The Smudge


ashes 2
Twin Peaks: The Return (dir. David Lynch,  2017)


God’s dirty thumbprint crosses your brow

Remember you are dust-


 The Turning Wheel wears you down

Returns and turns and turns again

Lumbering, creaking through the sky

A soul under each unblinking eye.


The smudge upon the kingly crown

Blotting out the gaudy light

“Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”

A pox upon sterility!

The darkest doubt repainted:

Negative Capability.

You’ll lose your footing

A fortunate fall

You’ll lose your footing

You will not fail

You’ll lose your footing

At the rail

The thorn, the splinter, the needle, the nail

Dancing on the edge,


 Hand in hand in hand in hand

Before the altar and the throne.


Obvious debt to TS Eliot aside, this piece revisits (if not cannibalises) imagery and themes that have appeared in many of my other poems, including:
Beneath the Blue Throne
Locust Eater
Whose Flesh? Whose Word?
The Man at the Rail
Anatomy Lesson
To Be King



The Devil Rides The Bassline

Illustration by Pauline Baynes  (from by CS Lewis’ The Last Battle)

Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils…
-G.K Chesterton

The devil rides the bassline
of every song on the radio,
especially the new ones:
slick, glossy, smooth rides
into the hearts ‘n minds
of the restless, relentless Youth.

The devil dangles its hooves
into warm pools of Strong Drink,
muddying the muddy waters
of the stagnant streams
that stain the sepia dreams
of elderly artists.

The devil lounges
inside the paperback tomes
and within the colourful crystal shards
that decorate the packs of Pokemon cards
lying on the floor
of the family caravan.

The devil goes to a church
where the sermons are too short
or too long
or not funny enough
and spoken by a woman
and the worship
is too traditional
or far too loud
or it goes on
for far too long
and they use too many instruments
and the theology
is too conservative
or too liberal
or not rigorous enough-
after all, they believe that the earth
might be slightly older than six thousand years-


Anatomy Lesson

Bartholomew_Marco dAgrate
St Bartholomew Flayed (Marco d’Agrate,1562)

Breath and fire

And bright blue barbed wire

And axe-blades and cisterns

And spindly pink pincers

And uneven bristles

And great granite thistles

And wrenches (or spanners)

And flat, drooping hammers

And sluggish red rivers

And cobwebbed quivers

And orbs upon stages

And whitewashed cages

And stained-glass globes

And a thin, tattered robe.

Inspired by the poems “1950s” and  “Before I Knocked” by Bill Manhire and Dylan Thomas, respectively. 



Photograph: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute, taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.



Discard the gritty lump of clay,
And, instead, select another.
Fashion something Wholly New,
fashion something Wholly Other.

Retrieve the once-rejected mound
And put it back onto the Wheel
What of the New will it create?
What of the Other will it reveal?

It Is known
It Is beyond
It Is distant
And Intimate

We are dust,
We are ash,
We are breath,
We are breath,
With our backs against The Infinite.

Daily Prompt: Recreate

Inspired by The Liturgists’ Apophatic Meditation