Wednesday, 30 December 2015

All War Poets Now

We are all war poets now.

Screens where the fires are burning
Leak black smoke into rooms,
Curdling like smog around the heart.

A stench of revenge falls
Like ashes from the clouds of it.

Thursday, 24 December 2015


In this dark December
Gloom comes in behind the dusk
Lingers at dawn with the day's rising.
Daylight, such as it is, stays winter-dim
As the sun scoops the horizon.

Snow and the cold that came with it
Fell like whispers from a lost mythology,
Legendary happenings in the wild forest.

Friday, 11 December 2015

This Train

This train…
I’m blowin’ and I'm chuggin’…
Chuggin’ and blowin’ like this train…
It’s the brake block moan I’m singing
The one note, two note tone I’m bringing
This black-heart, black-art bell I’m ringing.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Carbon Footprints

Battalions in the air, on the ground,
On the sea or under it
Set entire nations ablaze
Until they are nations no longer.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Fifteen Years

We’re the last…
Give it another fifteen years…
There’ll be nothing left…

Everything changes
Or nothing.

Day by day
Our cells change,
Our molecules and skin,
While a face in the mirror stares back,
Not completely unknown.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

By Whose Righteousness

An outburst: lightning
And its echoing thunder.

Reaction without restraint;
All the pain of retaliation.

Harrassed, provoked,
Driven into a baited trap.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015


A weal
A red stripe
Like a second mouth

Quiet it said
No more speaking out of turn.
No more.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Blàr na Fala

Disturbed ground
The earth in turmoil
And the blood in it
Season after season
Seeps deeper into darkness.

Out of barren fields
The remains of armies
Rise like ghosts or mist,
A fitting shroud for this 
No man’s land.

…abandoned now…
…men no longer…

Thursday, 29 October 2015


In the dead eye of winter
When you sought a place of vantage,
Shelter and strength you built into stones.
On a fastness of rock
Over marsh and brack you held dominion,
Watched without rest from a nest of slabs,
Let none assail the fortress of your night.

Not There

I had
So little time
To look for missing things,
Small things mislaid, as long-lost
As the faded memories
I have of them.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Not A Day

This is not a day for poets:
Its endless, rythmless hours
Break over us in torrents;
Incoherent and dissonant.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Light and Ash

These are the times
Of the one white light;
These are times
When the source
Is more important
Than brightness,
Where those of us
Caught in the glare
Stand dazed and dazzled,
Casting pitiful shadows.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015


An intake of breath;
A sigh,
The words of which,
Whispering and new
Hang like fog upon the air.

Sound rises
Out of silence;
Sound, shaped by utterance,
Speaks or dumbly rejoins it.

Friday, 2 October 2015


Like love made.
Coagulant bodies slide
Upon the coming dawn.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Swallows Are Gone

The swallows are gone.
Because of their going
Air has changed 
And become empty.

Stillness under the sky
Grows in the evening
Like puzzled silence 
Above the late fields.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Watter Inside

The watter inside
Ilka drap in its wee skin,
A hunner thoosand or mair;
Cells that mak oor bleed
An ivry single bit o’s
Full o watter fae years
Langer deid than maybe;
Jist the mindin we cairry wi us.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Huntin Time

Fan paddock an taid canna loup
For fear o thunnerin clatter
Fan pairtrick and pheasie hae mair t dread
Than August guns and cateran dugs.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Plane of Memory

Behind the door,
In the cupboard where the tools are kept
With the nails and screws,
The secrets of the past remember themselves
In the harsh electric light.

In a distracted moment
Searching for a fixing
Some random string, a brush,
I smelt my father.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Craas an Doos

Licht-steppin, the craas,
Hoik an yark thir noddin heids;
Coorse black birds
Faas dour bead-eent keek
Trauchles the girse for spiles.

Hinner en o the park
A wheen o speugs scatter
For fear o girslt nebs
Scartin their steekit dokes.

The grey doos showd an strut,
Full o themsels, lik preenin sodjers.
As mony colours shine like medals
On thir swaggerin breests,
An still they rise, steerin at the first
Sign o gaitherin storm.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Madrigal (in submission)

This poem inspired by mist over the Cuillins - Madrigal - is currently unavailable.

It's being submitted to an Scottish publisher for a forthcoming collection.

…More news will follow.
Was it a kind of love song
The slight sigh of cloud
Rolling over the Cuillins?
Mist on the corrie
A stone hollow of rainy secrets,
Something like love…

© BH 2015

A word from my word-pile. Madrigal. Just so you know, its a renaissance musical form, a secular partsong, often about love, and a precursor to operatic forms such as the cantata and, later, the aria. Wikipedia's just smashing, isn't it. Scanning down the page, I spotted a reference to Petrarch and the poet, back then, who edited his works on the sounds of words and poetic forms, in particular the madrigal. His name was Pietro Bembo. I wonder if that's the one they named the typeface after... 

Of course it was. Good old Wiki!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Times of War and Scotch

We were always doomed,
Brought down by warfare;
So too by drink
And how the one, by rage,
Is connected to the other.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Story Sequence #3

All stories end in dust.

It’s not the ending that endures
But how beginning shapes it,
How every step we take
Finds tomorrow as it falls.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Me Too

Life’s too short
But you realize it
When most of it’s
Down the drain.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

American Lights

Names on a map,
Hidden dangers,
Imagination conjuring them
Somewhere between
The seas’ scouring
And landfall’s edge.

Pamlico Bay; Cape Hatteras.

American lights
Stand proud and tapered
On brick and stone bases
Flashing warnings
Over beaches, lakeshores, seaways,
Over all the great waters.

Sabine River; Point Bolivar.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Balance Wheel

The mechanism on which
Fortune pivots,
Random invention,
Spills a tide of possibility.


He imagined tunnels
Under street and home
Passageways to heroism
Emerging from secret panels.


Broken by time 
Wilderness and woodland
Stiff trunked trees
Around a place
Of shelter.


Ancestry and its other beginnings
Are as distant as time unmeasured.


Heaven’s belljar curves over.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Hollowed #3

Scars beneath the skin
Don’t show
Scooped out the soul
During sleep.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015


No time to forget
Stone roads, blood-stains and sweat
All the hard efforts of bone
Bringing us to heel.

Sunday, 21 June 2015


…rain fell
drizzle at first
then fine mist
no more than fog
until the wind came
blew water before it
downpour, torrent, deluge
an entire sky flooding…

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Imaginary Themes

Like landscape risen, an upthrust,
A pulse of rain or bleak weather to come
Something audible and deep,
Subharmonic and resonant…

…then the blues
The bending note, flattened fifth,
Or third, augmented, glissando
And counterpoint, thundering bass…

…that sad song of the south,
A love song of unending work,
Melody where the notes
Strung out on the stave’s rack
Cut like points of hurt and pain.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Of Wind or Rain

Invisible hands bring rain
Or, without rain, brush distant grass
In curved strokes upwards
From hollow to hilltop.

In wide green waves,
Darker currents bend the seedheads,
And fade away in the field margins.


No more naming the flood's last scattering
Nor seawood bleached to the bone by weather;
No name for spiralled veins in living wood,
None for cracked ice under new ice forming.

No more words will separate
Bud from flower or the fruit that follows;
None will call up a harvest or name its days;
None will dry a summer after rain in spring.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Missing Words for the World

Words slip away, disused.
In forgotten hollows in the hills,
Names for land or the shapes of land
Discolour and decay.

There is a silence which
Disconnects the tongue and its understanding;
Without knowledge the eyes in turn, fail.
Rain or mist, falls like ignorance.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Aneirin Byron

Bard of Gwarchodwr

Out of town, on the hill above, Aneirin Byron slams the shutters wide. Ty Bach, his tiny cell, his only rest, one room to sleep, one room to live. Another of the name, behind the byre, the strawbox, secret, one to visit. He breathes the morning like the vanishing mist. Inward air rustles papers on his wooden desk.

Here his late-night offerings to his muse, his waxed and waning words, scribble on the page, yet to be ordered, or pass from mumble to meaning, from meaning to wisdom, or rise into beauty, breathtaken beauty, a sigh on the tongue, a song.

Looking down, as Byron must, his keen imagination like angel wings carries him over the town. His mind’s eye traces street, lane and stairway, over roofs of slate and shingle, the baked pantile, the tinshack sheet, sad-wood rafters poking out beyond repair.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Writer's Digest

I am a poet.
Such is my resolution,
My hope,
Or maybe destiny.
I write to pass the word.
I catch the slogans that fall from billboards.
The wine of language is a sour cup
And, when we drink the medium dry,
What speech remains but advertising,
Little breaks in the winds of change,
Testimony to our monumental creed.

If I am a poet,
I am one of many
Wasting words with every uncharted thought.
In my study,
In my throne room,
I strain away, cathartic,
Reading toiletries for inspiration
In the shackles of perforated paper chains
In an autumn of Izal leaves.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Too Many Things Are Done

After all the wisdom of our ages
The same souls rise
From silted dust to smirk,
Arms folded across guns,
Hands blood-red in the light…


…behind masks of piety
…fashion death's-heads…
…clutch half-read holy scripture…

All the sad apostles. the unheard prophets,
Are leaving heaven, ghosts now,
Leaving in their shame.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

By Ice Purified

February, the cauterized month,
Stems the old year’s bleeding.

Drag-marks in the snow:
The wings of birds’ or angels’
Feverish searching…

Beginning is for later;
Time has ended.

For the dead past, to remember it,
Some stain the earth.
Grim epitaphs, flushed and livid,
Too many schemes, too many ploys,
Rub against each other
And the dirty gravel roads
Jostle the skyline.

Saturday, 14 February 2015


I breathe in.

Air, transpires,
From its place in hollows and in rooms,
Fills my emptiness.

It enters me, invisible.

Out, I breathe, part of me,
An exchange as secret
As each breath before it.

It lasts a lifetime,
Repetitious, subliminal breathing,
Capturing the unseen, releasing it
Never knowing if hollow or room
Was its first and only home.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Lain Here for Mercy

Accumulating like memory,
Drifted snow by the hedgebank
A filtering smirr of ice in the air
Whose wide spiral to ground
Makes trackless white
Flat to the woodland edge.

In shelter, under the trees canopy
Snowfall will not enter the dimness;
Silence closes in.
Only a few flakes drop now,
Lazy in the glim light.

Birches’ white stems, stark pillars in the shade,
Hold up the roof of darkness
Over the brown leaves’ carpet, still brown.
Winter flecks lie cold upon it.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Long Train Running

The long hour goes 
Like a slow train running. 
Another sky’s static weather
Dips leaden behind the trees,
Hangs ragged pannus
Where rain may yet fall.

And the slow train
Endlessly becoming
Blurs the immediate landscape.
The arriving hour remains,
A pinhead in the future,
So minutely exact,
So irrelevantly indistinct.

Thursday, 5 February 2015


Men with time on their hearts
Hands in the till of time
Stealing a vicarious future
For the best of motives.

The same city in my dreams,
The same rooftops bear me dreaming
Over the streetscapes.
Even now, when the years have gone lightly
Into the useless calendar of history,
These night-time thoroughfares echo still.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Uamh an Oir / Cave of Gold

There is a darkness
Where waves sleep out the winter
And out of which the mists of time
Slyly slip unnoticed
To hang moist upon the still, grey sea.

Such a place is where the living fear to go
Even with a lifetime of songs inside their hearts,
Even with willing hands and pipes to play them on.

Only two hands. More's the pity.

Sunday, 25 January 2015


I wear awa ower heather stiles.
It's a track wi nae renegin'.
The tractor roads I'd aince tae tread
Are ahin my present leggin'.

But still there's wires and rotten posts,
The marks o' man's construction.
Even here up high on Foudland's slopes
The air smells o' restriction.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Things of Stone

Cold steel and slavery once enforced servitude;
But we are free now to live by other obligations.

Whips became rules,
Shackles, a regulatory framework
On which the days coagulate
Like blood clots, until the living,
Or the half-alive, stumble,
Thrombosed and breathless.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Carbon Cycle


Long before
Our meticulous schemes
Went up in smoke,
We were residue:
The stars’ dry dust.

Burned already.

At our feet, charred remains
Rub marks across another kind of page,
Reticulated, blackened wood,
Fired and fissured, friable to the touch,
The hatching of an image,
Or, perhaps, a memory.

The ashes were cold
By the time we woke;

Then, a hundred million suns
Until we scratched even a line on a stone
Or discovered combustion for ourselves.

Sunday, 18 January 2015


Wet streets glisten.
Traffic hiss rises, falls,
Joins the downpour's rythm,
Lost in transit.

An urban tinnitus
Thrums in the head
Like nervous energy
Tight and subdural, deafened.

Shrill sound compresses,
Dies in the eddying wind.

Hurtling transport's wheelspray
Turns the eyes blind.
Shadow fragments capture each other
In the shapeless drizzle.
So much starlight,
Far from heaven,
Scattering drop by drop.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Urban Spacemen

A door flung open. Wet spray rattled across the linoleum, echoing the sloping rain in the night outside. A chill moment hung in the too-warm air and its bitter beer-swill fug. Maxwell Dargie heaved into a barstool that had seen better days. The door slammed on its wire springs behind him.

'Gie’s a pint, Cherlie! I’ve got a thirst like a badger’s airse!'

Dargie’s pint of the usual materialised on the bar-top.

Tastes better in a straight gless, appreciated Dargie, lifting the pint skyward, eyeing it with more affection than he had mustered for his manic charge along Princes Street.

On whose pavements, Dargie had swept headlong past crowds, while the rain fell in puddles around his feet. He was oblivious to the passing passers-by, the shop-front windows. Princes Street rain, sharp and reflective, made its inhabitant faces sharp in turn, to the point of enmity.

Dargie ignored the crowds in the manner of a down-and-out. He pushed through them with drunken uncertainty, weaving a little, threatening to touch an arm or a shoulder. He made the danger of intrusion his mask. A path opened up before him. No-one wanted his grainy, skinny face breathing God-knows what stale guff in theirs. No-one wanted to be confronted with whatever anger drove him to stotter down the rain-soaked street to prop up some boozy dive with his mean and probably nefariously supplemented dole.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Broken Shadow

Night time in woodland.
The soft whisper of summer
Swallowed by rain.

Leaves’ resistance holds back the drops
And the tired grass tries to sleep
Beneath the moonrisen clouds.
Wet, reflective birches rise
Over the huddled stones’ moss.

Leached of colour,
Half-remembered light reaches down
Like time stilled before it can pass,
In the dim early hours,
Rain receding.