I started writing poetry in my early teens – some fairly dreadful bedroom angst –
inspired by Hopkins, Yeats,
Blake, and Dylan Thomas, amongst others. There was a visionary fire in their
words, flaring softly in my mind like lit magnesium. I loved that light, that
bright white incandescent light. I’ve been writing by it ever since.
I’ve been writing for nearly thirty years now, mostly poetry, mostly in rhyme
and metre (although latterly I’ve moved away from this to freer verse). I’ve
always tried to write in simple, clear, modern English, within a tight but
topic-appropriate framework of form.
I feel sometimes as though I’ve always written. As far back as I can remember,
it was a secret, almost sacred, place to go. A space apart where I could, by
dint of practice or accident, make my own words shine.
Poetry is not some sort of hobby or pastime to me, it’s not extra-curricular,
it’s not stamp-collecting – it’s what I do and who I am, as much a vocation as
the Church or Medicine. I know how precious, pretentious even, this sounds, but
I mean it. Try to live by it. Put my words where my mouth is every morning I sit
down to write.
You can contact Simon by email at
What Shines For You
Now, as the evening sun
shines blinding through the trees,
the green leaf blown gold and the sky high, bright;
now, as the shadows flicker, hiss, and run,
now would be the time to catch the breeze,
go fly that kite.
High up and miles away,
far from the thick city heat,
let the sirens distance into silence,
let the windowed skyline glint; end the day
in the blue beyond, above the beat,
the brick violence.
Find, in the day’s blind wake,
what shines for you, what light
glances your life like a chance of heaven;
what star discerns your secret need, your ache
for peace – find it here, now, with the kite;
Three days sleepless, things begin to flicker . . .
something – something quick at the brittle
edge of sight – flicks the corner of what’s there
– is gone with a winged insect hum, quicker
than fist can grip or sanity swat: -- air,
just thin unsung air, the fan’s flat rattle.
Four days, deep voices slip perimeters,
repetitive, metrical, so many
in unison that their dull colours run;
insidiously outside now, dim mutters
(the hiss and beat of an unseen Walkman?)
moving where the mind moves, sick and tinny.
Five days, bits of glitter slick the tarmac;
smashed glass – a sprinkling of brilliance – cracks sight,
splinters it to points, sunlit and succinct;
lit bits of glitter slicked across a black-
ness – stars that wink an instant, wince extinct –
then blackness only, flat, matt, blacked of light.
Six days, the spell still holds – a hell solid
as the four thick walls around – and outside
open ground without the blank brick mercy
of an end: heaven no longer valid
(sleep the only dream and end you dare see)
when all that’s light and life has flared and died.
A Letter Found in Judy’s Drawer
Dear Ma, think it’s time we talked. I need to
and there’s no one else, nor ever has been.
I’m tired, Ma, so damned tired. I don’t blame you
for the blind mindless days (I see no end)
or the circling dark, the child-like routine
of waking and crying – it’s pathetic,
I know – I’m just too wretched to pretend
anymore. I’ve tried so many things but
this human life hurts, hurts me to the quick:
Christ, heroin, alcohol, they can’t cure
the nauseating guilt that twists my gut,
the deep unanswerable loneliness,
why, Ma, why? Why should I have to endure
this island life, this broken onlyness
so far out that I can’t even sight land,
can’t connect to it? I don’t understand.
Even beauty hurts, Ma, pierces my skull
like foil in a filling – silver and gold,
acute and beautiful in the early
evening sky, so pale-blue pure, clear above
the brick blocks that break the skyline, so full
of oblivion, of all that I hold
deathly dear. The other day, a surly
grey one with dank rainclouds banked blank and mauve
beyond the mind, I broke down, cracked and wept
in front of everyone – how they all stared!
Shrugged it off with a patronage of cheap
pity, a poor glib ‘get a grip’ that kept
their hearts pristine of true pain (never cared
much for pity, Ma, just contempt gone soft).
It was the sun that set me off, the deep
cloud cleared and there it was, new-minted, sharp,
tinselled to a metal glint; weird, adrift,
but still as a fountain coin that glimmers
on the flat bottom – a calm fluid warp
of time and place: I thought of those summers,
bright clean moments in my mind’s dull water,
a death ago – mother, father, daughter.
It’s five years now since he died. You never
knew why he did it. I did. I knew why
he got in the car that day and sealed all
the windows; he left me that too. If ever
I told he said that he would have to die,
and he did ( though I never did ) and now
I want that peace too but I’m frightened he’ll
be there. These things that are in my head – how
do I live with them? Tried to cut them out,
tried – broken glass, towels soaked red to my wrists:
some pains, like cancers, inoperable.
Don’t know anymore what it’s all about,
anything – some days I’m hardly able
to control my temper, to keep my fists
from trashing my room. An old wife told me
once that unpulled splinters in time will reach
the heart – I thought it a tale; you must see,
Ma, it’s impaling my soul, please don’t preach,
I’m close to screaming, screaming without cease
no peace no god no peace no god no
Matthew 6.28 -- "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet
I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
I like to think of Solomon,
grown wise to the trappings of wisdom,
the glistening deference of courtiers,
the cumbersome thrones of gold,
the deceits implicit in palatial mirrors,
sneaking out, between bouts of good sound advice
(and the odd bit of song-writing),
to peak in wonder at the lilies of the field,
divining, in the end, the tiny,
perennial, ingenuous, beginnings of glory.
Like walking in the rain, head down, bowed, anonymous,
umbrella dipped, dripping wind toward you,
reflecting blackly, wetly,
Halloween – its slew of green and orange –
ruby brake-lights dampening the stone beneath you:
sinister, sentimental, a fairground shine along the pavement.
Old School Ties
If I were there now – and my life my own –
I’d slip quietly out across the wire
into the sky; watch the bats flit the dusk
like bits of leather strung to brittle bone,
the air intense with echoes and the musk
of something wild – adrenalin, and fire . . .
A little well-placed petrol – the gritty
scratch and flare of sulphur – and then flame
(tiny blueblond flame sweating down the wood)
flicked into instant fire, spiteful, pretty
as its sister’s shining fork – Christ, I could
burn it all down, let the wind fan the blame!
Sit back atop those sandstone steps and smoke
a leisurely, illicit, cig or two
as the building billowed madly away,
blond gold, orange into nothing . . . Sick joke,
perhaps, but I’d laugh to my dying day;
warm my memories on its embers too.
Reasons for Writing
The slovenly turn of day and day
gets under the skin of faith,
bleeds away conviction.
The blistering rasp of lie on lie
abrades the core of purpose,
chars and brittles conscience.
Expectancy is crumbled, pulverised
in the restless clench of time; mind and mood
unhinged morning vows are evening perjured.
Here only, in the roll of rising words,
a caroled consolation: -- creation; the rest
slow day-decay, the feel of growing failure.
But this small mark I make in minds unmet
sparks a moment, human, who I am,
illuminates, divine, forever, what I came for.
It’s winter now
and all I want is fire and silence,
Venus a soft blaze in the pre-dawn dark,
the day clear before me
as the door shuts behind you;
your absence echoing the cave
flickering the walls as I write;
the murmur of your words
blurs, turning and returning,
almost audible beside me;
life shivering – as I stand
smoking in the doorway of the morning
– through me, icy, vital, sweet as newly-needled chi.
And all I want – day done – is to point out
between clouds the clarity of stars
acutely so and so and so in the night sky:
Orion’s belt, the Bull’s red eye,
the Seven Sisters’ mist of silver
(disappearing as you looked directly at it);
to intimate in my touch their touch,
time so cold, so sharp, in the passing dark
it pierced us like a glint of intuition
– the warmth of your hands, and then your lips –
to let it in: the whole human moment,
immense and tiny, mortal, poor, but fine as the leafless
of moonlit trees, picked out distinct in perfect shadow on the tarmac.
Watch that Pavement . . .
Only young kids, drunks, and bone-skin junkies know
how many – and how hard – the corners are
that kerb this world:
know their pain empirically – know it in that long slow
moment of hopeless fall as the earth is hurled
(delicately coated in brick and hardened tar)
inescapably in their face; know too
how all things stone conspire against the feat
of standing, want
nothing more than slick mischance to prove it human, true
(like the clumsy embodiment of some blunt
Justice) : -- the painfully concrete nature of concrete.