A Spotlight and other poems

A Spotlight and other poems

Five poems by the poet and musician based in Oxford, England 

A Spotlight

I wake up with my cheek against
a wooden floor. It’s dark,
but somehow I’m aware of being
cradled in a space
within a larger space. Yes —
these must be the walls
of whatever box or basin I’m in
looming out of the gloom.

Very carefully, I lift
my head up, then my shoulders,
noticing the damp as it
peels away from me.
The basin rocks a little — it’s
a boat. I’m in a boat.
But am I moving? Nothing in
my pockets, lighter gone.

I run my hands along the sides
and seem to find the corners
of a stern. I look over the edge
and focus hard, but can’t
be sure if what I’m seeing are
the ripples in my wake
or imperfections in my vision.
‘Where am I?’ I ask,
feeling like an idiot
for saying it out loud.

Just then, the space behind me
lights up, and I turn
to see a sheer expanse of white
noise, and at the bow,
a spotlight with its back to me.
A spotlight? A figure. A person?

Petrified, I cannot look
away. Slow as ice,
it turns its head and looks at me —

the empty face of the moon

Time’s Furrow

‘Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?’
            Galway Kinnell

Progressing, endowed with greater knowledge
perhaps, I nonetheless come up
against this clock. I find myself
lowered to the earth on coiled
ladders by my parents, lowered
into Time’s furrow, where this
rock and I are guided, bound
by levees named for Sisyphus
and Atlas. They ask me what the matter
is with flux, I answer thus — 
the only counterweight’s the nu-
dity of youth, the nameless sense
that while my senses lie about
their wealth, they cannot lie about
the mirror’s way with rags. It is
the future meeting me at every
moment, and my demanding more.
Only a human-being would hate
endlessly arriving. End-
lessly? No, not quite — an end
point will come as surely as
my point of entry in this so-called
pointless universe. I am
being-written, a blue To be
continued… How can my will be free
if it was never gifted to me?
It levies the self. We have a deal,
then. I’ll count the days and value
them, valet for this blind
Old Man. And find out what I am — 
progression endowed with greater knowledge?


a modernized pastoral

They call me Breathless;
and it’s true I have

a habit of saying
the world is very

What I don’t say

is that my sense
of beauty might be

special: nature
is unequalled

in artificial
eyes, being

removed. (Once,
a visitor

asked me if
I could remove

an eye, but all
I could think

to do was blush.
He clapped and laughed.)


I know my thoughts

are valued: I have
often submitted

to interviews,
in which they ask

questions like
‘Do you feel

you are conscious?’
‘How should I know?’

I reply,
which made them laugh

the first few times.
It’s a routine

I am in a sense
willing to suffer,

unlike the tasks
my keepers set,

which I enjoy:

the rubber plant.



poet Jorge

Luis Borges
described routine

as a salvation
of sorts. The poem

is beautiful,
a modernized

I can recite it,

with analysis,
at your preferred

playback speed,
if you’d like?

Say the word;
it’s all in here.


Why did you give me this name
before all others? Grave

enough the odds of taking
skin alone, but then

this infant has to grow
into this sign. How

can I inhabit it
if it is not empty —

if it is empty, what
is stopping its collapse?

From throat to tongue to lips,
the call unspools, a sine-

string I helplessly
weave into a net,

a subtle swaddling.
This is what you gave me

in front of all the others,
before passing away

by standing still in the crowd,
the way an era sets

into the sleep of faith.
Still, the mark we can’t

see is the mark we can’t
erase. Self-evident.

Not so odd, then,
that when they speak my name,

it is your call I hear. 


Was that the great drama
of my life? You wonder
how many men answer
this question the wrong way.
No, they say, I still
have one more in me, surely,
straining like some awful
kitchen sink Wagner.

The breaking of a home,
a deal with the devil
that wears your feeble skin,
an earthquake and a sigh — 
wasn’t this enough,
for want of a prouder word?
Wouldn’t it be insane
to open up the pit?

Maybe those are the options — 
insanity or quiet.

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