warning signs

standing still in this long grass of indecision
i look out over a valley of options before me

but no obvious path

there in front stand mountainous doubts
i climb an obstacle to gain a clearer view

but nothing inspires me

these tangled voices crowd and fill my head
i want to curl into a ball within your arms

but you are not here

the ground opens and swallows me whole
i am at peace with the soil in the darkness

and no light will shine




to be or not to be

to be or not to be
a published poet me
when all around
are submission bound
my words will always be free

to be or not to be
a performance poet me
when all around
are ranting aloud
my voice will always be free

to be or not to be
a winner or loser me
when all around
are fighting for ground
my space will always be free

to be or not to be
a question for you and me
when all around
are earning their pounds
my conscience will always be free

to be or not to be
a free thinking spirit me
when all around
are drowned in their sound
my mind will always be free

Thirty-Six Views of the South Downs (after Hokusai)

1. A Great Wave at Shoreham-by-Sea

swallowing water
spume tentacles drag under
laughing children dive

2. Light Winds and Clear Skies

endless summer sun
red bicycles and ice creams
mackerel clouds lurk

3. Rainstorms

beneath the thunder
unhappy memories float
loss of a father

4. Under the New Flyover

hiding out in nooks
traffic rumbling overhead
a den of devils

5. Awakenings

after school romance
secret kisses in phonebox
homework holding hands

6. Chestnut Trees in the Park

ancient sentinels
climbing high for prize conkers
pride hung by a thread

7. The Other Side of the River

with horses watching
releasing frogs from buckets
city kids delight

8. Climbing Mill Hill

new road through cut chalk
a searing white scar dazzles
diagonal path

9. In a Field on Mill Hill

golden straw crackles
lovers lie in crop circles
distant views ignored

10. Wind in Our Faces

heads bent into gales
on the cusp of adulthood
exam notes scattered

11. Shops on the High Street

toy cars in boxes
furtively pocketing stock
crime and punishment

12. Sunset Across the Old Toll Bridge from the Bank of the River

blood on the water
light ripples beckon and sway
a swan bends its neck

13. St. Nicholas Church, Old Shoreham

cassocks and cold stone
holy communion wine
mysterious world

14. The Marlipins Public House

thick snow like beer froth
talking with fake confidence
underage drinkers

15. Kingston Buci

patchwork allotments
a lighthouse to guide sailors
old names remembered

16. Changing Perspectives 

once there were windmills
the Downs a working landscape
now there are turbines

17. Bungalow Town

railway carriage homes
artists and photographers
early cinema

18. The Harbour Shore

sea defence ‘bumholes’
concrete structures for climbing
watching turning tides

19. To the East to Southwick

long coats and swagger
larking about with the boys
caught on camera

20. Watching Ships at the Old Fort 

fishermen and gulls
basking sharks in hot summers
comings and goings

21. Graffiti on the Rail Bridge 

a daring message
Happy Birthday to Louise
famous forever

22. Racing on Raised Paths

beside the airport
pillboxes and rabbit holes
brambles and briars

23. Pebbles and Sand

skinny dipping nights
smoking foreign substances
music and moonlight

24. The Old Swiss Cottage Lake

hidden history
torn down and redeveloped
postcards from the past

25. Reflections of the South Downs

this town we call home
nestled between hills and coast
still waters run deep

26. To Brighton by Bus

condensation drips
smoke fills the crowded upstairs
reading poetry

27. The River Upstream

mud banks and quiet
the tilled valley flat and low
mist lingers till noon

28. St. Mary de Haura Church

viewed from the tower
pigeons eye the waking town
breakfast is calling

29. Childhood is an Island

places we cherish
memories we store away
future safety nets

30. Views Along the Beach

longer than it looks
divided into sections
sand in sandwiches

31. Heron over Lancing College

gothic dreaming spires
choirs of heavenly voices
wing beating shadows

32. To the West to Worthing

the boats are drawn up
freshly caught fish sold from huts
family visits

33. Passing Over the Footbridge

it’s a long way down
hug Mum’s side and hold her hand
safer in the pram

34. Blue Circle Cement Works and Quarry

toiling and blasting
the belly of the Downs gouged
echoes of steam trains

35. A View of Hills Across the River 

these once wooded hills
sheep grazed and windswept pastures
still holding back time

36. On a Houseboat 

bohemian lives
time to set sail and move on
the world awaits me

Two by Two

We’re building an ark to save humanity
To populate an harmonious new colony on a distant trajectory
Applications are now open but this is no random lottery
We want two of the best of you from each walk of life
Including minorities and anyone else we might have forgotten

A man and woman and two gender non-specifics or neutrals
And two from each of the LGBTQ plus communities
That’s two of each of you from every social category
From all major and minor faiths, castes and spiritualities
Yes that’s two of each including anomalies

Plus atheists, pacifists, flat-earthers, poets and militarists
Two of each gender / non-gender / neutral / LGBTQ plus etceteras
We’ll take a couple of hippies, as above, from inner and outer cities
And reps from all the trades and public and private services
From carpenters to call centre workers, plumbers to pole dancers

Two of each, you’re getting the gist, even nuclear physicists
Frackers, real estate agents and anyone else that rhymes with ist
We’ll need pro-lifers, pro-choicers, cross-dressers and transgenders
Those for and against abortion and end of life ethics
All the colours and mixes under our dying sun

Late to bed and early to risers, disabled, abled, willing or lazy
Kings, queens – noble, porn and drag – in variants of he, she and ze
Veterans (with or without arms or legs or Royal consent)
Ladyboy shemales and their opposites (with or without certain bits)
Always one of each, it goes without saying, further details in the list

Politicians from left to right with a selection box of centres
Yep, sorry, it’s one of the least popular terms and conditions
But without which we cannot receive the tax breaks
On our private donors’ financial contributions
Like the Elon Musks and their artificially intelligent friends

Applications will be accepted from near and afar
From Eskimos, Rednecks, Down Unders, those on the Equator
Or Tropics of Cancer, Capricorn and horoscope astrologers
Two of each remember, that means Brexiteers and Remainers
Mustn’t forget Gypsies, Romanies and New Age Travellers

In all their varying shapes and small to XXL sizes
From anorexic to morbidly obese, athletic to sluggish
There will be cabins to suit all sizes, two in each of course
Tea, coffee and meals for all tastes and diets provided
So please form an orderly queue when your name is called

For the ark we are building to save humanity
To populate an harmonious new colony on a distant trajectory
Applications are now open but this is no random lottery
We want two of the best from each walk of life
Including minorities and anyone else we might have forgotten

(sorry – no room for pets or any other animals)




Resurrecting Ghosts

These ghosts we resurrect from the past
to reconfigure into modern-day icons
airbrushed and reconditioned to match new agendas
grainy truths hair-sprayed and touched-up
now repackaged and rightfully repurposed
for no other purpose than to further our objectives

Slot them into a new time frame as we choose
shift the perspective and reinvent their relevance
but however right-on the message we might preach
there’s no denying a vague rewriting of history
or the plagiarism of facts by poetic fanatics
for no other purpose than to further our objectives

Look, free speech is dead, the internet just killed it
amongst all the babble voices are falling silent
silenced by the very mouths who fight for so-called justice
each position polarised beyond all sensible reasoning
and to think we resurrected those ghosts from the past
for no other reason than to further our objectives



Look! Look!
Can you see the image developing?
Move the paper back and forth in the tray

(torrential rain lashed blacked-out windows)

They just appeared out of nowhere running
But as quick as they came they were gone
Heads bent and leather clad arms flailing
Strange apparitions from some ancient dawn

always running, thorns scratching, taking cover
pursued, wet to shivering skin, ice cold to bone

Look! Look!
There, can you not see them?
Lean in closer to view the image more clearly

(loose glass rattled in wooden framed windows)

Perhaps they were fleeing to a safer morrow
Or moving from one dimension to the next
Stealthy warriors with quivers of arrows
More wraith-like ghosts than static objects

hurry now, more haste, the chase is quickening
the past is catching up with us, keep running

Look! Look!
Is the image now fading?
Peg up the photograph to hasten its drying

(the wind bickered outside of closed windows)

primitive to the eye, viewed through a lens
flesh gashed, captured in a blurred moment
persecuted ancestors branded as heathens
for crimes never committed, sadly lamented

quick, through here, a gap in the line of trees
a hole into the future, an escape route in time

Look! Look!
Have they all but disappeared?
The paper crumbles to dust on the floorboards

(thunderclaps rolled across rickety windows)

the past came to haunt us, the dead to remind
guilt for our misdeeds, taunts for our souls
those left in limbo spend their lives misaligned
swallowed by torment, down pitch-black holes

that was close, let’s rest here in this dark tunnel
but just for a moment, until we catch breath

you are my thesaurus

you are my thesaurus
my concise o.e.d.
the verse and the chorus
to life’s symphony

be with me forever
my alphabet friend
bound tightly together
on you I depend

you are my wise mentor
my counsel, my lore
with words to explore
I will want for no more


Once there lived a woman in Japan
Amid tsunami and earthquake land
And in her mind she held the ghosts
Of all the dead the Gods could boast

Among the deities to whom she prayed
With incense sticks and flowers laid
She praised Benzaiten the eloquent
For life’s rich flow and essence spent

One day I happened upon her abode
Where by the hearth a snake reposed
She took the serpent green and brown
And gaping wide did swallow it down

I watched in horror as it slid back out
And asked her what that was all about
She said living amongst this isolation
The snake inside lent some protection

From hunger, disease and loneliness
Bestowed on her from the great goddess
I threw some coins into an earthen bowl
Wished her luck with her troubled soul

When turning to leave my eyes did see
A shapeshifting vision macabre to me
She was all the dead from centuries past
Amassed, outcast, with mouths aghast

Their twisted, bruised and broken limbs
The fruit of Izanami’s capricious whims
I ran from them till I reached the shore
The woman appearing just like before

Upon those washed and golden sands
She offered me her ghost-white hands
“Be brave, be strong, my human child
Your eyes bewitched and long beguiled

I am Benzaiten the benevolent and wise
Who shows her face in diverse disguise
Fear not the fate of your mortal friends
Their lives on which their faith depends

Take this Kintsugi cup and drink instead
The tears from all the centuries’ dead
One hundred thousand years have gone
Since man first walked the birth of dawn”

I bowed and drank bathed in her light
Now saved from life’s traumatic plight
For death it seemed was not my fate
And closed to me were Heaven’s gates

I thanked the woman from old Japan
Amid tsunami and earthquake land
From her great mind I stole the ghosts
Of all the dead the Gods could boast