Monday, 5 June 2017



Everything you see is you
The surfaces you touch
Are your own surfaces
Beyond the horizon
There is nothing….
The world is shut out
When we dream.

In dream’s deathless kingdom
We are eternals. It is a drama
Where nothing falls apart,
Acts, scenes, imagined, performed:
We are the play the actors and the crowd.

This is what the afterlife would be:
An entertainment;
A willing suspension of disbelief….
Until the thatch is all aflame
Until the actors see onstage
That unknown player  
Standing beside Faustus.

          February 2018


“Then consider those petty self-indulgences
We call freedom.”

Kindergarten of Capital.
The goat coughs at night
In the killing-fields over the school-yard….
Coal-tip mudslide.

Conkers, hop-scotch, dead-leg
Hair-ribbon, AK 47, “fuck you n----r!”

“My mother said I never should
Play with the gypsies in the wood……”

Blue-nosed dame-school school-ma’am 
Hankie in her knickers-band
Doling out coloured counters, tiddlywinks,
Snot-daubed Bakelite
Smartphone touch-screen Nano-tech.

Kindergarten of Capital.
The goat kneels in the killing-fields
Under the radar.

“It’s easier to imagine the end of the world
Than the end of capitalism.”

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking
Thinks we should find a new planet orbiting another star.

It would take seven hundred thousand years to get there
At the speed of light.

“It’s easier to imagine the end of the world
Than the end of capitalism.”

Kindergarten of Capital.
An algorithm
Discovering all the things that matter
In YOUR world.

“In my life / I’ve loved them all.” 

                                January 2018  

Rabo de Nube

If you force me to wish
I’ll choose the tail of a storm
A whirlwind touching the earth
Anger, uprising,
Blowing away the pain
A downpour of vengeance
And when it passes,

If you force me to wish
I’ll choose the tail of a storm
That will take the ugly
And leave us the cherubic
The pain, blown away,
A downpour of vengeance
And when it passes,

Note: Rabo de Nube is a song by the revolutionary Cuban poet and singer Silvio Rodrigues.

                                  January 2018


Yes, I remember Languedoc,
One June, traveling alone,
Playing Thelonious Monk songs in the villages
For wine and gas; in love with the names,
Driving the old road
From Minerve to Château de Termes,
Up in the blue air of high limestone country,
Mudguards brushing the star-thistles.

The ruined Cathar castle was as silent as the sunlight,
Its past purged away, vanished into the light,  
Its rock outcrops, battlements, juniper scrub,  
Graced by patrols of big gold and black butterflies,
Aware and watchful, the particoloured  
Souls of the lyric poets of Occitania,
The minstrels, the courtly lovers, the troubadour knights.

                                                    January 2018

Kith and Kin                

Always Orion delights me
Like catching sight of kith and kin….
Narrow hips, massive shoulders
A Hercules from a black-figure vase,
Off balance, dogged by Sirius,
Tilting at the Pleiades.

Kinsman!  Fool on the Hill!
Of your bones are comets made,
Those are stars that were your eyes…..

                            December 2017

Idyll II Acis
After Theocritus and Ovid

“While you lie there in the heat of the sun, shepherd,
Gazing after Galatea,
The dog is taking your flock
Up to the Spring of Acis
Where the river rises in the shade of old plane trees.
Come, let’s follow them,
Galatea has touched your soul 
And like a bee that probes a flower
She sucks her sweetness from it.
Come away. I have brought you a gift,
A syrinx tuned in the Temple of the Muses
With scented beeswax.
Let’s sit in the shade
And I’ll teach you a song.

“The Cyclops Polyphemus desired Galatea
And mad with jealousy
He crushed her mortal lover Acis beneath this great rock 
Where now a spring flows
And these ancient trees work with their roots
To lift it from him.
The blood of Acis that once flowed here
Ran tawny, then silty, then clear and sweet.
She, whose home is in the depths of the sea,
Transformed him into water
And now he seeks her forever.

“Let’s rest here on soft fleeces in the shade
While I teach you a melody that will evoke
The god of this place
And your dog brings down those stray rams
That have wandered up there near the cave
Where it is said Polyphemus once lived.”

                                               December 2017                            

Idyll I Galatea
After Theocritus

“Look at that girl down there
Where the apple trees overhang the shore
And the sea hisses into the sand.
She pelts your dog with apples!
She drives him away, fearless of his snarling,
Because he went for her as she emerged from the sea.
Whistle the dog off!  And keep out of sight.
Don’t gaze at her for too long.
Her name is Galatea,
A Nereid famed for her milk-white skin.
If she sees you, graceful shepherd,
Handsome as Endymion, your troubles
Will not soon be over…..the gods crave beauty above all.
Best choose a mortal lover!
There are many girls as lovely and as brave
As goddesses among us.
See where she vanishes into the reeds!
There, where the river enters the sea,
The place where Pan likes to sleep out the heat of the day.
The poor dog whimpers at her going.”

                                                November 2017

Dawn Chorus

I was Rimbaud then,
Waiting for the summer dawn at the wall of the park
Where a bay of the North Downs
Reached into the suburbs like an arm of the sea;
Misty island bowers, breasts of the Surrey Hills,
Blake’s shadow there; and soon,
The mermaids calling each to each; the Sirens
Yelping like angels in the bustling trees, whistling
Like knives sharpening, keening like the Eumenides,
A furious racket, and all the leafy streets,
The lawns, the Tudor fronts and leaded windows,
Blind, absent, pale
As sleeping princesses.

                                    November 2017


Red fox
With yellow eyes
Your thin pupils
Like shards of panic....
Flies trapped in amber.

Head down
Looking up at me
Waiting to jump.

On the run for seventeen million years….
Old fox of the apocalypse
Dystopian city fox,
What empty mind behind that frozen gaze,
What drawn-taut syntax of feints and hits,
What perilous chances,
What furious fortune brings you here?

                                  October 2017


Rapt, she walks on water,
In silken billows,
Her rosy feet, her touch,
Gracing the wavelets
With liquid gold, turquoise, ruby,
The undulating marble limbs
Of submerged facades,
Drowned halcyon domes.

Ankle-deep at high-tide.
Green weeds wash to and fro;
Herculean slaves heft aloft a golden globe
Where dancing Fortune turns with the breeze.
The city seems to float on the sea
Conjured up on a sunken forest
By the founding Magi
Those muscular models
For painted saints and heroes.

                               October 2017

Blake’s Paradise

Two mothers with sleepy children at their knees
Sit under a curious mushroom-shaped oak tree
On a village green
Enclosed in an echo of saffron light.
Beside them are two old men
With long white hair and broad-brimmed
Eighteenth century hats, and at a distance
Some slender boys and girls play cricket
As if body-painted in Raphael greens and blues.

Looking into a Blake illustration
Is like looking into a crystal
And you see
That paradise is very small,
You can hold it in your hand
And watch the angels of moonlight arrive,
The lion weep jewels of guilt
The stars descend into the trees.

                                   September 2017


The central acroteria on the Parthenon
Were ornamental unfolding palm fronds
Like peacock’s tails
Sculpted in Parian marble 
That seemed to curve back from the roof in the Aegean wind.
They stood above the friezes
On the apexes of both pediments of the temple
And were a completing gesture by Phidias,
As subversive as stray locks of Athena’s hair,
That dissolved the hard Hellenism of the building
Back into nature again,
And whispered the place to ruins.

That civilisation may not sink
We have striven the world to extinction.
The babe upon the mother’s breast
Gone to war.
Honour, coin, empire, slavery…..
The wise tell us
It would be better never to have lived.

Phidias’ fragile marble palms
Were unlikely to have stood for long above the gods on the pediments.
The fragments that survive are unweathered.
He must have known
That the first slight earthquake would have thrown them down.

                                           September 2017

Villanelle for a Blind Horse 

Will you ride a blind white horse,
Get up, and ride behind the wind,
Will you ride the darker course?

And if you turn back to the source,   
Passing beneath both hope and time,
Will you ride a blind white horse?

When you the darkness start across
Leaving your self-worn life behind
Will you go beyond remorse?    

When you birth and death rehearse
As men have done, time out of mind,
Will you ride a blind white horse?

And when that centripetal force
Grips your heart, what will you find?
Will you ride the darker course?

And will you then your time endorse
Or must you leave all time behind?
Will you ride a blind white horse?
Will you ride the darker course?

                         August 2017

“When you start on your journey to Ithaca”  C P Cavafy

When first you set sail for the Island,
Imagine another world,
Summon up into your mind, into your soul,
The Fortunate Isles, the Islands of the Blessed,
Imagine freedom, autonomy, a world held in common,
Imagine the Age of Gold.

Fear neither gods nor masters,
The Laestrygonians nor the Titans,
The anger of tyrants nor the pursuit of the Furies,
If you do not lose hope they will have no power over you.
And should you be driven onto Cyclops’ isle,
Do not give way to despair,
You and your companions will overcome him.
Remember that the enmity of the giants
Towards dreamers like you
Will always guide you onwards
If you let it enter your heart,
If you let it awaken your courage.

Anchor at many old harbours on the way
In Ionia or the Cyclades, in Phoenicia and Egypt,
And bring to them the intoxication of rebellion,
Add to your crew
But do not seek rich merchandise
Bought with enslaved hours and days,
Turquoise, coral and amber,
Perfumes, jewels and fine silks.
If you are free,
The quintessence of their beauty will cling to you,
In mid ocean, or ashore on desolate headlands,
It will never desert you.

Always remember the Island,
Carry it in your soul, in your imagination,
Voyagers such as you are its truest citizens.
So enter Alexandria and Athens,                        
Cities of the civilisation that feeds on lives
To learn from those who have knowledge,
And to study all those books
Which, emanating from such cities,
Are like maps of lost Odysseys, charts
To steer past the Sirens, to sail beyond
The island of the goddess of illusions.

Understand you will gain nothing from the voyage,
For freedom calls,
That scornful song the wind has taken:
Everything for everyone. Nothing for ourselves.*
Pull offshore with joy and rage,
Knowing that where you are heading
A mysterious new island is rising out of the sea.

                                     August 2017

Note: After Cavafy, Ithaca, and Auden, Atlantis.

*Para todos toda. Nada para nosotros.  Declaration of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. 

Sea of Dreams

Only consider how far down the beautiful islands go…..
Ikaria, thyme scented, forested Samos, pink Fourni,
Patmos, white on the horizon,
Falling steeply into that sea of dreams
Where Icarus sank
So inky blue you could dip your pen into it
And write what the old caïque-masters told
Of a drowned city:
How they hauled up their nets
And the sea poured off stone heads,
Sightless eyes, shattered marble….
How Ikaria was cast down from Olympus
To make a birthplace for Dionysus,
Took root in the sea,
A broken mountain,
Shaking with earthquakes,
Pine-crested, fractured,
Overrun with vines,
Its boiling mineral waters                
Upwelling in the sea caves
From Persephone’s wounds.

                                   July 2017

Note: The first line is taken from the Greek poet George Seferis.

An Alien Spaceship, Landed.
In memory of John and Jaki

It draws the warm night in
Like a faultless musical phrase
A walking moment
Scent of hay
Silent crowd blocking the road
A globe of light
A village bar in the south of France.

You said on the phone:
“We’re gigging.
Come along
Bring your horn”…..

And it draws the warm sounds in
Like an alien spaceship, landed,
A walking moment
A golden voice, closer, singing,
A brilliant interior, white light,
The spellbound earthlings crowding up….
And she’s the Oracle of Soul, no less,
Interstellar Sister
Singing for all uncorrupted dreamers
Sitting on a low stool
Hunched over the mic
Hair covering her face         
And she’s soaring….

Like a moth to the flame, I,
Over the heads of the crowd?
Levitated to the stage?
The sax on my shoulder
The ship’s drive notching up
My hands on the controls now
And you’re beaming at me, John,
Behind that synth-command-console,
Shining out of the light,
Head nodding
Like we’re sharing some ineffable secret
As I turn towards the mic
And the ship lifts off…..

You said:
“That was perfect!”
Twenty five years ago
On the solstice,
And you knew because you made it so.

And now you’re both gone;
Only the memory of a love beamed down,
Maybe a mysterious scorching of the grass?
Overhead…. the welcoming stars.

                           July 2017

The Lacadaemonians at Delphi

“Believe me,
Here at Delphi we saw just another Archon,
Sprightly, leaning on a staff,
Accompanied by the usual guard,
(Chosen, of course, for their beauty as much as anything)
Carrying finely-worked bronze spears
And silent, watchful,
Even modest….
Lacadaemonians from the south,
An intractable race, it was said,
Bearing an impeccable gold statue of Apollo for the sanctuary
And another senseless question to the Pythia,
Snake Sister,
Concerning dominion and honour…….

She sent them on some fool’s errand,
Something about laying ancient bones to rest,
A hint, to be sure,
Echoing the unsleeping horror of Atreus’ matricide,
A crime that has been laid at our door,
As they always are,
Pinned on us from time out of mind,
Who simply teach asking the right questions…..
We heard they rummaged the length and breadth of the Peloponnese
For years,
Having the excuse, you see,
But spies more like,
Those modest Lacadaemonians,
Until, as always,
Back they came with more expensive gifts,
Bronze tripods, cauldrons,
Looted from who knows where,
Cluttering up the place,
Seeking more information
To furnish their simple, upright minds.

This time she surpassed herself
Our noble kinswoman
Uttering faultless dactyls worthy of Homer herself
Describing a modern forge
‘Where two winds roar
And blow is met by counter blow
Grief piled on grief’…..
Evoking the never-ending calamity of war.

Eventually one of them thought he saw through it
Standing one day in an iron-worker’s smithy
In a town in Arcadia
Marvelling at the size of the bellows
At the intensity of the heat
At the properties of the strange new metal:
Do not the lords of men always wonder
At the artisan’s skill?
Of course he asked for bones,
And lo! bones had been found nearby:
Where is the earth not filled
With the bones of the victims of war?

So they carted them all back to Sparta
After doing a deal with the smith,
Without a second thought for the forge.
They missed the point entirely, you see,
And, to be sure, they did very well for themselves for a while,
Even here against us (although they respected the Oracle).
Yes, the ascendancy of the Lacadaemonians
Can be traced to the moment they seized those bones;
Without a doubt, they missed the point entirely.”

                                       June 2017


I walked up the dry river bed at Mycenae
Like a criminal, out of sight of the road,
Through a landscape the colour of a lion’s pelt;
Drowsed in the shade of a rock,
Drank brackish water from an army water-bottle
Dreaming lion paws in the dust……
Inarkhos, river of dust,
Dried up by Poseidon’s hatred of Argos,
Swallowed by the sea.

Even then…..on the outside,
Owning nothing,
Waiting like a fox for the visitors to leave
For the attendants to shut the great beehive
Tomb of Agamemnon and leave;
Waiting for the silence.

The cistern in the citadel was dry
The flight of steps into darkness
That terrified Henry Miller
Ends in organic rock
As if the wound had healed over.

O black night, you who nurse the golden stars!

Dog-like I lay in the dust
Of the house of Atreus,
The night occluded,
The roaring of the stones silenced,
No snake whispering in the dead grass,
Dead water to drink
And the red glow of a cigarette
My beacon-flare.

Seferis and Kerouac
Signed up for their bourgeois regrets,
In the visitors’ book
Of Hotel Belle Helene de Menelas
The furies whistling.

I brought no furies with me.
The stones were dumb mouths,
The stars turned away their faces.
The dust slept as well as I.

                               June 2017

Nostalgia for the Present

A dark, momentary summer
Ten or fifteen years ago,
Listening to the piano music of Ravel
In the garden
In days of sudden heat….
Miroirs, a reverie,
Awakening a drowsy nostalgia
For the eternal hour
While the bees stumbled in the lavender
The blackbird’s song
Dreamed time away
The swifts tilted about the sky;
A nostalgia for Summer
As if that present moment
Were somehow also
Deep in the past…..
And now, so soon,
It’s a long time ago,
Almost forgotten.

                     May 2017

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