At last…

It seems that my scrap of wallpaper was in demand after all. Three of my poems were accepted for publication in an American poetry journal called The Stray Branch. I’ll have to wait till next Autumn to see them in print but it was nice to have them accepted. I haven’t submitted much so I’m pleased with this result.



If I haven’t posted work recently, it’s because I’ve been trying to get some poems published and most publishers won’t consider previously published writing. Work posted on personal blogs counts as being published.

It’s been frustrating. You have to wait so long, months sometimes, just to get a ‘not this time, thank you’. Often, you don’t even get that. No matter how carefully you research the market and target certain publications, it’s soul destroying at times. I know I’m not alone in feeling frustrated but honestly, sometimes it feels like I’m sending out a scrap of old wallpaper in the hope that the recipient will have a damp patch on a wall the exact same size and shape of my scrap of wallpaper, in exactly the same pattern.

Maybe I should try the bloody Lottery…


I have never had to write a eulogy before. I am very sad that this one is for my father-in-law, who died last week.

for John Devlin

There was always mischief in your eyes,
a readiness to laugh and joke,
a kind man, though there were no flies
on you, you were a savvy bloke.

No problem ever was too big for you;
you always found a way around it.
When even Google didn’t have a clue,
by the time it loaded, you had found it.

An active man, you walked and cycled everywhere;
you put much younger folks to shame.
You wore the streets in Caldercruix threadbare
and now those streets are still, it’s not the same.

You wore your hair slicked back like Elvis,
whose every song you knew by heart.
And like the King, your humour was rebellious:
everybody knew that wit was your fine art.

If only I could have had more time with you
to set this world of ours to rights;
we shared a love of all that’s good and true;
we would have talked for days; we could have laughed for nights.

In life, you were an inspiration,
the way you faced each day without a care
and so take this, my dedication,
as a promise of remembrance, not a prayer.


I have a PhD in Dying

Aspirin, Valium, Anadin, Omeprazole
Codeine, Brufen, Tramadol, I’ve had them all.
Diazepam, Prozac, trippy amitriptyline,
heads-a-spinning, tills-a-ringing, glorious carbamazepine!
HRT’s a patchy fix as tablets or transdermally;
Doctor Death is happy to prescribe them all quite merrily.
If arthritis gives you gyp, if you’ve had a broken hip,
don’t despair, the doctor’s there, he’ll prescribe a drug to sip.
Knock it back, swallow whole, take the jab (“it’s just a prick”)
Doctor Death will sort you out, she will stop you feeling sick.
Vaccinate, inoculate, protection while it’s not too late.
Constipation consternation, pills to make you defecate.
Are you feeling dizzy, pet? Have you called the doctor yet?
Don’t hold off if you’ve a cough. For ulcers you’ve got Tagamet.
Keep yourself out of the sun; jogging isn’t good for knees
Stop laughing if you don’t want wrinkles, stop your children climbing trees.
Danger lurks on every street and Doctor Death lives well on it
Don’t put your faith in cannabis or mumbo jumbo new age cures,
Reiki, reflexology, holistic healing reassures
but Doctor Death outlives them all, he alone can sign you off:
“She died of cancer, heart disease; he died of rickets, whooping cough.”
Doctor Death can’t give you, though, your longed for happy ever after.
On my stone, the words will read: “Another woman died of laughter.”
When you’ve had enough of grief, of fear and crying, rage and sorrow,
Laughter lands like soothing snow to help you to forget tomorrow.


The bell no longer chimes,
the handle turns easily;
the house knows
I’m coming for the last time.
The hall light has blown again,
the mahogany coat stand,
an ancient butler, dressed in dark
greets me as I pass.
Try as I might, I cannot
sense the living here,
there is no scent to conjure
memories, only dust disturbed.
And then I place my foot
on that one board that creaks,
that always creaked,
betraying midnight sorties
to the kitchen
or my brother’s room
for forbidden card games,
ghost stories made more gruesome
by the need to whisper.
The living room, long dead,
lies open like a book defaced
that only those who know its story
can make any sense of.
There is nothing for me here
now they have gone,
the air I breathe I can no longer share
and talking to the dead
just leaves echoes in the air.



Mrs May’s bangle

If it didn’t make me so angry, the Tory Party Conference would have me peeing myself laughing… I offer this poem as my contribution to open link night at dVerse Poets. Thank you Kim!

Mrs May’s bangle

Don’t bother counting swallows,
I can tell you it’s not summer yet.
Winter after winter follows and
my wager is as safe as wagers get
that speeches will be shallow
at the Tory Party Conference,
where wearing bangled images of Frida Kahlo
does not inspire public confidence.
Maybe counting birds isn’t such a bad suggestion;
but which season follows next, that is the question.

chasing sleep

Frank Hubeny of dVerse Poets has set the challenge this week to write a poem about some aspect of sleep, or sleeplessness. Here we go:

in a bustling playground of boisterous boys
it’s easy to spot the black sheep
the one left out of all the games
always asking
for permission to play
the only time they let him in
is when he’s het
a different kind of loneliness
sets in
they never tire of teasing
squeezing his self respect dry
like a lemon
years later as a father
he watches his own child play
remembers well
those bitter games
for now he is
imaginary sheep
in nights as white
as memory
reaching but
not quite catching
those elusive drops
of sleep

Postcard from Fiesole

Lillian of dVerse Poets has given out the challenge of writing a poem that includes a birthstone in it. Ruby is the birthstone for July, so here is my birthstone poem:


from far away
I see you best
fresh as a blood orange
when I close my eyes
your breath on my neck
warm as chestnuts
in autumn hands
sun trickles through olive trees
as I sit in the shade
and sip the ruby elixir
of you

Smyllum Park

A bit dark, this one. BBC Radio 4 recently broadcast an interview with a former resident (inmate??) of the Lanark orphanage run by a Catholic order. Her story is chilling. This poem is in memory of the victims of Smyllum Park and other places like it.

Smyllum Park

(dedicated to all child victims of abuse)

lap dog
hot dog
caught dog
I am accused
They make me lick my vomit off the floor
I sleep in piss and this
this too
is my fault
I was caught
red handed
a child