Wednesday, December 22, 2010

After hours

On the graveyard shift
The shadows are haunted by
The skeleton crew


Monday, November 01, 2010

Self portrait

"I am a camera with its shutter open, quite impassive, recording, not thinking."
Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin

Self timer set:
Snapshots are my journals
Proof of life

I am a viewpoint,
A moving image stream,
A series of tableaux

My memory is full
Battery low
Too dark
Poor image


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Coders never die: they just
Degrade gracefully


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Memento Mori

Dense blackness yields
To a chill grey dawn
Clammy air sticks
To my skin

Dread stalks me
Death marks out its targets
Nearing with each step

Soon enough, it will strike
To my very heart.
Much better to face
The threat myself
Than watch helpless
As it takes those I love

The terrible calculus
Of such balancing
Sours the soul
But denial is vain evasion

The memory of yesterday's
Crisp sunshine seems
An age away
A paradise
Before the Fall


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Midnight poetry symposium

Poets will go on and on
They have the stamina to fight
After all the rest have gone

Some praise Chaucer, some praise Donne
Living rivals are heaped with spite
Poets will go on and on

Being brief is seldom done
They drone their woes into the night
After all the rest have gone

"Publishing is one big con
The money making grip's too tight"
Poets will go on and on

Booker, Costa, Orange won,
For novelists the future's bright
After all the rest have gone

They argue over who should write
They have the stamina to fight
Poets will go on and on
After all the rest have gone


Friday, September 17, 2010

A poetry manifesto

I was reading some poetry by a respected poet recently and kept feeling 'This is terrible', 'so what?', 'this makes no sense', and 'And?"  I was going to write a scathing review, and then stopped.  I realised that my problem was, well, my problem: I have an implicit view of what poetry should be and what poets should be aiming to achieve, but others may not share that view.  I know they don't: they are happy with cryptic, fragmented, idiosyncratic statements that leave the reader to do the work of filling in the gaps.  They are happy, but I am not.

My manifesto for poetry is that it should:
  1. be expressed in natural language, not using exotic, obscure or archaic language for effect
  2. avoid oblique cultural references which may mean little or nothing to readers
  3. be expressed in conventional word order
  4. give the reader a clue what is happening and why this matters
  5. if rhymed, have true rhymes, and much better not rhymed than badly rhymed
  6. avoid unnecessary adjectives and adverbs
  7. not test the reader's patience
  8. avoid 'poetic' diction
Maybe I could start a movement - Poets against Poetry?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Up North


We reach the cottage
Unpacking is delayed by
Squabbling over rooms

Liquid refreshment

The local water
Carries the faint tang of  salt
It sticks to the teeth


Within half an hour
The neat empty kitchen is
A familiar mess


With the shower tap settings:
It's Russian roulette

Not found

Drifting like ghosts from
Room to room, mobiles in hand,
We search for signals


I wake up feeling
That there is something missing:
Oh - there is no noise


The kitchen clock ticks
Unnoticed: nobody has
Any meetings planned


The apple tree bends
Under the strain of lifting
The swollen ripe fruit


The night's silence is
Broken by a distant train
Like an owl's sad hoot


Through the open door
The crisp clean air floods in
Sharpening senses


Meeting old friends is
A reminder of time and
Distance we've travelled


The purple heather
Lies like a heavy blanket
On the sleeping hill


Another pub lunch
Sitting outside in the sun:
Wasps are invited


The village shop's closed
So the nearest source of milk
Is five miles away


It's easy to miss
The map's faint contour lines when
Planning a journey

Plan B

Energy exhausted
They wait while I go ahead
To collect the car


The bullock stares back
Chewing lazily on the cud
He's not interested


People crowd the shops
Seeking souvenirs, postcards,
Presents, toys and treats

Street theatre

The entertainer
Does his magic trick: making
The crowd disappear

Private sport

The bus driver aims
For the deep puddles, trying
To drench the pavement

Market forces

Museums charge high
Admission prices, but art
Galleries are free

Horrible history

The Middle Ages
Were a time of great piety,
Disease and squalor


Butterflies flutter
Around the buddleia bush
In morning sunshine

Work ethic

The half-done jigsaw
Exerts its demand: it has
To be completed


By the third day we
Have established a pattern
For the morning tasks


The barometer's
Needle edges up, bringing
Hope of changed weather


Talk of future plans
Bubbles into argument
Then understanding


An upturned beetle
On the bathroom floor vainly
Tries to right himself


The photograph showing
A Nazi rally displays
A common purpose


Many hands are found
To help with the last stages
Of the big jigsaw


Smooth, my close-shaved chin's a sign
Of time on my hands


The Age of Steam was
Before our time, but the trains
Were simply better


A dad tells his child
To put his head out of the
Moving train's window


Puffing and panting
We inch up the long incline
Like the trains used to


The ticket machine
Prefers a smart card but it
Will settle for cash

Late August

Each chill morning hints
At a change of season soon:
Summer is ending


After relaxing,
From two days before we leave
Thoughts turn towards home


We subtract our things
Room by room, removing all
Trace of residence

The map fallacy

Moving south always
Feels quicker because we go
Down the atlas page


The car is quiet
Children sleeping or staring
At the passing views


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dinner date

Talk between forkfuls
Runs on while the waiter waits
To clear away plates


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Little England beyond Wales (Pembrokeshire)

Little England

Neither visitors
Nor local inhabitants
Have strong Welsh accents


The boatsman curses
And pulls at the mooring rope:
Tourists think it quaint


Local produce makes
Local food for non-local
Consumers with cash

Porthgain sunset

Oystercatchers strut
The harbour mud, the works now
Idle and silent


The collie listens
For ancient commands: "Away"
"Come by" and "Lie down"


The Irish ferry
Dips below the horizon
Headed for Rosslare


Breakfast of champions

Cooper's marmalade's
True Oxford - posher, thicker,
And slightly bitter


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A long way from anywhere (July, Nantwich)

Country air

The canal's scent (blocked
Drains) competes with the odour
Of manure-spreading


The road system makes
The most of its meagre traffic
With traffic lights


Bored teenagers sit
On benches, like everywhere,
But they sometimes smile

New horizons

Many have departed
Leaving the old, the young, and
The unambitious

The bells, the bells

Thursday night practice
Peals ring out, a marathon
Of matrimony


A charity shop
Shows misery memoirs as
Its best-selling books


The schools, offices,
Cafes, even the hotels,
Close for the summer

Fine distinctions

They are proud to be
From Cheshire, not Merseyside,
But sound like Scousers

Hard sell

The sign to the town
From the supermarket pleads
For more visitors


Tuesday, July 20, 2010


1. Hardware


Stepping off the train
I'm engulfed by smells and noise
And the milling crowds


Cranes arc the skyline
The city is unfinished,
A work in progress


Cars, planes and machines
Compete for decibel count:
Humanity's unheard


Unseen, the big fans,
Striving to stir the thick air,
Make a constant roar


A quiet garden
Secluded from the traffic:
A lunchtime haven


Free Evening Standards
Stacked outside the tube station:
The sellers have gone


The pavement glowers
Blood-hot air is heavy
With sweat and garlic


Tavistock Square looks
Unscarred, no longer marked out
By unwanted fame


Scaffolding is like
Ivy: you never know when
It's holding walls up

Patch of blue

Sometimes when you round
A corner you can catch a
Glimpse of open sky

Mood swing

The train rises on
Its axles as passengers
Reach destinations

2. Software


Faces, all colours,
Bear the same shell-shocked grimace:
Hardened veterans


Short snatches of speech
Extravagantly diverse
Like flipping channels

Flocking together

In pairs and trios
Clusters wearing the same clothes
Knot the broad pavement

Always greener

The dozing beggar
In the shopfront is envied
By passing workers


Hanging round like kids
In doorways: smokers and those
On their mobile phones


It's not that people
Can't talk or smile, just that they
Meet many strangers

No country for old men

Every waitress,
Cook, bus driver, policeman
Is under thirty


The staff bustle and
Seek the indulgence of their
Wealthy old masters


Face wet with tears
She fidgets, sobbing a tale
Of meeting a friend


Office worker sits
Touching up her mascara
Deep underground


It is good to see
So many books in hand - so
Reading is not dead

Rush hour physics

Room for just one more?
Somehow, there will always be
Room for just one more

The male gaze

I openly stare
At a beauty, forgetting
I've no sunglasses


Martin Locock

Thursday, July 08, 2010


For falling in love
She imposes the cruel and
Usual punishment


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Crow in Westminster Abbey: a Ted Hughes memorial

Down the river

On Tower Green,

Sleek ravens strut:

Their wings are clipped.

Crow is free to soar

His space, broad and high.

Through plumes of incense,

Sooty candle smoke.

Far below, tourists

Trample Chaucer's grave.

Crow feels the loss:

The north wind's absence

The missing green-brown

Palette of the moors,

But takes heart that

Something survives.

Friday, May 07, 2010


Gardening (detail)  Martin Locock acrylic on board C 2010

She stoops to place fresh
Flowers on the gravel square
And removes browned blooms

Her work done, she stands
Her eyes cloud as she reads the
Simple inscription

Soon she'll rejoin him
She weaves away through thickets
Of marble headstones


The Skeleton Coast

Skeleton Coast by Martin Locock acrylic on board (C) 2010

Breakers pound the beach
Editing the sea's graffiti
Rewriting lines in the sand

Bald dunes, too arid to retain
A hairline of grass
Inch towards  the interior

The wind howls around
Bleached whale bones

I review my options
East and west - impassable
North and south -prospects unpromising
Offering no hint of change

Yet staying would be worse -
I'd face the same choice tomorrow
But would be tireder, weaker

I stand up, start to to walk,
My hollow footprints smoothed
By the shore's impatient hand



Long years at this bench
Have I worked, under
The quick and critical eye
Of my master

Saint's days brought
No rest to me
While other 'prentice-lads
Whooped and frolicked
In the streets
I kept to my task

Each new skill was practised,
Honed, on off-cuts, waste,
Until I was deemed worthy
Of the prime material

My back is bent,
Shoulders drooped, eyes sore
From so much hunched labour

The grizzled master grows old;
His guild and trade will soon be mine;
I will be master in his place.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Mind, Body, Spirit section

From brain chemistry
On through fitness and fatness
All the way to God


Punk proverb

John Cooper Clarke said
That a friend in need
Was a friend in debt

30 March 2010

Monday, February 08, 2010

The loner

He'd rather drink than
Talk so spends his nights at the
Anti-social club

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Spilt milk

We are where we are:
However we arrived here,
We are where we are

Monday, February 01, 2010

Landscape and language in the Arctic

They say Eskimos
Have two hundred words for snow*
And one word for love

Imagine a world
With one word for snow and two
Hundred words for love

*It isn't true that they have 200 words for snow.

Friday, January 29, 2010


The old chef says that
It is the stalest bread that
Makes the best breadcrumbs

Marathon men

The slap of trainers on tarmac
Echoes down the still-dark street

Youths are happily a-bed,
Snugly dreaming - it's the
Middle-aged who feel the need
To run, their faces red,
Mouth open, gasping, as they try
To beat their personal best,
To improve, transcend

They never can outpace
The thing from which they run:
It's perched on their shoulder
A shade, whispering doom.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Birthday poem (for Gwenllian)

In the blank darkness
Of the icy winter world
Gleams a new pale bud


Welcome to Heathrow
The world's biggest bus station
Queue here for tickets

Arrivals emerge
Tired, battered, blinking: they can't
Match their meeters' joy

Knots of travellers
Confer about the delays,
faces lined in doubt

One by one the planes
Drop down from the holding loop
Buzzing the M4

The remote chance of
Terrible violence seems to
Worry people more

Than the certainty
Of boredom, chaos, expense:
The glamour of flight