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 . . .

the only ones

on bright winter mornings
we drove hungover along the seafront
last night’s disco ball now a low hung sun
a billion twinkling dance moves glinting
on every tiny ripple of a wave
and through it all the beat of our lives
ebbed and flowed with every tide
racing – pulsing – floating onward
not that we had anywhere to go
except perhaps to the end of the pier
where the fishermen cast their hopes
and the drunks dreamed in gathered shoals
like driftwood drawn from the north
they too had nowhere left to go

we used to park at the end of Madeira Drive
and make out in the car when the clubs had closed
we weren’t the only ones

orange beetle

Montana, 1879

The axe falls in time with his breathing
The nutcracker bird calls in time with his swinging
The sun draws beads of sweat from his forehead
The Yellowstone River bends around his homestead

Jessie kneads the dough in time with her singing
Daisy-May and dolly are on the front porch playing
The sun casts shadows through the ponderosa pine
The golden eagles soar along the timberline

Split logs lie around his feet ready for stacking
Autumn fogs and winter snows are beckoning
A refreshing breeze arrives with a solitary cloud
The hay is cut and the fields are ploughed

His axe falls on the last of the day’s labouring
Jessie calls from the window to stop him working
Four riders home into view on the road from Melville
The man reaches for his rifle and time stands still

Oh Sweet Grass County, my beloved family
We worship your land and all its bounty
From the mountains high to the pastures low
We live and breathe as the waters flow


minute by minute

I paint brushstrokes on a grey sky
and sit and wait for a while
you never know what might fly by
minute by minute by avian mile

believe me, they do not deceive my eyes
these airborne birdies so versatile
in flight so gracious up on high
minute by minute my widening smile







for RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 27th – 29th January 2018

Winter Holidays

turning circles
we tumbled laughing
watched Crossley’s men
sail out on ice yachts
their reddish-brown sails
like butterfly wings
flapping in the frigid air

this snow clad
wedding cake landscape
of valleys and fells
high topped mountains
a whitened backdrop
to cut glass lines
here on our beloved lake
the Lake of the North

its deep dark waters
beneath our skates
and schoolboy pranks
the telling of tales
of Viking conquests
Nansen’s recent polar quest
the Fram wedged tight
exploring in a sailing sledge

but adventure was here
on these waters and shores
waiting for the right wind
to set Swallow’s sails
swooping over white waves
and home to warm Aleppo
leaving as a parting gift
a pair of Turkish slippers

Ice yacht and skaters on a frozen Lake Windermere, Cumbria, England during the Great Frost of 1895. My poem imagines a young Arthur Ransome, who was a schoolboy at the Old College in Bowness at the time, skating and taking in the action and scenery which would later inspire him to write one of the much loved Swallows and Amazons children’s books. ‘Winter Holiday’ was the 4th book in the famous series and was published in 1933.

Around the years of the Great Frost of 1895, Norwegian polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen made an attempt to reach the North Pole using the natural drift of the ice. When his purpose built ship The Fram became stuck in the ice he continued on by sailing sledge and skis. However, the southerly drift and shortage of food meant the trip had to be abandoned on 7 April 1895 and after observing that the way ahead was “a veritable chaos of iceblocks stretching as far as the horizon”.

The ‘Swallow’ children were in part based on the real life children of Ransome’s friends Dora (Collingwood) and Ernest Altounyan who in 1919 had moved to Aleppo in Syria where Ernest’s father had established an innovative hospital in the 1890’s. The children frequently visited the Lakes to see their English grandparents in Coniston and it was in 1928 that they met Arthur Ransome. Before returning to the Middle East the children gifted Ransome a pair of red Turkish slippers as a keepsake.

The image above is borrowed with thanks from a lantern slide in the collection of Stuart Jenkins, more of which can be viewed on the following link:

Ice Yacht on Windermere, 18th February 1895

InstaPoem – a silent contemplative walk through a Welsh village landscape.

I gallop like a horse
an odd sight I will admit
but the winter sun has warmed my spiritsPicMonkey Collage1past teasel heads and the old gate post
blue sky light
red dogwood stems all of a tangle
PicMonkey Collage2the winter garden rests
five tall poplars wear ivy leggings
green arrows point me south by southeast
PicMonkey Collage3to copper islands mapped out in lichens
where fungi sprouts from torn silage bail holesPicMonkey Collage4I come across a sheep stuck in wire fencing
released and thankful it contemplates me
but an empty belly needs fillingPicMonkey Collage5by the road some broken pink rubble
and graffiti in a bus shelter
taking care on the steep descent to the village below
PicMonkey Collage6
there is an upturned table in a front garden which makes for a sorry sight
as is this home wind power system
but the guardian at the door sits proud and alert
PicMonkey Collage7
some other words catch in my mane like drops of dew
Doombar and Pint
Grit and Salt
Sunday and Carvery
PicMonkey Collage8
the crossing by the school not in use
I wave to Santa waiting patiently down an alley
run my finger over carved inscriptions on tarred poles
PicMonkey Collage9
a familiar shadow greets me on the memorial
as my imaginary horse gallops off down the old railway tracks
frightened I think of the coming water jump
PicMonkey Collage10
and on to this field for budding heroes
or a blackbird cautiously walking the line
rolling without steam
PicMonkey Collage11
the people of the world communicate their anger and frustration
with love it seems
on public surfaces
PicMonkey Collage12
I hear the silent crack of a branch breaking in a storm
water flowing under an arch of trees
I open the gate here -> but the directions are just a joke
PicMonkey Collage13
here the dead miners sleep under coal black headstones
their old terrace houses have coal bunkers and outside toilets
my illusions momentarily shattered for no reason
PicMonkey Collage14
tractor tracks cross my narrow path
what I would give to unpadlock these blue doors and rummage inside
a red gate beckons its owner
PicMonkey Collage15
no more will the bell toll for the village
expanding red foam fungus escapes from a builder’s yard mess
carry me across the crumbling river bridge before we both break with age
PicMonkey Collage16
peep as we go through verdigris rust holes
down railway line supports
and on festive peeling paint colours
PicMonkey Collage17
galloping now the last stretch
a pleasant view some might think
like this starling in high wire silhouette
I come home to a sheepish welcome party


that time of year again

it’s that time of year again
when days draw dark curtain evenings
shorter than the nights are long
and words begin to fail me

as does the light from a depleted sun
that barely scratches holes in the clouds
or penetrates my goose pimpled skin
held together with cold reluctance

the birds seem happy enough
I keep them well fed with encouragement
their songs and chatterings valued
more than they could ever know

but still the words fail me
and with it my engagement with the world
easier to huddle down and retreat
when it’s that time of year again