river

We settled our agreement,
to release the ties of energy that had bound us in the crowd
and looked around our littoral for purpose;

We were castaways – at home along the riverside, watching for the tide to rise
and ease a passage through the shallow channels of our lives –
who’d reached a low landscape, north-lit by clear light,
a spare light, with beauty in its bleakness,
swept by squalls which brought a thin corrosive rain in from the sea…

So we filtered grains of meaning from the water as we drank
where sediment settled slowly, fouling our drinking water,
thickening against the bank which formerly defined the flow,
its silt erasing every corner ounce by ounce and ton by ton;
rebuilding our eroded land…

While we whiled away our hours considering the exotic:
the intriguing possibilities of amber buried in the flats
that brought to mind and polished memories of memories,
of sunlight trapped in resin, with an insect
or small fragments and some bubbles that had-not-quite-escaped…

Until we found, although the waters rose
and filled inertia’s drowned embrace around us,
that we had made a pilgrimage of sorts, in mud.

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HM

I once knew her quite well: she was lively, bright and smart
and a kindred spirit, when we were new and keen and learning every day –
in good times, ten years past – then we were friends
But in time our paths diverged, then somehow reconverged
before a pirouette or three, in the rolling tumbling motion of the waves under our feet
slid them apart again;
Now she is 32 or three, living with a husband and her infant son
and cares that edged around her open face
when I saw her earlier today, by chance.
I’d seen her grow up, she once had said;
yet I was surprised and found I could not speak –
old fractures jarred my mind and stole my words away.

to notice

On a close and cloudy morning, the bees still come:
The stems of lavender fall one way, cascading to the left.
The yellow fir spreads otherwise around, low-set but prominent;
That small red rosebush still survives, reaching for the light…
The flagstone slabs are wet from rain and water overflows the butt;
Those terracotta pots are healthy – your strawberries bear a second crop.
To be aware is little yet it touches everything; this is a good morning.

The Village, Thursday 9am

At first
She turns the corner running, a teenager sporting hurry
He stands entranced, pushing at his screen (one finger at a time)
They walk behind my back, while I am cautious at the ATM

In the pharmacy
I eschew a basket, and still fumble at the shelves
beside him who’s wanting the same space;
I ask for what I want and it turns out better than ok
(as the young assistant shirks her duty
laying stresses on her colleague,
with whom I frankly empathise)

Outside
He loiters for the trucks to come / and he waits for a car
They read or watch beside their coffee-centred tables
(sat apart on seats which may be barely dry)
She speaks to me in passing, sharing thoughts about the weather
And they head on together, conversing about their job

In the verge
Mushrooms have grown saucer-wide, after last night’s rain
near someone’s, no-one’s, absurdly disposable cup;
He is roadside brambling, slightly stooped, alone
Three women wander, gabbling, looking for Macbeth

Down the road
A second runner passes: she is properly athletic, head-up shoulders-back
A red-haired woman walks smartly, with three children –
the younger ones skipping their delight,
the older girl clasping her mother’s hand –
He goes ready towards his tennis lesson
Her backpack is slung up tight (I can only speculate…)
He locks the gate, leaving the allotments
She carries shopping bags with purpose

Crossing over
Another looks at me askance:
we are both older than we seem at first, and hurrying;
I have been longer than I thought
so I continue home, to grind my coffee beans

four columns, squared

And you said you knew / how the supports all worked / though they were engineered and unobtrusive

You bastard!  How you indulged your agony / of  misplaced confidence, at best / or a flow of fresh mendacity, stinking in the sun / spilling over purpose, one step off the curve / a vision out of focus, lacking depth of field…

as you observed, in cold and brittle politesse / in baffled, bunkered equanimity – ha! –

the columns leaning out, not in / splayed by their own weight / across each other’s lines / before the roof was even raised / to welcome innocents abroad / who’d come to worship here, and play –
let alone the masterpiece / we could have made inside….

But you said you knew / how the support would work / within the frame I’d barely found.
You bastard!  Who will build the shelter now / in praise of openness?

silence

So we drifted past in the night:
as implacable ships of disregard,
in silence
except the changing bells of watch,
respecting rights of way in navigation
if not always each other…

Until we were woken
startled
by the dawn barrage of voices,
a lying loud array on shore
joined in the jagged struggle to defend
unprotected feelings from attack:

Exposed, but settled headlong
into ways I thought I knew.

Varadero

The morning rises with a tide in flood,
a swelling warmth of swallowed salt
that lifts my body off its feet
then muscles up and through the chest
as it overpowers a racing mind with calm –
or the tastes of sweetened rum and the delights

of islands that once dreamt a feathered man,
imagined in the humid light, a force of colour
radiant in palm-carved air, hanging….
but vibrant with a pregnant pungent life
which if inhaled infects the heart and fills me
with uneasy sweeping dreamy peace.  Peace

that may forget the old molasses and mosquitoes
of a Caribbean twice a sentence, twice a grave:
a candied killer and attractor, destroyer of the men
who made sugar for the craving and reward
that brought wealth beyond their avarice for the few
and a fevered anguished aguey death for many;

islands liberated but still branded by the stain of slavery,
when one was damned and ten, a hundred men were owned
to make an ancient sin industrial:  the power
and the desire to erase those people’s names
and chain their children to that rotten block –
the foundation stone of empires, the anchor of our trade.

the stag

The beast lay awkwardly across the road
hemmed in by the obscenity of shock and pain
pressed on the labouring heart beneath its sleek dun coat;
its head was high, its neck was taut, struggling against gravity
with hatred of its torment and the closing graze of cold oblivion
coming motionless to end it, on an unforgiving tarmac hill.
Its countless springtime outcomes now reduced to one:
endurance out of time, prolonged until the tranquillising dart
will still its complex writhing eye, the dimming eye, in mercy…

… oblivious already to any kind of meaning I might have glimpsed
or thought I could ascribe, to the tiring dregs of his gifted life…
to the sacrifice of lithe young potency, betrayed by random order…
to the Fall from a morning’s innocence, rutting with antlered pride
to this helpless agony of broken-hipped distress, still tied
to life by fraying threads of habitude and parting ligaments,
his reality cut through to bring the grave its victory
as we went streaming safely past, insulated in our sins.
Who could prepare for this?

Thirteen ways to view a season

August 9th : 124/1/913
An opening :
The day perplexes, as it startles us: welcome to an altered equilibrium….

October 4th : 124/24/910
Speed skill and movement flow at perfect pitch / and then a long consolidate

October 20th : 123/5/910
Battered but not bowed, we survive a mighty onslaught / to seize an opportunist win

October 24th : 125/8/942
Dominant and headed top / although clear weaknesses are on display

December 21st : 25/24/772
Moneyed rivals are outclassed. We’ll never sleep: excitement reigns all night!

December 28th : 123/5/907
Expectations rise, hopes surge, hearts open; the new year beckons and entices….

January 24th : 123/4/909
But the good guys are tricked again / by a thuggish cartoon bandit

March 2nd : 24/21/754
Plunging, in the thirty minute switch / from triumph to disaster

March 13th : 9/25/256
A perfect afternoon / except they had a plan and we had self-destruction

April 2nd : 126/21/968
Revenge is sweet, revenge is comprehensive / does it point the way ahead?

April 21st : 24/24/743
A sterling success, in isolation / but the coinage had already been debased

April 30th : 24/24/750
Sideways backwards slow. We have come to loathe predictability

May 15th : 24/22/745
An ending:
We grind a final clear-cut win / while that other lot implode;
Consistency eventually is excellent / when leavened by surprise!
Yet shadows gather in the wings / as we watch veterans depart.

 

[Originally posted May 16, 2016.  But since it was – in part – inspired by Wallace Stevens’ ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’, I thought I’d re-post it today]