Old Man’s Tears

There is a plant
called old man’s tears.
A thwart, disnatured thing,
tall, but crooked tall,
not bold tall like
its companions all around.

And its leaves are thinner,
but they’re fiercer,
like its flower, which, though
chewed and ragged, still
stares bright into the world.

There is maybe a melancholy
in the burdened curve
of its filaments, but
there’s a wisdom too
within the flesh of its anthers.

And, if you peer close,
there on the single stamen eye,
the limpid markings
that they call old man’s tears.

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skies that make islands
of familiar trees
and cause us to imagine
great waters in between
near and far

and so probability
yields to dreaming
and there are wings

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Proposition. A song is a song and a poem is a poem.
They share words but they don’t share function.
I wrote this as a poem and then Steve Moorby of
MoorbyJones, the band we share with his daughter
Gemma Moorby, set it to music and we recorded it.
It’s due for release imminently and I’ll link to
Spotify when it’s out in the world. And then, if
the proposition has value for you, gentle reader,
you may judge!


When the sun
is obscured by clouds
and the moon and the stars
are inconstant
and the stations you pass
with the crosses you bear
are turning your bones
into water…

lean into oncoming wind,
let hot sand sun through your fingers,
stand under falling water.

When the clock
is slipping its gears
and the minutes
get ground into powder
and the song in the wires
is a hymn for the fallen
and the North Star
is lost to the sailor…


When each night
is a different story
but the theme and the plot
are unchanging
and you’re walking
the narrowest furrow
and you meet yourself
there at the turning
and you sleep like
you’re deep fathoms down,
but you’re treading
the boards until dawn…


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Even when you know that with any given poetry magazine receiving maybe 3,000 submissions a month, the chances of acceptance are minimal, it can be a rough push in the chest when yours is rejected.

Against the inevitable sense of invalidation that defies the hard logic of numbers, I have submitted very few poems in years. In general I’m not prolific: my output is relatively sparse so what goes out is pretty much all I’ve got at any given time. 

But over the past couple of years I’ve found myself more creatively busy than in a very long time. Lockdown, walking the dog I’d fought against acquiring for years, this season late in life – all powerful stimuli, I guess, for now doing regularly something that I’ve done in bursts ever since my teens. 

So recently I submitted groups of poems to magazines once again. Not this time just to a selection of the excellent little known publications that abound on the internet, but to the best known and most highly regarded ones. I have much less time in front of me than there is behind so it’s now surely that this man’s reach should exceed his grasp! And in reaching further I set myself up, of course, both for almost inevitable rejection and its corollary dejection. 

No surprises, then, that to date Poetry London and the members’ page of Poetry Review have said no thanks. However, with that grasp in mind, I’m delighted that London Grip is taking two poems for next spring. But even on the back of that success I’m far from optimistic that the other poems are going to find landfall and I regret greatly not having pushed back harder a long time ago. Maybe had I spread the words more energetically and celebrated success more loudly , then I’d be occupying a bit more shelf space now! 

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i leave the earth
in vapour even
under a winter sun
i become a cold-
shouldered cloud
uneven inconstant
i hide the sky
and you wonder
will we ever know
blue around
our heads again
i eat
the children clouds
where they play
and become all heft
and hubris
but as empires fall
so i fragment
and the earth
reclaims my body
in a million pieces
here i lie staring
at my sisters
but i am not done
look i have swallowed
a tree

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Dog Latitude §6

From dawn to dusk,
the pewter silver-grey
of clouds that haven’t
aspired to the sky.
We walk inside them,
drawing onto our faces
the unrained drops.
We’re comfortably dislocated
from horizons; paths ahead
are vanishing points lost
in feathers; red kites
whistle the fields’ edges.
I walk, you run the curvature
of this known, unknown world.’

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