangled rhymes,

A hundred floating dreams

Let go, rise up.

A happy life? So,

Bittersweet to meet again

On pardoned shores

Not menacing, but grey.

The days, long gone

Of fights and twisted tongues

Bewildered, battered, bruised

And torn? Or bound by

other ties? Not so forlorn.


See him now, ye fuckers,

Swarthy still and still sun kissed

Not come to so much harm;

Takes up his twirling girls

And holds them in his arms.

You Could Not Play the Guitar at 17 and Did Not Get any Blowjobs



You may have had

beliefs so hot you glowed

with rage, a fire in

your belly and

your loins burning

a hole in your hand

but your heart too

free was floating



You may have

locked yourself

in houses by the sea

with young men now

long dead or mad

and read or smoked

and talked of

life while

others lived.


But each timely filament

layered on

graceless youth

adds depth and daring

so that,

now not alone,

we take

wild and reckless


into the


The Whole Big of It



We met, in fact

We almost missed

The fact that City scored

And jumped straight in

To love and lust,

I know we jumped

And were not pushed.

Forget rose tinted fog,

I have the proof

For I was cold and aloof

And you smelled of wet dog

The pearl garden



She says “I will”

And settles in.

This life

Of wedded bliss,

His poems, the girls

His arms, his kiss.


And then the pearl

A gift for thirty years

Of this.


“Until death

do us part”

She says

With all their life ahead.

And then the pearl is lost


And somehow he is dead. 




This skeletal frame

burns bright

This not quite

sacred flame

alight under

the dark heaven

The still night air

Even the call,

Not quite a call

to prayer

So, enfold my waist

This man

These arms and hands

This tight embrace

more fierce than

painted foe

or charcoal ember;

These arcs, these arms

in flickering

dreams remembered.




Digging down deep inside

She hollows you out

Unlocks your tongue

And lifts you up

To fall from way up high

Your wife’s a bitch and then you die


Fucking you up,

So unsure

She takes her lead now

Gives no more

The cold and

Unloving sigh

The whiskey thrill

The bitter pill

Your wife’s a bitch and then you die




Lips slipping, tongues twisting,

Frantically feasting, recklessly

Seeking, open mouthed

Gasping, greedy for it,

Bleak and neon lit

And deep the stench of shit.


And deep the stench of shit,

Foul yellow scented, salt and sweat,

Thrust feral feverous

Bruising blooded heat,

Lips smashed on teeth,

Taste fast and fierce relief.



Taste fast and fierce relief.

Draw breath, tobacco toasted,

Rich ruby wine and

Honey scented. This

Piss stained stall, this

Kiss enthralled abyss. 





for erotic



I found

I found

so much more

and between

the sickly sweet

and human meat,

the coy, the cunt

the real hardcore

contortions of

the human form,

there hid

some of


lovely lust

it made me

wet and warm.

Cock and Balls



Take tongue

and trace

the tip


the line

to taste

the curve







to fervent



This time.


Stay still.

Take a


and wait.


Take lips,

take teeth

and spit

and spunk

and fire

and heat.


Take cocksure

And fancy free.


Take shaft

and shunt

and wank

and wait.




Take me.

The Lights of Mungret



Last years late


print, frozen

in winter

earth has gone

and shrubs

that shears

would shape,

grow long.


See New Year’s

dark escape

sends shadows

through her

youngest son;

a curl of

secret smoke

and like this,

life goes on.

The Legacy of NJW



Drawn like a

pencil line,

straight and still

and strong,

for bone

and muscle

and gut

to build on,

that uncertain


shall wrap



Such steps

to take

into unknown

days and weeks

and worlds,

following the

faint scratch of

lead on whispered


a finger pressed


more than words.




Curtains gently

hide the soft



and legs shaping

warm furrows

thrill to the

calming beat

of expectant



So just the

roughened edge

of wonder

plays with doubt.


Brief marching crowds

that bend

to naked ear

and hiss

‘Pull back the sheets.’


Or not.


Hot, defiant

undercover kiss

with hand in

horizontal hand;

lay down arms,

give in.


Flushed, bruised

and happy,

skin to rebel skin.