poetry diary

I rhyme to see myself, to set the darkness echoing. (Seamus Heaney, from Personal Helicon)

The virtues of working out

In the gym café
a grandmother lifts her cup
with a teenage arm.


I felt stiff and old yesterday, watching some much older and fitter women enjoying coffee and newspapers after their gym session.


Roots, shaking off earth,
glow white, like worms. I toss them,
dead, into the hedge.


Gardening is a brutal affair sometimes.

Music in the park

A band playing jazz
under a tree in the rain –
drops weighting its leaves.


They were about to get very wet.

June Showers

Early summer rain
scatters rose petals and scents
of an eager earth.

It’s been raining a lot here this week.

Solihull Civic Suite

Nineteen eighties chairs,
kitchen units and sofas
filling empty rooms.


Meeting the leader of a local authority and seeing the dire state of our democracy at first hand.

On the pavement

A tiny cyclist
head down, speeding. I move left
and bask in mum’s smile.


Time to start writing again.

Against time

Too soon night’s watching lights dissolve and fade;
make way for fractured skies, which draw each tree
from lightening hills, like tunes from darker sounds.

Too soon the starlings rise; too soon the wind;
too soon the traffic’s beat, impatient feet
on crowded streets; heads sway like wheat, too soon.

Too soon shop windows fill with plastic life;
too soon bored workers close their minds to dreams;
too soon a jilted lover locks her heart.

Then streetlights fight again with rising stars
which grow like crowds, arrived too soon to watch
as time consumes our hopes – too soon, too soon.

November morning

Still blue autumn day;
whispers of frost on the roof.
A red vine leaf falls.

Canary Wharf

Through twisted camera lens
impassive skies frame
jagged diamonds and
splintered, crooked spires.

Naked, shallow waters thirst
for birds or resting ships –
adventure, risk and stevedores.
Sun glanced from tiny waves
to empty mooring rings –
shining black, unused
except to trap by accident
an empty, sodden,
sparkling pack of crisps.

Logos in the water speak
of trade and another age:
Hong Kong, Shanghai, and India;
reflections of a past now blurred
as each cloud blocks the sun;
evaporating with the years
and lack of ships, and men, and fears.

Canary Wharf is a redeveloped dockland at the heart of London’s financial district. I was there last Monday. I’m not a great fan of the UK’s over-reliance on financial services.

Regret (after Paul Éluard, ‘À peine défigurée’)

The lips don’t have to be yours
to plunge me into sadness
with a smile.

Complete despair would be kinder,
than these filaments of hope
always wakening sadness.

We moved on and said farewell,
but you returned again this morning:
footprints etched in the grain of the floor;
your eyes unblinking in those I try to love.

I cannot forget
the power of your love
in every woman I embrace;
in every stirring of the flames,
like a monster without form,
your memory shades their face:
beautiful and sad.

I read a classic French short novel, Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan, this summer (in translation). The title is a reference to the poem below by Paul Éluard, which was included in the book but not translated. My French is modest, but I enjoyed translating it and then re-working it (a lot) to arrive at the very loose translation above.

(‘Bonjour tristesse’ literally means ‘Good morning sadness’…so you can see how free I have been.)

Adieu tristesse
Bonjour tristesse
Tu es inscrite dans les lignes du plafond
Tu es inscrite dans les yeux que j’aime
Tu n’es pas tout a faire la misère
Car les lèvres les plus pauvres te dénoncent
Par une sourire
Bonjour tristesse
Amour des corps aimables
Puissance de l’amour
Dont l’aimabilité surgit
Comme un monstre sans corps
Tête désappointée
Tristesse beau visage

Paul Éluard, ‘À peine défigurée’