An Initiation
An Initiation

In a cave in the side of a mountain
forty men are kneeling in a ring

chanting a song
of a single word

swaying forwards and back
sweating and wiping themselves with rags

calling out to god and god and god
driving their song into the mud

taking me with them, until at last
I stagger out blinking in the dawn

and see severed goat heads at the butcher’s stall
still preaching the word

and reeling pigeons circling
wishes from god

and stray dogs, noses dimpled with pox
gatekeepers on the rooftops

and god in the small
dark bodies of children

damp in the mist
playing in the cemetery

in December


Taken from ‘The Hollow of the Hand’.

Begging Bowl
Begging Bowl

A brass dog
with two heads
shows his teeth
and wears shoes
His belly
low hung
smooth and hollow
fits the palm
His four eyes
black holes

Taken from ‘The Hollow of the Hand’.


Folly Acres
Folly Acres

Alone, bereft of love or good
I stumbled through a brain of woods
until I found a wooden shack
wasps at the front, bees at the back.

A girl appeared with jet black hair.
Her cats patrolled. One humped a chair.
She gave me soup, she gave me bread,
she took me to ‘The Evil Shed’

where tiny bodies hung on nails
and proudly wore their own entrails.
Beside a meadow’s insect hum
all life, all death rolled into one.

The wraith-like girl pulled chives and beets
and gathered eggs to make a feast
and goodness filled me as I ate.
She brought me love upon a plate.


Originally published as the foreword to Sue Webster’s, ‘Folly Acres Cookbook’ (click here to view).

On a dirt road
On a dirt road

we drove up the mountain
turned off the engine

climbed through a barricade
and walked towards the village

through a thousand fallen plums
the purple-black flesh

pushing out of their open skins
darkening the road.


Taken from ‘The Hollow of the Hand’.


On the Corner of 1st and D
On the Corner of 1st and D

One old man is saying three words,
reaching out like he wants to gather
good. His white stick taps the ground
forever. Above the rooftops

a solitary dove sings three notes over and over:
spare some change, spare some change
over the roof of the shopping mall,
spare some change

over the roof of the government building,
over the roof of the Supreme Court.
The earth yawns and turns its face a millimetre.

The moon holds up an empty plate
above the corner of 1st and D,
above the gathering of men and women.


Taken from ‘The Hollow of the Hand’.

The Abandoned Village
The Abandoned Village

I thought I saw a young girl
between two pock-marked walls.

I looked for her in the white house
that crumbled mud from its falling roof.

On a nail in the kitchen
a threadbare apron.

The husk of a corn doll
hung from the ceiling.

I asked the doll what it had seen
I asked the doll what it had seen

I looked for the girl upstairs. Found
a comb, dried flowers, a ball of red wool

unravelling. A plum tree grew through the window,
on the window ledge a photograph

in black and white, but her mouth is missing,
perished and flaked to a white nothing.

I asked the tree what it had seen
I asked the tree what it had seen


Taken from ‘The Hollow of the Hand’.

The Boy
The Boy

Boy speaks,             Follow me.
Through the old       city streets
you follow him         past the tents
through the fog         and excrement.

Smile at him.           He smiles back
leads you past         wooden shacks
and open gutters.       Don’t fall in.
Put your feet             in his footprints.

Bullet holes           in the walls
form a map           of the world.
Giant door           with a key.
Boy turns;             Follow me.

Young boy           in your face
every loss             I can trace.
Follow you           enter in.
Put my feet       in your footprints.


Taken from ‘The Hollow of the Hand’.

The Hand
The Hand

People pass the hand.
There are sounds of car horns and music.
People pass the hand that begs.

Three boys in hoods fold their arms
and swerve away from the hand,
the hand that begs in the rain.

A woman in blue will not look
at the hand that begs,
stretching out in the rain.

People come and go, looking at their phones.
Nobody takes the hand
stretching out, shining in the rain.

In the hollow of the hand
is a folded square
of paper,

but nobody looks twice at the white paper
that gleams in the hand that begs,
stretching out and shining in the rain.


Taken from ‘The Hollow of the Hand’.

Throwing Nothing
Throwing Nothing

At the refreshments stand
near the Vietnam memorial
a boy throws out his hands
as if to feed the starlings.
But he’s throwing nothing;
it’s just to watch them jump.
Three long notes sound on a bugle
and a man in overalls
arrives to empty the trash.
He hauls it to a metal hatch
which opens to the underworld.
An alarm bell yammers.
The boy throws out his empty hands.
The starlings jump.


Taken from ‘‘The Hollow of the Hand’.’.


Where it begins
Where it begins

a revolving wheel
of metal chairs

hung on chains
squeals in the heat

Four children fly
over red dirt

A cassette tape
of a sad song

loud and harsh
from a truck

The chairs blur
and form a ring

that ends
where it begins


Taken from ‘The Hollow of the Hand’.