After Dannie Abse


that miscellany of lost things

a pint of Brains at Cardiff Arms Park

donkey rides at Porthcawl

tickets to the eisteddfod

Sully TB hospital Penarth

the lonely gum in Roath Park

planted in our dad’s memory

without approval


the pull to return

banished with the 50 foot tides

by the Cardiff Bay barrage

the stink of mud flats

speckled with boats

no more now the harbour’s neutered

gone with GKN’s steelworks at East Moors

along with most of the jobs in town

our dad’s first job post war


Sunday drives in the Vauxhall

windows fogged

the stench of the works and the docks

by Tiger Bay

that old family game who farted

now glass and shiny surfaces

flash boats moored in the bathtub

travellers moved on from their wasteland


all gone until the satellite map

closes on our Llanrumny street unvisited

and then the fence I remember running past

blurred as on my first day at school

HUW 2010  

school bag big as you

first day shorts even bigger

not as wide as your grin


HUW 2018


proud in your high school fedora

like a squatter counting stock

squinting knowingly




umbilical cocked tight

against the wind

my son earnest

with concentration

on Bluey’s Beach

fishing the sky




the wind shows promise

I take my youngest daughter

to the park


launched into the air

its tail streams

grabs her attention

the string slackens

as she marvels

and it falls reluctantly

I’m not much of a kite flyer

said with as much wisdom as she possesses


days later I catch her

proudly telling

I went kite flying with my dad

sometimes flying a kite

is as simple as that






just a family snap we framed

of no particular merit

more content than composition


you recognize your baby self

wailing fist clenched

wah wah wah giving voice to the scene


you are content

to register me holding you

daddy you have your happy face on

and I do




leaving the road

to cross the hedgerow at the stile

into an avenue of oaks framing

the mansion house imposed upon the hill

a vista Lutyens would devise

long summer grasses in Herefordshire


heading across

to find the shaded muddy track

back to the fieldstone farmhouse

surrounded by dry stone walls

in need of repair

smells rank and rancid from the pigsty

greeted by the hunchback

family retainer from a bleak last century past

and the gift of one warm egg

still crusted and slightly repellent to the child




another stile I need help to cross

into the blackberry wasteland

my young parents on their Sunday walk

gloved against the cold

milky sky closed over winter in Glamorgan


there is the stile where it should be

now backing onto the scar

of the motorway

not as I remember it at all




words whittled to shavings

curling at my feet

thoughts like plastic wrappers

swirling in the wind

a puddle willing itself

to become an ice cube

the wave of a drowning man

in the waves

the sound of one hand clapping

in the forest

words shouted into the face

of the storm

unheard unread


your footprint preserved in stone

once a tentative step

in the ooze of time

much the way this began


when Ashbery* wrote “hand me the orange”*

was he slyly referencing O’Hara’s*

“Why I am not a painter”*

was this the orange he wanted

or would another do

was he craving the cool dimpled skin

the juicy flesh

explaining what happened to Frank’s orange

all that time ago

why do we assume he means

the fruit not the colour


nothing is as it seems

maybe he was just hungry not ironic

at his age would he care or remember

you can continue to break language down

but eventually the music

becomes just noise

words broken into a mumbled jumble

or is that the point


Ken when we both wore our hair long

your studied casualness signified cool

your hip nonchalance

your deliberate insouciance


nothing is as it seems


Mies Van Der Rohe* was born

Ludwig Mies

his Barcelona pavilion

was really the German pavilion

on Montjuic* overlooking Gaudi’s* city

not in Barcelona

the pavilion built 1929*

was demolished 1930

what happened to the Barcelona chair*

is unknown

when we supplicants climb the hill

to pay homage

does it matter this structure is

the 1986 re-construction

how authentic is this

set down millimetre perfect

to site specified stone in its construction

what is more important

the plans and specification or the building

is one just language the other the thing

where does the idea manifest itself


if your poem is reproduced

which is the authentic version you devised

if translated what does it mean

to you if you don’t speak that language

is it still your poem


nothing is as it seems

is your poem the same read

as heard by you      or me

your sparse flinty words

scatter the light


the vast Mediterranean sky

captured by the pool the pavilion floats in


there is no ambiguity in structures


maybe that is why you are not an architect










  1. Ken Bolton – Australian Poet 1949-
  2. John Ashbery – American Poet 1927 – 2017
  3. “hand me the orange”- final line of Ashbery’s last published poem New Yorker magazine February 2017
  4. Frank O’Hara – American Poet 1926 – 1966
  5. “Why I am not a painter”- O’Hara poem 1956
  6. Mies van der Rohe – International architect 1886 – 1969
  7. Montjuic – site of the 1992 Games of the XXV Olympiad and site of a vast above ground necropolis site of Joan Miro’s grave
  8. Antoni Gaudi – Catalan architect 1852 – 1926
  9. For the International Exposition 1929
  10. The only piece of furniture to have a building designed around it


staccato conversation on

our walk to preschool


first observe the dead rat

laid out in the gutter

long tail ribbed like a worm skin


next pass the bat

pinned to the ground

by gravity’s inevitability


then the carcass of a cat

and the howl of a man crumpled in the gutter

his lover hovering unable to cross grief’s divide


return to the rattatattat of our conversation

rat bat cat rat cat bat



in the distance

the bullet connects like a sting

the bullock slumps in the paddock

in hock deep grass

the hunter lays down the gun

settling the scope gently

before sprinting knife drawn

to cut the throat and bleed the beast out

a ceremony played in silence


the disconnect between sight and sound

leads my four year old son

to report the scene as seen

that cow just fell over

an innocence not even

these events could extinguish


the hunter controls

his pulse as he pulls the trigger

his chest constricts

the hunter fears

the quarry stands in blissful



will you eat what you kill

the beast winched

onto the truck

deck slick with blood


then strung up

stripped of hide

eviscerated and butchered into portions


are you prepared to kill what you eat


the daily mix of seed and mash deposited

inside your wire enclosure

fenced to keep the cat out not you in


click and chirrup as you circle

quizzical as I mimic you


in the scramble for the feed

you walk over my feet

eyes targeting the largest corn amongst the seed

a sudden dart extracts that morsel with precision

the focus of your greed


I reach into the nest

a perfect bowl lined with lilac feathers

and collect two pale blue eggs

to complete the exchange