spirit fish

the spirit fish swim in the sky
some say they are the souls of drowned sailors
stomachs storm gutted on black rocks
their empty Cornish cottages let to Londoners
they fly in great shoals of grey clouds
scales glistening like a million deep sea stars
but you’ll never catch these moving rainbows
rising from the depths each time a ship is lost
born inside bubbles gurgling up gagging throats
out the gaping mouths silently screaming final breaths
a sailor’s last meal reincarnated as messenger
Neptune and Poseidon’s caves forever abandoned
from watery depths through spuming crests
the lust for the seafaring life of adventure
now turned to eternal heavenly wandering
and on a clear day you might spot them
the spirit fish that swim in the sky


vulnerability wears many different guises
which one is your mask? which fits your face best?
for sure for sure there's no one size fits all offer
no refer to manual, age requirement, when you pass go etc
we're told to look out for each other, check in, check up
or is that tune in, to what? what can you hear exactly?
is it my heart beating in irregular rhythms? oh my oh my!
or the voices and noises that crash like drum kits dropped
from the tops of skyscrapers one after another after . . .
well, you see, if you keep passing them to me 
I will have no choice but to keep pushing them over the edge
yes, the edge, where height restrictions do not apply
playground bullies jeer far below - jump! jump!
passing clouds flash walk, don't walk, walk, don't walk
I can't make up my mind, vulnerability has gotten a hold of me
I lack self-confidence, I'm the wrong sort of modern guy
the situation calls for some measure of fluidity, neutrality
but I'm rigid as these 'scrapers, can't learn new tricks at my age
not woke enough, I'm old skool but not hip or hop or hep
vulnerability comes in many different colours too
lying in bed listening to the wind bend the poplars
how much extra would it take to bring them down, to fell?
to start again, a new-born in a winter storm, naked
and useless, with nothing to confess, no sin or sorrow
no reason to be there, do any of us? I don't know . . .
but death will break us, some random car will fail to stop
walk, don't walk, look right, look left, look behind
hold your head up high, exalt the light that shines
in shafts between the buildings and trees and step out
something or someone has your name and is waiting


in your mews house
up from the clock tower
the french doors swung wide open
your long white summer dress
each button undone revealing
another inch of flesh for me to kiss
working my way slowly up your legs
I rested my head on your belly
felt the rise and fall of your breathing
smelt the salty scent of sea breeze
the fern in the green glazed jardinière
the only other movement in the room
deep in this warm canyon
your fingers ran through my hair
as if the outside wasn’t there
although somewhere came the echo
of scaffolding being taken down

acting out your own death

early morning
low winter sun
stirring from sleep
stirring coffee

I'm almost in the clouds
up here I'm almost a new god
your apartment is heaven
my angel sleeps in the next room
she lies under her eiderdown clouds

I'm standing by the window
looking out over the road
looking out over the prom
looking out over the beach huts
looking out over the sea beyond

I'm reminded of Chicago 1986
the Doral Plaza on N. Michigan
another apartment on the 25th floor
we swam in the pool on the 38th floor
clouds and days drifted by
another angel in another lifetime

now I'm down on the prom
a man standing his ground
his back to the waking town
his eyes fixed on the horizon
ready to make the walk

between the beach huts
over the shingle
into the sea

title taken from Shadowplay by Ian Curtis / Joy Division -
words inspired by a photo by Caroline Collett

squally wind

the squally wind
pinballs up the valley
propelled by who?
by nature? by god?
by the wind itself?

for a moment
all is quiet
the trees take a rest
the birds settle
in their roosts

the tiles cease rattling
the old barn’s beams
steady themselves
the owl inside
shifts on its perch

until the force that will
sends the next
barrelling squall
to bash and bend
and torment one and all

for nature? god?
the wind itself?
are laws unto themselves
and we mere mortals
hang on as best we can

to a world in a spin
out of all control

now doesn’t that make
you feel so small


december is a thief
christmas is a thief
winter is a thief

covid is a thief
grief is a thief
self-doubt is a thief

depression is a thief
social media is a thief
these four walls are thieves

people are thieves
fuck the thieves
these thieves like us . . .

Fran’s Mini

in Fran’s purple Mini singing
“alone again . . . naturally”
driving along Madeira Drive
past the Ferris wheel and crazy golf
we got the windows wound down
the smell of sea on the right
the stench of piss on our left
the down and outs on benches
slurring “underneath the arches”
their bottles of Thunderbird nearing empty
and UP the ramp we go
put the pedal to the metal girl
give it all she’s got girl
MOT’s due next week shouts Fran
she cannae take any more I shouts
wheezing onto Marine Parade
heaving a sigh of collective relief
take her up round Sussex Square I suggest
arm out window indicating our direction
and we’ll stick two fingers up
to the posh cunts in their Regency piles
left on Eastern Road
(we didn’t do the two fingers after all)
too busy singing
“oh what a lonely boy
oh what a lonely BOY!”
all the way to the Royal Sussex Hospital
take a left here down Sudeley Place
then next right into Sudeley Street
I got some memories stored here
idling past the Corner Memory Store
then left then right then straight ahead
Fran turning up the radio
it’s so loud the doors are rattling
people outside shops stop and stare
“we had joy we had fun
flicking bogies at the sun
but the sun was too hot
and the bogies turned to snot”
pulling up outside The Crown
squeezing Fran’s purple Mini in
lucky to get a space
turning the key to No.23
walking down the dank corridor
turning the key to bedsit No.8
we’ll talk about travelling the world
we’ll smoke some dope
we’ll laugh and watch TV
but she won’t stay the night
and the summer is ending

and so it turned out

loud guitar intro

turns out you was an alcoholic
and in trying to keep up with you
all that loving made me sick
all that drink and all that worry
I couldn’t stop the feeling, sorry
I couldn’t stop the spending either
I blamed my selfish self
I blamed your deadbeat dad
I blamed your bear of a bastard brother
where the fuck you got the money
only your Irish Catholic god knew
where it went
where it went

it blew and blew right through
the rusted legs of Brighton pier
it sprayed its bleary eyed and salty tears
right through the narrow Lanes
calling to the derelicts to drain
their tomorrow sorrows today
drink to forget
drink to forget
drink to forget
but you couldn’t forget the mantra
and you wouldn’t tell me what the fuck
you were drinking to forget

so we drank some more
and we smoked some more
and we drunkfucked a little less
the thrill was leaving us I guess
the Marlboro reds still glowed
and we kept spliffing up the blow
we had stones for beds
friends floors for beds
hard floors for beds
other people’s
slept in beds
for beds

and for company once
we had the clouds of Michelangelo
executed on a bedroom ceiling
what a weird and dizzying feeling
living like Kafka
sharing our vodkas
Sid and Nancy punk rockers
bare naked light bulbs dangling
I couldn’t keep my hands off your body
under those clouds we were somebody
fuck, it felt good

we were loud too
innocence long since ploughed
can’t remember the soundtrack we played
the tunes are all mixed and frayed
like the years, months and days
the tides came and went with a stab to the heart
we split when you left rehab
the fun had all but disappeared
the beach strewn with empty cans of beer
Schlitz and Special Brews
the vodka bottle run dry
no more reasons why

you melted back into the night
a ghost from those dark alley ways
out of sight but never out of my mind
haunting me
haunting me

loud guitar outro

not altogether clear

it’s not altogether clear
how we made it here
your brother’s house
somewhere near Elm Grove
on a settee, you and me
the washed up night’s debris
and there you fucking are
in my baggy blue jumper
must’ve lent it to you earlier
though where we go from here
is not altogether clear
when two worlds collide
those worlds can’t run and hide
your life versus mine
like we both stepped out of line
but somehow that seems fine
and there you are sleeping
in my two dead tingling arms
afraid to move in case
that drunk smile on your face
is lost from my close up view
dried vodka spittle lips on you
smeared make up, angular hips
morning breath, white as death
no, it’s not altogether clear
what the fuck I’m doing here
think I’m falling in love with you
but then again I don’t know you
what and when and why and who
did this thing just really happen
seems a long time since back then
the vods, the beach, the first kiss
I’m not altogether sure about this
I’m gonna need a piss soon
there’s light coming in from the moon
or is it morning coming out too soon
so frail and helpless
in a world that couldn’t care less
just see if I can ease myself out
you’re still out for the fucking count
there’s cramp in my shoulder
I drank so much I’m sober
happens that way sometimes
gotta piss, gotta leave this house
your brother’s fucking house
for fuck’s sake it’s getting late
it’s getting early, can’t stay and wait
for you to wake and then what
your brother comes downstairs
a growling hungry hungover bear
and then what, and then what
it’s not altogether clear
my nose in your ear
I’m sliding to the floor
crawling to the door
I’m out in the cold air
I’ve left you there, in there
wearing my baggy blue jumper
I must’ve given it you earlier
I light the last Marlboro red
first rays of sun stroke my head
takes a piss behind his shed
still taste your vodka lips on mine
it’s like we both stepped out of line
not altogether clear how this came about
how we made it here, made it there
and will we find each other again
any some fucking where