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


(after Mallarmé) The moon grew sad. Abstracted seraphim, weeping with their bows in their hands, in the calm of misty flowers, played on mortal violas white sighs glazing the deep blue of His corollas –  it was the sacred day of your first kiss. My reverie, content to be martyred like this, drew a lucid

The Bronze Head of Virginia Woolf Seen Through the Railings of Tavistock Square on a Bright Spring Morning in 2020

Her tiny headpeers above three jarscrammed with votive jonquils – her face among the crows, the marching limes, the warty humps and bubblesof the London planes. Bronze and bluebell. Bronze on high Portland stone. Her beauty wrenched from clay, whose sculptor stabbed unfinished voidsto stare directly at the surging wave,  eyes that studied fin and rainbowforced, like millions


Ever wonder why foxes always slip  into poems? Imagine the present moment embodied, coat ablaze as it skips littered bushes and moonlight’s lament  like the burnt shock of iron sediment at a river’s turn, you’ll find its furtive glare soon meets your own. Now it stops, head bent to sniff the rutted earth scattered with


(after Rimbaud) Lord, when the meadows are cold, and when in the despondent hamlets all prayer is silent, down on Nature bare and old let them swoop from the skies, those dearest and delightful crows. Strange troops with your cheerless cries, winds assault your nests, it seems! Over winter’s jaundiced streams, lanes with moss-grown calvaries,

Fast Charge

The squirty old style fuel pumps lie dead as I hook the car up to the charging point and brace in case the plug recoils. I’m pleased we’re powered by wind and solar now shale gas lies untouched and coal’s defunct. A half-hour charge beside the jet-wash gun with pushy forecourt ads, someone changing oil,

Amoris victima

The office is so full of bloody books, propped dangerously on tables, cases, chairs, propped everywhere, so everywhere one looks one briefly shrugs one’s shoulders and despairs. The drawback to so many bloody books is that they come between us, me and her, and interrupt what should be melting looks with titles unforgivably obscure. Take

The way

Another week gone by in the pubmeans time called on someone elseas if the reaper’s too lazy to aimhigher than the fermented windfalls. The regulars are sad but secretly gladit’s not them in the pine overcoatas they discuss at length how hardit is to drive to that new crematorium. They complain it’s just off the

Chair in a Field

If it is here, tethered by thornsto the soil, for a reason,it is solely to hold him,  his shepherd’s ghosthome from a field in Belgium, to let his tired frame restand the breeze call through him A oes heddwch? A oes heddwch? … expecting no answer.                                              Mysterious in the unshorn mistit mourns his absence,waits patiently

Five Miles (Two Hours) on the Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue

We’re due at The Press Club at six for a briefing  on the Padma Bridge. Rivers here drown  in their own plenitude. I don’t normally wear pearls,  but shalwar glamour has boxed me into a corner.  All I can see of our driver is his left arm and watch.  Koranic verses swing from the rear-view

Punch and Judy Revisited

for Anna Punch has made up with Judy and put his big stick away. He’s happy to cuddle the baby. He’s a new man as from today. A husband on best behaviour. A loving father restored. But preferring him as raver the audience feels cheated and bored. Bring back the Judge and the gallows the