Lottery of life

If I
were to win
eighty-seven million
tomorrow night
I honestly wouldn’t know
what to do with it all

(Or at least
not beyond
the first two hundred
grand or so).

My big win
would be
a simpler world
where I could get by
without needing
so much as a twenty

And just be left alone


So –

what kind of odds
would you give me
on that?



Petrarchan sonnet:

How clear-cut and straightforward life would be
If all I wanted was to be a star
Or two-bit billionaire: jet, chauffeured car,
Yacht, fifty-bedroomed palace by the sea
In Monaco or Malibu; mind free
Of any thought beyond the next cigar;
Luxuriate in knowing just how far
I’d come – and that they all wish they were me.
Such little goals: all that a man requires
Is money, and they’re his. But should he yearn
To live with heart untroubled, soul unbound
And as his conscience leads him – then he’ll find
His road is hard and lonely; he must learn
To look within, find his own worth, as round
About, the world just shrugs, leaves him behind.


It’s Budget Day here in Britain today, so all the talk is of tax, spending, cuts, borrowing, debt, investment – the grey, deathly liturgy of money. This is my second go-round at the Italian/Petrarchan sonnet. It put up a good fight. N.


Out of the alders
The kestrel arcs
Like a thrown knife;
Drives himself deep
Into the oak. Glares,
Dares me to want or wish for more
Than this short, sharp shot of him.

I don’t.

In a kinder, saner life,
That scimitar slash
Of slate and copper
Would be all I needed:
Here, now,
Inch-deep in leaf-mould and winter slop
I feel the weight of this
Unmanufactured moment
And all the riches of his weaponed grace
Settle in my pockets –

The harsh, hard coin of worlds
Away from our imagined realm
Where debt is credit
Gluttony no mortal sin
And greed is made
Our highest good.


As so often before, I find myself gratefully indebted to Tom Davis. I’d been thinking about writing another ‘bird poem’ for a while, and when I saw our resident kestrel down in the woods yesterday, I knew I had my subject. But it was Tom’s comments on my previous piece, Battleground State, that finally crystallised my ideas; I hope he won’t mind my appropriating some of his wise words for this brief detour into free verse. N.

A necessary evil

A necessary evil

How the words must hate me.
All day I forced them
Into acts of petty crime;
A thousand pretty perjuries
Committed to save my skin.
I twisted them,
Bent them into cunning shapes
Corrupted and persuaded them
To say one thing
While meaning
Quite another;
Hollowed out the truth
Then stuffed it full
Of fat, sweet-smelling falsehoods;
Bit my mother tongue
Until it bled.
After hours
I can make my peace with them;
Restore the sacred trust
I sold for tarnished silver.
This is my penance
And redemption;
All is forgiven.
The job is done.

As well as (more or less) paying the bills, writing for a living can be a lot of fun. But sometimes, making words perform circus tricks feels like betraying them; they are my friends, after all. I’m never asked to tell outright lies in my work – God bless the Advertising Standards Authority – but it’s often a selective, filtered version of the truth. Poetry keeps me grounded, and ensures my own voice never gets wholly lost in all the smoke and mirrors.