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: 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


Poem: Grandfather River


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


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

Poem: Visions of Spring


Where the earth grows gravid,

Pregnant with itself; that’s where

My thoughts flow. Primroses, crocuses,

Snowdrops rejoice to wheezing greenfinches,

Spring winds breathing fresh through the heather.

But we had to crawl through the dark shawl of winter,

Tear off her icy veil, to arrive at this florid juncture here;

We had to roam through lands, spectre-filled – haunted –

Every hectare sown with nightmares, wicked hags haunting

The cairn-carbuncled mountains

To where we find a boy and girl,

Both beautiful and fair, strayed

From their farm, their sunny fayre,

To a plain of nightmare, to a village

Of jigsaw-walled dereliction of Boschian

Black and cream-white bleakness

A little goblin guides them through the town,

Showing them the history painted on their walls;

Eight and ten-score years of making trophies, and

A thousand more of famine: “All the bread was burned

To black, and we never ate again.”


“O, we are a poor folk here!” he lamented.

The boy and girl too wondered how they would ever eat again,

Caught in the woods, intersticed with pockets of civilization,

Which grew up like boils between them


But now, reedy and wind-blown, a peace as deep and as heavy

As a hug anchors me to land, to the life of the land, and my thoughts

Cradle themselves, crow-like, in the negative spaces between the branch’s



Truly, we never stop being children – each human life-span

As long as a primrose – of a mushroom – of the pre-programmed

Wrinkles in the tenderness of a sapling


But life remains beneath the earth,

Though flowers soon exceed their day of birth,

And sun within the soil is cloven,

With love and fire, both inwoven,

I will savour the ease after the strain,

Though, still unable to separate pleasure from pain,

And in the muddy peace and chaos of fertile existence,

I will go on living,

I will go on singing


Poem: Visit to a Grave


Visit to a grave –

We cross the threshold, passing through

The old iron gate; a defensive plexus to

Keep the dead in, and the living away;

A truncated giant okay, just there to

Mark, all the agony of that moment,

Still recorded in bark.


We walk further in. Two coronal yew

Trees look on, their energy sending out

A hum of blue, to muddy the mist’s



In that moment, I felt what it is to be

A Child of The Mist – A Founding in

The Fog – what it was to be a Celt;

What it was to put your ancestors

In the ground, as an offering to the

Same mists that bore you


For the fog is our father – the mist is our mother;

From the fog we came – to it we Return



But, there is more to fog than just this.

I know this, as I sit in the car, and the

Music of Brahms speaks sonic truth from

The stereo speaker – I know this as

The winter spirits amble – and

My spine is interwoven with a trellis

Of brambles


I sit beside my mother –

Her partner in grief –

Her Second in Command –

She the Commander in Chief


For your Christmas Tree is not holiday

Paraphernalia, but a cosmic pillar –

The roots lead to the underworld –

The branches lead to heaven –

And the baubles are no ornaments,

But symbols of the spheres; even in

Your own living room, you can find

A map of the cosmos before you



If you could see the fog as I see it,

You would not see it as an obstruction –

As the senility of the landscape – but

The majesty of light, learning to see itself –

Of wisdom gently teasing itself, and pretending

It’s not there at all



Poem: Queen of Autumn Sanctuaries


Queen of Autumn Sanctuaries –

What will you do now that your sovereignty

Has been displaced by a less sweet season?


Your season might be over – but your work is

Still in motion – posing unanswered thoughts

In the lullaby pulse of every burrowing creature


You do not like to work out in the open – you weave

Your secrets into neat little parcels,

Deposited underground

For safest keeping


Your kingdom is the happiness of jays;

The flight paths of swans in the lunar mist;

The roaring of the fire, in its tight iron cage,

Transmuting sadness into warmth,



Yours is not the regality of pomp and glory –

But the whispered glory of the small and

Hidden, hibernating in its own subtle beauty –

The half-heard majesty of the evening


This is why you love trees: not for their grandeur,

But for the way they enhance your smallness –

For you love anything that can miniaturize your

Frame, and enfold you in the gallantry of



Your palace is not turreted; but a pine cabin

In the woods. For, what need have you for a

Palace, when your kingdom dwells in a gallery

Of acorns, and the sustained tear fall of

Ice in the making?



Sweet Queen – though I can see you in the

Dolour of every yellowed elm; the escape

Of a squirrel’s tail – though I can hear you whispering

In unfinished manuscripts, and the mirk of sea-stained

Pages – still, I thirst for more than just traces, and the mad

Melancholy of boot-crushed berries


Invite me into your cabin –

Take off your veil –

Let us come face to face:


In the twilight of your kitchen;

In that perfect womb of cottag’d silence,

We will discuss the things that only we know,

And sing sweetly all that the mists only mutter


And against the shadow of all that furtively flutters,

The unsaid will be louder

Than the said



Poem: The Death of Frosts


Old Age does not come in a moment;

Nor does it creep in with a limp; for

Things do not age here, but retain

Their youth – even when bones

Threaten to burst from their bounds,

Youth remains picturesquely the same.


First the pitch drops, and we lose high

Noises; I look to the ground, and tiny

Elves rush among the leaves, gathering

The debris of autumn into the firewood of

Winter to manufacture a new age for the



Ice Queens pass. I bow my head,

Solemn, chaste, as the white gowns

Of winter inspirit a benevolence more

Peaceful than the fracturing of a



I pass the castle, and carry you with

Me, wrapped in a harness, like a

Swaddled baby. For even, many miles

Apart, I am always thinking of looking

After you.


I will not drop you, though I continue

To limp, and we still have many crooked

Mountains to climb, before the worm

Wriggles from the earth, and the sun

Smiles upon the frosts that die.


This is not old age, but our first real

Flush of youth – all those melodies

Of past lives spent chasing each

Other’s tails – this silent shaman

Has learned to wail – and now he

Has his proof.



And where will these melodies

Take us? What roads will they

Spiralize into the futuristic past –

Where all things creep up on

Themselves, rear their heads,

And tap their backs, saying:


Look – I’ve found you,

Right where I left you –

I was right here all along!”

Did I not do the same?

Did I not tap your shoulder,

Lift up your heart – make you

Bolder? Catching you, delicately,

Unawares, as you fished me

Out my skin?


The wind cannot tell me these things

This time of year – only kiss me, slowly,

With dried lips. And, if we sit still, and

Purse our lips, we will hear the sky

Laugh with a merry burst, and smile,




Poem: The Love of Unreason


Much to my surprise, I discovered a lost

Land upon my doorstep. The face of the

Forest loomed over the Waters of the Deep,

And The Lady of the Chaffinch bore her red

Breast, still brooding with pelican blood.


“When I die,” said she, “bury some flowers

In my chest, so that once I am gone from this

World, I can still paint the roses crimson.”


From this vermillion isolation went I.


“Come into my hole!” said The Mole.

“It’s pure William Morris, don’t you



But, I did not know, for I had already

Fallen further.


This is why I now sit in this garden, and

Read my fortune in the fallen leaves,

Scrying the undergrowth, as I descry:

“The sky is not a black skeleton, but a

White rose – a nest of lilies – a silken dress –

A watch – a sensuous caress that never quite



I said this, and the crumpled leaves were

Black skeletons, dancing the slow pavane

Of finite decay; such fragile, fading fingers,

Every touch a shiver; every lingering kiss

The seduction of substance, sinking back

Into sky.


I tried to put the mute button on my heart.

I had my season. But the tears rose up with

The dawn – and Aurora tapped my chest with

Her opal fingers, saying:


“Come on, now – your time is come”

And I felt sad for no reason.

And I felt lonely for no reason.

And everything was so wonderful,

So perfectly unreasonable, that I

Couldn’t help but be moved by its



“This is it,” said I. “This is the opening of

The well; the chastity of enlightenment;

The milky sickness of nights and mornings

Merging into one. This is the whiteness of

The Magpie’s Chest, and the fortitude of

The Sun. This is the Love of Unreason –

The creeping in of Winter’s Thorns.”


And, as I swept up leaves I would rather have

Left scattered, I turned my thoughts into lilies,

And planted them,

One by one.

Poem: Electric Grove


You can feel

The full weight of the sky

On you up here

Like a beautiful woman

Pressing her navel against yours

I lean against an old stone wall

And feel its electric geometry

Pulsate through me

As tiny red insects

Blazing with crimson

Mill about

Collecting the dividends

Of a hopeless civilisation

I think we’d all rather lose

A river does not need rules

A tree does not need morals

A skylark does not need singing lessons

Unconsciously obeying

The laws of nature

Incinerating the atrocious gavels

Of any human arbitration

They have everything you could ask for

And more

If you want to know the sacred

Get out of the church

And into the woods

Lie on top of a mountain

And let the sky molest you

Lathering you with

Its electric treacle

I am The Keeper of the Stones

The wood nymphs have been good to me

So I put on my lightning-blue brocade

And slink back into the grove


Poem: The Mysterious Woman


There must be something I can fuse with

Something in the curves and rolls of nature

That longs just for me

I want to find the secret dryad

The mysterious woman

Who abides in every tree

Every plant

And in the furnace of every cloud

I want her to come to me

In her disastrous magnificence

And show me all that I miss

All that I thirst for

But never quite feel

Her thighs

Will be kept from me

No More

But in their erotic revelation

They will only become more tantalizingly cryptic

Like a labyrinth that only exits

Into a chaosphere of sounds

I sit on top of the mountain

Where yew trees grow like lovers

And make a bow from its poisonous bark

To fire myself

Into you