Now in four-wheel drive
in the slow shunt
up the already rutted lines
to the chalk brow
the Nissan
aches and grunts in low gear.

It has to be slow
or the beaters won’t be happy
slapped around back there
like eggs in a biscuit tin,
cursing the driver
in their Wiltshire accents.

We drop two flankers,
then the main beaters
spread out
like a Sun Tzu pincer,
ready to move left or right
to keep the bull-head steady.

I drive the empty truck
behind the lines,
follow some partridge in the ruts
as they run
short flights into safety
like armless raptors.

Over the radio
the static carries messages of
easy now and flags up
as a covey breaks.
I grab a flag, step out and
disturb a mouse gnawing a corn husk.

We eye each other on Memorial Day
while ahead the crack of flags,
the stomping of boots through wet crops,
the uniformity
in the movement
of men, of women, of rasping dogs.

From The Game Parade 2016


She is left-handed –
Think about that.
Think about cutting bread with a very sharp knife,
Or turning a page, or counting notes,
Or tying a lace, or dishing out mash,
Or brushing her teeth, or massaging your throat,
From the left-hand side.

She is left-handed –
Each statement a tripwire
Of half-breath deliberations,
Of unfinished sentences,
And then the distant gaze
And the deviation down some ferreting hole,
Holding everyone’s attention,
But not through conversation,
Oh no, it’s a heartfelt wish that she’ll come back.
And everyone’s too polite to ask
If left-handed people are all like that.

She is left-handed –
When we met she slept on the left,
Announced some ownership rights,
Some distorted set of back to front,
But a moment of surrender
Sent her over the edge,
And now she sleeps on the right side of the bed,
Where women usually sleep –
Especially when they are with men.

She is left-handed –
Which requires tolerance from me
When she rattles my ordered world.
Now I buy fish and chips for two,
And the wine is gone about half way through,
But it’s touching glasses left to left
That really messes up my head.

And she says she loves me,
Like she means it,
Like it might be true,
Like a left-handed person might say it,
Who hasn’t quite worked out
How wonderful it is to be
With someone disturbingly wonderful.
That’s she.

From Love and Other Distractions 2004


It’s too late to get up early,
So I’ll lie awhile,
Foetal in this English bed,
And assume the position
Of my daughter’s child
Tucked in an Irish womb.

I can’t quite get used to grandfather
Or, God forbid, show preference to its sex –
There’s that awkward word again.
And why should it be awkward
This begetter of a life?
My child is carrying a child.

I lie back on my hands and compute the years.
This child could see the next century,
Might even read these words at the century’s turning,
Might even chuckle with grandchildren
About the black-sheep grandfather,
Might even fondly recall the dead.

It doesn’t seem so bad that this coming
Will be an advent of our going.
This is also my milestone
My joy beneath this Egyptian cotton sheet
That I have a child who’ll have a child,
A continuance beyond our brief.

from Among Friends 2007