I started writing poetry in my early teens Ė some fairly dreadful bedroom angst Ė
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. Iíve been writing by it ever since.
Iíve been writing for nearly thirty years now, mostly poetry, mostly in rhyme
and metre (although latterly Iíve moved away from this to freer verse). Iíve
always tried to write in simple, clear, modern English, within a tight but
topic-appropriate framework of form.
I feel sometimes as though Iíve 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, itís not extra-curricular,
itís not stamp-collecting Ė itís 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 dayís 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 Ė find it here, now, with the kite;
Three days sleepless, things begin to flicker . . .
something Ė something quick at the brittle
edge of sight Ė flicks the corner of whatís there
Ė is gone with a winged insect hum, quicker
than fist can grip or sanity swat: -- air,
just thin unsung air, the fanís 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 Ė a sprinkling of brilliance Ė cracks sight,
splinters it to points, sunlit and succinct;
lit bits of glitter slicked across a black-
ness Ė stars that wink an instant, wince extinct Ė
then blackness only, flat, matt, blacked of light.
for the blind mindless days (I see no end)
Six days, the spell still holds Ė a hell solid
as the four thick walls around Ė 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 thatís light and life has flared and died.
A Letter Found in Judyís Drawer
Dear Ma, think itís time we talked. I need to
and thereís no one else, nor ever has been.
Iím tired, Ma, so damned tired. I donít blame you
or the circling dark, the child-like routine
of waking and crying Ė itís pathetic,
I know Ė Iím just too wretched to pretend
anymore. Iíve tried so many things but
this human life hurts, hurts me to the quick:
Christ, heroin, alcohol, they canít 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 canít even sight land,
canít connect to it? I donít understand.
Even beauty hurts, Ma, pierces my skull
like foil in a filling Ė 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 Ė how they all stared!
Shrugged it off with a patronage of cheap
pity, a poor glib Ďget a gripí 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 Ė a calm fluid warp
of time and place: I thought of those summers,
bright clean moments in my mindís dull water,
a death ago Ė mother, father, daughter.
Itís 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 Iím frightened heíll
be there. These things that are in my head Ė how
do I live with them? Tried to cut them out,
tried Ė broken glass, towels soaked red to my wrists:
some pains, like cancers, inoperable.
Donít know anymore what itís all about,
anything Ė some days Iím 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 Ė I thought it a tale; you must see,
Ma, itís impaling my soul, please donít preach,
Iím 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 Ė its slew of green and orange Ė
ruby brake-lights dampening the stone beneath you:
sinister, sentimental, a fairground shine along the
Old School Ties
If I were there now Ė and my life my own Ė
Iíd 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
of something wild Ė adrenalin, and fire . . .
A little well-placed petrol Ė the gritty
scratch and flare of sulphur Ė and then flame
(tiny blueblond flame sweating down the wood)
flicked into instant fire, spiteful, pretty
as its sisterís shining fork Ė 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 Iíd laugh to my dying day;
warm my memories on its embers too.
Reasons for Writing
The slovenly turn of day and
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
But this small mark I make in minds unmet
sparks a moment, human, who I am,
illuminates, divine, forever, what I came for.
Itís winter now
and all I want is fire and silence,
Venus a soft blaze in the pre-dawn
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
life shivering Ė as I stand
smoking in the doorway of the morning
Ė through me, icy, vital, sweet as newly-needled chi.
And all I want Ė day done Ė is to point out
between clouds the clarity of stars
acutely so and so and so in the night sky:
Orionís belt, the Bullís red eye,
the Seven Sistersí 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
Ė the warmth of your hands, and then your lips Ė
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
Watch that Pavement . . .
Only young kids, drunks, and bone-skin junkies know
how many Ė and how hard Ė the corners are
that kerb this world:
know their pain empirically Ė 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.