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


Poem: Barefoot Up The Sugarloaf


It all started with a pair of feet.

Wishing to explore themselves, they explored

The world, walking hill and holloway, flirting with

Brooks, and immersing themselves in bogs, as the

Thistles and bracken rose up over their heads,

And beetles became the best of friends


I could kiss your face the way my feet kiss the ground,

Wrapping around the earth like a monkey’s fable, and

Skipping down The Sugarloaf like a wind-trodden satyr,

Getting stuck in places even the sheep do not roam,

And painting myself into the waste patches left by

Ancient UFOs


You can re-imagine the land up here,

Hedgerows the seams in a patchwork quilt,

Lumpy where the land has been well-slept in,

Waiting to be smoothed out by a lazy hand,

All the towns just a bad case of Athlete’s foot

Time will soon find a way to cure


Yellowhammers pound nails of song into my skull,

Bleeding melodies back into the land,

Stonechats speak the language of stones –

Their song is the lilting of reborn limestone,

Wheatears wiping their white arses with the purity

Of the Welsh sky


And if you can’t find a better place to die,

Sweep through St. Mary’s Vale on sheets

Of Green silk, and roll your tomb into the


Poem: Sweetness On A Rainy Night

Paint peeling off an old door
Milks the memories of wood beneath,
Bereft of twig and leaf, chaotic hieroglyphs
Are gently thrummed by stochastic fingers,
Written by the pouring rain

The rain gives us all new means of passage,
Improvising pools, puddles and ad hoc brooks,
For blackbird juveniles to use as water slides,
With no more summer song to be sung for us,
The rain sings its song instead

I have prayed for this moment for a long time.
With the slippers of sleep tiptoeing on my peripheries,
I climbed into bed with the rhythms of a ghost,
And stretched out my arms until whole continents
Were warm and safe in the circumference of my
Not yet rainy embrace

Into the larval shell of your ear,
I whispered of reassurances,
And the shapes of faces that appear
In the contortions of clouds

I felt wounds – wounds that ran deeper than my own,
And I wanted to heal them – to pour honey into them –
To resurrect you from the touchlessness you feel has
Become your tomb

But with compassion so warm and cuddly,
I couldn’t help but feel perfectly sleepy,
And as I drifted off into your arms,
The rain peeled the paint away


Poem: Spider and Sprite


The spider sends out thoughts from her web,
And receives thread-like messages from the web of the night,
Feeling a tug – a yearning tremor of her matrix – she calls out:

“Who goes there?
Who are you?
What do you want with me?”

But the web becomes motionless and dull,
And she wondered if her predatorial instincts
Were beginning to trick her in her old age

And somewhere, on the other side of the world,
Where night has forgotten to be itself,
And all is enwombed in perpetual light,
A little bird shifts in its nest and sighs,
The ensemble of twigs groaning against
The yearning tug of the wind,
Which slowly whispers:

“Who are you?
What do you want with me?”

And in the minds and brains of animals,
Questions are always being sallied back and forth,
And the switchboard dilates with the impersonation
Of light, and sleeping crows hardly lift their wings to
The blow of far-off musket balls

Yes, things come together,
Even as we sleep,
And spiders and owls can regain their happiness
In the suspicion of a whimper

Learning to let the heart open up,
As we are cuddled by the questions
Carried on the wind

Poem: Cracked Branch


Looking at a cracked branch,
You can cram all of eternity into a single thought,
And all the multitudes of multitudes,
Need only be addressed,
By ensconcing yourself sleepily,
In a swallow’s cosy nest

In that dream of bedstraw and cracked branches,
The sky unleafs itself from its own binding,
And all the pages of history that the clouds inscribe
Time accepts hungrily as an underhand bribe

Then the Usk gives rise to trees of ripple and water,
Great pillars of river – a patriarch’s mighty daughter,
And the tides of the night, unseen in the summer,
Are concealed in the warmest souls of the them all

Little tokens of love,
On a pile of bedstraw,
Against the unsung spire of the day



Poem To St. Epiphany

Dear Saint – I am a wanderer,
Though my pathways have been less substantial than yours,
I am not a child born of airports, found like Moses, in a basket,
On a baggage conveyor belt in Heathrow;

I was born in the nests of birds,
And in the eyries of eyeholes
Through which God sees the world

Out in the wilderness, it took me a long time
To fledge – but once my feathers burst out,
You could find me on the crosshairs of any
Cliff-face, bouncing my cries against the clouds

But you strayed to different climes,
Springing from the flipped tails of Norwegian whales,
And your good-humour is the fart joke that inspired the
Laughter of herring gulls and puffins

Diving into volcanoes, you swim through lava
Floes and lakes of sulphur, leaning the language
Of the landscape, and translating it into words

While I get lost in Welsh forests, you cycled through Berlin,
Getting caught up in bondage, and strange gothic sex clubs –
The water of life regurgitated through the leather-bound spiracle
Of a dolphin

As the female Bruce Lee, you punched your way to
Montreal, a prize-fighter of fish and scale, pounding nails
Angrily into ever-shifting floorboards, and life rafts that
Would not move at all

Now your laser-beam has turned its attention to me.
What do you want with this Celtic wild man
Who hides behind pews in abandoned churches,
And ever seeks to reside where The Green Man lurches?

Crawling out from someone’s fingernail,
I will pretend to be a tortoise,
And you, my swan, my Falkor, my dragon,
Use your claws to prise me out of my shell

A reconstruction of sunbeams,
And the dereliction of dreams,
Follow the river until it curves around the bend,

And in a tone lightly teasing,
Pleasant but never pleasing,
I begin a riddle it is not my job to end!


Poem: Idle Thoughts In A Chapel


Cloistered inside myself,
A one-man monastery,
From nave to navel,
From chance to chancel,
The architecture of my thoughts spiral towards sorrow,
Desiring touch, it flees all things that make touch possible –
Growing spikes – concealing itself in thorny foliage

Yet pollen still draws bees from across the ocean,
As we are drawn by irresistible patterns of migration,
Arcing along courses, as inexorably as stars,
Drawn into conjunction or opposition

Fearing, yet seduced by one another,
We shed fire into each other’s eyes,
And melt like butter, and the silence
Of my prayers is devoted to your potentiality,
Kneeling at the altar of space

I will kneel before the holy see of your femininity,
I will eat of your body as a sacrament,
And drink of your kisses like wine,
Saying prayers in the shedding of tears,
The communion of your arms will be mine

Then, out in the graveyard,
I will bury my thoughts in the body of earth,
And the lime trees will declare the sweetest of boundaries,
Where melody shepherds us in,
As lambs into an enclosure

They’ll pass round the collection plate,
And I’ll leave a poem on it,
And I’ll declare that it is holy writ,
For it was born of your womanly glory


Poem: Castles in the Dark


Trees can become castles in the dark,
Their battlements jagged upon the dusky landscape,
Farmhouses growing up as mushrooms of hill and land,
Horses running silent in precipitous pastures,
Sloping abysmally downward to come back overhead
As a terrible grass sky of sickening green

In this bottle green glaze,
You can seek out the friend within the tree,
The tree within the friend,
Hurrying over ice floes,
And the stones that are the lovers
Of lost volcanoes

You wait in an old stone bus shelter,
For a bus you know no longer runs,
It is your abbey now, your ruined fortress,
Your blown-out bomb shelter from the war,
The stone-walled ghost of a bygone age

In a vicarless church,
Waiting for the sermon to begin,
Or a dry riverbed being ploughed out
By your hungry oar:

These are the images you can content yourself with,
As birds exploit the emptiness of the day,
To gore out secrets with their shovel of song

Little birds from Berlin,
In a moonbeam of pouches,
History condensed into a stone,
And a stone into a friend


Poem: Jackdaws In Love


A congregation of jackdaws zigzag above a spire,
Each of their clacks a prayer of unconscious praise
The patterns dissolve and then repeat
Recombining in a thousand different ways

I’ll admit it – I am afraid of tenderness –
Of softness – of anything that can speak
Sweetly to me when I expect only indifference
And repulsion

A loving whisper can wear away a wall
Quicker than a brass band at Jericho,
And a soul-sung smile can disable
Even the most high-tech of security systems,
Leaving you defenceless and worn

But each of my cells is a jackdaw,
Sometimes cohering together in a maze of flight,
At others electing to spend lives of searching on lonely rooftops,
Dropping stolen objects onto the ground below,
To observe the laws of Caws and Effect

If a tree shan’t be my throne,
Then a throne shall be my tree,
And from the scriptural skin of spiral-spun bark,
I will offer shelter to those above and below me –
The Wooden Almshouse of the World

Just by being here, I am unchastened,
My kisses are loosened from their reins,
And seek out streams in which to bathe their secrets,
In the eddies and whirlpools of unknowing

So see me chaste,
And then unchastened,
In the clacking prayer of bird-born syllables,
Strung on every strand of the sky


Poem: Fragments From a Welsh 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