The Seven Breaths: poetry collection


verse giver
gold intake fall
pipe bone mover

Language constructed breath,
rhythmic gust, pneuma, ruach,
spirit, constructed spirit,
structured gust, blood rhythm
lungs breath engine


…her words become particles
of light moving at speed
it is as if the roundness
of herself and him inside
her at the extent
of light bend back
in upon themselves
she is a straight line
a set of words
moving at speed
she misses his chest
with full stops
and holds his sun
worshipping gaze
in her thighs
as she were a mother
holding a baby
crying intensely
in searing daylight
rocking gently
between wanting
and not wanting


broken coming no
false alarm hurried
car bumps throws
up breathe breathe
I am effing…pain
short sharp pant
now love pain tubemask
gasair deep breaths
now deep breaths
love how long
how longs it been
hours pain deep breaths
come out little one
comecalm deep calm
almost there dear
almost come
slap cry sigh


At Eight at top
Forest Lane playground,
climbing frame
bigger boy pushed him
‘You’d better Run
Because I will smash
your face in’
So he ran down,
bigger boys laughter
down Forest Lane
Weeping out of breath

To his mothers cul de sac arms

Apple Pie

Aged nine, C.of E.
school playtime
down around
grey gravel playground
breaths hard
boys chase girls,
grab girls,
red faced,
girls giggle,
out of breath
boys herd girls
down stone steps,
between stone wall
up against black
wooden gate
Apple Pie shaped
school entrance
they called The Apple Pie.

Or Kerry Fretwell,
prettiest girl in school,
nicknamed Froggy,
eyes glint
at him he’d catch
she chose boys
to take
a lesson in kissing
her apple pie lips
behind prefab
he wanted her
to choose him,
if she did
he’d run a mile
out of breath

Goff Oil

At thirteen, lucky
not to be goaded
down Goff oil,
spithole: steps
to cellars outside
in playground lads
hawk up spit goff
on you laugh at you
comp black blazer
tie pristine unlucky
to have same name
Cock of school
gangs face him,
one lad strides forward forward
pokes him in chest;
Cock of School, cock of School’,
till steps back from poke
fell backwards over gang lad
crouched down onto wet,
damp gravel to
echo laughter.

At Sixteen listened to Led Zep
Rush at their houses
now sat front of class
teacher out of room
they threw screwed up paper,
pens, rubbers, board rubbers at him


His son said His (cough)
in every sentence,
up with phlegm.

In Sixties, a child (cough) 
he kept at him
‘Have a drink of water, Dad.’
In retirement (cough) 
climbed Lake District mountains
up through forests,
Ben Nevis,
cough every sentence.
2000s  specialist asked (cough)
whether he had worked
with Asbestos.
‘Only cleaning boilers
when (cough) I was young.’
Asbestos dust thickens (cough)
his lungs (pleura),
diffuse pleural thickens
drys lungs (cough)
branches and twigs


Nana unconsciously breaths
he sits
on blue plastic chair (breath)
hospital bedside, her white hair,
all to one side
thinks she’ll be annoyed (breath)
when she wakes
with her hair
all to one side.

A nurse explains
that though not present
Nana may be (breath)
able to hear.
Nurse leaves Nanas breath stops

(Too long)

Then starts hurriedly,
settles down
Nurse explains
it as Cheyne-stokes breaths.
He can moisten her lips like this.
She wets cotton bud out of
white plastic cup, carefully
draws bud across
Nannas dry lips
paints a line, with water.
He searches web for clues
Nanas breath stops

(Too long)

He paints a line

Typically, over a period
of 1 minute, a 10-20
second episode of apnoea
or hypopnoea occurs (breath)
followed by respirations
of increasing depth
and frequency.
The cycle then repeats itself.
He talks to her, each day

(Breath) Remember white Sunderland farm
where you were born, Nanna.
Stories round its courtyard fire at night.
Perched on your Dads horse and cart,
you deliver milk
down streets your Dad
knew everybody comes out with jugs.

Nanas breath stops

(Too long)

He paints a line

(breath) Grandad a railway porter
tall, clean, rugged
laughs with his mate
you and your sisters struggled (breath)
with luggage
 to Knaresborough B&B.
You got together with him
next evening at River Nidds
spectacular ‘Down Mexico Way’,
river boats all multi (breath)
coloured lit up

(breath stops)

Birmingham Wartime Munitions worker,
you hated it, all
(breath) dirt and grime,
but got to see Grandad,

Railway worker in North Wales,
but mostly hospitalised).
Returned Sunderland (breath)
pregnant with Mum.
Later Grandad told you
no more kids
as he’d had mumps.

Paints a line.

Harrogate, Mum (breath)
persuaded you to buy
detached bungalow.
Starbeck Coal depot,
weigh lorries in and out.
Later cleaned fridges,
stocked shelves,
on till at M&S.
Grandad, (breath) black bike,
black metal bicycle clips
delivers post. Does Littlewoods
football coupons, Spot-the-ball
on small (breath) laminated
brown kitchen table.

Paints a line

Sunday dinners smallest room,
tables out into hallway
weighed down with feast.
Nights friends, (breath)
played Newmarket, Yahtzee.
Holidays abroad, Germany,
France, Brazil.

After mum, only daughter
died of Cancer, Grandad
(breath) Alzheimers,
messed bathroom,
bed, till he died, too.

Paints a line

On your own, (breath)
I shopped
sorted bills, admin.
We chose (breath)
nursing home
where you fell
packing to return home.
Nanas breath stops.

Too long.

Too long.

Too long.

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