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Showing posts from 2020

Fair and Foul

  The Sea Captain Commissions his Ship Portrait Now tell me how you would like it – Full sailed, running, proceeding well all-set aloft, the boy at the wheel, prospect of fish from your line at the stern and the mate fast asleep in his bunk? Or only a jib and the driver with a couple of staysails drawn tight, almost hove-to – all straining through a storm that lasted the night? Maybe a soft sea lapping the stemhead, canvas bellied, as if all satisfied; galley door open, binnacle gleaming – just a wisp of a cloud in the sky? Or waters that gush through the scuppers, the steersman roped into place, restless ballast rumbling below decks, screams of a gale in the rigging? Fair or Foul – you’ve only to choose – I paint both of them equally well. As you stand with your foot on the fender, the little ones hearing your words it may be serene days of ease, breezes and translucent seas you’ll want to describe. Or when crashing through tens and elevens captain and crew together were chal

A Thoughtful Body

  I’m a thoughtful body, you can see dear skull – you were once joined up like me, recognised and speaking.  Now not a trace of all that made your well-known face – no flesh, no skin, no lips or tongue, no lungs or breath to sing a song – no eyes to see, no ears to hear – although you cannot shed a tear can you tell me what’s to come?   Dear alter ego, I am dumb as you remarked.  What can I know, a disconnected skull?  So, live in the present, which is where you find yourself, and do not care about the future.  What I heard said came from inside my empty head – but I think I can’t think that I heard since I can’t hear or say a single word.     Halloween – the time of year for skeletons. Strictly speaking, Hallowe’en – Hallows’ Even or Hallows’ Evening – is October 31 st , the eve of the All Hallows’ Day, and we’re now into November.  But the festival, if that’s the right word, of Allhallowtide runs for three days.  Here then, with no apology,

The Barn Owl, Samuel and his pot, and me

The Barn Owl   I thought of the barn as mine.  But as she lives there it belongs to her   I’ve been reading Samuel Menashe’s poetry. His most famous poem is even shorter.    A pot poured out Fulfills its spout.   The distinguished academic Christopher Ricks spends several pages poring (sorry) over this wonderful poem, pointing out all sorts of poetic techniques in play, and indeed the more carefully and the more often one reads it, the more there is to find – that pot just keeps on pouring. For example, it’s not the pot – it’s a pot, which is worth thinking about. Similarly, the American spelling of fulfills has something extra to say about a full vessel; not to mention the alliterations, sound play, rhyme, internal symmetry (each line of four syllables perfectly balanced, as you’d expect from a pouring pot) and the sharing of contents (that pot’s ‘ot’ moving into the ‘o-t’ of out and thence finding its way into, or should I say out of, ‘spout’ – having


Granny with dementia, reciting The Revenge At Flores, in the Azores – how she remembered it! At Flores, in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay… It was all in her memory, long ago learnt, locked up securely yet biding its time buried like treasure before we were born ready to gleam when the lid might be raised – At Flores, in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay,   And a pinnace, like a flutter’d bird, came flying from far away: So we were captured, spell-bound prisoners. Each word was polished as if it were gold. I hear them now, those old rolling phrases like waves from the deep, the far Spanish Main, beginning their life so far, far away to roll over the oceans, washing up on our foreshore salty fragments now altered, tied up in new ways with some of their old rhymes – Lord Howard declaring he was no coward, he could not – no, I cannot can’t meet them … for my ships are out of gear. But like the Revenge, she still sailed on, against

Gray's Anatomy

Gray’s Anatomy Descriptive and Applied  34th Edition 1968 Begin at the beginning, with the fertilised cell from which originate all tissues and organs. Biblical, it lies open at the lesson for today, revealing that which is contained within to whomsoever would study this still life. My finger glides across the glazed page following vessels of red and blue, criss-crossing in their travels.  Tributaries may be traced like roads or rivers, with accompanying prose – for it is preceded near its insertion by the second, or first and second, perforating arteries. Light streams down its old familiar course to pour upon a clean tiled floor.  No dust here. Porcelain gleams, steel shines, even the page reflects.  Little chained grapples draw back tissues to display the obscured – if not otherwise clear there are figures and diagrams, photos and pictures offering views from every angle. Here you see both hind and midbrain from the postero-lateral

Anguis Fragilis

I didn’t hear it either. An electric strimmer’s got a lot going for it – as opposed to my petrol driven one, with its noise, vibrations and fumes.   But that very silence can be a killer too. My eye was caught by a flash of metallic sheen. There amongst the grass trimmings along the edge of the road was a beautiful torque.   I bent down and picked up the silky smooth, still warm circlet which I could wrap round my wrist.   I stood for a moment, wondering whether to show this discovered treasure to the strimmer up on his bank, but he was focused on his work, and what would have been achieved? Instead I called out good morning to him – which it was, the slow worm no doubt also enjoying the unexpected warmth of the sun a few minutes ago – and slipped the compliant creature into my pocket.   When I got home, I laid it out on the table, admiring the different colours of its two sides, the ease with which it could make different shapes – letters and numbers – and the at

The Winners!

We are the Winners! They’ve packed up and gone – the whole bloody lot of them pushed off in their ships. So end of the story! Open the gates come and see for yourself – they are the losers we are the winners! We knew we would win with right on our side. Of course it took time and we suffered too for winning’s not easy we’re all well aware. But we stood our ground and they ran away – victory’s sweet! Specially when hard won but we got there at last – well done everyone! And look what they left in their hurry to go – a curious horse! help pull it inside as it’s ready to move. Come on everybody we’ll party around it all day and all night. History will tell how we saw them off! They’re gone and we won – Hey winners! Job done! There’s been a lot of win/lose talk recently – even, more specifically, the widespread deployment of military terms.   Front lines, unseen enemies and casualty numbers, orders being

Return of the Green Man

His wound-up crozier straightens out tightened springs unwind, releasing frondy fingers first, tipped with soft new nails followed by stalk of hand and wrist then un-stretched arcs of bramble arms thrown out to grasp and root. Keratin hardens, new limbs grow stronger from the making. He emerges phloem fed, hydrated by xylem strong-armed in lignin. Rib circled he inspires, his inflating body ready to break its bonds swollen with fresh projections. Leaves sprout from every crack jostling. They are drawn forth these unsuspected members to find themselves full of purpose and unruly. Renewed man is almost ready to take his leave once more, once he has learned to walk and take stock. Firmly rooted multi-limbed he advances when you’re not looking implanting his staff afresh he leaves the last one, leading the way to his rightful place through irrepressible growth. There are lots of Green Men – so ma


In recent years poets have attached themselves to all sorts of places as poets-in-residence – such as famous landmarks, beauty spots or buildings, especially if there are literary associations.   Residencies have since extended to more workaday places like supermarkets, clinics, prisons, stations, offices, factories, airports, theatres… and outwards, to include teams, groups and all sorts of clubs and organisations. My residency was at a crematorium. With its great variety of people working closely together, performing an essential job in a distinctive place which exerts a certain fascination, it promised to be a fruitful choice. Which proved to be the case. A set of poems resulted from all my watching, listening and talking – to technicians and office staff, managers and gardeners, to visiting professionals such as clergy and lay celebrants, organists and funeral directors, to mourners and attenders. This one comes from the middle of the sequence, after the cooled c


    Exminster Mental Hospital Notice The Hospital have for disposal various Goods as per Price List below. Samples of which can be seen at the Canteen or Female One Ward. Some of the items are second-hand but having rendered good service and been subject to careful assessment they are commended for general perusal. Others of course are unused. Howsoever they may have arrived the Committee has no hesitation in confirming their general utility for Staff and for Patients alike. Early inspection is urged Management being aware that every item will prove to be no less than excellent value. Individuals with particular needs not addressed by the present arrangements are requested to postpone any purchase since further disposals will follow, Management ever mindful of the undoubted continuing need to mainta