We who have no future
Have no past:
The tyranny of progress
Reduced to a point;
Shrunk to absence;
Billions of miles into nowhere.
Bird’s impetuous rhapsodic voice
Detonates a Homeric immediacy
Unleashes the Muse
Beginning where she will
Falling pell-mell into now
Into the spinning out of a soul
An epic history, a heart
Driven far and wide
Through sea sorrow, lotus lands.
A day among the immortal seasons
In September fifty years ago…..
The corn has been cut,
And over the stubble field
Weaves a shoal of swallows and martins,
The field glistens
The hot air shimmering and vibrating,
Colour is drained from the south
There is a diffuse glare of sunlight,
The hedgerow elms are silver-grey
The backs of the swallows shine like gunmetal.
To the north the line of oak, ash and birch
Is rich in colour.
A party of tits filters through the leaves,
Among them are two willow warblers
A fierce migratory restlessness is in their movements
They flicker like yellow lights in the green spaces.
September fifty years ago
A day among the eternal seasons….
We thought the world would last forever
We were wrong.
The House of the Waning Moon
In the dark house
She turns in profile,
A cheekline crescent at the north door
Where the winter stars fly in.
Equinox of Spring
She moves in the dark
A brilliant outline
Moves beyond the lamplight
To the south door
Where the swifts fly in.
Note: The waning moon of the Autumn Equinox rises progressively further to the north of east, and the opposite is the case in Spring.
They Told Me, Heraclites. For CT, after Callimachus.
They told me, Heraclites, you were dying
And it stopped me in my tracks
When I remembered the nights we spent talking,
Drinking wine, smoking pipes, reading our poems,
And how a long time ago,
Up on the mountain near your place,
I walked slap into reality, by accident,
Just a simple twist of fate,
And it made me laugh,
Because it made no difference to anything,
And so I know
That your poems will live on
And that there’s nothing in the nature of mind
That is capable of dying….
Nothing at all.
Scent of Limes
Scent of limes,
That time of year,
The time of yarrow
The herb Achilles took to Troy to heal wounds,
The plant the Taoist Masters
Divined the Book of Change with,
Returned like a strain in music that assembles
St John’s wort, betony,
Flowers of the bramble,
Flowers of the lime
Streaming down the wind,
A dying fall….
“Flower o’ the broom
Take away love and our earth is a tomb!” 1
1 Robert Browning, Fra Lippo Lippi.
The Year After
The year after Vasily Arkhipov saved the world,
Summer among the Isles of Greece,
The gift of being nineteen
Writing in a shuttered peasant’s room
In a house under the mountain, on Ikaria,
The island where no foreigners came,
A runaway from post-war England,
Scratching with a pen by day,
Working on the mackerel boats after sunset
“These balmy placid island days.”
A dark day in November nineteen sixty three
Hitching down from Scandinavia in the snow
Ending up in the small hours in a dim café on the Belgian border,
The border closed till morning,
A kip on the tailboard above the slush,
Coffee and dark tobacco at dawn,
Like a benediction.
It was the coldest winter since ‘47
Snow in the streets till March,
Mandy Rice-Davies swigging champagne from the bottle
In the back of a limo. The Beatles
Industrial, insistent, clanging like an advertising jingle….
Back on the road there was silence, space,
The edge of loneliness, fear.
Peyote on the beach in Crete
I tuned Bird in from the static…..“Out of Nowhere,”
A miracle of rare device
Cut adrift while Memphis burned.
Ashes to Ashes
Sitting in a dead man’s dust
Head of the Gully, high summer,
Fragments of bone among the scabious.
These days I walk the world
Like I wasn’t there anymore
A space open and generous
Like a childhood vision.
I pick up a grain
And roll it between my fingers…..
It’s the time of St John’s Wort, Marjoram,
After the Solstice.
A Bestiary of Flowers
Hawkweed, hawk-bit, mouse-ear, yellow goat’s-beard,
A bestiary of the Solstice. Flowers… earth-gold as a hawk’s eye,
The fierce, dense yellow of high summer;
Egg-yolk bird’s-foot trefoil,
Beasts at the heels of Aphrodite of the Flowers,
Dove’s-foot crane’s-bill, dog-rose,
Wolf’s-bane, toad-flax, sow-thistle….
Conjured by the violet-haired Muses
Their steps visible in the quaking-grass,
Their scent crushed in the thyme,
Eternity in the touch of your fingers.
The falling shafts which never fall
Flash across my windows
From bows drawn in Africa….this house,
A memory in the souls of swifts.
Black sparks struck from entropy
The air no element for endurance
But for these warping shapes of gravity
Curves in space and time
Falling across the wind
Falling through all dimensions
Remember when your waking breath
Was like the air of paradise? When your body
Embraced you like a lover?
Look back…coloured shadows…..
But these violets, this may blossom,
Ash and oak
Are now as then
The same as in Sappho’s time, or in Shakespeare’s
Or in your own eternal season….
Look back with them one last time.
For now the seasons are dying with the summer ice
The spring, always as fresh as youth,
The physical touch of youth,
The spring is dying.
The spring, the eternal season among seasons
Is being wasted away by the trillion dollar plague;
Wasted away by those philosophers of human nature
With their bow ties and dead souls;
Wasted away in corporate boardrooms
By old men with silver hair and perfect teeth
For shareholder value;
Wasted away by Capitalist Modernity,
And the inheritors of the European Enlightenment
That genocide project, a scorched-earth war
Waged against all other cultures.
Look back now
For the past is dying with the future
Summon the Cretan gaze
Converse with the shades again
Look death in the face
All you who have been worthy of this world.
Hesiod on the Farm
The plough-maker he called “Athene’s servant”
Carpenter to the goddess of technology
Who pegged the plough-tree to the stock
Fixed the shear
Polished the grip;
Or he walked the mountain for a holm limb
Formed in one piece
Stock and tree unbreakable.
He thought himself wealthy to have both
Curing in the smoke of the chimney
Throughout the winter
While he wrote the history of the gods
Sung to him by the Hippocrene Muses
In the roaring of the wind up above.
Blinded by the Light
Cold as an oracle
The Pleiades, Orion, the Dogs,
Fall headlong into the sun
Blinded by the light
This is the road at Colonus
This the gesture of Theseus
This is the void beyond the Labyrinth
The journey through the night
From the end
To the beginning.
Agni shines against the dawn
Fire engulfed in light at sunrise.
When Electra drew water for the farmer
River Inachus in darkness
ὦ νὺξ μέλαινα χρυσέων ἄστρων τροφέ! 1
In the dog days,
In July in the heat,
Sirius, Dog Star, rose at dawn,
Rose earlier each night
Nearing midnight in Autumn
The season farmers cut wood
Cut plough-trees and wagon-timbers
Announced by the seasonal stars.
Since then the stars have drifted,
A long precession of the axes through the centuries,
Drifted deeper into Winter….
A month in two thousand years,
The seasonal star-clock running fast
The dog days in September now
In the cool.
What poets will write
When Sirius returns to the heat again? 2
1 “O black night. You who nurse the golden stars!”
2 The precession of the equinoxes is around a 25,000 year cycle.
Hare on the Hill
The smale foules then
In Gramarye, in the violet moon,
Puck and the muses
Tangled in the roundshaws.
Hare on the hill
Roe in the high wood
Swans in October starlight,
The river… heron above
Otter below....blue-fin tench, pike,
Raven rolling at break of day,
Badger town, fox hollow,
In the greenwood….
Festivals of owls.
And when there are no longer seasons
When cyclical time is overwhelmed, as
Tide by tsunami…
When a road has been driven through eternity.
When there is no longer climate
Only weather; unpredictable, chaotic, violent;
When the great forests are cut down
Made monoculture: palm oil, burger-ranch, soy plantation,
Capitalist Modernity…. an ideology made palpable.
When species become so rare
Their evolution is brought to halt
Abundance-driven natural selection
Overwhelmed by selection for profit,
The shape of death: palpable, obscure…
When there are no longer seasons,
Summer, no more,
Spring, no more.
The fear was the best of it
Those fugitive years
Along a glittering world
Under a different sun, another moon,
Somewhere between the days,
Without contact, the void
A second skin.
Lost in orbit
Come back to another time
An alien planet.
Here the birds are not the same
The stoat on the track
The willow herb blowing
The scent of lime blossom…..
They are unreachable
The shouts beyond the horizon.
The Same Stink
The world smells of death.
Where once there was that high rolled hair
(Called Victory Rolls when it was all over)
The heavy military skirts of the camp guards,
The cigarettes, the laughter, the camaraderie outside the barracks,
We’ve all seen the pictures….
Now, it’s blond hair, falling in regulation spirals,
A style as formal as a salute,
Pink lipstick, the lashes, the slim
“The Christian girl-next-door”
Almost a porn-star,
The PR Nazi…..
It’s the same stink….
The world smells of death.
Old midwinter moon
Walking the old path
With the old gesture
Remote, aloof, way up there.
Summer moon, twice the size
Crouched over the horizon
Rolling a tun of buttermilk
The same old story
Old as the wind.