There was a hotel here:
grand it was

before the ground slipped away
from under its feet,
leaving doll’s house rooms
open to larger eyes
before reaching the tipping point,
doors sliding into dust

Now tree roots bind its remains
into packed bunches below the surface:
a kind of room service or picnic
for the dead

And above ground
camouflage in shades of green
hides the truth:
the murder, or accidental death

Grass grows on fingerprints
and covers the evidence,
taking steps too

All down the cliff 
deceitful flowers bloom

Not Phoenix

This is not Phoenix, 
though birds are born again 
from the mysterious marsh
and recycling is in evidence

There is heat too,
feet on burned ground,
suspicious vehicles surrounding
the hidden broad
and desert
out beyond the Yare:
ruins of old civilisations,
sails and wheels

A marsh harrier
disguised as a tree branch
Is resurrected: its awesome beauty
freed to fly

while the heron walks
disdainfully round the edges
and chess players hide
among the late summer reeds

waiting for the right time
to make a move
looking for a train
or a butterfly

The sands of time

Autumn comes lapping round my ankles
like an incoming tide

It is a Sunday in August
and I stand barefoot in the sands of time

An unexpected breeze touches my mind – 
flames in my brain set by an arsonist:
parts of me are untouched
but in the distance they are rewriting the passports,
trying to keep me out of Eden

Meddling with the seasons,
burning the boats
comes naturally to them, but you just laugh – 
you with your multilingual hair
and naked ideas

God smiles at you
and touches the future
as if nothing really mattered

Which of course 
is the opposite 
of the truth

Crazy golf

In the clifftop garden the flowers
are orange and yellow
but the stream is dry

She gazes into the future
I stare into the past: 
I need special glasses
but still the image is fuzzy 

We play crazy golf:
it is a close match

Out at sea 
a hazy grey horizon tries to make contact 
with reality:
the tide is turning

Steps up from the beach were steep:
halfway we met a goat,
munching like a machine
at melting grass

In the church they play
american tunes: 
black and white 
wrong and right

Outside on the country lanes
It is hard to see clearly
or follow dark directions 

A violinist passes us, 
heading north
or possibly east:
without a conductor, it’s hard to be sure


a maelstrom of roots
snakes towards the loch
tracked by rough bark
traps for the unwary
prepared to bite

dead water in between
and in the distance an island castle
echoes earlier battles
different strategies
rumours of dunsinane not easy to miss

I touch your lips
cold with ice cream in the unexpected sun
your yellow trousers
brighten the brown of
sleeping heather

caledonian pine
and broken bridges
cover our tracks
laughter in the evening
kiss and kiss and kiss


Under the surface
beyond the marsh’s black and gold
something is going on

Leaves like sailboats browned by the wind
move mysteriously to and fro
invisible creatures pulling strings
setting the course
lower down

so that what we see 
is not the real story: even the ducks 
tripping between logs 
write propaganda

What causes the pain is uncertain,
why the ripples are magnified, 
how deep the water is, and how warm

None of this can be measured
all can be misconstrued
and lies can be told quite safely

The sun lights the scene,
then shadows gather:
there is laughter in the distance
and a bonfire beyond the boardwalk

but a power beyond it all
that never changes

I close the hatch:
now my little world is dark,
and I cannot see the door

Outside, mud lies deep
on the path to heaven


When you reach that place
you are translated
and I can no longer read you

A tightrope walker has been at work,
running the risk of getting the balance wrong
and falling

or a ferryman,
bringing you across rough seas
for whatever price is right

maybe an alchemist, 
changing you from clay to gold
in little more than an instant

Now I am left with a commentary
that tries to unravel you
in my own language

tries to describe the unknowable journey
and the place you reached

I can no longer read you for myself:
you are somewhere else,
somewhere full of ecstasy
and empty of explanation

It is good to see you there

Dunston Common

When my brother came back to Norwich he usually wanted to be taken to Dunston Common, just outside Norwich. This poem, written ten years ago, is not about him, but he is in it.

Branches of long-suffering oak
spiral down, nudging 
damp winter earth
like streamers frozen in the twilight
of some forgotten party,

and the year edges 
towards its end
shedding a few last-minute misty tears, not noticing
that no-one is interested.

Even you, who return as always – 
cries of distress at this repeated change in your routine –
same difference, 
accusations into the empty air

of this familiar place where 
half a century ago
my first car stuck in the mud, wheels spinning,
and I wondered how I would get my girlfriend home 
clean, without embarrassment.

Now I watch my brother stand,
wheels spinning,
brain in another time
homing like a bird to this private spot.

By the old church
a thin, sharp shoot of holly 
is growing from a sterile stump.

White Shipwreck (1120 AD)

A butcher was the only survivor
when the White Ship,
decked out for a reality show
and with alcohol to spare, hit beefy rocks:
no sense of direction, so long ago

The king’s son – an Instagram hero – 
went for glory
turning back to save his sister
but was swamped by adoring crowds, 
who dragged him under

The captain too had a sinking feeling,
let go and drowned:
Plantagenets slipped on to the dance hall
dodging the cameras
and laughing

Pause for commercials, and
butchery flourished,
but the future had disappeared
together with the ship:
state of the art, they said

Visiting my parents’ grave after a short absence

It’s a long time since I was here:
but not much has changed – 
a virus passed through
an organ was removed
packed with stones that threatened
to avalanche:
I did not get the point,
so I’m surviving

Yes, I feel tired:
a rescue helicopter flies above, 
shaking the bright blue autumn sky
after days of rain:
the wrong kind of water

Fierce sun lights up 
the names of the dead 
clearly, like a knife, 
but of course you are invisible,
dancing through galaxies
laughing, drowning in love

You are not resting in peace:
you are having a fine time
bathing in heaven’s river
lifted up, transported, 

Why did you not tell me?
I see you differently now: 
yes, it’s me
gazing into infinity, 
getting closer