I met them here, swooping over the water, 
as if the Nile were Loch Croispol in Sutherland.
How sensible to glide up insects
in the warmth of an Egyptian winter
instead of gouging at iced-up bird tables.
We have both escaped the manacles of bare-branched trees
and cement-hard soil.
Light wings over the water.
The sun burns down.
Dark-skinned boys row out in wooden feluccas
to make circles out of nets
and catch glittering perch
that flap at the strangeness of air.
Traffic bays past over the steel bridge.
A papyrus seller presses his voice at me.
Cairo thrums out its colours:
the browns and greens of the Nile;
its hysterically blue skies.
Swallows slant towards insects
as they did at home.
I work on - as I did.
When I meet them again,
in the cool breezes of a Scottish summer,
I will think of this,
and how I too tried to catch Africa.

This poem is from Sailing the Sands, published by Dionysia Press.

The book, Sailing The Sands, may be ordered from Dionysia Press at

Cat-Time, Antalya

fur-stroke of warmth,
purr-space of time,

my knee cats
through the morning
peaceful and slow

while the sun
clothes my neck
with warm silk

And a cool breeze
touches me gently
as if with wonder.

By these Roman walls,
a harbour laps light,
boats creak, yawn,
mountains stretch repose
out to the horizon.

A cat has pounced
this quietness at me,

licks my hand
free of cares,

curls time round
in a tight ball

and keeps it safe.

This poem is from Birdsong and Flame, published by KT Publications.

Terrorist Attack

The white marble front's stripped off now,
the concrete blast-bruised, dark.
This was a bank, tall with shining windows,
the building neat as their rows of figures.

I was at Maslak, teaching a class.
I was herding words like lambs
through gateways that refused to stay still,
when an ambulance complained past.

At break-time, news scattered from TVs.
There was a bomb at the HSBC.
Lives were spilled.
They gushed about like rivers.

Days later, I stand here carefully,
gazing at the partitioned-off disaster
behind its steel rails. I turn my back,
but cannot leave this behind me.

This poem is from The City That Moved, published by Dionysia Press. It may be ordered from their website:


The Friday Group Hike (Auldearn)

Rain swarms down like a hostile horde
of barbarians, as our road passes
a quagmire of tractor tracks and puddles.

There would have been a view of a fort once;
now a grassy mound and an abandoned doocot
stare back from its space.

There would have been a view of a battle once
where two ideas slogged it out,
blood the victor.

Now one foot leads the other,
one piece of conversations follows the other
on our path through the present.

A swan upturns in a pond,
as a crow rasps a rough file through sky
Red berries soften the spike of holly branches.

An SUV sounds the alarm bell 
of its engine, its lights sweeping
at us like cutlasses.

We pass the bareness of birches,
and the crowding of houses
as we reach the village.

Our path has curved round on itself
as we return to the car park
and make geometry of our day.

This poem won first prize in the Robin Lloyd-Jones Autumn Voices Competition judged by Sally Evans in 2020.



Voices stand to attention
as the Turkish anthem drifts
surprisingly thinly across the court.

The youth carrying the flag smiles.
The principal shows his practised frown.
Our eyes are pointed towards him,
but not necessarily our minds.

Girls' tartan skirts flounce.
Boys' boyishness is tied in by ties.

A cat treads across the court
in un-uniformed tabby and white.
It sniffs the air, pauses, and stares
at our still bodies.
It puts a slow paw ahead of slow paw,
pauses again, gazes round
as if afraid it has
walked into some gladiatorial arena for cats.
Its tail flicks.
It rushes up the steps and away.

Eight hundred strong,
we aim our eyes ahead.

Eight hundred people
who dare not say hello 
to one cat.

Cats swish tails
in ginger, tabby, black, or white.

They river past,
curious, busy, never-ending.

They sear the air
with yowling

before purring
bone-china rhythms.

They unpick 
fish-heads daintily.

They green-eye imperatives
at complete strangers

eating fish in street cafes.
They glide past empty tables.

They puzzle paws 
through wrappers in dustbins.

They glance up
and scurry down, while,

elegant as fashion, yet another cat
slinks a waif-look walk.
Fury Is Universal

Coffee, table, seat.
It must be an Istanbul weekend.
The sun boasts sun-ness, warmth.

Then outside the cafe and opposite,
a woman launchers her voice as grenade,
explodes a different moment.

Her face and body point
at someone above us that we cannot see.
Her voice flows flat notes fluently

in words I cannot recognise, fast and Turkish.
I understand her anger and respect it,
but don't know the why and the who.

No reply falls helpfully from above.
She stops for a moment
as anger further distorts her face

with self-justification
and her voice bursts her feelings
from their prison.

Perhaps they've been held there for years.
I've no idea what she's saying
but I know what she means.

His smile's exact
like the press on the shirt and pants he wears.
He bows.
He steps forward, back.
He gives, then gathers.
His cloth flicks neatness onto tables.

He carefully manoeuvres with his plates
towards the poise that is Turks
in weekend breakfast restaurants.
He makes an instant turn,
scuttles off, scurries back.
His movements flicker 
between papers open at Sunday morning.

The sun eases down;
time coffee-cups on,
hurries no one
Yellow Taxi

A Turk shifts in the driver's seat,
performs the sleight of breath called smoke.
Pleased with the trick,
he keeps repeating it.

I haul the door,
reveal his landscape,
black plastic, and stubble,
then enter it.

Handbrake, clutch, gear, accelerator
sequence the moment's grunt and push at tarmac.
The taxi spurts yellow,
before the slow fritter of a traffic jam.

There's an awkward miss and skid
from a rush at the same space.
The horn cock-a-doodles 
the male statement of 'I'.

The engine canters again
before the eased halt. 

Money gives crumpled thanks.