Songs of Innocence and Experience

Greyhound  1984

I sat, awkward
grey-blue hound bus now padding, now roaring,
purring perhaps: licking the black top
Down through blue valleys by smoke-dried hills
A man, complexion blurred by a sun
that had to struggle, tinted, through glass walls, stared
I could see the driver’s cap
tired and tilted upward
angled like his wheel
He told us, as we woke, we had gained another hour
Through a dry night, unseen, new travellers appeared
from towns lost in uneasy sleep and
as I noticed each new arrival they already sat
as I did, discreetly uncomfortable
staring, bleary eyed


Spin cycle  Jan 2005

From here I can see
hot vapour condensing against blue sky
and the black slate roof of the flat across the back road
The vapour’s from an efficiently condensing boiler
It’s feeding my front loader with hot water on
Programme number four (fast colours) at
Eighty degrees
It’s working hard to clean my clothes
after I fell in the mud
yesterday, playing footy
with the boy
But it could be me breathing
Like me it sometimes holds its breath
Especially during the spin cycle


I’d like to forgive you  1998

I’d like to forgive you that look
You gave me on the beach at Roker
Small boy in a blue coat (too big)
The sky like a pillow over my face
The look that said be mine
For a while
I’d like to forgive you the hold
You had on my hand
You gripping his little fingers
Him clutching mine
And the tide’s ebb dragging us apart
To the sound of shingle
Applauding in our ears
I’d like to forgive you for weeping
On the promenade
Ignoring angry cries from him to stay ‘til dark
And the gulls wheeling overhead
While we said goodbye again
And again
I’d like to forgive you when you linger
On my doorstep
Him saying please don’t go
On my behalf
Me with the taste of salt in my mouth
And us nowhere near the sea


After Physics  2001

Some things stayed the same:
The burn’s run, roaring, rushing towards the fall
Stranded boulders, moss-haired, static, approving
And an alder, pollard-ancient, waiting, waiting
Yes, these remained
Only, for that crowd of water
Jostling each molecule self
Diving headlong from the cataract and out –
Out, down to its destruction in
The linn below, that black pool
Order descended into chaos, day into night
And the mountain?  Purple-grey
Supine, leached, scoured and
Flayed: wasting, dying one more time
It seemed that only the passing of time
Remained the same


It was  March 2005

What was it?
It was her knowingness
It was her state of having been
And of being
And of going to be
It was neon
It was the touch of paper
It was the flake of snow
Whose gravity had no destination
But knew where it would go
It was in the single movement
Of her head
That said
Maybe and
Maybe not
And yet
Maybe even so
And she knew
And yet did not
It was that knowingness of uncertainty
That surety of arm in might-be arm
That guileless footfall on the narrow bridge
That unpretending urgency of
And art


Tyne 2010

Night draws down on the river
Glass-full stillness of a far-flung tide
A Moon-sucking
Moment caught between now and then
Us and them
You point at a star
It might be a plane
Coming in
To rest
A neon fragment shattered
By the water’s edge
Or a moment torn from a dream
And I say
Look there is another
A hundred
And in a by-and-by while our eyes return
To earth to find
That all the others have their faces
Cast upon the ground
We share a look
At least I think it’s a look
In your eye
It might be a star