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Poet, writer, teacher




See that postbox on the hill? It strikes an almost
tragic pose up there where the four roads meet.
In wind and driving rain, in snow and blistered heat
it stands alone like an old messenger, cursed, struck;
dumb and trusted treasurer of this town’s tendered notes,
its severances and dried tears, its good luck.


Dusk. A thin rain. A child with a letter skips
slowly to the box, reaches up, then hesitates
- so a simple act, freeze-framed, hinges at fate -
eyeing her mother's shaky hand, the indifferent Queen
about to slide forever into the black lip.
The lamps stutter on, the street is lit like a scene.


She’s not to know what lay in her hands, what power
if any, she had before she heard the paper’s soft
drop that filled her with a strange sense of loss
as she turned for home, not knowing the reason why,
leaving the letter to its few innocent hours,
nestled among the others, unpilfered, warm and dry.





The Fitter

It can take days. The vision, you see, is vital,
without it, it's nothing - a soft toy. Pass me
my eyes, pointing to an old biscuit tin.


It's a kind of hunting all over again, with books
open, photos pinned, ready with needle
and glue. They caught the body years ago,
that was the easy part. But he speaks now


of a soul; what, for instance, did the creature see?
Moorland, scrub, veld, or sodden jungle,
desert, wood, the same indigo skies?
The man who fits the eyes has never left


his semi in Cardiff, but he's a master of precision,
nothing's too small, or extinct. Recently
though, a slip in concentration perhaps -
an upright grizzly in the Natural History


has the eyes of a man stranded in his front room,
the telly blizzarding, the fire gone dead;
a bison's head looms out of a wall, dazed,
like a woman just woken, sleep crusting her eyes;


and a pair of monkeys stare out from a London window,
like lovers come to the end, at a loss
in front of what has been, what is to come,
deaf to the whirr and gong of the clock on the hour.


His eyes brim at night from all the detail.
There's a tea-towel over the mirror and it takes him a while
to sleep. Everything's always awake, he says. 





The Night We Stole a Full-Length Mirror

I'd have walked straight past if you hadn't said
Look at the moon and held my head in your hands
and turned it slowly round to face a skip,
its broken skyline of one-legged chair,
ripped out floor, till I saw it moving
- so slow, so bright - across the silver glass.
We stood there for ages, a bit drunk
staring at the moon hanging there
as if it were for sale and we an old couple
weighing it up but knowing in our hearts
it is beyond us - A cat jumps out
and before we know it we're stealing back to my flat,
the great thing like a masterpiece in our hands,
its surface anxious with knees and knuckles,
the clenched line of your jaw and your lips
kissing the glass over and over with curses.
You lean it so it catches the bed and me,
I nudge it with my toe so it won't hold my head.
Switching off the light my skin turns blue
and when you come in on the scene and we see
ourselves like this we start to move like real
professionals and my head, disowned and free,
watches what our bodies are doing and somewhere
the thought I can't believe we weren't made for this
and I can't stop looking even though the ache
in my throat is growing and soon there will be tears
and I can hear you looking and I know what you're
looking at and it doesn't matter but it isn't me.
You left me behind in a bar in Copenhagen St,
the one with the small red lamps and my face hung
a hundred identical times along the stained wall
invoking like some old speaking doll
the dissatisfaction I come back and back to
and there's this really pretty Chinese waitress
you're trying not to look at while I'm talking to you.
Then you get up and I'm left alone so I lift my head to look
at the man who's been staring at me since I walked in.
He's huge and lonely and lifts his glass and nods
and all the women along the wall break into smiles.
Then you're back and whispering your breasts your breasts
and your hands are scrambling up the wet stone
of my back and I imagine the lonely man is there
behind the silver screen sipping his drink,
his eyes thick and moist behind the glass;
I know he's waiting to catch my eye but I won't
be seen to know I'm being watched. Not
till it's over and we collapse, all of a sudden
and awkward, and the room becomes itself again,
filling the mirror with its things and our two faces
staring in, calm and dull and self-absorbed.
Then we look at each other and are surprised
as if we weren't expecting to find the other
here and the smile is quick, like a nod slipped in   
between two conspirators returned to the world              
of daylight, birdsong, the good tug of guilt
before we tilt the mirror up-, sky-, heaven-ward.



3 Poems from At Home in the Dark