Sunday, December 23, 2012

I Am Your Christmas Present

And I hope that all your Christmas wishes will come true.
I am your Christmas present and I’m coming home to you.

I am the Christmas present for your loved ones far away
I am the fall of snow that arrives on Christmas day
I am the socks, the box of chocs, the tie you give to Dad
I am the Christmas joke that cheers you up if you feel sad
I am the chestnuts roasting around an open fire
I am the DVD Super-deluxe edition of The Wire

I am Mr Tesco keeping Christmas dreams alive
I am the grocer on the High Street hoping that he can survive
You may say I’m mass consumerism, but I’m only having fun
I am the future because IT’S ONLY JUST BEGUN
I am ten thousand Kindle books travelling by post
I’m the letter up the chimney, the X-box you want the most

I’m expensive silver wrapping paper covered in gold stars
I’m the CO2 emissions from six hundred million cars
Right now I am a turkey, but soon I will be meat
I am a child in the slums, I am a beggar in the street
I’m your credit card, the debt you know you cannot pay
I’m a baby in a manger and I just won’t go away

I’m the Minister for War learning someone else’s lines
I’m the money spent on missiles, spent on guns and spent on mines
I am the bullet heading for a young man’s head
I’m a message to his mother. I’m afraid your son is dead.

And I hope that all your Christmas wishes will come true.
I am your Christmas present and I’m coming home to you.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Visitor

Guess who’s coming on Christmas Eve?
His beard is snowy white.
We’ve got to get the house all ready.
It will be a pretty sight.

He’s my very favourite person
It was a shame he robbed a bank
But now he’s out of prison
It’s my favourite Uncle Frank

Monday, December 17, 2012

Half Finished

Presents never sent
In the bottom of the wardrobe
Addressed envelopes for unwritten letters
Notes on the back of photographs

Few laughs. A feeling of dread
As the illness approaches
Someone you love tied to the railway track
And you are helpless
But why am I tied to the track, you ask

Shaken like the welcome mat
And all your memories
Scatter like the silver stars on my eighth birthday

Silver turns grey.
At night you worry – is the door locked?
Crossword puzzles become confusing, are left
Half finished, along with half-knitted hats

Sure everyone is old, but you don’t know why
You are in the home.
It’s not your home
And you cry. You don’t ask for much
You’re perplexed and puzzled.
Why have you been abandoned
By your family?

And we take you to the sea, to Sheerness
And it’s beautiful, you say, looking over the marsh
For you’ve forgotten about the oncoming train

And the grey rain turns to fog
Dad, he walked out, you think
When he died – your joy was gone
Your life was half finished
And now you must finish it alone

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giant
Thunder Bay
Rock Formation


Sleeping Giant
Red Lake
Piles of dead mattresses


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Power Plays

Hydro-electric lines march across
The railway-scarred landscape
Of St Thomas
Its Station reinvented as a museum

And a stone apologises to the First Nation
For breaking a treaty
And drowning their land and livelihood
At the Ear Falls Dam

Monday, December 10, 2012


When I’m writing a poem
I laugh

What I’ve written
Actually makes me laugh!

But lately
When I’m writing
I find myself crying

It’s been a challenge
Trying to find those happy places

As if I've lost my clown’s shoes
The ones with the happy laces

Friday, December 07, 2012


When the bear is at its blackest
And the night has lost its moon
When the wind is at its keenest
And the ice has lost its tune

When you wake up in the darkest place
To the touch of winter’s breath
Then the spirit of the mine has passed
And its calling card is death

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Pope's Visit

When the Pope
Visited Fort Edmonton
He travelled in a white, glass Cadillac
Not unlike the donkey
Jesus rode*

*but with heavier security

Saturday, December 01, 2012


Pray tell,
how many spirits
of the First Nation
are still hanging around
The Forks, Winnipeg,
these days,
Great White Owl?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Looking for Bears on the Rocky Mountaineer

(Jasper to Kamloops - August 2012)

As the sun starts to rise
We rub sleep from our eyes
And we check-in our luggage with care
We wave Jasper farewell
What stories we’ll tell
Of the day that we spotted a bear.

As the train pulls away
And the carriages sway
There’s a definite buzz in the air
Sure, the Rockies are cool
And the trees in the fall
Are real neat. But we want to see bear.

Our guide* says black bears
Like to hang around moose
Though the truth is that moose are quite rare
So far we’ve seen trees
And Jill saw some bees**
But we’re hoping that soon we’ll see bear

We glimpsed a black dog
And a duck in a bog
And a rock that was shaped like a hare***
And passing Mount Cheadle
The tracks of a weasel****
But sadly, as yet, not a bear

By Pyramid Falls
Where the bald eagle calls
And the mosses that that grow are quite rare
Said our guide, “Yesterday
A bear came out to play
And posed for some photos.” Oh yeah?

There’s a man! By the track!
He waves, we wave back
And we laugh like we haven’t a care
And there are trees, and more trees
Trees, trees and yes… trees
But we’d quite like a glimpse of a bear

We’re approaching Kamloops
Where the bald eagle swoops
But of one thing you should be aware
We’ve seen many great things
With legs***** and with wings
But we haven’t seen one blessed… wait!
Is it? Yes… no…. yes… No… 
It's not a bear.******

* Brandi
** Well, one bee actually
*** Very amusing!
**** Not actually true. I used my poetic licence here
***** Not a great line. Because birds also have legs, obviously
****** It was a black bin bag.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Where the Road Runs Out

We are as far north as the road runs
In Ontario

In a house by the water
In Red Lake

Granite sky, cold breeze blowing in
From the West

Collars up, winter clothes ready
Paper birches, leaves turning gold

And the gold seam below us
In the Canadian Shield

Now the lake clears its throat
Waiting to sing the big freeze

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Three Small Stones

(for Mindful Writing Day 2012)


Last year's fig tree
leans over the new wall.
Next year - figs!


Dark grey sky
Cold wet wind
Mid afternoon
and a rook heads home early


It's a natural process
but my mind complicates it.
The lawn.
Moss versus Grass

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Shooting Stars

And after the evening meal
We took down the sunshade
Turned off the lights
And watched for shooting stars

And so, if I grow old
And I’m disconnected from reality
If my memories are gone
And I think I’ve been abandoned

Lay me down in a field
Where there is no light pollution
And let me watch
The shooting stars

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

My wife and I
Are sitting in the evening sunshine
In the Place d’Hotel de Ville, in Loches,
And I’m thinking
Life doesn’t get any better than this.

An Orleans Jazz Band
Is playing on the corner
They are very good indeed
I sip my glass of red and think
Life doesn’t get any better than this.

Then an old friend sits beside us
And she rests her head
On my shoulder
And I get a whiff of Sex with Jennifer (1967)
And I’m thinking
Life doesn’t get any better than this.

And a text comes through
We have a massive win
On the Euromillions
And I’m thinking
Life really doesn’t get any better than this.

The evening sun
The music
And Paul McCartney and Adele
Are strolling past
They see us, come over
And sing us an impromptu duet
Of a song Paul composes
For us, on the spot
And I’m thinking
Life doesn’t get any better than this.

But they have a date
At La Flèche d’Or in Paris
Playing to an intimate gathering
Of the world’s movers and shakers
They leave, with our friend
And I get another text,
The win on the Euromillions
Was only a few Euros after all
Now the band play their last number
And begin to pack away
And we finish the bottle of wine

The last of the sun
Slips from the apricot sky
Darkening the ancient buildings
Of warm stone
And wife and I
Look into one another’s eyes
And kiss
And I’m thinking,
Do you know what?

It really was a great shame about
that text.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


And so, when God
Gave me the task
Of sorting out
Who would be saved
I decided to station a stonkin’
New Orleans Jazz Band
On the corner
And those who stopped
And jigged and laughed
And listened and danced
And clapped and cheered
I sent to Heaven and

To Hell with the others

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Man in a Hat

A man in a hat sits on the platform
Drinking a coffee
And eating an Eccles cake

He is sixty three
But likes to think he looks younger
His thoughts right now
Are a bit mushy
Probably because he has a cold
Although he wonders if it might be
A sinus infection

His hat is dark grey
Not exactly a pork pie hat
Or a Trilby
He doesn’t know its name
He considered dying it black
And tying a colourful ribbon around it
Red or blue
A strong primary colour
But his wife told him
That dying would put it out of shape

He is sitting on a white, metal seat
With rows of small, round, perforations
Everywhere is wet
From the early morning rain
But not the seat
The platform’s awning protects it

He bought the coffee
And the Eccles cake
In the platform café
The coffee is black
And has been delivered
In a cardboard-coloured corrugated cup
It has one sweetener in it
He hasn’t got used to the taste
He wonders what will happen to the English language
When he is dead and gone

The Eccles cake is sweet
It’s a long time since he ate an Eccles cake
How long?
He has no idea. Five years?
Twenty five years?
He remembers the way the granulated sugar
Scatters everywhere
And clings
Like a sticky frost
How he’d have sugar and pastry stuck
All over his dark blue suit.
That was always a problem.
In those dark-blue suit days

His thoughts are mushy.
They are dodging about
All over the place
He is thinking about writing a poem.
This poem, perhaps
He’s also watching
The train arrivals board
And gazing at the track
And wondering why someone doesn’t clean up
All the litter
And he’s thinking about
The taste of the coffee
He’s tasted better
Bitter? Better? Hmmm…
And the lines from a song
Keep interrupting his thoughts
Look out! There’s a monster coming
The song was by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

The cold is a nuisance
Sore nose
Awkward breathing
Background headache
Chills. Lethargy. Aching muscles.
Waves of feeling sorry for himself
Which he tries to rise above
It’s important, he knows,
To be positive

He’s thinking about his visit
To Roehampton University
Where he will talk
To over a hundred students
About their experiences in schools

There are no bins on the platform
And so, momentarily
Leaving his black case where it is,
And hoping that it won’t be spotted
By a porter
And taken to a patch of wasteland
And destroyed,
He takes the Eccles cake wrapper
Back into the little café
And drops it
In the small rubbish receptacle
By the counter

When he returns
His case is where he left it
He thinks that at Victoria Station
They probably have a steel and concrete
Reinforced room
For blowing up the cases and bags
That have been left unattended on the platform
But probably not here
He wonders where they would take it
Is there any wasteland nearby?

He opens his case and finds his notebook
And begins this poem
He writes about himself in the third person
He thinks, Maybe this is more of an account
Than a poem
It’s too long and rambling
He’s reading Marcel Proust’s
A La Recherche du Temps Perdu
In fact he has his copy in his case
He hopes it doesn’t influence his writing
Too much
He’s more a fan of short sentences

The train arrives
Catching the man in the hat

He grabs his case and boards the train

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


1 A reference to Frost’s The Road Less Travelled
2 Elly’s nickname. Josh is unaware of it at this point.
3 Bread and butter.
4 One for the money. From Blue Suede Shoes by Carl Perkins. Made famous by Elvis Presley.
5 Red is considered a lucky colour in China. It is associated with money.
6 The full list is: rose, box, articulated lorry, mirror, gold ring.
7 The Union of Footnote and Appendix Compilers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Train Stops

The train stops
In the shadow
Of a concrete bridge
Half-hearted graffiti

Frost scattered like salt
On a row of metal boxes
Full of railway electronics I guess

A sack of pebbles
Spilled on the grubby weeds
A dead, grey buddleia
Waits for the spring

As the train starts up
And trundles into East Croydon
A phone rings
A loud voice answers it

A young, future-artist
Should take on the job
Of colouring in all that drab graffiti

Friday, July 20, 2012

Poem About My Mother

I’m thinking of writing a poem
About my mother
She’s in a home now
One of those homes
For people who can’t remember things
This is very worrying
As both my Mother
And my Dad’s mother
Had that disease
It’s on both sides of the family
It affects your short term memory first

I mean
Have you ever found yourself
Walking into a room
And wondering why you are there?

We’re clearing out our parents’ house
My sisters and I
Boxes and boxes
Of accumulated stuff
Rubbish, ordinary things
And a few treasures

Dad’s suits are still hanging
In the wardrobe
Destined for the charity shop
Probably in fashion again soon
Dad died fifteen years ago
We also found a brush
With hair still attached
It could be Dad’s.
Dad’s DNA
Still with us, after all this time.

Of course, it could be the dog’s hair.
The dog died around the same time.

Or it could Mum’s hair.
She’s still with us
She’s in a home now
One of those homes
For people who can’t remember things
This is very worrying
As both my Mother
And my Dad’s mother
Had that disease
It’s on both sides of the family
It affects your short term memory first

I mean
Have you ever found yourself
Walking into a poem
And wondering how it’s going to end?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Railway Passenger Three Line Poem

Hey, railway passenger
With your middle-distance eyes
Don’t look so gloomy

Friday, July 13, 2012

Paradox No 39

He’s not alone.
Callum Innes (born 1962)

I know that everyone does it
But shouldn’t someone point it out?

That Untitled No 39 (2012) Oil paint on canvas
Is, in fact, titled?