She returns at night in a flat-bed truck
stacked with scaffold and dangerous paints.
The canvas moon dips for a closer look.
Coyotes remember her from way back,
scampering like puppies in her tail lights.
Even the bones in the sand know Frida.
Her song wove the sinew that bound them.
Her brush, dusted with cactus magic,
planted their dreams into museums of art
to bloom as tea towels and fridge magnets.

The Wall approaches like a line of chalk
drawn across a board by a naughty child,
rising to a sheer cliff in her headlights,
white as the house in Washington, D.C.
where Eisenhower refused to meet her.
She butts the tailgate up to the concrete
and starts on the first of many parrots
in spectacles, quiffed like Leon Trotsky
bursting through a can-can feather sunset
that plumes into leaves and fat larvae.

Agave goddesses nurse earth babies.
Their breasts bleed the milk of lemon trees.
Monkeys toy with sugar skulls and crutches
around a volcano gushing Houston crude,
gardenias and jeweled hummingbirds.
Razor wire grows into a thorn necklace
ornamented with the pearls of search lights.
Here hang her hearts with festive arteries
that lace together a dozen Kahlos,
a thousand, a Frida nation looking askance.

By dawn, the desert’s drawn ocean blue.
Drone patrols rise up with the vultures.
A Texas Ranger Facebooks his selfie
with Karl Marx, thinking it’s Kenny Rogers.
When this goes viral, Fox News blows a fuse.
The President drains his lake of Whitewash
for the ultimate violation… but it’s too late.
A billion Fridas have broken through
his wall into cyberspace, saving screens,
saving souls and everything in between.

Shortlisted in the 2018 Keats Shelley Prize

She cuts down her lane like scissors through blue silk
with barely a snip; her deft turn at each end is a stitch.
One morning, she will rise from the ladder, the pool
draped over her shoulders like a cape of kingfishers.

He rolls like a barrel of vintage port cast overboard,
his crawl Shakespearean in its comedy and slaughter
causing small weather events and tile grout erosion.
His breast stroke venerates a torso of many bosoms.

Together, they leave behind a fresh pigment in the air
brushing the bellies of low birds with aquamarine.
She cycles off, helmet first, into the budding day
while his car awaits, sore-eyed and smelling of dairy.

Commended in the Poets and Players Prize, 2018

When the removal men come, they use cotton gloves and masks for
the books.
“It’s the dust,” he shakes his head, like we were in Nagasaki instead
of Tooting.
Penguin classics, their black spines cracked with effort, slip in beside
Elmore Leonard.
It’s Boll to Cocteau in the next carton and a dog-eared frottage of
existentialists.
Elsewhere, Middle Earth meets middle class. Narnian queens spoon
Truman Capote.
Carver should have his own box but he’s joined by Tour Guides from
The Lonely Planet.
Aristotle, Hobbes and Locke nuzzle Jean Rhys smelling of church and
whisky bottles.
Thin, interesting pamphlets from the Poetry Book Fair jam between
Chekhov’s women
and fifteen Oxford Histories that remain impregnable as Dame Vera’s
bluebird cliffs.
All the damned verse cramps up in sizes so diverse they say it must be
flat-packed.
Then they’re gone – in their tottering truck with the boxes stacked in
sugar cubes.
Off to storage with the rest of us for an uncatalogued period of sorting
shit out
while our dust still grips the empty shelves like finger marks left on
a window ledge.

Published in the 2017 Live Canon Anthology

Your Grace,

I will require you to wear black which will move under my paint
because your enchantment is never still.
I ask that your red scarf drapes around your waist like a general
returning from war against an old enemy.
I will place you under a southern sky the blue of bird’s eggs
on common ground where hunters and thieves might stalk.
A path will wind between bushes lightly stroked as if in early mist.
You will stand not as a duchess but a dancer of the Tarantella
with the air itself parting in applause.

On your visit to my studio you said I reminded you of a cat
leaping across rooves between sleepers and their dreams,
slipping on starlight and using my brushes for balance.
Let me lift you above the crows and winged hauntings of your grief.
I will frame you for as long as watchers choose to wonder.
In return you will point to the earth under your gold silk shoes,
to one name,

Solo Goya.

Winner of the Ruskin Poetry Prize, 2017

Toy Town

They had nailed him to the wall, palms first
his plastic feet cracked under hammers,
just out of reach, still wearing combat pants
with a crew cut and a scar on his cheek.
A day later he was joined by a bearded one
in khaki, also pinned the way of the cross.
Naturally, everyone was expecting a third,
but four cruciform Barbies materialised
in veils and full bridal wear, accompanied
by a row of pastel Kens dressed for golf,
impaled into brick through their stomachs.
The healing started after the scented candles
and flowers left in vigil as crowds gathered
to sing Elton and Robbie, swaying as one.
A former footballer who’d been paralysed
in a cup tie against Burnley walked again.
A mother and son juggling act from Leeds
qualified for the Britain’s Got Talent final.
A cat in a coma retuned to life on Facebook.
A bald financial adviser grew realistic hair.
In a week, the wall was a fretwork of limbs,
twisted heads, tutus, bazookas and ponies,
cordoned off by community policemen.
But no amount of uniform or striped tape
could have stopped the lit cigarette butt
flicked from a joyridden Astra GTI to nest
in the rubbery frogman crotch of a GI Joe.
Within seconds a fireball raged, the faithful
ran screaming and, like a cheese from hell,
faith bubbled into the gutters and drains.
From an acrid cloud, a new wall emerged,
bright with nails and moonlight.

Runner-Up in the 2017 Poetry Society Stanza Competition announced on National Poetry Day

They will never have been so beautiful
as they are here by the pool taking selfies
on a stick in their wedding clothes together,
white tulle misting over blue water,
morning suit as faint as distant smoke
as the candy stripe golf cart edges into shot.
Years later they will have asked who’s the man
with a gloved hand in pink plaid shorts?
Will he have been the secret agent who was sent
to the resort by one of the agencies of despair
with marital bed bombs and mortars of remorse
Or just another questing American
who had lost a ball and needed the nearest bar?
They will never have been so complete
as they are here by the pool taking selfies
on a stick in their wedding clothes together,
white mist, distant smoke, interrupted.
Couples many times more married gaze on,
slung up between palms in rattan hammocks
sipping hi-octane cocktails mid-afternoon,
waiting for the cicadas and salted snacks.

Commended by Brian Patten in the Milestones
international poetry competition, 2017

i.m. Jo Cox M.P. for Batley and Spen

Over the Kazakh steppes
an Englishman drops from space
in a frilly white jellyfish
landing with a powder puff.
“The smell of Earth is so strong,”
he reminds us before he’s carried
to safety like a baby, woozy
with ozone and wonder.

In Yorkshire, Hate stalks the lanes,
spraying petals into the gutter
because kindness frightens Him
more than death or insignificance.
A thousand Poundland candles
now blaze like daisies in the rain
making felt-tipped condolences
run to mascara upon the grass.

But we’re still too wobbly
with stargazing to hear Hate rage
in court “Freedom for Britain!”
Freedom for the misfit triangle
that slipped off its Continent
to drift in a moist blue ball,
snapped at 5 miles per second
by adoring astronauts.