I watch athletics with my mum

All house mirrors have been removed.

 I sit on her soft bed, rest an arm
 on a spare pillow. Mum’s pillows
 stack behind her as we watch a
 tv placed where her dress mirror stood.

 Once she cried as her hair fell out.
 She cried as she gained each pound weight
 because she takes the chemicals
 to stop her dying, stop the spread.

 Once she was ‘petite’, now Mum’s fat

 jowls, bingo wings slop on the bed.

 Together we watch lithe bodies,
 sharp muscle tone dash for the end.

 Her home is spotless, a show home.
 Every day we polish, scrub,
 vacuum, she wants it welcoming.

 She nods off half way through the
 100 metres, I soft clap
 the winner as she would have done.

 I remember good times, and smile
 at her laughter, gleam in her eyes
 when she sees another winner
 dash over the race finish line.

 Meanwhile, she looks forward to Oakwell,
 a new fan of Barnsley FC.

 I never go as I don’t like
 football, regret my selfishness
 and time not enjoying her life.

 She will sit in her hired wheelchair
 yell and clap at their confidence,
 vitality, their will to win.

 Note: Mum died of cancer in 1997

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all kept promises

day is summer’s horse, called Skin
 who’s smooth mane shines bright
 over my spiral horned cows
 and black faced sheep chewing cud,

 drags their shadows over fresh
 grass like a dark memory,
 ahead of cold night’s black mane,
 nuzzle foam flecks fall as dew

 as I recall yonks ago
 a promise I makes to boss
 of these riches and a blue
 dun stallion gallops pasture.

 My promise that if any
 other man than me or Boss
 rides this horse called Boss’s Mane,
 I’ll know, find them and kill them.

 I hires Lone Soldier, eldest
 son of my neighbour, who makes
 promise lad is hard worker
 and no flibbity gibbit.

 Everyday Lone takes my
 black faced sheep to safe pasture
 returns them come that evening,
 cuts fire wood, looks after Boss’s

 Mane and his 12 mares, I tell
 him about my promise, that
 he can use other horses
 for whatever, whenever.

 Lone agrees ” Very fair deal.”
 and promises to do his
 best, and pulls his rag out
 for whole of sweated summer,

 but one day, some sheep flit off
 he can’t find them anywhere,
 he scours fields for entire week,
 so ragged, he goes to the mares,

 to ride one to search yonder
 fields, but when he turns up, all
 mares scatter, only Boss’s
 Mare stand stock still as a stone.

 If he rides it his promise
 not to will be broken, if
 he decides not to, his vow
 to care for farm is broken.

 Lone ponders that to keep one
 promise must break another,
 reckons as sheep more valued
 and only way to find sheep

 is on Boss’s Mane, judges
 as riding him back in time
 I’ll never know about this.
 On Boss’s he finds lost sheep.

 returns all sheep to their place,
 doing his job as always.
 And as not needed Boss’s
 gallops all way home to me,

 till near my farm, I see him
 sodden with sweat, steam rises
 off his flanks like mist off a
 morning lake, muddy, panting,

 so I know someone has ridden him
 and it weren’t Boss, so I goes
 with an axe in search of Lone,
 and after long chat, I asks

 “Did you ride Boss’s Mane?” He
 couldn’t deny it, so tells
 me the truth. “Thas done well in
 telling truth. I would forgive

 thee but I’m bound by promise,
 and when promises are made,
 bound to be kept, as you know.”
 so I kills him with my axe

 make a decent grave for him.
 Lone’s father weren’t happy.
 Tha can’t break thee promises,
 no matter hassle tha has.

 night is winter’s horse, called Frost
 who’s rime mane darkens more
 over my spiral horned cows
 and black faced sheep chewing cud.

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gather harvest


 rain to earth
 hard labour harvests
 first fruits for winter


 I’ll lick out her fruit
 juices while you, her husband,
 pissed, oblivious


 the last deep mine closed
 Thatcher’s harvest complete
 community dies


 blacksmith’s wife cuckolds,
 if it’s you, your grain will burn,
 pray for a cool head


 uncut grain holds earth
 in secret counsel, as seas
 do not hold sea floor


 scythe interrupts grain’s
 conversation with its earth,
 ears no longer hear


 ruin oversees cornfields
 must be placated with fires
 in field, hearth and head

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Three about keys

Keys lobbed in the fire

 Stable job


 Faithful spouse

 Grateful kids

 Happy death


 Stable job
 dimples are aligned the same way on each side, meaning the key doesn’t need to be oriented a certain way to work properly.

 with a cylindrical shaft and a single toothed end that is used to open warded locks. Warded locks, however, are no longer in use.

 Faithful spouse
 with a cylindrical shaft used to open tubular pin tumbler locks

 Lads night out
 a small, flat card that is inserted into a mechanism on the door to unlock it. The mechanism reads the signature, typically found on a magnetic strip on the card

 Grateful kids
 that rotate disc like tumbles, aligning them into place to unlock.  They are springless, and well-known for being impossible to pick

 Happy death
 its small teeth at the end of the key and its contorted blade shape

 fire hardening

 the forest of keys
 inside your head
 sometimes is sodden

 the keys swell too much
 cannot fit the lock
 to grains of thought

 your forest needs to be held
 over the fire to dry
 and harden the key

 to unlock the passages
 between thoughts, harvest
 nourishment from ideas.

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Picked Apple falls hard for him

Him on her


apples, little earths
of laughtered kisses
of words that tickle
of giggle flesh
deep red and green
or change in colour
from one to the other
or pick one

Your apricots, peaches
and nectarines
a predatory sweetness
invites the unwary
as you feel slightly soft
and pull away easily

blackcurrant berries
swell to full size and turn
a shiny blue-black

incise deep past
the mantel to core
molten with sweet

juice oozes
over your tongue
out of the flesh
out of the month
through holes in the bones
life agape

Picked Apple, woodbride,
 you tend gardens with skill,
 devoted to orchards’ care,
 love fields and branches
laden with ripe apples,

 carry a curved pruning knife,
 cut back scraggy growth,
 lop limbs spread too far,
 split bark, insert a graft,
 provide sap from different stock
 for trees bairns.

 Will not  suffer them being parched, waters twining tendrils o’ their thirsty root. This is your love, your passion,
 no need of lust. Workaholic, closed yourself off in an orchard, posted a notice, ” No Men Allowed”.

Her on him

glance and you’re a scraggy girl darkened in denim,
 a bespectacled man in a ballooned jumper, honeyed farmer, shy hunter,
 mollusced fisherman.
 I wake up to a tupped shepherd,
 come back to a wick carjacker.
 Your everyone else, but yourself.

 I can’t pin you down,
 you’re my turning year,
 the first grape that darkens
 on the purpling bunch,
 the spiky corn-ear that swells
 with milky grain; near my toes
 you’re sweet cherries, autumn plums and a mulberry redder
 in the summer,
 a change in the weather,
 a new set of clothes,
 an alteration in the air,
 and I love you.

His seduction of her

You were a challenge. I knew as I
 could never impress you as myself.
 Too young, no prospects.
 Men have to invent
 themselves to get anywhere.

 I wanted to see you all the time.
 So I turns up at your door a rude farmer
 brought you a basket
 filled with ears of barley.

 Next, my forehead bound with freshly cut hay, as I might have been tossing new-mown grass.
 “Sorry. No men. Busy.”

 Another day I were lumping a horses
 bridle in my stiff hand, so that you would swear I had just unyoked a weary team.
 “No stables. Goodbye!”

 With a knife I were a female dresser
 and pruner of vines: “No vines
 here. I’m busy.”

 Sometimes I’d carry a ladder
 and bucket
 as if a Window cleaner.
 “No windows here. Goodbye.”

 A scraggy girl darkened in denim,
 begging a bunch of wildflowers
 for her mam and you said.
 “Nothing wild in this garden, girl.
 Sorry, mowed them all down

 A bespectacled man in a ballooned jumper, honeyed farmer, shy hunter,
 mollusced fisherman.
 “Sorry. Read the notice. No men allowed.”

The Old Lass

I wrap my head with a coloured scarf,
 lean on a staff, sprout grey hair, wrinkled
 as a decaying fruit, caved in hollows,
 thin skin, fungus faced, moles, brown blotches, sour breath, stink of stale piss lingers, and a small spiky moustache.

 She lets me in her well-tended garden, to admire the fruit
 and the fruit of her

 is a Pear’s sweetness salves a searching tongue,
 a Peach’s blush like sunrise
 a Plum’s scent entices, smooth and laughing,
 a Cherry’s scarlet lips rain sodden
 a blossoming branch
 makes bees dance
 a secret orchard

‘You are so much more lovely’, I snog her.
 Then apologise.

 I sit on the flattened grass,
 look at the branches
 bend weighed down with fruit.

Vine and Tree

There is an elm opposite,
with gleaming bunches of grapes.
I tell her with my ancient voice.
“Remarkable tree, and its entwining vine.
But, if that tree stood there, unmated, without its vine, it wouldn’t be sought after for more than its leaves, and vine also, which is joined to and rests on the elm,
will lie on the ground,
if it were not married to it, and leaning on it.’

You reply “It is a tree. Marriage means nothing to me.”

 ” A thousand men want you,
 you shun them, turn away
from their wooing.

But if you are wise,
if you want to marry well,
 listen to me, an old lass,
as loves you more than you think,
more than them all, reject others
and choose Change to share your bed!

You have my pledge as well:
he’s not better known to himself
than he is to me: he does not wander
hither and thither, lives by himself
and he doesn’t love latest girl he’s seen.

You’ll be his first love, and his last.
He’ll devote his life only to you.
He’s young, blessed with natural charm,
can take on a fitting appearance, if needs be. Whatever you want,
though you ask for all of it,
he will do.

He doesn’t want fruit of your trees,
or sweet juice of your herbs:
he needs nothing but you.
Take pity on his ardour,
and believe that he,
who seeks you,
is begging you,
in person, through my gob.

I’ll tell you the tale
of Stone Lass

“Spunk sees Cruel lass from afar
 gobsmacked by her looks
 he gets smitten hard
 and determines she’ll be hooked

 Asks her mates for her mobile number,
 and all her social media pages,
 scours internet for details,
 winds himself up in rages.

 Gets his message through once
 or twice but she mocks him
 ” Fancy me. You do right. I’m gorgeous”
 and promptly blocks him.

 Finds her home and knocks
 and her Dad answers and says
 “She don’t want to know, son.
 Thinks your a stalker. Away!”

 Writes his first letter and posts
 it personally through her door,
 it tells her she’s won and he’ll be gone
 she can celebrate and more

 she can see him lose his life
 which is all he has left for her.
 Cruel scoffs at this but goes along
 for the crack and laughter.

 She sees him throw a rope
 already knotted around a beam
 put his neck in the noose
 and let out a scarifying scream.

 Then she feels herself harden
 stone thoughts
 stone mouth
 stone neck
 stone chest
 stone limbs
 stone heart

 calcified flesh and bone
 she is a statue.”

Picked Apple has no reaction.
Change thinks stuff it
and becomes himself
young, virile and fresh.

Picked Apple falls hard for him.

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border control

shovel old bark
 into green plastic bucket

 bin weeds
 lay weed control fabric
 in borders
 regain the gardens curves

 cat keeps lying
 where I need to work.

 lay bark on top of fabric
 secured by stone
 all about cutting
 the workload


 break of Bramble wine,
 new potatoes,
 broccoli, rice,
 slice of lemon,
 slice of lime,
 smoked pangasius fillets
 like finny haddock
 with more meat
 cheaper than stock
 diminished cod.

 Back to lay the garden
 remove cat, again
 Tailor the skirt
 of the borders

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gear in order

check tires pumped
gear in order
brakes on downhill

steep to the pit pond
along the Transpennine Trail

hear distant forklifts,
metal on metal in workshops

we cannot see for high greenery
travel under bypass bridges
busy roads

beside sparkling redirected streams
full of bike tires shopping trolleys

across the bridge to RSPB Old Moor
bigger than we thought

1733 carved on stone lintel
above the door past
a teaching step perhaps

used by John Wesley

use bike lock

eat first on wooden verandah
in sunblaze on first floor
folk with massive lenses

on small cameras

walk to the hides kingfisher
lapwings heron willow tunnels

her flat shoes hurt her ankle

return home uphill

only takes half an hour

sit down shoes off
raspberry wine
tomato and basil cheese
Jacob’s Cream Crackers
and TV quizzes


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