Monday, 22 June 2015


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
      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


A Father's Lament

Once I had a daughter
   Young, loyal and true,
Now I have a stranger;
   How about you?

A toddler blithely conscious
   Of what’s to see and do,
She beelined for her father;
   How about you?

Later, faring widely
   For seascapes freshly new,
My hand was her anchor;
   How about you?

A pre-teen at shipwreck,
   Cheeks dusted with rue,
She sought the hand of another;
   How about you?

Now the years wander, 
   She keeps a distant view,
Deflecting hand and letter;
   How about you?

Once I had a daughter
   Bright with a child’s hue,  
Now there’s only anger; 
   How about you?

© July 2013