Café Roma

How many years since we ate here – nine, ten? We called it the smoky café before the ban, took the kids upstairs for pasta each time they stayed with us. Now they wake inside their lives, miles away, and we (who feared this place had shut) share pizza on our return: olives dotted over


If I were called in to construct a religion relief would figure prominently. Best of all the positive emotions: warmer than contentment, deeper than joy, intenser than ecstasy. Congregants would go to church in wincingly tight shoes which they could slip off once seated. The building would have toilets  but their use would be forbidden 

A Moment in Mariupol

from 20 Days in Mariupol, directed by Mstyslav Chernov After the bomb burst the hospital, her wounds were incompatible with life, the life she should have had to include dancing and, when this is history, if not a piece of theatre, chasing her laughing toddler along the beach. Yet she had life to give. They

Doing Things

What I don’t like about being alive is that you have to keep doing things, when really I’d prefer to do nothing. But you have to do this and that every day – endless little tasks and chores repeated again and again just because you’re alive. What should I do now – clean the toilet?

Watching my Mother on Pathé News

Somalia breaks off relations in 1963 so hurried packing is the order of the day and there she is in black and white swishing down the years in a gauzy frock past hat boxes and tea chests while servants hammer down the lids. Mosquito nets predict a breeze. The camera leaks her fear and sweat.


Leckhampton chimney has fallen down’ – Ivor Gurney In fact, it’s still much as it was,if you can find it, and if the dogs(nobody walks the hill without one)will leave off for a moment jumpingto press their muddy scrawl on you. Out here, I’m protected, surelywith three jackets. I missed the bus,lost the path, then

Multiverse Valentine

In your lit eyes I see other candles, other flames. On the stiff white tablecloth I lay out my jokes like the contents of a handbag. Your laugh, as mine, sounds far away. But the scene — how close and familiar it all is! Uncountable sweetnesses, tragedies.

The Collector of Lawnmowers

He hoards a rotation of them in a moated field.  Flymos, like grounded UFOs, line the verges.  Old Webbs and Greenworks are at grass.  Hares are his sentinels, guarding the perimeter.  He wears a duffle darkened with oil and mud    and a hat that plays Test Match Special on Long Wave.   For him,


Pull back the carpeton last year’s compost.Amid the richness:ratholes, a snakeskin;the fetid carcassof a wounded muntjac. We grow our foodbetween such influences.The body incorporateswhat the mind refuses, so there’s a hintof rat and snakein all of us. Our kindsoft hearts springfrom moist darknesses,the wasted ribcage. ‘Om’ is a sacred syllable in Hinduism, mystically considered to

Wildlife in West London

(after Al Alvarez) Skirmishes, furtive scuffling in the gardens,  furred burglaries. Unearthly wails of cats on heat. Behind the house, a strip of railway land where foxes drag their salvage from the street – the bramble-sheltered brood… Crows pick up the pieces,  dropping scraps of bone that suddenly materialize on balconies, on patios and paths. 

I.M. Wilko Johnson 1947-2022

Well will wounded Wilko wieldhis bloody red/black axe –fingers fast on Fender.Watch him as he chops, attacks,his hearers hoarse ring rafters Weighty wordsmith’s word hoard wandersthrough the streets and down by jetties.Long his living lays will lingerin the wide world’s towns and cities So, for fearless friend and friendship,many moons and miles rememberedin the Great

At Home with Emily Brontë

Ironing is her favourite task. The rhythm and the steam transport her to an outer state more vivid than a dream – a place of creased and crumpled hills, a wet and heavy land through which a burning body moves, directed by her hand. Each stroke a stride, the rugged earth dissolves into a plain

Dark Green House

Your phone still works. All I have to do is dial your old number and I’ll hear your voice sounding almost like yourself. Perhaps you are not feeling well? I am walking in a part of London unknown to me but for the fact you live here, and always have done – an alleyway I

All My Joy

Robin is dead no more shall sing nor ruffle his wing no more shall sing Robin is dead no more shall wait at the garden gate no more shall wait Robin is dead his soul has flown but whither gone oh wither gone Robin is dead and all my joy my sweet bonny boy and

No Pisen el Césped

My son, who’s never been allowed to tread on the scarce, yellowed lawns back in Spain, hesitantly takes a few steps in Priory Park, glances back, checks for approval, then breaks into a wild canter. And I, who played in our garden all summer long and who took it for granted, learn the amazement  of


Something of the faded dandy hangs about God’s moth-eaten evening coat, his worn-out cloth-uppers. He seems to be cruising lost time in search of fellow flâneurs who might remember him from the good old days before he dyed his hair. He holds out a threadbare mauve suede glove as if begging forgiveness from the crowds

This Word

From direct to indirect speech,spelling and pronunciationremain the same, though the meaning of this word has changed forever,my tone no longer impatientor jokey, but strictly neutral. I end up juggling sentencesto give the proper noun the slipand dodge any mention of Dad.

The Signal Box

I’m four pints deep at The Signal Box since no trains are leaving Euston now. At the bar there’s a guy who talks and talks. The departure boards are blank as snow. Silent as someone who, three hours ago, stood at the tracks’ edge. Turning and turning a stone in one hand. Someone who knew


These are the days when no words will do.Such horrors accrue by the phone’s blue lightconstant as the wind tonight rattles throughthe alleys, a side gate banging to. Rain whitein the gutters, the new year’s promise a kiteflapping in a thunderstorm as you, farwith only second-hand knowledge, rewritethese lines, for all the good they’ll do.

Dog Years

Instead of scattering your ashes, let’s go for another walk, across those swaying fields you’ll sprint half the length of, sun low as I dawdle your lead, watch you weaving free through waist-high grasses, time blurring as wind whittles away at gritstone edge. You’ll sniff your way up the scree, village blinking below like so