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Poet, Novelist, and Critic


The Slasher and the Vampire as Role Models (to be published by Parthian Press)

  Three excerpts from my new book of poems.  



Night chill, and red heat far as the day stretches,
desert rocky and high, beyond all laws,
coyotes somewhere, thin air, apaches,
and the tall man easy on the brisk horse.
I used to think I drove the wild route
like this of a secret outsider.
Lofty in my big truck, a charming brute.
Alert while others slept, an easy rider.

Out on the edges of your sleep I steered
through badlands all my own, concealed frontiers
in England like a dream trail I pioneered -
until the weight of civilised English years

closed around me like dripping viney elms.
I lost a freedom I could never own,
the landscape stretching out of U.S. films.
The wary stranger in the wooden town

trots in from a place so open to question
maps can only guess, and so unfenced and raw
that any minute in the shifting Western
the lawman changes into the outlaw.

But rails and blocked roads are knotted tight
across these midlands rotting with wet heat.
I feel I must’ve tensed up for a gunfight
then fallen with a foot wound writhing in defeat.

Or I’m a fridge that’s off:  inside me, mince
warms and turns - because the English air is thick
with used-up thoughts and dust from crowded skins.
But in the glove compartment my sidekick

chambers its bullets safely.  It’s fated.
Scorching in this lane I doze in my cab
and clingy branches crowd me.  I’ve mutated
like a virus released from a lab:

the bullets, bursting from that steel grip, will see,
beyond their blur of speed, the big change, and pierce
through to where they turn a fierce key
that opens England up with weird frontiers.

Foreign Bodies

Thirty yards from the violent martyr

I survived, but fragments of the mall

invaded my face and scalp.

A fortnight later, driving to work,

I pictured tweezers at my skin

and thought the headland might feel

the tunnel as a foreign body,

cream cement and steady light and engines

driven through its side.

And I remembered a mosque

converted with statues and portraits,

sandstone breathing alien prayers.

So maybe it was that which grew

the nodule in my nape

my doctor opened up, extracting

a smithereen that she declared

a morsel of the bomber’s knee.


Heartbreak Hotel

You’re cold and tired and grubby

and struggling to know how to be

when you check into the Heartbreak lobby

to pick up the Heartbreak key.

You’re looking for the Street

of Instead,

but no it’s Lonely Street,

that same narrow bed.

The walls and carpets flash their logo,

sheets, and boxes of matches:

deeply its square tattoo

brands you with its H’s.

Straight away you are healing

when that pillow marks your head,

so where there was that feeling

there’s a corporate sign instead.

You broach the Heartbreak minibar

to chase away your distress,

peering through a glass of beer

at the Heartbreak trouser-press.

You check out but discover

it’s a chain,

you thought you’d erased your lover,

but now you’re checking in again:

the vistas diverge and climb

but only glitter to deceive,

where you can check out any time,

but you can never leave.  





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