Migraine sequence (seven lines)


though it throbs
stabs behind the eyes
is still a release from the dark
and the twittering
flickering dreams
of horror and pain.


Rain falls in gentle showers
from blue and white skies
barely tarnishing the gold of dandelions
the sheen of green shoots

and the indigo spears
of midnight muscari
stand unchanged.


Deranged visions crash finally
into damp earth
drip from glossy leaves
and I can pick out the warblers’ song

the woodpeckers stare quizzically
waiting for me to leave.


Encounters on a beach that wasn’t

Third day of migraine.

Encounters on a beach that wasn’t

The bronze equestrian riding to the sea,
waves of broken swallows’ wings
beneath his hooves ,
the tideline littered kelp-deep
in the salt-smell of bacalao,
sweeps up to a sky dragged black
with the hoarse croaking of cormorants.

A boy sits hunched in the dunes,
wide-eyed as a dead fish,
light shredded by the wind,
flaked and falling about his head.
Ash, he says, the world’s end,
and I will never see Samarkand.

I almost take his hand and close his eyes
lie him down in a hollow
and let the tide carry him away.
But the gulls call too loud and high,
so I sit with him a while, a week, a year,
waiting for the gold and silver-silk
to wrap us in its scented folds,
waiting for the caravan to pass.



Behind the eyes, the migraine flicker,
grainy film, silent, rapid, disjointed.
Night, eyes wide, the film reels on.

Window-framed, lightning flashes,
silent storm, a whole sky white hot,
starless, eaten by fire.

Dawn drenches without turning off the light.

On waking with another migraine

On waking with another migraine

Day too bright to see the wavering trees,
the stink of unseen things too strong,
the pounding of hammers behind the eyes too loud,
to feel the touch of gentler heat on the skin.

I listen in the darkened room,
in the penumbra of shutters almost closed,
to a warbler singing quietly in the distant shade,
quietly and slowly, one note at a time,
falling at the phrase’s end, as if uncertain,
is the song complete, or is it not?

A pause, and he picks up the thread,
continues, with or without my opinion.

the hammers stilled,
the bird is singing still.

Sick lights


Some mornings, when the light
is full of the furred and flashing
pounding of shells, shrapnel bright
and biting, bitter bile rises
like cockcrow from beyond the trees,
stirring the shards, pecking
and scratching with spurred feet.

Some mornings I close my eyes,
try to stop the dizzying, disjointed
fireworks dance, the techno beating
silence and, fumbling with trembling
fingers, hang above the roaring flood
that pours over the edge of the night.

Head aches


In the heat the head swells and throbs

cricket-like with pain and dancing lights

in the stomach that rise with sea-swell twittering.


Blue batters the eyelids with syrup

cloying sickening

and there is too much gold in the air.


The words come slow and thick gluey

as honey-dew loud as the din of the crows

barking at the bilious sky.

Head in the rain


Listening to the drip drip of rain on the migraine

and feeling the earth soak beneath boots, sinking


unstable and the air full of shimmering, I walk

beneath dripping trees, where birds watch for worms,


and the background noise shrinks to the song of

nightingales, tirelessly ignoring storm and downpour.


I walk a path between grasses shoulder high, bowed

by lead crystal drops, and the clamour soothes,


cooling the blood with rain drip dripping

from the pigeon-grey eaves of the sky.



Stones in my mouth

and in the gap behind the eyes

and on my tongue

the taste of rotten fruit.

Light on the grass


with the jabber of snake tongues.

Only bile rises

no wing-lifting sweetness

riddled with perfect notes.

Cold fills every pore

and pain hammers

with the dull distant persistence

of hellish anvils.


is the stippling of pinpricks on tin

and the ocean heaves acid.

Nothing forms in the dark swill

but nonsense

and the laughter of woodpeckers.


Tomorrow is there,

lurking in the darkest hours of today,

waiting with its claws and its thorns that tear the flesh

and etch fatigue into every joint.

The bright dreams of once

hang like framed pictures high on a bleak wall,

not quite out of the reach of vandals.

Spray-painted worries splatter the colours with black,

and attercops spin their sticky webs

that catch not flies but silver fishes,

flick-flitting through the calm waters of what might have been.

Might yet be, who knows?

Who can see through the murky veil?

Between then and now there is no more night,

no gentle buffer zone,

just a choppy sea full of whirlpools,

the harsh cry of gulls,

and the same words, chitter-chattering round and round.

Peace and silence sail beyond the reach of mortal hand

and the sails are black.

Somewhere, far away, a sparrow chirrups.

I toss a handful of crumbs to clear the rags from the air

that fills with soft feathers and beating hearts,

and I remember the golden cube of stone,

old and sturdy, set in clay and lush meadow,

the well of quiet, that waits at the end of the night.