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.

Mozart, Christe Eleison

Christe eleison bright rises in my ear,

The melody I learnt long since resounds again, so near.

To watch one gifted retch and pale

And see his talents fail,

What response, but a quiet and sincere

Christe eleison.

My friends I choose to address quite clear:

Your gift is great, although few hear

The music written when you nightly wail

Christe eleison.


Every maker takes his chance to disappear,

Lose himself in his creation, let the seen be seer,

If that’s the way to weave a tale

Or hang a phrase upon harmony’s nail

Then what is any art, but a mere

Christe eleison.

Chartreuse and the Computer

Do you remember

sitting on a sofa, rocking your computer with our feet,

to keep the DVD running,

so we could watch

the pilot

of Twin Peaks

wrapped in a blanket,

a shared blanket,

leaning on each other

drinking Chartreuse

in a 14th century attic?

My laptop today

developed the same palsied shakes

and I’ve had to tap it to watch my DVD.

But it’s not a programme I’ve ever shared with you

and I don’t have any Chartreuse

and I can’t feel your hair beneath my hand.

Incoming Tide

Every pattern that’s made by the water

Where tides sculpt the ripples of low-slung sand levels

Is hidden, invisible, but for its traces,

The skeleton ridges and quartz-dancing revels.


Across the cold strand the sea is like silver,

Its lobes licking tenderly flattened out swells.

The sand barely rises, except when the water

Displays a true level and every tongue tells.


But even those waters are ebbing and rushing

And never the beach or the sea’s edge is smooth,

But climbing, high-rising, then falling, revealing,

It softens the crystals just like lullabies soothe.

Fallow Fields

Four months already stand these fields fallow

That thickly were sheaved,

That thickly were sheaved.

Cuts the share deeply and lie the stones shallow,

Turned up the treasures we mean time to hallow,

The trees all unleaved,

The trees all unleaved.


Coincident footsteps convinced us of meaning –

I saw and believed,

I saw and believed.

Your hand for my holding, my wounds for your cleaning,

Those words for our hopes and your shoulder for leaning

And what we achieved,

O what we achieved.


The ground is all spent and now little is growing

For I’ll not plant there,

No I’ll not plant there.

Why cover the ploughings with a new Year’s sowing

Where the bones of the land are still bare and showing

And I know I still care.

I know I still care.

Poignant to me – as it was after expressing this that I felt different: while I still felt affection and gratitude, I was no longer bound in love.

Seeking Beauty

I used to think you had to understand,

To know your place in history’s line,

Your form, your pace, your isocline,

And hold your past and future in one hand,


The hand that holds the pen.  No more.

The pattern of art’s providence

Is far more complex, fractal, tense,

Than any art can frame or store,


And when I’ve walked through quiet pines

I’ve heard the boughs that yawned and swayed

That beauty isn’t something made

But something found between straight lines.


Hear Mozart tumble with his tune –

He knows how long to tease and tweak,

But try and numerate that feat –

Retire, and learn to play bassoon.


I wrote three thousand words today

In just two hours, to do what’s due,

Delineate some skill’s debut

And teach a child to make work play.


But that was not enough, I missed

The target I had had me aim

And have drawn out this writing game

To be the whole week’s stretching list.


What better?  Suffer?  Write and sob

Or inject laughter, distract noise

Forget my children, leave the boys

The girls, the classroom, drop the job?


I am one man – I have one heart –

And when I test it, stretch it out,

The pain is like a desert’s drought,

The muscle rested pulls apart.


Then only through life’s constant work

Can I find rest from doubt or debt.

There’s no relaxing here, not yet,

So I’ll pick up the pen I shirk.

In Memoriam CRNM

I went alone by old canals

And saw the gardens grown from waste

Coal-heap compost, newspaper paste

And smelt the raindrops’ funerals.


Around a reedy, autumn pond

A wary grasp of sycamores

And mortal ash trees marked with flaws

Where wire fences scarred their bond.


Upon the puddles ripples ring;

The sky begins to decorate

The garden with a water-weight

And smack the mud, and patterns bring.


It is a partial sanctuary;

Aided and abetted, rich,

Leafmould rotting in a ditch,

A very sullen place to be.


The lonely walk I’ve taken here

Has led past corners where we laughed

And where we drank a loving draught

And where we shared a pint of beer.


How could it not, when every street

Has been a place we’ve known and shared?

When every roadsign once declared

The city was our place to meet?


I cannot walk past cranes or trees,

Follow paths or railway lines

Without seeing speaking signs

Of what you sometime meant to me.


I had to go to somewhere new –

A place I never shared, and still

As up the tower I found my thrill

I wanted so to be with you.


The train fled through a concrete scar

Half across the garden fields,

Through the chalk your bone-land yields

Not long away – and yet too far.


I felt my trespass in a place

Reserved for our shared wanderings.

I cried to think of happy things –

Cold on the downs, your true embrace.


The beach is shingle and I read

That half the land is shingle too,

Five centuries worth of land born new

Where once the sea lay in its bed.


Each stone a flint plucked from the chalk

And rounded by the waves’ rough play

Until it found a place to stay

Where rustles are the stonefalls’ talk.


There is a castle on the marsh

Built by a famous, frantic King,

Now a ruin, crumbling

And eaten – rotten – broken – harsh.


Built there to stand upon the shore

But stranded by the passing tides

Each bringing stones, and wrack besides.

The sea is not there anymore.


Two miles inland – what a plain sign

For all those things we deem most firm.

The world will change, so ends the term

Of all possession – but chiefly mine.


I loved you till it creased my soul;

I changed my mind to want your shape

And feel the lack when you’d escape:

You did.  I let the pebbles roll.


So starts an avalanche again –

The smallest stones move rocks.

The freest hearts are bound with locks

That rust like links in anchor-chain.