life work

The Real World

I’ve been focused on the day job and have now qualified as an emergency call handler after a few weeks of work and a training course with certification.

Art is a support system for life, and although the writing is a massive part of me, I am a firm believer in the value of working until you can support yourself.

Also, other people, another environment, those things are a mine of research and information. Listen to conversations, seed them with open questions about the work in progress without being obsequious about it.

A writing career is the goal. A satisfying job alongside that path is just a smart move. Also, food and bills are a powerful motivating force of life.

Anyway, back to the fiction and poetry.

beauty life love poetry women

Home is a person

I won’t miss the quiet


But my friends are with me

Discarded the things

Which didn’t give me joy

Always travelled light

But it is a great leap forward

But I’m not so much landing

As ascending

She makes me want to be better

In a way that

Resists the weak parts

And I’ve grown stronger

If a bit slower

But look

I’m heading up

Somewhere else

But still


Is a person

After all

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Autumn Cycle


They emerge from

hiding during

the summer months,

eyes shining with light

the way ripe fruit

teems with juice

in the heat

they frolic and cavort

with a courage that borders

upon madness

but look oh look

how high they leap

Then they sense

the waning evenings

the longer nights

decay tattooing it’s sigil

on everything

but by then

they tire

and make beds again

beneath rich loam and piles

of leaves

waiting for the season to turn

when they will find play



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Walk With Me 


The wind through

The trees

Birds singing

Such places serve as churches

Watching the dog

Snuffle see his world

I am capable of fury

My body aches from

Focused labour

Hands as weapons

But also instruments

Of divine exploration

To caress the contours

To open and penetrate

All the world and it’s pleasures

Visible in my eyes

Look as deep as you need to

I am the nexus between

flesh and divinity

Lover and magician

Read this as my spell

Let it sink beneath

Your skin

A drug delivered without needle

No chalky aftertaste of the pill

A perfect delivery of want

I would make you shudder with want

And the supply is constant

The wind through the trees

The birds singing

Would you walk with me?

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I know your wildness


I know the wildness

Within you

I bring my nose

Close to the nape

Of your neck

Snuffling and taking

Delight in the knowledge

Of my senses

I know you, little one

And how you are

That you are wolf mother

And mate

Yet you are possessed with a want

A force that weaker men seek to subdue

But I would unleash

That you desire

That pain and pleasure

Are two sides 

Of the same coin

Come wrestle

Let me feel your flesh

Between my teeth

Let me leave red hand prints

Bouquets of bruises flowering

Let me rasp my tongue

Within each fold and

Drink until I no longer


I revel in the flawed power

Of you and I bring old wisdom

And patience to bear

I kiss your scars and marks

The way a bird takes to the air

Come to me




Without expectation

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A rainbow


 a walking rainbow in person

Brilliant clear blue

Henna red and creamy white

Seen but never reached

Formed in perfect juxtaposition

Of storm and sunshine

Tried to walk

But you were never

Going to meet me 


So instead I watch

Until finally you fade

Like you were never there

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Ghosts of Celluloid

He sits at the back of the theatre

Recalls how it was all new


No colour, no computer generated effects

Not even sound.

He looks at people hunched over their phones.

People move so much faster

He doesn’t get why people

Wear their hair the way that

They do

Why the news is always bad

He knows that the day he wakes up

Without pain

Will be when he’s dead.

Stopping to make conversation

But there’s no time for that

People too busy

He looks out

Wishes not that he could go back

He treasures every precious mistake

Nor does he seek to disappear

No, what he asks for,

As the music swells

Is that things slow down

To the point

That we could all stop

See one another

And start to talk

She moves from the screen

From a time before

The world broke her spirit

Her lips press against his cheek

Not caring that his hands shook

Too much to shave

His chest grows tight

And he follows her

Leaving everything behind

Missing every frustrated second

As he lets the world go on

Without him.


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Shepherd strode towards the car, the brim of his hat hid his eyes, but his lips were set in a tight line, and he pumped his arms to lengthen his stride.

‘Ma’am, you know you can’t be here.’

She cocked her head to one side, blinked heavily and grinned with all her teeth.

‘Hey Jeff, how’s Molly?’

His cheeks turned red, and he looked at his feet, folded his hands at his hip.

‘She’s good, ma’am. Look, I don’t want to do this Paula…’

Paula’s smile faltered and she sighed.

‘I’m not in the park, Jeff, I just want to look at it.’

Jeff leaned forward, hands on his belt. He fought the smile, tried to make it look like the indigestion that he would get when he ate chili. He had been mortified to read about it in the memo that came down. Banned for life from all 58 of them. Acadia to Yellowstone.

Graffitti, which pissed Molly off more than him. He loved his wife, feared her a little too, which made him love her even more, and so he would allow her to carry the weight of some of his feelings on any given subject.  

‘We have a lovely gallery of photos on our Facebook page.’

He spoke mechanically, a conceit to hide his dismayed confusion.

‘Jeff, please let me be here for this.’

Her tone took him by the throat. A cracking of her voice, unable to bear the weight of her emotion.

‘It’s not even there, we had to get a specialist out to clean it off. Taxpayers money when it’s a time that people aren’t really keen on dipping into their pockets to do that.”

She ran her tongue over her lips and gazed with an earnest depth into his eyes.

‘I understand, but there were reasons, Jeff. I know I’m banned, but I need to be here.’

He took off his hat, plucked at the brim with his fingers and puckered his lips in confusion.

‘Paula. You have to go.’

She leaned forward, lifted her chin. He had never been a man that people pleaded with. He lumbered around the park, going about his work with a quiet, gruff economy that afforded him no respect but allowed him to save his energy for his times with Molly and the kids.

‘Jeff, let me stay for five minutes. I won’t even get out of the car, I can see it through the windshield just fine.’

Jeff wanted to pluck his shirt from where the perspiration stuck it to the small of his back. He could have ignored her, but one of the volunteers, anal-retentive and someone who read every memo that came through, had spotted her and so he had to act.

‘I nearly lost my job because of you’.

She put her hands forward, clasped so tightly that her knuckles turned white.

‘Please, I’ve paid a price for it. But let me explain’.

He sighed. Molly would give him holy hell for it, but he was a fair man.

‘Go on.’

She smiled and moved her hand over the door handle.

‘Can I at least get out of the car?’

He sighed and nodded his head.  He had liked her, and the wattage of her smile made him weaken.  She opened the door. She was compact, bright blonde hair and he noticed that she had cut it to blunt spikes and had lost enough weight to make her skin lose it’s elasticity at her jawline and her throat.  Her eyes blazed like precious stones and her hands shook as she bounced on the balls of her feet.

‘Do you believe in magic, Jeff?’

He grunted and shook his head. His disappointment made him take a step back.

‘Paula, come on, that’s ridiculous.’

She gesticulated around her with her hands.

‘No, come on, you work here. There’s places that you can feel it, right?’

She had a point. He would go out, oftentimes with Holly before her hip got bad, and they would hike through, legs pumping and breathing hard, feeling every inch of his body alive and tingling. The air sang in certain places, he had known that but she was soiling it with her madness. Using an ugly colour in a painting.

‘Paula, think you should stop this. It’s a goddamn insult when you try to claim that this was -‘

‘You’re not answering my question. It’s okay, I know how it sounds but listen, there’s all sorts of energy out there.’

He grimaced and turned his hat in his hands even faster.

‘Then why scrawl all over it? I mean, it’s narcissism, Paula. I thought you were better than that. You don’t get to decide that your bullshit fucks up the park for everyone else’

His voice had risen in pitch and volume. His vocabulary was spare, like a savings account that he had forgotten the account number on, but there was money there. Swearwords were large withdrawals for him. He worried about what his mother would say and she had been dead for eight years.

‘It’s supposed to look like narcissism.’

There was a high, chiming sound. Too loud and clear for the public address system. It hurt his ears and he looked around, saw children with their parents hands over their ears and the air started to shimmer.

Paula was grinning so hard it was almost ugly and there were tears in her eyes.

‘They’re coming,’ she said.

He went to ask her who was coming but the chiming grew louder, and he fell to his knees. He watched her point upwards and saw where she pointed.

The column of light shot upwards, he took Paula’s hand and began to pray.

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To Live

Daryl rolled the pair of twenty-sided dice and looked up over the top of the cardboard screen.

‘It misses you.’

Leanne cheered and checked her character sheet before she picked up her pencil and pointed it at him.

‘I cast a fireball at the troll.’

She rolled, frowned.

‘I roll 60. Is that a hit?’

Daryl looked at the rows of tables he’d drawn onto the screen, reference tables of outcomes and percentages written in his neat, crabbed hand with a ballpoint pen and grinned at her.

‘Absolutely, your fireball crashes into the troll’s chest for – ‘ he checked the table again and gestured to her.’ roll for damage.’

Leanne checked her selection and grimaced. Beth plucked a handful of different sided dice from the pile she had set out and passed them in her upturned palm to Leanne who plucked out the two that she needed and rolled them. Her grin of triumph made Daryl’s cheeks burn and he asked her, in a tight voice, what the dice had shown.

’18 points of damage for the fireball.’

Daryl grinned and sat back in his chair, eager for the chance to be dramatic and bringing his hands level with his head.

‘Your fireball shoots from the end of your wand -‘

Pete snickers and that cracks the room up, which Daryl is annoyed by, but because Leanne is there, he pretends that it’s hilarious and lets them laugh before they lapse into a mutual silence.

‘And it explodes against the troll’s chest, sending it flying backwards with a roar of agony.’

He has a childhood of Tolkien and Rowling to fall back on, not much of one, but enough that he wrote down ideas and phrases into a ragged notebook and used them. All his anxiety around their worth dissolved as he looked into Leanne’s bright, blue eyes.

‘So, he’s dead, right?’Pete said from the corner of his mouth. Daryl loved Pete most of the time, but down here, Daryl is in charge and he found it difficult not to say anything but Pete loved the game, with his half-elf thief who had a cloak of invisibility and an innuendo for every situation, so he kept the volume down on his loud personality so that Daryl was free to help them tell this ongoing story of treasure and danger.

A world that offered a chance of victory and glory.

Daryl was about to answer, statistically Leanne’s fireball wouldn’t kill the troll, but he’s disregarding the tables for the hope that Leanne’s triumph would make him look attractive to her, when the alarm goes off, a harsh braying sound that shakes the bones in your skull. They all look around and dash to the corner of the basement where their survival suits are kept.

They were slick to the touch, necessary for the amount of filtration they gave off, and it took them all, despite the constant repetition, a few minutes to get them on over their clothes and to check that they are all sealed up and squared away. They shouldered rifles and walked up the stairs in perfect formation.

Daryl registered a touch on his shoulder, and through the lenses, saw Leanne giving him a thumbs up. He opened the hatch and they head up to the surface.

The sky was purple, raging with clouds that seethed and boil whilst a flock of the black, bone carrion birds circled overhead. They had a short, dangerous walk back to the bunker, but they never felt quite so alive as they did in the basement and the feeling stayed with them. Daryl straightened his shoulders and began to walk.

Every day was a fight for survival, scouting expeditions for materials and food and it was one of them that Daryl found the crate of role playing game manuals. He had suggested it to the others after the fuel rationing meant that they couldn’t hook up the VR system anymore. They were told, that with their training and the resources that were in place, they would survive the damage done to the world. Daryl, as he passed the manuals around, grinned at them and said that games like these were reasons to live.

They head home, but their hearts and minds are already anticipating when they will return to finish off the troll.



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Stars On A Summer’s Night


The clack of pool balls colliding held an inconstant, unnerving rhythm. The quiet murmurs of conversation from across the room, and as muted as it all was, she struggled not to flinch. He sat across from her, raised the tumbler to his lips and took a long, slow sip.


‘Please,’ she said.


He lowered the glass. His silences hurt more than his anger had. A shout was something tangible, she could avoid it if she needed to or endure it. He had never raised his hand to her. She wondered if would’ve felt like some measure of passion for her. It was a perverse, ugly thought that stayed with her into the night, the way indigestion followed too rich a meal.


‘Jo. Look, I don’t know what it was that I did, but we -‘


She used to implore him to share with her, but now it was his pleading and she recoiled to hear it. This was a justice that did not anaesthetize her to the anguish of it though. She had imagined that the ending would bring relief. The cool act of laying the folded piece of paper on the table in front of him at a breakfast that had been reduced to smears of butter and drifts of breadcrumbs. Him unfolding the paper with a befuddled grin.


She had watched his smile die on his face. It was strangled by the legalese of the letter and her lack of reaction to it. And here she was again. Her second attempt to get him to sign and allow them both to move them.


She said both, but she did not mean it. Not really.


‘It wasn’t you, Paul. It was me.’


When sleep evaded her in her new bed, when it had lost her address and was too stubborn to ask for it. She was free to admit it. It was her, yes, but it was more her turning forty that had been the catalyst. Turning forty with him and his budding potbelly, his legs that used to be lean, now emaciated and roped with veins that made her sick.  She would wake up in the night, reach for his warm, inert weight and find herself conflicted between relief and regret that he was not there.


‘You’ve not even given me a chance to change.’


He pouted his lower lip. He was a little too jowly to make that little boy lost expression work for him anymore. She had hoped to be civil, so that she could look back and make other people feel better about her actions. He did not give her anger or recrimination, and it was too painful to deal with politely.  Some small part of her hoped for a resurgence of feeling to come to either of them. A bearskin rug rather than a folded napkin.  


‘I don’t want you to change. I want you to sign the nisi. Please.’


He shook his head and picked up his glass. His eyebrows knotted with consternation and he gestured towards her.


‘I mean, you won’t even drink with me. For fucks sake, all this time and you won’t even have one drink with me.’


She bit back a sob, hid it beneath a mask of perfect indifference. He could have seen this coming, when it was simple weariness and done something about it. There were so many things that he might have done, visible as the stars on a summer night and just as far away. She had such hopes for things being easy, the shine of civilisation rather than the glint of streetlight on broken glass.


‘I don’t want a drink. I made that clear when I called you.  I want you to sign the nisi please.’


He swallowed the last of the bourbon.


‘At least have one drink with me. Come on, you owe me that much.’


She grimaced at the mention of the word ‘owe’. She had a long list of grievances that she could wield with the skill of a sushi chef. Exhaustion rolled through her veins though, resigning herself to more diplomatic gestures. She agreed to one drink, like she were at gunpoint, reading before the hard gaze of a video camera. He turned and raised his hand, gesturing for the doughy bartender’s attention.


‘Johnny, another shot and a -‘


He turned and asked her what she was drinking.


He used to know. She told him and he ordered.


‘ Wait your fucking turn, mate.’  A voice boomed over from the pool table.


One of the guys playing pool. The butt of the cue on the floor between his feet, jaw stuck out and his lips curled back over teeth, which looked buttered in the poor light of the bar. She looked at the blue-black tattooing on his arms. The thick but poorly proportioned musculature and the vest that hung like a dirty bandage from his chest. She put her hand across the table, but Paul was still turned to the bar.


‘I didn’t hear you and neither did Johnny.’


His friend had joined him now, members of the same tribe, with his cue in his thick, blunt hands.


‘Yeah he did. I’m not deaf.’


Paul squared his shoulders and without seeing it, she knew the expression that he would give. He mistook histrionics for confidence all too often, and here it was.


‘Well I’ve ordered and I don’t see him pouring two pints of whatever rat piss you’re drinking so wait your bloody turn.’


The lenses of the bartender’s spectacles had caught the light and she could not see his eyes, but the corners of his mouth had fallen as he glanced between Paul and the pool table.


‘I’d just gotten some glasses, mate. Won’t be long.’


Paul got to his feet.


‘Paul, please just sit down, you’re being ridiculous.’


Marriage prepared some women for motherhood. Jo had oftentimes gone shopping and heard women use the same tone to address their partners as they did their children. Paul stood up and pointed to the two men by the pool table. She watched him with appalled fascination, her heart pounding in her chest and her palms damp with what she tried to deny was a frangible excitement. His anger was seldom, and the surprise sent a bolt of intrigue through her. She was alert to him, but hid it beneath the cloak of anxiety she had worn so often, that she forgot to take it off.


‘Well I didn’t fucking hear you and I want a double jack daniels and a soda with lime.’


One of the young men said something and they both laughed. Jo wanted to see, but Paul had blocked her line of sight.  His hunched shoulders and clenched fists were a sign that he had taken umbrage.


‘Paul, please just sit down. You’re making a scene.’


He jabbed his index finger in their direction.


‘Don’t fucking laugh at me.’


The man with the big hands had stepped forward.  Jo had to lean to her right to see, but she noticed the vulpine grin on his face. She remembered the maxim about how the devil made work for idle hands, but that was ridiculous. He wanted people to do things, in her opinion, small crude actions that exploded into ugliness and injury.  


‘Ha fucking ha. Now we’re going to get our drinks, then you get yours.’


His friend swung the cue forward, a mocking arc that he imagined looked like a deleted scene in a kung fu movie but came over as irritated and petulant.


‘Stop being a fucking baby about it.’


Paul strode over before she could implore him, his hands bunched into fists and his posture screaming his inexperience. His legs were pumping and he was too adrenaline-blind to see the cues being readied to hit something other than billiards.


They were younger, and therefore faster than him. Educated by too many bad action movies and encouraged by pride and bourbon, he was easy meat for the sweep of the cues. Then he was fetal, weeping against the sharp whack of the sticks against his thighs and midsection. Jo was out of her chair, but they grew bored in an instant and tossed them down. The larger of the pair gave a desultory swing of his boot into Paul’s stomach before they walked past them and left.


She dropped into a crouch and splayed her fingers, appalled and compelled to touch him. Crying without inhibition, he rolls away as she tries to comfort him. His spectacles were at an angle away from his face and she saw the black shine of blood on his hands. She shushed him and began to stroke his hair. She kept telling him that it would all be okay. He had risked himself for something dumb and came off the worse for it.


She smiled as she did it and when she caught sight of her reflection in the large, smeared mirror, she wondered why she looked so happy.


‘It’s okay, baby, it’s okay. I’m here.’


She helped him to his feet, one thick arm around the back of her neck and he grimaced. His palm was flat against his ribs on the right side. He wore a goatee of blood from where a kick had broken his nose. He limps and each breath brings another gasp of pain. Together, they stagger outside and shove the door open.


The day was bright, and they both wince against the harsh glare of the sunshine. Jo thought about the nisi left on the table, their last drink unordered and turned to look at Paul. His face painted with his own blood, knotted into a mask of stoic agony and the cloud of alcohol fumes coming from his pores. She was surprised, not by his weight against her, but how used she had been to it.


How she had missed it.