Poem: Joey The Underwater Milkman



After years of being a milkman,


Joey decided to become an octopus.


He studied them as much as he could.


 In the delirium preceding the slitting of his throat,


Octopi were his thoughts’ sole focus




In the following murkiness, the dark hours


Of draining blood, the growing schism


Between spirit and body, Joey’s essence poured


Itself back into the world, rewaking, couchant,


Before the throne of Jove, who, diving his soul’s purpose,


Cast him deeper into the sea’s foams




Then all was a chamber of blue,


Procreant from a shuddering shell,


He left his egg, fragile doorway of the world,


His hard, horny beak breaking through its bonds,


To clack into infinity




Not bird, nor fish, nor snail enlarged,


His thoughts expressed themselves


In the billows and contraries of undulant body,


Not a recoil, nor the spilling of crimson ink,


But a net, a hunter, a capturer, an acrobat






He danced with polymorphic agility through this matrix


Of ocean, seaweed-silhouetted, peeping beadily through


Shoal vistas, circumspect, puncturer of any thought,


Listen to his mind: the crunch of soft-tissue and bones




Concealed in pebbles,


Minareted in sands,


Perched on the brink of sub-aqueous cliffs,


Waiting, searching, fin-tasting and charged,


A maze of motion, of unwritten currents,


Jet-propelled prism refracting muddied


Fragments of stealth






But then days arabesqued into more than just


Stealth-lined shadows – of prying life-pryer:




The coral was coloured too harshly,


Dizzying his mind into unwelcome mazes:


What if there is more to being an octopus


Than being an octopus?




“There is,” unthroated strangeness confirmed,


“For all things stretch back to and emanate


From the centre. All things lead to where


Your tentacles are going, your thoughts


Disappear in discoloured ink.”




And he was a kid again, at the fireside,


Hearing his father wax lyrical on the delivery of fresh milk:




“At the centre of the ocean is an octopus bigger than all of this –


His far-reaching arms balance the eight directions,


Juggling the five elements,


His ink is the blackness settling the night,


His eyes the flash fire of ineluctable day.




“He Is the reason your Father dies after ejaculation,


And your mother a sack of eggs serrated by self-slaughter!”




“But why must I be so?


An eight-armed orphan to the world?”




And Joey remembered the seasons of his father’s woe,


The dread certainties manhood would make him mate.


He knew of no more earthly love than this.




So he cried into the ocean,


Neither man nor mollusc,


Just a net adrift, conundrum-captured,


Hunting and roaming,


While throats, still slit, dribble reality into the sink,


As The Baboon God beats out his own brains.





Poem: The Barn Owl


Beginning with the furry ridge above your beak,
Mite-eyed, I walk down the peacock patterns
Islamic carpeteers once wove into your back

For a short while, your body is my atlas:
I can spend my time tracing the fault line
Of your spine, every hollow of your vertebrae,
A chapel in which I can sit still and be

O, sweet barn owl! You whose screech
Kept peasants awake with thoughts of vampires,
And goat-sucking ghouls – why is it only behind a glass,
In the arms of taxidermy,
That your hidden presence can be seen?

Once the phantasm of farmlands,
You are now a museum geist,
Habitated in the sterility of mummified non-life,
Your spirit long since flown away

If I could use my mental powers
To inhabit the pale hidden limbs of God,
I would spread you out,
To be counsellor of every village,
Chaplain of every graveyard,
Watcher of unscripted stone

But, for now, I am the patron of your glass-bound self,
A dreamer of infinite birds


The Abandoned Harbour

abadoned harbour.jpg

The harbour is all quiet,
Though candles still burn in apartments,
And the ink on some of the quills
Has yet to dry

Ships manned but two hours ago
Now sway silent upon the ocean’s current,
No gulls laugh – no curlews curdle-cry –
No crabs scuttle out, sand-encrusted,
From their rocky lodgings

I go into the harbour master’s hut,
Fish untackled, unhallowed in brine,
Only the scent of tallow wax,
An account of this morning’s catch
Writ recent in the ledger,
The love-letter from his wife, lost and lorn,
With no suspicious questions answered
Or even posed at all

Now the town is just a lugworm casing,
Illuminated by the lighthouse’s beacon,
Wind-blown litter walks down the cobbles,
Minor limestone avalanches occur on the coast,
With not a wight to be imperilled by them.

As the years go past,
And no one returns,
The scenery is modernized,
Wrought by no hands

Hotels apparate on the shore-front,
Tourist fodder and penny arcades flash electric,
To go unused – blue memorial plaques adorn
Historic buildings that no one can ever be said
To have built or lived in

I wandered into all this one day,
Through a maze of fog and misdirection,
Following the tail of a phantom-dog,
His echoes lost in the waves

I sent a post-card to myself,
But never heard an answer,
Until a ghost whispered in my ear:
“The Death is in The Dancer.”


Sonnet: On Age And Difference


Age after age blurs us from one another,
The impressions of time dust the heart obscure,
I fear I am nothing – an embarrassment and bother,
A once ripe promise, now fetid and impure,
I long to connect with you, guileless and naked,
To be youth within youth – old within old;
But by experience, I’ve been tarnished and tainted:
Now there is ambergris growing upon this hoar gold,
Corrupt currency, then, but still love minted silent,
Still the willingness to give to the sisters of my soul,
To suffer the sacrifice, its depredations violent,
That colour me closer to my earth-bound goal,
So you can say: “He – he lived for us well –
But the anxious wonders of his heart we never can tell.”

Sonnet: The Castle Inn


Bury my bones in an old Welsh pub,
On the Pembrokeshire coast, under floorboards oak,
Consecrated by furze, lichen, sand-blasted scrub,
With stonewalled chimneys baptized by smoke,
I’ll give up my ashes to the waves of the sea,
With a stuffed snowy owl perched on my shoulder,
Wherever the rains weep, that’s where I’ll be,
Thundering my tears into old sandstone boulders,
And rockpools alive with limpets and cockles,
And Islands of penance where sweet Mary stands,
Conspiring with stowaways, stuffed into barrels,
The threshold of sea chewing up the land,
Where my body, half-buried, exposed to the sea-air,
Will be home to the treasures time will lay there.