Thursday, 31 October 2013

Two Songs Juxtaposed

I move the earth from the great pile below,
back up the slope, to where the roses grow;
October sunshine warm upon my back;
the soil friable and currant black.
Then, talk, that's been the gentle background noise,
is broken by a song, a tenor voice,
the limitation of the melody,
proportionately inverse to the joy
the singer feels, this warm October day.
The outburst isn't long, but I would say
sufficient to express a happiness,
which, born from simple pleasure, none the less,
most clearly speaks to something deep in me.

But then I go inside; on radio three
is someone singing with a fiddle, Bach,
the alto aria: Erbarme dich,
I feel an almost sad embarrassment,
that this superior beauty, transcendent,
be juxtaposed against a  paltry thing:
a man rejoicing autumn warm as spring.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Remembering The Porch At Swinsty

Much like a church,
Of golden sandstone,
First a wide and gentle arch,
Reeded, moulded, grooved, supported
By a pair of capitols,
Which make a pair of shelves.
A sandstone threshold
Made for tripping,
Then the flagged floor, sloping, dipping,
To the massive pegged front door,
And to the right a slab to lie on,
Table height or thereabouts,
To stay quite still, so I could spy on
Swallows flitting in and out.

And up above the beams and joists
In oak and deal, faded grey,
And then, without, the summer sky,
The long flagged path and drystone wall,
The sagging gate, the summer day.
And tangled Duke of Argylls Tea Plant
Growing all the crusty way,
Sending arching branches over,
With narrow willow leaves,
and pretty flowers small and purple,
Loved by endless honey bees.
The crustiness was silver lichen,
Growing in its patchy clusters,
Rough and hard and unforgiving.

And then there was the bell,
A teal colour, Verdigris, or maybe paint.
It hung where it was meant for ringing,
With a pull of linked, wrought iron,
Rusted to a deep, dark brown.
Though people pulled we seldom heard them,
Though its voice was aught but faint.

On the left the strange and best bit,
A smooth and well worn, low down shelf,
Hollowed out in several places,
Little ponds for paying wages,
Like inverted swallows nests.
These were perhaps the ancient plague stones,
Conversation points for guests,
Standing looking round and waiting
Hoping we would hear their ringing,
Push the two-foot- thick, black bolt back,
Into its deep hiding space,
And pull the door back, sunlight flooding
Into the dark corridor.

Friday, 25 October 2013




One really needs so little else besides,

An organ; 8 feet high and four feet wide,

Its grand proportions, architectural,

Make other furnishings ineffectual,

As one tries to furnish a drawing room,

For the gilded pipes counteract the gloom,

Created by the regency gothic,

And they make a talking point philosophic,

Should the conversation start to drag,

And they’re excellent places in which to hide,

(If one has filled up one’s other drawers)

Right round the back and all down the side,

In plastic bag after plastic bag,

A lifetime’s collection of musical scores.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Neglected Autumn Garden

Copyright Alison Houston

The lawn is patched and bald, the grass there is too long,
The border's overcrowded by the wrong
Perennials which thrive too happily and breed,
And crowd each other out and run to seed,
And ask but little in return from me,
Except an autumn cutting to the ground.
And there isn't much left here now to see,
The flowers are done there's nothing much around,
The beauty of peonies in alkanet
Is dying  palms, all leathery, next hirsute,
Drying tongues, so rough they graze, and I forget
The blue sea which springs up from every root,
Reflecting back the beauty of spring sky,
It's time to restore order's all I know
So I wish death on Boraginaceae's race,
A total cull, so there would be no trace
Of blue next year, just soil, to show I
Have the upper hand, over things that grow.

A Piece of Equipment Which Allows Static Cycling Inside, Used by PJ in the Ballroom While watching a Scenic Drive Through a Country Village on his IPad

The smell of burning rubber fills the air
As PJ in his Lycra cycling gear,
Whizzes on his rollers; doesn't care
For silly old convention; his only fear,
That he might wobble over, knock the sideboard,
The trumpet of the gramophone might fall,
And knock the inlaid tray into the hoard
Of  dusty, ancient phials along the small
Shelves of the regency apothecary chest.
And yet he's far away along a lane,
In bright and quiet sunlight speeding past,
Old houses, churches he'll not see again,
Oblivious as to how juxtaposition
Is catalyst to my imagination.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Turning into Rob Cowan

What is that quality we hear,
In a really old recording?
An intangible something
We can't get near,
That stirs us up
And sends us exploring
YouTube, for more of the same,
And I wonder,
When did it disappear?
And does it have a name?
There's one for the effect of it,
That sends us into raptures
Which I think really captures
That great propensity
To speak of the immensity,
Of any given singer or musician
In superlatives, as long as they are dead,
And we know when we've been hit
By: 'Nostalgia Cowanensis',
When, instead
Of enjoying the music of ...Delius, say,
Transcribed by his amanuensis,
We look to see which year
The soloist passed away,
And then seek out more of his work,
With extra crackling
Like roast pork,
And proclaim him the best;
Temporarily forgetting the rest,
And that this one's just the latest greatest!

BBC Radio 3 - CD Review

Dreaming of a Cat I've Never Owned.

Drifting back to early morning sleep,
lying on my stomach,with my face
squashed sideways, in the valley
where the pillow
forms two lumpy, feather halves;
I feel you take a leap,
from the footboard at the bottom of the bed.
You step with light and dainty grace,
over the soles of my feet,
and settle, purring on my calves;
kneading for a moment before sitting.
And I seem to know you so completely,
your visit to me does not surprise.
your female, feline ways, are most familiar
you are gentle, loving, rather wise.
And there seems to be a sympathy between us,
given expression in the undemanding nature
of your happy little settling down noise.
I move my legs and you flop in the middle,
compromising, accommodating, fitting.
And as I slowly start to surface towards morning
I can see you clearly in my head,
your white fur, patched with tabby
almost tweedy, an intelligence in your face,
and flecks of orange in your greenish eyes.

Monday, 14 October 2013

A Swinsty Dream

Last night I was at home once more,
bursting in at the back door,
letting in the cold air,
rushing to the kitchen sink,
to stand and gasp and quickly drink,
water which tasted like the stream,
of soil, sphagnum, peat,
a much recurring dream,
an umpteenth time repeat,
ducking beneath the clothes,
slung to dry between the beams,
in winter light at 5 O' clock,
before the Tilly lamp is lit,
and we are sent on despatches,
to bring down the upstairs matches,
and candles for the night,
and purple meths, whose scent
should be evanescent,
being highly volatile,
but which (to me) will always be,
both symbolic and redolent
of adolescent energy,
teenage irritability,
and frustrations,
(with hindsight infantile)
which suddenly flare.
I don't know why this dream ends there,
except that its theme,
not at all mysterious,
is the need to shed light.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Early Morning Sun On A Cobweb.

There's a hammock
Slung between two sheets of glass,
Trembling in a current of warm air,
Which rises up to touch it and pass through it,
Testing Gossamer's steel strength. I view it
As a sort of weather vane,
And glancing up at it on waking
If I see tiny shadows fleeting,
Passing over it as tremulously quaking,
It stirs between each window pane.
Then I know the beauty of the morning,
And, eager for the day ahead
I leap up to walk the dog
Forsaking all the comfort of my bed,
Knowing that there's beauty to be seen
And poetry perhaps to be making
In the observation of the river, calm, serene
And still in early sunlight, glinting on the surface
Like the shimmering of light on hand blown glass,
Creating cycles of ideas, like convection,
Moving currents in my head.

I wonder how long I'll let it stay there,
Rocking dessicated corpses in eternal sleep,
I would not wish to pointlessly disturb it,
And yet, how strange a thing to wish to keep?

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Room Turns Gold.

The room turns gold, as I sit still,
as sunlight through decanters pours.
I think I'll never drink my fill
of prism rainbows on the walls.

To Listen

To listen properly and pay attention to a stupid man,
Tires out the mind, as you  try, every way you can,
To understand and make connection
Between random statements. And interjection
Is useless, as he will only go off at a tangent,
And take a road meandering, his tone evermore plangent.
And so you smile and nod and do your best,
To take in the gist of what he says, hoping that the rest,
Was not somehow the point, and you feel
A kind of triumph, knowing where the story's going,
That it actually arrives there, and reveals
The very truth you guessed it would,
Half an hour ago, before your thoughts turned black,
When you could
Bring yourself to listen and keep track.

But then, to listen properly to a very clever man,
Tires out the mind, as you try every way you can,
To understand the complex references, quotations,
To make connection between ideas, hear subtle inflections
Those warnings of pet themes, to which the speaker
Is warming. Interjection is useless, the outlook grows bleaker,
He has his subject, will not let it go,
Though you know he could.
And so, you must do your best,
Take in the gist of what he says, hoping that the rest,
Wasn't somehow the point, and one feels,
A kind of triumph , knowing where the story's going,
That it actually arrives there, and reveals
The very truth you guessed it would,
Half an hour ago,
When, with much frustration,
(After all you're only human)
You came to know,
If you want good conversation,
You'd better to stick to woman.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Acknowledging the Lizard and the Chimp.

We are not merely animals and yet,
To be a human being is not to reason
And to calculate alone.
A vet will recognise within us that same thrust
Which is the life force in all creatures.
Our minds, as well, contain this strange thing, intuition,
Which we might seem to disregard,
And yet cannot. It plays its part,
Silently, and helps to season
What we like to think is rational decision.
The features of the human mask the beast,
Evolution reached fruition, we became a sane
And wondrous thing,
And so we feel we should forget that still within us
Lie qualities we cannot yet explain.
And some of us imagine a division
Between these aspects of our human nature
And those which yet remain
From some primordial, less developed time.
But no such separation can occur. Our brains,
Between the reptile and the human interlink,
And though we hold our cerebral cortex
In great high regard, the tide,
The whizzing, whirling vortex,
Which is the spinning of the mind, in thought,
Shows the monkey and the lizard lurk inside,
Flicking their tongues, and testing the air,
Picking the fleas from their hair or fur,
What they add to the process may well only distort,
But they temper the rational when we think.