beauty, love, men, poetry, women

Past Amber

children without fathers

Arrested in the amber of their

Curiosity of what it is 

To have time with one

Good, bad, indifferent

I am one

And spent a long

Time walking free of

Absence and its shadow

Warm enough to hold my own

close and in turn

I’ve found the father within

Offer its paternal benevolence

And hold you when you falter

Stroke away pain and discomfort

Build a fire

Wrap a fur around you

With a kind smile

Patience to the vagaries

And if I help someone 

Past amber

Then my life gains the light

Of older wisdom


Children As Gifts

Chalk mark clouds

Against a cerulean


The world goes on

And to see it as it is

Not solely as we wish it

But we grab our piece of it


If I’ve let you down

Then I’ve a lifetime

To make amends

I’ll watch you graduate

Daughter of a man

Who is a little bit in awe

And a lot in love with you

Some part of you


Asleep and newborn on my chest

But you

Your brother,

The first things I ever saw

And decided I would kill



To put myself away

As an investment

In a better world I may not see

But you’re my gift to it

And even as time reveals

I know as much as anyone else

About the world

(Sometimes less)

I have always been

Defined by the pair of you

love, poetry, women


She’s got her mother’s eyes,

Possessed by a certainty

I’m in awe of,

You never tell them

How frightening your love

For them can be,

The language is mostly

Maternal but God

I used to have her sleep

On my chest and every

Little breath was a fortune

In a cookie

‘Don’t fuck this up’.

And I’d know I was willing

To kill the way Gods do

To protect her,

She makes her way,

With what I passed on,

I hope it’s enough

But she’s got her mother’s

Strength and I fear for anyone

Who crosses

Her path

And so I keep the

Feelings to the

Back of my head

Look at her and know

I’ve won something

By the act of trying

And I’ve long since

Forgiven her

For saying I cut her

Fringe when her mother

Found her

And the thing is,

If she’d asked,

I’d have had a go,

To make her happy,

That feeling,

Never goes away.

art, beauty, book reviews, books, emotion, fiction, love, man, masculinity, men, nature, psychology, Uncategorized, wildness, wisdom, women, writing

Legend of a Suicide by David Vann



Roy is still young when his father, a failed dentist and hapless fisherman, puts a .44 magnum to his head and commits suicide on the deck of his beloved boat. Throughout his life, Roy returns to that moment, gripped by its memory and the shadow it casts over his small-town boyhood, describing with poignant, mercurial wit his parents’ woeful marriage and inevitable divorce, their kindnesses and weaknesses, the absurd and comic turning-points of his past. Finally, in Legend of a Suicide, Roy lays his father’s ghost to rest. But not before he exacts a gruelling, exhilarating revenge.

Vann explores the wound of paternal suicide and it’s resonance across time. In a collection of short stories that share theme, setting and characters he shows us Roy and the impact of his father’s suicide on him. The changes in perspective between stories are a little jarring, and the central story, as incredible as it is, is jarred by the way that it is structured.

For all that, it reaches incredible heights, delivering a central set piece that starts off poignant and then descends into a pitch black nightmare where you are not spared from the inexorable logic of Vann’s crisp plotting and beatific prose. It was his first book and it held within it, the promise that bloomed in Dirt and Caribou Island, a melange of careful observation, exquisite, unsparing prose and a deep understanding of blood, dirt, landscape, self deception and familial agony.

He does not write comfortable books but there is within him, a greatness that marks him out. He has the nervy insight of Joyce Carol Oates or Margaret Atwood and he harkens to the spare unstinting chilly beauty of Cormac McCarthy. It’s fascinating to read later books by an author and then see the first book where the author is developing their style and craft. Vann is great, and everything I have read points to a writer who is continuing to come up with startling and powerful literature.  Legend Of A Suicide speaks to the wound that the missing or departed father leaves in a child, the unanswered questions, the unfulfilled destinies, the hopes and the unspoken dreams.

Books like these aren’t comfortable, but they matter. Life is ugly, cruel and lacks logic or justice, but against that are moments or periods of joy and wonder that make the whole ride worth it. Literature is a way to make sense of it all, a limited perspective using a method that seems almost antiquated but continues to thrive and develop. More people are reading than ever, even if the last publishing bump was adult colouring books and celebrity biographies, then at least there is space for the likes of Vann, not only to publish but also to continue to publish. Give him some consideration, he’s doing spectacular work. I’m close to finishing Goat Mountain and it’s stunning, entirely worthy work and a continued evolution of his craft and focus.


book reviews, books, craft, fiction, Uncategorized, writing

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler



Rosemary’s young, just at college, and she’s decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we’re not going to tell you too much either: you’ll have to find out for yourselves, round about page 77, what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other.
Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone – vanished from her life. There’s something unique about Rosemary’s sister, Fern. And it was this decision, made by her parents, to give Rosemary a sister like no other, that began all of Rosemary’s trouble. So now she’s telling her story: full of hilarious asides and brilliantly spiky lines, it’s a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice.

This is a delightful book. It is rich with warm, insightful storytelling and Fowler allows Rosemary to speak poignant truths about families. Rosemary’s voice comes through with a strength of character and energy that makes this book move with vibrancy and yet does not miss out on the opportunities to explore the delicate web of relationships and emotional wounds that families inflict upon one another.  Fowler’s confident grasp of structure gives the book  a sweep of history, and as the book reveals deep truths about the nature of Rosemary’s childhood, I was taken in by how incredibly well realised the book was.

This book quietly broke my heart in all the right places. Families are the first to teach us about how we hurt one another, and here in the strange yet utterly relatable family that Fowler has created, shown to us in small pieces like a puzzle composed of unreliable recollections and unresolved sadnesses, we can all find pieces of ourselves contained within it.

No, I won’t spoil it for you. This is a book, that much like revenge, is best served cold and when you reach that point, I will envy you the thrill of surprise and insight that could have been clumsy and alienating in the hands of a writer with lesser craft but here, Fowler shows us that even the most surreal circumstances of fiction do not compare to the surreal beauty of modern life.

It is a gorgeous, spiky book that talks about families as they are, as we would wish them to be, and all the regrets and joys of them. You’ll be pressed to find a book that capers and cajoles with as much skill and pleasure as this one does.

beauty, fiction, flash fiction, hunger, love, men, passion, short fiction, short stories, women, writing

nothing hurts like love

She came home in the fall. Stood there, shivering and pale as I stood in the doorway.  Long sleeves and wide eyes but she smiled like she had forgotten the trick of it.
‘So, do I have to invite you in?’

She began to sob as she collapsed into my arms.

Still warm.

Still breathing.
Telling me she was sorry.
She slept for three days. I’d say like the dead but it would be too much like tempting fate. She slept deeply enough for me to check her arms and neck.  The gelid scars where she had been bitten.  The sight of them fed one emotion in particular.
She couldn’t keep anything solid down.  Between spoonfuls of tepid broth,  she fed me information.
I hadn’t hated him at first.

Figured that it was the guerilla war of adolescent desire with me as the occupying force. I wanted my Sophie to have healthy relationships with boys or girls or whoever but there was something about this one that made me uneasy.
The smell was the first.  The lack of one. I knew the stink of teenage boys, having been one.  Apparently she met him at school but his hair cut looked like what I wore as a high school student and when he spoke, it sounded forced to my ears. Not the arrogance of adolescents but the calcified disdain of someone far elder. A creaking door.
He wasn’t on social media but she said that he was shy like that.

She would be out with him all hours and when I tried to ground her, she would be huddled over the phone, face wet with tears and perspiration. She said things to me that made me sick to hear them coming from her. I’d buried her mother and had promised to raise our baby as well as I could. Neither of us had counted on the cancer.
She loved him though. Her first boyfriend. He wouldn’t touch her, and even that was thrown into my face as though I gave a shit about her virginity. It was her heart and mind I was trying to protect. She chose him when I leveled a shotgun at his chest.
When I fired.
When he got up. Red flesh turning pink then white. The gleam of incisors and the expression that I knew was his real face.
Six months gone.
Insomniac in a house silent of breath. Runaways and strangers who stayed for a night then went away. They left stuff. Clothes. Bags. Wallets. He fed off her, whispered about the life they’d have. An eternity of nights. Fuelled by blood.
When she finished. She reached for my hand. Told me that he’d laughed about the shotgun. Then she told me about what he didn’t laugh at.
He believed in first love. Had known a lifetime of it.
We maybe had days.
It turned out to be hours.
In Fallujah we’d minutes.
One of them took a burst of flame to the face and fell away screaming. The house that I had built for them had soon been stained and scarred with their blood. Centuries old and seldom anything learned, they’d survived on the weak and the vulnerable. A prepared and determined opponent was above their pay grade.
Him, I saved for last.
For her. Took him through the spine with a hollow point and clamped him to the tree that her tree house had sat in, cradled in its gnarled, brown fingers. She watched him burn and wept as he died screaming.
When she left again, this time for college, she had laughed when one of the girls had begun to fret about amorous frat boys and their wandering, clumsy hands. A harsh bark that didn’t reach her eyes.
First loves can be like that.