How many

Memories are dust
Caught hovering in the morning light
Above these last night’s sweated sheets
Whisper and watch them whirl
Like a scattering shoal of tuna
As the gaping maw of a sperm whale
Comes careering into view
That breath hangs there
Paralysed with redundancy
Gone with nothing but a wonder
Of how many breaths are left
How many blinks
Heartbeats, gulps
Meals, drinks, football matches
Films, music,
Successes and failures
How many?
And how good?

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Lighting Candles

I lit a candle and its tears smoked skyward
Its kicking flame alive to an unheard beat
Is a step beyond a step back or forward?
When you reached the end, did you feel complete?
A glance up and nothing but a roof
Of hammer-beam and solid oak
A smell of incense and a hope of truth
In the words they say the lord once spoke
But doubt lays heavy in the mind
And I question the point of all this hurt
Why am I giving my body and time
To stand here in this empty church
To celebrate the soul of you now gone
To a place unfathomable or just not!
I remain here, where you came from
Thinking about what I’ve no longer got
But this charade is what we humans do
We mourn and miss and moan and cry
Grief will always be some other hue
Until the colour that we see, on the day we finally die

After Death

I never knew him, the man
with the cracked and craggy face,
Hollow sunken bones, he can
say he finished his final race
Pencil shaving eyes, and stray
nasal hairs that once quivered
Under sleeping breath, but clay
awaits what’s left and whithered

Mutterings and silent tears, how old?
is asked as if grief cares or knows
As he is lowered now, the cold
into the colder earth below

Memories as photographs, fading
in the history of his breath
Like the will to just go on, wading
through whatever’s after death

Poem About a Politician

Skin thin, and sallow eyes
Slits to hubris and candour none
A shadow under heavy skies
Lost from where you must belong
A monument to jagged pause
A trigger finger, blast away
A fingernail at oozing sores
That edge towards a mass decay
The Caliban of this new dawn
The trickling puss of malcontent
A vista of all goodness shorn
Is the world to us you represent

From a Pennine Hill

It is very English from atop this hill.
Fields undulate like apple-skin waves
across the sea of dry stone, gale hardened
lands fertile to the slightest infiltratory touch
of damson, bramble, hazel and birch sat
beneath the menacing outline
of a Kestrel lingering with intent
on a single breath of Atlantic-born breeze.
They abide contemplative aside the rivers
that carve and slice their way
across the epochs, scouring for time’s lost arrow
amid the mossy banks and polished
chestnut pebbles that lick the flesh
of mallards, sturgeon and toads.
Amongst the pastoral and meandering
nature of the day, a holy chorus strikes up
in the cordial confines of Methodism. Patrons
convinced of a heaven they will not see
already in bloom around them.
Across the skyline takes us
toward the lands of cropped hedgerows
preserved fences where archangels Cuprinol
and Ronseal are worshipped and flora
are grown by miracles; the wild tamed;
the choice of colour, of name;
begonia, geranium, and the cloying musk of Jasmine
reaching to the wild garlic across the
valley’s uncultivated and frenzied land
The dusky ghost of coal smoke rises
disappearing among the burnished gold
of a dinner gong setting Pennine sun
bleaching skies a flamenco skirt scarlett
deepening and dying out in to the funereal
shroud of folded, star-lit night

A Step

The street becomes her
She bleeds into the unforgiving pavement
Break-back crack weeds hasten for cover
Buildings loom over her to gain a peek
Standing water seems to drag her to their depths
As tinted office windows give a tandem promenade
She, who is oblivious to that beautiful chaos
This place was built for her
She bathes in its civic tumescence
She owns the ground on which she stalks
As well as the slate grey sky above
And the point at which they kiss
And collide at the eternal void
Between candour and imagination
The echo of distant thunder mocks this grace
Of star crossed canvas rapture
A blissful misery descends from her breath
All beauty hangs upon it, all truth!
The fragrant death of troubling winds
Evaporates and the process starts anew

Conservative Politics

Black gowned and brim full of distaste he said “unleash the dogs of war”
No way to get your message through, not speech nor morse, nor semaphore
No art can beckon forth his empathy, No love can tempt his shame
Just fire from the pulpit and a jealousy that dare not speak its name
A sideways glance across a land that’s scarred and bitter waste
A memory of a simpler time through steps we cannot now retrace
This fallow land, this brutal land, where only malice grows
No more the milk and honey, just the bread and circus shows
The remembrance is poison to the veterans of class
Our two fingers and coloured banners and our phrase of “kiss my ass”
We broke our backs with poverty, we were callow in our hope
And we turned then on each other among the scraps for which we grope
But remember this if anything, for every victory for your scorn
We need win only once for our new world to be born.