A selection of my poems about nature and the environment and environmental issues such as climate change and the exploitation of natural resources


it is the longest night

and the sleepless hours 

pass like slow trains

in the passing carriages

we see only our own 

cold faces looking back


we have news of a variant

strain of the virus

they are closing the ports

and dawn comes 

with a call from my son 

to say he can’t be

home for Christmas


the light is ice

a sky like solder

over a bleak and barren land

breathing broken glass

mending hearts

this land of one man funerals

and window visits


gods of the field and air

hearken to our call

ring of stones encircle us

light of dawn defend us

with soft rain feed us

we have need of tenderness


December 21st 2020

From Smugglers In The Underground Hug Trade 2021

Like starlings

like starlings in the cold

a mighty murmuration

driven by the wind

winding up and down 

spinning on their wings

no hope to comfort them

and no relief


or like cranes

sighing as they fly

like arrows of air

out of the shadows 

shadows come


master who are these

battered and turned in the breeze

as black as night

the lost people

and he replied

you know them all


and pity caught me

like a hand to my throat

and I was lost


December 3 2020

From Smugglers In The Underground Hug Trade 2021

A pair of blue eggs


outside our door

the fragile shells

traces of albumen 

the sawtooth edge

breached by the beak

a starling’s egg

nested in the eaves

somewhere the nestling

waits for food

one day soon we’ll

see him wing it

into the morning

his yellow beak

his turquoise flash

his geiger-counter trill

his tail-less arse




you are breaking eggs

into a glass bowl

scones will occur

the oven hums

light filters through

the bones of 

the chestnut tree

and across the valley

picks out the cambric

blossom of the thorn

through the open door

the blackbird’s 

liquid chorus

evening is the codex

on which nature writes

we read it slowly

with all our senses


April 20th 2020

From Smugglers In The Underground Hug Trade 2021

Last night's Wrack

last night’s wrack of dragon-headed kelp

a thousand blackened carcasses

a wave against the early morning sun

we have driven down to catch the light

on bare sand and broken boats 

and have caught ourselves unawares 

overwhelmed by

the profusion of decay


we stand in the wind on the cliff-top

and feel ourselves pitching quietly out

so slowly we think 

gravity is an end in itself

a kind of beauty

kiss me or we’re lost you cry

with heavy hearts we’ll fall

down among the dragons


March 2nd 2020

Ardnahinch Strand, East Cork

From Smugglers In The Underground Hug Trade 2021

In my invincible summer

In my invincible summer

I walk the fields

skirting the frozen pools

stepping daintily

like an excited foal


in the broken lines

of a wintery morning

with no grand gesture

the old year is dying


through the ice 

the stubble tells

of harvest past

and golden days


and the hill rises

like a breaking wave

a buzzard circling

in the steel grey


three thousand cases

is the estimate

we circle the same place

but we’re far from home yet


December 29th 2020

From Smugglers In The Underground Hug Trade 2021


Even the orcas

Even the orcas

are turning on us

they come up from the deep

to tell us to slow down

to knock the steering out

because they know where we’re going

even if we don’t

and it’s over the edge of the world

and we’re taking the world with us


they leave us swinging in the wind 


or at least rudderless

drifting drifting


I do not know much about gods

but I think the orcas

know more about us

than we do about them

and they keep it to themselves

by and large


we are in the dogwatch of this plague

the late cold hours

and dawn comes slow

a pale light across water

the golden sands

birds resting in the brack backwaters 

the ochre marl of the cliff face

light bending through scrub ash and sally

the papery bark of the birch

landfall at daylight

something to look forward to

in the turn of the year

if the year turns

if the orcas forgive us


October 8th 2020

From Smugglers In The Underground Hug Trade 2021

The beach

For Liz, on the day that walking

on the beach was forbidden



the beach is an occasion

a skin scalded by sun

a bird-speckled distance

the ghost of oceans

a stone beaten

a cold star fallen

the beach is an 

open aperture

a mirror silvered

its future is glass

the beach is a passage

a kelpy fastness

in bronze and brass

a twisted strand of blond

netted in hexagons

a shield and a scimitar

a stony-hearted invader 

the beach escapes

every definition

a landscape

that shifts and sings

a happening

between earth and sea

a constant inconstancy



the beach is our past

it burns like a phosphorous flare in memory

we recall minutiae

the hexagonal shapes left by the waves

the sheets of sand as smooth as paper

the marl of the ancient bog

rising through sand after gales

the revelation of buried field marks

the way the sea takes kelp from the reefs and flats and heaps it

the small waves rolling and tripping and dissipating


once an old lady gave me a list she had made

of all the ships that sank along this coast

that ran on rocks and broke up all hands lost

that ran onto the sand and were pillaged

that broke their backs in big Atlantic storms

that mistook the light or were shown a false light

that strayed in fog

great sails and masts and shrouds and stays washed up like kelp

boilers hissing and groaning on the Smiths Rocks

the savagery of sea-broken bones and hearts against the impervious shore

cargoes of brandy or silk or cotton gone to Davy Jones

or lining the bellies or pockets of the local breakers

think not of the sea as a place of sport my mother used to say

she lost her brother and her uncle to it

their names carved on the family stone Lost At Sea

the sea is nobody’s friend


but we speak of the strand

where we are still sure of foot

though the sands shift and every tide is change

though we place stones in a pile to mark a favourite spot

and cannot find it on the following day

though we return a hermit crab to a certain pool

and the pool is gone when we return

though the strand is haunted by the ghost of a buried bog

and the cliffs fall down and white wounds flare along the shore

though the sea eats the land and makes sand of it

and every day some dead creature makes landfall at our feet


still we know where we stand

and only when we venture into the summer sea

stumbling over hidden shelves and sinks and broken stones

are we aware of the scars of history


March 28th 2020

From Smugglers In The Underground Hug Trade 2021

Lament for the future


swifts drill for darkness in a cliff face

the sea eats gravel & spits sand

the limitless fertility of the tide race


who believes in bladder-wrack barnacles

hermit crabs in their hard hats

lined with perfectly symmetrical


mother of pearl turning in spirals

towards an infinitely small

inner space busy with nothingness


the singing silence of the inner ear

& the sea in the sound

the inter-tidal suck in the stones of the pier


the revenant of ancient hurricanes

a million miles distant

human brain-shaped whelk egg-cases


dogfish fin-whales & dolphins

the future is in the rock pools

a single limpet contains the elements


necessary for everything to begin again 

never mind if this beginning 

ends in a creature that cannot sing


 you hear the brass of the bell

I hear the wood of the frame

you worry about my ears

but hearing wood is an old skill


the grain is a muscle clenched

a great tree’s equilibrium

hear its agony of holding on 

a fist in the dying earth


the clock-case remembers the stone

the bell recalls the foundry

time wound into the spring

is the universe running down


we saw a stone broken

a line of quartz 


the two sides 

of a thirty million 

year old split

an abstract pencil

drew this


to show how late 

we are on the scene

how short our stay

a camera’s blink 

in our geology

a self-timed snap

of people considering

the coincidence

of the most 

fragile species 

on the planet

& this ancient


against our tenure

even stones die

of broken hearts

even planets

fall apart

their only mark

a nervous outburst

in space-time


oh who will watch

the universe

when we’re not here

our ships floating


in the godless dark

no one to read

the empty text

no receiver

of wrecks

the batteries

exhaust themselves

trying to be nice

& then time itself 

in the last tick

& afterwards 0


From The Yellow House (2017)