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A Letter to My First Car 

Published 2022 by Spillwords

Dear Vic – My First Beloved Fiat,

This is a letter of apology, of explanation and of belated thanks. First, let’s get this out of the way, we both knew I didn’t want you – all those nights I spent clad in a chequered supermarket uniform stacking shelves – my plastic sliced and paper cut fingers bound in blue, industrial plasters were not sacrifices to buy you. I was working for an Alpha Romeo – a classic convertible – a car who was open to the sky – tilting people’s heads so they could drink in darkness and sunny afternoons. But Dad said no– then shouted it – before saying nothing again in a louder way – and anyway you were Auntie Hetty’s around-town-run-around, reliable – unbreak-downable – a good deal – so I thought you’d do – you had to – you did – and yes – I came to love you too.

Let’s forget about Piccadilly – Lewis and Elise were ridiculous passengers – vodka and cigarette ash slopping on their leathers as it slopped on your woven fabric seats embedding everything with a smoky miasma – screech breaking and letting them out into the traffic was for the best – and the passing taxi only just scuffed your bumper – not an insurance thing or anything – but I felt the curving strike of hostility draw into your grey fairing and into me too as they skittered into the darkness and the flash of advertisements and illuminations.

I know I drove and left the choke lever pulled out – did I flood parts of your engine? Or burn more fuel than I should have done? I didn’t know and still don’t. None of my other cars have had this feature – they are more automated than you, Vic. Being reliant on my driving and judgments must have been scary– okay I’ll admit guesses about oil levels, antifreeze and water must have left you wanting the safety and softness of my old Aunty. Then when your exhaust began to rust air would rush in with the fumes and for months you growled like a true sports car as I accelerated – I couldn’t afford to get you repaired any sooner than I did – but turning heads, albeit for the wrong reasons, when we pulled away was fun for a bit wasn’t it?


After you finally overheated and died – boiling water pouring from your innards and hissing as the road transformed it into steam – I kept your steely laurel wreathed badge and placed it in the glovebox of my new, second-hand car. How’s that for commitment?

From your final, now older and wiser driver,


The Art of Living, poem by Jenny Middleton at

Just for a day, I want to live
as if I had walked into
a Lichtenstein pop-art painting
bolder -brasher – more primary –
the inconsistencies
of conversations pixilated
into statements printed
in bold font and block capitals
the fluff, fuss and nuances
of discussions non-existent –
blotted out.

A man named Brad would/might/could
never call and the tears I shed wouldn’t
blotch my face or sink broken porcelain
down sharp at my insides –
but instead would be nothing important at all 

gloss sliding against the glass

windscreen of a car headed

towards parties.


I’d dress in leopard print, pull
Champaign’s trigger and arrange
the blocky edges of my kitchen utensils
as if they were posing for a still life
silhouette to be painted by Cezanne
centuries ago, whilst I lean, cubist style
against the counter and call
again on that phone
hoping this time when I replace the receiver
someone real will be there after all.


Cajun Mutt Press Featured Writer 03/19/21 – Cajun Mutt Press (

Today’s spiders weave noun traps –
Money, Hunter, Harvestman and House
webbing us in routine,
spinning bills with work and rationality’s
bluster at our rotting, window sills.

Lying now on purple sheets you swear straight
as the shadow ruled lines of louvered blinds
an unrelenting love.

Shot glass slammed
– tequila downed, salt sucked-
you muscle tomorrow on

splitting the leathery spines of books
free from their stale shelves
letting old words crawl with new
in the asymmetry of our lives

nuzzled briefly with night

as yet days are drawn longer with winter’s rheumy rack.

Make Peace

published in the 2023 Anthology 'Poems for Peace' 


Crochet it square by square from wool – weave it like a bird from bracken and revive it from the letters, where it rests, on too many tombstones. Make it warm—make it spiced and dewy with the perfume of the flowers you once wore in your hair or threaded into your button-hole.

Let Peace grow in claggy, mossy earth and feed you with its fruit or roots and leaves and pass its seeds to strangers who might unleash it and let it blossom between pavement cracks in their cities —or allow it to swim into polluted seas and drink their poison until only sea is left turning on glistening shores. Then make an antidote from venom and craft jewellery from old bullet shells.

Now plant corn and listen to it crackling as it grows and stretches rather than to anyone who tells you anything is more important than this.

barbed wire
sings as it coils up
open fields



Clouds in Our House

published in the 2023 Anthology 'Poems for Peace' 


My children are creating clouds
and catching them in plastic bags

commandeering the kettle and the shower
in a conspiracy to create vapour – to boil up

an inexactness and name its drifting breath
Stratus, Cumulus or Cirrus

and watch it gather together in droplets
then drop again as rain rapping

at the interior of a pliable world
and find the comfort that there is to be had

in creating and naming what cannot be held
or kept and allowing it to move away

still singing of its memories
falling back where they began.


published online by The Blue Nib Literary Magazine

Because it is the crush of sky

to water - a horizon of lines

drawn long and mapping the dittoed

trail of ships printing waves

on carbon paper, words

printed to endless echoes


and because it is the soft howl

of a saxophone - notes lingering


surging - then that pout of lipstick

butting up against beauty

its kiss filled with the smudge

of bitten cornflowers -

their stars flung from night

with the blazing ends of fused indigo.


And because it is everything

we ever wanted to say -

without any words.

I Try To Listen As Your Voice Perforates The Air

You are away tonight, but
you phone

your voice cutting thoughts
to silhouettes of words

within your phone’s receiver
their outlines hard

with reconfigured sound –
their impulses electric now-

saying you are busy; a loop of people
are around you in a hotel, somewhere social.

All the while, outside, slung against the sky
and drumming through slender telephone lines

your speech is a signal carried
to untwine against my ear – empty –

filled only with necessity and ready mixed
expressions, as if poured dry from

those food sachets marked
‘tear here to open’

the contents falling in a hollow percussion,
pattering at the dull metal of a pan

and so different from a real voice’s
warm soar from a mouth to a mind;

all hot and bold
with breath’s winged part of air.


Published in the Indelible Poetry Anthology 2020


After you died, we found them, whole years,
gathered in newspaper clippings, weathered with soft
veins and creased as your hands.

Everywhere, in the pages of books or stashed in shoe-boxes,
you pressed paper to translucent heirlooms.
I wonder that we never noticed you cutting them.

Paper mined, leaf holed, then folded
and later unfolded, its words remade as a bed's
coverlet is smoothed before you lie.

Stories slip like sleep through your mind;
the clippings crafted to confetti announcing
and re-announcing births, deaths and marriages.

The mapped markers of love, of name linked to name
in inky archives, and held and held before you’d close
the shutters and listen to them clatter with night.


Ocean Inside

(As published in the 2019 Anthology Reach)

Enclosed and inside the ultrasound scan

shows you afloat in a hushed ocean.

Kidney bean shaped and safe in your drift,

yet anchored to me and my queasy mornings.

I feel us pulling at each other's lives,

persistent waves pushing at me, surging

and shifting as you shape into a self.

The sea within; salty and clear and shown

as a vague grey surf fixed in the photograph

the sonographer hands to us casually,

as the air of my world constricts, conflicted

with two journeys; our shared one and my own. 

The Confinement

Fists clenching and filling

with the expanse of secrets

the poppies grow tight.

Roughly budding the clay,

their petals skin wings

thrown upwards in release.

As you lie newly 

in my arms, red with birth

and the crumple of creation.

Hot needing, eyes just open.

A skin seamless and unknowable;

a mind of our own making.

Remembering Nick Kamen

(who died aged 59, 2021) 

After that Launderette ad

Levi’s 501s, cut lower on the hip

for boys, were the only ones

80s girls wore.


Skin tight and stone washed

teenage years tumbled

school books with Look In magazine

where your poster poses

and nude lipstick pouted

stating everything

was cool and changing – The Face

featured with yours

sold ski wear to city workers

with no plans to visit the mountains.


Madonna sang your backing vocals

and we played the cassette

of your single over and over

until the sepia spool

was almost transparent with wear.

59 seemed old back then

but now it seems too young

for anyone to die.  

Afterwards Nana

a wardrobe to sort, now empty of hands,

sighing with garments worn and tendered soft

by your shifting shape.

and long lingering, though you are dead, drifts

Coty's L'Aimant

scattering memory, nascent and again new

Ash-less and minute-less smooth to soothe

our sorrow.

and beyond your piano sings flowers. 


Superstition snakes from the necks

of the flowers lolling their heady scents

to the night.

Unlucky to cut lilacs - she repeats

stories lingering from those lost days of her childhood -

but lavender weaves luck - she says

pressing the papery blooms to a pomander

and placing it amongst her faded silks.

Now a chemist, latex gloved, in a lab

Distils digitalis to digoxin

Freeing it from a foxy, fairy past;

Modern medicine for a fluttering,

Failing heart.

I hear her singing still;

A flowered whisper tracing

Through the twilight of a garden

Slipping slowly from

Superstition to the science

Of a song.


Glass confetti melts fast, blurring jagged fragments to the hot, smooth translucence of a vase turned by Murano glass workers. Metal rods swing to the hammer of a kiln’s volcanic roar as molten glass is dipped from the mass of flames and rolled against a rag to form.

heat blows to stillness; words fall from lips to print.

Outside the workshop’s fiery dark, canals eddy with the push of boats; lapping at the timber supports of the pier, tiny waves turned to tongues erode the foundations. We walk, jarring experiences separately.

nightshade blooms
as closing day cedes

Watching You Sleep

published online by Spillwords

Sometimes I watch you sleep

your mind deserted of day


and its immutable rationales;

your eye lashes jolting


as if a strobed, dazzling electricity

were fused and wired inside

to some apex of mind buzzing

with strange sorrows and unseen

journeys, opening only

in sleep as memories


that jangle and fight at sleeps'

quiet bond of darkness and rest.

The hot feathered duvet

twists around your limbs


as if quarrelling with repose

and webbing you amongst


its tangle, and I wish you the world's

drowsy violets, sweet with shade

and full of night borne remedies

to calm the agitation

of the day and soothe with loose 

blooms the shuffling stack of routine;


the trails and concoctions 

of all those tomorrows.

The Turtle Doves

Yesterday I read that Turtle Doves

are dying


40 million less, I read yesterday

to emblem countryside

with their gingered feathers gentle sweep;

constancy expired.


Their pink eyes and purred voices muted,

preserved as a line in our worded song

their 12 carolled days with the partridge

and the pear tree wrapped and reeled in

Ended. Their coos a post card

picture of the past sent skywards

and famished with seedless springs

and scentless flowers hybridised


chemically laden, high yielding

yet providing sustenance no more

the wrong wheat ripping at their throats

and rot growing rank in their guts

The partnership loosed

                               to the cold caw

of mistrust

             and hedgerows' silent thickets.

I read. 


Published in the Anthology 'coming home 2021'

Stubs of samphire shove

up from salty, marshy flats

viridescent as fables growing

stronger than the shifting land

freckling flowers in a conspiracy

with the breeze's rush over

greying, darkening waves

finning, pummelling voices

with the vows

of those that lived once

to dance rag-time joy

in a brittle, quavering world

the leaves and roots signing on

into earth's bones

even as the sea washes

everything aloft -sparkling - away. 


Published online at Spillwords

Despite dying and so bewildering

All space around us your trace follows close;

A powder trail through the minutiae of days,

Rimming tea cups and drifting in bathrooms

As perfumed steam to giddy our memories.

Confounding locked days with the keys we keep,

Collecting itself amongst the porcelain figures

Still, still and twirling across the dressing table

That you polished to lake like reflections.

From the loose spool of old tapes your voice loops

Clear into today, words newly significant

Festooned with feathers brushing, circling near

Echoing warm with shadows in the eaves

Murmuring the past to our present; here. 

Memory Grows with April 

Green stalks, arrow and dart  

at the air - although it is 

damp today, with April -

and missing the muffled tread

of Grandad's feet along the path.

Wall flowers fleck fragrance

in rustles of orangy-yellow-red petals

to dissolve with his echoes amongst

the garden that curls into


photos and their gasp of days

that tell of how he'd sit smoking roll-ups

in a soft felt of shade, greying and far

from where we played,

cluing words to crossword gaps

and telling of how to tie knots 

or carve wood to whistle.

The space of him shifting, rushing onwards

through each month as a memory

re-growing among our flowers. 

Weeds Within

published in 'The Poetry Now Book of Contemporary Sonnets' 1995

It's the thought of you melting through my mind

That shatters my perfected self control.

Then tears tumble until my eyes are blind 

From the pretence that everything is whole

And warm again; and when I am alone 

My lips wander, trespass, amongst your words 

Voicing each, touching each, until they moan

Independently roam, uncertainly as birds 

Fluttering in a darkened musty room 

Weaving such petrified trembling hymns 

Amid twilight's ever fractured bleak gloom.

But these are such vague flickerings, just whims 

It seems of a tangled unconscious mind

That can hide no more weeds within its rind. 


(as published in the 2019 Anthology this uncommon place, edited by Kevin Watt)

Skimming the lake and thrown in fun, a stone

bounced before us, a flint, grey hewn

from cliffs chipped by centuries and strewn

with veined whorls resembling a heart grown


and patterned with beating veins of all known

time. You saved it and then sent it travelling

to me through red letter boxes to my home.

This new journey fresh with your affirming


hands and its presence, burnt with eddying,

kinetic dance to wake my still thoughts' sleep

and sew them firmly to your own, mingling

touch and taste and breath then together leap

beyond ourselves and bind as soft garlands

of forget-me-nots do joining our hands.

New Days

The days have become still,

Intricate and tissue wrapped,

Swaddled laying peacefully

in my arms.

I cradle each one.

Each impenetrable, confusing

Entity and wonder if the shadows

and remnants of before


Sometimes I dare to loosen

Their tightness, their neatness

To check they are not bleating messages

From un-severed umbilical telephone

Like cords, fat attached and still ringing

With the words of their predecessors.

But they are individual.

Silent, pink and mute,

Attentive, dependant, waiting

For me to feed, to fill them,

Bloat them with

My presence.  

Horse Eye 

(first published in Poetry Now's Anthology 'Straight from the Horse's Mouth' 

Edited by Kerrie Pateman 1995)

Soft, wild horses

are stampeding;

see them race their 

monochrome, electric silhouettes

against the ruddy sky.

Their eyes enlarged

and filled with fearful blue

crescents, carousing and chasing,

chasing endless brown unbroken vision;

feeling their nostrils flaring

in the wind.

Hooves, like animated wings

beat and sting the soil,

restlessly pounding and filling 

the dry loam 

with racing echoes

until it reverberates too

with vibrant rhythms;

assertions of self.

If you could

give up, see

beyond your papers,

hear, these driven things

and their galloping visions,

living, indulging

each inviolable moment;

and yes, to be,

excited at each snorted breath

of moist mutilated grass. 

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