Friday, 12 April 2019

Small change

I wrote this on a recent visit to London. It's published on the website I am not a silent poet, along with much other poetry about issues of abuse of all kinds. See link below.

Small change

When you give a beggar a coin,
a pound dropped into
a ragged cardboard coffee cup,
do you feel good?

When the guy looks at you,
nods unkempt gratefulness
for your little gift,
your small change,
does it make you feel better?

When you sit with your
fat £3 a go Americano
and carrot cake on a china plate
do you wonder how he came to be
a beggar on the ground
outside the underground station?

See his tent, there,
just under the bridge.
You think, at least he has a tent,
it looks sound.
He’s better off than those
who lie on cardboard sheets
in parks and shabby doorways.

And as you eat salmon and avocado
in a restaurant by the theatre
before going to see a drama on the stage
do you wonder how
he’ll spend your pound?
Tea, coffee, cider?

You give small change,
does it make you feel better?
And there’s another,
wrapped in a wornout blanket
on the bridge, cup in hand.
You give another £1.

And as you tuck into dessert,
your favourite strawberry tart,
you think of
a woman on the bridge
holding out her empty palm
no cup
skin brown with streetlife.
You put two fifties into her hand.

And you pay £15 to see
an exhibition of photos
by Don McCullin of 50 years
of war and poverty around the world
where you see pictures of
homeless men in 1970s England
asleep, standing up, capped heads lolling,
because there was nowhere to lie down.

And here’s another today,
along the side of Southbank centre,
in a doorway.
You drop the rest of your silver coins
on his sleeping bag,
before you go into the warm concert hall.

Big problem.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Leaves and leavings in Carpelan's Shadowland

Carpelan's Shadowland, by Vivi-Mari Carpelan
I was pleased to take part this week in a reading of poetry inspired by some stunning prints in an exhibition at the wonderful Mid-Wales Arts Centre, near Newtown, Powys.

I chose this multilayered image by Vivi-Mari Carpelan to work with, and produced the poem below.

Some 25 poets wrote new work as a result of this exhibition, and their poems can be seen alongside the pictures that inspired them. The show is at Mid-Wales Arts Centre until May 5th, 2019; and will transfer to Aberystwyth Arts Centre later before going on tour to other venues.

Here's my poem from the project:

Leaves and leavings

Her memories are fragments
taken from a wreckage of smashed mirrors,
pieced back together
so that her recollections
are only reflections of each other.

Misremembered pieces
imitate but falsify
and she no longer understands
that what she recalls
are only distorted images.

Layers of shadow on shadow
show that nothing is what it seems –
not in the past or present.
She weaves the spectres
of mis-shapen memories into tapestry

makes a new collage
layer on layer
angular fragment on fragment
and she looks through
a window, but sees

into a twisted looking glass,
her view veiled
by an apparition of herself.
Still she sees leaves,
even among winter bare trees…

leaves and phantoms of leaves,
remembrance of leavings;
and he is there, his silhouette
down there among the gravestones.
She watches where he looks

but whatever he remembers,
whatever he sees,
his memories and recollections
are obscured by light.

For more info about the 'Inspired' exhibition see also:

Vivi-Mari's website:

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Not on the map

Not on the map

It wasn’t here in this wood that we walked

that spring

where we wandered aimless

among the overpowering scent of bluebells

kicked up the aromas with our thoughts

startled blackbirds’ warnings

it wasn’t here

we talked of how to find a path

clasped hands

as you helped me across muddy ruts

and then didn’t let go

and we talked about whether we would or would not

could or could not find a way

all the while the purple scents

followed us through the trees

but it wasn’t here

you showed me

how moss makes velvet on tree trunks,

wild roses cascade out of hedgerows

how elderflowers scent the air

how dark it is under the tree canopy

how the sunlight shows through

it wasn’t here

This poem was first published in Picaroon #14 in January. See more here: