Monday, 24 November 2008


Birth is painful.
Gut wrenching.
Heart aching.
Head fucking.

All the more painful
When you thought you were barren
When you thought
That last time
Was the one time
The only time
The true time.

Just the name.
Conjures all the sweetness.
The bitterness.
The pain.
Of birth.
And loss.
The whole gentle, uncertain dance.
Before it really started.

You are still there.
I can close my eyes
And see you as we whirl beneath the tree.
Lifetimes ago.
And gone.

You live within me.

And now.
How can I love another?

Birth is painful.
Gut wrenching.
Heart aching.
Head fucking.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Fragment 4

I was only a teenager, but always made to feel welcome. It was a bit of a thrill, really. All sorts of people used to be in and out of the place. Writers. Artists. Poets. Some local. Some, sort of, well, international if you like. Martin Henty, who owned the shop and the press, he seemed to know everyone who was worth knowing.

Everyone used to go on about London and all that, but it wasn’t the only place where things were happening. In fact, Martin used to say it was easier to get things done in Brighton as there weren’t all the wasters and hangers on. People who wanted to be part of the scene but had nothing to contribute. Some he didn’t mind, but there were always those who were on the make, sponging off people. That’s what was good about Octopus, cos Martin always got rid of those types.

One of the real reasons I kept going back was cos I fell in love. [laughs]. It was a real teenage crush. Daft really. She was, well, I don’t know, thinking about it, she must have been close on forty. But she was beautiful. Elegant. Had this amazing hair. A pale, rosy gold colour. Cut really short. And a face that… er… well, it’s like she’d seen so much, good and bad, yet found some sort of peace. Nearly. There was always something. [laughs] Woman of mystery.

I really did just hang around the place in the hope of seeing her, doing odd jobs for her. She ran one of the magazines that Octopus published. I’ve still got all my copies. I’d help with anything really. Learned a lot. Course, it’s all done by computer now. Shame really, cos it might make life easier but the finished product is always a bit too perfect. I like those old magazines and papers cos they had a raw edge to them. Not just the content, but the look of them as well.

Everything she did was done properly. Do you know what I mean? She took great care with it all. I used to watch her work. Sounds a bit creepy now, I suppose, but I really was… I even bunked off school sometimes.

Nobody knew much about her. You’d hear stories. There was one about her being a motorcycle rider of some sort. Never understood that. Some daft pillock said she was a thief. I got into real trouble over that. My one and only fight. Went a bit mad. [laughs] A bit mixed up. It took a few years to sort my head out. Didn’t help when she just vanished.

Sorry? Her name? Oh. Er. Charlie. Charlie Cornelius.

She’d be about seventy now. I often wonder what happened to her. Nobody knew where she’d gone. It’s funny. I was walking through that part of town just a few days ago, looking at the places, all changed now. And you know, I’ll swear I saw her. Couldn’t have been her, of course. Didn’t look any older. [laughs] I actually ran after this woman. Lost her in the crowds along Kensington Gardens. Just as well I suppose. What would I have said? Sorry. Thought you were someone I’m, er, was in love with. Thirty years ago.

Local Oral History Project
John Charles Woodman
Extract from transcript of session 47 (22 May 2000)

Monday, 14 April 2008


listen until the machine runs down
you will have to listen long into the night
and where the earth is most blighted
you will have to listen with other ears
only listen

it will take practice
many days or many years
it will take patience and understanding
above all understanding
a supreme effort to come to see the machine
to come to know its ways
to learn to hear its grinding scream
to learn to hear it
one night
as it runs down

and in the special places
where its grip is still loose
in the special places you may have to create
in your head
you will hear

you will hear
a fragment of silence

first it will be a silence
that is an absence of noise
an absence of the grinding
an absence of the scream

it will become a silence
that is a repose
a freedom

and then
if you are not seduced to sleep
you will hear

you will hear
the song of the earth

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Funeral prayer

Through fractured wastelands of a future within living memory; through crystalline deserts where the flowers once sang; through all the empty days where echoes spin; I walked alone.

Some wayward path brought me here to where they finally let you rest. There’s a beautiful old tree. An oak. Remember the one we climbed in the back garden? Like that. And rich grass, rabbit cropped. I can smell honeysuckle.

I was not here then to say words; but I wrote them all the same. And there is no one here now to hear them. Just me and, who knows, maybe you.

fierce as the evening star
she lit my skies
but evening as ever
becomes the night
and she has set
gone into the west
and is lost to me
but now in the Otherworld
they rejoice
for a new morning star
has risen
a new star awakens

ii (adapted from ‘sian bhuadha’, a gaelic prayer for the release of the soul)
you go home this day
to your home of winter
to your home of autumn
of spring and of summer
you go home this day to your lasting home
to your rest of great deserving
to your sound sleeping

sleep now and so fade sorrow
sleep, my wonder, in the heart of truth

the sleep of seven lights upon you
the sleep of seven joys upon you
the sleep of seven slumbers upon you
my wonder

sleep in the quiet of quietness
sleep in the way of guidance
sleep in the heart of love
sleep, my wonder, everlasting in our hearts

with thanks for her presence and the joy it brought
with love for her friendship and the strength it gave
with tears for the loss of her – a light has gone from my world

Saturday, 16 February 2008


Restless, I went walking again, northward along the beach. The village was soon left behind and I had the path to myself. Which is anthropocentric if ever a statement was. Curlew, oyster catchers, lapwing, redshank, terns, and gulls populated the strand and the low sandy fields on the other side of the path. Signs of excavation in the fields were evidence of rabbits and the mounds of moles were outnumbered only by the barbaric display of their wind dried corpses swinging from the barbed wire. I could not help but catch a glimpse of the battlefields of France of Belgium.

The waves were soothing. A gentle swell pushing a short distance up the shingle, creaming around the rocks. Beneath the cliffs they broke now and then, surging up a long shallow slope just below the water line, curling over and streaming fine spray. And further north, the swell swirled round rocks just off the shore where seals lay hauled up, watching me for a moment with lazy eyes before giving themselves back to enjoyment of the rare winter sun.

There is a sense of the primeval here. The rocks are ancient, some of the oldest on the planet. It is no wonder, then, that I washed up here; no wonder that so many paths pass through. One even begins here (although it is best avoided). They are not easy to see. Travellers know where they are. Cannier locals notice the places that fish, birds, and animals avoid. I see them with clarity, the sapphire lattice that shimmers. I pull my coat tighter. It will be a while before I return.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Village by the shore

The beach here is beautiful at this time of year. Once the sun has gone down it is usually deserted and one can stand in the growing dark beneath the bleached blue and wait for the pale stars. The chill air is clean and sharp against the face. A reminder of other times and other places with the only pain an ache in the heart. Em would have loved it here, perhaps found peace and the chance to pick up the threads…

She would have loved the hospitality as well. Somewhere quiet and warm in exchange for tales. No noise, no pressure, a bit of gentle laughter, and so many books. Knowing there is a place like this makes everything else possible. I wish I had known it sooner.

Even though I am tired, I cannot stop. I carry the weariness, the constant ache, the knowledge that there is no home to which I can return. It is not a burden, but sometimes it hurts – deep and sharp. My war wound.

Here I can ease the pain a little and tell my story. Perhaps one helps with the other. But the story does not finish with the books. I know that now. So there may be more. For now we must be content.

This evening was particularly cold. A smoky sunset leaked pale amber across the horizon. Frost was forming on the stones and the grass as I walked back up from the sluggish waves. The houses of the village looked… comfortable. It was a scene to savour. It isn’t always like this. Sometimes there are ruins. Sometimes nothing but an empty beach. Today was a good day. Of sorts.

beautiful enemies/killing machine

snow falls
drifts compounded
pervading loneliness

in this tiny room
with summer gone
the invasion blankets memories
there is no time left for dreamers

bleak winterscapes
then merely time
till the merging
with frozen wastes
where beautiful enemies
command death
where saviours whose faces are lost
in starglow of centuries
laugh in darkness

the scars of dreams
burn cold
savage in loneliness
ice in the heart

dragging their feet
the grey men
fearing only thunder
burning the stars from yesterday

fields gone
beneath this edifice
of benign suffocation

in the darkness
harsh edges fade

silence of night resting machines
that is not silence
echoes of breath in corridors
soft footfall of a
living being
seeking a way out

in the darkness lights spring up
assert the permanence
of this invasion

cold winds
come bitterly
to the door
outside light enough
to stumble through ruins
shelter from embers

the screams
of a faceless laughing echo
whisper skullward
across that silence
words dust dry on lips
grey dreams
uncommon in the sight of gods
in fear