Wednesday, 23 December 2015

On A Hot August Day

The woods are bright with oaks’ new lammas growth,
   Cheering the swart, tight-fingered yew;
Wood wasps hover in soaks of sun like broth, 
   And tapping trunks for grubs the back-blue 
Nuthatch whistles. Tall ash sway in the breeze,  
Their crowns threshing like wrack on the sky’s seas;
   Dust bakes in the heat, tart as rue.

Beyond, the meadow barley blondly waves
   And the yoke-yellow trefoil glows;  
Woodchip crickets raspingly toil at lathes
   Danced at by cabbage-whites which pose
Like paint on the purple vetch. At the lake
Phosphorus dragonflies flash like light’s flake  
   Scorned by a heron in a doze. 

In eden-truce a pirate magpie sips
   The mud-thick water; cuckoos high 
In a copse pant meekly; a starling flips
   Path dust to cool its wings: a cry
From a child snubbed the muse on this hot day; 
Tooth and claw belied, the birds, it seemed to say, 
   Were heat-absolved like you and I.

====================
© September 2013







 
 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Months: Lyrics: December

The poems for March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October and November in this series were posted on 14 March, 13 April, 9 May, 15 June, 11 July, 8 August, 11 September, 9 October and 14 November 2015.
--------------

   The morning air flares on the skin, 
   The sky is high and iceberg cold,
   The crimson sun, a too-close world,
Looms over rooftops that the day begin. 

   An ice-lump frost like frozen milk
   Plasters the grass and rigid oaks, 
A crow cracks the silence with rattling croaks; 
   Sun-touched, the frost glistens like silk.

   A split-pale fence begins to steam,
The sun’s heat creeping on its topmost bar;
   Like incense drifting near and far   
   The frost exhales a breath-thin stream.

Wet-black the fence; and now the grass and oaks
   Fume cloudily in the sun’s light;  
   Winter’s colours emerge from white –
   Ash-greens and dunnage like turned cloaks.

====================
© December 2014

 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

"Come"

The poem was written in 2013 in extremely rugged blank verse, almost syllabic. In September/October 2016 I revised it to smooth out some of the knots and calluses. The new version is given below. In places it still teeters on the edge of my old failing of statement rather than image.
   The poem is 284 lines in length so for those who have busy lives here's a prose argument:

First Section: Recalls a persistent dream I had in adolescence of myself as an internally-exiled older writer, out of sympathy with the mores of his society, and allowing few visitors.
Second Section: Recalls the setting of the dream in the Rheidol Valley in mid-Wales where I spent childhood holidays with smallholding relatives in the 1950s/early 1960s. Recalls their hard lives and settled beliefs.
Third Section: Considers the state of the British now – destroying their own culture and religion, killing their young, living for materialism. Considers the inevitable effect of mass immigration resulting in the replacement of the indigenous culture, religion and society with those of the incomers.
Fourth Section: Considers the final fate of the British, marginalized and abandoned, identifying myself with them as an exiled figure trying to preserve what is left of the British ‘Great Tradition’, and draws the themes of the self-exiled figure in my adolescent dream, the sturdy folk of the Rheidol Valley in the 1950s, and the dispossessed and marginalized British, together in a final image of the isolated ‘sage’ giving audience to an enquirer seeking to understand the historical fate of a now dying people.

----------------

I
Imagine, first, a sweeping valley, flattened
By age, patched with the strong-grass fields and climbed
By hawthorn hedgerows, combed complainingly
By the fresh west wind. Imagine, next, the steeper
Sides defiling back into the mountains,
With screes like builders’ rubble, with the crouchback
Hazel, and, far below, an intestine-folded
River scribbling its way towards the sea.
Imagine, last, a stone-built house with gables
And patterned chimneys, perching aloof on
The valley side, under the ridge but slapped
By the wind’s gruff hand. That was the bitter place
Which in an adolescent dream I saw
Persistingly; from which, a disabused
And long-toothed man of letters, I would send
Notes to suppliants seeking knowledge, harboured
In the damp town at the valley’s mouth: “Come.”
My novels, balefully delivered over
Many years, had scarified a portentous
Thin-root culture which, destroying icons
And cultic truths, attached instead to gods
Of self, big-bellied, had despoiled the temple’s
Vestments for gaudy party-wear. How I flayed!
Instead of brickbats, though, wealth and respect
Were piled on me by my excoriates
Until, heart-withered and repulsed, I fled
To my valley eyrie shrouded in a cloud
Both turbulent and turbid, forked by lightnings
Which clapped the rolling silence. There, refusing
All contact with the insurgent world below,
Provisioned by a live-in help and buoyed
By sight of the bleak high-wandering buzzard,
Fastidious and brutal, I composed
My jeremiads, fierce as mountain wind
Yet fresh as the jangling, rock-leaping stream.
Infrequently, someone with seeming sense
Would beg an interview, balked in the foot-
Of-valley town until my tardy scrawl
Released him to make pilgrimage these fourteen
Miles to my chilly, silent writing room.
Such was my aggrandizing dream! Mann’s Faustus,
Devoured in passion in my teens – its portrait
Of the cold, high-visioned Leverk├╝hn in thrall
To purchased genius – was much to blame.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Months: Lyrics: November

The poems for March, April, May, June, July, August, September and October in this series were posted on 14 March, 13 April, 9 May, 15 June, 11 July, 8 August, 11 September and 9 October 2015.
--------------

Mid-morning twilight is the brightest hour
And drab is any final rot-bruised flower, 
   The damp-drenched air is thin to breathe,
   Pricking cheek and spotting sleeve; 
      Slugs glisten in the mould,
      Half-stunned by the wet cold.

   The wagtail at the rain-brimmed ruts
   Dashes forlornly, flutters, tuts;
      A florid pheasant lands,
      Running for the stands 
Of filigree and white-bark birch now stripped
Of bile-spot leaves which all night long have dripped.

   The ash trees gape above the waste
   Of straw-blanched roughland grass – a paste
Of mud and water welling through its roots; 
A green-dark hemlock sags beneath its fruits  
      Of sullen rainfall drops –
      November’s bitter slops.

Mid-afternoon, a dusk like devil’s grog
Stuffs the weald’s valleys with creosote fog; 
      In fields and town mist climbs,
      Crisps pools and glass with rimes;
   Cold-thickened night solidifies:
   The wagtails roost with wary eyes. 

====================
© November 2014

  

 

 

Friday, 16 October 2015

Dawn Fox

In the second stanza "the docks" are weeds not places where one unloads ships.

--------------

(5.00 am, 20 August 2013)

   Woken in pre-dawn gloom
   When gut uncertainties
   Harry the dusk-dark room,  
   A fox shrieked like disease;
My dulled bones stirred and shrank awry
From that cold anthem of a cry.  

   Though August heats were over
   This was my year’s first fox;
   Why had it broken cover
   Screaming beside the docks?   
Joy it had slaughtered for its fill
Or anger it had missed a kill?

   Worse, was its scream a warning –
   That stink and yellow jaw! –
   Fraught in the silent morning
   As the squealing of a door?
Was it for the past a reckoning,
And to some beyond a beckoning?    

====================
© August 2013

 


Friday, 9 October 2015

Months: Lyrics: October

The poems for March, April, May, June, July, August and September in this series were posted on 14 March, 13 April, 9 May, 15 June, 11 July, 8 August and 11 September 2015.
--------------

A lime leaf, wind-whipped from its tree,
Switchbacked in air and plucked my wrist,
Its broad-faced green had blanched like cloth  
And rust had made its edges twist;
   Sick, with no remedy, 
   It fell like a struck moth. 

October’s like the grey-backed sea,
Brutal and languid under mist, 
Extracting life from summer’s growth
And crushing it as winter’s grist:
   That lime leaf guilelessly 
   Has blundered into truth.  
 
====================
© October 2014
 



Sunday, 20 September 2015

Delphic Words

In Plato’s cave are shadows dancing like hands,
A roaring fire entrances the large-eyed  
Denizens; outside, the sun broiling the sands 
Proposes truths as tough as salt-cured hide.

In Darwin’s study, texts on writing stands
Agonise that turtles or finches, pryed, 
Might flash with that chemistry at the sea’s strands
Which jostled them into being like a tide.

What reconciles? Teilhard knits Plato’s Forms
With Darwin’s murderous facts to fling a spawn
Of consciousness through galaxies; while tough
Aquinas prises things to find the norms
Of the Mover, unopposable as dawn:
For both, the Word’s transfixion is enough.
 

====================
© August 2013


Friday, 11 September 2015

Months: Lyrics: September

The poems for March, April, May, June, July and August in this series were posted on 14 March, 13 April, 9 May, 15 June, 11 July and 8 August 2015.

--------------

In the grey-fog dawn, dank and greasy,
   A jackdaw cried;
A nut-snacking squirrel, anxiously busy, 
Dashed to the bushes, scorned by a cold-eyed 
   Michaelmas daisy.

Stewed by the mild sun a roadkill fox
   Is torn by a crow; 
A mid-day spider, mending the shocks
To its web, seizes a moth, silly-slow, 
   In the rusting hollyhocks.

Equinox night charcoals the woods,
   Erasing the rooks
In their elm top roosts. Woodfloor foods
Hunt and are hunted in the silent nooks 
   Under bindweed roods. 

====================
© September 2014

 

Saturday, 15 August 2015

King Harry Redcap

'King Harry Redcap' is a traditional name for the goldfinch - a most beautiful little bird. It also has a non-stop attractive song which made it popular as a cage bird in times which I trust are now past. King Harry is, of course, Henry VIII. Like some other smaller birds, for instance the wren, the goldfinch can sing very loudly, indeed it can keep going for minutes at a time without apparently exhausting itself. I have listened in astonishment on many occasions.

--------------

     With crimson face
     And golden wings
The goldfinch prinked on groundsel sings;      
     Its ruff of lace,
     Its toffee breast,
Ripple in the wind’s sun-hot zest.

     King Henry’s stuffs,
     Bejewelled and stiff,
Encased his pomping strut as if
     Grace were white cuffs
     And canting grin
And not this finch ablaze in whin.

     Yet once this bird
     Was caged for song
That prisoned it might thrill its tongue,     
     Make beauty heard
     Though wax unwell,       
A dismal, shabby Philomel.

     As sprinkling dew
     Its droplet call
Scatters on the wind’s busy maul;
     With a king’s hue
     And lively breath
Its freshets rinse the thistled heath.
 

====================
© August 2013
 



 

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Months: Lyrics: August

The poems for March, April, May, June and July in this series were posted on 14 March, 13 April, 9 May, 15 June and 11 July 2015.
--------------

Luscious as syrup | the lazy sea swelters,
Dusk descends dimly | on the viscid dull waves,
Windless, weak savours | are wearily wafted,
Harrying heat drowses | in humid hot caves. 

Assumed, a full moon | makes metal the heavens,
Bronzing the bowl | of the big-arched and bruised sky,
Highlighted cloud hefts | halo the horizon,  
A gimlet of gold | glows on the sea’s glint eye.

The Plough sinks softly | through a quicksand of stars, 
Vivid Venus | vamps in the height of the vault,
Sleepers suffer their dreams | like sandcrabs scuttling,
Night’s heat enshrouds them, | their sweat heavy as salt.          

====================
© August 2014

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Well Met in Dorking

I haven't been in Dorking for many a year but as the epitome of the middle-class south of London commuter town it suited my purpose admirably.

--------------

Hail fellow, well met, it’s years since at school
We sniggered uneasily at the form master’s rule,
But it taught us to cope with life’s black and blue,                      
   And surely that’s true:
   How goes it with you?

And for months you’ve caught this train every day?     
I’ve done it for years and know every inch of the way;
It teaches you patience and how to dodge through a queue,   
   And surely that’s true:
   How goes it with you?

I recall my first job, low pay and long hours,    
You stayed on your toes for the bosses had powers!
They were sticklers but knew their work through and through,  
   And surely that’s true:
   How goes it with you?

I’m a manager now, top-heavy with perks,
Though I’m not sure I know how everything works;
I’ve learned to take refuge behind the “long view”,
   And surely that’s true:
   How goes it with you?
 
“Partner” and children? Crikey, what can I say?           
Jill met a lifestyle coach and both ran away;
The children were helpful, texting in lieu,
   And surely that’s true:
   How goes it with you?

I’m old now with gall stones, retiring soon;
I shall stand at my window and look at the moon;      
I should take up painting or do something new,
   And surely that’s true:
   How goes it with you?

In dreams I see an eye staring and staring,
It worried me once but now I’m past caring;         
I’ll stare in my grave beneath the dark yew,
   And surely that’s true:
   How goes it with you?

Good to meet you again after so many years,
The heartbreaks, embarrassments, failures and fears;
Who would set out if ever they knew?         
   And surely that’s true:
   How goes it with you?                                                                      

====================
© August 2013


Saturday, 11 July 2015

Months: Lyrics: July

The poems for March, April, May and June in this series were posted on 14 March, 13 April, 9 May and 15 June 2015.
--------------

   Erect in the sward
Like Wells’s war-world Tripods,    
Feasting on oil-hot sun,
Settlers on lank legs,
   Ragwort – staggerwort –
   Whiffs like dung.                            

Yellow as plates of yolk             
   Its flowers, its leaves
   Like curly kale;
And all July the wold
It roves – its burnt-gold troves          
   A swagman’s trawl.       

Each flower’s a thirteen petal
Womb coddling swags
   Of yolky sacs;
   But like jakes-dregs             
It shakes scour-gut aches  
   Through uncareful cattle.    

Flowering done, what’s left
Is scranched bran in a cuff       
Of rusty petals; a swart     
   Stink in a puff –
Tart – of mare’s fart
In the noon heat adrift.       

====================
© July 2014


 

Monday, 22 June 2015

Longevity

Dengue fever (pronounced "dengee") was, and still is, a killer in Africa and other tropical lands.

--------------

A young and dusty robin, grub in beak,
Beneath a holly bush upbraided me;
With rufus breastplate here was no meek 
Retirer but one who might proudly be        

A stalker with Achilles at Troy’s walls;
So at least the pert thuggee seemed to me.
But here’s a point: in battle he who falls
Falls young, and blind nature indifferently

Culls its creatures in their prime; even so,
Patroclus saw manhood before the thrust
Of Hector’s spear despatched him, but this tyro
With his braggart ways will sunder in dust

Before a twelvemonth, torn by injury,
Scabbing disease, starvation or stuck through
With the fox’s tooth; if there’s progeny
That’s enough. Yet encaged this bird might view          

Fifteen years and more, plump-fed and watered,
Even if with a sorry mind it tug
At its bars, yearning for the sky sauntered      
With cloud, and the risk of life met with a shrug. 

What lesson’s here: man, his life in his hands,
Creaking across oceans in tubs of wood
And rope, or battling dengue to settle lands    
And pile up grain, weltered in bile and blood

But now stutters between chairs on shaky legs  
Counting eighty years and rising. Untold
Pills and “intimate care” infuse these dregs
Of flesh with a half-light life, bald and cold.        

Consider the men: would furious-eyed
Achilles, if he’d aged, have mocked himself
With “leisure wear”? With shapeless multi-pied
T-shirt, baseball cap and gaudy faux-wealth

Floral shorts? Such grinning rotted infants!
With dewlaps razor-nicked and strengthless hands,      
And mind-charred days in care homes sucking mints,
Redundant are the sea-rinsed, gull-proud strands;

Argos on his dung heap might pity them.
Surely it’s best to scorn all drugs and scans,         
Gulping tablets and reading runes in phlegm,
Refuse that milky caution which unmans      

Man? Instead to seize chances though they claim 
Lives young, live in the wind at the wave’s crest,      
Exulting like Patroclus, dead in fame,
And this cantankerous robin redbreast.  

====================
© July 2013

 

Monday, 15 June 2015

Months: Lyrics: June

The poems for March, April and May in this series were posted on 14 March, 13 April and 9 May 2015.

--------------

      On solstice day
      The grass grows high,
      Swaying, swaying;
Uncut these months to crop as hay
   Like women’s hair it swells
      In the dust-hot breeze;          
   Above in the eye-blue sky
      The clouds assaying
Like merchant-men float by, float by,        
         And I,
Wading the rock pool depths of grass
      Treading soft quilts,
      Rattling the seed heads
      Like sea snails’ shells,             
Shrink in the skin-dry blaze of sun            
   Honeying the leaning leaze.             
   Hedgerows scorched as brass
      Tick with the tuts
      Of long-tailed tits
         And
      A cinnabar moth
      Like a blood-splashed leaf
Lilts and jilts, lilts and jilts,                         
Drifting among the petals and shreds
      Of white Anne’s lace
      And knapweed’s bun
      Of shock-blue threads,
Yellow yarrow and violet vetch.          
Waist-high in the grasses’ butts,
      Heavy with grits,
   I run a dust-scent hand
      Through the blond stalks
      Of stiff-eared barley
      And fescue like broth,   
Purplish dog’s tail and tufted bent –              
   All pleated in suede and fawn.                 
   Ah, it’s Barleycorn’s grief                                         
      That he’s scythed from his place                       
   For dark malt or for breads                        
      And in a crock to fetch;                                         
   And thumping Bible truth talks                                   
      Of wheat that must parley                    
      And agree to be pent                          
      In the earth’s black bourn                                      
   While shriving winter passes              
   That there be riot of grasses.        

====================
© June 2014


Monday, 1 June 2015

July Woods

   One afternoon in late July
Escaping heat oppressive as a weight
   I sidetracked through the woods; unruly
Crows squabbling and hoarse with their flapping gait
   Watched me go before clattering to
   A poplar’s crown; from there they threw
Harsh catcalls at my disappearing pate.

   Sunk in the wood’s enshadowed cool
I revelled in its shipwrecked, piled disorder:
   The massed leaf mould like lumps in gruel,
The fallen trunks and boughs like a breached border,
   The sharp-toothed bramble and great ferns
   Gnat-ridden, with a sting which burns,  
The cow parsley, its blossom gone to powder.

   High in a feathery locust tree
A caramel jay kept guttural watch;
   A chessboard magpie warily
Flitted beneath a hazel in a ditch;
   Suddenly a blackbird sprang
   Out of the path dust and, mad-young,
Flew to a branch, scolding from its safe pitch.

   I sidled to within a yard
And stared at it; it stared at me, unruffled
   Now, preening but watching with hard
Dark eyes like agate. Touching-close, its scuffled
   Feathers, dusty-black, and pick-blunt
   Yellow bill conveyed the primal hunt
For life – the ambush in those bushes muffled.

   For this young blackbird was no pet
For children’s cheer; its drilling eyes revealed
   A vicious sole intent to get 
Food and mate. Implacable and annealed
   By hunger its reproof was less                                               
   Because, though killer-merciless,
The knowledge of its own death was concealed.                       

   To prove this point I later found
Beside the path a battered blackbird, dead;                              
   Torn open by some fox or hound                                          
It lay in blood with maggots in its head:
   That young cock with his vaunting eye
   Having butchered will himself die
And the woods mulch him where he fell and bled.

====================
© July 2013