richard pierce

richard pierce

14 March 2018

For Stephen Hawking

Despite what you said you believed,
A mind like yours cannot just go out like a light,
Cannot be switched off like a machine,
Nor disappear into the nothing.
The dark is not what we are afraid of,
It’s the emptiness.
And once we realise the void doesn’t exist
We can live forever,
Travellers between stars and vacuums,
No longer in need of body or breath,
Like you now, exploring the reality of your theories.

RP, 14/03/2018

10 March 2018


What is the proof of love,
If there is proof,
And not just blind faith
Or shape?

Is it the curved mouth
Or the lack of attention
Or the inadequate words
Before and after the sigh
Of what feels like fulfilment?

Or is it the exclusion of all else,
Of time and place
And friends and foe,
Of the world at large?

Is love a ghetto of two,
Or is it the freedom to roam
Into the unknown,
And to keep secrets
To make the heart beat faster?

Maybe love is just a theory
To be unproven,
Like Einsteins Relativity
And the shape of the universe.


19 February 2018


The blackbird belly-breathes in the hedge,
Thicket awash with the rain and broken branches
The storm left behind
Of its clouds and whitewash.

It watches the plume of its breath escape,
Claws at it with its half-frozen beak
And its disarranged feathers,
Wings oddly folded across its crooked back.

Its deafness has silenced its song now, in age,
Alone in the cave that was a nest when,
Hearing, it called to the stilling morning.
Its eyes, too, have withered with the years,

Their colour dissipated with the final winter,
And talons blunted by fruitless hunting,
The ground too sodden to rest on.
She shakes herself and waits for her next breath,

And waits ...


21 November 2017


You ask me to send you money for shoes.
I send you a pair you’ve left here.

As I’m looking for a box to put them in –
You know how bad I am at wrapping –
I come across a bag of sweets,
Those tangy chewable ones you’ve always loved,
That I left in a drawer in the kitchen table and forgot about,
So I stuff the bag into one of the shoes,
Scribble a quick letter,
And seal the box with the tape I find
Under the table,
After searching the whole house.

And I sigh the sigh that presages lost tears
And wonder what your thoughts will be.

Those sweets grow a memory
On my walk to the post office;
That little boy with the strange tooth,
With the fevered smile I thought was death approaching
Until the cold went away;
The little pedant with the high-pitched voice
Conducting his own birthday parties;
The growing guardian angel
Always there when his sister needed him.
The boy who ran away.

And now you’ve lived a quarter of a century,
I wonder what time has done to us all.

I often think you mistake my concerns for you
For an absence of love.

It’s the opposite,
And unconditional.

R, 14/11/2017
For O, a late birthday poem

12 November 2017

This Mountain of Life

Dear, dear Ren,

When you wrote to me in June, I did actually start writing back. I have the scribbled draft in one of my notebooks (behind me in a messenger bag, not yet fully unpacked from the writing workshop I taught yesterday).

I can't believe it was February (was it February? I should keep a journal) when we met for dinner. I felt so full of energy after that, and so buoyed that the two of us should still be in touch after such a long time. And then, somehow, I lost the trail through my life. I think it had something to do with working twelve-hour days for my day job, trying to write, juggling the needs and demands that come to me as a to all intents and purposes house-husband. In fact, the first line of my draft response to you said that I felt much diminished since we'd met. And, to an extent, that's still true. Self-esteem has never been one of my strengths, and when I'm being reactive rather than proactive my view of myself is not very kind.

The thing is, I do need the quiet, and with that I don't mean silence, but that state when the world stops whirling around me, when I'm not constantly trying to meet deadlines, when my phone isn't going every five minutes with either messages or calls. Unfortunately, I don't very often have the option of switching phone and email off, only when I'm on holiday, and that doesn't happen as frequently as I'd like.

The positives, though:

A wonderful 1-week holiday with M in Corfu in mid-July (just laziness and calm and lots of food and booze, and an amazing heat that made all the pains in my joints and back fade into nothingness). She sunbathed for 10 hours a day while I sat in the warm shade, emerging only at 17:30 every day to go for a swim in the pool. I even said to her I was happy, which is something I say very rarely. I read 6 books in 7 days, and managed to jot down some ideas for the ending of Ice Child (which was a bit against my own rules of trying not to do anything at all whatsoever, including creative stuff).

We'll go back for 2 weeks next year if we can afford it.

I finally finished Ice Child in the middle of October, 18 months after I'd started it, which for me is a very very long time to take over a novel. I really like it, but my agent has decided not to take it on because Dead Men sold so badly, according to him and the publisher of it. Well, there's only so much marketing a busy man can do. So I now need to decide what to do with it, whether to try to hawk it to other publishers, or whether to self-publish it. I'll probably go the latter route, once I'm organised (ha!), and that will include a proper launch event with prosecco.

I'm so happy that you finished your play, and hope that it will be in the public eye before too long. Your words are too precious to be hidden.

The fear-driven momentum you refer to in your last letter (it's only taken me five months to answer it) is unfortunately real. I find more and more, as I age, that I'm afraid of an increasing number of things (which encompasses just about everything in the world), and I think it's that fear that makes me ill, that made me have those headaches at the start of the year, that paralyses me just when I really do need to be taking action, that makes me see all the outstanding decisions I need to make as an insuperable mountain of decisions that I have no idea of how to start dealing with. That's probably also why this letter is so late.

I had set myself the goal, after getting that knock-back from my agent, of taking part in nanowrimo this month, and to write a psychological thriller (plot already formed in my mind), but I'm so busy with other things I've only written 638 words (yes, I can be that precise). It will have to wait now because there's no way I can catch up, not with everything else that's going on.

I could write more, and tell you things I don't want in the public eye, so I won't. Let me just say that it often grieves me that people look at my life from the outside and marvel at how easy and cool my existence is. Nothing could be further from the truth (and I know you know the truth). Every day is a battle, and every day I feel like just throwing in the towel, and relegating my writing and my emotions to the least important things in my life. But then I get a fresh breath, then I have a moment of clarity and know that it would be a betrayal of huge proportions to give up. So I don't, and try to crawl again from the foot of the mountain to the top of it.

Much love to you and E.