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'The Tyrant, The Galway Girl, The Noreen Fury'

Written whilst on residency at Barrow-in-Furness (admittedly only ten minutes down the road from where I live however having the full week to walk around the town, without a predetermined task or company, enabled the creation of this work). Barrow is a town of contradictions; situated on the Furness Peninsula, its incredibly remote position also contributes to its draw, the largest employers are BAE and the NHS, it is heavily industrialised though also home to an incredible natural landscape. 

'The Tyrant' was shown at Art Gene, Barrow, in 2018, the Vallum Gallery, Institute of Fine Art and in the group exhibition 'The words that precede my mouth' in 2019. Each time it has been shown as a different edition, including as an installation and an embossed hand-bound book with a folio.

Maybe you could call them castles.

Only this time you can’t see the soldiers.

‘To see and to be seen’

but when you saw too much

that’s when the problems start.

And they rush out

all the kings horses and all the

kings henchmen arrive in style.

The town spans out 

like a perfect grid and as I 

wander aimlessly (looking purposeful)

I get used to the repeated terraces

and despite feeling at home

-terraces usually feel safe-

I worry; if you see too much 

who’s the king here?

where are his men?

I don’t see enough of the town though;

it moves on too fast

and before I realise I’m pursued

-at least it feels that way-

and as each street rises away

the castle appears at the end.

Again and again and over and over.

No matter where I turn,

left by the chippy then right by the church

across a round-a-bout about a hundred times

…it’s always at the end of the road.


There must be more than one.


But soon I am drawn to them, I want to see

-but not too much, not too much-

I want to know the vastness of their

corrugated bellies, their cream caverns

I want to know what grows inside them

and what they’ll birth to an already full world?

Maybe the castles are mountains…

then a glimpse of a childhood fantasy

of cities under the hills;

something so unmoving from the outside

teaming with life and with thought.

Construction but concealed.

So silent, in suspense, in potential

What will it birth to an already full world?


It birth’s a sleek body

dark grey as wet concrete

I almost step on it as 

I follow the desire path 

round the edge of the estates

hemmed in by the grasslands

and mud flats of the bay.

I almost step on it and ask

what are you doing here?

You should be in the water

but it lies curled at my feet

-at first I thought it was seaweed-

and as I turn it over with my foot

it lies with it’s belly exposed to the cold sun;

white-grey scales coming loose

mouth full of grit, of sand, of 

heavy mud that climbs out of the sea.

It makes me feel sick, or guilty,

and as I walk on I only manage ten strides

before halting, before turning back.

I couldn’t leave it, not like that.

It looked too vulnerable

I turn it back onto it’s stomach, 

dark grey to air once more

and leave it curled on the stooping reeds

that yellow the edges of the path

 I don’t think I dreamt it


It didn’t mean anything


It didn’t mean anything.

It's an odd thing to dream about...


Still, it's odd. What do you think it meant?


It usually does...

Everything begins to yellow

the reeds, the leaves on damp trees

hanging low over a moss covered courtyard

and as you enter silence descends.

Cars still hurtle past

on a road outside but here

their roar barely matters, barely registers.

In the centre of the courtyard Mary stands

resplendent in red stone and roses

that circle the base,

a few holding form in the cold air

pale yellows, pinks, one a glorious ruby.

She cradles her son,

with a softness the pink stone shouldn’t have.

Docile. It implies a dog 

that has the potential to turn,

in my head at least.

The damp morning led on

to the sea, dark sand, heavy air

thick with salt and seaweed.

Docile water, lazily lapping at the shore?



But it’s more, it’s more

because as I was walking

it was beside me immediately

it drew in as my back was turned

like a game, cat and mouse

and I was trapped between slippery

rock pools and the sea, 

ever closer and ever faster.

Only when I was back on the bank

did I look back, my heart raced.

It was the sublime;

beauty and danger dancing together




I talked with someone about it during the day,

they pulled two people out of the water.



I’m not sure-

I got upset once, hearing it described

as the ‘angry Northern Sea’.

It isn’t angry; it rose and fell as it always does.

It isn’t to blame in that story. 

I fear it out of respect, 

but it in itself isn’t to be feared.

It is the thing that drives us into it

that should be feared.

Do you think it was because of the Morecambe Bay tragedy?

That's probably why it was on your mind then.

I sat for hours it seemed

moving pebbles between my fingers

and each one I picked up

was different to the last,

all except one. 

I kept picking up this tiny stone

that was tunnelled through,

it was more air than stone.

I have no idea how it didn’t fall apart.

It just kept appearing though,

I didn’t want the repetition anymore.

So I threw it far out, into the grey water

and still it appeared in my hand.

Still it came back.

I decided to keep it,

like a small child gathering treasure.



I couldn’t find it later when I emptied my pockets.

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