Translation: The Albatross, by Baudelaire


Sailors, oft times, for amusement,
Capture albatrosses, those birds of majesty,
That follows their ship in idle bemusement,
Gliding o’er the bitter abysm of the sea

Falling to the deck, deprived of his flight,
This King of the Sky who once freely soared,
Maladroit, and ashamed, his wings large and white,
Drag along the deck like water-logged oars

This winged voyager, cruelly taunted by sailors,
Formerly majestic, now crawls like a freak,
They mime the limp of this desolate flyer,
And annoy it by sticking a pipe in its beak

The Poet suffers just like this flock-swaddled king,
By archers insulted and tempests-tossed,
Prevented from walking by his giant white wings,
He is jeered at, isolated, exiled, and mocked


Poem: Sky Warrior


Buzzard, not the smartest of birds,
Your intelligence is in your instinct,
The lust of your programming

Euclidean geomestrist – the sky’s tawny compass,
Hunter of circles,
Shaper of predation

Inside you is a leopard,
Feathered, yet unfrantic,
Space-stabbing cries,
A sky warrior’s dialect

You have read all the lexicons,
All the grammarians of hunger,
And many scholars still worship
The cold stupidity of your fortitude

A weaponized wing,
A crow-taunting thing,
A heart-chaffing nest
To catch the clarity of spring


Poem: Anger Seed

anger rose

Anger is a hard, fiery stone,
The pointed, jagged teeth of war,
Stampede of horse in blood-tarred mud,
Wasp stung trapped mad in marrow bone

Drama thirst of fucking drama queen,
Simpering megaphone of all your hurt,
I speak to you, cold and curt,
To restrain the pain that might have been

Cauldron of ire, simmering long,
Taut hard verses of vicious song,
Subdue the beast – the foaming maw,
Excise the tumour of righteous law

Warm stone, now cold, in graveyard lies,
Buried in soil, cold and wet,
In the zone of sweet forget,
To seal the place my anger dies


Poem: The Barn Owl


Beginning with the furry ridge above your beak,
Mite-eyed, I walk down the peacock patterns
Islamic carpeteers once wove into your back

For a short while, your body is my atlas:
I can spend my time tracing the fault line
Of your spine, every hollow of your vertebrae,
A chapel in which I can sit still and be

O, sweet barn owl! You whose screech
Kept peasants awake with thoughts of vampires,
And goat-sucking ghouls – why is it only behind a glass,
In the arms of taxidermy,
That your hidden presence can be seen?

Once the phantasm of farmlands,
You are now a museum geist,
Habitated in the sterility of mummified non-life,
Your spirit long since flown away

If I could use my mental powers
To inhabit the pale hidden limbs of God,
I would spread you out,
To be counsellor of every village,
Chaplain of every graveyard,
Watcher of unscripted stone

But, for now, I am the patron of your glass-bound self,
A dreamer of infinite birds


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

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

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


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.