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My Father's Hands

My father's hands, persistent and precise,
made engine parts for nuclear submarines;
micrometered my hair.
                                  Quoting the size
in metric and imperial, machine
he was; a Garw wizard born from rock.

Did magic with times tables. Worked out pi
from first principles. Spent his weekends stuck
under old cars.
                        The genius loci
of Cotteridge. Like he'd been welded here.
Until some swarf got in between the cogs
and wrenched his bevelled brain right out of gear.

He was my Dad, whose awful Latin tags
diamond etched my mind 'nil carborundum'
of whom, 'sic transit gloria mundi'. -

First published in

NPS Sixty: Nottingham Poetry Society Celebrate 60 Years of Poetry (2001) Selected by Amanda Dalton

See more at All Poetry



Apple Kennings   
Sweet baking                                                 

Under crumble

Chain eating

Sunset flavour

Munchy crunchy

Juice diffuser

Mouth waker

Doctor's one


Heart fruit

Lip smacker




Rosy red

Name revealer

Witch's wine


Lunch crunch

Rosy red

Juice dripping

Teacher charmer


 Gravity grabber

Newton's solution

Sun storer

Hidden star

Doctor deterrent                            

Crumble crisp



Big small

Sickly sweat

Round tasty

Tree fodder


Spring king

First temptation


Basket full

Crispy crunchy

Wasp's nest

Poisonous produce


Sweet sour

Cider provider

Smile raiser

Spirit reviver 

A 'found poem' created from two-word kennings coaxed out of visitors to the Donington le Heath 'Apple Day' 19th October 2014

Published in Coalville Community  Eye, issue 31 November 2014

Bog-burials unearthed at Watermead

Slip-swallowed ancient kin upon

a journey, womb-wards, to be

grounded, swamp-reed rotted

and reborn

                She slipped you

like an egg in isinglass.


Peat-pickled by the river bed,

some precious child, hag-pocketed,

you slept, my papyraceous twin,

as thousand upon thousand babes

were born, gave birth, grew old and died.


Dumb-sightless seer, I kneel

to seek your gaze. The thin boned well

is pit-preserved by smoke and stone;

the remnants that we piece and part

uncertain of their provenance.                       

This poem formed part of a ritual at Charnwood Museum Leicestershire to respect the finding of two ancient skulls, one Neolithic and one Bronze Age in Watermead Country Park, Leicestershire.

The lake in which the skulls were found is known as King Lear's lake and may have been sacred to the Celtic god Llyr. For more details see

Rachel, my stepdaughter, challenged me to put all the words  listed in the magazine New Scientist's Feedback column as Psion's alternatives to a 'full stop' into a poem which explained the link between them.

This I attempted to do, in exactly 100 words!

The linking words are nearly all derived from Roget's thesaurus' suggestions for 'full stop', 'period' and 'punctuation'.

Full Stop

Elizabeth, the harpy, Hades V.I.P

Jabs a Xerox copy of some spotty Yellow Pages,

Greets a Marxist crook, remarks

'Well Save Our Souls! It's hot as tar!

And still no W.C.'


He, with dashed ellipsis adds

'T.V's a Dutch oven. Nothing on.

Romeo M.P.'s in Lilliputian rows.

A Yank…'


'A "Yankee", don't you mean? queries the Queen.

'That's not my period.'


Satan, joining, adds in Machiavellian accents grave

'Mine's Homo Sapiens, whose hopes derive

from (Eden-Zion).

I hyphen  commonality.

I am the word finder; extremes

Relate with logicality.


'All words are at a meeting point,

At Einstein's singularity.'   

Published New Scientist  August 7, 1999 no 2198 letters (website)

Visiting my Father


Does he believe I came? He used to smile,

quick, like a lighthouse, waving boats away


Stranded now on rubber rippled shore,

hallucinating faces on the wall,


Who is it comes? The nurse with diamorph,

dispensing dreams.  I saw his mother once


transparently tubercular. This place

must ache with ghosts. I thought he heard her laugh


and smiled. A newborn baby's gappy smile

unfolding in a mother's eye. Who knows?


Soothing his yellow cot, the sunlight flows

between a certain window and the wall.


Nurse, do not let the light fall on his face.

Skin so thin could tear beneath its weight. 

Winner Nottingham Poetry Society Winter Competition



Were you the first? you ask.

What fiction would you like?


Would you have liked to find a little girl?

Artless, unadulterated, charming,

Fresh of face, untutored,

Gracilis rejecting all advances?


Or would you like a slut who worked her patch?

Rhythms pumping. Practised. In the club.

Council housed and government supported,

Volumes cluttering up the institutions?


What did I want from you? A bit of space?

An easy lay in clean white sheets,

With no commitment or remarks,

Maintaining an infertile intercourse?


Or could I win myself a sugar daddy?

Editing my story to appease,

Dare I now submit I was a virgin?

Who publishes a spinster's menopause?

Published in 'Obsessed with Pipework'
volume 6 New Year 1999

Owen Street, Coalville

This is his allotment;

wheezing on his hoe,

he leans, inspects the seams

of leeks, potatoes, broccoli,

the veins of beans whose poles

support the sky.


Tattooed on the hillside,

sloping from the slagheaps

to the town, he's digging down

in ordered rows. He grades and hoes

and scratches in the earth's dark skin

black seeds.


He oversees the streets,

roofs grey, dust thick. He gets his pick;

black berries, feral apples for the wife.

The price he pays for freedom;

a life bought with a life,

this is his allotment.

Specially Commended and published by the
Middlesex Full Circle Arts Project 1999 poetry competition
Being a man

must be like spending your whole life in Norfolk,

with an obedient sun

popping up over the horizon,

tidy as clockwork,

predictably ratcheting itself north

then south again,

just once.


I must belong to Wales, where the sun

is quite unruly,

peeping between the hills sometimes

showing her knickers,

billowing into blowsiness for months on end,

then snapping, cold and irritable,

just when you thought you'd sussed her mood.


Being a man,

you could feel at home

with the even stands of East Anglian wheat,

ripening in measured rows,

growth controlled to order,

green when it's sappy, then hard

when you reap what you're owed

and the seed pours out of the combine

into somebody else's oven.


Which wouldn't do

in the wild,

where the cuckoo nests in your hair,

and the beetle's between your bark,

and your roots harbour rabbits,

and everything grows to its own rhythm,

whether you like it or not.


Sometimes I'm round with the docile moon,

who's fornicating with leaping frogs.

Sometimes she swells like a lake in spring,

then bursts like a dam after rain.


Sometimes translucent creatures crawl

deep in her slippery womb,

marking a ripening blind to the sun,

keeping a sanguine season.


You would not like it this way, I think,

and sometimes neither do I.

Sometimes the hills are hard and the rancorous drizzle

a curse.

Those are the days when I think of you,

and your spirit-level sky.

Shortlisted for Blue Nose Poets of the Year 1999/2000