Poem: St. Peter’s On The Rocks

float

When the wind blows,
All trees sing the song of the sea,
No matter how mainlanded they are

Widow-maker willows lure men in
With their fake bird calls –
A life lost in the felling of a tree,
And the crumbling masonry of a sick-bed
Church, filled with the wires and tubes of
Life-support scaffolding, which the wind ever
Wrestles to the winnowing ground

In the face of flooding, pews become pedalos,
And priests float down the River on algae-bound
Bibles – all the farm land around is now an expanse
Of Atlantis, and the crowns of even the tallest of trees
Are but the conspiracies of saplings and weeds

But the horses will not be tolerant of this –
As soon as they hear the gallop of the flood plains approach,
They forfeit the ground, and betake their hooves to the air,
And the horsemen of the Apocalypse versified in Revelations
Have never seemed so bucolic, so mild

The water is the only thing that sings now,
Set up by the occasional whinnying of sky-born
Equine shriek. And as St. Peter’s, Llanwenarth,
Floats down the centre of this riverine world,
You will find me keeping vigil, in the crenelated tower,
Looking for harbour or home

A floating church,
A floating church,
Sailing on the sky of sea

 

Poem: Enchanted Moments

Fairy-Tale-Art-by-Erin-Kelso-25

The places closest to your home are enchanted,

Yes, those places of familiarity, banality, so benumbed

To you through over-exposure – they can be enchanted, too,

They can be the dischargers and speculators of magic,

And a source of ineffable wonder every time you

Leave your front door

 

Things do not have to lose their magic,

Touch need not be divested of its thrill,

For every day is a portrait of change,

And the way you see the light, the sky,

And the verges of trees moving against

The escarpments of time cannot be compared

To any day you have yet had,

Or any that you have yet to come

 

Every moment is unique –

Every moment is rare –

If you took any moment from your life,

And tried to sell it on the stock exchange,

Or through the mediating hands of an auctioneer,

The bids would escalate until the end of time,

And the bounds of numerology would have to be infinitely stretched,

In order to fully entertain them

 

That is how rare any given moment in your life is,

 

Some rare things are poisonous,

Some rare things have life-bearing properties,

Some rare things are so rare indeed,

Even God has yet to discover them

 

So if you want to bring more magic into your life,

You do not need to go far,

All you need to do is go outside,

And find the place where the song

Of bird and trees combines in perfect union

To become the soft whisper of All

Whispering ‘love’ into your ear

                                                                                            

Poem: The Anchorite

Sunset amid Dark Clouds over the Sea circa 1845 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

At the bottom of the crystal ocean
Lie great clusters of coracles,
All accreted together like so many fossils

Many anchorites have tried to reach this island,
Many more have failed – gobbled up by the hunger
Of the sea, reborn in the half world of The Tuatha De Danan,
Meditating on the glories of God in waters dark and unseen,
Their skins grizzling into carapaces of seal fur:
The bone-made carpets of the deep

Looking out from your stone-built hut,
God gives you layers of Celtic mist,
And you are crucified by the nails of ambiguity
That describe the landscape where you sit:
The Throne of The Holy Fool

Slowly, over time, rock, lichen and moss
Become your skin – your thoughts become
The spindrift of unquantifiable seconds –
Of unquantifiable questions –
And the crashing of the waves sounds like
The creaking of so many turned Bible pages,
Vellum sanctified into wave-worn silence

Baptized in the lonely font of the ocean,
You can see the face of Christ in the face
Of every seal, in the squabblings of kittiwakes,
In the unheard music of coral, and the contorted
Countenance of storms

But, should you achieve your wish,
And live eternal in Christ
To have him live eternal in you,
Then you will watch thousand-year-old
Oaks rise and fall with the passing of seconds,
Forests laid to wastes, and wastes regrown,
Cities to deserts, and deserts to springs,
To the steady thunder of civilizations crushing out
Their own matchsticks, and all the gold found on earth
Ascending to heaven, returning to the fiery
Centre of the Sun from which is was milked

But, until then, let each of the waves be the dial-hands
Of moments killing moments, one moment killing the
Moment that preceded it, only to be slaughtered by its
Ungrateful descendant, muttering:

“Holy is Christ,
Holy is Christ,”

Until you know every cave of the sea

Poem: Fragments From a Welsh Cottage

cottage

Mist communes with a pine-covered mountain,
A snail shell hung, just-so, on branching wisteria,
Clinging to the door frame of a hill-hidden Welsh
Cottage, swaddled in the fleeces of trees and
Distant cuckoo calls

Life, enwhorled, appears as an irregular series of
Revelations, each one more declivitous and demolishing
Than the last – the more you know, the unsteadier you feel,
Blinking in the eye of the horizon, realizing that every sound
You hear is communication, and everything you can see is
But sound frozen

Let us not call it music – it runs deeper than that,
Like water flowing through an inaccessible cavern
That no one hears, yet every man feels in the trickling
Of time and timelessness in those rare, still moments
Of syrupy slowness

And I want to slow it all down.
I see a magpie perch on a steel bridge,
And I jealously wish to possess the peace
I see in its dark, inscrutable eyes

But the obfuscation of feelings in transition
Bewilders me – mine is the peace of strange,
Spectral fish lurking motionless for seven years
In a pool of phantoms

The image and the imaginer,
In the fish-eyed lens of water,
Wearing the laurels of wistfulness,
On a misty mountain day

 

Poem: Grandfather River

turner

Picnic in a bluebell wood,

Every step I tread feels like a pilgrimage

Towards the resolution of a mystery, that,

Geisha-like in a Schrodingerian box, evades

All comprehension 

 *

To the beat of pebbled feet besides river

Or stream, I am always learning so much

About myself – you invert me, and help

Me look at the world and myself differently

 *

In the pursuit of a dog with a stick in its mouth

Emerging from a river, I strive to emerge from a

Tide that flows deeper than I ever thought it could

But I cannot now unstick myself from the sludgy depth

Of life – even the crows play secret games – and magpies

Are behind the government of buses and trains

And I would like to be somewhere far away from here,

Somewhere roadless, pathless, trackless, where you can

Peel back the cracked skin of the centuries, and tend meekly

To your garden, where no one has yet fathomed the full onslaught

Of enclosure

For time is just a wrinkle in an old man’s brow,

In the passionate furrows of Grandfather River,

Rolling around his rocking chair bend

 *

Lurking behind it all, like an unweeded root,

Vermin in the wall, lies the deep weight of

My desire for love, for company, for riddance

Of the fevered solace solitude no longer grants

Me

And you, my dear, dear friend, you introduce me

To a gentleness I often find in water, but seldom

See in human clothes – with you, I can temporarily

Put the lid on my sorrows, and return to a simpler

Past, books and memories assure me once existed

Motherless, fatherless, brotherless, loverless,

Bereft of friends like so many limbs, I wonder

If the earth itself ever feels so lonely at being

So neglected, unrecognized, by those that

Live upon her

I could keep on writing,

But the winds are blowing me off my bench,

And to the tunes sung softly by Grandfather River,

I swim slowly round that rocking chair bend

Sonnet On A Summer’s Eve

summer.jpg

So steady the night on this soft summer’s eve,

As star seeds descend like manna from heaven,

The stillness of the scots pine fertilizes my ease,

And unmasks the demon by which my anxiety is driven,

Beneath all the chaos and dust of the world,

Is a light feather bed by tranquillity plumed,

The chaos is like two lovers wrestling on sheets,

The serenity is the mattress where their bliss is consumed,

And imbued with non-reference – the terminator of fear,

A tender consummation that nurses all wounds,

Cordelia is returned to the resanitized King Lear,

And on loving what’s lost, we no longer presume,

But cherish each beauty, the peace won by a friend,

Vowing to love them forever – faith without end

Poem: The Bellringers

The Peal of Bells, St. Paul's Cathedral, 1878.

The tintinnabula of faraway bells,

Bell-ringers swinging on ropes,

The suspended intestines of the universe –

Each bell a reminder of something not by

Lips, but brass, spoken

 *

What do they say?

If you could take those resonant peals

And translate them into language,

What would they speak of?

 *

Whispers never sang out so loudly,

Bursts of poetry, etched on sky,

A blink from the silhouette eyes

Of a peacock butterfly

But you cannot trust these fluttering tatterdemalions

Not to be slyly mystical – each time their Japanese

Door wings collide, a crash as loud as galactic timpani,

Causes all nearby auric membranes to explode

But deafness is not the start of silence,

But a gateway to a higher kind of music –

The kind of music that conjoins imagery

With sound in a startling panache of

Form-bearing lucidity, climbing out of

Of formless bath

 *

So, ring on, bell ringers, ring on,

And once those brass hats

Fall on your heads,

Your gravestones will peal all the merrier

 

 

 

 

Poem: The Sounds of Loneliness

2381932-JHSIRDYF-7

The sounds of loneliness,

A mad saxophone – a mad

Sonic scrawl down my window

Pane

Outside, there is hope –

Hope in surges – hope in a whirlwind –

Hope in a sky-sleazing sea of sparrows –

In the presageful shadow of a friend

 *

Inside, there are only memories –

Memories that have nothing better to do

Than stretch their legs idly beneath sleepless

Sheets

 *

Sheets of rain – sheets of sound –

Sheets of streets woven into spiralling

Citadels, scratching against the uterus

Of Inner Space, those nails scrawling away

Into red, into red, bloody red stars

The stars, they can sing in chorus now –

They can sing the cantata of consciousness –

A lullaby to insomnia – each ray, a litany of

Impossible prayers, soon to be submitted to

The Office, to be painstakingly, exactingly,

Granted

 *

Then I won’t have to sleep in love-empty rooms,

Then my legs won’t have to stretch restless into

The night, walking along the skyways of space,

Where they should not be creeping, weeping –

But sleeping

But, o, sleep!

You are not a dagger,

But a pen poised over my head

 *

And with this pen,

I will compose my melancholy’s obituary,

And see you all in the morning,

 

 

Diary: Wind, Sleep, and Sorrowful Songs

over

The wind certainly does add a touch of drama to everything.

Just before it fully picked up, I observed a bumble bee on a dandelion. It looked like it was clinging on to the flower for dear life. I tried to imagine what the experience must be like from the bee’s perspective; the whole world a-whorl around you; your only haven a golden circumference the elements are ever conspiring to tear you from.

As I crossed a wooden bridge over a marsh, the wind really began to fulminate – not quite King Lear territory, yet – but a nearby Hamlet, perhaps? A legion of black clouds rolled in, in true Roman imperial fashion. Poplar trees were blown into bowing, willows cracking under the pressure like so many arthritic limbs, and the air was suddenly a chaotic mosaic of catkins, leaves, and dandelion seeds – a ballet caught in a tornado.

As I neared home, I moved through a large corridor of brambles that I pass through every day. I’ve been reflecting on how different they look throughout the procession of the seasons. At the moment, they are all re-leafing. There is sumptuous, magisterial quality to them, as though every leaf is a fanfare celebrating the very concept of greenness.

In Winter, they become nature’s equivalent of barbed wire. And if we should ever be so lucky as to experience some snowfall, then they look like giant, gelid spiders, trying to dislodge themselves from some awful frost that has consigned them to petrification as a punishment.

The previous night had not been so peaceful. I could not sleep. I felt sad, lonely, and restlessly in want of human contact –a sleepy embrace to compose a counterpoint to my being. Venus was glaring through the window at me, and I had the radio turned on low to give my maudlin mind something to occupy it.

After some avant-garde Jazz, and a light spell of semi-somulence, I awoke to find them playing Gorecki’s 3rd symphony – ‘A Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’ which I had actually been thinking about listening to earlier that day. It seemed the perfect companion to my current state: slow, sombre, and sad, with occasional euphoric bursts of near-prophetic hopefulness.

My favourite moment occurs in the second movement, when, after a gloomy, lingering melody, the hopeful chords at the beginning of the movement return, and the soprano explodes with this call of grief and euphoria which seems to cry out: “WHERE ARE YOU?” Like a lone wanderer on a desolate, war-barren planet, who has just detected the first murmurings of possible love, but does not yet know how to trace them.

(The words are actually an invocation to The Virgin Mary, found on the cell of the Gestapo headquarters, and written by an eighteen year-old girl imprisoned there. But, that sense of crying out for love, for salvation, across long swathes of impossible space, still, unolibteratingly, remains).

When I finally did sleep, I dreamed I was in a strange, video game world, where I was roaming around the winding passageways of a monster-filled sewer. I felt no sense of danger, nor fear. Then I awoke to the sounds of a sparkling piano – thinking of friends I missed – and the birth-song of the wind.

Poem: A Night at the Opera

marx

A joyous night at the opera

Can be a perilous thing,

The performance might be glamorous,

But backstage is another thing

*

The tenor has a sore throat,

Soon to become oesophageal cancer,

And the mezzo-soprano has just lost a leg –

Good thing she’s not a dancer!

*

The backstage-crew are all well-to-do,

And often puff with pride:

“We only help you actors out

From a sense of noblesse oblige!”

The basso profundo is profound indeed,

He can scarcely move from his chair,

And if you think you’ve seen a mountain range –

It’s just his derriere!

*

The piano accompanist has a glass eye,

And it often goes a-roving;

A shrill F# sent it down the aisle –

Towards Hereford it was last seen moving

*

The conductor – he’s another matter together,

You should hear him scream and shout!

But after the show, he likes a pint glass or two,

To reinforce his gout

*

And don’t get me started on the chorus,

On our reputation they are a blot,

Most of them can’t remember the words –

I think they should all be shot!

*

And so you see, it’s all just an act,

As we dance in gleeful rage,

For we all return to weeping and moping,

As soon as we’re off the stage

*

And though half our members are close to death,

The fat women will not stop singing,

Decapitate your own head if you like –

Your ears will still be ringing

*

What a splendid night at the opera,

Though the altos went on ad nauseum,

And the stage manager had to be twice disinterred

From his grandmother’s mausoleum

*

For he’s a secretly a vampire,

But don’t let the audience know,

He might be inclined to drink their blood,

But he’s easy going as stage managers go

*

Still, we do it, year after year,

Out of perseverance and love,

And I hope you’ll forgive me if you see yourself

In any of those above

*

But on and on the show must go,

Please tell me you’ve brought some liquor?

And fervently pray to the god of your choice

That the bass’s arse won’t grow any thicker!

*