Category Archives: poem

celebrate the night

i come with tales

of beautiful night, hearing, not seeing –

feeling the nearness of unseen creatures,

footsteps in the leaves … an owl calls,

a tree creaks in the dark, foxes bark,

a cobweb brushes your face.

to walk in the dark unseen to yourself,

everything’s changed, all you know turns strange,

a time of magic, flames flicker on faces

you thought familiar, streets transform.

there’s dancing somewhere – in the sky?

under the earth? all around invisible dancers

whirl to the music of night.

become one with the dark,

dance with darkness and candle flames,

love shadows, melt into them, this is the wild …

and the stars, the stars, they are the ones

we return to – the bear and the chair,

the warrior’s dream sword, cloudy with galaxies,

the wandering planets and their circling moons,

turbulent, collapsing suns

and the star-spattered outflung arm of this galaxy

reaching back into time, back to the source,

and on to new beginnings.

For ‘celebrate the night’ 19th November, Knighton, Powys, Wales

Café de Paris

This pair stands apart

from the golden-shoed imposters,

professional partners, ex competition dancers,

redolent of net and sequins.

She’s in a white dress, hair scraped back,

he suited impeccably in cream.

Their concentration is complete,

and now the ritual music can begin.

The dance they dance was called obscene,

pressing such sensuality into a pause

that no-one could mistake it.

They stop as if trying to remember,

each with a head turn, one and then the other –

or is it to forget, eyes never meeting –

the abandon of that previous moment,

when they became one being in total union,

frenzy fined into a formal gesture.

Supple ferocity takes over now;

they glide like jaguars, her simple dress,

taken by surprise at sudden movements,

follows more slowly with its skirt.

The dance allows each dancer to reveal

an essence of what each partly is

in life’s complexity,

eternal representatives;

the two become one, the one, two,

in figures of fusion and division,

with all the tension of the human

this tea dance time,

this Thursday afternoon, to records.

I will refuse
to come down from the mountain,
nor will I bother any more
with speech or writing, but will roar
and sharpen my claws
in the last of the forests.

Kephalonia

he has always farmed here,

coaxing food from the dry salt earth

walking the beach with his mule and dogs.

now his once deserted beach has sprouted sunbeds,

strangers invade his little space, he finds their leavings.

at odds with this noisy alien world

that has no time for him or what he knows,

he finds life’s landmarks fading, his mind’s moorings vanish

swept away by a new tide he rails against.

“i used to harvest respect and honour, now contempt.

once coaxing fruit from the dry soil was prized.

now you sneer at me because my hands are earthy,

stained with the source of life.

don’t write my epitaph too soon, citydweller.

there may come a time when you come begging to us,

you who know nothing, who produce no food.

when that day comes, will i be there to give

as i have always done? bury me here by the sea!

i’ll never give in, except to death.”

A hard taskmaster, the sun

A hard taskmaster, the sun.

No half measures. While I dig furrows

in the earth, he digs them in my face.

He is insatiable, drinks our water

and now sucks us dry, our landlord.

No escape; can’t take the sun to law,

nor reason with him.

Each day we ask, now, where’s the rain?

Clouds pass far off; each night

comes sheet lightning, no thunder.

We close our mouths against the dust,

against complaint, a waste of breath.

I will complain, a grain in the mortar,

ground by light. Substance wears away,

husk and kernel, all to dust.

We have the coldest shadows on the earth,

have eaten our seed potatoes,

so what’s to plant? The plough raises

nothing but dust.  Will you drive us out?

We cannot live with you, nor without you,

you who return each morning golden. We,

lost in the wrinkled mountains, creep

over the earth, earth houses, earth clothes,

heads down, following the oxen.

We are as stubborn as you,

we are your children.

Soundings

Fish inhabit the muzzles of the guns,

corals encroach and in the surrounding sands

garden eels like spotted, shy umbrella handles

weave up and down in the dappled undertow.

Below deck the octopus considers

with human eyes and high round forehead

the careless war’s drowned riches

while offering affectionate tentacular embraces

to certain tasty morsels in the dark.

In the surgery fish flick fussily

over operating tables where sponges dwell

and warty skulkers hide in corroded boxes

of kidney bowls and crusted scalpels.

In the drug cupboards lobsters lurk,

performing careful autopsies on distant cousins.

Small crabs sift the evidence once more,

and everywhere a drifting soup of life

is pumped through delicate fringed syphons ceaselessly.

Sharks pass through on their rounds,

grey custodians of the fighting decks,

while in and out of portholes fly

the legion single-thinking shoals in silver panics.

On the bridge, fish made up like minstrels

for old fashioned summer pier end shows await

their tiny hygenists, who fly

into gaping mouth and out through gill

with professional speed.

The siren shells that sang the ships to sleep

are crumbling; lost certainties

are overgrown with corals.

That fine balance of community

reminds this body that it’s no unity;

ancient recollections stir

those divers rising up to mind.

Photo album

“Is that really me?” you ask,

humour finding a way

through loss of memory. “I think so.”

Unmistakably.

Watching you, I wonder

what is the essence of the self?

Does death really unpick all?

You cleverly conceal

the moments when you quite forget

who I am. I arrived too late

to be woven in, yet feel you know

what I am if not quite who.

You offer to introduce me to the dead

who look out from the pages of the album.

“Such a charming fellow this one.

I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.” Doubt

clouds your eyes a moment,

but you say no more except:

“my goodness, what hats we wore!”

You pause at a picture of the house we sit in, say

“Such a lovely place, and I believe

we live there still, but can’t be quite sure …”

Your hand goes to turn the page but your mind

still moves between two pictures, back and forth

and we are caught here –

I for some reason have the image

of a silk dress torn on barbed wire

some long lost afternoon, venturing down

towards a river in full summer glory.

Suddenly released, you at once forget

that two impulses undid each other,

and with fresh energy you offer

to bring us all together, living and dead,

for that ritual cup of tea…

Remission

 

Everything stares back at me,

nameless, grey and solitary.

Nothing moves, can’t lift my arm,

Speech dies on my leaden tongue.

Meaning drains out of the world

as if some frightful plug were pulled.

I rest in my paralysis

to conceal my helplessness,

a moment of absolute stasis,

but I dare not stay like this

or the world will turn to stone

and nothing will ever move again.

The stillness tightens; I struggle in it

like a wrestler at the limit,

silently pushing to break the mould

and, motionless, to move the world.

It is as if time’s spring has slipped

fractions of infinity are infinite,

and so the aeons settle in,

enormous, familiar, smothering.

Then suddenly it starts to shift:

cold iron shutters slowly lift.

I am incredibly set free

by the arbitrary power that held me.

I question nothing, but grasp reprieve

with the hand of one who must believe.

Dartmoor

Here are few waymarks,

old time, new time, time pressing through,

water wears out stone,

earth eats bone,

rich food for deep down

where roots reach;

this is the track that leads back,

up and along the crest, against the sky

where the huge clouds brush over,

back to the trackless.

Here you may be

a moving mark on a wide space, no more.

Lean on the wind and sun

let your shadow run

and follow on

to where one space rubs its back on another,

and the tors are scratching posts for clouds

that trundle over where the buckled rocks once melted and flowed

and the waves they made froze and wear away to dust.

Here, butting my thought on feeding time

like a nuzzling calf, here

where the puddles are sky traps

to catch all its moods,

where the fine grass shivers

by the tumbled standing stones,

here I enter stone time,

travelling back to the primal fires

of mothering stars.

wild weed song

Buddleia burns purple incense, ragwort, bindweed,

put forth joy rampant.  Here in the cracked earth, rank beauty claims

its scrap of world, intent incarnate in sappy stems,

and bitter juices, rich nourishment! The green need

to grapple, to feed on light, to scatter seed, enflowers them;

let me learn from the dandelion, breaking anew

through the black tar, starbursts of new life.