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.

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.

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.


The first of many days of Lent,

A walk of indecisive hopes

That fall and flutter, telescopes

Can pick out figures where time went.


One moment I have heart to dream,

Then crush it, sentencing my step

To be man’s mark on barren steppe,

And lose my sight of what I seem.


The promise of another task,

The light of distant island shore,

A flock of child-like bird adore

And ask the questions children ask;


Why does the sea lap up the rock?

The shapes the cliffs make, do they change?

If I walk west, where will I range,

And when return?  Who times the clock?


The desperate, half-mocked chance to care –

I didn’t really let the card

Imprinted with a kiss regard

My face’s puzzlement – just there –


I stood it on a shelf as if

I understood its sending, sent,

I understood all that she meant

Because I’ve fathomed motive’s glyph.


All characters are now to me

Like people populaced in books,

Their eyes give wary or vacant looks,

They seek to conquer, or to be free.


Reducing all my colleagues, friends,

And new acquaintances to parts

I vastly undervalue hearts

And so my hope in people ends.


Up jumps a hope, and then it drops,

And day by day or eve by eve

I wipe my tears on my sleeve

And harvest sadness with these crops.


I know too much, yes that I know

And would be glad, surrendering

The rush of teaching’s rendering

Of people, for the chance to go


And live for nothing else but this,

Grass and sand and seagulls’ cries,

Peatsmoke stinging bleary eyes,

Words that heal with their kiss.

Chalk at Broadstairs

When the tide, slow retreating from the beach north of Broadstairs,

Reveals all the liminal acres of shore,

A field of nobbly pinnacles rises

Slathered with purple, green-fingered, white-raw.

The chalk will feel greasy to fingertip gripping,

The seaweed is slippy beneath treading feet,

Yet the softest of stones is defeating the ocean

Absorbing the thunder where seas swell and meet.

The  cliffs, yes they tumble, they fall and they shout,

Collapse in the surf of the tide’s furthest rush,

But ten days in twelve the water drains backward

And the roar of the ocean will turn into hush.

The power of water is soon dissipated,

Rollers and breakers split into rills

And the cliffs, slowly crumbling, must face the ocean

But twice a day water retreats and then stills.

Delabole Waterfall at High Tide

Upon the lip a flow like glass,

It seems as solid as the slate

Over which the waters mate,

Salt and sweet, where waves amass.


The waterfall persists its flow,

Its noisy rattle, chatter, rush

But the bigger water sweeps in hush

The shatters patterns with a throw.


Now synchronised in flow and draw

The waves ride in and mount the shelves

Some further, nearer, spend themselves

To salinate the pool-spread shore.


Is it a battle or a game?

These two waters meet head-on

Their distinct selves are seen, then gone.

And left, one cold and salt-sweet same.

Canning Town

How beautiful the river banks,

Each a slick and shining brown.

The tide now slackens out through town

Past railway sidings, standing tanks.


Here reeds are stained and standing thick,

The ducks and gulls squat on the mud

And later comes the brackish flood

But now the silt is dark and slick,


Here interrupted by a pile

Half-rotted, stained with grey and green,

There lies a tire, half-sunk, half-seen,

And so on down the winding mile.


All the way, from here to the sea,

The Thames retreats from its own bed,

Its mind is changed, intentions fled,

So changeful as the moon we flee.