Poem: The Severn

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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

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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

Poem: Holy Land

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Scatter my ashes in the woods,
No holier land conceiveth I,
No Jerusalem or Palestine,
Tibetan Lhasa or Himalayan sublime,

But the soil and water of the River Wye,
Are quite holy enough for me,
No desire for The Ganges nigh,
When I could have these valleys green,

And lose myself in Lady’s Park Wood,
The Little Doward’s limestone cliffs,
Or from Yat Rock espy the terrain,
Of Herefordshire rolling quick

And who will join me on these walks,
A pilgrim in this palace of trees,
Will give me love to keep me warm
In this everchange of nature’s confederacy?

I hope it will be you, my darling,
Who will be right foot to my left,
Who will be the inhale to my exhale
When I am struggling for more breath

But you enfold me, calm me, open me,
As a key unlocking latch of door,
Unto your glass, I will pour me,
Drain me, always search for more

In this quiet infinitude of man,
In this library of secrets, by crows surveyed,
You have the power to be my making,
And to be there when I am unmade

Unmade, yet never lost, not quite,
For there is a light under everything,
There is a song of whispering might,
That never loses its voice to sing

So, tree me, darling, branch me, leaf me,
Be the bark that ne’er will unsheathe me,
Be the Venus to my Mars,
Be the space between the stars

Be the rainfall on my lake,
Be the wine, my thirst to slake,
Be the building – be the stone –
Be the mansion I call my home

But most of all, my dear, be mine,
Be the needle on the pine,
Be the mountain, be the rills,
Be the hollows my mistiness fills

And, mysteriously, I’ll come down,
To be the thorn upon your crown,
To be the cells within your blood
Scattering my ashes in the wood

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

 

Poem: Limestone Dreams

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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: Spider and Sprite

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The spider sends out thoughts from her web,
And receives thread-like messages from the web of the night,
Feeling a tug – a yearning tremor of her matrix – she calls out:

“Who goes there?
Who are you?
What do you want with me?”

But the web becomes motionless and dull,
And she wondered if her predatorial instincts
Were beginning to trick her in her old age

And somewhere, on the other side of the world,
Where night has forgotten to be itself,
And all is enwombed in perpetual light,
A little bird shifts in its nest and sighs,
The ensemble of twigs groaning against
The yearning tug of the wind,
Which slowly whispers:

“Who are you?
What do you want with me?”

And in the minds and brains of animals,
Questions are always being sallied back and forth,
And the switchboard dilates with the impersonation
Of light, and sleeping crows hardly lift their wings to
The blow of far-off musket balls

Yes, things come together,
Even as we sleep,
And spiders and owls can regain their happiness
In the suspicion of a whimper

Learning to let the heart open up,
As we are cuddled by the questions
Carried on the wind

Poem: Idle Thoughts In A Chapel

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Cloistered inside myself,
A one-man monastery,
From nave to navel,
From chance to chancel,
The architecture of my thoughts spiral towards sorrow,
Desiring touch, it flees all things that make touch possible –
Growing spikes – concealing itself in thorny foliage

Yet pollen still draws bees from across the ocean,
As we are drawn by irresistible patterns of migration,
Arcing along courses, as inexorably as stars,
Drawn into conjunction or opposition

Fearing, yet seduced by one another,
We shed fire into each other’s eyes,
And melt like butter, and the silence
Of my prayers is devoted to your potentiality,
Kneeling at the altar of space

I will kneel before the holy see of your femininity,
I will eat of your body as a sacrament,
And drink of your kisses like wine,
Saying prayers in the shedding of tears,
The communion of your arms will be mine

Then, out in the graveyard,
I will bury my thoughts in the body of earth,
And the lime trees will declare the sweetest of boundaries,
Where melody shepherds us in,
As lambs into an enclosure

They’ll pass round the collection plate,
And I’ll leave a poem on it,
And I’ll declare that it is holy writ,
For it was born of your womanly glory

 

Poem: Jackdaws In Love

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A congregation of jackdaws zigzag above a spire,
Each of their clacks a prayer of unconscious praise
The patterns dissolve and then repeat
Recombining in a thousand different ways

I’ll admit it – I am afraid of tenderness –
Of softness – of anything that can speak
Sweetly to me when I expect only indifference
And repulsion

A loving whisper can wear away a wall
Quicker than a brass band at Jericho,
And a soul-sung smile can disable
Even the most high-tech of security systems,
Leaving you defenceless and worn

But each of my cells is a jackdaw,
Sometimes cohering together in a maze of flight,
At others electing to spend lives of searching on lonely rooftops,
Dropping stolen objects onto the ground below,
To observe the laws of Caws and Effect

If a tree shan’t be my throne,
Then a throne shall be my tree,
And from the scriptural skin of spiral-spun bark,
I will offer shelter to those above and below me –
The Wooden Almshouse of the World

Just by being here, I am unchastened,
My kisses are loosened from their reins,
And seek out streams in which to bathe their secrets,
In the eddies and whirlpools of unknowing

So see me chaste,
And then unchastened,
In the clacking prayer of bird-born syllables,
Strung on every strand of the sky

 

Poem: Fragments From a Welsh Cottage

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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

 

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