I felt the scented smoke of chestnuts burning
among the clinging reek of old damp leaves,
hazy, catching at my breath,
falling to the bottom of my lungs;
while I ripped up the tracks of my life behind me
as I walked, a purpose in itself,
half-lame, within approximate direction;
cast out – or walked away – from our chosen home…
Searching for the borders of community
but lacking any risk of crossing into “theirs”…
It’s complicated, as they say,
containing layers on layers and mysteries –
such as how the crank and dumb and ill-informed
and leaders unfit for truth can conquer –
while the future ebbs away across the water,
decisions turning water into oil and oil into distress…
and Demos flounders, self-absorbed and slavering
over brazen idols, especially devoted to their feet of clay ~
~ Forgetting those who’ve shared our pains,
against whom we found ourselves by misadventure.
I am lying low, a little low, for now.
Roofed by gloom and floored by chill,
walls shaken from outside by hammer blows,
I focused on the fire that keeps us warm.
A turn inward? It gave me space to speculate:
What could we teach the sea? Who understands its driving tides?
Who may plumb its sulphur deeps or gauge its acid waves?
What can tame its rise before it reaches us, in rage?
Our hands? All filmed in soot, defiling what we touch!
We had a thousand words for rain.
We’d flown the flood, we found a shelter here
while others foundered, tinder-dried in an unwanted wind:
Our parody of choice, which worsens every time ~
Life will revert. It will come back;
but we have moved the curve
to leave us on the beach, sifting through its grains
among the spreading streaks of soot…
So many lives to weigh, to balance and divide.
In stealth, along the avenue
autumn brought out robes of bright decay
above the showy salmon roses – hanging on –
masking paths baked-dry in summer certainties;
As sunlight mustered waning strength, against an easterly
We braced, heads-up from time to time
to watch the failing harvesters of light
curl into their tracery of death, passing
as October paled toward November;
Which drips and soaks and floods and howls in threat
The construct of a year stripped bare, to bones
no longer pandering to life’s desires;
its coat of gold has worn threadbare and gone,
strewn russet on the ground;
Now – darkening grey and coming – winter stalks …
The wind was stronger than expected, at 22 and gusting –
it ran along the ridge, watering my eyes, finding each crevice
in my jacket, as I walked a mile or two along a distance trail.
Expecting to stoop, a hawk rode almost still above the scarp;
sliding, scanning, seeking prey that shrank in the shivering grass.
Then a red kite – larger, bolder, more assured – was equally unlucky
while I watched and slowed my pace, backed against the wind…
They were heedless of the gliders overhead: white thin-winged ideas
shaped in plastics, making tamer circles, grasping silently for height,
sidling past each other with an awkward grace, but lacking purpose –
except to fly; or brush the wind-combed clouds, occasionally…
Observed, while also watching: other people loitered behind glass,
sheltered for the moment to immerse themselves and share
in little social rituals of a complacent England;
to seek some precious comforts in their trust of yesterday…
But more than glass fragments us, for they reverse without a mirror
in a landscape carved by ice, reshaped again by climate changes.
Meanwhile, outside, the wind blows harder.
My heart sped! Beats quickened,
intensified by sound,
rising and inspiring:
a duo sharing songs –
by reeded living breath,
by hammered vibrant strings –
in forms which forswore words
to throw off sentiment
and strip their meaning bare;
mere sequence graced by notes,
patterns based in number,
yet speaking to our souls.
The rivers run higher in the hour before dawn:
rushing pulses shaped into alternating streams
as the red-white long-haul contra-flows of business
are driven hot and oiled in hurtling packs of steel,
vacuum-wrapped and insulated, but still roaring
with the purpose of a generation’s power;
consuming all the world to keep our selves alive.
Delivering – whatever it may cost our young…
Once we were new and immediacy could guide us!
Now that quisling young intensity has passed
since consciousness began to tire; of holding on
like paint the sun has faded until it flaked away,
cover wrinkling into splits and decayed character;
of some older habits that have lingered past their time,
reminders that the past was smaller than the now –
although a film of settlement resists the change,
obscuring shallow detail, forgetting losses in translation
Except: at least, this has not disappeared –
it’s time to hand over / for others to renew…
national poetry day 2018 – calling for change
It craked. Hoarse and raw.
Footloose, on the wing, it looked down at us.
Perched in the roof-line gutter, craking on…
The bird of fortune, named by accident,
rescued by goodwill, nurtured in our den,
drawing down our blackened greed, shimmering…
“You gaaave me what I asked for;
I can see how much is there –
now I want more! More!! Mohre!!! Mohhre!!!!”
The zealots came – as always –
draped in purity, to press their claims
~ which would erase our nuances,
reduce our subtleties to slates;
as if a blank could live
~ in which the glories of creation
would shrink to conceptual art,
like angelic voices ringing
locked in a crazy head
~ on roads too thin to travel far
as life was redefined, abjured
to strip it clear of heresies
There is a grandeur in the landscape, lifted up and uplifting
and dry, or dried in brightening air.
It is matched by an earnestness amongst the people
who have been hardened in the ways of nature and cooperatives
but can now hold higher hopes out for their children, who are
open-faced with dark and shy and curious, serious eyes
burning through the open groves and scattered plots
and stooping limestone crags, towering
over the poverty of older lives, sheltered with their animals;
Living together in resilience in adversity, for however many
years and days of grace and gratitude god sends…