How It Was, Then

With men away
at war
the women worked.
The women cooked.
They held up the ceilings.
They chased trams in ill-fitting shoes.
They dreamed of chocolate.
They dreamed in cinema dark.
They smiled frozen in old photos,
in frocks and pencilled calves.
They stank of babies.
You got new uncles.
They got friendly with butchers.
They whispered in kitchens.
They beat the fuck out of carpets.
They let the kids run riot,
form gangs, fight feral foes,
tucked them in come bedtime.
They’d laugh from their bellies.
They’d look fifty when they were thirty.
They were hugs dispensers.
But they kept it all in.

Child’s Play

The beauty of solitary play
and being
my unpressured self.

Of submerging
in the repetitions of ritual.

Arranging toys
and over.

Two armies,
the dissatisfaction
of one side winning.

Divots, half bricks in the backyard-
crumbling war landscapes.

Fights, I knew nothing
and felt everything of.

Breaking News of Dead Fathers

Breaking news of dead fathers

came by overheard gossip
came by telephone
came by quivering-jawed policemen who needed comforted by the bereaved
came by a mothers voice beckoning her child to long-distance grief
came by the news of another dead pop star
came by a quiet word in a dream

came like now finally arriving
came like a shaky fourth leg on an old wooden table
came like an icy wind slicing through a downpour
came like a meaningless sentence
came like a thief with a removal van
came like a plague for a houseguest

came nothing like the imagining
came with its bags packed

it will be here for a while

Just a Blue Dress Dream (part 2)

She stood off to the right in White impersonal gloves

and a dress of blue bri-nylon motherhood.

In my peripheral vision

she flickered and multiplied

a very sixties Queen.

I knew she had been dead

because live folk don’t do that.


There were four of us to start with

In a furnitureless house.

Me and two men. At an open window

A fellow worker I wasn’t keen on ,

The me of the dream and an unknown third guy.

Her, off to the side.


I’d been tapping the fellow worker with a white plastic hook

He got irritated asked me to stop. I said all you had to do was ask.


I pick up this third unknown guy in a fireman’s lift and am carrying him towards a picture of a funeral parlour. As I get closer to it the picture becomes more and more real.


The queen/mother figure is overseeing this seemingly impassively but I feel she approves.




This dream, I had two years ago. I had figured the bit about tapping the irritated worker was about me considering retirement and “all I had to do was ask”, give myself permission to do so.


The unknown faceless character puzzled me, but now, retired and two years on,I have a really strong feeling he is an unknown part of me, perhaps a Shadow being actively taken towards this picture on the wall of a funeral parlour. As I carry him there, the picture turns to a living moving, real three dimensional scene. This feeling I now have is the dream was telling me, but I didn’t see then, you will retire, you will open up aspects of your feminine nature which are many and still unclear, you will bring Unknown parts of you to the surface(the Unknown guy) and as your understanding from reading improves (the painting) that understanding will become real as opposed to just two-dimensional.

It seems and strongly feels like a message of encouragement for inner work.

Time On My Hands

Why do you treat everything as a joke?
-Because everything is.

But it’s not funny.

So what is this need?
-The need to see absurdity at the root of everything?

No, the need to constantly do this. Point it out.
-You know I’ll find a one-liner to fling in here, probably as a punch-line.

Stop it. No, you won’t . What’s wrong with a straight-forward discussion? Talk about things as they are.
-That’s impossible. Conversations are Newtonian, deterministic. Exclusive.

So your attitude is what then? A quantum theory of interaction?
-Well it’s as if I can’t just talk about a thing. I turn it into a meta-thing. I insert myself into the talk. I attach myself, via an attitude, a comment, a joke. I impose a relationship on the conversation. The need is a narcissistic one, to feel I’m THERE, in the discussion, tangentially being acknowledged even at the expense of being an annoyance, a side-show. In fact it’s a pre-understood self-defeating habit which seeks affirmation but simultaneously risks frustration and rejection.

But what if we all did that?
-Well, my point is, we don’t. And I’ve cornered the market just now. Now it’s how I’m seen and how I’m expected to function. Try me out. Throw me a bone of conversation and I’ll chuck in some sarky remark.

My conversation seems to have dried up. It’s pointless talking, if you’re just looking for cues for jokes.
-But I’m not. Not JUST that. I’m looking to re-establish a lost centre for myself. And as we talk just now I realise that all those other real world conversations are largely self-defeating. I may introduce a whole set of dancing jokes, metaphors, absurdist connections around the central maypole of a subject, but if the other half conversing only sees just that and not the inherent seriousness within then I risk being seen as nothing more than a dancing fool.

So what’s at the root of all this?
-A childlike need to please? A lack of courage in voicing unpopular opinions?
I think more than this it is a deep-cored understanding of the absurdity of existence and a love of the human experience.

I notice the more we talk of this the more serious you’re getting about it
-maybe because its hard for mirrors to reflect anything but dark in the dark.

Precision’s Fog


For some,

words, mere paint,
plastic on the tongue,
primarily a disguise.

For others,

sound filler:
a means of transport from now to now.

words are molecules,
crossing the semi-permeable membranes of our souls.
Meaning seeps, and becomes us.

I think of
the first word.

The meaningful sound.

It’s utterance
as a black hole.

The weight of understanding

all we thought we instinctively knew.

As language created a past.

To See Past Skin

To see past skin, 

peel away


root out civilisation

where we think we are




small, devoid of function,


hinted at

possible selves

tail-swallowed, hungry and incomplete,

endless self-examination,


the less than all-seeing-I,

a quantum partial view of a Self

growing as we unearth othernesses within.


Where digging brings peace.

My Family: males, females

Is it coincidence that in a society where ambition, testosterone and logos were the prerequisites for “getting on”, that the men of my family, unschooled and resigned to manual labour, would seek brotherhood in ale-houses and resign familial responsibilities to a series of strong-willed women: women whom the family rotated around, articulate women who clothed, fed, paid the bills, disciplined the children and distinctly knew their roles in the family milieu.

Or were those responsibilities resigned? More accurately perhaps never taken up by the men.
I was aware as a young boy, that these men, my dad, grandad, uncles, were in essence just boys who had grown old. I had no similar feel with respect to the family women. I could see no girlhood there. These were full-grown women who had adapted themselves and found their places in the world of family. Apparently, capable, confident open-hearted women, “the bosses” of their households.

On thinking back, the focus was always the children. The marriages showed no visible signs of affection between partners, although maybe there were tendernesses out of sight of the bairns.
My guess is the women knew to expect little in the way of partnership from their partners and probably judged a successful life as one which reared healthy, happy children.

And it was with that family set up, the men out of sight (at work), or out of minds( at the pub), and the family females as my only role models. From what I knew of my wee pals families, their set-ups were much the same. And so rather than being a “chip off the old block” I learned the lessons of how to grow up from women. I was awkward and uncomfortable in the presence of males, and felt an understanding of and by women.

As the decades of the 20th century wore on, by the 70s and 80s some of them managed to break free from their lives and remould themselves, either living independently or finding men who were better adapted at sharing their lives. The males in the family seemed to die alone, either in or out of relationships. They died showing no signs of any ability to reflect, or express themselves psychologically. For many years I felt the inability to relate to the men was probably my fault, my awkwardness putting up the barriers. As a boy I could not see there was something in the collective male psyche of the family which was deeply damaged.

And yet as I say this, I look at two old photographs with me aged 2 and then 6 with my father on holiday. In one I am sitting on his shoulders, and the two of us look so happy together, and in the second I’m on the beach with him holding his hand, staring up, smiling at him and there is a closeness which I have long, long, forgotten.