Poems 2008 - 2010

These are all poems which have won prizes or been published in print or on-line.

Feel free to browse and supply constructive feedback. But please don't use them without permission.

This one is running around Guernsey on an interior bus panel in the run up to the island's first Literature Festival.

Black Dog

Listen. That faint baying at the far edge
of your high moors. He is coming. Remember
how he harried you the last time you were
hopeless, out of work or out of sorts,
ravenous with his hot breath, snarling?

You could feed him, let fear fur your windows,
fog your silent roads, mist the dark heathlands
of his snuffling. Or face him, hire your own
Holmes and Watson, shine torches into the
fastnesses of your mind and flush him out.

Or, able to judge the distance between your
own walk and the edge of your high moor, pass on,
pausing just enough for him to catch your scent.

The next one was a winner in the 'Buried Language' competition in the summer edition of Poetry News.


They told us Torfaen – Stone Breaker
was the older name and that our river
only became grey – Afon Llwyd
when they came to cut the coal.

‘You could not see it for foam,’
my father said. He remembered its speed,
just as fast as we boys found it,
taking the feet from beneath you, taking its toll.

They all but emptied our valley of magic
when they filled in the fields
between each village to form our town.
Except here, behind Ty Pwca,

where the worn lane rises in its steep bend
beyond The Last Bus Stop and The Fairy’s House:
the Pwca, our Bwgi-Man, your Puck.
And there, where the Candwr Brook –

The Singing Waters – still clears her throat
over smooth, cold stones.
So why, I wondered, from Saxton,
an Elizabethan approximation

of the name we had all used all along?
Had the stream, Torfaen, simply lost her voice
as she broadened to a river
somewhere bleaker, blacker, a place

with spittle in its throat, a rattling in its lungs?
Or did our Afon Llwyd only combine
with Torfaen to form one grey, stone-breaking river
when they baptised us all into one Borough

and gave us each a name we never knew?

The next was a runner-up in the Stafford Poetry Competition 2009.


I have shaken hands with a man who shook
the hand of one whose small step took him
to the very threshold of the stars;

sat across a table from a woman
who clasped the cold chunk of stone he came back with;
have myself handled prints fixed from moments

frozen through a lens that settled, unblinking,
on the silent face of Mars.

I have a friend whose grandfather watched Bleriot’s
frail box bounce along a chalky down by Dover;
met a railwayman whose father knew a porter

whose father rapped a drum at Waterloo.
They say you are never more than six people away
from anyone else on earth – president, pope or predator –

a single breath from death, nor ever more than
ten feet from the presence of a rat.

May then my children’s children shake the hand
of a man who shook the hand of one who shook
the hand of him who trod the silver dust of heaven,

who heaved, in heavy boots and helmet, his slight
frame lightly across the surface of the moon.

And this one appeared in Issue 200 of Planet magazine.

True Properties of Wood

This tree has grown to grasp three railings
in its trunk. They sprout like its own shoots, welts
wrapped around their stems, their trident prongs
bent back as though to prevent more harm.

You tell me of another tree in Wales that grew
and healed itself around a horseshoe
boys embedded in its bark to give themselves
a foothold up. And, how, long after it had sunk

inward without outward trace and the forgotten
boys had ceased to climb, it sent and sprang
a chainsaw kicking and coughing and snarling
back upon itself. Whatever does not kill us

makes us strong. Like those blunt heads
of army-issue shot buried in the ash bole
the chair-maker shows us in his shop,
the growth rings swollen to half-an-inch

the year the bullets struck. It bulged
to grip them tight against rain and frost.
‘I never take a tree that once stood in a hedge,’
he says. ‘Too many hasps and staples, lengths

of wire. But this lead is soft, for all its size.
Target practice. See? feel it there, clustered close.
Yet easy to work and chisel down.
It gives me something to talk about in the shop -

The tree that was shot.’ We run our fingers
across its scars, stroke the solid bog-oak table
in his window. Soaked five thousand years,
burnished smooth, tanned as leather, hard as iron.