Poetry 'n Prose


If only I were the grass you walked through
Then you would touch me
If only I were the wind that played with your hair
Then you would hear me

If only I were the wine in your glass
Then you would taste me
If only I were the book you would read
Then you would see me

If only I were the song on your lips
Then you would know my name
If only I were the flame to your candle
Then you would behold me

If only I were the laughter to your koan
Then we would be one

Poetry 'n Prose

Last Rites

They gathered around the old woman
in the hospice
As the priest gave the last rites
And answers to prayers were summoned from above
To comfort them.

I loved a boy once, she said. He was pure when he fell.
I held him in my arms and kissed him.
In his last letter he told me he was keeping himself for me
That he was never going to leave without me.
He comes back when I’m dreaming.
He places fingers over my eyelids and his smile protects my back.
He has turned into a white owl perched on the eaves.
His hands have changed into wings to take me away
Only then is my soul ready.

Go then I said. Be with him.

Poetry 'n Prose

They swam naked in the sea

They swam naked in the sea

and sea-water dripped from their skin
and they stroked and licked each other
in the shallows, both of them

drenched in sea

Later with wavelets lapping them
they pooled sea water

in clipped hands

and for an instant saw the moon
reflected in each other’s palms.


White Light


We dream of waking,
of really seeing each other’s face
in intense white light;
split seconds of reverie,
and pain – we shy away.

We dream of waking,
expecting and not expecting some catastrophe.
If it happened – the first impulse
would be to disbelieve it,
keeping balance,
and not believing.

We dream of waking,
more spontaneous,
a state of consciousness,
so clear,
we see the contours of our lives
before the mist slowly gathers in.

We dream of waking,
as we poke our heads above the murky current,
as deep sea fishes – lungs filled
with laughter, the explosive gas
of exhilaration

We dream of reuniting
If not in this world, then in the void
Of nothingness, and we’d see our light illuminating
The darkness that kept us apart.
Then we’d dream of waking,
In the white light.


Poetry 'n Prose


Cedar Ward
Beech Ward
Oak Ward
Ash Ward

Names can deceive but
This is a real place
The nurses also are real
To prove it they don’t wear uniforms.

You can come and go as you please
A garden enclosed is my friend
Under semi-narcosis

When she came out of it she said, I am Hitler’s wife
So the nurses put her in a linen smock
And shut her in a padded room
Sleep – o – gentle sleep

And when she came out of that she screamed and bit the nurses
And overhead up grew
Insuperable highth of loftiest shade.

So the nurses gave her electro – convulsive therapy.
And she quietened down a bit.

A garden is my friend
Her head enclosed in barbed wire.

for Janet, I miss walking in your garden

Meditation Music

A Song for Nepal

This composition started small as a one minute score of condolence to the families of the thousands of people who were killed and injured when an earthquake rocked Nepal on 25 April 2015.

My reaction to this tragedy started with individual shock and disbelief over what had occurred, and the sheer magnitude of the destruction. But this slowly melted into a greater awareness. An awareness of how life is fragile, unreal, and forever changing, sometimes with brutal consequences. Life’s component parts of grain shift like smoke in the wind and somehow emerge as an image with only an illusion of solidity and indestructibility.

However in times of crises we are not only reminded of the inherent emptiness of our existence but also that we exist inter-dependently. By that understanding we must join together, connecting at a deeper level, beyond us and them, to be of real help and support to those who are suffering. Therefore the track’s vocal part is calling to that deeper level we must go when faced with human anguish. Rather than running from pain and despair we must find a voice for it and together attune our own voices to that song.

Poetry 'n Prose

Between music and poetry

I am a space within an outline. You are too.
Some people fill the space with the same thing
day after day: that’s character. I pick up
this, then some other thing. I put them down.

Tides flood through me and withdraw again
Provocative, angry tenderness, honest
This verse – my ears surrendering
becoming evolved – to the unborn.

Other times, I enjoy the empty space
between my ears, let musics play
in the silence there, coloured lines weave shapes
on the plain background, enjoy my role
as medium, like canvas, like a flute.

Between musics and poetry is best
Just to relax from the execution of the tune
and be a virtuous nothing,
a good empty space.

Poetry 'n Prose

A Good Day

A good day would it be to sit back and be alone with the sun on your arms and the grass around your ankles

a good day to visit an old friend with a nice garden and sit talking in the sun and shade, admiring the tropical plants and birds

a good day to drink Ceylon tea under the palm trees, surrounded by no cars and plenty of people walking about town

a good day to follow a path up a hill through woods and fields, not knowing where it leads, to walk and sit and walk again and find a fast—flowing river shallow and many—voiced over many—coloured sparkling stones and lie down gasping letting the water roll us gently over

a good day to telephone and write to somebody in love and talk and laugh and eat with them

a good day to think loving thoughts of everybody you love and have ever loved and especially those who would be glad to hear from you now

a good day to take plenty of time over everything but to waste time on nothing

a good day to fight against the constant feeling that you should be doing something else instead of what you are doing, where fighting is not fighting exactly but a holding firm in the face of something that wants to break up inside

a good day to solve an old problem and slay old fearful dragons that have lurked your life long at the back of the mind and roared rampaging to the front of it all too often

a good day to listen at the echoey wells within to the uninterrupted news that forms itself out of the stillness

a good day to allow loss to be whatever it is, in whatever form it takes, no matter how long it takes

a good day to allow tears, for they give beauty to our grief, form to feelings beyond words

a good day to fight poverty, slavery and injustice, over the indifference that dominates our consciousness

a good day to walk alongside others in peace, to reconnect with life, the blood song, we all share

a good day to reconnect with the roots of our selves, our humanity, imperfect and blemished

a good day to begin a new and better life for our children, for everyone’s child

a good day to embrace the air we breathe, to return to this moment now

a good day to be here now, if only for a few minutes

a good day to smile

a good day

to be here

with you


The Slow Train To Kecskemét

Poetry 'n Prose

Waking Up

Waking up I discover you distinctly here
a soft—focus presence
pervasive though not concentrated in one place
(like the sun through a burning glass making the ground smoke)

but like the sun diffused gently over all my skin
delicate caress on tender eyelid
clutching hot tea stretching
I luxuriate in little moments

the sharp early November wakings
crackling like gift wrap on heart’s—desire parcels
you are beside me
a forgotten bounty – the word largesse
a kind of uncrumpling for a change

I feel magnanimous and unhurried
the static suddenly stops like toothache
something no doubt turned off next door
the clear voice of love goes on singing

Suddenly restored to me
how can something be so peaceful
and yet exciting other stimuli churn up
vexatious mud turbid currents
but still I feel you utterly clear
as over pebbles washed to a heady purity
listen the unanxious way

The rich folds of the gamut let themselves go
like jumping from a height to float
fading down and melt before reaching the rocks
such a free gesture a pure giving away of the self yet
the well renewed by miracle however recklessly given
firming up mobile but substantial

The next wave turning into the next teasing
our slowness—to—grasp such a gentle leg—pull
the permanence of the form the succeeding waves flash
through the steady undertow of the music,
holds us in a soft embrace,

While the loving god pretends to nearly drop us into space
we laugh with his laughing eyes
and the music sparkles around the whole of me
(and will not stop),

when my exhalation meets your inhalation
when the beating of your chest makes mine still
feeling so secure – utterly letting go, utterly found
is how I am when I wake with you.

Poetry 'n Prose

Lotus Blossom

As I walked steadily
Into the heart’s garden
I saw a lotus blossom
Wild in the pond.

I wanted to send you a photograph,
I wanted you to see this
Fragrant beauty, but
You were there…

In the morning sky.
Lending me these words,
Beyond words,
Your face merging with the reflection
Of light.

Music Poetry 'n Prose

A Moth to the Flame

May this moment
move onwards,
on its winding way

And these wings
hold well together
in their own time

Wherever they carry
hold constant
at all points, through

This narrowest strip
between blindness
sight and pain,

Hope and despair,
void and air
fire and ashes.

Poetry 'n Prose

Spring Water

Hot and tired, we find a vacant table. Nothing special, a cafe, a place to relax in the moment of a busy square. I notice Jozsef Attila’s statute standing close by surveying students in love walking past, holding hands, promising hearts. I close my eyes and feel thirst again.

I begin to hear mantra-like Hungarian words echoing closer and closer. There a gentle tap on the shoulder, from behind. Opening my eyes I see an old women crouched, her eyes warm, but wizened to the street. Her bruised hand extends an unlit cigarette. She needs more than nicotine.

Touching my empty breast pocket, I utter my apology, embarrassed that I have nothing she asks. She gazes in me further and holds the attention there. A look of concern shows on her furrowed brow, how long has she been living like this? Days, weeks, years?

I drop the gaze from her world-weary eyes to her parched, dry lips. Without thinking I reached under the table and produce a bottle of water. I hand it to the palm of her hand. More words are softly spoken as she hands the bottle back. Without the slightest hint of rejection she continues to gaze into me.

Puzzled, I look at her, intently wondering what she means. I search for clues to this untranslated human exchange, both of us ‘beggars of beauty’.
The bottle stands alone, its contents fixed in time and space on the table. The gas slowly rising up to surface.

I offer her a chair, hoping she would sit with me, teach me, and possibly wait long enough for the waiter to arrive. She has no time to wait. Her world never stands still, so her hands does the talking, and motions me to twist the cap off. Her patience is never failing.

Taking a firm grip, I do as suggested. The water suddenly explodes, escaping pressure unleashed in my face, awakening me in a shower of spring water. She takes back the opened bottle and with a gentle laugh, walks on.





Field Of Poppies

Like poppies in the sunset,
the innocence ascend,
We were all equal in the end.

Art Poetry 'n Prose

Sleep Will Come

You watch the night sweeping westwards
For those lost
Beyond the horizon,
Hoping sleep will come,

You rise and shine into a spotless suit
That no longer suits you,
A business face that almost sees you
Through the business,

You wrestle through migraine
You dream past clock-watched
And the first evening star heralds
Hope of some familiar breeze, beckoning
Peaceful wonder,

You watch the night sweeping westwards
For those lost
Beyond the horizon,
Hoping sleep will come.

Music Poetry 'n Prose

Melancholy Muse

She plays all night
sweet and tangled blues,
deep riffs revealing
a melancholy muse

Poetry 'n Prose

Bright Sides

So tonight, again, to the public house
Bustle, banding at ease
Chewing the gristle with the boys,
Growing merry, maudlin,
Wistful: not yourself.

Goodbye, goodnight, out into the last laboured
Breaths of the day, still light at ten thirty,
The sunset an overturned glass
of rosé.

Walked home across the common, jangling,
Tapping my keys in tune to an old familiar song
‘Always look on the bright side… of life’
Elated, my cup runneth over.

Poetry 'n Prose

Still Water

Perhaps there’s no one but you
In the water; at least
I don’t see the others now
I pull you back to catch your breath,
At the edge, mere feet away.

It seems to show no more than this:
That none of us were ever apart,
Even before our bodies touched,
Awkward at first, but soon
We were perfectly contoured.

The same fragment comes today
The ghost of a hymn,
Whose words meant nothing
once and now are gone.
For mile along the river’s edge I walk
With scattered thoughts,
a sense of you,
I fail in what feel like a duty
to understand.

It’s then I think
of how you were back then
The reassuring visit,
the kiss,
What I saw is what I see
from years before again
For seconds you seem lost from me,
The diagnosis,
your frozen look of fear
And I am startled
to a kind of adjustment

Stunned, to silence,
how it never leaves,
That sense of being hurtled
through wonder
from statis to change
And never to figure it out.
You’d say, to quell the hurt,
‘It’s only pain’.
I want to agree,
but ‘only’ was always wrong.

The pain is what we have –
the randomness,
The loss,
the scruples vainly coined from books
The sudden change of heart,
The body failing, rebeliing
and then to discover
How surgeons balls it up,
how someone dies waiting in the queue,

How soon our days
begin to drag like old men’s days,
The fear is what we need to fathom:
What we love, we lose.

Poetry 'n Prose

Taming Dragons

Child: “Dad, I can’t get to sleep. I keep sort of hearing creaking. I’m not really afraid, but I am a bit afraid. I think the noises are coming from over there in the corner.”

Father: (takes a look and returns) “Now my little one, on top of that shelf the elves are building a castle. In the corner by the desk a colony of fairies. All made of light and shadow with bodies that shine like angels. No they don’t have wings like butterflies. They fly with arms like ours.”

Child: “Dad, I’m still afraid.”

Father: “In the fireplace dwarves are digging to the cellar to mine the glitter from coal and forge bows and arrows and swords tinier and finer than needles. That glint on the air like dust. Each one studded with a thousand sparkling jewels.”

Child: “(whispers) I think there’s a dragon up there.”

Father: “On the wardrobe is a dragon, four inches long his scales drink in sunlight. They swivel to catch the rays. So he can fuel the flame he has for a heart. A kind heart. His nest is a mess because he kills moths and spiders. He chases them out of our dream and turns them into stars. Like the ones up there on your ceiling.”

Child: (looking up) “I see them”

Father: “And see that golden giant shell that hangs against your wall, it will take you back to the beach where you found it. A place where faded sea scents and sound beckons you to return to the glistening sea…”

Child: “Hold my hand”

Father: “Hands enclosing hands over a pebble and starfish and seaweeds, mermaids purses, delicate as lace and seahorses who reach out for you, who still move in a dance for you, perfect in poise and grace, who hail you to come close and learn the half forgotten words of the sea’s secret song… listen to the words as the song comes closer… closer still…”

Child: (yawns) “I hear them”

Father: “Hear them and let them, fade back again, back to the sea”

“Follow the song into the sea, let the words of the sea surround you in its song, an endless song”

Child: (eyes closed) “I am”

Father: (dims the light and whispers) “Sleep well, my starry-eyed angel of the sea”.

Opinion Poetry 'n Prose

Sleepy Tigers

Sleepy tigers
on my sparse haired chest;
sum total
of my happiness

Many years ago I overheard an old Indian story about a monk – or was it monkey – not sure, anyway he was being chased by a tiger, so he thinks he’s going to outwit the tiger, dashes up a tree thinking he is safe there. But the tiger laughs and climbs up too and is inching towards the poor soul shaking on the branch. The monk – or monkey – is just about to devoured by the hungry tiger when he notices a small cherry, he quickly realises his predicament with the tiger is hopeless, so picks the cherry, he vows to taste that cherry with every morsel of his body, with every ounce of his life, all resistance is gone and doing so he discovers his life is complete by THIS cherry… arhhhhh! He fully awakens.

Poetry 'n Prose

Five O’Clock Shadows

This is the time of day when we in the men’s ward
Think “One more surge of the pain and I give up the fight”
When he who struggles for breath can struggle less strongly
This is the time of day that is worse than the night.

I stumbled across a segment of John Betjeman’s poem Five O’clock Shadow inscribed on the underground wall in Kalvin Ter, Budapest. It made me stop. It made me reflect in this place of passing strangers…

Nine months later I stopped in Trafalgar Square, surrounded by pigeons, and there was something written on the pavement in chalk. It said:

“If nobody drops a coin here by 5pm, I’m going home and shooting myself.”

I lent down and began to scribe, at the bottom

It is all there
there at the bottom,
all the pearls and jewels
all the diamonds
they’re all down there
waiting for you!


More Than A Curious Incident

Anyone who has a disability, like those without disabilities, can experience psychological, physical, and spiritual suffering; struggling against often—overwhelming barriers; battling for some order in our ordinary everyday lives; fear of chaos. However the disabled can also face immense obstacles of discrimination, be victimised and abused by others; being patronised, treated like a small child.

The National Theatre production of Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time gives lucid insight into this. The play adapted by Simon Stephens is an outstandingly sad and uplifting adaptation about a family breakdown narrated by a 15-year-old boy called Christopher who loves dogs, lists, numbers and accuracy and hates the colours yellow and brown, and being touched, and who had what was commonly assumed to be Asperger’s. Christopher’s journey is an all-too-human account of failed relationships, confusion, anxiety, pain and finally hope. Like Christopher I meet many people with disabilities who are struggling to make sense of pain; to try to reduce and minimise the suffering; to follow back to primary causes; to see the learning in it. At the same time trying to reach for joy and love; for some harmony with the universe; to avoid becoming split off and alienated.

Pain as a term appears so rarely in literature that it indicates some sort of basic denial by the professionals. From my own experience pain involves feelings of disease; a sense of impermanence; feelings about getting older and losing capacities, especially memory, dying and death, colds and influenza; coughs to rigor mortis; general discomfort, toothache, lumbago and rheumatism, depression, despair, loneliness, confusion and being ‘lost’. . . . Feelings of being isolated and cut off; of becoming a non-person echoing states of fear and anxiety; friends and relatives getting ill and dying.

The poet Clare, through years of pain and alienation, wrote:

‘Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life ’s esteems;
And e’en the dearest— that I love the best —
Are strange — nay, rather stranger than the rest.

(John Clare ‘Selected Poems’ Everyman 1965 p297)

And Shakespeare wrote of a similar experience.

‘ . . . Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me.
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story.’
(Shakespeare ‘Hamlet’ v, ii 358)

Habitually we put ourselves in the way of pain; even in concrete ways like smoking or drinking to excess. These ways frequently take us ‘out of control’. We like to flirt with danger by increasing the risk of injury to ourselves; we can feel, that sometimes in the way we drive a car. Our psychology colleagues talk of sado—masochistic elements in personality. We can ‘enjoy’ a kind of suffering; just watch a suffering jogger on the road pursuing health, running through the pain barrier: the popular ‘no pain no gain” philosophy.

So much of what we do is damaging. We are continually losing contact with our essential nature in steering too close to pain. The concept of ‘internal saboteur’ is useful. We can easily become our own ‘worst enemies’. For some, the regular experiencing of pain is one of the very few ways in which to be reassured of our very existence. Much of helping involves facing the suffering and hypocrisy so prevalent in our society. This can be overwhelming, especially if we have very little emotional support.

I talked once with staff at a South East London training centre who couldn’t accept the grief of Sam, a man with learning difficulties. They couldn’t empathise with his loss of both his father and mother within six months. He’d had to move from his home into a local authority hostel. One year after, staff felt either that he should be through the pain by now or that ‘People with Down’s Syndrome don’t’ grieve’. Sam struggled not only with the loss of the two people who lit the most to him as well as his comfortable home, but also with the ritual rejection from the support workers, who were constantly trying to cheer him up, get him out of the sulks’.

An inability to recognise the person’s grief will make them lonely at the very time that they need other people and love and friendship. They not only need their grief recognised, they also need permission to grieve, especially if they live in a large institution where so many of the activities that take place are a sort of whipped—up happiness. It would seem that a flight into jollity is often used as a means of stifling grief by staff who do not know how to help bereaved people.

The effects of illness and physical pain can also be missed or misinterpreted. I met Darren, a young 23 year old man who became angry and threw some crockery against the kitchen wall. He was sent to his room by his family and carers. His anger and distress continued and support workers eventually called the psychologist. Psychologist concluded his outburst we attention seeking. Darren’s behaviour however had a physical cause, nothing to do with his disability, or attentional needs. Later on that week Darren was admitted to hospital for treatment for an cancer of the stomach. Darren later returned home distressed unable to cope with being in hospital. He died two weeks later with the full support of his family and carers.

Intense suffering can drive us inwards and cut us off from those who love us. They are or seem estranged. This asks questions about whether the pain of different individuals is sensitively accepted and recognised. We can learn something by asking:

What is the nature of suffering for any of us?
What help is given to understand that?
How is growth encouraged from ordinary pain to joy?
What healing can there be with dying and death?
What is the role of beauty and joy?

How far are the support and services a source of pain?
In what ways do the services assist in this creative process or are part of the problem?
Do they provide an atmosphere of ‘realistic optimism’?
Are the staff spiritually aware and sensitive about what it means to be human both for themselves and for those
whom they are supporting?
Is suffering seen in fundamentally human ways, recognising our commonality, compassion, rather than wrapped up in professionalised jargon and ideologies?

Much of the suffering by people with impairments is unnecessary. The flight from pain often turns into a flight towards it. The Disability model holds that serious illness and physical or intellectual impairment exists but only become disabling because of the rejecting and oppressive response to such impairments by the non—disabled world. But pain and suffering can also come close to humour. Bauby writes after his massive stroke: ‘Whereupon a strange euphoria came over me. Not only was I exiled, paralysed, mute, half dead, deprived of all pleasures and reduced to a jelly—fish existence, but I was also horrible to behold. There comes a time when the heaping—up of calamities brings on uncontrollable nervous laughter — when, after a final buffet from fate, we decide to treat it all as a joke.’ (Bauby 1997)

Pain and suffering is a crucial part of nearly everyone’s story. Tendency to run away from or ignore the suffering and pain — both our own and others; to avoid and escape; drowning in drink, drugs and rock ‘n roll, are endless. Other people’s fears are much like our own. We can learn to look at people as if through a glass screen. Much personal growth and love is needed to work in more—involved, creative, and constructive ways. Most frequently we are asked to be advocates and witnesses. And Haddon expresses this too. The novel and play gives insight as to what we need to understand something of the lives of others. Empathy. Imagine trying to understand either Hamlet or Lear without empathising and knowing that they are both driven men, tortured by pain, how can we know what is happening to them. It would be entirely laughable.

Poetry 'n Prose


He crouched
in the crowded Metro carriage
reciting the Lord’s prayer
in his own language

‘Hallowed be thy name . . .’

in all the dust, bustle and noise —
followed by the suggested reward,
small dirty hand outstretched
from the seven year old body,

‘Give us our daily bread. . . .’

Our eyes met briefly,
I had no small change or bread
so he left for greener pastures

until I remembered the bananas
in the shopping bag
and offered a yellow fruit

delighting the dark brown eyes
to afar corner
like a small squirrel.

The banana was a mystery,
biting the top hesitantly
with no knowledge of peeling

and then still puzzled the train stopped
hurried to the next carriage to chant

‘Thy will be done on earth
as it is in Heaven . . .’

once more to busy passengers,
whose hearts were already fixed
on the comforts of home.

Poetry 'n Prose

Haiku at Work

Following the last theme of Haiku at work,  I sent a group email to those I work with in the NHS Foundation Trust. I asked them to write their own Haiku poetry, about how they feel towards those they help and what does that role and relationship mean to them.

So here are some pieces (in no particular order). Bristling with joy,  some wrapped in laughter, but all committed to service in the lives of people with Learning Disabilities :


Difficult stories;

individual people;

always a blue sky



Beautiful People;

learning disabilities;

laughter all the way



Problem to person;

Learning Disabilities;

Hubbub to power



Meeting Together;

Working through challenges;

recognizing achievements



A meeting of two;

sharing, exploring – with you;

new possibilities



Everything Changes;

Outcomes consistently good;

aims remain the same



Even when it’s tough;

I can always raise a smile;

community bound



Smile, Jump, Shout;

Learning Disabilities;

sing, hop, smile



Often Joyful; can’t complain;

except for getting caught

in the rain



Challenging Stigma;

Aspiring for potential;

Partnership working



When no day is dull;

learning disabilities;

we are here to help



Travel on the bus;

learning disabilities;

to make life better



If love is blind;

my disability sees;

love in all people



Challenging Values;

learning disabilities;

respect and dignity








Sitting all day;

my bottom really hurts;

let me out please



A shared moment;


changing times



I love to bring joy;

to others I meet in my job;

It is very satisfying



Going to work;

in learning disabilities;

the sun shines brightly



Life is never dull;

people are challenging;

reward is good



Fantabulous clients;

frustrating at times;

always a challenge



It was there and;

it is gone – power;

Darenth Park



Spring Rain;

Blackbirds Singing;

Clients run in the park



Difficult Every Day;

Lovely to be with;

and to help



You are my torch;

when the light is dimmed;

all is bright



A challenge it is;

privileged to be part of;

I am exhausted



The 185 Bus;

never ending journey;

my Blackberry Crashes



Blue skies; high mountains;

Learning Disabilities;

clunk click every Trip



Tension, discomfort;

time to go trampolining;

relaxed, comfortable



Off we go to work;

learning disabilities;

smiling eyes, job done



You cannot say it;

turn your head and lift your eyes;

tell me with your smile



When no day is dull;

learning disabilities;

we are here to help



To help a person:

A simple wish borne from care:

Others with full lives