men poetry


I try

To say what hurts

But you tell me

What I meant

And it’s not

What I meant

So we sit

In the dark

And when you find our


You pretend you did what

You could

Because if no one listens

Then we will find solutions

Which are permanent

To temporary problems

Solved if only




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Out With A Bang


It took a lot more planning than Sergei anticipated. He could get large amounts of h, coke, mdma, weed with a phone call but this stuff necessitated a little more care than normal. The girls took less time to arrange, one phone call and a card payment that he was gently assured would be billed discreetly without any potential embarrassment.

He fought back a snort of laughter at that.

It took him the better part of a morning to collect enough to last him. He had paid for three women, the hotel suite and their company for the night. He had chosen from the pictures on their website, knowing that there was always a degree of artifice involved. The digital editing to smooth out stretchmarks, blur over tattoos and remove the marks of time was expected, but for what Sergei was paying, he wanted them to have a tangential resemblance to their photographs.

After all, why not be ushered into paradise by angels, if they were not of the highest quality?

He checked in, and with his reservation confirmed, suddenly experienced an elevation in the treatment that he was afforded. It had been a long time since anyone had called him sir without a sneer being intimated, and it took him a moment to accept it without that longheld tightening in his chest and stomach. He took a long bath, pouring in every lotion, shampoo and conditioner, shaved around his groin with an electric razor, faintly embarrassed and bemused by how the hair had retreated from his head but grew like kudzu everywhere else on his ageing body. Still, washed and trim, he found something left to admire about himself. The tattoos had been symbols of pride, now they marked him as easy prey.

The eight pointed stars on his shoulders. Symbols of his authority.

The cross on his chest.

The dove, with a twig in it’s beak.

All of them done with a primitive version of the shaver he had just trimmed his groin with, melted rubber and his own urine for ink, bearing it all whilst the older men watched with eyes that spoke to endless winters of hardship. Men, who were more like wolves but never needed the permission of the full moon to act according to their natures.

He dressed in his best suit, a Tom Ford in windsor check, tailored to accommodate his spreading midsection and as an affectation, he put a white carnation in the lapel. His fingers shook as he knotted his tie in the mirror. This room represented the last of his ready cash, after the pills, the girl and the hotel but it was worthwhile.

Better than the alternative.

The girls knocked at seven sharp. He had answered the door, already feeling the creeping warmth in his throat and cheeks and the rush of blood to his crotch that took him back to his younger years, when he would have fucked the crack of dawn if it had hair on it.

The sight of the women, sleek and knowing as they entered the room did the rest. He shut the door behind them. Blonde, brunette and redhead, he would have gone for a fourth so that he could watch but his running cash was getting spread out thin as it was.

They sent out for ice three times during the next twelve hours. When the redhead Katerina fell off the bed and began to cry, he gave her a wad of roubles and sent her on her way. She winced as she walked, but gave him a kiss on the forehead and spoke to the other girls in a language he did not understand.

When his bowels started to cramp, he excused himself. He shut the door and hoped that the door disguised the noises that he made, let alone the smell. Too much rich food, he told himself.

When he emerged, they had both gone. He looked around his room, breathed in the perfume of sex and sat on the edge of the bed. His vision began to swim, and a sharp pain shot down his left arm. He had enough time to pull himself so that his shoulders rested against the pillows before another bolt of agony ripped through him again.

He breathed in through his nose. He was sore, exhausted and sweating but he knew one last thing. The men he had betrayed would not get their hands on him.

He had gone out with a bang.

(A writing group exercise. It amused me to write about a death like this, which reminds me of the Frankie Boyle joke – that anyone who says there’s no such thing as a good death has never heard the phrase ‘drug-fuelled sex heart attack. The russian mafia stuff came tangentially and it felt pretty good. Original story is


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On The Bridge.

Benny kept looking at the ground, how small the trees were from up here. The wind was loud, roaring like something angry and feral. He gripped the rail and looked around him. It was quiet here, high and cold and lonely.

He figured that it was better than being found by anyone.

He took a deep breath and climbed over. His nerve failed him and he sat there, shaking with the static tension of holding onto the rail. He heard the car come across the bridge before he looked over his shoulder as it came to a stop. The car door opened and he heard the clap of footsteps.

‘Hey buddy.’

The voice was loud, a hint of Southern sweetness beneath the rough burr of too many cigarettes.

‘Don’t come any closer.’

The man chuckled.

‘Hoss, I was jus’ driving from one place to another, saw you sat there thass all.’

Benny lowered his chin to his chest. His arms hurt from the effort of holding on. Much like his heard had.

‘I won’t be much longer, if you came to watch.’

The man gave a slow whistle and Benny heard the snap of a lighter. The smoke came over to him. Good weed, one of the things that she’d nagged him into stopping. It made him sad all over again.

‘No hoss, I’m juss seein’ a man who could use a friend about now.’

Benny looked over his shoulder. He could not make out the finer details of the man’s face beneath the brim of his hat but he smiled and his teeth were white in the twilight. He exhaled a plume of thick smoke and Benny’s mouth salivated.

‘Want a hit? Helps me think on occasion.’

Benny nodded and the man came over to him. With a trembling hand, Benny took the joint and dragged on it quickly. Beneath the scent of the dope, he thought he caught the scent of wet pennies but the smoke bit deep and it was nice.

The man leaned on the railing and shook his head when Benny passed it back to him. He adjusted the brim of his hat and looked down.

‘Woah, long way down huh?’

Benny’s stomach lurched and he bit back a sob.

‘Sounds like my fucking life right now.’

The man chuckled and gave a solemn nod of agreement.

‘And this is you taking charge of it, hoss. I respect that.’

Benny took a halting drag off the joint. He worried that the dope would make him lose his control, the trembling in his arms and thighs had become almost unbearable. He looked to his right and saw the man appraising him carefully.

‘Hoss, if you’re not doin’ it right now, why not come away for a spell. Ain’t like there’s a queue.’

Benny gave a shaky nod and with the smouldering joint beneath his lips, came back over.

Benny got to his feet and looked at the man. The man came over to him, smiling gently and he opened his arms.

Benny had not been held in a while.  His coat was heavy with the scent of damp metal and ash. Benny put his head on the man’s shoulder and began to weep with relief.

‘Was it a woman, hoss?’

Benny tried to tell him but his anguish and relief robbed him of that.

‘Hey, it’s going to be okay. Y’all need a ride somewhere?’

Benny shook his head. Asked if he could keep the joint and the man clapped him on the back.

‘Thass the spirit. Y’all have a sweet evening, brother. Tomorrow is a new day.’

Benny drove back to the bare apartment. The letter from the pound lay on the table atop the note from Lucy telling him what she had done to generate the letter from the pound.  He slept with his jacket for a pillow on the living room floor and woke up sore but happy.

It was a week later when he was in the coffee shop, trying to eat scrambled eggs without getting any on his tie. A new job and happier on his own than he thought possible.

He saw the photo of the man.

His mugshot smile was fixed in black and white, Benny read about the bodies he’d left behind.  He breathed in, recalling the scent of wet copper and put down the paper. Looking around, he enjoyed a surge of gratitude strong and sweet for everything in his life.


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Until Spring

Paula stared through the window as her dad drove them across the state. He kept up a constant stream of bland jokes and observations, desperate for a smile or even a sigh of exasperation. Nothing. His baby girl was as impassive as a terracotta warrior. The heat hadn’t helped, the final assault of a summer that they’d all been grateful for it’s ending. Some winters are a blessing, if you can see the way ahead.

Tommy’s mother, Paula’s grandmother, Rebecca lived alone in the house built by her husband. She’d been the cheerful dictator of a society disparate enough to be called a family – born, raised, fed and even buried some of them.

This was part of why Tommy had insisted on taking Paula to see her. Gwen was against the idea but Tommy saw how that was the only way she could define herself against the intersection of two long shadows that fell upon her like a bad day. His mother and his first wife, Deidre, rendered forever saintly by a drunk housewife with a Hummer. Cycling to bring soup for an ailing neighbour. Tommy had quietly gone about the matter and even Gwen had backed down when he had told her that it was all he could think of to do.

To save his little girl.

They pulled up outside just before noon. Tommy opened the door for her, swallowed his sadness when she recoiled from his attempt to touch her. Her hair was two broken ravens wings worn like the headdress of the saddest Shaman, but her eyes still held a luminosity and her skin was clear as spring water, white as milk. The sweater hung off her and her fingers curled inside the bell sized sleeves.

‘I’ve made lunch.’

Tommy smiled. Rebecca’s voice was a precise instruction, confident in never needing to be raised above a polite question. She wore her white hair long and she still had that rangy strength to her, corded muscles in her arms in a white man’s shirt rolled to the elbows with black slacks and bare feet.

They walked up, Tommy kissed her dutifully on the left cheek. She smelled of talc and oranges, still. Rebecca did not try to embrace Paula but instead asked her if she’d like to help. Paula shrugged mechanically and Tommy said he’d look at the light in the bathroom, relieved that he had something to do. A way to feel useful to someone.

In the large, well lit kitchen, Paula retreated to the corner like a timid spider, arms crossed over her budding chest.

‘Knife on the side. Slice the tomatoes, would you?’

‘You sure you want me to do that?’

Her voice was thin and dusty with lack of use, but Rebecca smiled.

‘You didn’t throw yourself from the car, did you?’

If anyone had been there to see the small smile that Paula gave, they’d have been aghast, but Rebecca kept rinsing the head of rocket under the faucet.

Paula picked up the knife. A good chefs knife, worn and scarred with use but still true. She balanced the thick, firm beefsteak tomato in her palm and set it on to the chopping board.

Her hands trembled but she cut it into even slices and before she’d finished, Rebecca had passed a cucumber to her.

‘These look weird.’

‘Grew them.’

Paula looked across at her. Rebecca had a warm slightly wearied grin on her face and Paula swallowed before she spoke again.

‘You’re not going to give me a lecture?’

Rebecca shrugged and pointed to the cucumber.

‘Less talking, more chopping.’

Rebecca had her working until she had diced, chopped and sliced a pile of vegetables into a coarse, mountain of foliage in a wooden bowl. Rebecca poured out a glass of something golden and sparkling and passed it to her.

Paula spluttered and looked over her shoulder.

‘I’m not supposed to drink, grandma. ‘

Rebecca waved her off and pressed the glass into Paula’s hand.

‘If you are old enough to decide whether you want to live then you’re old enough to drink with me. Enough.’

Paula looked at the bubbles rising with fascination before she took a sip. Dry and clean with a pungency that made her mouth sting. She relished the play of the bubbles and the liquid on her tongue.

Rebecca leaned over and looked towards the stairs.

‘I took a fuse out. Let’s you and I sit for a spell whilst he figures that out.’

Paula cringed but Rebecca patted her on the shoulder as they walked out.

‘Best thing to give a man is a job to make him feel useful. A full stomach or an orgasm works too, but we’re not that kind of close.’

The garden was a study of production. Flowers were deployed to ward and encourage, herbs for cooking and chipped saucers of dark beer for slugs. Rebecca knelt and rubbed soil between her fingertips.

She looked out at the sky, then up at her granddaughter.

‘I had planned on doing it when I was twelve.’

Paula shivered despite the heat. She didn’t disrespect her by asking and she was too shocked to do more than nod.

‘My mother was a cunt. Awful word and I’d beat your father black and blue if he’d used it, but it fits some people. My father was a ghost that no one had told to move on and die. I had nothing and no one.’

An elder brother who took liberties with her. Nightmare movie of the week stuff. All the worse for the clear recollection of it.

Paula hadn’t been allowed to go see All Time Low at the Civic Centre.

‘What stopped you?’

Rebecca stopped and smiled to herself.

‘I decided to wait for spring. Ed was going into the army and I figured if that stopped, then -‘

Paula was disturbed by the feeling of relief that someone was dead before you had ever met them.

‘Then it was okay?’

Paula had resisted therapy entirely, but here, amongst plants and earth, something unlocked in her chest. The way a cough changes when you start to shift the mucus after a heavy infection.



I watch him
That it is
a cowards way out
And then
in the same breath
Talk about a movie he
Hated so much
He left before


The courage to leave, the courage to stay

I’m familiar
With the central questions
The answers seem plausible
When the alternative appears to be
An acceptance of eternal torment
Everyone’s advice sounds like
A screeching mechanical sound
When you’re the malfunction
It all makes sense
In the moment
An end to the cosy tyranny
The intimate horrors of eyes
That see nothing but edges and stains
When even a kind attempt
Feels like a trigger warning
It takes as much courage to leave as
To stay