Sonnet: The Castle Inn


Bury my bones in an old Welsh pub,
On the Pembrokeshire coast, under floorboards oak,
Consecrated by furze, lichen, sand-blasted scrub,
With stonewalled chimneys baptized by smoke,
I’ll give up my ashes to the waves of the sea,
With a stuffed snowy owl perched on my shoulder,
Wherever the rains weep, that’s where I’ll be,
Thundering my tears into old sandstone boulders,
And rockpools alive with limpets and cockles,
And Islands of penance where sweet Mary stands,
Conspiring with stowaways, stuffed into barrels,
The threshold of sea chewing up the land,
Where my body, half-buried, exposed to the sea-air,
Will be home to the treasures time will lay there.


Poem: The Gull


A gull is an angel,
Agitating more than it soothes,
Exposing you to the wasteful entrails,
You would rather keep subdued

With wings white and broad,
A self-appointed choir of ululations,
He eats of the flesh of the Holy Lamb,
And lift himself above the nations

Yet you who poison the planet,
And render it a ruin for yourself and others,
You who are a pest unto yourself,
And a pest unto the world

You have the audacity to call him ‘vermin.’
This winged anarchist of God,
Who teaches us all how to laugh at disorder

If your harmlessness to this planet,
Could be as little as that of this bird,
Your saintliness would be of the whiteness of his wings,
And your laughter would be The Word


Poem: Sacred Dog’s Body – An Epitaph

If I didn’t know any better,
I might think you were still breathing,
That your lemon-yellow fur was still heaving,
That any moment you might open your eyes,
And catch us in the warm headlamps of your love

But now your body lays dispirited on an altar at Barton Hill Farm,
Awaiting cremation,
Overlooked by the photos of other deceased pets on the walls,
As we weep with a depth and intimacy of grief
We would struggle to show for many humans

Certainly, outside, life still thrives,
Pheasants and grey-legged partridges dive out of the way of the car,
Boaters launch inflatable rafts into the river,
Red kites and buzzards still get mobbed by crows
Over the sycamore trees in our back garden

Nevertheless there is an emptiness now in our family home,
There is a silence – a superfluity of space –
Like a string quartet bereft of its bass viol,
Or a sweet chorale robbed of its sweetest singers

You were so ready to love and be loved,
To be the embodiment of all earthly loyalty and comfort,
Yet asked for so little, just some tender recognition;
A walk, some food, and a cuddle to please you

Now, three dogs, not four, meet me at the bottom of the stairs
When I come down to walk them in the morning,
I no longer feel your warm body on my feet under the table,
Or hear the communicative slap of your tail against the floorboards,
The insistent beat that let us know you were desirous of attention

But it is for ourselves, not you, that we mourn – you
Who now gets to experience infinity in all of its weightless colours,
Unencumbered by a body, your spirit can fly freely in the tides of eternity;
You can be a ministering angel to others as a spirit,
As you were to us in a sacred dog’s body

Adieu, world unsouled friend!
Until we meet again, I shall see you
In the shadow of every other dog I meet,
As a reincarnated baby bird,
Or a newborn lamb in spring

But please, most of all, ever keep in heart and mind,
Your best friend, my mother, who loved and needed you most,
Who freely would have given you half her soul
If it could have brought you back to her in another body

From ashes to ashes,
From dog to dust,
One of the kindest souls I have ever known

Poem: Dance By Candlelight


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

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


Poem: Alive Or Dead


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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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