The nameless grandfather


Somewhere between Helsinki and Talinn
(lost between the sheets of popular songs)
drifts the elopement that might once have been
planned in Sidney Scarborough’s music shop. Wings
of fantasy lifted her, quavers shook
her Hull back streets: to skate on Baltic ice
became her dream. Her sailor would be back,
his unsigned vow inked on a fugue by Liszt.
He left a set of Finnish spoons, a pledge,
unfinished business. Maybe he did mean
to gild his Lily. Or perhaps his badge
was marked on kids from Stockholm to Stettin.
There’s no name, only handwriting – a mask.
A war broke out. There’s no one left to ask.


Night drive

The shudder always happens in my sleep.
Road signs, junctions, cat’s-eyes; pairs
of red squares in the night crawl closer.
A hypnotic hum of tyres on tarmac.

Never a hospital bed, never the blazing white
of surgery. Only a flickering of eyelids,
silent swish of metal, an exaggerated swerve
as brakes lock. An endlessly repeated motion

half a second before impact. Half a second
with the verge two yards too close,
the darkness two degrees too warm, the letters
on the tail-lights curiously readable.


This poem has also been published in Clear Poetry.

To Brendan


I strain to hold what moved you in the tide’s turn,
some shifting of shingle, a weft of kelp, fire
on the horizon.

You sailed between walls of ice, caught the flow
of volcanoes. Green below, mists, elisions
of nimbus and starlight.

Hurled to the gales, the chants that chimed
your hours eddied, drowned, resurfaced:
burst to the beat of the bodhran.

In streets of brick, would you still teach
the touch of current, stability of rolling, curve
and drift of destination?

Wedged between right angles, I stretch
for that unfathomable drive, the migration
of the grey goose.

On solid ground
I am unspent,


This poem was also published in the online poetry magazine Ground.