Thursday, 14 August 2014

Rocky Mountain High

Driving from a multi-story car park yesterday, I flicked the radio on. "Rocky Mountain High" was playing.

Now, a confession: I'd never heard the song before.

I know, but sometimes these classics just elude us for a while. (I'm still biding my time before I watch "The Godfather" trilogy).

Anyway, the song was playing, the sun was shining and my window was wound down. I had just supped a large latte from Costa Coffee and all was well with the world.

Except for one thing: I started to analyse my mood.

Why was I feeling happy?

And the answer came just as quickly-nostalgia. Even though I'd never heard the song, memories of grainy, sunny American landscapes were flooding my head and I wondered why, and perhaps even more importantly, why did this seem comforting?

I've never been to the USA. All of the information about the place, is filtered through the various media of films, TV shows, radio, internet and the actual face-to-face encounters with a few Americans I've met.

So why did I have a warm, fuzzy nostalgic moment based on a song I'd never previously heard?

The best I can come up with is that somewhere inside, a version of America is in-built into my psyche. It's an America that I control from afar, that exists intertwined with my childhood and somehow negates any danger that I've seen or heard into a controllable, compartmentalised past.

For example, I remember having family friends staying with us (on one of the few occasions that they did), on the day John Lennon was shot in New York. I was seven at the time, and the memory of hearing and watching the news, is filtered by the good memories of that visit and other times together.

The past, it seems, is one thing that we can attempt to keep under our control. We can manipulate it in our minds and it can seem to become whatever we want it to be. Others may argue that this subconscious editing is evidence that the past actually controls us.

What do you think? Do you control your past our does your past control you?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Man Up/Man Down

Your serotonin levels slip.

Even through the sun, you blink in only darkness.

A voice inside screams "get up, get out of bed," but no muscles move.

Your legs and arms are immobile.

The numb feeling inside your head makes no attempt to advance, jammed inside like sea-fog, stuck for the day on the coastline.

You want to enter the day, but it seems like a closed sign has been hung on every door.

You can't disengage from this or shake it off.

You need help.

You can't man up.

You are truly brave.

(posted in response to recent events underestimating the seriousness of depression)

Saturday, 14 June 2014


Soul soil,
earthy and earthly,
willing for water,
voracious for fruit:
feed up the fallow,
ecstatic the clay again,
love joy
peace patience,
reseeded for good;
loam of the Spirit
unseen in mystery
sifting the wilting,
poised for the rush,
shooting through darkness,
planting the afterlife,
grounded in ashes,
waking the dust.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

mind games

turmoil tumble-dries driftwood
inside this minecraft mind,
set on satisfaction;
thoughts like deviating chinese whispers
swirl this snowstorm,
brewing a broken brouhaha of
flotsam and jetsam,
turning symphony cacophonous,
a scream in a beautiful dream,
for all the world
a storm in a handle-less teacup,
no pick-me-up,
hanging in the balance,

Saturday, 7 June 2014


(once a trailblazer)
sentences falling
with every word afrost the faces,
deluding peace of mind,
subconscious settling on defeat,
just saying,

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Viral Spiral

If you knew
the friends
who knew
the friends
who knew
the friends
who knew
the friends
who knew
the friends
who knew
the friends
of you,
what would
you tell
the world?

Monday, 26 May 2014

The Lion: the hitch or the great divorce?

The toothless lion of our youth,
reliant on the roaring stones
of waterfalls and highland homes,
to awe-inspire when free to roam,
has raised his mane,
and prowls the rain,
and clears his throat,
to ask if we still love him:

: "Of course we do,
  we all need friends,
  the jungle will be safer then",
: "the more we have, the safer still",
: "our lion can protect, not kill".

I heard a kid the other day
considering the lion's share,
say "if he takes what others eat,
how can he sleep and say that's fair?"

We love the lion,
and his peace,
uncomfortable to make this choice,
we seek relief,
a champion's voice...

Another jungle had a king,
called Kenny,
on his words we draw,
to tell the lion at this time,
it's "mebbes aye
or mebbes naw".

Friday, 23 May 2014

Voices from beyond control

...on these streets i once belonged:
make these feet move
one by one... this car I thought I owned:
take the wheel Lord
drive me home... this body: blood and bones,
fused and mingled,
breath on loan... this garden, in this home:
when I've watered
you have grown...

...i sail this mind of overload,
beyond control,
these memories roll...

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

ghost churches/new haunts

Ghost churches,
where somehow some forgot their place,
and lost and sold the plot
(the Spirit shown the door,
still pain creaking in their stoic joists)
retreat, rebrand and resurrect:
your carpet warehouse,
your local Indian restaurant,
a night out at the theatre,
or the perfect home
among the graves,
a place to lay your weary head.

souls stop to sip this new communion,
with gone
generations mingling in the ether,
their trapped psalms jammed into the brick-work,
their spoken blessings looping onto shoppers,
diners, leisure lovers
in these gifted buildings,
sent to the wind,
to be transformed again,
when Spirit, once more welcome,
settles in.

Monday, 19 May 2014

catch them while you can...

bright ideas
in darkest thickets,
prone to prowling,
focusing their prey,
their sinews itching but
biding their time,
staring you out...


headlong into your psyche,
letting you deflect them
or forcing you to face them down,
devour them whole or
consume a fleshy bite,
in this fight or flight,
for the right,
to feed afresh

from the dying carcass of your mind.

Shared with poets united

Sunday, 18 May 2014

On waking today at Crieff Hydro I called out in my mind... of my age
careering forward
dig your heels into the mountain
disconnect from avalanche
(for just a minute)
lie back
(the sky awaits your eyes)
and dream
(don't scream).

Saturday, 17 May 2014

God sends talk.

alone in our thoughts
and out of our minds
we are found to be beside ourselves.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

take a break

sip a cup of cappuccino
control your pulse:
settle for a second,
flat the landscape of your scan.
You can chip the dust from the unjust,
retake the territory of your time,
and fight against your mind,
breathe in,
breathe out,
what hope we have
against our doubts
alive, alive-oh,
sip slow
sip slow,
sip now.


Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Sunday, 13 April 2014


A shattering jar
emits the essence of extravagance, 
her fragrance-filled palms,
from her brokenness,
pour a perfumed provocation,
spirit consumed
in worship; 
forgetting the poor
and jolting Judas.
Kissing in the coming kingdom,
touching her maker,
skin on skin,
hair in hands on feet,
beckoning burial,
anticipation in the scene,
the scent of intimacy 

By day,
holy feet hang,
inches above dusty ground,
on cloaks laid out,
king condescending on a colt,
as psalms through palms resound,
from a praying, baying mob,
(this place is rigged to fever pitch,
in parting praise)
rhythm in the waves, demands to save,
his heartbeat for the end of days...
Four sleeps on,
reaching his cross-road,
hand branches are bloodied,
two palms,
split and pierced,
the world hanging by his fingertips,
when clouds eclipse the crowd 
the sun goes down...

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Saturday 06:30

Atari shapes of passing headlights
slip linear shadows across this wall,
as raindrops snare the rooftops firmly.

A pin-prick watch insists on joining silence,
and torchlight floods down on my hand,
to cast this mighty pen in silhouette.    

Outside my duvet savannah,
lazy Saturday, no agenda,
waits skulking in the black to pounce.

The day will come, sure as the sun,
a cappuccino in the kitchen,
signalling that we are home.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

wresting "control"

a test to taste,
against my thirst,
a gravel throat,
sand-papered mouth,
roughed-up walls  
of faith
shake down.

this precipice
that overhangs
and overhauls
and overbears,
captures prayers,
tenses shoulders,
head and stares,
for all i know
and all i care,
it's simply

out of
i never was
never thought to ask;
but found i am,
(afraid to find),
control is well
outwith my

Lord, Spirit,
transfix on
entirely to...Your hands,
and dangerous,
under wings,
shivering in Your
i sing,
in this

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Waiting for the storm to pass, the storm to pass, the storm to pass...

Travelling seas of mountain peaks,
Everest waves climbing,
clinging at the starboard stern,
spray slapping against your face,
wakening you to the watch of moody waters,
your sinking heart rising in your stomach,
the norm of storm sticking in your throat,
through it, through it rushing windswept
calloused fingers point you on.

Then waiting on the silent ocean,
bobbing like a lifeless buoy
your sat-nav soul snuggled with explosives,
on quiet waters, mind wandering
where sharks are hungry,
peaceful, taut and angry,
lest you fall,
(too scared to call)
for fear you fall,
though God is sleeping in your boat,
a mighty warrior stilling silence
if he will,
when he will...

You head for land
and run aground,
and ride, crestfallen,
seas of torment,
approaching, passing, fresh preparing
for storms, the triumph of his art,
to lead you on, restore your soul.


Saturday, 1 February 2014

January Challenge

Firstly, a bit of context. For the last several years January has been a difficult month. Darker nights, post-Christmas, back to the grind of work etc etc. Same old same old. From what I've observed, I'm not alone.

With the threat of the new year ringing in my ears, I decided to set myself a challenge this year to see if it could tide me through the most depressing mid-winter month.

It was a fairly mild January, certainly in my part of Scotland, and I felt blessed to have these conditions in comparison with what I saw in the news of the freezing conditions in North America. (Southern parts of the UK have suffered with horrendous flooding too..)

Anyway, to my challenge. I aimed for around half an hour of exercise each day throughout the month. I used to record  the details of each day. The results have surprised me.

I've never been into exercise that much. I only considered it after a counsellor suggested that it is proven to reduce incidences of depression and I felt that I needed to give it a go. I started with cycling and moved onto running. I bought some equipment for my makeshift garage gym: a punchbag; a cross-trainer. My brother-in-law bought me some military fitness ropes for Christmas and lent me his 12 kg kettlebells. 

My mapmyrun dashboard tells me that I travelled 131.18 km in January, two-thirds of those on foot and one-third on my bike. This time last year I could only dream of doing that. I completed 33 workouts over 17 hours. I took part in the parkrun phenomenon that is now making tracks all over the world. Apparently I shed over 9000 calories in the month.

None of this is meant as boasting. I don't want you to say well done at the bottom of the page. I write this simply to ask you to consider if you need to exercise more as an antidote to the dark days of winter. Every year I hear sad stories around this time and maybe we could all encourage each other with a bit of positive peer-pressure in the exercise stakes.

I'm thinking about making this an annual event in my life and want to ask others to join me. Put it in your calendar, select a month and go for it. It doesn't have to be high intensity stuff. Walking is as good as anything. Let people know and let them encourage you. I've been amazed by the amount of people who have given me a "thumbs-up" on social media and face-to-face. It's really made my month.

Finally, I have to add that this exercise of discipline has had the major spin-off of helping to rekindle my spiritual life too. It's somehow become easier to focus on "soul life", having pushed the body to the limit. Having been forced to dropout of work for a while just over a year ago due to stress and anxiety/depression, I've found fresh encouragement in this scripture:

God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind.

So, what about it? You might want to consider joining me next January (or any other suitable month), from wherever you are-set yourself a challenge, and go for it!
Makeshift garage gym scene!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

dreamcatcher (he will add)

rise from dysfunction,
inherit your name,
from out of a pit.
As wits are lifted
dreamer, capture
a fresh night-vision,
glory from darkness,
a rapid high movement,
frequency tuned
to sights unseen.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

The Glory of Wood

chopped and carved down
roughened up,
no sign of sanding,
brought together:
larger, smaller
planks positioned
in a joust to join in joists
at right angles,
to passing angels,
hammered to the soil
through hardened Roman hands.

on a driftwood tree,
you died,
(two thousand times since round the sun
the epicentre circles from a growing oak still ripple)
your fallen branches,
stained and etched in blood,
you hung for me,
i live to tell the tale.

Posted for dverse: Poetics-On the Other Hand
Photo: Jim Rants

Sunday, 12 January 2014


The mountain is steep, a gradient that relies fully on gravity to keep you upright. The air is thin and the panting in your mouth doesn't reveal fully the pumping going on in your chest. Your back is breaking. All you think you need to carry is on there, like a treasured curse.

The muscles in your legs are splintering.  Each step sends a burning sensation up your calves like a blow-torch being fired from your heels. That canvas corpse on your back is balancing you, but only because you've readjusted your body to accomodate it. To live with the dragging pain of all that you're heaving uphill with you. It's somehow become part of you, and it's almost like you need it now. 

And now, when I'm trying to say, let me carry it for a while, you're looking at me as if I'm a little unstable myself...

...Put your hand on the shoulder strap and slip your arm out. I's not as easy as it should be. There are things inside that rucksack that are the very essence of who you've become. Still, try to prise it off your back. And now the other arm...

Take a step without those kilogrammes wrenching you backwards. Feel the difference. Your legs are lighter. You begin to catch your breath again.

Start to enjoy the view as you climb. Don't fret. Keep walking. You'll get to the top. When you arrive, you'll know that it'll have been worth the hard yards.

As for your rucksack, when I give you it back at the top, it won't feel the same. I'll be rearranging a few things in there. I've packed and re-packed a few of these things in my time. I've got a way of making it more manageable. Trust me...

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


nineteen eighty-four has come
and gone,
and now
we're going
to stick like you,
together in one shout,
our oaths
in tweets and snaps,
unique in all our latest apps.

smeared in
lipstick traces:
lines of listless
scared so witless,
shifting, guiltless,
all accepting,
all rejecting,
to be liked and

no big brother
as we'll watch ourselves
to death tonight
and let our hearts be troubled
all together,
in one voice

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Two Tunnels (a short story)

Hypnotic green fields were clicking past, wrestling down my eyelids all the while, when a small boy pushed open the doors of my private compartment and slipped through.

His light brown curls were the first thing I noticed. One of those hairstyles the kids who appear in modelling catalogues have. Shiny, bouncy curls that move to their own rhythm.

He sat down opposite me.

When he smiled his eyes opened fully and his thin lips parted. They revealed bright white teeth with one small gap on the bottom row. I couldn't help but smile back. This little guy had warmed the day up with some simple muscle movements.

I went through the usual. His name? Where he came from? Where his parents were?

Turns out he was lost. His parents had been on their way to the dining car with him, just as they'd reached the last station. There had been quite an influx of passengers both exiting and entering and he'd got separated from them. Now he wasn't sure where they were or where he was, in relation to them. He didn't seem upset though...

I said I'd help.

I was actually quite pleased to have something to do. I'd been on the verge of drifting off into dreamland, but there's always something slightly unnerving about sleeping on a train. The snaking movements of the carriage across the track, the disconcerting motion sickness feeling of watching the overhead lines just as you drop off, and of course, the possibility of oversleeping and missing your station...

I got up and offered a hand to the little guy. He must have been about seven.  He slipped his hand into mine and I opened the sliding doors which led us into the long corridor. We wobbled slightly with the movement of the express and I put my hand out against the door frame to steady us. 

I saw the sign for the dining car and headed in that direction, pulling my new friend like a rag doll behind me...

When we slid into the tunnel all went dark...

And I was losing my balance. I felt the small hand slip from mine as we both toppled towards the nearest compartment. In we fell, just as sunlight cracked through the window, like a champagne bottle opening.

I held my hand up to my eyes... 

The little guy was, first, in front of me, and then, scrambling to his feet, was behind my back, heading into the corridor. I glanced at his troubled angel face.

Then came the voice.

"Come here Isolot". And again, "Isolot, is that you? Come back..."

It was coming from the floor. He had been alone in the small, wooden compartment. A hypodermic needle lay beside him. His bruised veins lay bare against the velvet seating, but he was rousing himself. His rolling eyes, lurching under a mass of curls, suddenly resumed their interest in the present.

I knew the man's face. As sure as day, it was the same one that belonged to the little boy, now heading down the corridor.

I pulled myself to my feet and squeezed through the compartment doors, shutting them in his face as I ran.

He followed. Swearing. Scrambling. Running.

I caught up to Isolot and dragged him on.

We reached the doors that led to the dining car and went inside.

The faces were staring as we rushed through. High teas, top hats, cravats and summer dresses. Startled female cries and "tut tuts" from bearded penguins in tails. There was a second wave of disquiet as the door slammed again. He panted in as we reached the far end of the car. An urn of boiling water sat behind the bar and in its reflection I glanced the frightened faces.

The boy was pulling my arm, trying to say something to me, but I was only interested in leading him away from danger.

It was only when another voice cried "Isolot" that I stopped. We all did.

The little guy shouted "Dad" and ran. He was swept up into safe arms in the middle of the car. Behind them the chasing man had  broken his stride but not his stare. His frown lines creased as the train sunk into the darkness of another tunnel.

In the black, the mesmerising clickety clack held us in a trance for what seemed like thirty seconds.

When I looked again, the boy and his father had disappeared from sight. The man-who-was-the-boy, was pulling at his rolled-up sleeves and heading for the same carriage door he had entered by.

Spoons were once more clanking against tea-cups and polite conversations were being struck up throughout the dining car. Eyes were being averted.

I made my way back to the compartment and resumed staring at fields again. Later, as I alighted at Windsmouth, I was still thinking about that little guy, but I never saw him, or the man-who-was-him, again.




White trash-lovers, Freaks for all they’re worth, Anarchy in beady, brazen faces, Seizing stares, Standing ground...