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My Dad painted by Francis Bacon

Oxford Heart Centre – Critical Care Unit


Someone off stage drags him
by the hair,
his face smudged upwards –


chin tilted, fish hooked lip,
gumshield and tubes
smeared left to right.


digital blinks
monitor oncoming strokes.


I stare, eyes shut,
open to a ballpoint click
the curator is at my side,


dressed as a nurse,
fob watch and all
‘you can touch him if you want to’


I do,
the paint is still wet,
we wait all night,


for ‘Three Studies
of the Human Head’
to dry back into my Dad.




My Neighbour Speaks in Daily Mail Headlines 


‘Them addicts choose it don’t they?’
I told him it was a great day
to wash his car.


‘We pay them benefits, they buy heroin!’
I asked what sort
of wax he used.


‘And then they take it in prison’
I said I could tell he used
a chamois leather.


‘Or we pay for their rehab’
I admired his car but
thought of Carla.


‘Don’t give them nothing’
Carla sat next to me
full of smack.


‘Let them die’
Carla on Bournemouth beach
cuddling her dead friend.


‘Why don’t they understand?’
Carla at home
waiting for Dad’s sweaty palms.


‘It makes me mad it does’
I told him, I told him
he’d missed a bit.




Clock swallower


On another day he would be plucky Hector

or Chaska Star Spirit of the Selva

gazing gormless into CrocCam™.

This lifetime his film crew are eating sandwiches

and mocking up spider habitats in Borehamwood,

not staring into the fruitless eye sockets

of a dried up reptile on a Peruvian cocha.


A confiscated luxury belt buckle,

now way out of its league,

extracting a month old caiman

from a concreted sandbar

is not archaeology,

but requires skilled use of long-nosed pliers

and sometimes fishing line through the nostrils.


He could have been a contender

he had it all -  the malevolent grin of nasty poesy,

the backstory of chip chip chipping the glossy egg

prehistoric mummy dumped on the bank,

the daily cut and thrust

with those freaky enemies in the lake.


The sky just got lower and lower,

like it does,

until one day

unable to slither to the safety

of an upturned pineapple under the sea,

his water ran out.





PG Tips


Give the monkeys an infinite number of

pianos and they won’t get them down

the stairs.


Those chimps chew gum instead of drinking tea. 

Chewing gum - not talking - not moving pianos

but they love to ripple their human rubber faces


and say 

‘It’s the taste’

even when it isn’t


even when Mr Shifter has a bad back

and just wants a banana

or a letter from his family

back in the Congo.




Snuff Shakespeare


Banquo is dead.
Zipped inside a body bag, ringed by Zimmer frames.


[Here comes more sugar for the shock.

Sweet tea clouds hang.]


What will they do now?

He’s been lifted up like a rolled up carpet and put on a trolley,
the audience look concerned,
apart from the three at the front in dressing gowns,
silently tearing pages from a pair of Mills And Boon romances.


He’s not the first, that was Hamlet.
The Prince of Denmark was followed by Romeo and Juliet a couple of weeks later.


[There’s a tray of Garibaldi’s now, pass them round.]


The trolley is creaking as they take it out to a ‘Private Ambulance’ making ruts in the grass verge out the front.

One of the nurses is clutching a see through bag with some rings and a pair of glasses inside.


He didn’t see it coming didn’t Banquo and now he’s behind a zip in the back of a transit van reeking of disinfectant.

The driver’s lit another roll up and is picking his nails as he waits for someone to sign his chit.


What do they write?

It doesn’t fit in a box that’s for sure, there’s a few sides of A4 to this one.


The phone’s ringing, it’s the coin-operated one they bring round when people are out of sorts. Derek answers it, he’s been told not to, but Derek hasn’t come here for rules.


‘Well, is that the next one then?
And what would I have to do?

Won’t the vinegar sting?
OK, try and get the ones in malt vinegar,
that clear stuff just doesn’t cut it.
And Terry will claw them out? Right-o, when are you here? Thank you.’

The phone’s down and Derek has already raised the front axle of his commode and is heading my way.

King Lear would be my guess.





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