Simon John Harvey

My husband is a writer also. Mostly he writes fiction but occasionally he turns his hand to poetry and has had poetry published in a number of magazines including Literary Review and Poetry Now.


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I thought I knew you;
not completely of course –
no-one knows anyone completely.
Now I think I don't know you at all.
Your self – your true self –
is closeted away,
shut off from the world
and from my prying eyes
that for so long now – so very long –
have tried to find you.
What I see instead is your closet,
with angry declarations
and warnings on the door,
and a formidable lock to keep it closed.
I thought – I hoped – you'd show me in,
but you never did.

I never got as close to anyone else,
as I got to you.
I conclude, therefore,
that I have never truly known anyone.

I have a closet;
my fear and guilt go in it,
while I remain relatively safe
from both outside.
You see, it is my demons
that I keep in my closet,
not my self.
I am more than the sum
of my guilt and my fear.
I never want to be closeted;
I would rather die
than live my life in a closet.


I believe I've tried everything else;
there's only one thing left to wish for:
The Miracle Cure.
An intervention by the gods,
to sort everything out,
fix what's broken
and cure all ills.
I can then be the person I was always meant to be,
instead of the miserable relic I've become.
If the divinities are indisposed
to do the deed themselves –
if they're busy with the bigger picture –
then the money would suffice.
I can buy my way out of this mess,
and start over: live a new life by the sea.


I put this moment here,
in a pot for safe-keeping.
It is precious,
and I cannot bear
to be parted from it.

The years steal all un-potted moments,
the mind plays tricks with them,
juggles them,
loses some
and those that are gone
are gone for good.
No-one else can find
and keep them safe for me.

So these are my pots
and the moments that I keep in them
say more about me
than words ever can.


It's a peculiar landscape,
somewhere between the states of wakefulness and sleep;
a liminal zone
where, semi-conscious, I creep and cower,
my imagination bleeding
into reality.

Misshapen thoughts writhe like freakish infants;
twisted memory fragments
that I force together
in startling new ways,
casting new light on the details kept in shadow
and shading things I no longer wish to see.

This is a forever beach
where nothing else matters
except the tide
that washes up dream-wrack,
and draws back into the ocean
eroded chips of reality.


Is it over yet? Is it time to go home?
I miss the companionship,
the comfort that I valued more than anything;
I admit I took it all for granted.
This place, wherever it is, is like a madhouse;
this dumb charade unnerving
in its verisimilitude.
I know it isn't real – none of this is real -
it's not what we had planned.

This awful, abstract settlement,
this semblance of a life,
everything unordered;
all these unfinished books,
all these ill-bred infants, stillborn on the page,
all our talk of happiness,
a small house by the sea,
a garden of our own,
a place we could feel safe
and hold the world at bay;
a sacred retreat; a blesséd plot:
just so much wasted air.
Our spent breath mists the cold glass screen
that separates us now
like a presentiment of death.

Did you forget your lines?
I've forgotten mine.
What is left of us, our dreams,
our lives, the love I thought we shared?
Is that all we have to say to one another?
Are we done here yet?


Forever we are bound like this
in history; untouched, unkissed;
you in your perpetual youth,
me in my eternal bliss
for age will take us both in time
(your looks will fade,
and I will die)
and so, with due respect,
a distance must exist
between your loveliness
and my desire lest
what is pure be sullied.
And love, obsessive love
but true love nonetheless,
is proof that it is better
to be parted than possessed.


Who am I now?
The maiden you would drown;
a cast-off maiden of the world.
Prim and proper
I was got for you
and yet you did not value me,
no more than what you paid for me.
One night of lust too soon fulfilled,
that could have been a lifetime of companionship.
I could have been a mother for your dreams,
a comfort for your cares,
a reason for your old age.

Who am I now?
My name is whispered by the fast-flowing stream,
is remembered by meanders in the wide, slack river,
is shouted by the crash of oceans
breaking upon far-flung shores.

I am the spill of surf on rocks,
the surge and swell of tides,
the fall of rain,
the clouded skies,
the maiden you would drown,
a cast-off maiden of the world.

[Note: Attributed to the character Royanne Zafrayn in the novel Creatures of Confound.]


I thought I knew you;
I thought I understood your grief,
your loss.
What arrogance; what folly.
There is no grief, no loss,
that truly can be shared;
it is like death itself
which each of us must face alone.

But maybe somewhere
in the space – the silence –
that uncomfortably sits between us,
a space now partly filled
with someone else's words –
a book we shared –
I think I know the truth of grief;
of loss; a truth inside myself
and in particular that part of me
that cleaves – oh, how it cleaves – to you.


I'm planning a psychotic event.
I've never had one before.
My therapist confirmed this.
I said to him, but it must count for something
that I'm making plans for one.
Making plans is good, he said;
it demonstrates investment in the future.


There is a tiny part of me
that would step back in time,
return what I had taken
and take what's there that's mine.
It didn't look as useful though,
as pretty or as bright
and so I stole another fate
that brought me here tonight.

I wrestle with a conscience now
I never thought I'd find
and wonder at the fate I left
that's playing on my mind.
If I could go back to that day
and face that choice again,
I'd choose the fate 'twas meant for me
and save myself some pain.

There is another part of me
that worries every day
that someone else, dissatisfied,
might steal my fate away.
If I don't soon revisit it,
I'll have one more regret
and now all I can hope is that
it hasn't happened yet.


You are gone now,
like others who are gone
though unlike them in many ways;
I'll remember you more easily
than I remember them
perhaps because you touched me,
and they never did.

I am untouched now
but my imagination
pores, lingers over you,
though it is not you.
There is no truth in
your unmarked beauty;
no truth, no innocence.

If they return you,
will you be the same?
Will age and care have spared you?

They did not spare me.

(From: The Seven Houses)

It is raining,
and the rain that falls on me,
also falls on you.

We breathe the same air,
we see the same light
reflected by and refracted
through this coruscating world.

We are the same
and yet we are not,
and the sameness
and the notness
are compliments
we pay each other.

In our sleep
we tread the same paths
and the past escapes,
abandons us
identically fast.

In the stillness
of my private garden,
with my eyes closed,
I listen for your breath,
but I hear only the rain.

(From: The Seven Houses)

To be chosen and abandoned
is far worse than never being chosen.
Being overlooked was my fate;
I had embraced it
and she challenged me only on a whim,
of that I am quite sure.

She set me on an unfamiliar path,
furnished me with all of her devices
but what was I to her?
Was I a muse, a figment of her vain imagination?
Was I a project, an experimental affair?
Or was I just a bolster for her vanity, an easy option,
an excuse for her absent mind?

Whatever I was, my heart began to sing,
though with a far from confident voice,
and her attentions soon became as the action
of the waves upon a stone,
and her hand upon my own
conducted an entire symphony of need
that was repressed, and unexpressed.
I felt it though, as sure as I feel death approach me now.
It: her weakness,
her need for me a fatal flaw.

Her kiss, her touch, her uncomplicated smile:
these things were my undoing,
the complex but intoxicating taste of something forbidden
(for I was never truly worthy)
and divine, for who but the gods
could craft such an exquisite beauty
or define such an absurd romance?

Her body became my cathedral;
her parted lips, my altar;
her affluent affection, my wine;
her desire for me, the foundation of my faith;
her leaving me, my fall from grace.

But I, unmade, am not forgotten here.
And my heart will be the cold, cold place
upon which her last breath may be condensed.


A beetle knows the secrets of the universe
and has a small, but prized, collection of fossils.
He was friends with Aristotle
so he's been around a while
and apparently he spoke at the Lyceum.
While his small voice was lost within the crowd,
his big ideas fit best inside an empty head.
His name is of no consequence -
he's a beetle after all.


The day has all but died behind this hill;
this place where some great mountain should have been.
A thin red line remains: a firebrand
to warm the gulls: the only mourners seen.

A flimsy gauze collects; a placid shroud
that lingers like the ghost of day abroad.
As threads disperse to whisper through the town
the sleep of troubled sleepers is restored.

The feeble lights that glimmer here and there,
like facets on the anthracite of night,
extinguish in a moment of regret.
The harbinger of dawn has taken flight.

Without the bugle-call of falling bombs;
of air-raid sirens, breaking glass and screams,
a more insidious device departs
and leaves behind a place of broken dreams.

The boldest statements of the day are lost;
its kindest words forgotten and unmade.
The God of War came calling after dark.
The apocalypse street-preachers were repaid.


I made fish lips today
while staring in the mirror.
It made me think of evolution
and how, many years ago,
I used to be a fish.


I was never a courageous kid,
the chances others took were not for me,
my life was safe and mostly indoors
out of trouble, out of danger
mostly in my head in fact
where anything was possible
and no-one could get hurt.

So when my mother died
and the nurse in the intensive care
said that I was brave,
I was confused...
because it was not me who died;
it was not my adventure.


Part one

This is a dance - the two of us -
you, singled from the crowd
and stripped of all your pretty couture,
vulnerable, caught up in my lust.

With these hands I grip you tightly,
sacrifice you righteously,
sink my teeth so deep into your sweetness,
suck and fountain off your blood
and suck and, greedy for you, suck.

You fall against me with your dead eyes
glazed in that prerequisite of fate.
I have no need of reason;
I have no need of love.
At least that is what I tell myself
yet slowly, and with isolated steps,
I cut from one death to another,
so surprised to feel something,
anything at all,
and all that's left within me
is a god-damned memory.

It is you, and you're still bleeding,
in my arms, so cold yet bleeding
drops that freeze like crimson glass beads.
If, with thread, I could now string them all
and wear them round my neck
I'd keep you near me.

Part two

This is my dance.
With a clarity so sharp it makes me shudder
I percieve, in death,
the weakness that consumes you:
the sour breath of unrequited love.
For in one moment of miscalculated lust
you forced yourself upon me
made me bleed and freed me from my inhibitions,
tortured me with all the possibilities
that death could entertain.

Yes, I am still screaming, deep inside
where hope and anguish mingle.
No decay will ever kill my passion.
Fix me with your hard stare,
kiss me with your dead lips,
bite me, hold me tighter,
nothing you can do will steal away
this heart of mine that
beats for me and me alone.

This is my dance.
As I embrace death I can sense
expressions of confusion and of dread
spread like the phantoms of regret
to haunt your every passing hour.
In death I turn away from you.

So strange that you and you alone
reveal to me the power of this darker side,
this twisted, bitter, vicious side,
in an orgasmic burst of reason
that indemnifies my pain
and elevates my consciousness
and renders conscience obsolete.

So look into these cold eyes;
I'm the monster that you made me.

Part three

Release is as elusive as your ghost
and while I waste away,
the hours are my nemesis.
Doomed to this dark emptiness
I cannot kill again.

Nothing is quite what it seemed
and I am woken to an understanding,
too late, that my immortality's
a wretched thing I want no more.

This is a dance but with no partner now
I dance the steps alone.


Melanie existed on the threshold of exception,
always the muse, always amusing,
not one but two whole repositories of joy.
She was a parade of charm and wit,
a paradigm of skimpy vestments,
a positive crescendo of delight.

Her quest for ease was hushed
in an authentic maze of colour.
With her aspirations spent she gazed
and coolly apprehended her success.

Perhaps it was the subtle application of narcotics,
or the compound distillation of her pride
that accelerated, downward, her progression
to the floor where she remained, unmoving
and docile until some consideration could be shown.

In effect, she passed out and the myth
of her delirium, on waking, was to excuse
all and sundry for the failure inside.

Hers was a foolish complaint
embittered by the coffee that
filtered through her, enervating,
sparking as it went,
making her twitch just a little
and blink more often than she should
and vow to never do the same again.


Hush, and if you breathe,
breathe softly on the face of death.
The pathway you have chosen
is strewn with vagrant analogies.
Each step is a prescient blunder,
each pause a reminiscence,
a vacant scatological absurdity.
Each voice is a waste of sound,
each name a waste of sense,
each sense attuned to just one memory.
Thus it is that silence offers
the most profound reflection of our selves.

Hush, the terrified linguists
revoke all licence to speak.
Each letter is removed from the air
until none remain in suspense.
Bound words hide their sacred meanings
in dark and featureless walls,
but the plaster cracks,
and the plasterer hears their lament.


There is still something abandoned
in your tightly folded arms,
in your cast off aspect,
and I find myself
addicted to your darkness.

When it rains,
your separating hands
reach out to apprehend...something,
anything at all.
And yet they come back empty.

Your interminable suffrage is taxing;
you are vexed, that much is for sure.
Despondency cuts well above your heart
and leaves you tentative.
You hoard unconsummated sighs.

Nothing is as curative as distance,
so you thought,
but inside you keep schedules of frustration,
and shun the bitter truth
that you were wrong.


It isn't the soft focussing,
or atmospheric side-lighting
or the fact that it's in monochrome.
It isn't even the composition, the pose,
the facial expression,
or the shallow depth of field
but something more profound
that makes this picture art.

It is something that eludes
all but the artist
who recognises, early on,
that art is so much more
than the ingredients;
who achives it
but is never sure
how it came to be;
who sometimes looks,
in puzzlement,
at pictures he took years ago
that move him now
more than they ever did.

[On being influenced by David Hamilton]

If only there was some way to explain,
in words, just what it is I need to say.
But words fail me,
and I'm left with an amalgam of ideas
that take some understanding;
that could be misinterpreted so easily:
these mental rushes,
these sequences of linked, still frames.

I know the way that other voyeurs work;
I've heard the words they use
so inappropriately.
Only rarely do they hint at something deeper;
something more profound;
some artistic or aesthetic edge
as they get near, but never to, the point.

I am not afraid to say
that these figments of imagination
are not objects or abstracted bodies.
They are living, breathing women
who exist beyond the page;
beyond the picture.

When you look at what he's done,
then look with better eyes
than you've been using until now.
You'll be surprised, perhaps.
that there's a striking
lack of exploitation.

What there is:
fragile, transient perfection
and there is no other way to capture this,
because all too soon you'll blink
...and then it's gone.


If by chance you died today,
I would still photograph you.
Corruption would not steal
your beauty from my lens.

Carefully I would focus
on your very last expression;
candidly I would digitise you
bit by lucid bit.

Over time I would explore you;
the subtle and the more extreme
changes in your skin-tone,
deathly palour blossoming in spectra.

Your gentle curves would bloat,
then cave in as time passed
and the heartless laws of nature
had their wicked way with you.

Your flesh would rot,
exposing sallow bones
surrounded by a stain
so like your living shadow.

Then I would put away my camera
and settle a plain shroud over you.
Respectful, I would thereby leave
a last and lasting impression.


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