Personal statement

Do not talk
Or even think
Of what you will do
In the years that lie beyond.
That will come
Quietly, at its own choosing
Unlooked-for, like a bright coin
Picked up in the street.
It rests in the gift of
Forces unmeasured, equations unwritten,
The alignment of stars far out of your reach
The collision of worlds unseen.

Tell us instead
Of what you will be:
What light you will blaze
Into these shadowed times
What warmth you will bring
When the days are grown cold
What joy you will spark
When night falls on the soul.
What strength you will give
To those whose own has failed.
And more than all this
What love you will share
With all who find your true heart.
And for now, leave all else
To take care of itself.


My daughter and her friends, now in their final year at school, are starting to receive offers from their chosen universities. Understandably, given the immense financial commitment, they’re already thinking/worrying/obsessing about their futures. As someone who’s never had a conventional career, I’m in no position to advise, really; all I can offer from my own experience is that jobs come and go, and even the most meticulous plans rarely survive their first contact with real life. And in the end, I believe how you’re living matters more than what you do for a living.


War zone

We are all combatants
Grievances like grenades
Hung from our belts;
Bandoliers of slights
Slung across our chests
Packing full magazines of injured pride
Always one round in the chamber
One restless finger on the trigger.

Freedom fighters, we would call ourselves,
Taking arms against the endless tyranny
Of bosses, teachers, cops, the council,
Everyone ahead of us
In every queue we ever join,
Each car, bus, truck or bicycle
We find themselves behind.
Never drop your guard:
The enemy is everywhere.

No armistice for us, it seems;
No treaties signed, no DMZ
No ceasefire called, no peace declared;
No silence falling on the field.
We’re too far gone, entrenched too deep
The lines we hold are drawn in blood.
We promise to remember them
But what would those who went before
Make of the wars we fight today?

Big five-o

I believed
This would be a moment
To take stock
A step back
A long hard look
At the coming years
With half an eye
On the trail of dust behind.

I find myself
The end of everything
With all that I have been and know
Made instantly irrelevant.

And what I thought
Might be an end in sight
Turns out to be a starting-over
A forced march down an unknown road
To hasty plans and desperate choices
I have no heart or will to make.

Burning man


I should know better;
Admit it’s long past time
To give it up.
This is a young man’s game:

Such hair-tearing
Screaming at an indifferent heaven
Is undignified in one my age.

Where is my decorum
My armour-plate against the world
The self-control that comes with years
And having seen it all?

Yet I’ve not lived this long
To sit in docile acquiescence
As all that I have built
Is burned before my eyes.

My early self, perhaps,
Could have surveyed the ruins,
And in the blackened beams, the heat-split bricks
Seen promise, and all I might raise anew.

Not now.
All I have left is rage
That will not let me rest
Until we die together.

Dog dreams


He sprawls
On a deep white sheepskin.
The black stove’s heat
Draws him back
To summer days, spread like a blanket
On the sun-warmed sand.

Feet flick in sudden spasm,
Galvanised by phantom rabbits:
In this new universe
He wears cat’s claws
And in the treetops
The squirrels have stopped laughing.

One eye upturned
Haw-hooded, a frozen pool.
Deep in his wordless mysteries
He runs alone, unowned, unmastered
On private paths and secret ways
I cannot know or follow.