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They were building the conservatory that summer,
and every morning she made a visit to the site,
looked up through a filigree of thin timber
framing an infinity of light.

He sat all day in the dark, staring at a computer screen,
exploring the internet, the world growing ever nearer,
ever more intimate, as e-mails flew between strangers
and digital imagery left nothing unseen.

We saw the photographs in all the papers:
our soldiers, behaving disgracefully,
posing shamelessly for the ubiquitous cameras,
witlessly betraying the dirty secrets of war.

In the transparent splendour of the conservatory
they entertained, that autumn: he, a mole
blinking shyly in the light; she, over-exposed,
glowing with a dangerous radiance.

Tonight, stars spangle the sky, illuminating little.
Pixels dance uselessly across a darkening screen.
He imagines a great romance where none exists,
while she sits alone in the fading light.


In the middle of the night the phone rang:
someone had seen a falling star.
We had bartered tomorrow for today,
gambled, and lost.

You went out to the garden
and lay naked in a nettle bed.
There were sacrifices to be made.
People looked the other way.

You were the first to fall. One by one,
they took us all. Now the phone
never rings; not a star
is left in the sky.

Glass Houses first appeared in The Stony Thursday Book, (Limerick) in the autumn of 2011. The poem reflects events from the war in Iraq, as well as events that were happening closer to home.

In Hostages, which I wrote around the same time, I was again combining the political and the personal. This poem appeared in Stand (Leeds) in February, 2009.