What is History, Discuss?

History is and was and so is that patch 

of pavement where one tiny leaf shape 

is never wet no matter how much rain. 

It’s in the shards of clay pipes on the banks 

of the Thames and the salt-glaze fragments. 

It’s in the loose change in my pocket 

and the fact that there is never any 

loose change in my pocket. It’s in the bits 

and bobs, the fairy on the rock cake, 

at the foot of our stairs. It’s t’ick 

as a coddle and mild as milk.

There’s a king and queen and offspring 

and they’re effing and blinding or not – 

‘cause that’s common! It’s in the darkness, 

the rose moon, a clear deep navy sky 

and a box of Price’s candles to light

the longest street market in London

where we ply, plight and sing a bit. 

It’s in the pain of home and the urge 

to command that pain with real true facts. 

It is what it is, although that’s contentious. 

It’s a bumble bee, a Brussels sprout, 

and sometimes, even, a brown-tail moth.

(From Whatsname Street: 2021: Smokestack Books)

The Mother in Law’s Nets


In the shadows and whoops of the last of the party 

she slipped back indoors and took down the curtains, 

brown with war and the filth of outside. 


In the dim flicker of the hallway light, she filled 

the sink with water and soap and dipped each

like it was made of the very best lace 

and with each rinse her tears salted the water. 

They fell silently at first but as the dirt ran out 

and down the drain she could be heard, 

 by the neighbours, gently sobbing, and by the time 

the nets were white again, howling, fit to burst,

 you could even say she had.

(From Whatsname Street: 2021: Smokestack Books)

Rosa Mundi

Hic jacet in tumba, Rosa Mundi

petals blown, blown, Rosa Munda


Her silk weaves through soil, Rosa

to the tomb, the tomb, Rosa Mundi


Muddied lace, golden thread, Rosa

beneath an island of ice, Rosa Munda


In her well, in her bloom, Rosa

Her underwater grove, Rosa Mundi


Beech, holly and willow, Rosa

Guard her frozen jail, Rosa Munda


Hemlock, pine and yew, Rosa

sewn into her nightdress, Rosa Mundi 


Hic jacet in tumba, Rosa Mundi

petals blown, blown, Rosa Munda


As a Foot Passenger On the Woolwich Ferry
after Rabelais

Sitting below deck in the cast iron holds –
sun beaming in from the west – horns calling out –
we hear – whispering voices – echoes – fog –
              all overlapping each other.

Where do they come from – are they ferry ghosts –
voices of those transported to the other world –
is this a kind of Thames triangle where people go
             and come to their own tempo?

No, says the master, these whispers are the frozen
voices of winter’s passengers – slowly defrosting
on summer’s breeze – listen – mah, mah, sh, op,
            bh, kuh, ush, sh, oomm.
We try to catch hold of them – skidding as we go
trap some by the stairwell – in the broad part of the bow
one man catches ‘mah’ – wraps it in foil –
           later, he lets it go.

Published in Finders of London (Enitharmon 2010)

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