Friday, 29 August 2014


All winter long I sit and dream of days like this,
And gaze upon the sunflowers on the wall,
But when they come I sit here still, and bliss
Is cool air and gloomy shade inside.
The garden dappled by strong light through summer leaves,
Grown coarse, is pleasant beyond French doors,
But the heat and brightness of the lawn
Is tiring to the eyes. And the small glade
Of trees, bamboo and shrubs grown tall,
Although it brings relief from the hot glare
Irritates the skin with thunder flies.
And so summer is more of an idea, a fantasy
Than it seems to be a real, experienced thing,
A longed for period of happy wallowing
In a sense of freedom
And the smell of ripening wheat.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The End of Summer

That time of year again,
When one's conscience is ripe,
Pink and blush, bruised,
Dripping,  pectin bubbled, smashed,
Maggoty, quite golden with guilt's stain,
Observing the fruit, decaying in the rain.

Friday, 15 August 2014

In Malmesbury Abbey

Athelstan lies here; he's carved in stone.
Paler, cleaner in this sheltered place
Than the weathered, lichen-spotted grey, grown
Concrete-looking, which rises over him. His face
Sans nose, reveals no trace
Of Kingly arrogance.  The high and rounded bone
Above his cheek, the heavy lidded eyes, reveal his race.
Athelstan lies here; he's carved in stone.
King of England, Scotland, Wales, he rests alone
Undisturbed by visitors who pace
Above his ancient dust - blown
Paler, cleaner in this sheltered place
Than dust of men who lie without.  The space
Around him has no special atmosphere. He's shown,
Described, explained; there is about him no more sense of grace
Than the weathered, lichen-spotted grey, grown
Tired-looking outdoor graves of men unknown.
A thousand years, more, is too long then, or is it that the base,
The tomb, is empty, he's no more here than in the stone,
Concrete-looking, which rises over him. His face
Is blessèd peace derived from absence, and no case
Against him, so nothing causes him in death to moan,
Or walk abroad. A bachelor, he held Britannia in his embrace:
Athelstan lies here.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Harrogate of the South

Something of the seaside in the palette
Of pale, pastel paint and stucco
And term time home to Claire and Charlotte
Girls whose height would please El Greco:
These days the very rich are long and thin.
Something rather harsh and unrelenting
In the terraces so regimental,
And also something odd preventing
Familiarity, an elemental
British coldness, though there's something continental
In the broad and tree lined streets wherein
Well heeled ladies go clipping-clopping
Into town to do their shopping
At the chain stores which are dripping
With expensive, tasteful, boring clobber,
Reassuring to the bulging wallet.
Something rather soulless; the houses harbour
Nothing interesting, nothing eccentric,
Only sameness, or do I labour
Under misapprehension?
Is there something wild, anarchic,
About the people,  a kind of tension
Which exists between each unforgiving,
Rigid, harsh, hard, building
And the messy humans therein living?


The only pure white that’s left,
Now the snow has gone,
A single egret,
A colder shade of pale,
The colour of the word bereft,
Or absence, or the word alone,
Then, suddenly, rising up from beside the river,
As if their sole purpose were to dispel such negativity,
Five roe, thin leg’d and frail,
Momentarily dancing the stiffness from their limbs,
As if before King Solomon the prophet,
Then, as is their proclivity,
Disappearing, arrows from a quiver.


The great flat plain of Ging Gang Goole,
Draped in mist at winter’s fag end,
Gives the lie to this fanciful notion,
Gives the lie and will not bend.
Grey’s not a colour, but an emotion,
With an intrinsic desire to offend,
And to crush all hope and worthwhile intention,
With tiny drips, and then recommend,
Another dose of the same tomorrow,
One shade of grey and resistless sorrow.

Suddenly Nothing.

Watching the wind
Through the silence of secondary glazing,
And an absence of internet connection,
With a sleeping dog, at my side, I find
That the shimmering and waving
Of the silver birch in my peripheral vision
Through the first layer of hand blown glass
Gives the impression of hallucination,
As if a migraine aura is limbering up.
And a sense of impending doom
Fills the vacuum in the room
Created by the muteness of the radio.
'Today' has gone away.  Suddenly nothing.
No bossy, questioning speech,
I am left with total peace.
And all I can do is admire the way
The purple of the copper beech
Contrasts with the cloudy grey,
Watching the wind.

A Neglected Room

The Hamadan runner is catty
Where it ends near the secretaire,
And that lovely old thing's rather tatty,
Having once been a piano. The chair
By its side is a Chippendale,
Or at least made to his design,
A hundred and fifty years later
Although it looks rather fine,
By the Rosewood
That bears the name Broadwood,
Maker to kings and princesses,
With its mouldings in egg and dart line,
And its satinwood inlays, and brass
And smooth columns topped by Acanthus,
In crisp carved Corinthian style.
And in truth its all got very dusty,
As I haven't been in for a while,
And the other end seems rather musty
Where the documents lie in a file
And the cobwebs are joining together
Inaccessible, corner recesses
Such as under the old corner cupboard,
Shining richly, reflecting the glass
Of the windows which seem to be spattered
With dots of something resembling puss.
The lowboy with oysters of walnut
Is hiding its whirling veneers,
Under piles of papers and dumped things
And jotted down silly ideas
For poems about rooms which smell catty,
And furniture that's rather tatty
Which that day I regarded with scorn.
And observing it all I grow ratty,
And needs must squash all my fears
That the house is getting beyond me,
So I bring in the beeswax and mop
(To show me I don't always shirk
And because I don't want to dwell
On how useless I am at housework)
And set about washing the boards
Either side of the Hamadan runner
Where the fluff has collected. The hoards
Of old 'Country Life' though
Look up from a tottering pile
And beckon me over to read them,
So I pick up the one at the top
And peruse the property porn.
And see rooms which do not look neglected,
In houses much grander than this,
And I know that I'll live here forever,
Because I could never accomplish
The sort of tasteful arrangements
One needs must in order to sell.
And the house may look somewhat dejected,
But as long as I don't write about it,
And tell it like it is,
Then it doesn't really matter,
For sitting among the tat,
And the dust and the cobwebs and smells,
Is my private heaven - bliss!

Clever Hippy

An independent midwife I knew once, a classicist, 
Often spoke of shit and cunts and piss,
And this I understood was quite alright,
Because she'd been at Oxford and was bright.
Her hair was long and grey, her cheekbones high,
Her voice had learnt to imitate the way,
Such girls as her had need to sound
Coming from up north, but hanging round
With gels from Cheltenham or Rodean:
Like someone who'd make small talk with the queen
And pepper it with unembarrassed swearing.
She smelled of josticks and was was fond of wearing
Brightly coloured tights and ethnic tat.
I loved the way her mind could squash quite flat
All sorts of big ideas, her intellect
Commanded all my humblest respect.
And yet her life was really quite a mess
She had rejected far too much and I confess,
I found it rather boring in the end,
Having such a clever hippy for a friend.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Holst in Cheltenham

He stands, an island in a pond
And waves his baton like a wand,
Conducting passing spirits who
Played for him before and knew
The way to please was to respond
To the commands of his left hand.
Yet most who pass don't hear the band
Of ghosts, or think they can't be true.
An island in a pond
Is an unlikely place for sound
Of any sort. Yet from beyond
This world, comes shimmering, pale blue
Music of the spheres in a few
Familiar bars, and there he stands:
An island in a pond.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Perigee and Perseid

Pale porcelain plate,
The supermoon at perigee,
Closest to the earth and full,
Shines brightest to illuminate
The Perseid, the meteor shower.
Not plashing through the galaxy
But flashing silently; its fate
To flash unseen. For Phoebe,
Cannot contemplate
Competition from the stars
As she must keep her earthly date,
Shine, glare, blind, obliterate
The thought of Pluto, or of Mars,
Leave only Venus on the mind,
Of those who watch the sky this night.

But looking out to Perseus,
To Cassiopeia and Cepheus
Turning from the lunar pull,
One might discern the sparks of light,
Fireballs as clear as planets
Sparks of gold and points of white,
That trail behind Swift-Tuttle's comet.
And witnessing this heavenly sight,
In the sparkling constellation
Of the city sacking fighter,
Of a mythical man and wife,
Feel that there is something greater
Than this transient human life.

Some Thoughts About Thinking

Ideas expressed as statements aren't made true,
By adding qualifying adjectives.
Ideas must stand alone, but very few
Can.   And do we question our objectives
When reading, listening, thinking or is each thought
Coloured by our moods, by what we think we know?
Has questioning become a last resort,
Where, in infancy, it was our first, and does this show
That wisdom grows with age or the reverse?
We should shake ourselves to our foundations
Every day, see certainty as quite perverse,
Examine all our real motivations,
Know ourselves and come to understand
That thinking's best, when thoughts aren't second hand.

Good Friday Givendale

A porridge hill which curves to meet the blue
Horizon, marl increasing light but glare
Reduced by texture; lumpy. And the hue
Is butter cream, not white, so as I stare
My eyes are not made tired by the scene
But rather open wider to take in
The panorama as a whole, serene
And lovely, still and silent yet the thin
And cold fresh air in contrast to the heat
Of April sun is not a metaphor
Quite sufficient for the day.  And the neat
And sloping fields, the long, forked road before
The azure air are just the old psalm
But I'm walking with the righteous - it's an organic farm!


Downhearted, miserable and full of gloom
Morning has appeared in the room,
But first has stressed and startled me awake,
And left me lying all a quake.
With racing pulse and hormones which
Make me act like a vile tempered bitch.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Music and Movement

When you're ready, at your leisure
Find a space, by turning round:

Small and plump in navy knickers,
Pulled up over cream wool vest;
And rubber plimsolls smelling slightly,
I hear the harp and do my best
With arms outstretched, a dizzy dolly,
Pirouetting like at ballet
And moving lightly,
Or I hope so,
I'm following the strange commands,
And I become a tree.

I know
That I'm a bendy sapling,
Waving hands and full of grace,
Feeling free and un-self conscious,
No expression on my face.
And the gold-brown parquet flooring
Patterned in its endless blocks
Becomes the leaves I've cast about me
In the wind that I heard roaring
From the Radio Phonic Workshop
Whose endless, electronic stocks
Of sound effects
Will keep us busy in our places,
On our mats,
Until it's time to move the benches
Back to the Formica tables,
Ready for our well made lunches.
And this time of private playing
Running silently and swaying
Thinking little, mostly nothing
Will be shut away again.

And all of us back in our clothing
Mostly solid farmers children,
Will remain
Silent on this recent passtime,
Can it really be a lesson?
Though we know we all enjoyed it,
Still there seems but little reason
To discuss what just went on.
What's to say, about such nonsense?
Curling slowly, now unfurling,
Growing upwards from a seed,
Blowing backwards in a gale,
Shedding leaves right out of season.
Seems it was a guilty pleasure.