Poem: Near-Death At Sea


Harebells still grow from gravestones,
The loss of your body is the meat of flowers,
Lime trees scald out of the perimeters of a church –
The Dragon Tree doesn’t roar, but listens,

And what does it hear, frosting out rooks from that
Sacred enclosure? The rhythm of European accents,
And the thunder-call of waterfalls – the incoming
Tides of turbid waters

Marooned on this melancholic ocean,
I lose sight of land, but the see sky blush
The colour of dog rose and the organic candy-cane
Of bindweed from the sea, my raft waxing orange
To the tune of lost islands, and the spying-out of a
Peninsula where I might rediscover my lost treasure

But at the entrance to that cave lie the bones of many men,
Pick-pocketed by waves with wet-fingered license,
Sapphires burn hot into their grimacing skull caverns,
And I can hear the sea-notes of someone singing through that cove,
Luring and urging me on

Limpets amplify in their thousands of unthroated choirs,
As I damp-foot through rock pools, the snares of seaweed,
Mermaids emblazoned unseen on water’s merciless tabernacles

The song I hear is like a candle,
And the candle illuminates a hand-written letter,
The last writings of a nobleman from a slave-glutted

The skulls grin harder now, evaporating into sapphire,
Dripping into the space where the strange crawling things
Go, portals of darkness housing ever-sleeping lives that only
Fill their lungs with salt water once every thousand years

How could that song come from here?
Can rainbow melodies spawn in such abysses?
But all the world was sung out of silence,
Though I’m not sure I believe it:

Before there was silence, there was an endless cluster of notes,
Free from the responsibilities of either space or silence;
Only the chaos of reality could whip them into obedience,
Only the labour of digging into the earth could harden their
Undisciplined richness into the pain of beauty

We begin to go deeper now,
We walk so far into the darkness
That our rock-bottom feet bleed out to become
One with the waters; as we are too far below the earth
To even hallucinate a seabird, spates of whooshing fire
Fire-dance into stars; a galaxy of mere moments flash-gusts
Before us, like a tiny corner of colour caught in your eye’s retinas,
That soon stew your whole iris into that colour

The light bends and warps into electric dragons,
Saddling up on their back of sparks, dorsal ridges from
Which lightning sluices from the skulls of senselessness
Paroxysmically giving birth to sight in excelsis

Its voice alone is powerful enough to powder-crumble every cave,
A world-creating mouth burning planets and comets like blisters
And ulcers into the cold belly of empty space knowing only the
Hunger to paint everything into impossible colour

The search for the song has long-since been abandoned,
Your life a dementia – a happy amnesia – and you have
Forgotten the wind, the ocean, even entering a cave
Altogether – you no longer seek out your own treasure
Because you have been electrified by the stirrings of
Something far higher – a single flare that glisters with
More jewels than have ever been recorded, and in
Comparison to which The Domesday Book seems
A woefully incomplete ledger

Back into the furnace you go –
Back into the source-book of colour,
The throbbing paradise moans of the imagined and unimaginable,
Because paradise does moan –
It can hardly stand how excited it is to be itself,
Over-filling itself with the silver-sparking grit of sand,
Forgetting this over-abundance of ever-spawning majesty
Began life as a near-death at sea

Instead of our treasure,
We found this retinal stain cast-off from heaven’s choir book,
And hopped along the many-petalled cascade of flowering notes,
To returned to lovers, unfrozen, from lagoons unthawed since the
Last Ice Age

And I can’t say for certain if this is truly happiness,
Or just God getting carried away with his own colours


Poem: The History of Spring

The Greenhouse: Cyclamen and Tomatoes 1935 by Eric Ravilious 1903-1942

When you hear the sound of a bird call you do not know,
And all your manuscripts are trapped inside an old snow globe,
And the violence of frost must be avoided at all costs,
When the flowers ring wedding bells in the woods

Then you must trace your finger along an old dusty map,
And deliberately stick your hand in a rusty bear trap,
And walk through Wales with a cat o’ nine tails,
Lecturing the tongues of the dead

Then the riddler on the roof will stick out his tongue,
And we’ll return to the wood from which the wedding bells rung,
And to the melody of lost time, we’ll end this queer rhyme,
And rewrite the history of spring