Tim Downie: ‘Ghost’

Tim Downie is an actor and writer living and working in West London. He has always written poetry but his main work has been writing for theatre and performing in tv and film. His first play, The Dead Moon, was commissioned and staged at the Aldeburgh Festival in the summer of 2008 (the first non-operatic play ever to be performed there.) His  work has been performed at the Soho Theatre, Southwark Playhouse, The Kings Head and as part of the Offcut and London Bridge Festivals. In 2013 his play The Curse of Elizabeth Faulkner debuted at the Edinburgh fringe, and later transferred to London’s West End. His work as an actor has been on tv shows like Toast of London, Peep Show, Upstart Crow and Outlander for Starz and movies such as The Kings Speech, Transformers 5, Horrible Histories  Paddington.


‘The poems in Ghost are very much rooted in my area of North Kensington. They touch on such topics as the urban environment encroaching on the last wild habitats we have, the psychogeographical nature of the area as well as the mixing of memory, myth and folklore from the different voices that live here. My hope is that these poems reflect some of the rich diversity of cultures that make this area so incredibly special to me.’


Tim Downie: Four Poems from Ghost


Ghost is crying in the old streets
The rain blurred streets.
Ghost is alone
Among the creaking twigs,
The knuckle of wind
Beating on his back.
‘We know where you are!’
Wind screams.
‘No use in hiding.’

A wet Ghost mouse
Not looking to disturb –
Poor world weary Ghost.
People laugh,
They are not interested anymore.
Ghost is empty,
Lost amongst
Flesh and stone.

Rolling on earth’s
Tight muscle.
Holding his breath,
Only looking ahead,
Ghost of Ghosts!
Ghost reborn of
Sawdust and ash,
Starting now,
In this shell of night,

This tumbledown night.
As the body unfurls
We wait, we wait.
As a swelling river
Waits, and waits
And the dawn
That comes creeping,
It waits, it waits
We wait.

We are waiting Ghost.
We are all waiting.


Ghost wiped the dead spiders
From his lips and waited
For the butterflies to die.
Autumn again, he thought.

Another cycle is complete
Leaves lose their trees
Flies gather,
Women suffer,

Dreams become memories
Become the fleeting footprints
Of Hermes Trismegistus
(Thrice blessed no less)
That eagle of Alchemy,
Peter Panning through deep skies

Walking on water above
The slow hair of weeds
The crooked tombs of oyster beds
The black heart of the squid.

Ghost trembled.
Here were the spewed stars of youth
The black eyes of puberty
The dead-eyed priest
Winking at you among
Crazy jack-o’-lanterns.

The lawfully wedded wife,
The dwarf,
The hordes on the bright steps,
After omens have rent the skies.

Tomorrow I shall wear velvet
Thought Ghost
And woo the night
Dreamily kiss her
In glowing cemeteries and the lobbies
Of low end hotels

I will stand in front of huge windows
Hearing the clarion of the winds
As it rattles out my bones
Onto the broad table of October.

‘Catch me’, says the night
And is lost to the rain,
Lost among mugwumps
And gnomes who loiter
Around the supermarket carparks.

Ghost is anchored
Weary, he can run no more
He stands,
Neglected as a promise
Down where the grass dies
And the shadows lengthen.


Ghost met a man on the road.
The man saw Ghost.
No one had seen Ghost for a long time,
He didn’t like the feeling.

He melted out of the fog
Sweating in the cold night,
His murmured speech
Not speech
Dangled like an entrail.

Nodding, nodding,
‘I was an animal once
But now I am asleep,’
The man said
‘The thunder though
Keeps me awake.

Neither waking nor dreaming
I pace the cracks
Swinging like a pendulum
Dancing over rocks

Amongst unknown streets
Naked as a tongue
Against dead languages.

I have seen girls
Empty as moonbeams
Taller than memory
Skipping stones,
Throwing sticks,

They embrace the thunder,
The noise,
This euphoria
Of shadow.’

The man fell silent
And stepped forward.
Ghost struck a match
And leant into the dark.

He beckoned
Ghost closer
Brining his small
Raw mouth
Frayed as a coat
Closer to Ghost

‘Her skin was like
Snow in candlelight.’
He whispered

‘Eyes like rain
In a Japanese woodcut
Full of sorrow,
Filled with many voices.’

Silent. So silent
Her little bird bones
Brittle as twigs
Her breath
Thin as starlight

My hands
Cradled her
As she pawed the air,
Spine arched,
Bleating like a lamb,
The weight of her head,
My hands, tight.

Her irises slowly bursting
In a firework of jelly,
Dribbling over her cheeks
In night thick eels
Puddling beneath us.

Thumbs pushing
Like children’s noses at a window
Till the throat cracked
Her head lolled slowly
As a snowdrop
On my shoulder
Silent. So silent

I lay her down
Like tarpaulin
In a grave of moss
And pigeon feathers

As the Dead Sea scrolls.
We are all the same people
Just I am further from home

Ghost wept.
Poor world
Thought Ghost



Tears from Ghost.
Slow tears
From veiny eyes.
Ghost stood
On thin
Rabbit-boned ankles.

The congealing snow
Holds the whole
Creaking sky within it
Spun out like lace
Below a heavy
Curtain of night and splendour.

Ghost had travelled north
Over mammoths
Locked in the black glitter
Of eternal ice.
When spring came
The snow receded.
Ghost had turned his head
And missed its vanishing,
Had outsourced the shadow
Of winters long night.

This place
Made Ghost feel dead,
The rust and the moth.
Time moved.
Beauty ebbed.
Life faded.
The white gulls
Gleam on the waves.




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