Matchstick man


I used live matches once. Bismarck and Scharnhorst,
grey as Atlantic waves. It took forever,
the glue nearly made me faint. The shed
was bitter, January gales and all.
The missus wouldn’t let me do it
indoors, and to tell the truth
that hut was a boiler-room to me.

I don’t mind cold, not much.
Light was more my problem,
the windows spidered till you couldn’t see
owt but cobwebs. I had a lantern,
old style, like a big tin with a wick
and paraffin. Not a good combination
with those boxes of Swan Vestas.

It had to be Swans, it paid respects
to Mum. She wouldn’t use another,
even for her last cig. I thought of her
the day the Bismarck blew. The shed, too
– that’s what finished me. Now
there’s just that model on the mantelpiece.
Recognise it? It’s Victory. Look, there’s Nelson.


• First published in The High Window, issue 4

In praise of Sisyphus

in the torment of Sisyphus
I think I find meaning
a presence of duty
perpetual motion
the tension of sinews
contracting, relaxing
the weight finely poised
a dribble of sweat
that intensifies purpose
perfection of balance
from rock into muscle
spine into pelvis
thigh into calf
toe into rock
I think this is love


I almost wrote a poem:
piled metaphors like bricks
of Lego, hoped their reds
and blues would somehow stick.
I varied tone and pace, 
turned streams to rivers:
and then froze them, hoping
to give you the shivers.
I took a point of view,
perversely changed it, then
soared skywards, thinking you
might turn your head again.
I shifted gear, thought speed
might help improve my aim.
Striving to hold the light
I changed the form and frame.
My arrow almost hit. 
The monster almost stirred.
The mountain almost moved. 
I almost found the words.