Friday, 19 August 2011


Falling Upwards Again

Oriflammes of summer rage
High cirrus
Ice clouds
Frozen, flinty
Gestures of air,
Cracking black shards
Out of a blue sky……
Swifts, spinning,
Falling upwards

              May 2017

City Lights

In the south
Over the city
The moon and Jupiter
Seen through glass….
The moon and Jupiter,
City lights,
Above them
The stars, uncaring,
Silent, aloof,
Like they will be
Beyond our time.
And here, now,
Below this house,
Distant headlights,
Driven, glittering,
Circle the intersection
Without purpose…..
These too
Like stars.

       April 2017


The Indian philosopher Shankacharya
Learned all the rhythms of the tabla
From the song of the skylark,
And his name sounds like lark-song….
The syllables shimmer,
Ripple, pour down
Like a shower of light.

The song of the lark
Has accents that elide, reverse,
Turn inside-out,
Like a mantram
Or a Möbius-strip, the bird
Flying on both sides
Of reality, on two surfaces
Of the heavens; the philosopher
Grasping nature and art
In one hand.

Today, in a pearly April wind
Off the Severn Sea
Larks rising high above the marsh-sward  
Flutter against the fine
Crystal ceiling of the sky,
Break through it and vanish,
Appearing again among the swarm
Of motes in my eyes.

Deaf as I am,
With the volume up high in my ear
The song is ethereal, glittering….
Within me,
Like a shower of falling glass.

                       April 2017

Simple, Life Asserting

In the spring of twenty seventeen
I turned seventy three.
Every new year
Shoulders the old years aside,
Days pass more quickly,
Old friends pass out of reach,
And what have I learned?
Maybe nothing an intelligent
Twenty year old couldn’t know
By reading a dozen
Of the world’s great books.
Yet perhaps also this:
That it is anger not resignation
That carries life with it;
To grieve over past 
Horrors is to build
A comforting inertia; to name
Evil is to fend it off, to seek  
To isolate it, as if
The events happened
In another place, beneath
Another sky, under the
Ineffable religious laws of good
And evil, and are made safely distant
By appeals to nature,
Made apparently-tragic and
Somehow inevitable by talk       
Of the human condition,
While we listen to the survivors
As if they speak of a different planet,
An unimaginable zone
Impalpable, obscure,
Beyond our understanding,
When it is all here now, a commonplace,
Banal, jostling us in the street,
Too immediate to be
Hidden within a nightmare.
Because it didn’t have to be
Like that. (Grave the sentence
Deep).  It doesn’t have to be
Like this. Metaphysics
Has no traction on what          
Has no need for being….
It’s simple, and our anger is
Simple, life-asserting,
Dangerous, feared alike
By gods and masters…..
I learned anger.

                March 2017

The Woodcutter and the Taoist Immortals

The great bridge at Chang’an lies in ruins
Wild foxes live in Kingfisher Pavilion
Green ghost-fires burn in the abandoned palace.

Wang Zhi the woodcutter looks on in sorrow,
Deep in the forest, he had stopped to watch
Two old Immortals playing at chess.

Returned, hundreds of years have passed…..
The handle of his axe is rotting in his hand.

                                  March 2017

Bat and Man

I’ve loathed you long enough D H Lawrence
You fox!
The red-fox beard on you,
The mangy, pedagogic, red tweed hide of you,
Belligerent, foxy, head-down stare,
Defensive, caught-in-the-hencoop, sharp-snouted, needle-toothed watchfulness,
Lawrence, you fox!

Listen!  The dogs are barking.
Do you hear?
Primal, prehistoric stink-dog!
Red as ochre, vertical pupils, uncanny red-wolf gaze;
And the fox stink of you, the male fox stink
Sprayed all over your poems,
That trot on tip-toe, bouncily
Assertively across the pages,
And the little puffs of self-assertive piss-spray
Here, there,
A musk-gland stink-marker of your territory, your boundaries,
Your primeval struggle-for-existence. 
Sniffing the world in ecstasies of ancient fear,
Stink-dog hackles raised at bats, snakes, reptiles, fish.

In Florence you sprang around your room
Like a trapped fox, unstoppable, up and down the walls,
Light on its toes, the white tip of your brush was
The handkerchief you were flapping in horror
At a bat in the room, in the daytime, a terrifying bat!
A disgusting bat!
The hot afternoon swarmed with your revulsion,
The nightmare breaking through, red in tooth and claw,
Your very own nightmare, Lawrence, that keeps you whole,
You. The heroic individual!  Springing
Wide-awake, ripe to pounce…..
Lawrence you fox! 
Blood-toothed fox-man guarding your struggle
Your kampf
Your peril, your horror, your potency,
Threatened by the potency of a bat!

In Spain once,
Out of the fiesta night,
A bat fell to the pavement at my feet
Stunned by the instantaneous crash of a firework.
I picked him up and put him in my pocket
Touching death, maybe, or rabies,
But fearing more the brief stab from the fascist unconscious
The ingrained horror
That atavistic sickness of a moribund civilisation.
Rabies is less terrible than that fear!
Brother bat!  Sister bat!  Comrade bat!
Inwoven with the same codes of life as me,
Do you hear in colour?
Do you hear brilliant colours
Echoing your voice in the blind dark,
Flying blind in a world of coloured sound?
And I hung the coat on a nail, went to bed,
Found him in the morning, warm, vibrating.
Wing membranes soft and warm, wing claws
Pricking my fingers,
Brother bat, relaxing into the warmth of my hand,
And took him out to the wood where he flew off my hand
Straight as an arrow, heading for home, his roost,
Alert, wise, with his own culture, his organisation,
No scrap of horror, he,
You fox-man, curling your lip at the world.

I’ve loathed you long enough,
Grown used to your stink
Whenever I enter the feverish, slit-pupil gaze of your poetry,
Smelling the musk of you
Like the reek in the wood that opens the third-eye,
Vulpine, immediate, the sharp stink of fear and angst….
Do we smell in colour?
Do we smell in colour, image, light?
Can I smell the stark, fox-eyed brilliance of your imagined worlds?

A lifetime ago, in Greece, 
Crawling into the blocked entrance of a drift-mine through a gap scarce wider than my shoulders
I put my torch-light on a colony of bats, thick on the roof inside,
And they flew!  All at once!  Straight at me,
Escaping me,
Big bats, the size of my hand,
And I pressed face-down in the dust as they winnowed over me
Rustling, creaking,
Blowing my hair with the down-draft of their wings
Nearly touching me,
And I was filled with mad delight,
Cackling madly with delight, spitting dust,
Hauling myself back out into the searing light.
A baptism of bats!

Lawrence!  Old fox!
I’ll make my peace with you,
But we are different animals
You and I.
Instinctively I curl my lip at you…..
Voice of the fascist unconscious
The colours of freedom echoing from the voice in your poetry
The voice in your darkness, in spite of you,
Poet, like Milton who spoke for Satan, not God,
You, who once looked in dread at a swimming pike,
The Alien,
Whose God was not your God, you say,
With it’s horrible watery gaze through eyes
That made your skin creep…..
You couldn’t know they were eyes that fish bequeathed us long ago,
The same structure, the same genetic code,
Give or take a millionth of a chromosome…..
Eyes bequeathed to mice, bats, elephants, whales.
Brother Pike!
Comrade Fox!
You’re looking at each other through the same eyes…..

And what room is there for God in this unity?
What room is there for God
Where the bat and the sightless mole evolve beyond light,
Protean, mutable,
Surpassing vision, illuminating the visionless dark?
Brother mole!
What colours do you smell?
Sister bat!
Flying through a world of coloured sound…..
Is the moth you seize
As iridescent as a hummingbird?

                          February 2017

Sacre Coeur de Montmartre

Why didn’t the Luftwaffe drop a stick of bombs on Sacre Coeur
The church that lies like a bleached heart over Montmartre?
White as leprosy.
White as death.
Sacre Coeur,
Swollen like a glans erected
To expiate the sins of the Communards
By the same people who slaughtered thirty thousand of the poor of Paris for daring to be free.

I climbed up the steps past the queuing tourists in the anniversary of the Bloody Week
Desiccated with anger
Dry in the mouth
And hawked up enough meagre spit
To gob in the entrance.

People stared.
What did I care?
The same people would stand by and do nothing
If I were being shot against the wall.

Somehow I managed to juice-up enough bile
To splatter the stones once more.
It was running down my chin as I walked slowly back down the steps,
Hearing the blackbirds singing,
Feeling calm, warm,
Breathing easy,
Feeling my blood-pressure dropping down into the range of a healthy twenty year old….
Let no one tell you anger isn’t good for you.

                                       February 2017

New Wave II  “Golden Earrings.”

A Berlin jazz club.
At the far end of the room
Through the smoke and conversation
Friggi Hoffmann plays “Golden Earrings” on the piano:
   “There’s a story the gypsies say is true
   That when your love wears golden earrings
   He belongs to you…”

He plays the song in dense block-chords.
Half a century later I can still hear the piano clearly enough to say what they are….
Thick, diminished chord-voicings fog the melodic line,
The notes of the tune sing out like bells above the smoke.
But none of the men wear earrings;
They are wearing Italian suits, crew-cut hair, sharp shoes,
And the women are eyeing them calmly, nevertheless.

                                             January 2017

A Part: New Wave 1963

Like a scene from an arthouse film:
A suburban room in Stockholm,
Snow outside. It’s after midnight.
A young, rather awkwardly-handsome man,
A bohemian, perhaps a poet,
Observes two men and a woman sitting across the room.
She is wearing a knee-length black dress.
Black hair curves to her neck.
The two men are in dark suits and ties.
They are all drinking cocktails;
Miles Davis is on the hi-fi:
The theme from Lift to the Scaffold.

Silently the two men begin kissing her.
They kiss her in turn.
She watches expressionlessly, drink in hand,
As one man enlarges a small run in one of her stockings
Playfully tears it open, caressing her thigh.
The woman looks steadily at the poet,
Her eyes wide open while she is being kissed.
Then she stands up
And the two men follow her out of the room.

The muted trumpet speaks of alienation and desire.
The poet listens until the record ends
And the needle sways and hisses out of the groove,
Finishes his drink and leaves the house.
He quietly closes the front door
Pulls up the collar of his overcoat
And walks back into town through the falling snow…..

                                January 2017

The Cats of Chartres Cathedral

In Chartres there are cats the colour of the cathedral,
Silver-grey cats
Cats like liquid stone
Shadow-cats that glide around the walls following the sun
With their oriflamme eyes,
Cats like no other cats on earth
That reach and paw the opal pelt of the stone
That lurk the gutters below the gargoyles
Like bits of some forgotten goddess,
Her grizzled hair and weaving ways,
Who flowed into the building between the masons’ feet
And froze it up….
Silver Chartres,
Prowling down the years.

                                           December 2016

Travelling Like a Fox

Some places seem to cling….
A track into a wood
A field corner among the vines
Discovered after dark
While travelling like a fox
Unseen, alone, in peace,
Down through France and Spain;
Places never forgotten, but lost
On roads travelled without a map
Like the scrap of land clinging
Above the crests of the pines
On a pass through the Pyrenees
Rain hammering on the roof of the van
Water roaring off the road
Dislodged rocks crashing through the trees
A candle burning all night
Contracting and expanding
The little world within the vehicle;
Or the deserted casa de la finca
At the head of a valley in the Spanish Sierra
With its avenue of wind-crippled trees
The ruined house
All the landscape the tones of saddlery and army green,
The kind of place
You roll out of bed into the driver’s seat
And leave at first-light with a prayer.

                             December 2016

On This Road

Blue world
White moon
And on this road
The moon has fled.

Gypsy moon
The world’s blue glance
And on this road
The moon has fled.

       November 2016

Chet and the Iceman
“He knew how to use the silence. In his music, and in his life.”

A high-altitude jazz musician
Snow, and ice
In a hotel room in Amsterdam.

Six thousand years ago,
A Neolithic hunter starts down a glacier
At ten thousand feet in the Alps.

Both men are prematurely aged, deeply lined,
Cheeks caved in, but undaunted….
Alive above the snowline.

The hunter carries a copper-headed axe,
Very light, no more than a walking-stick -
The angle of a yew branch
With a small blade lashed in the heel of the handle.
He has the traces of copper smelting in his tissues.
He is dressed in furs stitched with sinew,
Woven grass thermal gear,
Bear and chamois skin snow-boots
And a bear-skin hat.
His frozen body will be found at the end of the twentieth century
Lying beside a short yew bow, still under construction,
Some half-made arrows,
A pouch containing fire-flints, flint arrow-heads,
A bone pressure-flaking tool, a stone knife,
A bow-string for a longer bow
And three species of medicinal mushrooms.
He is tattooed at acupuncture points for arthritis.
Everything else he needs is in his head.

Chet Baker, too, is traveling light:
A Martin trumpet in a hard case,
A second mouthpiece, some valve-oil,
Two unused sheets of manuscript-paper,
A change of clothes in a small suitcase,
A wallet containing high denomination notes and a credit-card,
A passport, a packet of Camel cigarettes, a Zippo lighter,
And in his head
The words, melodies, chords and substitutions
For over a hundred songs and jazz compositions,
Scales, gestures, turn-backs, side-slips,
A spatial language
To negotiate his way through the harmonic landscape,
Using the silence, always listening,
Like the Iceman hunting in the mountains,
Moving, pausing, using the silence, listening,
Moving through the forms of the icescape,
The harmonic elevations,
Moving with grace and lyricism,
Improvising a way, taking risks,
Making a cadencial descent
Down the glacier.

Chet Baker puts the trumpet he has been playing on the bed.
A few minutes later he lies dead on the sidewalk below his window.
No clues.
The Iceman is hit by an arrow curving down from above;
He is on his knees trying to pull out the shaft
When he is struck down from behind.
The good hunting bow and the arrows he must have carried
Were stolen by his killers;
The length of the spare bow-string tells us that.
We know more about the death of the Iceman than the death of Chet Baker.

For six thousand years the Iceman left only the wind across the ice
The rustle of spindrift
The silence.

Chet left the silence that gave his music form
The blue distance
The high empty spaces.

                                   November 2016

Indian Jungle

When you walk alone in a forest
Where a tiger walks,
And leaves his footprints in the dust;
Where elephants are present,
Maybe watching you
Like grey clouds with rose-mole, stippled ears;
Or a leopard gazes from a swarm of spots in the undergrowth;
Or, most dangerous of all,
The tusky pig with red eyes and a malevolent attitude……
You just let go
And your mind empties out,
The jungle, with all its intricacies,
Seethes into the vacancy
Deep in the river gorge
Where the rock python sleeps out the day
In that nice green room of his
And you wade along peacefully, to where,
Almost within reach of your hand,
The great brown fish owl, big as an eagle,
Perches with his back to you,
Unaware of your approach
For the noise of the rushing water.

                               October 2016

How the Gods See Us

Observe the deathless gods
If you would understand mortality
And the race of men.
Learn of the murderous desire they conceived
To renew themselves
Pitting youth against age.
Realise that we
Who emerged from the blood and smoke of their wars
Were unforeseen
That even the gods were blind to chance
And the birth of misfortune.
Know that the gods love the beauty of the world
And the perfection of youth above all
And that Aphrodite moves among them
Like a flame.

No one has seen the gods as they are;
They appear to us as forms we understand.
Neither do the gods see us as we see ourselves,
To them we look like clouds
Or illusions in flowing water…..
Like the clouds that appear motionless
Over hills, shaped like the tops of waves,
Curved airflow made visible,
Or like the moving and returning shapes in flowing water;
The gods see us like this,
And stand before us
Amazed and terrified.

                     October 2016

Brown Eyes

With such brown eyes, the child
Slipped into my heart,
There, along the river, in the sun,
Laughing up at me.

River that runs through the heart…..
Prove us:
We are porous
Without limit.

                  September 2016

To the end of the world   
In memory of Bill Wyatt

South at the solstice, blackbirds singing,
In Montmartre and Venice
In Arcadia under the planes,
By the temple of Hera,
Where I put a flower for you…..
Singing in Montmartre
At cherry blossom time,
Of the dead behind the barricades,
Then as now,
Singing by the grave of Louise Michel
Where I put a stolen red rose for all forgotten dreamers….
Singing in Venice, in the walled gardens, always,
And south
On that journey to the gate of the underworld with the gift of your poems,
To the southern tip of Laconia
Cape Tainaron….. stark, treeless,
Where no birds sing.

                                       September 2016

Passing Ithaca By

On the ferry,
Parked-up trucks rock in a choppy cross-current,
Pawing at the deck
As we grind our way north over the Ionian Sea.

An apocalyptic sunset
Red sun, inky sea,
The shadowy islands rising abruptly.....
Beyond them nothing but a great commonplace.

I find a quiet spot at the rail…..
There is a solitary shearwater out there;
The Greek truck drivers are chain-smoking on the poop-deck
Watching the World Cup on tv.

The name Ithaca
Quickens the world  
The word hollows it out
It moves………Ithaca………
We are passing Ithaca by.

Just a darkening hill-ridge above the sea,
Few lights, no sign of a road,
A wooded island, mountainous,
The deep gouge of a double harbour,
A bit of good land, a small town….
How it ever was
A commonplace
A place to escape to Argos from,
To Troy, to sail the seas
In the company of drunk truck drivers
Roaring for a goal.
We are passing Ithaca by.

                           August 2016.


This landscape of light
Resonates to the rub of dreams
Awakes in echoes
Names, words,
As I hold the car to the lyric
Line of the road
Winding through the shadowy combs of Arcadia
Onto the scorched shoulder of the mountain
Sinewy, muscular, arm of Sparta
Armoured brow of Sparta, Laconia,
Black mirages boiling off the road.

O rebel sister! Wind!
Two eagles hold the crest
Over the plume of pines
Eagles crossing from the right
Augury of strength and courage
On this desperate, falling road
Descending over an empty plain
Land well-watered, green as moss,
Where the Titans fell,
Wrack of the old gods,
Where Zeus’ bolt-lit lignite fires
Burned wild still in Herodotus’ time
And bones of giants lay abroad.

Under the eagles tracking air,
Below the auspices
The giant bulk of a coal-fired power-plant
Placed like a toy upon Elysium,
Spins out filaments of power-lines, pylons,
Fed by the lignite open-cast
Pollutes Alpheios, the sacred river,
Kills the sacred oaks with sulphur.

Off the road, under the mountain,
In a wind out of a furnace,
I look down on the cubic Titan far away
Webbed to the grid like Gulliver
Livery of red and white
Smoke-stack smearing the sky
A great concrete block
A colour-banded chimney
Blunt, perfect…..
And up at the eagles in the light.

                     August 2016

The Clue

In Arcadia, driving in the mountains,
I came upon a big tortoise walking in the road,
Jammed on the brakes,
Left the car where it stood,
(I had seen no other for half an hour),
Picked him up
And carried him off into the thorny scrub.

He fought me all the way,
Indignant, hissing, reaching round trying to bite me,
Trying to loosen my grip with the claws of his strange, cold feet,
His shell cool in the fiery mountain sunlight that burned my scalp
So that I was glad to set him down and have done with him,
The heavy beast walking in the air,
Now landborne again, contemptuous,
Barging through the cruel thorns with a scratching noise….
When an old woman was suddenly at my elbow, out of nowhere,
Very handsome, of the mountains,
With sun-bleached, corn-gold hair and eyes like the sky.

I thought: “Is she older than me or younger?” noticed
Her curiously modern dress, its clean folds,
Its pale grey colour (in a country where noone wears grey),
Her head bare under the scorching upland sun,
As if (I thought later)
She were constructing herself out of the stuff of my mind…..
Grey, like mist,
Eyes, like the sky….
Aphrodite Ourania,
The older Aphrodite,
Daughter of the sky and Gaia,
Whose emblem is the tortoise.

We walked back to the road together.
She was carrying something in a very neat, grey polythene bag,
And walked with a staff.
Even then I thought the grey bag strange.
The engine of the car was running,
The driver’s door open,
The air-conditioning struggling to cool the entire Peloponnese;
I offered her a lift
And she laughed it off.

A couple of hundred meters down the road I stopped dead.
The grey clothes were the clue.
There was no sign of her in the mirror.
I reversed fast back up the road, spitting gravel,
And she was nowhere to be seen.
You could see clearly for miles around,
But there was nothing there,
Only the sunlight.

                                                   July 2016

These White Nights

July weather.
In the limestone gully,
Marjoram, pale as a cloud,
White yarrow, whose stalks cast the Ching,
St John’s wort, yellow flower of midsummer,
Devil’s-bit scabious, blue as the breeze,
Bird’s-foot trefoil,
The lotus of the Greeks,
Canary-yellow, tight in the turf,
And thyme,
Out of Elysium,
Just beyond this northern summer
These white nights.

                  July 2016


I walk along the road above the sanctuary,
At Olympia, under the pines.

Above the temple of Zeus,
On the hill that crowds the road,
Hooded crows shout in the trees,
As they always must have done,
And a blackbird sings.

What gods are voiced by these birds
Even now?  Thanatos, mocking the fallen?
The blackbird, Hera’s voice,
Sweet, slow mother of the gods?

The road runs parallel to the stadium
To where a track drops away
Shaded by old olives and scrub pine,
Curves around the ruins
And finds the river to the south:
Alpheios, flowing out of Arcadia,
River of dreams,
Flowing like the sky,
Willow girt, and wide.

I find a place to sit on the bank,
Bare feet cool in the turquoise water,
And a snake swims out between my ankles
Brushes my flesh with its tail
A nymph’s cold touch.

I sit for hours
Without thought or feeling
Waiting for the big orange and brown hornet
That returns every half hour to a stone at my feet
And drinks there.

Swallows and martins from the village
Fly over the river. Long ago they must have built mud nests
Under the cornices of the temples
When they were bright with stucco and paint.
Under the protection of what god?

I sit by the river throughout the afternoon
Until the sun sinks beyond the plane trees behind me.
Fifty years ago I slept out under the stars not far away
In a field where there are mature olives now.
No time has passed.
These same birds were here
Forty million years ago.

                                                        June 2016

Leviathan in Sparta

Sad hills cradle a blue bay.
I park the hire-car among the olives,
Walk down the track from the level scar of the road
To the stone tower by the sea
Carefully detaching and collapsing the webs of fat black spiders
Barring the way.

The ruined square tower.
Rock, olives.
Two great southern oaks.
A couple of time-stilled, rust-eaten oil drums,
Big, slow, yellow butterflies,
And the silence.

Under the oak, in the shade,
Watching the pale grass move,
I am swarmed all over by ants
Thick on my shirt. And I’m up
And dash them off,
Beat the shirt on a rock. Cry:
“We too have resources
Us large creatures!” Feel
Their feeble bites,
Bush off their corpses;

It is said that ants
Are like the cells of a large creature
And that nest communicates with nest
Across continents;
That they form immense organisms,
The largest living things on earth.

I find a quiet place to sit again,
And wonder
Did this leviathan feel my feeble bite?

                     June 2016

The Time

We've got to fight.
Not to fight is to harm living beings.
O rebel sister. Wind!
The time of the warrior is here.

                              May 2016


Let’s say,
The world….
Like a skull as white as a cloud.
And summer…
The river.

Call it….
“The totality of summer”
“Summer through and through.”
“It cannot be grasped.”

Slack water,
Splash of fish.

The river flow,
Make an under-world,
Darker, greener….

The river enters the skull
Flowing slowly
Flowing out again…..
The river moving
Like peace.

For the kingfisher,….
Blue jewel on the throat of the river,
Flashing across water smooth and dark as flint….

Why would he not
Forever curve round the river-bend
That washes the back of the skull? 

                        May 2016

“I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade”
W.H. Auden September I, 1939

The decade lasted eighty years
Penetrated every life
Crossed over the millennium,
Laying waste….
Progress. Modernism. Empire.
Ruthless, deadly,
Feared even by the gods.

Eighty years:
Ceaseless war,
The beauty of the world,
The beauty of the world
So loved by the gods
Dried up
Cut down

April 2016


Maybe only the mad “get it”…..
Cracked open
Bowed heads breaking through
Rising up
Waving their hands at the light.

                                  April 2016

Freedom, Autonomy

Beneath the bones of it all
Under the flint-hill,
Below old Cyclops’ murrum stones
His ancient walls, his boundaries;
Below the roots of priest-craft, land-rod,
Bushel and cubit;
Before the sacred, the embodiment,
Before fealty and measure……
Here, now,
In the shadow of this red rock
In this handful of dust
I will show you
Freedom in the grip and pump of your heart,
Autonomy in the insurgent wind.

                                                 March 2016

Read the Spring

Do I want to read the Spring?
These pale words
These innocent yellow and blue words
These thin, stretched words
White as a Raphael Madonna?

Do I want to read these green words
These words like spears , poking through,
These bland, deathless words?
Do I want to read this naked light
This primrose, like a cliché,
These metaphors of birth,
This tawdry innocence?

Look for the fractured words…..
The bones of the slaughter unburied,
Poking through,
This white light.

Look for the first bee staggering about
Hounded by the wind,
Butterfly blown to tatters,
Small blind birds …..
This ragged syntax of generation.

Do I want to read this Spring?
This glossy ad
This naked light?

                March 2016

Blue Flowers

There was a field of barren flint
Above a house I could find no trace of again
Where a child had been buried in stony ground
And I could remember nothing.

I will put blue flowers
Where there is only the sun and the wind
And the small quick bird of the rocks.
I will put blue flowers where there is only the wind.

                                                        February 2016


Under the immortal stars
I saw you falling
Birth to death,
Falling out of reach.
Who can hold you?
Birth and death
Who can hold you? 

February 2016

Howl Redux

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by property-ownership, well-fed, sober, dressed by Marks and Spenser,
breezing through Tescos after work looking for a decent  red wine,
Guardianheaded hipsters burning for that ancient heavenly Equity in the dynamo of the money-machinery of night,
who in Levi cords, mild-eyed and high, sat up smoking in the supernatural glow of their televisions, floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to the boss for the Job and saw angels of security on terraced roofs illuminated,
who dropped out of universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating an exit from the world,
who made no sound publishing  odes on the windows of suburban bed-sits,
who cowered in shaven employment saving their money in ISAs and Pension Plans listening to the Terror through the wall,
who withdrew into gardening, nature-poetry and Zen while the Beast poisoned their world,
who thought anger was a disease of the soul,
who thought themselves virtuous because they had no claws.

                                             February 2016

These Days. Round Here.

There are no more larks
Round  here
Today and
Today and
These days
Round here
No eels
I remember
Larks anymore
Singing round
Eels anymore
Round here
Can be done so
Sorry and
So Mr. So and
So advanced today and so
These days
Round here anymore
Eels and larks
Round here

       January 2016

Let Slip
“Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist” George Orwell.

Open your chaotic heart
Let slip
What tsunami killed a sea?
What earthquake buried a world?
What volcano obliterated a species?
What disorder could order a holocaust?
What peace brought forth tumultuous freedom?
Where are the gods of liberty?
What saint gave you a piece of your world?
What guru left the stage?
What wisdom rises like a shout?

                       January 2016

The Word

Where at a word great spaces open in the firmament
Singing voices excavate the hillsides in unknown clefs
Language expands iron mouths,
Caves of adamantine vowels
Miraculous grammars
Prosodies of alchemy.  
The world is subject to the word!

                        December 2015

Go Tell the Mole

Go tell the mole…..
Under the stars,
Or tell the whale
A mile down,
Go whisper to the elephant
Where his fate leads,
Or to the bees
Where their interests lie,
Go tell the mole
The secrets of the earth.

               December 2015


From pole to pole
From the chateau to the glacier
From touch to touch
From the shadow camps to the flower
From St-Merri to Creteil
From the spoken word to the vast Mela
From Rimbaud to Messiaen
From the unswept sea
To the plateau
From being time to the constant way
From the albatross to the Kawahiva
From star swarms, whirlpools….
From emptiness
To tumultuous morning.

                   November 2015

Tortured Heart
Arthur Rimbaud

My poor heart drools at the poop
My heart is full of caporal
Spurting gobs of soup
My poor heart drools at the poop
Jeering from the troop
My poor heart drools at the poop
My heart is full of caporal.

Ithyphallic and pioupiesque
Insults have depraved my heart
At vespers painting frescos fresh
Ithyphallic and pioupiesque
O abracadabratic waves
Make my heart hurt less!
Ithyphallic and pioupiesque
Insults have depraved my heart.

When they’ve shot their wads
What shall we do my stolen heart?
Bacchic songs and Bacchic nods
When they’ve shot their wads
I’ll have to heave my guts
My stolen heart all gobbled up
When they’ve shot their wads
What shall we do my stolen heart?

                        November  2015

Note: This translation of Rimbaud’s poem was done with help from Pierre Michel and Jeff Morsman.
“Poop” is the rear of a ship in French as in English.
“Caporal” is corporal (the army rank) or a kind of French chewing tobacco.
“Pioupiesque” is meaningless in French as in English. It echoes poop.

“When they’ve shot their wads,” literally “When they’ve finished their quids.

Like an Echo

On entering the combe
What did I see?
Dilute gold
Motionless air  
Leaves falling
Like silence.

The buzzard lets go,
Emblem, or spell,
Flaps twice….glides,
The landscape slides backwards
In a long curve.

A wheeling cohort of birches
Obstructs my view.
The leaves touch the ground only now,
Like an echo.

                 October 2015


Scent of quince,
The velvet breath that blackens hearts.
Your hangman’s deep bow, wolf!
The loping flight, the gallows eye,
White night’s crooked laughter.

Ragged shouts,
Festivals of tatters, blown.
Cling to the wind!
Your nictatating eye of corpse
Your arrow tongue
Soft as a tear.

Pike-head,  stab-heart,
Let slip the black flag
Cracking in a shrill wind
Your soul of red silk
Your soul of red and black.

                   October 2015

Just This

Peaceful sunlight
Morning still and cool
The Himalayas
Nanda Devi and the Sanctuary
To the north.

                September 2015


This poetic
no, erase that,
                                       it’s just
we carry on
                           as if
                                       we had
              half a Valium
no vulgarity
 un-hip feeling
                                       beauty is
to be done
about  anything

                                          adamantine bunker
of irony
                   bicycle frame
                   broken tv
                   in the weeds
                   old man  
with a
drop on his nose



I am a migrant, although I was born here seventy years ago and my ancestors have been here since the ice age.
I am a refugee from this mean-spirited, petty-fascist, brutal little country into my own autonomy.
They can’t get rid of me but I have no loyalty to the State.
The Syrian family fleeing war are my brothers and sisters.
The Afghan penned in a cage is my comrade.
I grieve for my grandson washed up on a Turkish beach.
I rage over my brother drowned off Libya.
They are my compatriots
Who share my freedom.

                                            September 2015

Rimbaud is the shadow left on history by the flash.

Fuddled sky, black elms,
The white road……
Beer, bosoms and pink ham, upheld,
Haystack soirees, sullen stars,
Betrayed! And every Eden told….
That brattish visionary dawn
Sink deep in a blue lake!

You’re sixteen
You haughty bumfluff schoolboy
Pockets stuffed with rolled up verses,
Sticks of dynamite
Tied with Mama’s knickers’ lace
Sweet runaway without a ticket,
Buggered in a Paris jail
Poor heart!
All spit and baccy juice.

Absinthe assassin
Shitty smell in the noses of the sublime
Legislators of the world,
Savage child,
Robespierre de la poésie!
Impuissant jardin!
Scummy seer of disordered senses
A poet who changes reality!
Ransack the parlours of bourgeois culture.

Uproar in the Hotel de Ville!
The poor!
Les insurgés!
Vile stinkards!
Sweating, riotous doxies,

The poor….
The unknown dispossessed
The holy poor of Paris
Changing reality
Disordering all the senses
Those poets of the real,
Dancers on the gallows,
Les Communards,
Street sweepers,
Hungry urchins, rag men,
Seamstresses, cooks, scullions,
Vanished into the sunlight,
Their blood
Drying on the streets you walked
In that summer of seventy one,
Dreaming an upheaval of dreams
Heroic quest!
The same summer
The Communards died to a man and woman
Shot down
Behind barricades that defended your visions
Slaughtered in thousands
By the troops that define history…..
Poetry, dreams, culture
Looted into history,
The spoils of war,
Absinthe hashishin,
Great soul,
Igniting language beyond meaning,
Revolutionary flashes,
Cracked open by the searing light from the Invisible,
Les invisibles
That casts your shadow on history.

                                              August 2015


Blood-heart mother

Mother red-earth

Father yam
Father iron-hoe
Father red-foot

Brother Sorghum
Brother fill-bowl

Sister sow-seed

Palm-wine kola-ghost


Oracle fat-belly

Rain voice
River oracle

Oracle slash-and-burn
Yam ground


The earth is leaving us
The forest

Shrunk back to the root

Oracle lean-belly
Smoke oracle

The sky is leaving us
The wind from the north
Gone away

A city of ten million people
Dries up the wind

Mother blood
Mother red-earth
Mother tin-roof
Mother shanty-shack

Dry in the dust.

           August 2015

On a Forty Nine Million Year Old Fossil of a Swift

Flat as a shadow
Bird of coal
Broken, chaotic,
Rock bird….
Ragged as a fallen star.

Black asphodel
Pressed between the leaves
Of the book of shale,
Wings open
Drowned in the dust.

This work of death,
Hieroglyph written on a wave
Of crag-heave,
Rock more mutable
Than the configurations of chance
That write the bird.
Swifts in the Eocene,
In a hot, iceless world,
Before the Alps.

Swift form,
An idea
Arcing across time
Through the wind;
A curved thought
In curved air;
A swarm of cells…..
Blood-rich heart-race buzzing like a bass tone
Driving muscle loom
Bone weft         
Cortex neurone-galaxy
Spiralling above shifting continents
Up-lifting mountains,
New plants,
Different beasts;
The spellbound horses  
Rising from the birth of grass.

This work of death,
Cell swarm
Cut down
Shaped by winds of dissolution
Brought down in the dust
Spun forth again….
A dream
Hard as obsidian
Riding the gale.

This world,
In the Anthropocene,
Cold winds in late July
Blowing the birds south again
Circling down to Africa,
Seven million swifts on the move….
For every swift,
A thousand human beings.

Anthropocene swifts,
In a temperate world,
Second primary
Reaching longer than the first now,
Shaped by the air,
Tail more deeply forked,
Quicker to turn,
Ranging to China behind ice clawed back to the poles,
And we stand
Between these drifting shadows…..
Icehouse world
Greenhouse world
These cloud shadows…..
Who are
A glint of consciousness,
A flash,
We stand

  July 2015

Spinning the Wheel

Pinned down
On the point of Pembrokeshire,
Right here, coast path,
He’s spinning into a fractal wind  
A candyfloss sunburst.

The giggling elves are right on time,
Lay down your tattered shadow boy
On the pink, on the blue,
On the devouring light;
Place a bet on oblivion,
Let the luminous croupier
Guide your weightless hand.

Right here, coast path,
A forgotten world wells up.
He’s too heavy to raise his head now,
The kiss of life is on his lips.

                          July 2015

Something Fitting

I want to write something
About our English summer,
Our high summer,
Which has been so beautiful this year.

I am looking for a way into the subject,
A poetic voice,
A little like Cavafy perhaps,
Quietly elegiac,

I imagine I am sitting in an Alexandrian café with him
In the hot city night
Wearing a cinnamon coloured suit,
Maybe twenty years old, handsome, a poet,
And I am trying to explain to him
That the exquisite beauty of summer
Is really ours, of the north,
It belongs most passionately to us,
For whom it is most fleeting.

He tells me that I am able,
That I am just the man to write fittingly
About our beautiful northern summer,
To find a musical phrase
With something of our life in it
To express how like passing youth
A Summer is for us,
Like those lips once glimpsed in the dusk of the street,
Or in a café at midnight,
So quickly lost,
Never found again.

                                   June 2015

Black Screen
“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.”

Just for the kick
Twenty years old
Frankfurt, Summer ’64,
Dierk Hesse at the wheel
A gun
A lid of Moroccan kif
And what he called his “combat pipe”
In the pocket of a flying jacket.

100 klicks per hour
In a brand-new, grey, split-windscreen V.W. minibus
Down the entry ramp
Slap into Rheinmein USAF base
At the height of the Cold War
The M.P.s on the gate scattering….

Foot down through the base
And we’re out at the South Gate
The White Helmets running like rabbits
The engine screaming like a broken hairdryer.
He finds the pipe
He lights it between his teeth
He passes it to me as we slide onto the autobahn:
“Marrakesh Commando-Gruppe returning to base……….”
Just a movie
Just a hipster game…..

Back at base
We’re drinking beer out of bottles
In the Jazz Keller, chatting up
The black and white beat girls, listening
To a free jazz combo play Ornette Colman tunes….
In my pocket
The little .22 revolver he reactivated for me in the workshop to take to India,
For the hell of it….
“There are agents everywhere man.”

A few months later
I dumped the gun in the South China Sea
(Like you do)
Never was in Frankfurt again.
That endless Asian summer!
A new world lighting up the horizon.

Just now
I googled “Studio Kunsttechnik Metal”
And his name.
It’s fifty one years ago this summer.
The screen suddenly filled with references
Wikipedia in German
Links to websites
A history of urban terrorist groups
“The Red Commando Brigade.”

It seems they came to the studio
Told him they wanted props for a film
“A kind of revolutionary fiction”
Grenades, bomb casings,
That sort of thing.
He got cold feet.
They produced a gun.
“Just the metalwork, comrade…..
Just a movie.”

Six dead and forty two injured.
He was acquitted at the trial.

Sitting at the computer
In a kind of frozen reverie
The machine went into sleep mode
Black screen
And my own face looked back at me
Seventy one years old
Staring at me out of the darkness.

                                         June 2015


You always trailed a dream Jimbo  
One love
The dignity of a good heart
Justice regained.

On the street
Drinking White Lightning outside the offie in the summer
Playing on a three stringed guitar
Unobtrusive, precise, musical,
With the small yin yang sign tattooed on your cheek
Like Pierrot’s tear.

You carried your alcoholism lightly,
A bit tired at the end of the day, perhaps,
A bit too precise in your steps,
That smile,
Slightly self-mocking….
We both knew you had gone beyond reach.

“Drinking like a fool” 
That blues line says it all,
But to bump into you
Was always to receive a small gift somehow…
An assurance of my dignity,
Nothing special
Just what it was.

How long has it been now?
Three years?  Five years?
You had taken refuge in innocence
The unforgiven harmlessness of the lost.

I’m trying to dust them down
Those past summers,
Find some trace…..
I think it’s more than five years.

I came upon you sitting in a doorway,
And you were screaming quietly,
Almost inaudibly.
I sat down beside you in the sour smell of heavy drink.
I don’t think you could hear me.
I doubt you recognised me.
I never saw you again.

                            May 2015


The whitethorn grieves
Like a bride-at-the-graveside.
Her face grows green and pale….

Swifts (those gauchos)
Knives out
(It was about the girl),
Slash at the face of the wind.

                    May 2015

Just Another April Day

Blinded by the light.
From these eye-sockets
A dandelion sun winks.
Chimes of green or yellow,
(The ash that pours through the flame),
Enter demons of blue air,
The strident hours,
The white bone beyond the world.

                                 April 2015

“Who controls the past controls the future;
who controls the present controls the past.”

Let us make a revolution to overthrow History.
Let us rise up, oppose and completely overthrow
History and the Ascent of Man.
Let us shatter the Future,
Overwhelm Progress, Modernity,
Drive them down and destroy them utterly.
Let us crush the Evolution of Culture
Rise up and pull down the walls of Art and Culture
Forever lay them in the dust,
So that we may build another world
Deep in time
With the Awa, the Baka and the San
At its heart
As RNA is at the heart of the cell.

                                            April 2015

Isle of Dogs
For Alison Yates

The Sick Asylum,
Male, 37 years,
Emphysema and bronchitis,
Wine Warehouseman,
Of 10 Broad Street,
July 1889.

What did you bequeath me
Grandfather, Great Grandfather?
What river of self-replicating molecules?
What history?

What breathing lungs,
Grandfather, Great Grandfather?
What river?
What tidal flow
Down Greenwich reach
Past the Isle of Dogs?
What sharp and bitter anger?

I’m breathing within you
Grandfather, Great Grandfather,
In Mile End and Bow
I draw air into your lungs,
I draw air
And The Holy Spirit
In Stepney and Poplar
In St Anne Limehouse.

By London Wall
The river sweats.
In the furnaces of Los
And in the winepress treading day and night,
What did you bequeath me
Grandfather, Great Grandfather?
What history?  At what tables?
What sigh, running in blood?
What wine?
What bitter wine?

The corner of Broad Street weeps
Grandfather, Great Grandfather,
By London Wall it breathes in me
Draws breath in me
What history breathes?
What unknown grandchild
Bleeds into the mud at Passchendaele,
Grandfather, Great Grandfather,
(Coil and flow of molecules),
What river into darkness?
What broken river down Greenwich reach?
What dark river into the heart?

My feet are webbed with the Jews
Grandfather, Great Grandfather,
In Cable Street,
In Warsaw and Berlin,
In Stepney and Whitechapel under the bombs.
What river of flame?

What New Jerusalem,
Grandfather, Great Grandfather,
Builded here, on Estuary Marsh,
By Blackwall, building day and night,
By Spitalfields and Crock Lane?
What chartered Thames
By Commercial Road and Free Trade Wharf,
What trade and blood?
What Irish and Jew
Didikai, Lascar, African,
Delving here,
In blood and sweat, by Ratcliffe Highway,
By Globe Town and Limehouse Cut?
What dark Jerusalem
Builded here,
Grandfather, Great Grandfather?

                            March 2015


Your letter from prison arrived by the same post
As Katerina’s poems.
I opened the book.
Her shade slipped out.
Shadowed the floor.
(“Empty pill bottles.
Old poems”).
(Busted for vandalising police cars)….
She likes you.
(And slowly she falls apart again.
Weeping in the park.
Constituents of dust.
The type to die of freedom).

                     March 2015

Wake Up Call

The mind is their target  Katerina Gogou

Trapped in a world of intersecting lines
Like architecture
(It’s a film)
Make it up.
“Get me some men in white coats
Vicious, bald, total stereotypes, steel glasses, smelling of soap, get them to come crashing through doors, breathing through their noses.
Get me a shot of a severed hand in the deepfreeze.
Get someone to start building this set
Tell those fuckers to get down here with nail-guns and an angle grinder,
Do it.
Just do it. 
Like in the sixties.
The Fear.
Get me some of that Fear.”
You start running.
It’s a tower block
You just make it into the elevator
They’re trying to wrench the doors apart
Fingers writhing through the rubber.
It’s going up and up.
And they’re running up the stairs
They just keep coming and coming
Smashing through the doors, the corridors,
Every time you turn a corner,
Setting the air-conditioning clattering.
Out on the roof you slide the bar across the steel door.
You look over the parapet.
You begin to wonder.
It’s a hundred floors straight down
The pigeons are crawling through the air down there.
Dead time…
“Get me Special Effects!
Get me explosives!
We’re going to blow the door off the goddamn roof-house
They’ll come bursting out of the smoke with baseball bats and hypodermic syringes.”
You’re backed up against the parapet now
They’re squirting little fountains of drug
Out of the syringes
The size of……
Tapping the glass to get the bubbles out
Judiciously squinting.
They are about to lay hands on you
Take them both by their shirt fronts
Lift them off their feet
And throw them back over your head.
You turn round.
You see them pedalling all the way down.
You hear them slam into the ground
With a sound like a car crash.
You’re a black cockerel
With red legs
Painted by Picasso
Ink dripping from its feathers.
Crowing so loud
It’s rattling the windows.

                       February 2015

That Morning

Why do I remember that morning?
It’s the early summer of nineteen sixty nine
Or nineteen seventy
About five a.m.
I’m on the sandy path
Just inside the clear-felled woodland,
Fresh deer tracks…
I’m standing side-on to the cottage.

It seems I’ve moved outside myself over the years.
I see myself in profile
And from slightly above…
Young and upright
Just standing there in the sunrise
No one else awake.

And the world is ringing
It’s seething with bird song
A willow warbler
All the birds
Just that moment,
The warm risen sun,
Both of us,
Standing quite still.

         February 2015

Blake in Felpham

He’s beset by angels
Heaven knocks on his door
A shower of light,
That queasy apocalypse…
The golden gates
The robes of air
Her tread upon the sky.                 

It could be
A summer day
Good William Blake
A day to mulch the turnips
Awash with sunlight
Reeling with eternity
Their fairy antics

Grown vegetable along the drills
Another use of time…
But this harrowing moment!
This perfect tilth!
This pattern of paradise!  

               January 2015  

Seize the Day

It’s more than forty years
I’ve walked these streets
At night, under the same stars
Hearing the same hollow wind that crowds the trees,
Seeing Orion and Sirius among the branches,
Jupiter and Saturn
Sliding imperceptibly through the constellations…
The endless stars.

In those forty years
Half the animals have gone
From this world
Orbiting this star,
That turns to face Orion again,
Arcturus, Vega, the Pleiades
And all the configurations of chance
Out in the freezing depths.

Back then we thought we’d seized the day.
We thought the tide flowed with us.
It overwhelmed us
Who have learned
We fully lived
Those last days of a healthy planet
Of a sustaining climate
Of real hope.

                     January 2015

When Does It Arrive?

The wind shakes the branches,
Birds cling in ones and twos.
Are blown away again.
The curved flight of a gull,
A slow arc,
Like music,
Like the unstoppable
Arc of emotion,

When does it arrive?

The totality of summer,
“Lost in autumn,”
Where is the place
Between this and that
Across which nothing
Is ever transmitted?
What occurs there
In the wind?
The wind….

When does it arrive?

            December 2014

The Door in the Field

When you find the door in the field
You see that the landscape on either side 
And the landscape through the half-open door,
Behind the insubstantial door and door frame,
Is continuous,
It’s the same landscape…
The roll of the hill
And the fall of the wood
The larks singing over the corn.

Nothing changes
And you do not notice
That now
You are on the other side of the door
Looking in.
That’s just how it is.
Your neighbours observe you
Looking in upon the real world
Through a door they can’t see
And it puzzles them about you.

                      December 2014

The Shaping Space

You’re not going very far
Are you?
The atoms you are
Just a splash of water
A few minerals
Staining the water
Enough to freshen the flowers
Or house a fish
Now the shaping space
Has moved on.

        November 2014

The Funeral of Buenaventura Durruti

“All of Barcelona was on the streets
Half a million people walked behind the coffin
Not counting those who lined the way
Or were in the windows, on the rooftops,
In the trees along the Ramblas.
It was grandiose, sublime, extravagant.
No it wasn’t a royal funeral.
It was a popular funeral.
Nothing ordered
Everything spontaneous, improvised.
It was an anarchist funeral and therein lay its majesty!

The crowd moved forward without being led
There had been neither orders nor prior organisation
Everything happened anyway
In the centre a cavalry detachment and some motorised troops
That someone had ordered to precede the coffin
Who represented a militarism he detested
Were hemmed in
The motorcycles revved their engines
The automobiles honked their horns unable to go forwards or backwards
The horses reared.

At 10.00 am
Militiamen from the Durruti Column
Carried his body out of the anarchist building on their shoulders
The crowds raised their fists
And the coffin bearers couldn’t take a step
It was impossible to form the funeral procession
It took half an hour to clear a path 
It took hours to reach the Plaza de Cataluna
Which was only a block away
Where the massive procession,
The flower of Spanish Anarchism,
At last assembled at the foot of the Christopher Columbus Statue
Where Ascaso had been killed
On the first day of the beautiful season.
This the last
Now in freezing wind and rain coming on.
On the last day, too, 
Of the world that arose with Don Quixote
That dreamer who had more heart than sense.

The crowds filled the cemetery
Blocked the way to the tomb
Thousands of wreaths covering the path
Making the approach even more difficult.
Night fell
It began to rain torrentially.
The cemetery turned into a sea of mud
Drowning the flowers.

The previous day
They brought along Durruti’s suitcase with the body
To the National Sub-Committee building.
It was the only luggage he carried with him.
It was old and small.
What did it contain?
It was almost empty except for a dirty change of clothes and a shaving kit.
That’s all it held.
That’s all he took with him to the battle for Madrid.
That was the entirety of Durruti’s baggage.”

                                     November 2014

Note: This poem has been assembled from the accounts of two eyewitnesses who both knew Durruti, Ariel, the war correspondent for the anarchist periodical “Solidridad Obrera” and the French writer E H Kaminski. I have rewritten some of the material and interpolated sections of my own composition. 

Ibises and Bison  For Dave James on reading his “Ibis on the Roof or How to Spell.”

"Bison" is an insult to bisons
These singular plural are contemptuous.
(Think of "the negro" 
And "the jew"). 
Long ago,
In the morning of the world,
Ibis perched on the shoulders of man,
Probed their brains with those long bills
And planted morsels of respect in there.
Consider "wildebeest"
"The plains are filled with wildebeest."
Or "Europeans" and "Chinese".....
(Surely Chineses or European?)
"A flood of European are out there
Threatening to overwhelm us"
(The pink peril)....
Now contemplate "elephant"
The poor elephant
“A great herd of elephant”
Tusker and cow
Hunted to extinction for their ivories...

                               October 2014

Orwell in Catalonia

Quixote tilts at a typewriter
An Old Holborn rollup between his lips
The keys banging like a Gatling gun
Sees the stars over a farmer’s barn
The wise animals in the straw
Their innocent eyes…

Every night is Christmas when the workers win,
When the beasts speak,
He pays homage
To love, humanity, decency…
And smells the shit and the lies
The pigs plotting in the Generalitat.

This bristling man
His head above the parapet
Stands at the centre of an explosion
(A bullet shot through his scraggy neck)
Thinks… “The fascist who just killed me
I would have shot him too if I could.”

Orwell in Catalonia
Fighting on the streets of Barcelona in May 1937
“Revolutionary posters flaming from the walls
In clear reds and blues”
The beautiful season slipping away
His wounded voice just a whisper.

Homage is the word to warm a ghost…
No cold ghost in the damp slums of the North
Nor ghost haunting the polite fascism of the Shires;
But a ghost in the Catalan heat and light
Dodging bullets on the Ramblas
Where workers once had guns in their hands
And defeated an army.
Look for him there.

                                       October 2014

The Good Morrow

The loggers’ camps are abandoned,
The rivers flow on,
The jungle returns,
The last of the hiding tribes
All their familiar country
At peace again.

Terra incognita
The seas thick with whales
Those remote islands
Outposts of the albatross
And the fur seal
Lost to memory.

The Indian lovers lie
Their waking souls, no better hemispheres….
The sea-discoverers have gone
To dream new worlds.

Tomorrow everything was known.
Now the known is all behind us,
We sail
Towards our own lost continent.

                         September 2014

Just Another Autumn

The leaves fall down
Like broken hearts
(Or is the world
Hamming it up again?)

It’s just another autumn
It’s like a gesture…
Only now
Nothing moves at all.

            September 2014

Late August

Cold winds from the north in late August
A breath of robin song, released
By the drop in temperature
From that cellular current,
Flow of copying molecules,
Assembled from the world
Into the bird singing now,
Poured forward,
The song, like the bird,
A pattern in the flow off alchemical intelligence,
A shape, a memory, 
An association of particles…

An association with autumn
Going back sixty years in my memory,
That electro-chemical flow
Assembled in the ecosystem of consciousness,
A pattern of neurones firing…
The bird, as light as thought,
Lichen green, bark brown,
A flickering configuration of chance and necessity
A song assembled
From wind-voice, water-voice,
The voice of winter
Going back a million years
Into the past.

                                   August 2014


A mullah hurls a black cat
From the highest minaret
But when God sees the screaming cat
(Its ears flat back, its claws outspread)
He quickly throws a blessing down
(It travels with the speed of light)
And with a flash the cat’s a swift
Flung high above the town.

Great God be praised for the dashing swift,
Its wings are the swords of justice!
Great God be praised for the screaming swift
Its cries are the Suras of triumph!
Great God be praised for the black tear drops
That slide down the cheek of heaven.

                                        August 2014


Sometimes you wake up just before dawn,
And half asleep, sense that something immense is approaching.
You can hear the blackbirds talking about it in awed voices,
Or there is a spray of gull cries from the across the city
As if they had all flown up at once,
Or the sound of the motorway sighing
Like time beginning to move.
But if you look out to see what’s happening
All you see is the grey morning
The tired, ordinary morning. 
It’s better, then,
To fall back into sleep
The blackbirds at your ears
Speaking of a vast, timeless dawn that is walking out of the East
Like a blessing.

                                               July 2014

Behind those gates
A high-tech company
On a suburban road
In a quiet neighbourhood
In July heat.

Smell of hot creosote from the fences
Scent of flowering privet
Birds singing
Mothers in summer frocks
Buggies and babies.

Now look carefully at the ants’ nests
In the cracks in the pavement
That childhood memory
The busy ants
The crumbled soil spilling out
The grass verge.

It’s cool in the offices,
Systems engineers
In their shirt sleeves
In air conditioning
The glimmer of computers.
Below, outside,
The neat corporate planting
The car park
The black-clad security guards
The peace
In this moment.

Another city.
A flash.
A heavy detonation, perfectly engineered.
A dead silence after the explosion
In this moment
Two thousand miles away
Over the curve of the world
A child bleeding to death
Her lungs choked with dust
Bleeding into the broken glass and concrete
Rustle of settling masonry

A North Somerset village
Almost deserted in the daytime
The peace
Heavy in the summer heat,
The stillness…
The park gates
The silent eighteenth century house
The daughters
Away at a good school in the cathedral town.
“He is in Aerospace”
As if it’s in the ultraviolet light
Above the curve of the world.

And there is always
That pleasant drifting feeling
In the shopping mall
In the air conditioning.
The silent shoppers
The freshly-washed pastel colours,
The brands
The images of style
And wealth.

                    July 2014

The Beautiful Season

This is the beautiful season
The season of light
The season of high clouds
Piled up over Aragon
Over Catalonia, over Valencia,
Over the harvest
In the summer of 1936.
(Now, in this summer!)
Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia,
In the long days
In the marvellous season,
Women and men
Bathing naked in the sea at noon                        
While the churches are burning,
The stones of the churches
Built into roads,
Foundry workers, peasants,
Who have abandoned their names…
The fishermen pour out their catch
At their feet.
This is the marvellous season
Season of forests
Season of the wind,        
Season of the City,
The streets overwhelmed,
Filled with the dispossessed
The wretched and hungry
Breaking bread, pouring wine,
The season of music
The season of courage and love,
The season of seas and abundance      
(Now, in this summer!)
This is the beautiful season
When we find our hearts
When we find our reckless hearts
When we peel away the layers
And find the void
And sow it with our love
And plant it with our liberty

                           June 2014.

Note: This poem celebrates the spontaneous anarchist uprising that occurred during the military coup led by Franco, the coup that precipitated the Spanish Civil War.

Sam Dolgoff, the American anarchist writer, estimated that about eight million people participated directly or indirectly in the Spanish Revolution, which "came closer to realizing the ideal of the free stateless society on a vast scale than any other revolution in history."

Across the Solstice

Swifts arc across the Solstice
In summer starlight
On the high edge of dawn
The air pink with pheromones
Insects rising with the light
Jupiter and Mercury
Hanging like lamps
And black wings, black fins
Spiral up
Slicing the stars to shivers
To star spray, Solstice glow.

                  June 2014

The Shade of Robert Desnos

A thin black shadow
Like nothing else on earth -
It’s the shadow of a cat -
Flees along the roads from Terezin to Cretiel
From Creteil to Paris.

In Quartier St-Merri
It runs off with the shadow of a tramp
The tramp waves his stick
He dances and curses,
Red wine and vomit splatter his chops
The two shadows chase each other
Stirring up the feathers in the gutter.

The tramp knows his shadow will never come back to him now.
Where rue St Martin meets rue de la Verrerie
He watches the cat
Gather the shadows of Paris into the night.

The cat steals the shadow from the old pharmacist
Who walks home alone along rue St Martin.
A weeping girl watches her shadow run after them.
The spiralling night is filled with black flames
The shadows of poems and stars.

The shade of Robert Desnos
Gathers the shadows into the night
That slip under doors
That descend from the bells of St Martin-des-Champs
That fall from the wings of the poor hungry pigeons.
The shade of Robert Desnos
Gathers all the shadows of Paris
Into the warm spring night.

                                 May 2014

Note: The surrealist poet Robert Desnos died in Terezin concentration camp shortly after it was liberated in June 1945. He had been imprisoned in Buchenwald and Auschwitz for his work with the Resistance. He was remembered by Holocaust survivors for his generosity, courage and surreal humour. One of his poems is called “The Cat Like Nothing Else on Earth.”


Two small black dragons
With curved wings
(One would sit on the palm of your hand).
A castle in the clouds
Above Sussex or Hampshire.
A little Chinese girl
At home with her old smiling father
(Wispy beard, his hands in his sleeves, eyes like rising suns).
Of course
The man in the deerstalker hat
Will take you there by balloon,
You can safely walk over the clouds to the castle gate,
Look down from the battlements
Above Arundel, or the South Downs,
Higher than the larks.
And the dragons fly right through the castle walls
And the walls of the oriental room
Where the laughing Chinese girl
In her brocade gown
Serves green tea.
And they will fly right through you
If you get in the way
Like shards of obsidian.

                         May 2014

Blue Remembered Hills

In that far country,
Under the same hills,
Among the remembered hours,
Among the distant farms, the spires,
The recollection of a verse
Written before the Great War,
The sky filled with larks then
In Herefordshire in June
And forty years ago, unchanged,
Corn buntings singing on the fence posts along the lanes
The cuckoos calling like ghosts all day
As they always had,
And there is only this widening silence now…
This absence.
When did the world lose its memory?

                                       April 2014

Bird and I

5.00 a.m.
I dreamed I was lying in a roadside ditch near Bird.
Blue sky...
Somewhere in the desert.
I’m holding a stainless-steel .38 automatic
And Bird and I have hit the dust because of the near presence of an assassin.
I see him up ahead looking for us.
He’s a bald white man
Looks like a bureaucrat.
I level the gun and take aim.
The trigger won’t pull because the safety catch is on.
Bird and I are still trying to find the catch when I wake up.
In the next dream Bird is still around.
Just his head.
It looks like a large white stone
Or an egg.
Radiant, like the music.

                                           April 2014

Golden Age

I went back into my life,
The sun burning still,
The sea, just beyond my shadow,
Curved to the edges of the world,
As it was then,
But everything richer, more alive, louder,
Like an echo is more of a voice…
More pure
Like a well filled with rain that fell years ago,
The colours more vigorous,
Grown stronger, darker,
The pines, the rocks,
More resinous and fragrant.
I went back into my life
Into that golden age
Before I became who I am
And found it again
Richer, more alive.

      March 2014

Nine Tongues

Wolf tongue
Lion tongue
Tongues of the sea
Eagle tongue
Tongues of flame
White tongues of the stars
Moon tongue
A tongue of air
The sweet tongues of night.

                        March 2014

Left Behind

It’s a still afternoon, a long time ago,
I’m walking through an empty English village
Guarded by a vast motherly sun reaching down
Over vegetable gardens, summer flowers,
Sparrows dusting in the seed drills,
And I've been left behind,
The place deserted,
Only the carved voices of the birds,
The people
All gone away into the future,
And the sun shining like a jailer.
Beyond the village, along the lane,
Vacant fields, watchful oaks,
The bright corn
Silently becoming Demeter,
The startled partridge chicks
Running in the dust along the field margin,
The Woodcock, with their great black eyes,
Safe in the cool of the wood.

                     February 2014

Things Fall Apart

Throughout the winter
Jupiter moved within Gemini
Orion and Sirius towards the West
Vega and Aldebaran circled the Pole.
In this house above the city
Gales shook the windows, rain
Spattered the glass, blurring the city lights.     
Deep troughs, one after another, like waves,
Brought storms and floods across the country.
The familiar configurations of the stars,
All we have ever known,
Are imperceptibly falling apart:
Polaris moves from its place above the pole,
The stars in Orion
Drift away from one other,
Within cells, DNA configurations,
Transient and mutable, recombine,
Adapting to change.
Complex species,
The surface layer of evolution only,
Are vulnerable and impermanent,
Passing like shadows over the biosphere.
This benign age
An era of inter-glacial stability
That fostered diversity and abundance,          
Enriched forests and savannahs
Made fertile the seas,
Has been disrupted by the evolution of human intelligence,
A sharp gradient of disturbance
Feeding increasing energy into climate systems,
Altering the balance of albedo,
The earth, like some great animal,
Stretching, shaking its pelt,
Waking up.
The storm batters the windows.
In Africa my house swifts
Drift further north.
Fragile and temporary
We share this dream
This turning moment.

                      February 2014


No, it’s not the same;
It’s never the same.
Only this…
The cruelty is reborn,
The old disease spreads,
This up welling of the fascist unconscious,
These self-righteous dogs
Snarling over a “parasitic untermensch,”
These pogroms against the wretched and defenceless managed by officials of the State,
This ideology of a superiority won through struggle,
Through the fight for survival,
This absolute right of the strong,
This rising hatred of the outcast,
The dispossessed,
This transference of evil,
This acquiescent population,
This old fear,
Fear of being summoned,
Of interrogation,
Of being driven from your home,
Of loss of livelihood,
Of hunger and cold…
This final solution of forced labour
For private corporations
Which are the State.

No, it’s not the same;
Not in kind
Not in scope,
It’s never the same.
Only this…
The cruelty is reborn,
The old disease spreads.

         January 2014


Line 8. The word “untermensch,” although associated with the Nazis, was borrowed by them from Lothrop Stoddard, an American conservative who theorised a threat to society from the “underman.” In The Revolt Against Civilisation (1922) Stoddard proposed that civilisation placed an increasing burden on the individual leading to an underclass that cannot keep up and a “ground-swell of revolt.”

The Beast  for Dave James

Finally, it turns out,
I’m invincible.
All I did was run…
Run and get stronger
While the Beast lost ground all the time.
These days it’s tame,
Cringing and fawning at my heels,
Knows that where I’m headed
It can’t reach.

            January 2014

Back Then

Back then
In the early sixties,
I used to get out of the country as soon as I had any money,
Hitch south across Europe alone,
Down to Spain, Greece,
Eighteen, nineteen years old.

I would quit the job I had,
Those endless dead afternoons hearing the Beast getting closer,
Quit the Mob Poets in the pub,
The Xeroxed poetry magazines,
The Art School girls,
And get out on the road where I could breathe again.

The adrenalin felt like champagne
Or being in love,
But really it was fear…
Fear of missing The Connection
Fear of being pulled down out of orbit,
Out of freefall,
(The curved world at my feet,
The weightlessness)
Fear of time getting away from me,
Brother Time, Sister Time,
Getting away from me…

Listen. In those days
The roads passed right through the cities
And I just kept on going
Pushing on through the nodes of fear
Until the sun and the white stones rose up…
I wasn’t traveling to see the sights.

Brother Time, Sister Time,
I lay on the grass verge
Beside the road outside Salzburg
On the way to India
With one hand on the surface of the road
Cars going past inches away…
And no one stopped.
I didn’t want a lift
I wanted to be alone,
Feeling the road
Feeling its strength
The same road
Rolling out into India, China,
Across Asia where it was always summer
Across time
Across the light

Brother Time, Sister Time,
Time and light
And the purifying sun that burns away sorrow
And if you keep pace with the light
You will return to a world beyond your time
To the valley where the moon descends
To the island
Where the roads pass through your dreams.

                                       January 2014

His Flame

A Gloucestershire summer,
After a long hot day,
The children, dead weights of sleep in our arms,
Put to bed unwashed
While the sun still shone.

“They’re both asleep.”
It might have been…
“There’s a winged being outside,”
The door open,
Brush of wings, air…
Then quiet at last;
When will we recall his youth, his strength, his flame,
His peace?

                             December 2013


Mandela’s death hit me.
I feel depressed; reduced
Now he's gone.
I played “Motherless Child” on the street
Under the sour eye of the Romanian gypsy Big Issue seller.
She doesn’t like the competition.
I don't care what she likes
But I love her defiance.
It seemed like she was trying to hex me...
I was finding it difficult to shape the tune.
But it wasn’t her.
The people on the street looked absent
What Rexroth called “looted minds.”
I just kept playing, thinking of Ayler.
Not a penny.
I just kept on with it, into the greyness.
No comprehension.
But the stones were listening…
It’s like I’ve lost someone close to me.

                  December 2013

What is Not There

Under these faint city stars,
Beside a low moon, bright as a street lamp…
Beneath the bare trees in the park
The dark, autumnal smell of fallen leaves
A smell absent for years
Hits me like a surfacing memory.

We don’t notice
When we die…
The gap that opens in us        
In our senses, which are all we are…
We don’t notice
What is not there.

This quickening pang,
This richness, suddenly gone again,
The flash recall of childhood,
Immediate, sharp,
A whole forgotten world raised up…
Is this how the dead see us?

                         November 2013


Badger lives in a council house
He’s been on the sick for years
Keeping his head down
Smoking whole packets of fags
Coughing and wheezing
Asleep half the day.

Just look at the muddy path to his door
The stinging-nettles in the garden
Curtains drawn
Rubbish strewn all around
Just chucked out anywhere
Old sofas, damp bedding.

Badger still wears Brylcreem
There are white streaks in his hair
His old grey herringbone overcoat is a disgrace
His chavvy kids use hair gel
Half a dozen of them in there
Getting stoned.

We’ll sort him out
His kind infects the herd
Happily chewing the cud
Waiting to be milked
Galloping up and down
In their black and white England strip.

But old Badger’s been around for ever
Long before the bovine masses
Factories full of idiot chickens.
Some say the herd infected Badger
That he’s indestructible anyway…
Time will tell.  

                         November 2013


Tiger, your tracks are under the flame-of-the-forest trees
In the black mud of the path
Past Pughan’s garden…
His house empty for days
The dog gone
Just me in the forest now
Alone in the temple
An oil lamp left burning on the veranda all night.

Tiger, villagers say you drink at the temple spring
They say it with horror and disgust
As if you were a demon or a vampire
But I imagine you crouching to lap the water
Head down, shoulder-blades raising your pelt,
Lapping with that great hot tongue
Finding such solace
In the water of Sita’s Spring.

Tiger, I bar the door at night
There are teakwood bars on the window too
But I go out into the night sometimes
To the track under the trees beyond the gate
I talk quietly to you then
Knowing you could be just there in the darkness
Unconcerned, watching, calm,
Waiting for me to go.

Tiger, the dawn, grey and immense,
Assembles with apocalyptic clamour
The birds seethe and echo like a well
Deer bark and call…
When I blow the conch
Your roars answer through the mist along the valley
You are swallowing the world whole.

                     October 2013


Coal fire red sunrise…
During the night
The Pleiades rose,
Orion stood above the horizon.
Later, a half-moon in the morning
Tipped down above the sun
Fragile as glass...
Old flame-haired sun
Raising a glass.

        October 2013


She lies in fragments
Warm as touch
The Pleiades 
Are in her hair
Beside her hand,
The setting moon-
The moonlight
Is her milk white dress,
Three turquoise cats
Guard her watch...
Her hair is dressed
With asphodel.

        September 2013


Autumn is blowing in.
The jet stream snakes between latitudes
More to the South now.
The spinning world
Stirs waves and whirlpools in the atmosphere
That form along the boundary
Between tropical and polar air,
Cyclones running West to East
Twisting anti-clockwise,
Dragging dense oceanic rain clouds up
Over sinking Arctic air,
Behind each vortex
A cold swell
Spume-flecked with thunder cumulus
Pulls polar maritime winds
Down from the North West.

The biosphere reacts, contracts,
Mirrors the sinuous atmosphere.
Forests, seen from space,
Show a moving shadow of browning leaves
Sinking from the North.
Migrating birds retreat
Flow around storm cells.
I am sitting in this early autumn garden…
The robin sings in the late sun.

                  September 2013

The Border

Up on the border
In this desert country
Time is evaporating
Time is as thin as the wind.

Pale fox of the outlands
Skirting the gaps in the world 
Where stars drift apart
Galaxies fall asunder.

Deep in the interior
Time was another country
Immense, green,
Gazing in upon us.

Those long years
Wandering through
The world’s confusions,
Untangling the wind.

  August 2013

The Perseids

The Perseid meteors shower down.
This warm, living world
Arcs through a trail of comet debris
The dust from a close shave
Strewn across the orbits of the planets.
August night, under a weight of stars,
A trace of peril scratches the earth’s faint bloom,
In the cold house beyond the sun
The comet is frozen in deep space again,
Out of sight
Falling back towards the light…
On earth, stars seem to fall from the sky,
Burn out as quick as a breath,
The centre of the galaxy
Like a road overhead
Like a mirage…
Too distant to separate its stars
Too close to see it at all. 

                  August 2013


Even into her sixties
She had the aura of a young Edwardian woman about her,
Something of the light of that era, the echo
Of those distant summers
In her period clothes
Her cool femininity.

She lodged with my grandparents
In the red-brick terraced house
Of an industrial Midland town.
In a lost photograph, a graceful girl,
Very beautiful,
In a long dark skirt and white blouse
Stands resting her hand on a small table.

“Her fiancé was killed in the trenches.”
 (My mother)
“She was a spinster all her life”

That cold dismissive word “spinster”…
The shadow of the war.

It was Auntie Jessie who always met me at the station
With a twinkle in her eye,
Travelling on my own, aged six or seven,
Delivered from the guard’s wagon of a steam train.

She showed me the way down the alley
To the railway sidings behind the house
How to cross the tracks safely
How to reach the bridge above the main line
To see the express-train crashing through…
“You be careful crossing the lines”…
A cucumber sandwich when I got back
My clothes reeking of coal smoke.

I realise now that she was modern
In that dark Victorian house.
I once glimpsed into her room,
Bright, airy, the window open.
“She had a very good job”
(My mother)
A job in the office of the engineering works
Beside the railway
Where my grandfather had been a toolmaker.

She lived in that house for forty years,
The spinster aunt.
Cared for my grandparents through old age and sickness
And then moved in with a friend.

“Jessie got nothing”.

But every week through my childhood in the Fifties
She sent a tight roll of comics by post
The Dandy, The Beano and The Eagle,
You heard it thump through the letterbox
You tore the address wrapper off
Smelled the fresh ink…
“Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future”

And I remember on one visit
She took me to watch her play in the town symphony orchestra.
She was a cellist.
I was small, on my own in the crowded auditorium,
She looked very distant and strange.

I never heard her play in the house
My mother said she would hear her practice sometimes,
But she was never asked to play for the family
Perhaps they did not know,
And never considered,
That such a thing was possible.

                        July 2013

The Light of Day

On this journey
Never forget the light of day,
The heat of the sun,
The summer sky,
Don’t forget them.

Don’t abandon the memory
Of the warm hours,
Of breath
Keep them fresh in your mind.

Remember the swift passage of time
The years so soon lost
The days of peace
And abundance.

Hold fast to the memory
Of eternity found
A long time ago
Eternity found again.

          July 2013


There is no theme yet
But the poem is here
Like the summer
Like the succession of weathers
Tumbling among the trees,
Like the sun fleeing
And the shores and reaches,
Like the blue highways...

                        June 2013


All through the afternoon
The elder flowers were opening.
Do you remember the immortal summers?
The grass still warm at night,
Scorpius, and red Antares,
Low in the south
On the solstice,
When a faint light moved across the Pole
Diminishing the stars...
The skylarks above the hills at sunrise
In a slow wind from the Azores,
Do you remember the incorruptible hours?

                                    June 2013

A Corner of the Lane

Maybe it was July
In the heat
A corner of the lane
In just that moment.

Or waiting
In the silence
In the dark meadow
Where the track entered the wood.

Or it’s a summer evening
She’s walking home through the mowing grass
In the late sun
In heels
And a green dress
A moment never touched again
A scent only
A fragrance.

         May 2013

The Afternoon Sun

This café by the harbour,
This must be the café I remember so well. This door
Must be the same door that was here fifty years ago
With these iron fittings and the same blue paint,
And although there are now other cafés along the waterside
Behind the tamarisk trees,
I think this must be the café I remember.

And sure enough
As if to tell me this is the one
There are framed photos on the walls
Showing the harbour as it used to be then:
The old Aegean island ferry, the fishing caiques,
The same trees
Looking thicker and healthier
Nostalgic pictures of a bygone era.

I have brought some black and white snapsots with me
Which the waiter shows to the old men
(They are only my age)
Playing backgammon by the bar,
But no one recognises anyone,
The old men shrug and pass the pictures back,
Fifty years is a long time,
Perhaps those people moved on, or died.

I sit on the side of the door where I used to sit
Drinking coffee.
The place is edgier these days
Much like the rest of the world,
Kids cruise by on scooters
A television stutters...

And slowly the afternoon sun,
Beginning to shine under the tamarisk trees,
Reaches just to my table
As I remember it always did.

                         May 2013

The Hare

A hare among the flints
As still as a stone
But warm, alert, unblinking,
Facing into the wind.

The high field
Ploughs the stars.
Ice whispers in the ruts
Of a field of barren flint
Above a house long gone,
A name only now,
A patch of richer ground
Where nettles grow.

        April 2013

A Perfect Grass

Not one, not many,
But a deeper unity,
We are shapes of the world.

Some other summer,
Lying on the Downs,
Looking at the tall bents
Against the sky
I understood Dogen:

“You must surely know,
The void is a perfect grass.”

          April 2013


Buried under an east wind
Beneath snow clouds
And a narrow sky
Rolled round with the falling earth…
The faces in the air
Closing out the light.

             March 2013

Jay   for Alis

What is it that is left now
That reveals no trace?
And what is this no-trace
That continues endlessly?

What is it that is here,
This emptiness…
A shape of the world?
The world this shape?

From emptiness
We will take what we can
Take a little
Or take a lot

Take a part
Or take the whole
The emptiness
Will not run dry.

From emptiness
We will take what we chose
This no-trace
Is an open hand

Take a part
Or take it all
A shape of the world
The world 
His shape.

             March 2013


We came out of a cold high country
Following the mountain roads
Among a stony intractable people
The cities freezing
Wreathed in wood-smoke,
The passes barren,
Just rocks and distance
And a long journey down to the plains,
The river,
Smelling of vegetation,
And warm air.

One bright pearl
Like a sudden spring
But a different country
With strange seasons
And an unfamiliar light.

Nothing is the same now
This is another sun 
The stupas dissolving in the atmosphere
Parrots wrangling in the trees
Birth-and-death, one thing again,
The little red gods in their wayside shrines
Like fat babies 
Sticky with milk and ghee.

                       February 2013


Coal bones
Old diamond eye
Tar foot, blood oil,
Chained in bedrock
Grinding the black sap of the sun.

Sea bloom,
Blue green roiling cyanopheta
Swallowing light
Exhaling a miasma
Prometheus the cursed.

In green flame
The world burned
Long ago
A toxic wasteland
Nothing but ice and death.

In green flame
Agni shines against the dawn
In the beginning
Matarisvan, Pramantha,
Order and sacrifice restored
In green flame
In fire and sagacity
And this world.

The word
Prometheus, forethought
The word
Pramantha, the fire bow
Touching the world
The artificer.

Diamond eye, tar foot,
Blood oil…
Exxon Aquila probes his guts:
A miasma
Touching the world.

       February 2013

The Hour of Prophecy

The hour before dawn
Is the hour of prophecy
The winter thrush
Calling like a voice
After Orion has set
When the summer constellations return
Ahead of sunrise.

Dog days of an exhausted season
Orion and Sirius
Emerge from behind the sun
Move deeper back into the night
Into winter
The axis now
Inclining towards the stars.

In the last hour of night
We look into the future
Along the line of orbit.
The hour before dawn
Is the hour of prophecy.

           January 2013

Flowing Water

Flowing water
Slakes this thirst,
Cold pools,
Shade among the rocks
Under the planes.
The sky,
The broken sun,
Splintered in the leaves.

Cool sands
Lift me into sleep
Flowing through the surface of the world:
Sweet sounds, run softly…

Who arrived at now?
Above the water
Three indigo nymphs, 
Wavering fragments of another world, 
Beautiful Demoiselles
Iridescent, blue.

Nymphs of this place
(By the cool water the breeze murmurs)
My heart
Floats downstream…

                           January 2013

“By the cool water...”   Sappho: The Garden of the Nymphs.
Beautiful Demoiselle: Calopteryx virgo.

The Sun the Moon and the Stars

The sun is a burning house.
The windows are ablaze...
Slowly the roof-tree will fall in
And the walls collapse.

The moon is a fish
It turns this way and that
It can jump out of the sky
At any moment.

The stars are musical notes
Perfect intervals separate them
Or they can be
Just a touch…
Cold fingers on your stops.

                      December 2012

Trachila Beach

Between these shattered cliffs
A febrile, convulsed sea,
So blue,
So wracked with foam,
The beach,
Narrow, steeply shelving,
Sliding away into deep water.

No one comes here anymore
After the track down was washed away:
If I swim out much further in this undertow
I am never coming back...

The sea loves me, the sea
Wants to rock me in her arms.

Fighting all the way back up onto the beach
The shore at the water’s edge
Like quicksand,
Sucked from beneath my feet…
I am naked
Feeling the sharp texture of the world,
Abrasive, and gritty,
And the sun, burning.

Flat on my back.
Swifts break away from the cliff face
Like falling stones
Crack back in,
Like the film
Run in reverse

Black swifts
Above the spray
Through this blue mist.

Behind me, up in the valley,
Along the dry river bed,
The oleanders
Are as pink as a naiad’s kiss.

                             December 2012

Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud

A sudden memory of her
Came back to me tonight
I don’t know why it came back after so long
So complete
Or why I remembered the time
It was about a week
That we spent together in Paris
In the flat on rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud.

I seemed to see her so clearly:
Tall, forthright,
A frank, direct look,
But slightly awkward too,
A rangy, vaguely boyish stance,
A little self-conscious in her twenty five or six years
In her new freedom, her independence.

That time came to an end
She went back to her life
I went south alone
We planned to meet up again soon
Now two decades have come between us.

                               November 2012

Mistah Rimbaud - he dead

Odysseus leans on the steering oar
Among the blue waves
The Enchanted Isles
Brine streaming off him
Sinews twisted like cordage
Bathed in the poem of the sea
The dolphins
The singing fish
The bones of coral
Where Ariel flames on the yards
Beneath the Island of the Winds
The harsh footprints of the wind
Treading down the sea
The Ship
A brigantine
Driven south into the void
Into the whiteout
The great white bird
Shearing along the crests
The vessel
Emerging from the mist under full sail
Eastward bound from the Celestial Isles,
No one on board,
Trailing a frayed rope,
Its pinewood hull
Washed clean and buoyant
Sailing in the wake of a dream
A materialisation
Reality changed
The smell of fetid swamps
And flowering jungles
Clinging to its sails
The golden eyes of leopards
In the undergrowth below decks
The deep forests, impenetrable,
The poles, as distant as the moon,
The hinterland beyond the reefs
Out of reach
Where men go to disappear
And nothing but a blotched photo comes back
Of a man faded to ectoplasm
In a crumpled white suit
Against a theatrical backdrop of Africa
His life seared away by the light
Who is boarding the ship Aphinar 
In the courtyard of the house in Aden
Where he dreams he is dying
The world shrunk between walls now
The Arctic ice retreating
The forests fragmenting
Boarding the ship
From al finar
From the courtyard of the house. 

                    November 2012


Rimbaud dictated a letter to his sister shortly before he died in a Marseilles hospital: 

 "I have come to inquire if I have anything left on account with you. I wish to change today my booking on this ship whose name I don't even know, but anyway it must be the ship from Aphinar. There are shipping lines going all over the place, but helpless and unhappy as I am, I can't find a single one - the first dog you meet in the street will tell you this. Send me the prices of the ship from Aphinar to Suez. I am completely paralyzed, so I wish to embark in good time. Please let me know when I should be carried aboard..."

It has been suggested that Aphinar, or "le service d'aphinar", may have been how Isabel Rimbaud heard the Arabic word al Finar, taken to mean the lighthouse. Al Finar actually means the courtyard. Lighthouse is al Manar, and one stands close to Rimbaud's house in Aden, which may hint at how a visiting biographer, making local inquiries of the meaning of Aphinar, has got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Why a boat to Suez? Because Rimbaud did business and banked in Cairo. I am imagining in the poem that at the end of his life Rimbaud thought he was at home in Aden in his house with a courtyard. Perhaps "le service d'aphinar" means that he needs to be "carried aboard" from the house.

The Crickets

All day long
Trying to gain a foothold.

Hoeing weeds
At the time of the moon landing
The radio on
The apocalypse of the sparrows
Unfolding in the chicken barn.

The house stares at the sky
To retreat into the kitchen
Is to feel the slight chill of the grave,
Most of the house is absent you find.

In Little Dewchurch
Women in flower print frocks
Inspire the summer thunder
The bosomy drops
That pock the dust.

Elastic and heavy
Like being deep under water
The world is a tight fit again.

                    November 2012

The Raven and the Kite

They came out of the West
Out of the past
Out of the days of our ancestors,
With the nebula of the mountains and moors around them,
Peat hag and stunt birch, heather and ling,
Cool and sweet smelling,
The raven and the kite.

Circles of infinite separation,
Rain in the wind, cold lights,
Poles against the sky at evening
And beyond these warm enclosures
We are helpless, blind,
Feet sucked in the clay.

This is your fierce parade
This brittle music that masks
Importunate danger
This is your water sphere.

Carrion birds
Among the baggage trains
Flew when the axe struck the roots
When the barns were burned
The kite whistled
The raven called
And who could argue for peace there
For a celebration of joy and fertility
For the abandoning of necessity?
If not now, when?

We skirted the bones in the loam
Amid the plenty
Danced under the stars, exhausted,
The music thumping
Red sparks whirling from the camp fires,
Drunk, deaf to the roar beyond the horizon after sunrise,
The flame in the East. 

Look... the graves have been lost,
The dead stand by the walls,
The crowded fields of resurrection,
The upright presences,
Have been  abandoned.
We have forgotten the future.

Here are the ruined cloisters
Here are the bare stones
And the lime mortar exposed
The choirs open to the sky
The broken wood
Clear felled
The hedgerows put to the torch
The flint acres
Where once were sweet birds,
The nightingale and woodlark
The cuckoo and the quail.....
And the asphodel,
Beyond time,
And the dew-soaked shadowy meadows.

                           October 2012

Among the Ruins

It is more than a thousand years
Since Tu Fu wept 
Beside the broken stone horses
Of the forgotten prince
In Jade Flower Palace
Among the ruins.

The storm roared in the pines.
Far away, along the ocean shore,
New ghosts from the war on the border
Wailed among the old
Howling in the wind off the sea.

Already an old man for his time
His hair whitened by moonlight
His heart bitter
The country overrun with war
Tu Fu died at fifty.

Would he, I wonder,
Have exchanged for thirty years more life
His world for ours:
A world overrun with war
Where the oceans and the winds
Now lament their own deaths?

                    October 2012


Suddenly he is there
Quite unexpectedly,
Young, slim, handsome, a little pale,
A bit distant in manner perhaps,
And I am shocked, and then happy
To realise that I had forgotten so completely,
Forgotten again,
That he had pulled through
That the other outcome was just a bad dream
That he is quite well, and has been for years,
With another life
Some unimportant job,
The kind of job that requires the dark suit,
That rather cheap Burton’s suit he is wearing
(But that looks good on him nevertheless),
Running a shop maybe,
Something not in keeping with his abilities at all,
Except that he has stepped aside from everything
And is now quite contained within himself.

There is no time to talk.
He moves to the edge of the crowd
By the window
Greets a few people
Looks my way.
And what is strange
Is that he does not seem to notice
That I am now much older than he is
(Perhaps this is the reason we do not talk)
That I am now an old man,
Old enough to be his father,
When he is no more than thirty
Or thirty five at the most.

                               September 2012

At this place

Across the light,
Across the silence,
This empty road.

Where there is only 
The sun and the wind
And the small quick bird of the rocks

On this stony ground,
Among these tenacious herbs
My hand on the strong back of the road,

At this place,
In the shade of this quiet rock
I will show you 
Peace in a handful of dust.
At this place.

                                 September 2012


On the ridge above Jageshwar,
Women were harvesting animal feed from the forest,
In the cool of the morning,
Girls in long coloured skirts
High in the big trees reaching out over the valley
Walking fearlessly along the boughs
Sixty feet up
Graceful, balanced, nonchalant,
Cutting fresh shoots with reaping sickles
Dropping them down
To the older women on the slope below:
The trees, shaped by pruning,
Knotted, pollarded, fists of new growth along the limbs,
They must have been harvested in this way
Beyond memory.

Standing on the dusty track
Pulse raised by vertigo
Foreshortened, open mouthed,
Wide eyed I must have seemed
To the girls overhead,
My shadow clinging to my feet,
Their colours in the leaves,
Voices, laughter,
Evergreen tones of the fern and moss haggard trees,
Long shades down the forest slope
The snows in the north.

When they had finished
They came to earth in a rush
Shinning quickly down the shaggy trunks
Just under control,
And set about bundling the forage,
Walking past me quietly
And down the switchback track through the pines
Towards the farms and villages lower down.

I waited until the voices faded
And then moved out into the sun.
The place felt cold suddenly
And a little threatening.
I sat in the dust for a while
Warming up.
I couldn’t help thinking about the risk
And the falls there must have been
During the lifespans of those trees.

                                 September 2012


Women from a village in the forest
Wash their children at the temple spring,
Feeding them with the meat of freshwater crabs
Just caught in the river below.
Curious and shy, they stare at me,
Smile back warmly when I smile.

Pink conch,
Cool on the lips
Sounded through the birdsong
At first light.

I snuff out the lamps in the shrines
Light incense
And go to make cinnamon tea,
Brewed in the hot ashes
On the veranda of the hut,
Watching the smoke go off into the sunlight.
There are tiger tracks
Under the Flame of the Forest trees up the hill.

Pristine forest:
Flocks of Blossom-Headed Parakeets
Fly across the canopy
On the other side of the river gorge,
There are Laughing Thrushes and Babblers
In the Lily Jungle below the terrace.
The river,
Fed by thermal springs,
Steams in the cooler air of the valley.

                                    September 2012

Under May Hill

Cider at the Glasshouse
Under May Hill,
Through Gifford’s Wood,
After the rain,
The level evening sun between the trees.

The Snug
Set in amber,
Shafts of light through a cigarette haze
Smoky cider in the glasses,
A damp gust when the door opens,
We are wet to the knees.

And all that weighed on us then
Is as if it had never been:
We were as insubstantial as the smoke
Winding through the rays,
Or the glare among the trees
That dismembered the wood,
A confusion of the senses,
An intoxication of light and movement.

After Time
In the cool night air
Cider happy, groping our way
In the blind dark,
The horse on the hill
Snorts and runs,
A vague shadow only,
And gasping, breathless, laughing,
We did not notice
That we too
Were shadows only.

                         August 2012

How Fragile

How fragile they were,
Those days
That world.
How evanescent,
Those moments
Melting into air.

     August 2012

No Trace

I could find no trace of the house again.
The living
Have crowded out the dead.
Sound of water now,
Lemon trees, oleander,
Villas deep in vegetation
Shouts of children
Where there was once
A desiccated field of olive trees
Star thistles
A solitary yellow house in the sun.

                August 2012

The Kiss

She is now a self-assured woman
In her mid-sixties
Head of her department
Living in New York.

The last time I saw her
Was the summer I got back from India
When I was twenty two
And she was still at school
And used to drop in to see me
For a chat and a smoke in her lunch hour.

I suppose I would have put the Beatles on,
The windows open to the hot suburb,
Told tales of my trip to India,
Scent of privet blowing in
A blackbird singing?

We met again at a reunion over here
Propped up the bar and talked.
It is curious
How little there is to be said
About fifty years of living.

She gave no indication
That she recalled those afternoons
Or how once, leaving,
She turned back from the door
Sat deftly on my knee
And kissed me.

Leaning on the bar
I enjoyed her composure
Her sense of irony.
I got the impression of an apartment in Manhattan
But I don’t think she told me anything
Of husbands or children.

As for me
The memory of that afternoon is sharp
I can still remember clearly
How light she felt,
For some reason I never forgot
The kiss we shared
All those years ago
When we were young.

          August 2012

Full Moon at Lulworth

Keats’ ship
At anchor in the bay
The star
The eternal watch
The dream.

Another time
The sky blazing with moonlight
The bright track on the water
Like the sound of the sea
In a shell.

Here there is no history
No world
We stand inside a skull
In the light.

And no trace remains
Save when we hear it
The faint echo of the sea
At our ears.

         July 2012

Artemis and the Hunter

He dragged the trembling dogs
Down to the stream
And returned to the kill.

The birds had stopped singing
Nothing moved,
He had noticed the tall shape between the trees
Where there were no flying insects.

He decided
That in the time remaining
He would do everything that was fitting.

He lit a small fire,
And with a knife
That depicted on its blade
Actaeon pursued by his hounds,
Eviscerated the carcase and fed the dogs.

He cut thin strips from the meat
Laid them across the coals
Waited for the fat to burn
And sang a short strophe
In praise of the goddess.

Then he quartered the carcase
Brought water from the stream
Carefully doused the fire
Packed the wet satchel with the meat
And went back to the dogs. 

They cringed to the side of him
Away from the shape under the trees
While he examined their paws,
Pulled ticks and burrs
From their ears and lips.

(She thought: “How like a god he is,”
But it was his care for the dogs
That calmed her).

He came alert when the birds started to move,
The dogs perked up,
Hoverflies and midges
Filled that space between the trees again.

He grabbed his bag,
But the knife was nowhere to be seen.
He searched around for it frantically
And then started to run.

He ran for the rest of the day,
Following the dogs
And at night
Slept without a fire or food.

It would take him
Twenty such hunts as this
To buy another knife of that quality.
He remembered the knife seller’s patter:
“From the workshop of Hephaestus himself, sir.
A knife fit for a god!”

                                  July 2012


The derelict hotel
Built only fifty years ago
Beside the hot springs at Therma
Is slowly falling into the Aegean,
The winter storms of the island
Scouring the foundations,
And the place is full of ghosts
Bumping the shutters when you pass
Washing back and forth through the empty rooms
Sighing like the sea dragging stones-
The ghosts of all the dead
Who came to the hotel seeking a cure
And who now swim in the night
Under the waters of the bay
Like luminous fish,
Or, in the day, if you look carefully,
They are still there
Forming and dissolving
In the diamonds on the water.

The children,
And the Athenian families
Playing on the beach and in the sea,
And the old sick people
Who have come to seek a cure
At the new bath house,
Taking their last sea dips,
Do not notice the ghosts at all,
The calm, glinting ghosts in the sea,
But the ghosts know
That death will soon come for the old and sick
Who stand knee deep in the water
Gazing mildly at the light on the sea,
The ghosts know
That death will soon bring them
Into their ruined hotel
Above the beach.

                      June 2012

 L'Après-midi d'un Faune

Perpetuated in this music
The memory of a summer afternoon
A distillation of heat and silence
Like a breeze of day
Warm on your skin   
And the feeling always of loss
The nymph
Gone to work in the town
Beyond this drowsy hillside among the trees
The clearings filled with pink willow herb
The falling notes of a flute
The down floating and clinging.

An undulating Herefordshire road
Dove grey through the amorous green,
The old motorcycle
Aspirating perfectly,
Breasting the hills,
Floating, rhapsodic,
Its deep sound
Exactly the pitch of the basses
In this lush orchestration.

She waits under the limes
Below the cathedral
In the tawny hour
Glimpsed in the distance
Through the traffic’s entanglements,
A distance widening through time,
A form, a scent,
A synesthetic caress of the strings
A touch
The rustle of bees in the limes
The warm breath of that summer
In this music.

                            June 2012

Saigon Boulevard

Saigon, in the summer of 1965,
Our ship, the Vietnam,
On her last voyage up-river before the war closed in
Docked on a colonial waterfront
Crowded with jeeps and military equipment.

The Americans, it was said,
Were paying a year’s wages a month
To anyone speaking English.
The ship sailed that night.
Hustling up into town
Looking for the work contact,
We found the address in a tropical downpour,
The door open,
Walking unannounced
Into a room full of money,
Ten or fifteen tables, stacked with bank notes,
A fan turning in the ceiling,
Alarmed Vietnamese office workers,
And a white man, shouting,  
With a gun in his hand.

Along the street
He came panting after us
Full of apologies, assurances,
Desperate for staff, anyone,
We were hired.

Saigon Boulevard
In diaphanous light
The pavement steaming
Pink stucco peeling from the walls
The balcony ironwork
Warm with rust,
A long straight road
Down to the darkness of the river.

That summer we were both in free-fall.
I had no money
My friend was on the run from the Draft
We were circling the flames of a war zone
In Hawaiian shirts and beach sandals.

There are times
When to be present
Is to walk in the past,
Slightly out of focus in old footage,
The Jeep making a U turn in the street,
Conscripts in olive drab battle fatigues
Queuing with obsolete weapons
To climb into vintage trucks
And two figures
Quite out of place,
On the way from California to India.

The soldier came running through the traffic at us
From the transports on the other side of the road
Yelling my friend’s name,
Grabbed his shirt in both hands
And pushed him backwards hard with his fists
Furiously angry.

He’s maybe twenty pounds lighter
But he’s shoving at him
As if he would force him  
Through the wall of the nightmare
Back onto some beach they both knew
In Santa Barbara or Monterey.

They trade explanations
He’s pouring out
A tirade of clichés:
Dialogue from a bad movie,
And it’s  embarrassing,
Like someone screaming the details
Of their terminal illness in your face,
His repellent angular head jerking,
And suddenly….
The grenade blast,
The shrapnel embedded in the wall
The pigeons scattering in panic
While you look in amazement
At the blood pumping out
At your stupidity
And the soldier
Climbing into the truck across the road
Not looking back.

I don’t think we discussed it.
The ship dropped down river
Sometime after midnight,
In complete darkness,
No lights along the banks,
Into the skirts of Typhoon Rose,
The kind of seas
That seem to lift you off your feet on the crests
And crush you into the deck in the troughs
The whole vessel shuddering and rattling.

                                            May 2012

Typhoon Rose is in the meteorological records for
the first week in September 1965.

Excerpt from an American soldier’s diary dated September 3rd:
“Early today a grenade was tossed into an Ordinance repair shop right smack in the middle of Saigon near the Rex, wounding one GI. Then the one tossed on our roof tonight, wounding none but scaring 10…Harry says he is ready to go either back to the field or go home—Saigon bothers him. He says if the VC don’t get you with a grenade, the taxis will get you while you’re crossing a street".




Chance and Necessity

World without purpose
Cascade of outcomes,
Unpredictable, flowing
Not from intelligence
But towards it. Intelligence itself
A confluence of chance.

This world,
The friction between chance and necessity
Igniting a fire
That burns its own ashes,
The atmosphere that sustains life
An accident of living processes,
Flame feeding flame,
The bee, its eye and neural networks
Shaping the colours and scents of plants,
This world, this garden of contingency
Reaching its fruit into our hands.

           May 2012

A Way Still Open

The compass spins
And all directions are a return.
From up here the full extent of the isle is visible,
The old rock-falls, the angles,
The steep blue air,
The vine slopes
And wooded gorges,
And you can see
That to embark on life
Is to build a road into the past.

The thread of time
Running through my hand
The bull, roaring from below,
Even in the light of day
On this hot road
The drawn-out skein of time
Curved taut in the wind
The sheen on it

We leave behind us
A trace of emptiness
Always there
Under the pines
On the hill above the old stone track,
Where I turned back to the sea
From a road untraveled:
A movement in the light
And a way still open
Climbing up through the trees.

                                   April 2012

In the Valley of the Moon

The moon
Was occupying the whole wooded valley,
Almost touching both sides,
In the heat of the day.

It was so big
It took fully half an hour
To walk through the forest beneath it
To the lowest part of the sphere
Just above the trees.

It cast no shadow,
And seemed to be shining with a warm light
Absorbed from the sun.
The air was bright under it
And the birds were singing.

I climbed up to the treeline,
Level with its equator,
And came out into real sunlight,
The great curvature of its side
So close
I was able to hit it with a stone
Which raised a puff of dust
That settled slowly back
To the lunar surface,
While the stone fell down to earth,
And when I picked it up
It had become almost weightless
And blew off my hand in the wind.

By the time I reached the ridge
The sun had set
And I took shelter among the rocks.

I woke to a roaring sound.
The moon was rising
And a huge volume of displaced air
Was pouring back into the valley
Tearing at the trees,
Vortices of leaves and debris
Twisting uphill towards me
And I crouched with my back to them
As they came showering past.

Then, quite suddenly,
It went very quiet
And the moon was low in the sky,
Already distant,
Moving away above the far hills.

                      March 2012

An Idyll on a Summer Evening.

A newspaper cutting
From the Frankfurter Allgemeine.
A picture of three young men
Standing outside the Jazz Haus
In Frankfurt, in the summer of 1964.

One was an American saxophonist
Who played with Charles Mingus.
Born a few years before me,
He died in Vienna twenty years ago.
The other, a German,
Was later involved with Baader-Meinhoff
And the Red Army Faction.

I have my back to the camera.
A woman is holding a baby at an open window
On the first floor overhead.
There is no story.
The caption reads:
“An idyll on a summer evening.”

This fragile scrap of newsprint
Seems perfectly to have preserved
The innocent sunlight of that moment.
It is as if I can hear the music of Clifford Brown
Coming from the record player in the bar,
Taste the cheap German cigarette I am smoking.

But the baby at the window
Would be nearly fifty years old by now.

                                             March 2012


A steep rocky combe
In the mountains of Arcadia
A small corner of a landscape
Lit with the strange eclipsed light of memory,
A group of old stone- terraced fields,
Thick with ripe barley,
Steps down to a tree
That reaches out over a drop.

No other human sign
Only the vanishing footpath,
Perhaps the distant clink of a bell,
One of those places
You turned back from.

I retraced my steps
Up to the ruins of the Doric temple
That stood at the head of the valley
And waited out a long afternoon and evening
In the great silent building
With only the wind for company,
After dark
Lying with hip and shoulder
Comfortable in warm hollows
Worn in the Sanctuary pavement.

I awoke far into the night,
The temple seeming to float in the sky
The friendly stars moving among the columns
And over the lintels,
And then slept again immediately.

No other memories remain.
                                                February 2012


I Tiresias,
Sitting among the potsherds
Below the wall
Know the exact limits of myself,
Feel the slow procession of the stars
Scratch against my skin.

The tragic discourse of the birds
Stops my ears,
I am invaded,
My ribs have become a cage
Of frantic birds.

They exit through my eyes
And I am blind,
Fly out of my mouth
And I am dumb.
My tongue
Is a red bird.

My womb is fertile
It is a fountain
Or a flame.
My breasts are ripe
My navel sucks in souls
There is a smile on my lips
I am the dryad
Of an ancient tree.

I Tiresias,
Old man beneath the stars
Sleeping among the potsherds
Below the wall
Dream at will
Knowing both the beginning and the end.

                                       February 2012 


When I recall it now
It’s like a film from that time
Shot in black and white.

A houseboat on the Quai D’Orsay
The last leaves are falling,
Outside it is misty and cold
A kind of purity.

I walked along the river
Towards St. Germain
In the late afternoon
The streets nearly empty.

Unreal city
City full of dreams.

In the bar of the Beat Hotel
I sat down alone.
The evening closed in
No one else came or went
I thought, for sure the ghost of Rimbaud
Walks the street outside
Baudelaire stares from the shadows
With his murderer’s eyes.

I crossed the bridge
And walked past Notre Dame,
The square in front of the cathedral
Completely deserted.

Now, after so many years,
I can still feel the emptiness of the place,
Remember the smell of coal smoke
And the silence.

What lingers most of all
Is the silence.
        February 2012


After the storm
Seabirds make landfall
Flocking along the length
Of the coast of Patmos
On a day in Spring.

From the beginning
Transmission of forms, memory,
Of what shapes and is shaped by the world
And comes through chaos
The long flight and the sea storms.

Aphrodite of the foam
Emerges from the eukaryotic worlds
Washing up in galaxies along the shore,
A vigour from her life running through
The filaments of weed
The cool living sea
And the birds feeding at the water’s edge.
She smiles in their cells.

In the beginning
The wave
Replication and increase
The wave.

Then the sea
Alpha and Omega
Birth and death
The sea.

From the wave
Comes the sea
From the wave
Comes the sea.

The galaxies ripple out
Elaborating and combining through forms
That emerge and dissolve,
A fractal wave that foams into forests and ecosystems
Into species, mutating and changing,
Throwing up a rainbow spray
Of  behaviours, instincts,
Minds, cultures,
This human world,
Surface phenomena
On the wave.

In the rocks above the beach
A thin layer in the strata
Marks a mass extinction event
The wave passed beyond long ago
To foam into other forests
Different beasts
A New  Heaven and a New Earth.

Laughing in the sweet cries
Of the birds along the shore,
Untwines her limbs
And clings again.
In her helical embrace.

          January 2012


                                       Days of the Sixties

                                                   Days of 1962

                                            I've long forgotten why
                                            I was in a Barcelona jazz club
                                            One afternoon in October 1962.
                                            No one else was there
                                            Save me, my companion, and a silent barman.

                                            I remember it was up some stairs in a long room
                                            With windows open to a narrow street
                                            And nothing happened. Time dragged.
                                            The barman stood behind the bar.

                                            Kenny Clark was on the bill
                                            And it seemed strange to me
                                            That this lion of Be Bop
                                            Would soon be in the room.

                                            It came on to rain and got dark early
                                            And then it was time to go.
                                            I don't know why we didn't wait to see the band
                                            If I could go back in time
                                            I would certainly wait to see the band.

                                            I can't remember now why we were there
                                            Or why we left when we did
                                            But what happened next I remember vividly.

                                            As we came down stairs
                                            The barman put Charlie Parker on the record player.
                                            In the street the music was loud, astonishing.
                                            The wet pavement reflected
                                            All the coloured neon lights of the bars,
                                            And a torrent of water
                                            Was flowing with brilliant colours
                                            Pouring along the gutter.

                                            Quite suddenly I was overcome with emotion,
                                            I could hardly speak or breathe
                                            Standing in a street I can still see clearly
                                            After nearly fifty years
                                            Hearing and seeing such profligate beauty
                                            Flow so recklessly away.

                                                 Days of 1963     Ikaria

                                             I disembarked
                                             From a rusting Aegean ferry
                                             And walked along the quay in the sun.
                                             Smells of fish sea and diesel.

                                             A small town
                                             With mulberry trees in the square
                                             Wooden fishing boats in the harbour
                                             Mountains inland.

                                             That island summer
                                             Was to last for nearly six months.

                                             I rented a little house with a courtyard.
                                             Hornets the size of my thumb
                                             Blundered around the kitchen.
                                             In the morning I wrote,
                                             In the hot afternoons
                                             I swam in the harbour
                                             With the local teenagers.

                                             I was nineteen
                                             The only foreigner.

                                             At night, to pass the time
                                             I played chess with the girl from the coffee shop.
                                             The town generator thumped away
                                             The light bulbs in the square
                                             Brightened and dimmed
                                             A mild breeze blew off the sea.

                                             I returned to the mainland for a while
                                             To visit the ancient sites
                                             Took a blanket rolled up in a shoulder bag
                                             And slept out on the warm ground.
                                             Once I was discovered by children at dusk
                                             Who came back with stuffed tomatoes
                                             Bread, and a bottle of wine
                                             Put them down at a safe distance
                                             And retreated to watch me eat.

                                             Back on the island time lapsed
                                             The summer stretched away forever
                                             And it seems to me now
                                             That I had escaped completely.

                                              But the season progressed
                                              Imperceptibly at first
                                              The nights deepened
                                              The heat increased.

                                              Then cool winds came from the mountain
                                              And blew the mulberry leaves across the square
                                              And eventually, in late October,
                                              I headed north
                                              Without a thought
                                              Moving on.

                                               I have an old black and white photo from that year.
                                               In it I am standing on the deck of a small dory boat.
                                               Beside me, quite close,
                                               Is a pretty girl.
                                               She is looking at me
                                               And I am gazing out across the harbour.


                                                       Days of 1964

                                               There was no road there
                                               Not even a track
                                               Crossing the fractured limestone upland
                                               Under a blinding Cretan sky
                                               The sea somewhere over to my right
                                               As I struggled all day over rocks
                                               Weathered to knife edges
                                               Finding a way to the west.

                                               Then suddenly in late afternoon
                                               A dark narrow valley
                                               Filled with old olive trees
                                               And the sound of water
                                               And a steep scramble
                                               Down to the sea.

                                               There, quite unexpectedly,
                                               In the early dusk of the place
                                               I came upon an ancient mosaic
                                               On a small area of level ground
                                               Among stone ruins.
                                               Dolphins, in pairs,
                                               Around a wave pattern circle.

                                               The day declined
                                               The light on the sea became opaque
                                               The trees stood a little closer around
                                               While I made a small human home again
                                               Within the dolphin circle
                                               With a rolled out sleeping bag
                                               A candle in a glass jar by a box of matches
                                               A meal of bread, cheese, olives
                                               Water from the stream
                                               A cigarette
                                               Looking at the dolphins
                                               Shifting in the unsteady light from the candle
                                               Until night came on
                                               And shut down everything completely.

                                               Then, high up through the trees
                                               The miraculous Greek morning was on the hills
                                               The sea beyond the shadowed valley
                                               Brilliant again
                                               The stream running like time passing.

                                               And when you step out of the circle
                                               It is gone forever
                                               And no way back.
                                               There is no road out from there
                                               Not even a track, leading up out of the valley
                                               And crossing the harsh limestone upland
                                               Towards the west.


                                                        Days of 1965

                                                I remember her from time to time
                                                The little girl in the green sarong
                                                At the food stall
                                                Beside the entrance to the temple of Angkor
                                                In Cambodia
                                                In that time of peace.

                                                She would stand by our table
                                                And watch us eat
                                                And seemed so pleased with us
                                                The thin melancholic Englishman
                                                And the laughing American.

                                                And the nearby town
                                                With its clean river
                                                Children swimming in the shade of trees
                                                Its quiet atmosphere
                                                Like a French provincial town
                                                French bread in the bakery
                                                And a hotel
                                                Smelling of coffee
                                                And fresh linen.

                                                I think about it all from time to time
                                                Recalling the girl
                                                The street in the town
                                                That hotel balcony
                                                The distant sounds of children
                                                The light under the trees.

                                                           Days of 1966

                                                I remember the Grand Trunk Road
                                                That ran from Peshawar to Calcutta
                                                Unchanged since the days of the Raj
                                                With its ancient trees
                                                Its holy dust
                                                Its signposts to places
                                                A thousand miles distant
                                                Its long empty silences.

                                                And riding those smoky night trains
                                                The Janta Express
                                                The Madras Mail
                                                Drawn by steam locomotives
                                                Across the plains of Great India
                                                And waking up in the small hours
                                                To hear the lonely tea sellers sing out
                                                From deserted platforms
                                                At stops in the heart of nowhere.

                                                And everywhere the smell of wood smoke
                                                Breath of Agni
                                                Igniting colours of sunset and dawn
                                                Raiment of gods
                                                Sita and Ganesh
                                                Lakshmi and Siva
                                                Glowing in the air
                                                And in their sacred images
                                                On the walls
                                                Of every poor Chai Wallah
                                                Feeding the flames
                                                Of his fire.

                                                In the hour before dawn
                                                The hour of memory.
                                                In the pure hour
                                                The hour of ablution
                                                And sounds of falling water.
                                                In the hour
                                                When the sleepy servant boy
                                                Blows on the seed of fire in the ashes.
                                                In the peaceful hour
                                                The great steam locomotive hissing gently
                                                As the engineer drinks hot sweet tea
                                                And the shrouded passengers
                                                Await departure




                                             Days of 1967  Jersey Channel Islands

                                                I can see her now
                                                Getting off the plane
                                                And walking across the runway
                                                Towards me.

                                                Her hair is up
                                                And she is wearing black eyeliner
                                                Curved up at the corners of her eyes,
                                                A yellow mini dress, pale tights:

                                                I took her back to a tent
                                                In a quiet corner of a campsite.
                                                On the way, in a friend's jeep,
                                                We didn't speak
                                                We were breathless
                                                Speeding through the country lanes
                                                On that day in August.

                                                Later, in the pub, we talked.
                                                Her mother thought she was staying with a friend.
                                                She would call her mother soon
                                                From the phone box in the village.
                                                She had dropped out of Art School.
                                                It had seemed like marking time somehow,
                                                Now the world was all before us.

                                                I felt the same
                                                That was how we were then
                                                No plans
                                                Walking back to the tent in the dark
                                                The future coming towards us
                                                Like a breaking wave.



                                                    Days of 1968


                                                The path through the wood
                                                Was quite unchanged
                                                When I returned to the place
                                                Years later.

                                                The spot where we camped
                                                Was just the same
                                                Damp, and shaded,
                                                The patch of grass, thin,
                                                Barely surviving.

                                                And there was a willow warbler there again
                                                Like the one seen
                                                When we emerged that morning
                                                Which still moves, a perfect yellow tone,
                                                In the light and shade of my memory
                                                As if the place itself
                                                Were a mind containing memories,
                                                The bird returned, replaced,
                                                The feint grass, clinging on.

                                                I think, perhaps, I returned more than once
                                                And followed the rout we took
                                                Out of the wood towards the cry of gulls
                                                Into high blue air and light
                                                Hundreds of feet above the sea,
                                                Remembering how, after that hour or so,
                                                The landscape had become drenched
                                                In the unworldly purple glow of the heather,
                                                The little tent,
                                                Where we had pitched it again,
                                                Right on the edge of the cliff,
                                                Shivering in a warm wind,
                                                The yellows and purples and acid greens all around
                                                Soaking into the brilliant static of the light
                                                Penetrating us
                                                At the navel, and under the heart,
                                                As everything started to flow in upon us
                                                Blowing through, like wind dispersing mist,
                                                Until finally there was nothing left at all
                                                Just the place
                                                Painting the inside of a sphere.


                                                      Days of 1969

                                                I can still feel them
                                                Those distant summer days
                                                The hot embrace of the sun
                                                The warm dust of the sunken lane
                                                Running through my fingers
                                                The searing light off the wheat field.

                                                I can still feel them
                                                Those hollow afternoons
                                                The far echo of the world
                                                Beyond the warping light along the horizon
                                                The intense stillness.

                                                I can still feel
                                                The easy limbs of youth
                                                The cooling air at the end of the day
                                                The sudden scents
                                                The cold fingers of the dew
                                                Touching my face
                                                The violet light of those evenings.

                                                I can still feel the sensation
                                                Of walking deep into the fading wheat field
                                                Under the first stars
                                                The open palms of both hands
                                                Just brushing the tips of the ears of wheat.

             Days of 2011 The Return  to the Island                                   


                                                 A dream, repeated.
                                                 And the sharing of food.
                                                 Dishes passed from hand to hand,
                                                 Wine poured, spilled,
                                                 ( The splash of red
                                                 Divining meaning, not fate )
                                                 In an empty house
                                                 Always, at all hours,
                                                 In a house
                                                 Overflowing with logos.


                                                 The island turns and moves towards the swimmer
                                                 Out there in the Aegean hallows
                                                 So much blue spent to hide her!

                                                 She enters the little rocky inlet
                                                 And hauls herself out of the water
                                                 Throwing onto the hot stones
                                                 The Complete and Incontrovertible
                                                 Articles of Peace.

                                                 She is only animal after all
                                                 Wet and warm
                                                 Curved like the sea
                                                 Arranging herself on the hot rock
                                                 With contented sighs.
                                                 And I am as quiet as a fox,
                                                 She is hardly aware of me
                                                 Sniffing at the wet documents
                                                 Squinting down at them
                                                 With vertical eyes.

                                           Waiting for the Barbarians     Athens

                                                 The old center of the city
                                                 Lies in ruins
                                                 The broken streets
                                                 Dense with the people who have fled
                                                 Gathering their strength who can
                                                 Mounting defenses
                                                 Even here.

                                                 The sun is corrupt.
                                                 The sun rakes the facades
                                                 Where poets lived
                                                 Tipping the shutters askew
                                                 Breaking open the rooves.

                                                 From the citadel
                                                 The past has been looted
                                                 The ground freshly opened
                                                 The place ransacked
                                                 Only an inventory has been left behind.

                                                 Deep under the ground
                                                 Out of sight
                                                 There are networks of tunnels and mines
                                                 Sapping everything
                                                 No one can make out anything
                                                 Down there in the confusion of dust and movement.


                                                 Along the cliffs of the Acropolis
                                                 Five Lanner Falcons play in the air
                                                 Unmarked by anyone but me
                                                 Walking among the strollers, the lovers,
                                                 The friends.
                                                 Look up!
                                                 Into the light!

                                                The birds soar and fall
                                                Glinting past one another
                                                With sharp cries
                                                Out of the sun.

                                                Apollo, akestor,
                                                Bring her health!

                                                A falcon rises up on the thermals,
                                                Ascending above the cliff line,
                                                Tumbles with broken wings as if shot
                                                And stoops.

                                                Apollo, musegetes!
                                                Bring her beauty
                                                Like an empty house
                                                Beauty which is the void
                                                Which is the naked curve of flight.

                                                Far below, another
                                                Rolls onto its back in the air
                                                And strikes up with its talons
                                                As the attacker flashes past
                                                And up
                                                With the arc of a slingshot.

                                                Apollo, aegletes!
                                                Bring her life
                                                Which dives and ascends
                                                With a cry of joy
                                                And combat.

                                                The calls of the birds
                                                Echo from the rocks
                                                While I stand and watch
                                                And the evening walkers pass by
                                                Talking quietly
                                                Or silent.

                                                The Return to the Island

                                                Nothing remains of the past.
                                                We step out of a vanished world
                                                Moment on moment.

                                                Only life connects past and future.
                                                The rest
                                                Falls back into chaos
                                                Chaos into silence.

                                                Nothing remains of the past
                                                Except what the living renew,
                                                A language evolving
                                                In cell
                                                In history
                                                Orpheus making another song
                                                To carry beauty and fragrance
                                                Beyond the realm of death.

                                                The past is loss.
                                                The young man who was here
                                                Fifty years ago
                                                Has gone
                                                His beauty and his strength
                                                Faded in the old man.
                                                Now there is just
                                                This scent of pines
                                                This sun, hot on my face,
                                                This blue Aegean
                                                These distant islands
                                                This loss
                                                Which sustains and holds the world.



                                                Lost, on the high ridge of the island,
                                                In a blue wind off the Ikarian sea
                                                No path to be seen
                                                Casting around for a way forward
                                                Among rocks thorns and pungent herbs
                                                I saw, with a small leap of the heart,
                                                A cairn up ahead
                                                A few stones only
                                                One upright
                                                Like a figure on the skyline.

                                                There was the sweet tang of grace and reason
                                                In these balanced stones
                                                The first of a chain of small cairns
                                                Marking the pathless way along the ridge
                                                And moved by custom and the benefit done to me
                                                By unknown hands
                                                I stopped to put the fallen rocks back on
                                                The sound
                                                Pricking up the ears of the place
                                                And in the heightened awareness raised
                                                Standing a little outside myself
                                                Understood an ancient truth there
                                                That I am the stranger who walks ahead
                                                And the stranger who walks behind.


                    Down Towards Land's End

                                                 I turned off the headlights and the engine
                                                 And rolled the Morris Van
                                                 Quietly down the grass track in the darkness
                                                 Out of sight from the Road.

                                                 No dogs barking from the farm across the valley
                                                 Sweet Devonshire air and silence
                                                 A level one night park-up among the gorse.

                                                 Down in the pub
                                                 I sat on that same bench under the window
                                                 Trying to connect the present with the past.

                                                 Later, something woke me in the night,
                                                 And I got out of the van.
                                                 The stars were very close,
                                                 And I realised that what had roused me
                                                 Had been a sudden jolt of happiness.

                                                 In the morning
                                                 ( Dew on the spider's webs
                                                 A damp feel to the duvet )
                                                 I made coffee
                                                 And considered my situation.

                                                 Then I screwed the jet needle up in the carburetor
                                                 Wound the tick-over speed right down
                                                 And drove to Bideford
                                                 Arriving with the petrol pump clattering on empty.

                                                 I took the saxophone
                                                 And busked the pedestrian street.
                                                 Slowly the money came in,
                                                 A girl stood for a minute or two and dreamed.
                                                 Eventually I picked up the coins
                                                 Walked with the can to the petrol station
                                                 And bought some warm French bread  on the way back
                                                 Which I ate, driving with one hand,
                                                 Down towards Land's End.

                                                                                                   Nov  2011

                                         Three for Ikaria

                                                The Stone Road.

                                                Above the Aegean
                                                The stone road up into the interior
                                                The pines
                                                Oozing resin in the heat
                                                The cicadas singing like fire
                                                And just out of sight
                                                Beyond that flank of the mountain
                                                The end of time is there.

                                                The wind.
                                                The transparent man
                                                Emerging from the side
                                                Of the man of flesh and blood.
                                                The sound of the wind.


                                                 Dionysus of the vines
                                                 Tilling the red earth
                                                 Of cultivated ground
                                                 The wine, translucent,
                                                 Tasting of iron
                                                 In the pine groves beyond the boundaries
                                                 And on the mountains
                                                 Reeling with flowers and light
                                                 The sea in her blue robes asleep
                                                 The watchful leopards
                                                 The stones and sun dapple
                                                 Under the vines.


                                                  Why are there stars in the zenith at noon
                                                  And a new constellation emerging
                                                  Above the sun?

                                                  Why is blue air flowing down
                                                  Between us and the mountain
                                                  And the sky descending
                                                  Immersing everything in light?

                                                  Why does the wind blow so ceaselessly
                                                  With the sea as still as a stone
                                                  And the silence sound like the silence
                                                  After a storm?

                                                                                               Dec 2011



                           On Sappho's white island
                           Along the shore
                           Songs of Eurydice
                           Hiss of waves.

                                                    Golden Aphrodite
                                                    Born of the sea
                                                    Aphrodite of the lovely tresses
                                                    Who burned with love
                                                    For a mortal youth.

                                                    She, who in his house at midnight,
                                                    Trailing stars
                                                    Woke him with her iridescent touch
                                                    Lay beside him
                                                    Warm as the air from the south
                                                    Her train of songbirds
                                                    Murmuring under the eves.

                                                    He saw, wise youth,
                                                    Only a glimmering girl
                                                    But she was mad with love
                                                    His beauty overwhelmed her.

                                                    Time passed, and an old lean man
                                                    Now sits by the same low door.
                                                    A shrine to Olympian Aphrodite
                                                    Stands beside the spring
                                                    But he bears no mark or sign
                                                    Save the young girls
                                                    Smile at him.


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