Poem: Dance By Candlelight

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Dance by candlelight,
Though it took us a long while to get here,
Circumambulating the sacred mountain, tolling
The bells of raven’s calls, kestrels hovering as
Though suspended on strings as we this spiny
Ridgeway walk, over outcrops of sandstone,
Forests teetering precipitous on the lips of
Landslides. Pipits leaping out of gorse and
Heath to be personified as leopard-print
Mushrooms rising out of rotting timber,
Lichen caking everything in the ancestry
Of crystal pure air

But we never discovered the mystery of the stolen wood,
Hot-air balloons rising horizonwards. We drove through
The Valleys, slag heaps, stone bursts, and the chill air of
Keeper’s Pond, to see bridges half-constructed in mid-air,
Built by cranes pushing their hands through the roots of
Clouds – buildings burned out – buildings abandoned –
Stray cats housed, and rockeries unvisited by vole or
Mouse

It is a different world up here,
Where the pink ling yields to the Martian surface
Of autumn, where spindle bushes fruit in public gardens,
Where a screen connects me to you hundreds of miles away,
Every pixel a prison of yearning

I am sorry for my sourness, my irritability,
My sulky moods – this creature, unhabituated to desire,
And spun in the solitude of his own mind’s caverns

I do not want to be a trial to you,
A hardship of endurance,
A craggy mount –
A fist of thorns

But I am no smooth-lipped sailor:
Mine are turbid waters, bespeaking a surface
Of serenity concealing many shipwrecks –
I am sweet, thorny, heavy, fruitful, and unyielding
As bramble o’er gravestone – I am the malleability
Of melted and re-solidified steel, wielded in the coils
Of a serpent

I am the moonbeam’s muscles –
The storm call of a throstle –
The dreaded wish of penny in fountain –
Or a tuppence in the throat of a swan

But somewhere beneath this petticoat of ice,
You unfrosted me – took off my corset –
And enabled me to feel a desire for which
I may or may not have been made

But desire is a fire,
Sending out embers of hope and needful expectation,
And the desire to love, and to surrender one’s self,
Can come so near to dashing on the rocks of selfishness,
As a ship, it becomes hard to steer

But each and every moment needn’t be amplified so –
You can turn a butterfly wing into the winking eyelash
Of God – the tinkling of harpsicord in golden ballroom,
Treading a minuet of careful proportions

Cannot you subdue me and rinse these bad moods from me?
I can be heavy as cement – unyielding as ancient crag –
A standing stone refusing to budge –
Unable to be dragged by man –
All men must come to it

So, you put on your gloves,
Putting your hand softly into my chest,
And say: “Stop being such a drama queen!
You’re nowhere as bad as you think you seem!”
And feeling understood, softened and surrendering,
I let my tensions thaw into healthy tears

 

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Poem: Alive Or Dead

dream

Raped by the infinity inside myself,
Each moment confronted by more than I am,
A turbulence of high strangeness, difficult to resolve,
The mystery of darkness in the marrow of man

Laying in bed cocooned in everchanging images,
Beasts from the underworld with ten million heads,
Temples richer than Babylon – starlight flashing in the faces
Of the angels and demons, neither living or dead

I want to make sense of it – yet yield to the senseless;
Explain everything – yet remain mystified,
I feel impossibly powerful, yet utterly defenceless,
A God and a Baby – dying and deified

She keeps me from sleeping, this relentless conundrum,
It tortures, burrows deeper, yet occasionally relieves
The same pain it triggers, unearthing in shivers
The answers and illusions I inseparably receive

I dream of a yellow dragon perched high in the mountains,
The grandeur of her age, immoveable and pure,
I film her with my iPhone, desperate to capture
Proof of the sacred certainty scientists so abjure

But it’s not about proof – hold fast the golden core!
The undying inspiration – the muse within the mad –
Is it possible to be a poet without always being at war;
Caught in the abysm between the good and the bad?

It is the highest vocation, most rapturous, yet hurtful,
A shit-bespattered surveyor in uncertainty’s mines,
A touchstone of experience -yet secure from its terrors
Can you ever hope to be as master of its rhymes?

I do not know – there is no grandeur of conclusion,
No closure, no judgement, no forgiving finality,
The adventure continues -but of this I am certain:
A poet, alive or dead, I ever must be

Poem: The Eternal Sparrow

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It seems foolish and melancholy
To dwell solely on impermanence,
When past experiences dwell in what I presently feel,
And new experiences rekindle old flames,
Switching between streams of primary colours,
Finding continuity in the shadow of what is no longer there

The sparrow may no longer be in the hedgerow,
But you can find his echo in every hedgerow,
And his furtively swaggering call rings out from a blueprint
Even time cannot smother

For wings are the science of the imagination,
And they flap every time a thought returns to itself,
Like roots sinking through a decaying mother,
Buried in a graveyard of heather

To live with William Blake,
On an eternal lake,
In changelessly changing weather

 

Poem: The Restoration

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It was hard earlier in the year,
Clutching shells and stones from the seashore,
When every second without paralyzing fear was
A second of success, but not one in which I could rejoice,
Knowing how swiftly and severely it could be undercut
And swept away – my safety not yet sealed by the satisfying
Certainty of boredom

There were many moments when I prayed,
I yearned for boredom – to experience the drama
Of the small – the Jane Austen banality of domestic
Docility

But I could not yet have it!
All was too intense, every experience,
Sharp and piercing, straining for blood without surcease;
A whisper in the skull could metastasize into a choir of paranoia –
A macabre thought could haunt me all day – a morbid sensation
Cling to me like bats to the roof of a cave

I felt the full reality of the Chinese curse:
“May you live in interesting times”

I came to distrust stillness:
You’re only safe when you cycle, sleep, or walk,
And I hated summer for the firmness of its fire,
The hound nipping at my heels to keep me tirelessly
On

II.
Meanwhile, we sent messages and photos to one another,
I whispered your name as I walked in the woods –
A pilgrim invoking the ghost of hope,
Praying you would be the blade to cut my ties to pain;
All the suffering to which I had been so strongly committed
And which I now wished to divorce

You were my lighthouse, my other shore,
I felt willing to relinquish all of my religious
And spiritual powers and knowledge if I felt
It could secure me a stable future with you

But that was not essential –
Medicined by your love, I am the still the shaman,
The sorcerer, as brooding, strange, gloomy, erratic as ever,
I still speak in a strange tongue, and go onto mountain tops
To chase the fog – I still find my soul’s reprieve in the beauty
Of rotting leaves, and search out birdsong in the cliffs and gullies,
And hunt all my days with a raven’s malaise, loving and revoking
Love in my usual wayward ways

And restored to myself, with you by my side,
I have a dragon to be this crow’s smiling bride

Diary: The Love Of Rotting Leaves

 

leaves.jpgToday I am mostly moved by how beautiful rotting leaves are. They are precious relics, gone unnoticed, holier than hair clippings from the head of a saint, and far more pervasive in terms of the blessings they offer to the world.

Breaking down into mulch and soil, in senescence, they become the very matrix of life, the womb of trees, insects, flowers, and the dancing space of crucial, earth-pullulating worms. When you bundle leaves up into your arms, you are holding the lymph, the blood, the marrow of the earth – the distillation of what it means to be alive.
Let them not go unnoticed. Feel their crunch beneath your feet, the satisfying snap that sneaks into your ears – examine closely the march of mould across its surface – an evolutionary invasion. The landscape of a leaf is as arresting, as fascinating in its ecological brilliance, as any waste, heath, wood, or tundra. It is the thing that fungi get excited about and thirst for – the dankness of its moisture as it decomposes is the muse of goblins and gnomes – the cold, yet warming animation of what was once an exhibition of colour yielding to the life-germinating darkness of crows.
The scent is a mixture of a dirt and promising urine – its dry crackle is the crackle of storytellers round firesides, of pneumonial lungs being cleared. It invites us to scurry, to roll, to play, to be surreptitious. It makes death look exciting in the certainty it offers for regeneration.
Trees are shedding their gifts for us. Do not dismiss their offerings as mere mess or clutter – as an invasion of your neurotic denatured neatness – but as the sensuous tokens of a cyclical eternity. And I look forward to the day when our vapidities of cement are buried beneath leaves, and locked deep in the vault of the earth.

Poem: The Severn

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Wind-blasted hawthorn, crude contender of The Severn,
Crisscrossing mudflats, groove-worn into neurons by sandy
Engravers, with power lines decussating to the relics of old
Power stations, curlew calls twist and spiral out of these
Reefs of landscape, reed beds never sleeping but always in
Motion

You do not need the ocean to be anything but ocean,
Binoculars can look back on themselves to be the obituaries
Of recently drowned tourists – but it needn’t be all so gothic-
Just give yourself up to the salt wind – no need to go through
The mediator of a first-born daughter, when motion and stillness
Are the shadows on horizons, that hemispherical line slicing
Eternity in finger sandwiches

No, there are no castles here – only things that will seem
Ancient in but a couple of years – history can rewrite itself
Every day in these fingers of sand – and the writer is the one
Who writes himself a journey he never planned

Then, coming into vision, accumula and strata non-dizzy
Out of the water, and my pen finds itself to be the etchings
On a wooden lighthouse – a tree carved out of itself to be as
Light-bearing as it really is: burn all your negatives, and
Photograph your own apotheosis – for this is the coming
Of the Future

 

Poem: The Birds of Autumn

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Wind-blown maple keys whirligig through the air,
Whitebeam branches fall to the ground,
Piles of leaves rob the trees of their hair,
And migrating fieldfares erupt with sound

Filling autumn with the commotion of bush-exploding chatter,
Zipping from cypress, to yew, back to fir,
Oh, dearest birds, whatever can be the matter,
To make you whizz, bang, cluck, and chirr?

Is there something you feel that eludes human hearts?
A secret in the chill air that makes you come alive?
Flying all the way from farthest Scandinavia,
You come here to mate, thirst, frolic, and thrive

And I can relate to you, my darling thrushes,
For soon a little bird will be flying to me,
Who will whisper to me, softly, in the night’s autumnal hushes,
And enable me to feel happier than I ever thought I could be!

We too will go flying, swooping over meadow,
Preening each other’s feathers as we recline in the lea,
Snuggled up together as snuggest of bedfellows,
Perched close together in a horse chestnut tree

My passion, once flightless, can now take wing,
And my caresses and kisses are as starlings in the sky,
Though a troubadour, only to you do I sing
Of a heart now empowered to fly, fly, fly

To fly with you, to smell you, to feel your breath on my face,
And the ecstasy and comfort of knowing I am loved,
With you, I can find a paradise in the ugliest place,
Heaven in the rooftops, my Stebba, my beloved,

To be with you as a rook, as a jackdaw, as a crow,
To be a feathered thing – beak against beak –
To nuzzle in a nest – to know and be known,
To trickle with you, as water, down life’s placid creek

And still the maple keys whirligig through the air,
Still whitebeams branches fall to the ground,
But now our migrations bring us together,
And I hear your music in every soft sound

Poem: From Trump to Stump

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Were you to cut-off the arms of Donald Trump
You could rename him ‘Donald Stump,’
Roll him around, fat and feeble,
Like an over-sized, presidential weeble

Reduced to only torso and tush,
No atomic red button could he push,
Yet with tongue still intact – his verbal diarrhoea
Will still cause chaos with North Korea

Oh, Stumpy, dearest, start no nuclear war!
It would be such a tedious, glowing-green bore!
I’d sooner see you as an amputee hobble
Than convert all the world into a new Chernobyl

So, Donald, darling, be the bigger man,
Kindly reduce your own lifespan,
With your imagination so apocalyptic,
Isn’t about time for your fit – apoplectic?

To rob you of your power – and leave us alone,
Without your bad breath poisoning our ozone,
And while you’re in your tongueless retirement,
We can see about the process of nuclear disarmament

For war is just the game of the misguidedly rich,
And if King Jong-un and you wish to beat eachother with sticks,
Please do it in privacy of your own sex dungeons,
Instead of getting us involved – you asinine curmudgeons!

But I’m sorry, Donnie, if I’ve hurt your feelings today,
Don’t rattle off another tweet – don’t lose your toupee!
We can resolve it over drinks, my dear darling Trump,
Once we’ve cut off your arms, and renamed you – ‘Donald Stump’

Poem: The Murder of Morrisons

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A skeleton of steel looms in the dark,
In the old Cattle Market opposite Bailey Park,
From Market Place Rise, ‘tis a cancerous cathedral,
Not yet malignant, but still germinating evil

Oh, monster of homogeneity – cannot you remain
A jumble of ruins of which we cannot complain?
I look forward to when all our supermarkets, shabby,
Are as derelict and ivy-covered as our monasteries and abbeys

When aisles no longer peal with barcodes being scanned,
Those acres of tin-canned fecundity, sterile and bland,
Grow no more – unwanted Morrisons – superstore of the abyss,
Spread no more cells of your cancer’s metastasis!

But crawl back to the corporate cesspit from whence you came,
No more a blot upon Abergavenny’s humble fame,
Along with Subways and MacDonald’s – it’s enough to make you pop
At the endless proliferation of needless coffee shops!

And if The Sugarloaf were the volcano it was always meant to be,
I would pray for it to pour its lava all over thee,
And all those godforsaken, identity-robbing shops,
Would be imprisoned forever within gorgeous igneous rocks

The Rebekah Rioters will give each other high-fives,
And our small market town will as a market town thrive,
And Morrisons will be another dodo – another fossilized trilobite,
To help our archaeology professors get to sleep at night!

Poem: My Twin Brother

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It is true I died a long time ago,
But discontented with death, I found a way to renew,
Leaping out of the grave, I inscribed my own tomb,
Painted with the ink from a shaggy inkcap mushroom

As an imposter in this world, from churchyards I seldom strayed,
Without tombstones to bolster me, I affeared to be waylaid,
By life much too lively – not as sweet to me
As a flock of long-tailed tits in a dying Rowan tree

But when twilight deliquesces, I still sometimes creep,
To the grave where my twin brother does disingenuously sleep,
Kissing cheeks, and shaking hands, we take eachother’s places,
To test who can tell apart our living and dying faces