Friday, 28 February 2014

Aurora Borealis

The Goddess of the Dawn in green light shows;
Aurora, the pleated chiffon curtain,
so rare beyond the Arctic circle.
We are transfixed by light which moves and glows
ethereal; these displays leave us uncertain.
this solar activity,
part of a cycle,
this plasma of charged particles,
whose effects we can't predict,
photons from nitrogen, ionic,
regaining electrons,
excited or grounded  by collision
of molecules magnetospheric
with solar wind,
funnelled, accelerated
in the heliospheric bubble.
Driven by currents, electric, erratic
each born from an eruption,
fast and furious,
leaping from the surface of the sun;
space weather, anything but static.
And yet we are ignorant, incurious,
mostly moved to 'Oh Wow!' We restrict
ourselves to quasi religious sentiment,
are lazy, even in the midst of knowledge.
For each person who'd know, there's another one,
no, perhaps a whole regiment,
satisfied with the linguistic limitation
of mere visual description.

Thursday, 27 February 2014


Not much,
just short
of no breath.
A lack
of depth,
so air feels
now and then,
like a treat.
The lungs
not on strike,
but working to rule.
The chest
still goes up and down
but I yawn.
The room
seems to lack air.
I need sleep,
my eyes close.
I think
I might die
like this,
just cease;
sink into

Spring Cleaning.

The dust that clings to everything
In winter gloom,
Gets up to dance about when spring
Lets sunshine  in the room.
And I, who sit all winter long quite blind
To how it lies around
Have fresh eyes in the spring, and find
I must dance after it.  And though no sound
Of minuet or waltz
Is heard, as motes
Go floating, still it would be false
To say there are no notes
At all.
For dust must gather somewhere at the dust ball
And so it hangs about the piano keys,
And I wipe after it and catch it, hold it tight:
Black note, white note, black note, white note, black note, white,
Playing crazy cleaning woman's  'Fur Elise'.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A Cold Morning Dog Walk in a Fighter Pilot's Hat

My lapel is tapping at my ear flap
Demanding that I let it in,
And my earflap although it keeps
Lapels out, is letting wind redden my skin,
And cause an aching,
Though I'm trying not to notice,
Just pushing on into the sunlight
And the sky.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

A Photograph of the Dining Room

The sun pours in through sashes 10 feet tall,
And bounces off the mirrors on the wall
Of box pew panels painted chalky white.
The left side of the room is brilliant light,
Because the sun shines from the south, south east,
The beauty of the room is thus increased,
And captured here, frozen in this instant,
Unchanging, static, lying - nothing's constant.
The Sheraton settee, which is a chair,
Is serpentine, grey- green, but snakes nowhere.
A low and beaded stool is not the red
Of Turkey carpet, whose dull ground instead
Is faded to tomato.  The lampshade
On the left gleams cream. Ornaments displayed
Upon the mantelpiece just disappear,
Though its broken pediment is clear,
And the balusters and altar rail, which
Provide the tiers, and were taken from the church
A century and fifty years ago,
In dark oak contrast to the brilliance show.
The Chinese carpet terracotta lies
Within the foreground, distracting the eyes,
With its too bold design.  The linen press
Gives architectural height. Inside a mess
Of children's out grown coats is hidden. We
Would not keep so much if we could see
The clutter in our midst, the dining room
We call this, yet the table's in the gloom,
Insignificant, not central to the scene,
A study of light, dazzling and serene.


Monday, 24 February 2014


As if we all are mindless, silly, dull,
unless we train our minds in ancient ways,
as if our minds are useless when they're full
and work much better when we're in a daze,
concentrating on the way we're standing,
feeling feet, flat, firmly on the floor.
As if this helps us cope with our demanding
lives. Meditation from a time before
modernity can't help us now, at least
not much; we're brilliant and our minds expand,
increasing exponentially like yeast,
in proportion to the knowledge which we've crammed,
we just need sleep, not hippies who are cynics,
fleecing us in meditation clinics.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Hellebore (Rondeau)

The lenten rose with drooping head,
looks sadly at the flower bed
and sees the autumn debris there
and droops yet further in despair.
Her creamy face with speckles spread
of deep and damson purple red,
regarding death with fear and dread,
she represents the seasons care.
The lenten rose,
is simple, freckled and instead
of piercing thorns has palms widespread
and sometimes brown stigmata where
small punctures in her leather are.

More beautiful when highly bred:
The lenten rose.

Gardening in February

The first protruding points of peonies,
In rhubarb red, appear, above the ground,
(With promise of crimson cabbageness)
Beneath dreadful leather remains.
And in my sudden start-of-season-rush
To remove the withered deadness of the past,
I crush them underfoot,
Squash the prospect of oriental perfection.
Every year my enthusiasm
Bursts out in this clumsy carelessness,
Curtails the life of some poor living thing,
Reaching for the light, because it's spring.

Dried stalks, whose brittleness
I take for granted, wrongly,
Resist the bashing, dragging of the rake,
Remain erect rebelling, stiffly standing,
Above the hummocks
Low and pleasing
For whose sake
I have it in my mind that spring's commanding
Me to wield my weapons
And to take
No prisoners, leave no trace
Of autumn dessication,
Deny everything a place that isn't new,
Build up the bonfire for the evening.

And yet intransigence is quite appealing,
And I sympathise as I grow withered too,
But these old and hardy things are still expanding,
Sharp, swift, secateur decapitation
And digging out's the only thing to do.

Friday, 21 February 2014

A Quiet Evening

The room is still
The gently snoring dog lies
where he should be, over by the door,
his body long in relaxation,
his pale pink nose beside his blackened paw.
The fire coals are glowing low
within the basket
and the common cat curls
purring in a chair.
The neighbours on the cantilever staircase
run up and down behind the plaster wall.
The old brass chandeliers are dully gleaming,
reflecting light from silken amber shades,
the candles slope lopsided in the sconces,
the wonky wirey arms of girandoles.
The feather cushions sag in resignation,
the bolsters snuggle down half out of sight,
the long case clock
adds pleasing punctuation,
to the slowly passing minutes
and my eyes
grow sandy, droop and sag
with concentration,
as I cast about in jaded observation
and view the room but do not turn around,
as I try and write about the silence,
made up of tiny, happy, unimportant sound.

An Invitation to a Cervical Smear Test

We invite you to lie down sans underwear,
Upon a plastic couch, in tissue covered,
And draw your knees up so your heels
Adjacent to your buttocks are,
Then let your ankles flop, so now your knees
Are pointing either side and we can see
To screw a clamp inside you, cold and hard,
A speculum of shiny stainless steel,
So we can undertake your smear or screening.
We invite you to pretend that you don't mind,
And even make some bright and cheery small talk
As we scrape away some cervix cells,
With spatula, a lolly stick,
Or nowadays a friendly paint brush thing,
Then pop them in a test tube with some liquid,
And send them to the lab, where we will notice
If anything suggests you are dis eased.

Smoked Fish Pie

In blue and almost white, the willow pattern
Circles round the top half of the bowl,
Encrusted where the lapping tide of cheese
Has melted in the scent of apple wood,
Imparted it to carrot mashed with spud,
And added extra fat and golden glow
And glistening gilding, sizzling to flatten
The moon like face and flavour it
In answer to the mackerel, which lies layered,
Swimming in a sea of milk and mace,
Crushed peppercorns of red, black, green and white,
Made powder in the gaudy, bright, brass pestle,
Punctuate potato, speckle carrot,
Whose orangeness out does the mackerel;
Its amber-ochre  colour artificial,
Its silver underneath repulsive skin,
Reminiscent of its life and vulnerability,
Being slippery and slithery and thin.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Maggie Teyte

I love you Maggie Teyte:
I love your old-fashioned face,
designed to reverberate,
I love your beautiful voice,
which seems to resonate
with something in me,
that feels beyond desolate,
a strange and far away sadness,
from a time of innocence,
a gentle, lovely madness,
a thing to celebrate.
I love you Maggie Teyte:
your phrases with such tapering grace,
the way you seem to demonstrate
that life is beautiful in its transience.
Yet I don't want you to leave me,
not in this real place.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Reunion Dinner (Rondeau Redouble)

"God! They all looked so old,
pecking order hadn't changed,
creaking old bores, stagnant minds, growing mould,
Birkenshawe was almost gibbering, quite deranged.
Lord knows why the damned thing was arranged.
We none of us could really stand each other, I was told
it was fifty years since Monte was ordained.
God! They all looked so old,
Monte wasn't one of us, but we were shepherded into his fold,
probably his wife's idea, though she had feigned
a migraine, wasn't there.  I sat next to Leon Gold,
pecking order hadn't changed,
Beauchamp barely deigned
to speak to me, then he hit the brandy and grew bold,
asked me if I ever saw David, looked quite pained.
Creaking old bores, stagnant minds, growing mould,
David died in '83, I'm sure he knew.  Thompson had sold
his family estate, showed me a photo old and grained
of us all at some do.  Potter had an awful cold,
Birkenshawe was almost gibbering, quite deranged.
Don't know why they turned up. Smythe's suit was stained,
can't think why he'd crawled out of the woodwork. Strolled
round the grounds, beautiful! Thought of what remained,
of what we had been once, sobbed, quite uncontrolled;
God! They all looked so old."

Love is an Idea (Rondeau Redouble)

If love is an idea, it's in the mind,
And being in the mind does not exist,
It's not different from the other ties that bind,
I'll try and think it out, I'll make a list:
It's a fiction, an affliction, I'll persist,
It's a pleasurable friction, and you'll find
That's its one distinction, so I insist,
If love is an idea, it's in the mind,
Plus friction.  Of course love's also being kind,
But sympathy 's so easy to enlist,
Love is a fond memory left behind,
And being in the mind does not exist,
It's our whole raison d'être, like a cyst
That overtakes us, thus we are inclined
To give it room to grow; you get the gist,
It's not different from the other ties that bind,
There are chemicals involved which combined
With firing neurones when we're kissed,
Make us believe it's real.  And is love blind?
I'll try and think it out, I'll make a list:
God is love, God isn't blind, no need to tryst,
Can we love what we can't see, is love defined
Visually? Is love in a mist,
Or is it clear?  And why is it bodies intertwined,
If love is an idea?

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A Pentameter of Questions About Infinity

I wrote this after hearing a programme on radio 4 about Georg Cantor, and looking up his Wikipedia entry.

An infinity of infinities,
how can we best describe uncertain kinds?
Transcendental numbers uncountable,
unimaginable to human minds.
Can logicians, too, feel the numinous?
Does mathematics mix with divinity,
for God is absolute infinity?
Infinite sets, nondenumerable,
infinity nonequinumerous.
There are more decimal numbers than whole
and so they are both innumerable,
but not equally?  Might we know the rôle
that infinity plays in consciousness,
one day?  Will someone find a simple way
to tell us? Why was it unorthodox
to accept 'actual infinity'
as the set of infinite entities?
Did it open the door to paradox,
or infinite sets of paradoxes?
On opening up to paradoxes,
How would you know their true identities,
if they were sealed up, in cardboard boxes?

Wikipedia - Georg Cantor

BBC - A Brief History of Mathematics

Playing Khachaturian in the Kitchen (sonnet)

The score, downloaded from the internet
and Sellotaped together in a train,
propped up by lentil jars, lest I forget
this tune I've loved so long, which might remain
with me in my head, but has a tendency
to elude my fingers, is slightly pink
in artificial light.  A redundancy
of rain has kept me in. I like to think
that this is why the dog decides to sing,
in order to express his gloominess,
to voice his soul's stirrings; my violin
speaks Russian rather well, with tenderness
(Appealing to all those who are discerning),
but the dog speaks with the greatest yearning.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

The Music Lesson, Jan Vermeer, Rondeau Redoublé

Light falls through transomed mullions at the side,
the leaded panes, slightly opaque, subdue,
giving chalky lime wash on the walls, pale and wide,
a soft and subtle texture, as we regard the view:
the music room. A block and baluster walnut chair upholstered in blue
lapis lazuli or Delft (denim)let down with white, placed at the divide,
the third, provides a break and contrasts with a bright vermilion hue.
Light falls through transomed mullions at the side
and sets the orange red on fire, and as our eyes slide
to the right, we see it echoed in the flush of a man's hands who
stands, waiting to sing, observing his bride?
The leaded panes slightly opaque, subdue
the colours of the virginals, who's fancy pen work is given a true
account, the painstaking detail miraculous, though only implied
on the lower lid.  The shine of mercury mirror glass, quite new,
giving chalky lime wash on the walls, pale and wide
extra authenticity, lifts our attention from the virginals'. Inside
the cushioned ebony frame, reflected, is a woman's face, we try to construe
its expression, concentration? Her blouse is silk, Vermeer has applied,
a soft and subtle texture. As we regard the view,
the interior scene, we wonder at the violone on the floor, who
has abandoned it?  Are we to be denied
the pleasure of hearing the bass line? The Persian carpet on the table is one of the few
real miracles of subtle detail, folds, fringing, pattern, the other, as I have implied:
the light.

Gardening in February 2

My limbs which gardened yesterday
Are partly jelly, partly aching,
Warm and slightly stiff from all the raking
Of the fresh dug earth.
My palms are leathery as the peonies
Dried ones, or the hellebores.  I will not play
My violin now, I could not even hold my bow,
I've been bitten by the coming of the spring,
And must labour in this simple way:
Cutting through the clumps of golden rod,
The subterranean redness in its shoots,
And pale etiolation of its roots,
Being many, make the soil friable,
Crumbling as I lift each new cut clod;
I'm attempting their obliteration.
And I think that gardening 's always liable
To make me turn to murder,
Create some new massacre,
Eliminate a whole race of flowers,
Whose only crime has been their act of reproduction,
Most efficient in the peaceful summer hours.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

For All my Friends Currently Living in West Yorkshire (sonnet)

I think it is the light defines a place,
There is no colour like the shade of blue,
Above you in your parish; empty space,
Scattered particles, short waves creating hue,
The slightest change and you must be elsewhere,
In August here the sky is pale turquoise,
Like a post war car, and here and there,
The lightest wisps of cloud. Nothing destroys
A place like light that's dull. The conurbations
West of here are victims, grey, blackened stone
Absorbing light, the thirty four dull gradations
Subtle variations in the dismal tone,
And in the natures of the people there reflected,
Those poor souls whom sunlight has rejected.

Sunday, 2 February 2014


If liberty is part of an equation,
Weighed against a version of itself, from another point of view,
The slightest shift of the fulcrum means frustration,
As we seek to redefine what must be true
In terms of how the freedom of (sometimes) the very few
Now takes precedence. But this is a logical reaction,
Should not be labelled ignorance, give us our due;
If liberty is part of an equation,
Then so is tolerance.  And it seems to me that the fixation,
With shifting the balance, as governments are prone to do,
Without a mandate, is imposition.
Weighed against a version of itself, from another point of view,
Liberty is seldom balanced, though that is something that we always knew,
Accepted, still accept, there is no constant, but legislation
Is the opposite of liberty and this is unquestionably true.
The slightest shift of the fulcrum means frustration;
Good ideas derive from long deliberation,
And might be purple, a 50:50 mixture red and blue;
The beneficial period of gestation,
As we seek to redefine what must be true,
Grows shorter, as politicians seek to change the hue.
We know that liberty's not dictation,
We're not stupid, can always think things through;
Therefore include us always in the conversation,
If liberty is part of an equation.