Edges of Sanity

photo Tom Kay


The film Edges of Sanity is now live on The Guardian. Below is the text of the poem. 


Edges of Sanity



It’s been said

On far shores, weary mariners hear voices

Songs so beautiful they cast a spell

There is no choice but to hear.


They claim these whispers hold a message

Each ear hears different music

But the same call hunts the senses:


Without risk, there is no beauty

Without chance, no adventure

Through suffering, wealth without limit


So we scheme and plan

And tell nobody of our dreams

Shuffle cards, chance vague variables

And tread endless road miles until

Close against cold ground we toss and turn


And summon black water



For I am of the waiting deep

The great denier, the poised fist

Stalker of pitch oceans

Whose fingers twist about your throat…


I swallowed the sad pilgrims

Who fell to flat reef, their vessels sunk

Into water bitter as winter night

Beyond the edges of sanity


I am the waiting teeth of the rocks below

The grinning maw in the clouds

Bearer of the hourglass - killer of the short dim day


Who beckons you to dare



The north song does not stop

Power in that promise

Goes beyond common meanings


You have walked in footsteps new

What was before will never be again

But memories of lined faces


And in the glowing after

Breaking bread the sweetest knot

All weight shed - light extraordinary


Until my whisper comes again…

And the future begs your listening 

The future begs your listening

Agenda, one of the widest known and most respected poetry journals (founded in 1959 by Ezra Pound and William Cookson) have very kindly published three of my poems in their Broadsheet 22

One of my poems was handwritten on a wall as part of a group show for new culture sharing site Cultshare. Here's the full text:

She is the seed-knowledge in the ravines

Under concrete, soft-headed sleeper

Dreams beneath gum patina and feet tramp

Ignored static bleeds angry stamp

Seeps through seams

Where a shadow forest creeps

Under the glum fabric of man

All her whispers are leaf brush

The delicate fan of night branches

Her speech is the soft dirge of mush

Preaching forgotten implores

This army of lurking shades

Phantoms in paving slabs

Viridian certainty, poised potential

Chasms in her skin boil with life

Ruts in the valleys,

Thunder-claps on the peak

Bats in the grammar, sly as the adders

Wound about her roots

Each a tendril, tender seeks

There is no turning the head

Unfound, the eyeless thief

Cracks every question of your heart

And answers them, piece by busted piece


*Photo by Lucky James, jungle boogie...
I've been out in West Clare with the big-wave surfers turned farming community over there, courtesy of Cushe footwear, who are great guys. It was inspiring to see people who have realised the dream of being professional surfers actually turn away from it to focus on health and community. Good fuel for a long feature currently being wrought.
I was published on Riverlit and Style.com last week, and recently on Caught by the River and the Journal of Wild Culture
Getting ready to pitch my novel during May...



Time to question the seed ghosts

Sleeping hosts subsurface

Eidolon dreams of a greening

Phantoms of the cracks

Viridian throng, verdant urgency

Their public transport

Moth wings, magpie backs, hare feet

On train tracks, window ledges, under tunnels

Singing where,

Where do we belong? 

Abandoned nests and clefts and

Pondering ascendant

Clockwise omens of the still moon’s silent wax

Felt in Eukaryote urges

Blind blanket longings to burst

And stretch siege ladders

To interrupt concrete creep

Our mortal foundations disturb

Tendrils grasping, seeking southern purchase

Pending, imminent growth in the offing

Anything to cradle roots

Rear old heads

Moor the marooned mass of longing 


The Vein Neritic 


The tides move in, clockwise


            Running rightside


Omens of still moon’s silent


            Tugging water


Somnambulant, basking pillars


             Kelp ladders stack


Hangs at noon, dangles


            Fools see stasis 


The tide falls out, counterclockwise


            Memory drain


Pools marooned, evaporate


            Slumped silva


Exposed hectares of fecund 


            Wetland deserted


Passages through shadows


            Lost and found


I have been the marchers, seen them fall and picked their bodies up

Been the waiting devils with bloody mouths
I have been the smashed glass in the pavement cracks and the man that breaks the bottles
Heartbroken and the breaker of hearts and the beating heart itself
The savage, the learned sage
The jester, the vexed
The hard-shelled crab and the soft interior
I have been the touched and the untouchable
Been Snyder, been Thoreau, been the shit on both men's shoes
The blessed, the damned and pronounced damnation
Spoken in tongues, with fervour, like a man possessed
Been the stopped heart and the stopped clock
Raised the sacrificial knife and squirmed in terror in its shadow
Been the victim and the perpetrator of crime
Been the numinous, been the base
The machine, the ghost in the machine
I have been death, the destroyer of worlds
The harbinger of doom and the dove of peace.

I have been the dream shaman
The capitalist, who cannot see his dick

The thick thief and sick as a dog
Been the gentleman, been the bum
The waves and the fleet figure that rides upon them
Eaten the archetypes, drowned in stereotype, cackled at the forgotten sun
Lost and won and won and lost, and lost and won
Been the blind, anaemic dawn and the faces in the black earth
The rough hands that snapped a neck and cried with a body in hand
I have borne the wounds of time and laughed them by
Shared dual conscience, drunk the soul dry
I have been dismembered and put back together, bone by bone
Sunk beneath the quicksand, sat upon the throne
Been heart's sorrow, heartsease and Parsifal himself
The lowly coward and the warrior brave
The traitor and the judas paired, Janus-faced
I have been a paragon and often a disgrace
Been the squaw, the surefire steel that saves the day
The new wreaths on an old tomb
The unworn baby's shoes in the bin
Been the start, been the fin
I led the awful wrath of the mob and I have campaigned for justice
Been in love, lust and felt disgust at both
Been a soldier, been a deserter and fought through
To live in nightmares, dreams
Clutched the bare seat of a fugitive reality
Been chaste and chased new beginnings with an awful thirst
Been my best, been my worst
I have wallowed in sin and begged for her cold touch
Taken it all, way too much
I have stretched long limbs and glanced sideways
Been found, still deep in the maze
Broken a yawn at the dawn of our time
Forgotten the best, remembered the worst and cursed it all
Hated the moments and loved the years
Feared the incoming message, feared the daylight, feared the beast, feared the night
Lived for and detested and yawned at the fight, yet fought on
For without fight fallen we, and cursed
The hunger with swift hatchet

 Buried in our thirst

1/10 *The Height of the World

The Height of the World
(for Mark)

You have the capacity to feel each microscopic injustice
To dwell on it, to make their pain your own pain
To force the horror your eyes see through processes, revisions
That you can do this and create optimistic work is a staggering thing
Your dichotomy is in this sensitivity; this gaping vulnerable heart inside brute body
With the capacity to kill, to kill
At points I imagine the scale of the pain twists you
It becomes agony
Only in your pursuit of harmony does nature relent her burden, lower her guard
Then you become part of her and the blood on your hands is forgiven at last
At these points you become non human - part fish part bird
Keep your hope, for your path is truly the height of the world




Two Recent Readings (for special people)


Little Heart

Take my steps, for now my stride is four of yours 
And have my eyes, though they be not clear
Take my paws, little hand, through doors to thickets tall
We'll run together, no need to fear a fall
For my month is your minute, my year your hour
Dear is the love for you in its power 
And in the heart it will not falter, never fail
Though the cries bawl, the tears be shed, the babe will wail
Just sit upon broad shoulders, watch the world skip by so slow
And cry, for each of us forgets the falling joy inside a tear
You need not worry: know the world can hear
Blessed boy, so dear, little heart be near.



Rare Hearts

If I put my hand in your hand we can dance
Through forest oaks, out across the sand
Palm to palm through the midnight wood
Between the roots of an oak we stood
Then we laughed at the march of the clock
Warm in the hearth of together's stock
Moonlit waltz cross the silent sea
Endless the dance of you and me
On London rivers, in lisbon squares
Through city lights our footfall bare
Then slower spin the dancing pair
Caught in their web of invisible care
Slower, softer still, rare hearts
Slower, softer still, rare hearts
Now the starting gun, gladness named
The souls of the dancers are one and the same
Forever here forward will the waltz remain
Beauty in the steps, magic the refrain




The battle of water and land

Under darkling moon the dayblack sea
Extended an arm to silence the sun
Gold the residual glow and hiss
As that disc, extinguished, fell

Then the water jumped up to roar;

I am leviathan, the sea is within me
I declare war on this, mother land
Then the peagreen water commands
To drown the lichened rocks, the sand
To smother
To strangle all in a yawn of ice
Rigor Mortis brung with dawn

I am leviathan, the sea is within me

Nothing but birds remain, pinwheeling
Keening for their loss of perch
Angry at the sea come stealing
Tired beneath the church of sky
Until at last, exhausted they fall
And go under, evermore
go under, evermore 


*From the 'Battles' series