150 Backers!

The 150th Backer of Steam Highwayman is Mr Jared Foley.  In honour of his participation, I have composed this short clerihew:

Jared Foley
Made his decisions carefully, not, whatever they said, slowly.
His intentions were creative
His manner thoughtful and certainly contemplative.

Thanks Jared!  We met and made friends at the Crossness Engines Steampunk Convivial on Saturday, when I also had the honour of meeting Mrs Marian Foley.  I’m very pleased to be able to offer a little something in return.  He is the esteemed Chief Buccaneer of the London Steampunk and Dieselpunk Society as well as a patron of the arts.

[Edit 12.10.17 – Unfortunately I was forced to remove the handsome photograph of Mr Foley: for some reason it had become a spam-bait, attracting around 500 spam comments over 3 days, largely from bots wanting to sell me medication or discuss the Prince of Persia.  If anyone can enlighten me on this, please comment – but be sure to write something that indicates you’re real.]

Skelwith Force

The torn polygonal scraps of slate that line

Brathay’s bed above the force

Are dull when plucked, laid out and dry, but shine

Under the crag-stream’s course.

The whole broad dale at Elter Water’s strewn

With spring’s flood-leavings

And the upturned ash and birch-tree ruin

Tell of unseen heavings.

Out of the hill came the water, stripping the stone,

And lushing up the dale,

Around the ice-old mounds, the under-bone

Of the sleeper of a forgotten tale.

The soft and hard are side by side and felt

By every walker strolling down to see

The water turn to steam,

The clear become opaque,

The straight begin to bend,

The sure become unsure,

At Skelwith Force, where glaciations melt

And obstacles sudden slip free.

This Morning’s Poem

This mist on the Woolwich reach
And the glowing smoke of the clipper’s exhaust
Lie on the silver-silted wildfowl beach
Where every cold-shanked creature
From the dipper to the gull to the unemployed teacher
Treads in the silence the morning has enforced.

Silence in the world, frosted, stilled
But a spirit cry of sorrow melts inward ice.
I forgot. Meeting needs has filled
My day and been the building
I’ve been both brick-laying and gilding.
A melody makes me think twice.

It was a new song with a very old thought:
How far did they travel to give their treasure?
How many times wondered, how far the rest they sought?
And continued, purposed, refreshed with a water
Convincing star-seekers the way was getting shorter
And at last, in making a present, take pleasure.

You changed the reason that I should live
From managing to celebrating, from ‘enough’
To so much that I must learn to give
More frequently, more deeply, just to deliver
Others’ blessings, then, with a shiver,
Discover a smooth way that was rough.

I don’t yet do justice to the purpose you bring:
The world changed when you showed us real aid.
Guaranteed that all we do in honour should sing
With inner music, joy appear surprise-springing
Difficult days be the ones bells keep ringing
And I grasp it for a moment, weep, then act unafraid.

I was teaching a GCSE English Literature student about different sorts of rhyme yesterday, thinking about Browning and the Victorians – wanted to push myself to something a little more challenging.

The subject wanders from my window to the music I was listening to last night, my typical preoccupations with provision and purpose, and a very poor attempt to capture some of the joy I felt this morning, remembering that it is all new, that the story of Christmas is definitive, powerful, and that Jesus is the the point. It was as though I had forgotten for a while. Sorry, Lord.

Wagamama Ramen Quatrain

​I visit Wagamamas for a bowl of ramen noodles,

Recuperate, read a book, sit and draw some doodles.

The portions are so generous, the broth full of umami,

That any other option for a ramen would be barmy.

Long Live the Poetry of Geology!

wpid-img_20151114_114949.jpgYesterday’s review is now live on the London Grip.

Two poets I’ve discovered from the anthology:

Jonathan Davidson, whose ‘William Smith’s Poem’ was one of my favourites;

Maura Dooley, whose ‘Treasure Island’ begins the collection with a nostalgia-tweaking love-of-my-land reflection on the purposes of poetry and geology – and why not all human pursuits?  Aren’t all our disciplines another ‘translation of Truth’s imagination’?

Reviewing in Progress

wpid-img_20151114_114949.jpgThis morning I’ve been enjoying re-reading and reviewing Map: Poems After William Smith’s Geological Map of 1815, edited by Michael McKimm.

I review for the London Grip, edited by my friend Mike Bartholemew-Biggs.  I previously wrote about McKimm’s Fossil Sunshine and enjoyed that very much – but in the upcoming review I discuss how McKimm has shared his discovery of the geology’s rich seam of latent metaphor with other poets, and their diverse responses.

Wine and Water

A glass of wine might slake the thirst

But water, sure to rest the soul

Runs freer, less in our control,

The next draught swifter than the first.

 

Yet still we have this drink to share

Through time, across a world made small,

I drink with poets, saints and all

Distracted, dreaming, trying to care.

 

Blood.  It does not mix with oil.

Another source of cleanliness

To sluice the cuts that nonetheless

Are stinging, tinctured with the soil

 

Of all the everyday, and night,

The bringer of our rest or pains,

Should heal us as we sleep, but veins

Of running sorrow bleed us white.

 

So washing off all worry’s marks –

Cold splash of spring-fed water, or

A brassy jug of wine to pour

So rainbows shine in ringing arcs.

City Lights

A mile away the city lights –

The ancient, banking city, lit

With red and white and sure to fit

All today’s money – those clear sights

 

Which stand on towers stood to the South

One half the distance to my school,

They blink and glimmer like the pool

Reflecting stars from night’s broad mouth.

 

From here I see them every dusk

And every morning, if I rise,

They shine beneath plane-brightened sies,

They flood the morning like rich musk,

 

A smell of money?  Or of time?

Perhaps of youth?  But none I know,

The choices I took long ago

Forewent this wealth, undid this crime

 

To eat while others starved and cried,

I chose to eat the children’s bread

And rest upon a narrow bed

That barely rests me on my side.

 

But then it was no choice for me –

There never was an enchantment

About the interests money lent

So how can I claim virtue’s fee?

 

Our hearts each lead us where our minds

Can tell us that our calling dwells

And all the lies that rumour tells

Are as the rusted swords time finds.

 

As years pass, they seem less and less,

All worn by soil, by water, salt,

And distant tongues grow hard and halt

While living words grow and possess.

Kon Tiki

Between the lines the story tells

I hear an author’s voice distinct.

Convinced that he and I are linked

I hope to set such stirring spells.

 

Adventure, or a sudden loss,

Alike speak truth when men can stand

And see themselves as earth of land

And venture futures on time’s toss.

 

The rafts of dreamers, mad or sane,

Carried by inhuman streams,

Rivers in the sea, strong beams

Of balsa wood and bamboo cane,

 

Light as light and fragile, lithe,

Barely count to city minds

But when the rocks and anchor grinds

Rafts pass swift on, serene and blithe.

 

For those who share the water-rolls,

Split and crash through frantic swells

A floating scrap of wood impels

No certain theory, proves no wholes,

 

But if you have become relaxed

And let the currents rise and dip

Allowed them lift you, turn and tip

Theories convince untaxed.

Lines from a Train Window by Bedford

By Bedford sheets of water blanket grooves –

The sillion silvered, overcome and smoothed.

Hedgerows prove ancestral farmers’ plans

But water came and drank up all the land.

A waste – lost value – blank diminished ground –

Or know that soil too needs rest and sleep.

A string of salmon-coloured floodlights from

A light industrial estate, those sheds

Near Wellingborough, parade a fan of rays

Across the fresh full mere like liquid stars.