Poem: The Severn

mudflats.jpg

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
Motion

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

 

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Poem: The Birds of Autumn

foker-john-fieldfare-in-rowan23x24cm-w640h480

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

Poem: Limestone Dreams

limestone

The limestone here seeps into your dreams,
Pebbles embedded in quartz-stricken seams,
You can fall into empty air where the peregrine flies,
And coppice your own thoughts until a new forest does rise

Then out of the enchantment of swarming gloom,
A bat creeps out of the netting and circles your room,
With omens and prophecies, relinquishing strange jewels,
Singing to you, oneirically, in inaudible mewls

But to her, you are as a thousand shards of a mirror,
A rookery of sounds – the netherest of nevers –
There is no spite – only a refreshment of feeling,
The parishioner plants kisses that are ripe for the stealing

These flowerbeds are not earthly, their colours betray
Tones that are not possible to see in the day,
Creeping slowly through them disguised as shimmering petals,
Green fingers of bracken – teeth of precious metals

With sapphire smiles, turquoise, magenta, and gold,
The most luxurious things to be so wretchedly old,
But the soil is their pardon, the only Bible they read
Is written in the language of wildflowers and weeds

With Green Men in pews, thoughts eroding to silver,
Nothing is as enigmatic as The Wye River,
And with weepers of autumn bringing their evensong chants,
I will reap of the kisses The Parishioner plants

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

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

Poem: Visions of Spring

ecole-bosch-vision-de-tondal2

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

Hands

 *

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

mist

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

Omnipotence

 *

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

*

II.

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

*

III. 

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

autumnlady

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,

Well-kindled,

*

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

Kindness

 *

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?

 *

II.

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-man

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

Moment.

*

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

Mirror

*

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.

*

II.

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,

Smile,

Smile.