You only see what strikes you, only say what suits you,
in the moment.
Consciousness is there – compressed or stretched,
distracted or encoded –
a dimension of perception, to make us human or at least
alive, to something more than just a moment’s impact,
in subtle nuances of light and shade and chemical imbalance:
a gift we can’t explain, but may reciprocate,
managing our time that’s more and longer than a moment
but consists of nothing else.

As time flows past and through and changes us,
it may slide sinuously by, without a touch against the sides,
or feed and nourish us with fortune’s blessings,
but some, unlucky or at random, are stricken by events:
foul rocks submerged, dense vortices of force,
or trailing catching thickets, casting hooks and barbs
to capture those and leave them helpless, flayed and pinned,
unable to rejoin the flow, trapped repeating in a loop
of impenetrable circumstance and pain:
denied a future, excluded from a share of life.

While the endless river cycle, never twice the same,
reflects eternal verities, recurring,
in which no detail is unchanged; when
we live our lives in timeless moments, in depths and ripples,
in perceived progression, transformation, variation, changes –
some are fresh, some rotten, some are sound, some twisted –
but we still go on,
making footprints in the sand, footsteps in the river flow,
until we’re swept away;
leaving each our nameless contribution, a detail
accreting to the main.


Sae we maun gang wirsells

There are some would come with us
but they have no eyes to see;
There are some would come with us
but they have no heart for it;
There are some would come with us
but have no stomach for a fight;
There are some would come with us
but are too weary to go far;
There are some would come with us
but they will only take the lead;
There are some would come with us
but they can’t leave behind
what matters more to them –
Or maybe will, but somehow not today;

There are some would come with us
but have yet to realise;
There are some would come with us
but they can’t imagine how;
There are some would come with us
but who do not know the way;
There are some would come with us
but deny it to themselves;
There are some who came with us
but who are no longer with us;
There are some whom we would take
but they do not choose to come,
So we must go ourselves.

The Card


How could I?
> Forget the joy, the wonder, that made it
all worthwhile;
> Listen to your voice decry, denying all
we’d found;
> Confuse identity and difference, to treat them
just the same;
> Give, then give again, and keep on giving
to an ingrate;
> Push so hard for what was promised
by a child….

A child at heart: Stubbornly
Driven to reprise hard-core neglect,
Knowing how to learn but not to grow,
Or how to ask, or give, or even to receive;
Only overwhelming joy/despair, love/hate,
Dom/sub, in anger or acceptance;

With a triple-loaded cause to celebrate:
The Nativity; your Birthday; next Ne’erday;
As redemption; as renewal; as a time
To find the bitter charcoal taste of ash
We each made the other swallow,
Cleansed on new year’s day;

For you, a princess living on a hill, an
Imagined vivid Camelot of imagery and colour;
While outside (endlessly) rain falls, waters rise,
And the past is washed away:
Roots of the land, seeds of growth
And plenty, along with last year’s scars.

To Assay v5.0, Simplify

Separately charged by our views of what’s right
We endured a process consumed by intent:
To assay and clarify who we each were;

As to trial turned to harden and temper
Our strengths were dissolved and our toxins collected,
Then washed out, washed up, washed away;

With our beautiful alloys’ complexities purged
We were stripped to essentials, bone-bare,
Separate elements reduced from our cores;

Briefly aligned, even fused, then diffused,
We were put to the fire to emerge once refined,
Reformed as new sources, imprinted by change.

Now if you are mercury 80 and I am carbon 6,
Was this a chemistry determined by its elements
Or a decisive alchemy of choice?
And who or what was then the catalyst?

To Assay v4.0, A Trial

We endured a trial, weighed in the balance,
To assay, to assess, who we are,
Which neither passed us nor failed us
But still found us wanting;
Our weakness exposed and our values
Surrendered, when judgment pressed in

Then dissent was destroyed:
Collateral damage from purity’s claims,
Simplicity’s verdict of undue distortion,
And the vice, the pretence, of protection,
All draining our strength and our goodness,
As ‘to try’ turned to persecute – and to lose.

Sealed in ourselves, our bubbles, our skulls,
Cut off in our cells, we mistrusted:
Misplayed the prisoner’s dilemma
Then lost our appeal, while arguing
Who was to blame; as our narrative
(Whose every strand ran clear and true)

Was twisted to the ends of justice,
That saw the outcome settled, until
Next assayed, or new cause intervenes;
But left a question unresolved,
Neither clearer now nor nearer to truth,
So it rises and presses and grows:

Are we pristine and inviolate?
Or free to adapt?
The question that allows us
To try, to essay;
Once. And again. And always.

To Assay v3.0, By Fire

We endured a process of crucibled fire,
to assay, to clarify, who we each are,
as chemists distil and distillers work magic,
so to trial turned to harden and temper, let
our strengths dissipate, disperse and dissolve,
and our toxins react, pool and gather;

With our beautiful alloys’ complexities purged,
we were stripped to essentials, bone-bare,
separate elements reduced from our cores:
mercury 80 in trickles and leaks (puddles and smears,
would-be magic); carbon 6 in loose crystals,
scattered (devalued unless synthesised);

Intensely aligned, briefly fused then diffused,
magnetised until smelted, subsumed in the fire,
we reacted, diverged and emerged once
refined, now reformed as new sources;
periodically imprinted with alchemic change,
hermetically sealed in our genetic codes:

separation? or combination?
as a limit, or threshold? closure, or opening?

To Assay: a note

A few weeks ago, I posted a piece called ‘To Assay’, which was inspired – wholly inadvertently I think – by a muse.

Since then, I’ve rewritten it three times, keeping more or less the same theme but using different approaches.  (I like different versions of things.)  I’m going to post them all over the next few days.

I hope they’ll be of some interest.  But this heads-up will make it easy to skip them if not.

Happy Christmas!  Or something.


12 Twelve

A bone-deep frost
Bites under leaden, scudding skies, fleeting brightness
Torn away,
While midnight buskers amplify the crowding revellers
Rejoicing, celebrating
In December’s long dark northern night (of souls);
So habituated
Only eyes not hearts can see or tell the difference;
Random welcomes,
Tasters for the longest night that beckons, offering
Solstice frenzy;
When memory of what’s missing would be chancy for survival
Of the pack.


invisible spreading darkness darkness darkness,
deprived of light, at risk of everything,
first balance goes, then senses, one by one;
no covers-over still, no subtleties persist,
for survivors standing naked and exposed,
damp and raw, in November’s ice-edged rain,

as complexities of task elude and escalate
and relationships slide off the scale;
drenched in lactic acid, parched of dopamine,
the mind trap tightens, straitens, cramps,
transfers, distorts, magnifies and grips,
far beyond a passing agony the body knows full well,

coiling round itself, inexorably
closing, closing, closing shut….
keep it open! open out!! out Out OUT!!!
Think clearly: pressure’s on,
relentless, rises, increases, overwhelms,
to be absorbed / returned, deflected / leveraged,

by all my faded powers and life’s experience,
applied to keep it open at whatever cost;
not closed, which if it falls just once
will lock howeverlong,
until new cause may, sometime, prise it open….
and redeem my sanity. Again.

for now, this time, can I exhort cohorts?
all hands called to the pump
it’s fight or flight – again, always –
and it’s impossible to leave;
so roll your sleeves up, boys,
roll up and Heave!! to keep it out, at bay,

keep your discipline, maintain your shape,
rely on your friends and stick together;
but is there fun or joy to lace this struggle
and light it from within, as winter’s dark comes on?
to help attain, retain some inner poise and calm?
as I wrestle with the nameless one

from whom no light escapes,
no shadow nor reflection and – at times – no shape,
but all fear’s hallmarks seen most clearly
in the corner of the eye;
the beast that never leaves but only sometimes
sleeps, or is assuaged, for now.

…. for who will lead or guide us, to find a path,
or make one? and, in the balance, intercede?
to – one day, maybe – find the ties that bind us
to this fate, this low horizon, false and shabby dawn,
in the cycle we inhabit, of days months years;
those born inside a cloud and reeking of despair….