In her home Pound Shop frogs look

down on her moon specked tears
at his words to her over
what to do about the
Staffy that ragged the leather sofa
in their Caravan on their 
honeymoon at Skeg Vegas.

Coffee goes cold in their mugs
as a money spider creeps
into her hair when she laughs
at his suggestion that she only defends
others, turns her second hand diamond
wedding ring round and round
her finger because it feels good.

Her tears taste like morning salt
from the high tide waves, and his night sweat
when he is full into her,
dry sand in his belly button
briefly grits her newly shaven thighs.

She nurses his cut eye, broken ribs,
after he stands up to young men who crush
with their boots a blackbird’s head who has a broken wing,
both left bloody on path of recently converted
Working Men’s pub to Seventh Day Adventist church.
She buys him a dog as mate until he gets fit again
while she works at the Post Office.

That Evening, A Dusty, Frayed

in her eyes shook when we made love
above the Chinese takeaway and its fragrance
of fried horse chestnuts, green peppers
and oiled sinew like mushrooms.

Earlier, change had fallen out of her pockets
when she fumbled for her Nelly the Elephant
key ring as I unclipped her pink lace bra,
in the dark doorway across
from the abandoned Charity shop.

Facets of her appeared in the dailies,
and I questioned her later in afternoon shadow
about the sexual positions she enjoyed
as she asked over the miniature red
rose in its thin glass vase
for her live bloated lobster to be boiled.

A silver claw around her neck
brought her round in the gobbets of rain
she was only too pleased
when the Chinese woman downstairs
asked her to fashion a gold cat with rubies
for eyes out of metal dredged from the canal

“Work With, Not Against

the grain,” I remember my stepdad,
the carpenter telling me,
as I play with the olive wood birds
he has carved for me.

I stroke along their pinions,
make their smooth fragrant
shapes dive and swoop, or,
follow others as if in a flock,
I run wildly, raise them above
my head. “Ouch!” I shout,

as I stumble against a thorn bush,
blood drips and I cry. Tears
and blood mingle on the wooden
wings are inhaled by the grain
so that their chests move in and out
as if they have breath, claws
leave tracks in the sand, some
have red breasts or wingtips,
a flutter and they rise onto the limbs.

Damn Easter Saturday Hell Harrow

You were supposed to be resting.
After nails hammered into
your sinews and raised up
on those two planks of tree.

“It is finished.” You said,
then they hauled your lily white
linen wrapped bloody carcass
to that sand gritted hole and corked
you in it with freakin’ great stone.

And you stroll down here,
fresh as you like, to harrow
us child molesters, rapists,
killers with soft bleatings,
take the pain away
like a bleeding Anadin tablet.

I need to suffer. Bleed.
Stab these red eyes out
with white hot needles.
Never. Wash. These. Hands.
Of. Blood. You. Hear. Me.
Don’t. You. Take. Pain. Away.
From. Me. What gives you
the right to make it all go away?

We only live if we hurt. Jesus.
Pain makes it worthwhile.
Please make it hurt again.
I am not meant for paradise.

“Kes” A Tribute To Barry Hines (1939-2016)

An incomer with a posh accent.
“Where’s you come from, Paul?
Ha-Row-Gate.” I had to be able
to take “the pillock.” Whatever

that meant. I didn’t know.
“Today we have a new book that I
want you to read. It’s called,
Kes.”, says the teacher. “Written

by local writer, Barry Hines.”
He lobs the paperbacks
on our wooden desks.”Don’t
screw them up or deface

them. Or you’ll be answering
to me. Has anyone ever seen
a kestrel?” A few hands go up,.
I’ve never seen one. “This

is about a lad who brings up
a kestrel. Read the book
to yourselves for now.
Quietly. And I mean quietly.”

And that’s how Billy Casper,
was for me an outsider,
and someone who taught
me what life was like,

in my new town of Barnsley.
warm, generous folk
stubborn, brave folk,
full of untapped rich imagination.

My Mam Is Nothing, If

not thorough.

As if she is a Victorian reminder
on a wall full of telling aphorisms:

What will the neighbours say?

Our home shows us how
we treat ourselves.

If she can
buff away grey clouds to bring out the blue,
drag every daffodil, bluebell
crocus out of the earth to flower today,
place a spruced up nest for every chaffinch, green and goldfinch, blackbird, dove.

Tidy home is a tidy mind.

All windows opened
to “freshen” the wintered home.
Windows cleaned outside and in.

She empties every drawer,
cupboard, wardrobe, surface,
scrubs them clean,
spiders scurry off.

It shows you respect yourself.

Washes every emptied item
of crockery, cutlery, some
unused for years.

burnishes copper ornaments,
delicately brushes capodimonte
figures, feather dusts top of doors,
skirting boards, dewebs high corners,
buffs with Brasso gas fire.
Tables and furniture Rosewood or Lavender
Pledge, all furniture pushed
into centre of rooms better
to vacuum. Empties bookshelves,
every book cover cleaned.
Rolls up lounge rugs and doormats
slings them over washing line
slaps and beats dust out of them.
Strip beds, turn mattresses,
air sheets.

A clean home is a clean soul.

bath, sinks. Buffs chrome taps.

fragrances bathrooom with Lemon,
toilet blue,

defrosts fridge, full milk bottles
in a sink of cold water,
brushes out emptied garage,
Datsun Estate cleaned, vacuumed
outside and in.

Patio weeded, grass cut for first time
this year, borders weeded, dug over.

Black bags food
beyond sell by dates, or out
of fashion.

Likewise, you must shine your shoes,
pick bits off the clothes,
straighten your skirt, tie,
tighten your belt.

Which Way Do I Hang This

on our white fridge door:
a squiggle of colour and line
granddaughter calls a scary dinosaur?

Where do we put her pictures
as she paints herself in makeup,
makes jewellery, writes stories,
takes photos for Facebook?

Her Nannan bauks at “clutter”,
only so much space to feature
a child’s memory, a flutter,
grandchild’s latest creation.

Most lobbed much later in the bin,
as my wife has less room for them,
a move, downsize – things that, then,
and now, still hold worth, we lose.

All Carry A Mirror

All have a companion

Tantalus the glister
of his red wine
and shine of his
purple ripe grape

Sisyphus his boulder
sheen more than
a shiny ball as he shoves
its weight uphill
buffs his reflection

Bran’s companion’s
otherworldly island’s
before their journey
back to cow field home

Cu Chulalain tells
prophecies like mirrors

Our words are mirrors
polished to view ourselves

others polish cars
and shoes
till they can
see themselves

Cuddled Sobs Cradled

hawk back shudder
at vacuum absence
of hugwarm. Blubbers,

gutempty, boneneed,
heartgripe ache
for those once close,
now ashed in earth.

Nested in my arms she blubs
for her mam’s voice,
as quietly my heartsobs
for my late mam’s laugh.

Rhythm of her grief
as she nods on my chest
almost lulls me to sleep.
Comforts me, as she sips hers.

She shudders both of us awake,
heaves herself to the floor,
as her mam, only on an errand
walks a smile through the door.