those towering properties
on the Balls Pond Road
a fox cub is learning to survive
on an industrial fire escape
where it came to know its home
not venturing from the spot
where its mother gave birth to it
dumping it out into the world
onto the hard metal grating
it’s fur catching always
in the mesh
where fear and hope collide
at the juncture of a hard truth
amongst the scraps of scavenged dustbin food
Mother hasn’t returned in days
her three remaining legs
never carried her far
not then, and not today
and out in the cold
in the wet storm gutter
a faded red and brown, deflating shape
merges into the earth
and the litter
as it builds up around it
cast away unwanted
until the Council men come
and clear it away it with their shovels
plastic mingled dirt
blood and bone and all
in a black plastic bag
no farewell, no burial
slung onto a truck bed
to join the city’s rejected things
no reply as the fox cub calls
from dank metal stairwells
And so for the last time the tide it ebbs away
it should have brought so much life and joy
but instead of bathing in the richness of its waters, under the setting sun
we wasted too much time in wishing it would stay
Edging slowly out into the waves
hesitant and fearful, and hopping to avoid the cold of the first swells
by the moment bravery took us in its arms, the waters were waste high
not noticing they were already leaving us, simply slipping away
returning to the beach, the night draws in around us
the old moon on the horizon hangs heavy amongst the clouds
And through our wet clothes the cold wind bites like dogs at our skin
in the midnight air, for the first time, feeling something
all is done but to lay down on this sandy bed, giving consideration to the myriad distant stars
full of regret that we tiptoed shyly out to the edge of our world and not one step beyond it
and that we did not at first dive in
to drink in its richness, instead of standing on the shore and watching it pass.
Our voices are low in the gas fire light
the orange glow from the three bars
mumbles soft, somber, and slow tonight
The shadows, still, in the corners fall
where flames in passions past
danced high up the walls
We sold our desires by an inch of a candle
and now we are paying over the odds
I wish we had shared all of our truths
while our voices could still speak of god
Now the white maiden dress
browned in the dirt of experience
and washed with the milk of Moon tea
No song no more from that old piano
where the ash from the coal fire
settled on the keys
And on this the passing of the last day of Winter
the birds in her heart will take their final flight
There will be no words to the ear, no note on the night stand
only half a bed and half a man of untold scars
at the break of this last spring’s light
A toast, then, to the good times
and to the hearts that ran so free
we’ll dance to the jaunt of our old bones now
and the bleak and fading mind
that’s welcomed-in the grey of the sea
And when the bed is cold and the gas fire waned
I will look up through the night to see
amongst all the million suns up there
the moon is where you’ll be.
They build the balustrade
off the back of all Man’s failings.
Strong enough to hold the rope
and the enormous weight of consequence,
and with your arms by your side
you’ll feel the hemp-woven toll.
The balustrade is always strong enough
to protest your shivering throws.
But if you ever stand up there, be still
you will know in that moment, you have all control.
What strange fruit
to be hanging from the stair,
where a selfish act was found, you’ll say,
in the place of a prayer.
You couldn’t see it through the mind’s blindness, but we cared,
All of us cared.
What strange fruit you are
hanging from that stair.
They build that ledge
on the other side of the railing
wide enough only for your heels
and if you stand over that river
with your arms stretched out wide
you’ll feel the water cleanse your soul.
The ledge is always wide enough
but not for your toes.
If you ever have to stand up there, be still,
it will be the only time you ever really take control.
What strange fruit
to be bobbing in the water,
where a selfish act drifts away, you’ll say,
no clemency, no quarter.
‘Jump you coward!’ yell the gathering crowd, let loose the mortar.
And where the tide gains a son,
a mother loses a daughter.
What strange fruit you are
bobbing in that water.
She’s making films about those lovers
that she’s lost along the way,
and somewhere in the scenes of fiction
she longs to add my name.
It’s clear when we’re down at the sea
I want to be on the ground –
she, sailing to another island,
where new love can be found.
When she writes those letters
her words seem to burn,
leaving no room here for me
to love or to learn.
My toes now in the water,
I feel her slipping from my hand,
standing on the shoreline,
as she swims away from the land.
Theres nothing more now
but a bobbing head in the swell,
and I return to the land that has trapped me
to die alone on the hill.
Goodbyes are never
as we imagine them to be.
The air thick and still
biting cold against our skin.
As the back is turned on another chapter,
we must set sail for the sea,
but the mind is always with the land,
whence it grieves.
As the pillow comforts
the muzzle of the gun,
we all know the meaning
of what’s soon to come;
the barrel still barks,
the bullet still bites.
But as day is done and dusk has run,
we are still most unprepared for night.
“Be compassionate to yourself. That means being gentle to yourself at times when you feel like being self-critical. Think what you’d say to encourage a friend in a similar situation. We often give far better advice to others than we do to ourselves.”