Taster poems

Some poems available online:

“Furnace” in Magma, 84 Physics issue, 2022

“Why I won’t run away to join the circus” (Poetry News)

“Coup d’etat” (All the Sins)

First published in The Rialto, Winter 2021 and reprinted Autumn 2022

Ode to Plastic

A willing, miraculous actor, easy to cast,
you can be made into anything – ancient horn,
silk or thigh bone. And we want you to be
everything, hold you close under our skin.
You’re so smooth, easy to mould and wipe clean.
As you stretch across a face or flower, or pull
tight over yesterday’s food, nothing’s hidden –
features are clear, colours true. This pliancy
is your main attraction, wouldn’t you say?
But we’d love you more if you’d go away.
If bits of you didn’t appear inside soft guts,
winter gardens, monuments, organisms
see by microscopes. If your pasta-thin lines
didn’t fill the bellies of sperm whales and snare
the necks of passerines, merciless as bindweed.
IF you didn’t resist decay, refuse to rot,
chose to fill up valleys and shorelines with tat,
claiming your own strata in geological time
while we cower in sheds, pawing through ancient
remnants of things once wanted but now thrown away –
keyboards, brushes, the everlasting Christmas tree.
And we’ll curse you, even as we run a thin line
of you between our teeth and duly praise your lightness,
lifting you up to ward off persistent rain.

Beyond the skies

On 11 September 2001, a BBC radio programme discussing the song ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’
was interrupted by breaking news from New York City

Watching CNN, the screen fills again
and again with a long plume of smoke 

my television is the sky, its camera a bird
circling a plane crashing into a tower

a slim needle piercing the eye of a camel
over the rainbow

windows curve and disappear, moulting glass
skies are blue

yet the building stands –
and the dreams

or did it sway?
that you dare to dream

and the people – where are they?
really do come true

a plucked skyline fills the room
one day I’ll wake

I guess at what we cannot see
and rub my eyes

feet pounding down the stairs
in that land

counting each breath to safety
beyond the skies

until the towers begin to fall
first the inside, then the outer wall
melt like lemon drops

the camera sinks, a body slips
away above the chimney tops

more black dots dive – none can fly –
that’s where

did you close your eyes?
you’ll find me


They are selling the sky and I wonder how –
by the yard, like bolts of silk, or in fixed amounts,
pre-wrapped in cellophane? (If you can’t see it, look again.)

They are selling the long, flat sky that sails
over the freeway, billboards and telephone poles,
a picture rail for satellites and sparks from a solar kite.

They are selling the deep, lagoon-blue sky,
its breeze carrying thistledown, salt, a bird of prey,
folding a lake into waves, leaves into an autumn drain.

Someone is buying the sky’s voluminous wind,
its full-bellied breath turning wheels to spin the currents
that run this eager world, its streets of glistening light.

Someone is buying the sky and I grow afraid –
for the rise and fall of my chest, for inhaling doubt,
for what we will do when the sky runs out.

“Currents” was first published in Popshot, Issue 7: The Power Issue;
See the wonderful illustration by Tim McDonagh here:
Popshot, Issue 7

Live Canon recorded a video of “Currents” read by Mairin O’Hagan.

The Wold’s Inn

It started with a buzzing, a rough buzzing
in my head and behind my eyes, but then
it moved outside, beyond the door – a sudden
shift in pitch, a dopplered soprano sting.
I looked around the pub. No one in sight
was bothered by the sound or even stirred,
drinks in hand they talked on undeterred.
I watched the barman pull two heavy pints,
thick and slow.  Saw them enter, curved
and thin, vibrating in their tight long coats,
a ring of solid black around their throats.
The bar whirred as they drank, undisturbed,
and left – I sighed but didn’t say a word.
The locals know the wild must be served.

“The Wold’s Inn” won the Greenwich Borough prize in the inaugural Live Canon Poetry Competition