Poem: The Birds of Autumn

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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

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Sonnet: Love In The Making

Shelling by Night 1941 by Eric Ravilious 1903-1942

Pulling back the sable curtain of shade,
Unfolding happiness in the shadow of sorrow,
The theatre of light the mountains displays,
As I climb through the thickets of thorny tomorrows,
Searching the escarpments, the ridges, the plains,
Along river and canal bank, by raven’s call beckoned,
Wishing to surrender all the luxuries of pain,
Endured for years, days, minutes, and seconds,
I want to learn about you by kissing you,
To map out the seasons of your emotions and needs,
Desire puts the cartographer back into the blue,
To root out the affection on which our happiness feeds,
My heart is open – in your chosen room,
Waits love in the making – a kiss in the womb

 

Diary: Llangorse Lake & The Wyche Of The Reservoir

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King Kieron generously takes us on a short tour through The Brecon Beacons so my girlfriend can get a better impression of Wales’s scenery. First stop – Llangorse Lake. Mallards interspersed with barnyard ducks, Black Indian Runners, and a rare sighting of a mandarin. It looks too beautiful to live – the markings on its chest like an oriental bib. A reconstructed Iron Age Hut on stilts looks out onto The Crannog – an ancient, man-made island.
I pluck a wild mint leaf and feed it to Stebba. Purple-haired reeds conceal the motions of miniscule creatures. Chevron pathways are momentarily etched in the lake by water fleas. Mayflies, with eccentric curved antennae like arched eyebrows, mill about us. Their presence betokens the cleanliness of South Wales’ most ancient lake.
Rain comes without warning. The previously motionless water becomes a harvest of ripples, the visual equivalent of criss-crossing telegrams. How I would’ve loved to live here as an ancient prince, fish-fed, time unsped, living in verse to the languor of The Llyn, my nose a bedchamber for algae scents, forget-me-nots quilting me to sleep. Too soon we leave behind its willow pollards, and pied wagtail conspiracies at noon.
Back now, past conical mounts, hills that grows into witch’s breasts, over Llangynidr’s one-cart bridge, for tea at The Walnut Tree, to taste my first cup of green tea for months. Stebba samples her first Welsh Cake, yet happily, remains Swiss. She can leave the Celtic Melancholy to me! We ferry on past non-conformist chapels of corrugated tin to the tune of lovers jumping naked out of windows.
Talybont-On-Usk Reservoir. A chaffinch perches undaunted on the railing. The Reservoir reflects the sky and outlines of the valley that encircle it. Kieron reflects on the military exercises he used to do here, caustic runs through conifer plantations. A railway once ran over these hills, peopled with forts, Celtic and Roman.
While looking at tree-stump disguised as a standing stone through my binoculars, we are interrupted by The Wyche of The Reservoir – (abetted by her little dog) – who taps us on our collective shoulder, to relay us messages from the spirit world:
“The Poles are reversing – the seasons are out of order – the imprisonment of the enlightened is imminent – two-thirds of The World’s population will be slaughtered in a cataclysmic disaster – redwood roots sink as deep as their boughs – red kites are the sky’s implosion.”
She hands us all vivid blue stones, donations from the hills, and invites us all to receive her healing. Predictably, I am singled out as the one with the most latent spiritual power. We part ways, bundle back into the car, to sink into an evening of soup.

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: Castles in the Dark

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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: The Anchorite

Sunset amid Dark Clouds over the Sea circa 1845 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

At the bottom of the crystal ocean
Lie great clusters of coracles,
All accreted together like so many fossils

Many anchorites have tried to reach this island,
Many more have failed – gobbled up by the hunger
Of the sea, reborn in the half world of The Tuatha De Danan,
Meditating on the glories of God in waters dark and unseen,
Their skins grizzling into carapaces of seal fur:
The bone-made carpets of the deep

Looking out from your stone-built hut,
God gives you layers of Celtic mist,
And you are crucified by the nails of ambiguity
That describe the landscape where you sit:
The Throne of The Holy Fool

Slowly, over time, rock, lichen and moss
Become your skin – your thoughts become
The spindrift of unquantifiable seconds –
Of unquantifiable questions –
And the crashing of the waves sounds like
The creaking of so many turned Bible pages,
Vellum sanctified into wave-worn silence

Baptized in the lonely font of the ocean,
You can see the face of Christ in the face
Of every seal, in the squabblings of kittiwakes,
In the unheard music of coral, and the contorted
Countenance of storms

But, should you achieve your wish,
And live eternal in Christ
To have him live eternal in you,
Then you will watch thousand-year-old
Oaks rise and fall with the passing of seconds,
Forests laid to wastes, and wastes regrown,
Cities to deserts, and deserts to springs,
To the steady thunder of civilizations crushing out
Their own matchsticks, and all the gold found on earth
Ascending to heaven, returning to the fiery
Centre of the Sun from which is was milked

But, until then, let each of the waves be the dial-hands
Of moments killing moments, one moment killing the
Moment that preceded it, only to be slaughtered by its
Ungrateful descendant, muttering:

“Holy is Christ,
Holy is Christ,”

Until you know every cave of the sea

Sonnet On A Summer’s Eve

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So steady the night on this soft summer’s eve,

As star seeds descend like manna from heaven,

The stillness of the scots pine fertilizes my ease,

And unmasks the demon by which my anxiety is driven,

Beneath all the chaos and dust of the world,

Is a light feather bed by tranquillity plumed,

The chaos is like two lovers wrestling on sheets,

The serenity is the mattress where their bliss is consumed,

And imbued with non-reference – the terminator of fear,

A tender consummation that nurses all wounds,

Cordelia is returned to the resanitized King Lear,

And on loving what’s lost, we no longer presume,

But cherish each beauty, the peace won by a friend,

Vowing to love them forever – faith without end

Poem: The Bellringers

The Peal of Bells, St. Paul's Cathedral, 1878.

The tintinnabula of faraway bells,

Bell-ringers swinging on ropes,

The suspended intestines of the universe –

Each bell a reminder of something not by

Lips, but brass, spoken

 *

What do they say?

If you could take those resonant peals

And translate them into language,

What would they speak of?

 *

Whispers never sang out so loudly,

Bursts of poetry, etched on sky,

A blink from the silhouette eyes

Of a peacock butterfly

But you cannot trust these fluttering tatterdemalions

Not to be slyly mystical – each time their Japanese

Door wings collide, a crash as loud as galactic timpani,

Causes all nearby auric membranes to explode

But deafness is not the start of silence,

But a gateway to a higher kind of music –

The kind of music that conjoins imagery

With sound in a startling panache of

Form-bearing lucidity, climbing out of

Of formless bath

 *

So, ring on, bell ringers, ring on,

And once those brass hats

Fall on your heads,

Your gravestones will peal all the merrier

 

 

 

 

Poem: The Sounds of Loneliness

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The sounds of loneliness,

A mad saxophone – a mad

Sonic scrawl down my window

Pane

Outside, there is hope –

Hope in surges – hope in a whirlwind –

Hope in a sky-sleazing sea of sparrows –

In the presageful shadow of a friend

 *

Inside, there are only memories –

Memories that have nothing better to do

Than stretch their legs idly beneath sleepless

Sheets

 *

Sheets of rain – sheets of sound –

Sheets of streets woven into spiralling

Citadels, scratching against the uterus

Of Inner Space, those nails scrawling away

Into red, into red, bloody red stars

The stars, they can sing in chorus now –

They can sing the cantata of consciousness –

A lullaby to insomnia – each ray, a litany of

Impossible prayers, soon to be submitted to

The Office, to be painstakingly, exactingly,

Granted

 *

Then I won’t have to sleep in love-empty rooms,

Then my legs won’t have to stretch restless into

The night, walking along the skyways of space,

Where they should not be creeping, weeping –

But sleeping

But, o, sleep!

You are not a dagger,

But a pen poised over my head

 *

And with this pen,

I will compose my melancholy’s obituary,

And see you all in the morning,

 

 

Diary: Wind, Sleep, and Sorrowful Songs

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The wind certainly does add a touch of drama to everything.

Just before it fully picked up, I observed a bumble bee on a dandelion. It looked like it was clinging on to the flower for dear life. I tried to imagine what the experience must be like from the bee’s perspective; the whole world a-whorl around you; your only haven a golden circumference the elements are ever conspiring to tear you from.

As I crossed a wooden bridge over a marsh, the wind really began to fulminate – not quite King Lear territory, yet – but a nearby Hamlet, perhaps? A legion of black clouds rolled in, in true Roman imperial fashion. Poplar trees were blown into bowing, willows cracking under the pressure like so many arthritic limbs, and the air was suddenly a chaotic mosaic of catkins, leaves, and dandelion seeds – a ballet caught in a tornado.

As I neared home, I moved through a large corridor of brambles that I pass through every day. I’ve been reflecting on how different they look throughout the procession of the seasons. At the moment, they are all re-leafing. There is sumptuous, magisterial quality to them, as though every leaf is a fanfare celebrating the very concept of greenness.

In Winter, they become nature’s equivalent of barbed wire. And if we should ever be so lucky as to experience some snowfall, then they look like giant, gelid spiders, trying to dislodge themselves from some awful frost that has consigned them to petrification as a punishment.

The previous night had not been so peaceful. I could not sleep. I felt sad, lonely, and restlessly in want of human contact –a sleepy embrace to compose a counterpoint to my being. Venus was glaring through the window at me, and I had the radio turned on low to give my maudlin mind something to occupy it.

After some avant-garde Jazz, and a light spell of semi-somulence, I awoke to find them playing Gorecki’s 3rd symphony – ‘A Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’ which I had actually been thinking about listening to earlier that day. It seemed the perfect companion to my current state: slow, sombre, and sad, with occasional euphoric bursts of near-prophetic hopefulness.

My favourite moment occurs in the second movement, when, after a gloomy, lingering melody, the hopeful chords at the beginning of the movement return, and the soprano explodes with this call of grief and euphoria which seems to cry out: “WHERE ARE YOU?” Like a lone wanderer on a desolate, war-barren planet, who has just detected the first murmurings of possible love, but does not yet know how to trace them.

(The words are actually an invocation to The Virgin Mary, found on the cell of the Gestapo headquarters, and written by an eighteen year-old girl imprisoned there. But, that sense of crying out for love, for salvation, across long swathes of impossible space, still, unolibteratingly, remains).

When I finally did sleep, I dreamed I was in a strange, video game world, where I was roaming around the winding passageways of a monster-filled sewer. I felt no sense of danger, nor fear. Then I awoke to the sounds of a sparkling piano – thinking of friends I missed – and the birth-song of the wind.