Bowie Mural, Brixton 2016

I’ve seen the graffiti of gratitude
scrawled on a wall by a multitude
of mourners who didn’t know what to do
to mark the momentous occasion –
just needed to leave some personal statement,
messages, notes saying “You were great, man”
and votive offerings for a vanished star:
there’s a cheap red wig, a broken guitar
and scented candles, guttering in jam jars.
Fans leave more flowers, leave in a hurry
as the beggars assemble, scenting money.
Kids point to the mural “Who’s that, mummy?” –
their mummy begins to weep. The facade slips,
and suddenly that British upper lip
trembles, can’t bring itself to be quite so stiff.
A nation’s reputation in danger
today, as strangers comfort sobbing strangers –
somewhere, the Starman smiles, sings “Ch-ch-changes…”


Writing On The Wall

The place I live is quiet, small,
graffiti is rarely seen –
but recently, sprayed on a wall,
were three letters – BNP*

I tried to think what I might do
to wipe away this taint –
then found someone beat me to it,
somebody else, with paint…

A beady eye, the ‘P’ became.
‘BN’? Obscured by a beak.
An artist turned that word of hate
into a bird of peace.

A tiny triumph for the dove –
the future’s still in doubt.
Now is the time for quiet love
to raise its voice, and shout!



*British National Party

Song for Leonard

When I was younger I would dream
about a man, his face unseen,
who’d sing each night in one bar or another.
I’d hear his melancholy tune,
then ask the cold indifferent moon
if somewhere on this earth I’d find a brother.

But then one evening, long ago,
a song came on the radio:
“They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom…”
and gravel tones told gritty truths
of man and woman, poet, muse,
and all the tangled paths that lie before them.

Oh, that voice spoke as one who knows
about the world, the way it goes.
I knew at once that he would be a favourite –
for it’s not often that you see
a Jew use Catholic imagery,
or hear a Buddhist monk praise naked ladies.

The years went by. I met my muse
who luckily loved Leonard too –
his music underscoring our encounters.
So many times we’ve shared a glass,
raised in salute to one now passed;
a dead man’s lyrics whisper still around us…

The Waves Keep On Rolling

There are times when it seems
that the life of a man
is so futile, so fragile,
a castle of sand.
And as hard as you try
you can’t hold back the tide,
and the waves keep on rolling,
they cast it aside…

Though the road may be hard,
someone’s walked it before
and the stories from their life
can shed light on yours.
And though words may seem frail
as a net cast in air,
they can capture the truth
in tales which will always be there…

So those songs still remain
though the singer is gone.
Let the waves keep on rolling –
they’ll carry the song.
Time and tide grind the rock
down to sand, fine and soft,
but not those who inspire us –
no, they’ll never ever be lost…


(RIP Ron Hynes)

Pictures, or it didn’t happen?

I don’t show strangers photos
to prove where I have been –
my word should be enough
or, clearly, they’re no friend to me.

Photos may jog the memory,
lead to contemplation –
sadly, this has been replaced
by over-documentation.

Who can truly know a place,
find out what makes it tick,
whilst framing a self-portrait
on a damn selfish selfie stick?

No photograph can capture
a hawk’s weight on my wrist,
the crackle of logs burning,
the awesome hush of an eclipse,

the chill wind from an iceberg,
the splash of whales at play,
the warmth of a sleeping love
at the end of a perfect day.

There’s Nothing Pink About Cancer

There’s nothing pink about cancer
though there’s a whole rainbow of pain:
skin scalded by radiation,
and orange with betadine stains,
the needle bruises, greens and blues
slowly yellowing as they fade,
the scarlet of an angry scar,
and the black of a sunken vein.
There’s nothing remotely pastel
in stark choices that must be made –
which body parts to sacrifice
in the hope that some can be saved.
And it’s not just for princesses –
their princes can also be claimed.
In horrible equality,
all are hairless, sexless and drained.
It gnaws at families, and friendships,
till only the strongest remain.
No, there’s nothing pink about cancer;
it’s cold, and it’s cruel, and it’s grey.


Some people babyproof their homes,
with cupboard locks, fireguards.
She took a more direct approach –
she babyproofed her heart.

It has no shiny surface
where a child could fall or trip.
There are no nooks or crannies
for a chubby hand to grip.

It’s not she doesn’t like kids
(though it’s true she needs her space) –
she loves her sibling’s offspring
so she knows that’s not the case.

But she will not bring a child into
a world so full of pain –
babyproof she’s always been,
and ever shall remain.


Have you ever sat at that table,
at a wedding? You know the one –
full of people without partners,
with traits nobody wants.

The independent women,
who persist in being single,
are never seated with couples
for fear that they might mingle.

The nun who, even in plain clothes,
exudes a faith too strong,
her chastity embarrassing
to those whose faith has gone.

And the widow who strives to be merry,
invited because she’s a friend
but not really wanted at weddings
for she’s living proof – love always ends.

Richard III

There never was a funeral like this
For one born centuries ere I drew breath.
Though I’d not call myself a monarchist.
I’m intrigued by Richard Plantagenet.
His reputation, tainted by a play?
He’s Shakespeare’s finest villain, yes, by far.
And so he is remembered to this day –
Even if evil, still he is the star.
Yet though, after long search, his bones exhumed,
His character in truth can’t be found out.
One who believed in innocence presumed,
Perhaps, deserves the benefit of doubt.
Debate may rage forever o’er his deeds,
But this I know; I hope those bones find peace.