I love the flicker of flame,
the yellow light dancing
shadows on face and plate.
Let’s clear away the dishes
and bring the table back
to its pristine state: grained
wood. Now let’s talk of old
times back home when coal
fires roared and drafts ran
from dark corners, raising
hair on necks and sending
shivers down spines. It’s so
easy to believe in ghosts
when night winds howl
through windows, dogs bark
at nothing, houses are older
than families, and the land
snuggles down to sleep
in its winter blankets.
Beware of the sudden draft
on the oil lamp’s frail chimney:
cold will crack the glass, sending
us to bed by candlelight while high
on corridor walls old folk come
alive and frown down from
their sepia photographs. Cold
and frightened by their restless
afterlives, we shiver in the grave
cloths of our damp beds.

In Vino Veritas


In Vino Veritas

Last year, on the road to Pwll Ddu,
I turned the steering wheel too fast
and almost rolled the car I rented.
My mother’s ashes were in the back.

I was driving my father to the Gower
so he could scatter them on the sea,
as she had requested. “Watch what
you’re doing,” my father cried.
“You’ve knocked your mother down.”

Now, as I drink to forget her ashes
tumbling around in their plastic urn,
I call you names. Crude graffiti clings
to the wall I have built between us.

Can you forgive me? In vino veritas,
said the ancient Romans, but truth from
a bottle is a double-edged sword cutting
both striker and person struck. My love,
I sense stark darkness within you. I see
black stars exploding to flood blue skies
with their inevitable ink. Can you feel
the instant hurt behind my eyes, like I
sense yours? Here, in one of our secret
gardens, give me the pardon I never gave
my parents. Heal the harm I’ve done.
Forgive me. Break the cycle. Set us all free.

Love the Sorcerer


Love the Sorcerer

“What sorcery love must be
to make such fools of men.”

There’s more to love than the magic
conjured from chemistry as eye
meets eye or flesh makes secret
contracts, body to body, in free
trade agreements that are remade,
over the dinner table, day after day.

Hands that plug in the kettle,
pour boiling water on the tea,
poach or fry the breakfast eggs,
brown the early-morning toast,
write out the weekly shopping list,
flick the switch on washer and dryer,
peg wet laundry to the outdoor line,
pack the children’s lunch boxes
and get them ready for school
day after day:
such love is truly a magician.

My cartoon speaks
not three words
but a thousand.

Ties that bind:
what more can I say?

What if …?


What if … ?
Secret Garden 5

Here, between the hedges,
snakes the maze.
We can see the entrance.
We know where the exit lies.
We can even see each other
on our separate paths,
but we can’t come close
unless we break the rules.

Faced by constantly forking paths
we play the “What if … ?” game.
There are no answers,
just a series of trials and errors
where right and wrong
are paths we may, one day,
be forced to choose.

for we cannot stand here
Sun travels sky,
casts shadows long over
labyrinth and lawn.
Fish rise to flies on the lily
pond and life slips slowly by
as we ponder each decision,
over and over.

Time’s up.
The uniformed keeper
moves toward us.
Jumping low hedges,
we meet, hold hands,
and hurry to the exit.
Behind us,
the keeper smiles.
He rakes our foot
prints from the path.
The gates click closed.


Fifty years ago today, Clare arrived in Canada. A friend drove me to Malton Airport, as it was then, and we waited for her to clear Customs and Immigration. While waiting, I played the “What if …?” game. “What if she’s not on the plane? What if she doesn’t like the apartment I’ve rented? What if she no longer likes me? What if she hates it here? What if she wants to go home?” So many questions stormed through my head. There were no answers, just a series of trials and errors where right and wrong were paths we chose; and we chose to get married, to stay, and to make Canada our home. Fifty years later, to the day, the “What if … ?” game goes on. The playing field has changed, the game rules are different, it’s a whole new ball game … yet we still ponder each decision, over and over. We have changed, both of us, over the last fifty years together. Changed, yes, but deep down we are still the same, for some things never change. And we are happy to keep it that way. Oh yes: and we still hold hands.



Secret Garden #6

Once upon a time,
an inmate at Cefn Coed,
the Swansea lunatic asylum,
walked around the garden
with his wheelbarrow
upside down so nobody
could put anything in it.
Not so crazy, eh?

That’s what you and I are
without each other:
upside down wheelbarrows,
or wheelbarrows
with the one wheel missing,
or wheelbarrows
with the bottom boards gone
and everything falling out.

So here’s my card for you
on Valentine’s Day:
I’ve painted an upside-down
wheelbarrow missing a wheel.

There’s not a flower
or a heart in sight.
Anyone can give hearts
and flowers.
Only someone really special
merits a wheelbarrow,
upside down,
with the missing wheel
long gone.




Love, what little boys
dwell in grown men’s hearts,
struggling to break free.

I want to spend the day in bed,
buried beneath the blankets.
I want to call out for attention.

Will you boil me an egg?
Bring sweet, sugared tea?
Cut my toast into tiny soldiers
so I can march them through
the boiled egg’s yolk?

Upstairs, downstairs, I want
to keep you running all morning.
Will you straighten my blankets?
Will you tuck me in so only
my eyes and nose are showing?
Bring me my dog: let her lie
beside me, warmth and comfort
in her wet tongue washing me.

Suddenly, my world’s caved in
and there’s so much missing.
Lover: be a mother to me.

Secret Garden 4


Secret Garden 4
Pause for Thought

My love, are you my muse?
Or do I write to amuse myself?
I don’t know any more.

I only know for sure
that every second is precious
here in our secret garden
where we cultivate these creative
moments when the world stands
still and our breathing makes
light of the void within us.

Right side, left side: who cares
what’s dominant when our bodies
are tuned like strings on a lute
and you blend with that blood-
red body space beneath my ribs
until my heart beats to your rhythms,
Princess of Paradise, fair of face.

We must never permit these memories
to fade. All too soon chaos will serve us
its tainted apple, tunneled by surging
worms, dark-serpent heralds fore-
telling death’s angel, the night to come,
and the cold of our ultimate separation.



Ice Pack


Ice Pack

Downstairs at 3 AM with frozen French Fries
stuffed down the back of my jammies and
tightly pressed between chair back and spine.

Yesterday, when the pains in my lower back
ran rampant and I was too stiff to bend,
I lay on my back in bed, begging you for help.

Seventy-two hours flat on my back with my feet
on a chair did nothing to improve my temper.
I thought of my mother lying hopeless,

of my father being dressed, washed, shaved,
cared for as if his return to a second child-
hood was accompanied by a necessary

humiliation, a lowering of every inhibition
that gives a man his manhood and allows him
a minimum of dignity. Lying there, helpless,

my feet stretched out before me, I saw my
future as if it were an endless pack of ice
barring the horizon, groaning when I moved.

I must learn to lean on the closest shoulder.
This is really love, my love, your gentle hands
pulling sock over foot and ankle, lacing my shoes,
standing by my side, letting me lean on your arm,
refusing to discard me in my time of trouble.

Overnight Rain



Overnight Rain

Do you remember sharing the single
bed in my room in Bristol? It was
not so much the sound of raindrops
falling, but rather that of water gurgling
through gutter and pipe that kept
us awake, turning to each other, rest-
lessly for comfort and dreams.

Downstairs, in our little yellow
house, the dogs are quiet. Upstairs,
rain drums its rhythms on our thin
tin roof and I cannot go to sleep.
The grass will be much too wet
to tackle and scrum: tomorrow I’ll
call around and cancel practice.

Funny how this season winds down
to its end. Tomorrow, no practice.
Then two more games, three maybe,
and a portion of my life will fade
into history. How many forty minute
periods can the human mind retain,
with wins and losses all crammed in?

A strange thing, memory. Even now
I can sing the tunes from the kiddy
shows I watched so many years ago:
Bill and Ben, The Woodentops, Andy
Pandy, Muffin, The Magic Roundabout.
Some nights, in my wildest dreams,
Mr. Plod, the Policeman, still comes

into the tv room with shiny handcuffs.
He leads me to my childhood cell,
high beneath the eaves, and I am
condemned to bed with nesting birds
rustling beneath the roof, rats and mice
scratching, half-heard waters whispering
off-beat lullabies: all oddly disturbing.


This is one of my favorite poems from the sequence of love poems I wrote for Clare back in the nineties. It recalls the persistence of memory: how all things are linked throughout our lives and how one thought triggers another. The phenomenon of rain is the starting point for a journey back to a time or times that still remain firmly embedded in the writer’s mind. Memory is indeed a strange thing. I am certain that no two people recall the same incident in exactly the same way. How could they when viewpoint and memory create such wonderful and different links?

One thing I will never forget: the rats and mice in the rafters of our bungalow in Gower. My father and grand-father built it in 1928 and my uncle was the caretaker who took loving care of it throughout his life. They did their best to keep the bungalow vermin free. But we closed it down in September and over the winter all manner of things found their way in. Those first spring nights, until the rafters were cleared again, were full of the sounds of nature’s revolution against humankind.

The other thing I remember very vividly was the lack of running water and electricity. Wood stoves, a fireplace in the dining room, an enormous cast-iron kitchen range, wood and coal burning, on which my grandmother cooked and did the baking. Then there were the cows that wandered through the bungalow field. They would be there, all night, nurtured by the bungalow’s warmth. Many’s the night I wandered out to the outdoors bathroom, the out-house, in fear of a meeting a nocturnal cow. One of my worst memories: walking barefoot through a cow-pat, warm and wet, and the moisture rising up soft and squishy between my toes. Those were the days … the stuff of which memories are made …