50 years ago this month

In September 1972 I won my first ever contest. It was for longer narritive poems and this was it. The 1972 winner of the McMillan Prize worth was at the time a staggering £50. (Quite a bit in those days.)



it’s not the cobweb curtained wood beams

or the peeling plaster

it’s not the familiarity

there is something odd about this place

with which the smell greets you

or the noises that sound like footsteps

or the wind that creaks old timber

or the drips of last night’s rain

dropping into pools collecting on the dance floor

it’s not the smell of burning wood

or the broken charred tables and chairs

or the stairs collapsed in the corner

or the holes in the roof

that capture sky

it’s none of those

but it is odd

this place is my Titanic

my ocean bottom ruin

brought onto land

and left to rot on the harbor side

it was the place we met

and the place we parted

and you haunt it still

living in the shadows

crack wood or flick a stone

always just out of sight

but I know you are there

and I frighten the children away

so that we can be alone

night crashes in through the veranda window

the moon reflects from the wet leaves

of the Rhododendron

and your shadow flickers in the corner

while I watch content to know you are close

outside the bulldozers wait

for morning


I can measure

the time we where together

in nights punctuated by

the red glow of a cigarette

after we had sex

and an occasional moon slicing through

a curtain gap

reflecting off sweat stained skin

so much of our time

spent in the dark

and in the morning

as I watch you change the sheets

to take away the carnal damp

and the smell of me

I hear you hum

the drunken street songs from the night

when I thought you were asleep

that’s how it was

but although I always hoped

you would wait for me to leave

before you changed the sheets

you never did


when it was new

the silver tiled ceiling

above the dance-floor

reflected a thousand

broken fly-eye images of you

you danced alone

arched back

to smile at leering faces

and I watched

content to admire

the swirling sweating body

that would later lie with me


your laughter

woke me


it turned to screams

in the morning

the bulldozers

will wipe my sheet clean


you lay quiet

once you knew

I could never let you go

you should not have tried to leave

no word

no note

just going

without me

and laughing when I said

we could be together

you stopped screaming

as my hands tightened

around your throat

small in death

sleeping under the dance floor

you emerge each night

to dance for me

then hide in dark corners

and even when I bring fire

to flush you out

you still avoid me


the bulldozers come

to wipe you away forever

I hear you creeping round

bone footed

clattering as you dance

sometimes I feel

the touch of your cold hand

the warmth of life left you

cold and hard in death

I hear you

moving through the building

moving closer

and there

there are other sounds

others moving

I cannot see them in the dark

but catch a hint of movement

and the smell of rot

like something decayed

outside the bulldozer

engines wind into life

headlights cut

through the dirt

and soot stained windows

sending shadows fleeing


there is something odd about this place

the polished wood beams

the mirror tiled ceiling

and you dancing

head back laughing

at the familiar

leering faces

while I watch

content to admire

the swirling sweating body

it’s none of those

but it is odd

the way morning

never comes

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