Poems (Witch House)

Here are a few poems from my first collection…

Original cover art to Obby Robinson, The Witch House of Canewdon and Other Poems (Lethmachen Press, 2014)


Black Dog Ode


Late that evening, I came upon a stray dog 

Waiting at the river, each hair upon its great form 

Seemed to me as black as the deepest water 

Resting in the silt.


Although I am not one for superstition

There was an undeniable, uncanny thrill; 

Death is said to accompany such creatures. 

I put out my hand


Half in dread that it would find nothing but air.

Shocking it was for me, then, when the sure touch 

Objects alone possess was all my fingers 

Met, more terrifying

. ..

Than any insubstantial shade could be.

For what is more spectral than matter shorn of 

Reflection, and felt without feeling? The ghost?

It is but a thing,


Dumb in its solidity. Why else is Shuck content 

Only to stare and be still? My hand had stretched 

Out beyond the want in which all life is steeped, 

Grasped I know not what…


Look! I bring it forth that you might see. Shake it.

Can you feel the cold fire? For such a far flung thing 

It is interesting how soon it comes upon one, 

Carpal close at times.


Here I take my leave. Care should be taken when

Walking at night, by rivers especially. The 

Nub of our world should not be felt: it is a 

Great black dog. Fare-well.


A Cold Term at St. Pats




In my father’s garden,


Under the water butt

and the bench,

The ground is


Wet and black


And the witch hazel,

Thin and black

Against the snow,

Jumps like a bird.




A boy, his trousers hitched

To his belly,

Thrusts his legs apart;

This is his game and I am not to play.


A door opens violently

Against my shoulder.


Two boys laugh.

Foul words are spoken

In the dormitories

At night.




On a spring day,

Out on the boundary,

I minutely examine

The grass before me.


A little way off now I see

A snake’s skin

Three overs later

And it is in my hand.




I have made

A further discovery:

The treatment I receive

Is not typical.


Has been seen…




In a study,

With a little shelf of books

And water on a stove,

Wheeler’s legs, pulled up in

Warm and laundered uniform,

Set me alight,


And I know

With great certainty

That it is not for this

That I am singled out.


Rather, it is a question of order.

The pecking order.

I get it, of course,

But – terrible to say –

I see there is a sight

That fails to.



(I am thinking of the snake that got away…)

The beast that sees us

At our ceremonies,

Shorn of the differences

We hold dear.





The Headmaster takes as his text

The blind of Isaiah.

I carry the skin in my pocket,

Now fallen apart.

I feel one scale

then another,

At each –

A mystery.


Earlier, in the bathroom

I held one to the light

and thought of

pots moving in winter

And clear spring air.




Fielding wide once more,

My eyes close

And I raise my face to the sun,

Swearing allegiance

To the cold sight

That curls about the dorms,

Flicking its tail in the library,

Its tongue in chapel.




I was wrong, of course:

The serpent goes unrecognised –

Ferociously so.

I am met with a blind passion

For I see

With immobilising clarity:

Schoolboys with

Scrubbed and bloody cheeks,

Wide collars

And exposed knees,

Hidden excitations

and doughy, fat-steeped thumbs;

Dorms of steaming wood and wool;

Bathrooms with frozen pipes;

The choir by candle light,

And on the cricket pitch

The distant uniformity of whites.


This too I know:

Some of them

Will be swallowed whole.



I am one of the few to travel home by train.


My hope is – of course –

That scales might fall:

The garden in frost

Warm to my eyes;


My head upon my mother’s arm

And my father singing;


A walk across fields,

The girl I am to marry

riding by