In passing

Well, one of Dad’s relatives died,
the one with rings in his nipples.

The guy who ate his dinner and pudding
off the same plate.

The one with rings in his nipples
and other places.

He had a photo of his street
flooded, with the top of an old car 
leaning into the water

So he’s coming to pick me up after
the funeral

and a garden.

meaning I don’t have to catch a train,
which is great.

Full beam

We drove along the Madingley Road
sad, and not talking much, I don’t remember why,
the college buildings shut down for the night
then homes lit in the odd window,
but I remember the light, brighter than natural
beyond the Welcome to Cambridge sign,
blazing from an area of trees;
you couldn’t call it a wood, it was a corner
of adolescent saplings, a trap for packaging
blown this far out, too wedged between roads
to be useful, too noisy to sit in and enjoy
a cigarette among the dead leaves,
too small to exercise a dog and useless
to flatten for anything else.
There in that pointless triangle
we saw them, full-attired in white,
from visored face to bag-covered shoes,
moving oh-so slowly among the lean birches,
lit from behind like science fiction
by that disregarding beam; then we saw
the van, and the cordon, and we knew
that the news was no fiction and her body
had been found among the leaves and wrappers
on our hill.

Young woman, drunk,
mistook a murderer’s car for a taxi,
disappeared on CCTV and materialised
there, as we drove in horror up the bank.
We closed the car doors and ducked inside
a darker and hollower house than the one we left,
closing the windows fast and at once,
feeling like we’d suffered the crime ourselves
and committed it, longing for daylight
though the night was just starting,
scared of the dark but scared too
of what light itself can reveal.

Of Salamis

A sun blind as Elymas oversees
the lilting sway while stateless children pick
and sell you on in pieces of mosaic.
Your heads are gone, and this long it took

to find all lemons are bitter, in breaks
along the south coast where dead hives prove
that tourists leave no ghosts
not least in Famagusta, nor stay in love.

Gilt-edged Cyprus stole over your posts,
like Barnabas pilloried in golden silt;
swimming in the ruins of Salamis
we cut our feet on what remains.

Lines on my father

Pete’s father was a doctor.
He looked intelligent and paused
before he said things. He moved his family
to a bigger house with an orchard
and a pantry full of vegetables and fruit
where we ate carrots if we hadn’t filled
already from the apples in the garden.

Ed’s father was not his real one.
He was a photographer with a secret
darkroom through a cupboard upstairs
who never said a word but hung his black-and-white
pictures halfway up the stairs where we’d stop
to look like we did at his camera magazine
when the erotic issue came out.

Donald’s father was an accountant
but he used to play for Scotland.
He still dressed up in shinpads
and shorts to boot the ball round with all
of his sons. He bought one of them
some drums and Donald who couldn’t play
but joined our band anyway a guitar.

My father was absent in his room,
there but not there.
There is little to tell except the time
he got angry with my mum and threw
the radio at the wall.
It smashed, but he never hit her.
He never did anything.

Writing in the dust

Pharisees circled
Jesus to take him
by his words: he stooped,
and wrote in the dust.

From dirt we come;
to dirt we’ll return, 
we are written,
ourselves, in the dust.

Nothing is written,
no hoof or foot print,
that cannot be written
again in the dust.

Words have no meaning
of themselves, without
context. We set them:
we write in the dust.