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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

From Magpie Tales this photo-prompt.

I can't believe the day's turned out like this.
It was not meant to rain. Not floodgate time.
I'm too conspicuous with this red brolly -
would have been, had there been anyone about.
My secretary's. Gives electric shocks -
the brolly does, not her. It's static, see?
No waterproof, no jacket, shirt-sleeves me.
Shoes full of water, having a wet lunch -
wrong sort of, not the sort I'd choose at all!
And now I'm lost, a karzy of a place,
a muggers' paradise, I have no doubt.
Gives me the creeps. I must get out of here.
That bike tempts me... perhaps I should half inch it?
Wonder whose it is... if the owner's near...
Padlocked. Like those two damned gates... had hopes...
I thought they'd take me to the trains... kids said.
But no such luck... so which way's back? God knows!
The whole damned place, a shitty, damp dead end!
This isn't what I do. I sell sunshine,
lift people out of clouds and sell them life.
My life's an advert for Abundant Life.
What am I doing in this death hole here,
waving this red useless brolly at the gods?

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

sometimes there's no substitute for inspiration

Live2write2day suggests something on schools for this return-to-school week.

Take your time. I don't, of course. At best, I'm reading every other word.
Blind panic drives me on. It's all a friggin' mess, it is. I think of dad.
Out there in that dark and draughty corridor, still full of hope. Eternal
optimist. Doesn't realise. But when he does... I know just what he'll say:
Snip it out and paste it in the book we call Experience. That's him. Ever
hopeful that experience will see us through. Well drawn, these characters.
I'll give them that. Immigrants. Before the word got tagged, acquired its
usual epithet. Illegal. Spending their first Christmas here and never
having seen real snow before. I should have read with greater care. That
much is clear. Of course I should. I smile and pass the clip-board back.
More questions. No prize for guessing what about. Easy to begin with.
Relax, I tell myself. I try, but not successfully. Then: What could you
say about their homeland? Was it a warmer place than here? Or would it
have been colder? Warmer. Two boys run past the window waving flags.
A rugby football match has finished and they have run the lines. I grab
what reassurance such endorsement from the powers that be might offer.
Flags are flags. They signify approval, celebration. Proof positive are
smiles across the table. How do you know? I've forgotten how I know. I
simply know I know. I read it, didn't I? Was in the script. A gardener
goes by outside. A barrow load of leaf mould. Apt comment. Quite agree!
And so do they. Their faces look well mulched. They're going through
the motions now. Like me, they want the farce to end. What do you want
to be when you leave school? Ah, shall I give them A or B or C? I plump
for B. An architect. This pleases them. Half hopefully I steal a glance
to see if other flags are waving. No, not a chance! Now let's pretend
we've come to you, your practice, asking you, your team, to plan a new
school. One like this, let's say. What might you think about including
to benefit both boys and staff? Take your time. This time I'm going to!
My glance goes through the window once again, across the garden to the
cycle sheds where earlier I'd seen boys struggling to stack their bikes
in almost vertical positions - as the frame demands. Even as my inner
editor blue pencils this and other thoughts, my lips and tongue have
jumped the gun, by-passed the process altogether, and are saying that
I'd go for good heating, lighting and good air-conditioning. I've given
it no thought at all, my answer. Now I hear a bell sound somewhere near.
Sounds of running feet and laughter follow. Another omen from the great
beyond? Well certainly, they're smiling now. One answer rubbishes the
endless rubbish that I'd spread before. It takes a moment, then I'm in!

Monday, 29 August 2011


The eye came in the night.
I had been dreaming of a sorceress
who must have drilled into my brain
and fixed the eye in place.
My other eyes could not see what it saw,
could hardly register at all -
so much was going on
that my new eye could bring to me.
It swamped out all that had been visible the day before.
The world was suddenly the buzzing busy place
it must have been when I was newly born -
and just as then, I had to learn to focus all again.
I was bemused by why it meant, tried
the odd experiment: tossed articles into the air
and watched as paper streamers stretched
almost to breaking point behind them as
they rose, then squiggled into fractals as they fell.
(So all this time we've missed the fact
that gravity is just a paper artefact!)
For hours I wondered what the ripples -
some exactly like the ones you'll find on ponds -
might be. And then my mobile shattered into life
as though a brick had fallen in the pond
and all the ripples thrown around
and tangled like a heap of strings. Some strings
were sheathed in flame,
some flames were torn apart
and sent their separate ways.

You've seen The Northern Lights - or pictures of them -
and you know how rain looks in the distance, over hills,
that smudge of dark diagonals? Well,
something like those two blew in from time to time:
psychedelic smoke from next door's barbecue.
Magnetic resonance - the slanting blur
bombardment from the cosmos of a sort.
It kind of back-lit everything that packed
into the scene until it overflowed.

So nothing came together easily.
Adjustment took forever, with images concealed
behind the waves that carried them. I had to peer
through wave beyond wave, matter
I found alien,
waves distorting waves. And when, for instance,
I at last made out my wife
she hardly looked the part. Not human. Not herself.
Robotic. Like a PET scan of the body: reds and blues
outlining bones, skull green and yellow.
The whole thing ghastly and obscene.
Grotesque. I turned from the alarming scene -
as if I could, as if I could just walk away!
I closed my eyes, the new one just went dim,
and in that low light I could faintly see
patternings that came and went: a spider's web,
a cloud, a sort of jelly fish. Impossible to know
just what it was - or is - but I keep wondering
if it might be dark matter...

This was produced in response to a prompt by dverse poets to imagine suddenly being the possessor of an extra eye by means of which all the invisibles in the world - gravity etc - would come into view.
However, not for the first time I missed their very tight deadline by 4 hours.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

I learn to Fly

How did I slip my reins?
I'd overheard their talk
of trying Allders first.
(To me the word meant 'trees',
we had one by the shed.)
Is that why I took off,
to look for them? Or was
the vastness of the store
a clear sign saying 'run'?

And then shapes closing in...
tall shapes that loomed above
like trees in a thick wood.
But these trees moved: scrawny
branches waved and gestured,
trunks trotted right up close
or swayed on dinky ankles
as branches clutched at me,
leaves whispering my name.

I ducked and weaved, I turned
and twisted; soon became
a shadow flitting through
the shadowed undergrowth,
ghosting out of nowhere
into my own created space.
I hung wings on the trees,
so now they swooped and dived,
but just as quickly, I
became an aeroplane
and out-manoeuvred them.

Not many people knew:
the war's first dog-fight, that.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Living with a Masterpiece

Bought at auction
                 for the dining room's blank wall.
No human interest,
how  landscape looks without my glasses.

Not just the centre didn't hold
across the canvas nothing coalesced.
                                   Brush marks.
Buckets of them.
                Each one on the move towards the frame -
and to the space beyond the frame, it seemed to me.

The mountain that exploded in our dining room

the way my life disintegrated
                             right before my eyes.

Well, that was then.
Weeks later           half eaten pizza for comparison.
the canvas drawing inspiration from the plate.

Robbing pizza to pay wall      
                        inversing the proportion of the meal.
Chilies, pepperoni, peppers
mozzarella: raw materials for landscape.     I couldn't look.
Sheer naked fear
of how the paint
could colonise a wall.

Perhaps it was the Chablis        even so

From that day on
                I ate in the conservatory
                                         every night

The dinner party night         the main course being served
through wine and candlelight I saw behind the brush strokes 
like sun behind a cloud
Cezanne's Mont Sainte-Victoire
                             shimmer into view.

Implosion in slow motion         particles of stone and leaf
slowly came together as I watched.
Like drifts of iron filings
they took their ordained places
in the force fields he had left

assembling the mountain, as I'd never seen before.

From that time on my life slipped back upon its even keel.
All things seemed integrated, structured and complete
     the ghastly news             the mountain was a fake.

My father's wealth was in those brush strokes - 
                                          and his health.
He died a broken man.

What price then, the truth that sets you free?

Friday, 26 August 2011


The Gooseberry Garden's Thursday Poetry Forms suggests that we try a Bouts-Rimé (poem with rhymed endings) this week. Not natural form for me, but I'm always willing to have a go at five finger exercises. I've tried a version (mine, I think!) of the sonnet.

It's rare these days to meet someone sincere,
someone completely free of all pretense,
whose whole demeanour gives you confidence
that you have seen the heart, not a veneer.
But that's a thought at which some folk might sneer -
it's even known for some to take offense;
I had one ask if I had evidence
that truth would help, not damage, a career.
We all, to some degree, are counterfeit,
we all have subterfuges to commit.
If everyone was totally transparent
my song would be of gladness, not lament,
one sung to my beloved with guitar -
perhaps with champagne and with caviar.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Tomorrow may dawn fine.

Indoors, insipid fruit is out of season,
the flowers are forced and dyed;
the dye comes out in water.

Outside, seems far more natural.
I walk beyond the field of garlic
where children camp in summer

to rocks that strew a mini valley,
think how beautiful they are -
like viruses enlarged.
An infestation of a sort, perhaps.
I quite expect
to see them crawl away
in much the way that Paul Klee saw
aquatic stones take life.*

Between them, tiny rivulets
are tainted through the same unease.
The whole of nature
shares their question mark.

From here I take a chalk path
down the steep escarpment -
treacherous when wet,
but worn so much and wearing out
that even dry I slide.

The scenery has changed.
A river runs where man has merged
his blocks of concrete with the rocks
in blissful ignorance
of what the world has lost.
The tiddlers that I caught in childhood
are mostly floating dead.

I watch an artist load his brush -
leaf green and umber side by side -
to represent the river bank.
He does it with a single, brash
encounter. Masterly -
but could as well be some impurity.

*This in the Naples Aquarium: he watched forms apparently metamorphose between the various forms - animal, mineral and vegetable.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

On a strange allegory

For The Gooseberry Garden's First Poetry Week

Naked we are born
into a virtual garden,
but soon we yearn
to know what adults know,
to equal them in station and prestige.
And through this urge we come
to challenge them
in actions of defiance -
rebellions to end the status quo.

They've had a bad press all these years,
have Eve and Adam.
Like Judas, they deserve some sympathy.
The cutting loose,
the independence trip,
defiance of control in all its forms
are necessary steps along
a necessary way.
Part of the plan, the eating of that apple!
God knew from the beginning
what the two of them would do.

The pleasures of that pristine world
have gone for good,
have gone for our much greater good -
a good we should not sacrifice.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Lovers in the brain

When an image throws a switch inside the brain
it is as though the relays were hard-wired,
connections there preformed or ready-made;
as if the image had some close affinity
with something that responded from the depths
of what it really is, this human frame.

It is as though the brain had always known,
was simply waiting for the form to show.
And even if we have to work and analyse
to understand the meaning of the form for us,
we can be happy for the unions
of lovers in the brain with their beloveds,
inamoratas - arabesques and moulded clays.

Affinities come in a range of guises:
simplicity's the simplest one I know,
a lean and pared down vision of a face,
a landscape or a beer can or a shoe.
The simplest - and most potent - one I know,
the visual metaphor, appeals to me:
two images combining in the mind -
sometimes a metaphor for something else.

Simplicity alone can spell such convolution -
and even then it needs the active mind.
The artist paints beyond the picture frame:
the world outside the image is his game.

The dream state and its image spring to mind:
the unexpected snogs the everyday
and every inessential cast away -
a pattern replicated, I maintain
in every image with the power to move a man.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Chainsaw Textures

chain  saw-chisel,
Carrara stone oak,

David  Nash,  tree
sculptor     taking
shapes  from nature
when  nature  gives

oaks  felled  or rotted
sickened to death Flesh
baby - skin-smooth
white     polished
veined like marble
wrapped  in  rough
bark;  riven  with
cracks, deep spirit
rifts,  or thinnest
of thin craquelure.

Burnt in fierce
flames, crumble
of soot, char-
coal like grit,
scorched overall
(Black shows up
form, pale hues
highlight flesh)

Found monolith:
four trees They
fused as they
grew. Twelve
tons fallen
into his lap.

Nash needed to
devise new tools
with which to take
twelve cubic meters
from the natural

This poem is a response to the dVerse poets prompt to incorporate textures.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Something is happening!

This image was posted a few days ago by Jinksy on her InTandem blog

Hey, something is happening here...
In this petri dish, as it happens:
a happening!
Growths there are mushrooming, mushrooms
are blooming, growing
white, light and puffy. Soon they'll take flight,
abandon the dish,
perhaps to take over the world.

We'd assumed we'd get cultures;
but these are not those,
they long ago ceased to be cultures.
And whatever I said,
please don't call them mushrooms,
they merely resemble the things.
They are microbes. That is,
they are microbes that ceased to be micro.
Ex-micro, now macro - or well on their way!
Well, see for yourself.
You make of it... what?

Well, yes, you are right. It's not quite like that.
It's all so confused.
Nothing is anything there in the dish,
except that it's something quite else,
something unknown;
an unknowable thing.

They are life in a form
that can't interact -
except to destroy -
with the life that we know;
a process so different,
so set against ours,
our functions, our ways
of research, that there may come a day
they'll decide we're the pests;
that bio-diversity
stepped over the line
in creating us. They may opt
for a new diversity range -
for something no greater than one.

Saturday, 20 August 2011


V1s and V2s
shattered my boyhood.
Not that I bothered,
the shrapnel was all.
We collected the bits
from those shattered lives -
and now I remember
none of it fits
the way it did then.

And V stood for Victor,
a cousin of mine;
quite distant, I think,
but here for the war
from Toronto - a Royal
Canadian airman, no less.
His V, volunteer -
which he did: the far East,
timing it well,
to be back in Toronto
when peace was declared.

V was for Victory
before very long.
We had a street party.
I wrote my first song.

The Poets United, Thursday Think Tank prompt was a suggestion to take the third letter of our first name. For me that is V.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Metaphysics aint for Kids!

For the inspiration for this poem I am indebted to dVerse ~ Poets' Pub. The prompt contained a poem by Billy Collins entitled "Lanyard", which reminded me of this incident from my childhood:-

A conch shell
found on the Cliftonville sands.
How did it get there?
Not brought by the tide...
too exotic for that!

Beautiful markings
in six shades of brown
plus ginger and cream.
More lovely by far -
I was sure beyond doubt -
than ornaments,
jewels or knick knacks at home.

So I had this idea -
a brilliant wheeze:
converting my treasure
to something of USE.
A practical thing,
of magnified worth.
But try as I would,
nothing came of my thought.

Could beauty,
I pondered,
be useless as that?
I'd have to rethink
my whole metaphysics.

Post Cards from Camp


This to say we're in.
The camp Napoleonic;
a fort - dining room of brick,
ablutions cut into the chalk,
ridge tents on concrete bases.
(We're sharing with school leavers.)


High spirits last night - too high!
"Commander" John went outside,
raincoat folded on his arm.
"That boy there!" he yelled,
paused, whacked the coat like murder.
Silence from then on.


Explored the chalk escarpment.
The boys' route being waymarked,
we sent them down the valley,
watched them from the ridge,
called out to them a few times.
Our voices did not carry -
though we heard them, every word!


It's a long walk to the loos.
Heavy rain last night.
Eerie sounds from dripping trees,
so the big lads stayed at home -
until they were mob-handed.
(Our youngsters thought it funny.)


The camp fire sing-song
and a ghostly figure comes
draped in long white sheets,
beneath which strong lights flicker.
Great excitement - then he falls:
Our "commander" John.


A day-long ramble.
Jim badgers Frank the whole way.
Frank's turn to serve the supper.
First up: mugs of ox-tail soup.
Jim's mug is full - of oxtail.


Last night: traumatic.
A stranger opens tent flaps
inviting boys to join him.
Police in non-attendance -
say they know the man:
"harmless", "miles away by now"!
Coming home to-day.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Two Poems

live2write2day's suggestion for this week was that we should write a "contrast" poem, expressing a sharp contrast in its content. Not easy, I thought, but here gores:~

The pool like silk
until the wind came,
ruffling the surface,
adding hooks to knife-
edged waves -
like shaken milk.
And leap of fish
and bubbles tore
the fragile silk apart,
'till all was cream again.

Cedars with their hands outstretched
black and weighted
spreading horizontal darkness,
echoing the nimbus clouds.

Bright shafts of sunlight
pierce the clouds,
and dancing motes
now commandeer the lawn.

Backdrop to the trees,
Belly Hill absorbs then all
into its darkness.

Light-hearted, silver-
white, the birches float
above the lying mist.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Love Song to London

How do I think of you, London, my lovely?
Last time I saw you, alas, you were dirty:
Oxford Street cluttered with boxes and beer cans,
litter and dust clouds there, blown by the wind.
I'll forgive you the way all lovers forgive
their beloveds their failings and each fleeting
lapse, for these are not thoughts I wish to retain;
they cannot erase the warmth that I feel
for galleries tucked out of sight in your back
ways; dealers inviting the populace in.
Colourful, small, like the stalls in a kasbah -
not that they'd thank me for putting it so! -
with paintings and prints to delight jaded souls.

In one such a gallery, columns of smoke
signalled the end of my favourite coat -
one extra tale for another occasion,
one extra lapse, already forgiven - how
could I drop you, your House of Commons?
(The best entertainment for free you can get!
Dead meats and their prices debated for hours.)
How not to forgive who showed me the ballet,
Berisova, Fonteyn, and then Drury Lane,
not least, The Royal Court, Pinter, Osborne and co.
Oh London, my Lovely, I'll pardon your faults,
though the riots, I grant, will take a wee while.

Oh London, my lovely, your charms are sublime,
brighter by far than a bright starry sky,
more abundant than stars. But these are the charms
that remind me I love you - and why that is so.

The suggestion to write about a city was made by dVerse ~ Poets Pub

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Rust Bucket

We thought, perhaps eight hundred yards,
the Russian tanker
anchored in the pool of deepest azure, just off shore.
We paddled out.
'Let's circle round it' someone said.
Our three canoes,
all kayak singles, slalom kind
in V-formation.

But it was more. More like a mile or more.
The sea was warm
and somehow velvety and smooth.
It gently lapped
against the tanker's rusty sides and us.

Small waves in runs
were like a lioness who plays with cubs.
I'd never been
a lion cub, did not expect
the freak wave
like an angry paw that struck from nowhere
without reason -
and underlined the metaphor.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Two poems: Riot - the original - and Caro

After posting the ghazal yesterday I mentioned - on the dVerse blog - that I had first written it in less exotic form. I had a couple of requests to post the original for comparison. So here, for anyone who might be interested, it is. (To be honest, reading it again now, I can't see much comparison!)

Best day of my life that was!
I only went to watch,
but watching brought on such a rush -
adrenalin, you've no idea!
We set the town alight, we did,
stuck it to 'em good and proper, man
(Know what I mean?)
them as likes to lord it over us,
as says we's all in gangs...
I'm in no gang, and never was.
Them better find out who them's dealing with -
or next time, not so lucky, pigs!
Them's not our mums and dads, but finks them is,
That's them as knows fuck nuffink about us -
and furver more, cares less,
or if they did, they'd learn a bit more, no?
Them's all so yesterday.
Spying on us, so they thought -
on Twitter, if you please,
and all us using Blackberries
and Twittering false clues
to throw 'em off the scent.
And yeah, we robbed 'em rotten - serve 'em right!
Them's doing us a great injustice see?
Says we's all poor, that's why we scum.
So how's we poor? We got the gear. Top stuff.
We got our Blackberries, so how we poor?
Ask them, they'll say we robbed for 'em.
So don't forget, yous better find
out who you's dealing with -
or next time, not so lucky, pigs!

Early One Morning - Anthony Caro

He took a job assisting Henry Moore
and walked Moore's English hills in search of clues,
a magic sign, perhaps, to open doors;
an inner route to all that's bred in stone.
Instead he found, snagged on a barb of wire,
a very English length of woolen thread,
and there beneath the flesh, the inner forms
of skeletons that shape surrounding stone.
In cave and crevice: steel of painted limbs;
stick insects; welded ribs and bolted wings -
and vertebrae that underlie a world.

Henry Moore

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Riot : a ghazal

We all had a ball on that day of all days,
such feelings of power, that day of all days!

Best day of my life, was that day of all days -
so magic each hour, that day of all days.

I'd just gone to eye-ball their day of all days,
see the pigs cower, that day of all days.

But adrenalin ran on my day of all days
and nuffink was dour, that day of all days.

We robbed people blind on that day of all days,
were out on the scour, that day of all days.

The town was on fire for our day of all days,
but then it turned sour, the day of all days.

Some scum neighbours shopped us that day of all days,
turned our flames into flowers, killed our day of all days.

This challenging prompt was set by dVerse ~ Poets' Pub. Do visit them for info about the ghazal - and for much else.

I am aware that I've cheated a bit with the last line, but would appreciate any comments about a form that I have always found very difficult. This is the first attempt to get anywhere near completion.

Two days ago our local radio asked for listeners' suggestions for a three word phrase to sum up the events of last week.

Their contribution: "fear for future"

I think mine would be: "Knee-jerk reactions"

Neither do I find very satisfactory: any others?

Saturday, 13 August 2011

an out-of-the-body experience

Knowing exactly where in my world I am in which room in which chair in the corner away from the light and seeing myself as a tree a rowan full grown shorn of all boughs blown in from my infant school play. I stand at the window furthest from me hands full of green boughs - Green Giant... that me? Leaves, berries and flowers and twigs fill the space where my features should be. Standing my ground as if planted unaware for awhile that it's me. All else in flux what you see is not what you get. People pass by people I know soft shadows fly over the ground rotating like blades on a slow ceiling fan or headlights of cars turning the corner (When shadows caress I regain human form my features appear then are gone in the next flash of light.) A man with a horse a friend on his bike my aunt - or great aunt (the features are blurred) having taken the veil Sister of Mercy she mumbles the prayer Jo said in the play and Mary, my friend who sang in the play. Febrile the mist (one hundred and five - I'll be told) that descends on my eyes. I look over at me. The distant,"new" me and the me that I am are locked in embrace We're leaning unstable the room sways and spins. Mini-beasts. Each larger than life. From the bark. Crawl over me. Centipedes. Beetles. Spiders with hairs. Spinning their silks, not making their webs. It goes dark. Then brightens again. Then back to dark. Leaves. Falling around me. Blowing away. Are luminous faces lighting the day. And mother's (with Lucozade) "Welcome back darling!"

I have sung through it all of The Runaway Train running over the tracks.
Remarkably, though, I've no recall of that.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Time Was Away

I read a novel
in which the end of the world
came long before
the end of the book.

a dream I had
the Big Bang

A colleague told me
he had memories
of being in the womb -
but not of leaving it
or getting there!

The same colleague
has deja vu moments
all the time. He claims
his whole life
is one long reprise -
played backwards.

Our infant son
would move
the clock's hands on
to bring his mum
home sooner.
(It seemed to work!)

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Creation of Man : William Blake

And after Michelangelo
what other hand, what other eye
could bring the scene to life again,
add something to the turning point
of God creating man? Only the mystic
inner eye, the eye of Blake envisioning
how Energy brought Adam from the dust.

Winged Energy, a spent force - almost - here
beneath a golden setting sun as Earth
returns to darkness from its glory days,
scrabbles on bare hands and knees
to fashion man as best He can.
He has no instant button at his beck and call,
no key to press marked "Add Life Now!",
man does not sizzle into being at his finger's touch.

Five days God's laboured on His master plan,
framed time, eternity, earth, universe and life,
framed all that is, except for this, now on the sixth,
from what is left - the last dregs of an earthly dust -
he's making man. The evidence is clear:
God struggles, fully stretched, with this his final
task, most draining of them all. Man, still not
fully formed, still part of earth - and worse,
already in the serpent's coils, the battle all but lost.

The spirit Energy has found the clay
he needs to form the brain. Retrieving it
while opening the skull, He seems distracted,
looks elsewhere - perhaps for inspiration, or perhaps
from sheer exhaustion. Here Blake's strange Elohim creates -
I'd say, almost against the grain - in torment and in pain.

Blake was implacably opposed
to science, all its forms and revelations,
and this was way before "The Origin of Species" -
but Blake is almost there, and that despite himself.

A painted print, but paint obliterates the print.
Blake, too, has toiled to bring The First Man
from his earthly womb to life: man made,
not simply in God's image, but by God Himself
who crafted him by hand - no short cuts taken here!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Land Art - en plein air and indoors : Two Poems


Three conifers
stand in isolation
on a sandy inland beach.

I take a curving path
towards them. As I walk
they also move.
Change places
glide around each other,
always within touching distances.

Between their three trunks -
initially -
a lake,
a glistening stretch

Most entrances are taped
denying access
(toxic algae?)
though boats sail peacefully.


Covering a panel -
thick viridian green -
I blend in ochre, umber, several greys,
then deeply score from left to right.
A sharp tool
digging down
exposing the bare board -
a furrow through a tract of land
where centuries of feet have worn
a path, a highway, movements of a man
or men. I scrape
and scratch - the paint
is hardening -
the first score's perpendicular,
then drag in white
for chalk and black
for coal. I see it
as a sort of land art
grown at home
diminutive in scale.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Two Sites of Special Scientific Interest

falls into a lake,
seen through alders
heard through rustle of leaves,
haloed in white.

My approach
expands the whiteness
in circles
towards me,
crossing the lake.

Sad that the distance
and instinct  combine
to conjure the fancy:
soap suds  pollutants
only  nearer  to find
a  mix nearly perfect
of   water  unsullied
with lightness of air
support for  two rare
mini-beasts  and  one
water weed.


genetic programs ticking
they cover themselves in glory -
and metal oxides -
from benign virus
into living wire,
predestined to arrange themselves
in patterns laid by man
called batteries.
They pack a punch,
sparks bright enough
to replace petrol on all 
roads of this town reborn
tomorrow - when all our cities
will be lit (maybe) by living things
like Vibrio phosphorium -
or cum grano salis, as you might say -
sparkling bacteria
clinging to the outside walls
of buildings 
growing there - and every roof as white
as that pure water in the lake.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Love Song

dVerse ~ Poets Pub set several prompts for this week, all of them relating to the work of Giorgio de Chirico. I chose this painting of his: "Love Song".

Anxiety is here that builds to war.
It's in the dark and melancholy streets,
it's in the very atmosphere that sinks
into the gut, the bones, the spleen, the spunk.
No one is here, it's not for humans, this.

But wait, we see the signs of man writ large,
though muddled and confused, as in a dream:
Apollo - plaster likeness, not himself -
a rubber glove, a ball, a puffing train.
What are these things to us - and what to him?

de Chirico is out to change the world.
These are the implements he'll use, laid out
as if a surgeon is about to cut
the cord that ties the world to evil thoughts -
He's working in the deepest shafts of mind.

Apollo, god of music, song and verse
is giving birth to man's creative urge.
A midwife's glove tacked to a wall to dry,
a ball awaits the long-expected child.
Art answers to the world's anxieties.

But no, I did not quite forget the train...
the artist's father worked the railway line.
A tiny train, it's going nowhere fast -
for this is not escapist art; it's here
in every now that ever was or is.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

There Should be a Bird Called a Poet

There should be a bird called a poet.
What would its plumage be?
Would it twitter away in ducktyls?
Would both sexes sing, he and she?

I ask, having read in the news
how poets have twittered on twitter
demanding an airing for views
that are growing increasingly bitter

re The Poetry Soc's upper twigs.
On Facebook, forsaking their crumbs,
they're coming together in gigs -
their harmony baffles and numbs.

They're demanding that birds that have flown
the nest in frustration and pique
should be reinstated and shown
that the board, not the poets, are weak.

So what of my bird called a poet?
It should have some teeth in its beak,
teeth it reserves for the nest -
to use them outside is not chic.

Its feathers would end disarrayed,
it would stagger around on mixed feet,
any rondo or sonnet it made
would nose dive into the street.

So you'll not find it out where it matters,
doing battle with giants or a troll,
a world grown hungry, in tatters;
but twittering tunes that lull.

(For background: see here)

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Two Poems

Newly opened,
coral pink
and beautifully formed,
its face turned up
as if to scan the sky,
a listening ear perhaps.

Within the rose
around its tiny fins
pearl coloured beads of rain
follow one another
like insects in a maze.

Twelve saplings in a circle,
twelve swan necks
echoing each other
seem to have invented
the world's first ever
static dance

Theatre in the round:
the circle is enclosed
by watching shrub and scrub.

Friday, 5 August 2011


The moon inflating was a taupe balloon
she'd thought in dream,
forgetting she'd not slept.


And not the moon, but
daughter Marza's, stomach.
She'd watched the dry earth swallow it, seen,
how as it slowly sank beneath a mimicry of waves,
it gently rolled as if a small boat had capsized.

No ripples broke the surface,
no bubbles from those trapped beneath.
And nothing grew,
no green shoots marked the grave.

Only the dust remembered it
where scratches in the dust were epitaph.

And then the belly reappeared,
surfaced like a corpse at sea,
as if the waves had spurned her final gift.
One corpse too many for its store.

But not the whole corpse. As before,
that empty part of her , that part
wherein her body's emptiness
had been most keenly felt, the still inflating,
slightly bouncing belly.

Emblazoned on it, clear as day:
half her daughter's face.
Deflating rapidly,
the belly
in its shrunkenness,
its creases and its crevises,
took on images
only to scrunch and then discard them.
Fleetingly she saw, but did not recognise,
a map of Africa.

Each image was to her
another stunted bush, more scrub,
more shrivelled leaves
from gum and galool tree.

Still, something stilled inside her,
clearly said it was an omen.
Good or bad, she did not know, but she was glad.
It made her daughter more significant, somehow.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Summer Reading

On Tuesday, on my first visit to the World Examining Works blog (which I arrived at via that of The Weaver of Grass I found the suggestion that we might like to post on our blogs the following from our Summer reading:-
2 non-fiction books that we have enjoyed
2 new fiction reads ditto
and 2 old favourites re-read.

Well, why not?
The two new non-fiction that I have most enjoyed (actually, am most enjoying: but there we go, veracity to fact is not the deepest truth) are:

"The Stranger's Child" by Alan Hollinghurst
"The Hare with Amber Eyes" by Edmund de Waal

The latter is probably the most unusual book I have read in a long while. The hare in question is a netsuke, one of those tiny Japanese wood and ivory carvings, which was left the narrator in a legacy. It is a treasure hunt-cum-family saga.

My two non-fiction choices are both technical books:-

"Language Technology and Society" by Richard Sproat, an overview from ancient hieroglyphs to the computerising of Chinese script and machine translation,
"The Sound of Poetry; the Poetry of Sound" co-edited by Perloff and Dworkin. It is a collection of papers from scholars, poets and translators - some of whom are all three.

Finally my two old favourites taken down and dusted are:-

"Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow" by Peter Hoeg
"Marabou Stork Nightmares" by Irvine Welsh

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Questions on Self-Crucifixion

How did he manage it,
Graham Sutherland,
his crucifixion?

Imagine it:
a landscape artist, simply that,
resolved to paint a crucifixion -
and not just a, the most impressive,
most authentic yet.

He had a wooden cross made -
made to measure, so to speak -
and placed himself, roped, hanging there.

And thus completely incommoded,
drew himself seen in a mirror.
And there's the bit I fail to understand.
How did he manage that?

Had I been Sutherland
I think I would have had no mirror,
but with the brush held in my teeth
and wearing an effective blindfold
would have set out to mark on canvas

areas of pain.

I'll not pretend it would have looked like crucifixion:
it might have, but I doubt it. Any way,
what visual art portrays
need not be visual.
I think it would have worked for me,
but would it have been art?
Ah, there's the rub,
for that's the thing about a claim to making art...
it must communicate outside oneself.

The hope that Sutherland held dear
was perfect truth, history's
most pure and its most unadorned
view of its most significant event.

For perfect truth the self will always need
a crucifixion. Did you know
you can down-load self crucifixion ring tones
from the Internet? *

* by Virgin Steele

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

a pool and its environs

By the pool
I am the
shadow of water
thrown over grass
like a net.

Among trees
I stumble
bramble tangled -
a young boy

the rocks
I am a stone
fashioned from stone
complete as a stone.

an open field
I am smudged
like water paints
by dark clouds.

Someone felled
and perched
a silver birch
on a branch of
a silver birch.

Like bonsai trees
the fungi cluster
vying for size
and colour.
Each one bitten.

Sand rises
around my feet
like water.
Only the marram
grass holds me.

Flowering sedge
on marshy fingers
pointing me back
to the pool.

Visit The Poetry Pantry

Monday, 1 August 2011


I'm looking for a janitor today.
The school unfinished,
unusable at present,
will soon be ready "right on cue".
A bungalow goes with the post.
No shortage then of candidates.

The clerk-of-works has volunteered
his porta-cabin for the interview.
We've all squeezed in: the governors,
the County representative,
a man from maintenance, a clerk.
The clerk reads out apologies.

First in: a youngish man from Kent.
He speaks of his experience:
both of the job and children too -
particularly "kids like these".
A school he knows in Kent,
he mentions it by name...

No, not employed, he helps out there -
his nephew's school, in fact.
(I know the boy, Jack Jones.)
The candidate is gaining confidence;
he's helped with woodwork lessons,
motor maintenance and groups on visits.

The recent deputy relied on him,
spoke of him in glowing colours.
The two of them became great friends.
He'd take a full part in school life
if he should get the job.
I don't let on: the deputy was me.

I learn much more about myself
before I break my vow of silence:
for instance how I recommended he
receive a gong. At last I speak: tell all.
He smiles. No word of explanation:
he withdraws his application.