Were we to meet again, we might recall that day.

Approach it as we did back then,

on abandoned track: the sleepers long gone

but old ballast lending traction

to our pram wheels – ramshackle, loaded down.


Nets and bags, rings and pliers, spring balance,

wing rule, leg gauge.

Ten-foot bamboo poles with guys and pegs to fix them.

Tranquil in the high summer dawn,

reed beds finger chill, pongy with marsh gas.


Cloud and damp burned off by the risen sun,

we’d reached the point of humdrum packing up

when that chance capture came.

Stubby legs between white knuckles – I held them tight

while you focussed your lenses.


No photo could match that feathered shimmering though,

tense with anticipation of release.

Like arrow from a bow,

a flash of electric blue on orange

fixed our halcyon fellowship.


The day we caught a kingfisher.


iii. 2019 – xi. 2023


Between the moon and a milkman

a door opens into this day,

cleared of storm-felled boughs.


Woodpigeon, barely awake,

warm on the tarmac of country lanes

already summer hot.


At a junction of cross purposes

we argue about direction.

Seconds only to choose which turn to take.


The motorway claims it is improving

the image of construction.

Concrete spreads like lava.


Gorse and ragwort occupy the edges –

the gilets jaunes of highway maintenance.

Hedges, crew cut, like skinheads.


A portrait view of bolted lorry backs.

Logistics, freight,

the wheeze and woosh of air brakes.


Splayed roadkill litters the hard shoulder:

magpie, fox, and badger.

What remains of spindle-legged deer. 


Tiredness can kill

South Mimms services is break of last resort.

‘Employee of the month’ unnamed.


With wary aggression

a herring gull, gimlet-eyed,

patrols the leavings.


 A two-mile tailback grinds the other way.

Cow parsley runs to seed;

the first gold blocks of hay, stacked & bound. 


Stop & go. Flat earth stares.

In dingy light we watch the sky empty,

but the smug heat lingers.


viii. 2023 


Fragrant with honeysuckle trumpets,

the entwined year waxes.

Catch its essence as you can,


for this is not an exact time.

Days already dwindle,

cast longer shadows, settle on


their red and amber reckoning.

Every new encounter

is the beginning of goodbye,


and I have been going away

for as long as it takes

to trace our lineage in the stars.


You might chance on the evidence

in cuttings, between pages;

suppose them the wilful bookmarks 


of that ghost father I shall be.

But there’s no need to look:

always, among the gathered moths,


you may sense me, lighting weightless

on your sleeve. No more leaves

to fall than once were grown in spring.



ix. 2023

ARCADIA (the emoji domain*)

Feel the close-knit planking, caulked with pitch, 

rise under your footsteps.

A slope so slight you’d barely notice.


feeling lazy @ feeling lucky @ feeling lost


Loose change jangles, slaps at your thighs.

Flanked by pair of gaudy clowns, 

the square maw, yawning, beckons:

The belly of this long, low shed

is permanently dim;

carries a mild threat of empty pockets;


offers no other choice.

To get to the end of the pier

you must pass through.


feeling bored @ feeling better @ feeling broke


Varnished cabinets of wood and glass

line the sides: slot machines,

pinball tables, penny pushers.


Torpedoes fired from periscopes

sink plastic subs beneath the plastic waves.

Toy cranes claw at trinkets. 


From a jukebox in the corner

Max Romeo – banned on radio –

sings about (so he claims) a leaky roof.


 feeling cheeky @ feeling chill @ feeling cheated


Hear the mechanics of skill and chance.

In games of redemption, you never see 

how your coppers drop below –


those dark channels where flat spent faces, 

all dotted eyes and mouths slit wide, 

pile up like a sea of yellow discs.


viii. 2023


* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emoji_domain