Apples

Granny used to warn us
about bitter crab apples

fallen around the tree.
Once I bit into one

a sour acid burst
in my mouth

before I discovered
a horrible worm hole.

The unspeakable disgust
made me retch

and Granny found me
bent-double

throwing my stomach
contents on the ground.

I expected a reprimand
but she stroked my back

muttering comforting words
until I was saved.

Puddles

This muddy puddle
mirrors no light

being glazed by
a film of oil.

I’m stood gazing into it,
watching for

impact tremors
but this isn’t the movies

just a dour December day
at the fag end of the year

when all the staggering miracles
have happened

and the New Year promises
only broken resolutions.

Art

A bright blue beachball
abandoned in the dunes

a rubber flipper cast away
for the surf

to sing over
now the families have gone

the declining sun shall mop up
all of the sweet spilled ice cream

until moonrise
transfigures

this cavernous solitude
with its astonishing silvers

and plangent greys
and soulful pastels.

Hedges

For uncountable days
I have seen the bearded man
who trims his hedgerow
with electric clippers

and never once
have we exchanged words
or spoken of the weather
or the floundering economy

until today, when he breezily
greeted me by my first name
which was beyond surprising.

I think I grunted some alarmed
reply, too shocked to do more
than stammer about a chance

of rain. Tomorrow, if no cold front
blows, I may enquire his name
lean amiably into his box hedge
construct some convivial sentences.

Kooky

When don’t get near me
means embrace me wildly

when pack up your stupid shit
leave now

means stay forever
when my shallow mind

cannot imagine
the heartbreak you feel

means I need divine intuition
to fathom all your fickle moods.

These have been the rollercoaster decades
of our kooky love

which has been surprisingly enduring
elastic, robust, even beautiful.

Dogs

Walking the dog
is a bourgeois pastime
underlining who is master.

But it was not always so.
Ten thousand years ago
the wolves that brayed

after dark could curdle
a chieftain’s courage
the savage down-bite

was something of nightmares.
Gaze into the fawn eyes of your
best friend

maybe he is anticipating
that perfect chance
to regain supremacy.

Christmas

Once the family
was sated on red meat

Father would light up
the fat Cuban cigar

he’d been saving all year
and Mother’d bring out

luxury brazils and walnuts
which she’d smash open loudly

between her favourite nutcrackers.
Spirits would be plentiful

sloe dry gin and soda
old single malt whiskey

for my sister and I
a fascinating insect-green liqueur

that tasted of mouthwash.
The Queen would come on

even Mother would be mellow
flat out, blowing content raspberries.