The murder of a mistress excites an editor or two
But this defendant is the first to face his fate
on camera, so lawyers have their say,
then leave it to the judge to read the verdict
on The News. It’s Guilty and before you know,
he’s gone to spend his years reflecting
or resisting all the ends that sentences entail.

A determined innocent he declined to answer
any particle that made the cloud of evidence
that brought him down. And it’s a house of
horror tale no jury could resist.
Each circumstance weighed heavy with the next –
the luring, lonely basement, filled
with suffocated wishes; the kitchen scoured
with bleach in an over spotless house;
the hair caught in a carpet; the freshener
that lingered in the boot; the tape which could
have bound a quartered body, butchered
into meat. And then the search for rocky
tracks that must have caused the damage
to the car as it defiled the empty wilderness
that slinks now round an unmarked grave.
You could not write it for TV.

Poor girl, she’s not found to add her
body’s outrage to the day. Instead
the empty land they think she’s in
yields five more bodies in her stead.
Four buried and one abandoned
on a beach. What their sacrifice was
only can be guessed. Their resurrection
brings no judgement day on anyone.
But she escaped, and love is free
to keep its council in his cell. Out there
concealed in urban post codes five more
killers guard their secret liberty
to see what hidden death may call.

In 2012, a friend told how a colleague of her husband’s was being tried for murder in Edinburgh. It was a crime of passion, with no body, and entirely circumstantial evidence. The verdict was to be televised.


Beneath a canopy of roofs two rivers
saunter, lanes wind and vanish in
themselves. At either side, opposed,
2 halls, one stone, one iron and glass,
stand for the centuries they span.

Time was slower when they blocked
the Minster up. 10 generations trapped
the silences within. Son handed stone
to son, anonymous, and on until
the air was stopped and held voices
echoed to the Lord. The building does
the maths – a trinity of forces gathers
weight in emptiness above our heads,
while older anarchies persist in corbelled
heads that grin and gesture to a past
still dancing wicked in the woods.

The perfect arch across the rails
took only months to take its spaces in.
Its gods could hurry profits to perform
their work – and oversaw advantages in speed
to bring the word. An age of individuals
and proudly known. In spite, the station
leaves no sign or fingerprint behind
of those whose skill and brain hand-made
this thrilling double curve. Itinerant hand,
or iron engineer – through them, oblivious
with gratitude, the ticketed have passed,
with hurried cases to be north or south.

York 1st and last. A place of purpose
and of pilgrimage. A kingdom and a throne.
Keep coming here in thrall to gods
Who grip and hold quicksilver in their glass.

Ludwig’s Last Note

Beethoven at a Broadwood. Deaf, held in the cruelty
of jaundice, his life, as they say, a guttering candle
flickering defiance at his unlidded piano. Broken
quills litter a table; ink is open,

Spilled; paper is everywhere; staved off,
a tiny scrawl of etched entreaties, intentions,
demands.   Last movement, then. He strikes
the keys with rage he cannot hear, a tumult

of silence hisses its answer. He is pursuing
a simple theme and time keeps its distance.
His fingers seek new scales, arpeggios,
as they hammer noiselessly in his head.

Then, without a protest or the usual flourish,
they simply stop, a slowing to an absence, an emptiness.
And that’s it for the piano. He summons up the last quartets,
the European Ninth, then slips away to death.

That last sonata breaks the ground beyond.
Behind the weight of style and sound that was
his own, the sentence of that stop asserts a life
that suddenly is far too good to lose and then is gone.