27 September 2011 § 8 Comments
Seeds of change
One for the rook
One for the crow
One to wither
One to grow.
One for the deluge
One for the drought
One each for the pigeon
And mouse to dig out.
One for the subsidy
One for the crash.
One for the Government
Desperate for cash.
One for the trader
In futures, who bets
On prices, then pockets
The millions he gets.
One for the banks.
Make that two – make that ten.
No, make it a billion.
And then start again.
One for the climate,
Now warming, it seems.
One for our hopes.
One for our dreams.
One for our gluttony
One for our greed
None for the millions
We choose not to feed.
One for the rook,.
One for the crow.
One to wither.
One to grow.
The farmers are already busy drilling next year’s cereal crops, and I’ve had the old rhyme about seeds that bookends this poem going round in my head all day. Blame the Party Conference season for the rather downbeat tone of the stuff in between!
12 September 2011 § 9 Comments
Someone else’s storm
The oak is full of surf-sounds.
The poplars hiss and twist
Branches bent like umbrellas
Twigs, leaves, small branches litter
The verge and gutter,
Pigeons hurtle over the wood
Like artillery shells:
Even the drowsy river
Is stippled and disturbed,
Raked by cat’s-paws.
Clouds big as counties
Shutter the sun, sending shadows
Running like hounds over the plough
And under it all
A deep-drone fugue
For Aeolian harp
Played on gates and power lines.
The land shakes, waits,
Wondering what will break upon it
As force and fury tear across
Three thousand miles of ocean.
And here we are
Caught up again
In someone else’s storm.
1 September 2011 § 15 Comments
(with apologies to Seamus Heaney)
In fat, black clots,
Sun-warm in tubs
That once held ice-cream.
Thorns tear at hands, clothes,
Punishing our thievery,
Staining light fingers
Dark with juice.
And, neatly packed in glossy flesh,
The sun comes home with us
To rise again in steam and sweetness
When the cold days fall.
30 August 2011 § 5 Comments
One for sorrow
A fan of piebald primaries
Woven through the rough grass of the headland.
Downed by the hawk
Then butchered by Reynard
Or so I thought.
Until I caught
A single feather’s blue-green sheen
Shining like oil on water,
The glint in the keeper’s eye.
One for sorrow. Hello, Magpie.
23 August 2011 § 13 Comments
The words I seek
Don’t live in my town
But out here,
Shining, sea-wet, in the sand
Flying in skeins
Resting on rocks
Or perched in trees
Half-seen out at sea
Or round sudden bends in the narrow cliff-path.
With the poacher’s patience
And fisherman’s finesse
I can catch them
Hold them for a moment
Before they wriggle free
Leaving only their warmth behind.
And a single juicy one in the bag
Is all it takes to feed me.
23 June 2011 § 15 Comments
I have found myself
So filled with others’ clamour
My own word-hoard is spent and plundered.
I have measured each hour’s value
While leaving its true worth unweighed;
Made walking in the woods and fields
Another tick on the to-do list,
Gloried in the dawn departures
And burning quarts of midnight oil,
Talked of plans and strategies,
Of doing, being, wanting more.
So I must lose myself
Again; become forgetful,
Run my hands along the bark
Of growing trees, watch the wind
Turn ash-leaves silver,
Smell the grass the cows have trodden,
Find my old ways through the woods.
And if I wander far enough
I know that I will meet myself
Coming back again.
20 June 2011 § 4 Comments
A white beam
Sweeps the midnight fields
Like a hand searching under a bed.
Grass-blades caught beneath its bright gleam
Bristle black; a million tiny gnomons
Telling the rapid hours
Of this unwonted, sudden sun.
The woods recoil before
The engine’s heavy throb,
And poplars flare
Like burning buildings
In the tail-lights’ angry glare.
The echo rolls
And ricochets around the farm.
Keep your head down, Reynard;
Squeeze tight the shining eyes
That will betray you
And seek the shelter of the earth.
At half a mile, my skin grows tight
Waiting for the spent stray’s bite;
Then wonder. The hunting dog is gone
In search of rabbits on the wrong
Side of the hedge. Caught in the edge
Of that cruel light, a half-second’s untutored sight
Of that long nose and wolfish gait
Would be enough to seal his fate.
I call him, with the sickened urgency
Of frantic fathers trapped in Tripoli
When unseen hunters rip their night
With noise, and death’s unholy light.
13 June 2011 § 11 Comments
Rounding a rise deep in the wood
I feel my throat and fingers tighten:
A half-dozen young hornbeams
Supple, wrist-thick, new in leaf,
Wrenched from their ancient coppice-stools
Or snapped off shoulder-high,
Torn ends splayed like old paintbrushes,
Stark-white as wantons stripped in the market-place.
Someone seized these living limbs
And broke them, felt the soft bark split and curl
Heard the tender fibres tear
Smeared their hands with green and sap
And – what then? Just walked away
Or – more likely – ran off laughing, leaving
These slender lengths of springtime bent
And sticking out like dislocated fingers.
I stand in my defiled, sacred space
And grieve. For more than trees died here today.
12 June 2011 § 6 Comments
Seen from inside
Is a grey hell:
Trees in full leaf flayed by a west wind
Thrash and hiss with spray
A ten-tenths sky leans on the land
Like a drunkard on a doorpost
And next-door’s downpipe
Mumbles an ostinato in its throat.
I stand under the wood’s dripping eaves,
Smiling warm, watching the hunting-dog
Gun down rabbits in the wet field.
No rain reaches beneath my hat-brim;
My jacket turns the wind’s blade like a shirt of mail;
In these boots I could wade a river.
No such thing
As bad weather:
Just the wrong clothing.
14 April 2011 § 6 Comments
The night watch
Walking the woods as twilight slips
Like a poacher between the fading trees
My every step sets off some new alarm:
A blackbird chinking like a mason’s chisel;
A stream of shrill invective
Pouring from an unseen wren, blazing with a courage
A hundred times her size;
Pigeons clattering from the topmost branches
In a fusillade of frantic wings;
Jays and magpies rasping threats, while the silly yaffle
Hides behind his nervous laugh.
The watchword is passing through the wood
Like a creeping barrage. I advance behind it,
All element of surprise long gone
And with it any hope of gaining ground.
And as I pass back into the world
Of cars and curses, litter and the ugly shouts
Of boys and girls abroad too late, grown up too soon,
The darkening wood still rings with song:
The all-clear, and a sweet lament
For what the world once was
And all that we have lost.