Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2022


  A Father’s Questions   How can this be? It seems as if he gives out light.  Can this be mine – is he the child that’s just been born?   I find it hard to understand So I ask the animals – did you see what happened?   Why has the darkness disappeared? What is this strange new light? Has someone come to visit here   while I was fast asleep? Perhaps I’m still asleep, perhaps I’ll never know the reason why   a simple carpenter dreaming on imagined angels flying down with this new baby, first born son…   in the dark before I wake wondering what a father is, then woken by a feather touch.   What is a father?  I don’t know everything seems so long ago. Of course, he’s ours   and they are gone, leaving us – sleeping wife and confused old man – with our brand-new shining child.   Not much seems to have been written about Joseph. Nor, come to think of it, the feelings of any new father, presented with – even confronted by – hi

School Photograph

  School Photograph from the late 1930s   Begin at the bottom, for here are the youngest cross-legged, hands clasped over long-stockinged legs pens in top pockets – the curious and eager bemused or amused – all looking forward.   Above, they are older, kneeling uncomfortably to increase their height. Ascending we come to the staff who are seated.   Central, the Principal, white-haired and shrunken, pressed in by a burly begowned headmaster and that dog-collared pair (do they all wield the cane?) while a military man simply stares straight ahead. Here’s a broad-shouldered fellow, the only one smiling who must be games master.   Beside him, off centre, radiant in short sleeves, the sole woman smiles.   Up to the fourth rank – older boys now, each with lion passant over his heart. Serious young men like their seniors, confident (generally), determined, resolved, no doubt like their motto, in some sort of Latin.   The fifth are stacked up,


  One day I shall sleep in the shade of an orchard where wisdom has grown unnoticed. An apple falls releasing a thought. Surprised, I recall how old laws are discovered.   There are rich pickings for hens round rough trunks of old sagging apple trees acquainted with gravity. So here I will sleep like a satisfied scientist with new knowledge.   Orchards are peaceful places, especially on a sunny early autumn day. Perhaps the awareness that the year is drawing to a close, finding fulfilment in all this fruition suggests that work’s been done. Or maybe it’s even something to do with that unnoticed sense of gravity pulling one down which Sir Isaac Newton claimed he encountered in his orchard. One way and another, this is a time and place of rest. For us, as well as apples... For me, to sit against an apple trunk, or even lie, and think of nothing very much is indeed restful. On the other hand for Newton, it was more likely the beginning of a mass

Time to Go...

    September has always felt like a time of beginnings and ends, of arrivals and departures.   During all those long childhood, and later young adulthood, years it was the start of the new year – new lessons/courses, new teachers/lecturers and new places to have to go to and get used to. And, naturally, it’s a new season – the start of autumn. At the same time, it's a time of endings.   The end of the long summer break, of holidays and freedom; the end of what one’s got used to, of whole patterns of living.   Now is the time to pack stuff away, to decide how to leave things and – if away – to go home. The end of summer, no less. My poem focuses on departure – an imagined departure, in a very specific context.   The Officers’ Mess at Theresienstadt   The curtains still hang there half drawn since they left in a hurry that morning. Everything else they took with them – the gramophone, records, and group photographs, carved crests of the regiments painted on s


  With the word Narcissism much spoken recently, I thought I'd go back to the story – the real one, I was going to say, but the 'real' story is, well, as of course we all know, not true: it's really (!) no more than a story... This all gets a bit complicated – not least the story itself, along with the concept of reflection, giving as it does a true version of that which is reflected, yet not 'true', for the very act of reflection reverses – and so alters. (I'm especially aware of this, my wife being a printmaker – that which she carves in the wood when printed looks quite different, even though it's a direct print from the block). Be all that as it may, the Narcissus story is much deeper than the superficiality of the reflection, whatever it shows. So much so, that it's given its name to a psychoanalytic concept of great depth and complexity, as demonstrated by my friend Jeremy Holmes' masterly monograph on Narcissism*. He makes the point t

Tempus Fugit

  With June now behind us, there's a definite feeling of high summer. Specifically, the sun's high and certain sun-related things come into their element. Like sundials. There’s a big contrast between the simplicity of the sundial and the complexity of the clock: the fine gilding of the one, and lack of any paint on the other, indeed a rust dribble; the many internal cogs, wheels and striking mechanism – the clockwork, no less – of the one, and the minimal two components of the other; the silence of the one, and the never-ceasing tick-tocking, every quarter hour being rung out from the other… Both face south towards the town centre with its people bustling about their various businesses – the highly placed and visible clock where it may best be seen and heard; the silent sundial, generally unnoticed, lower down above the porch. I felt drawn towards the sundial, attracted by its silence and simplicity. I also wanted to see its inscription, expecting one of those aphorism

To a Cockchafer

A large brown European beetle which flies at dusk and is a destructive plant pest, both as an adult and a larva . That’s it. Of course, this is no more than a dictionary definition, but it takes no note of the striking appearance, intriguing life cycle and the curious story of our relationship.     I should like two sets of feathers fanned like ferns on either side, bracken clock, to tell me, show me what is where and how and when beyond my flat-head senses, little kittywitch. And those eyes, bulging black, that you borrowed from a mouse, mitchamador show you so much more. My humbuz, it was almost worth those years spent underground, the miserable history of DDT, near extinction, even once found guilty by a court of law, condemned by senseless men.   Tom beedel, big boy beetle, June-bug how much more you feel and sense as you wave your ferny fronds, those anemone antennae, how much more, dear snartlegog than I with none.     Pe

The Axe

I’m not a violent man – well, I like to think I’m not. But here was a strange experience, being startled by the realisation that I held such potential in my hand. All I wanted was to buy a new axe to split my logs, the old one’s head having broken from its handle. Suddenly however, I found myself not just in possession of a lethal weapon, but one that seemed to have its own inclinations. And even worse, the power to influence me. I wonder how much that’s a characteristic of all weapons? Well, the poem tells the story, so no need to say any more, except to add that I was further surprised to discover that what I’d written was light-hearted, when the experience was actually quite a heavy one. Still, all ended happily – my wood pile is high and tidy, no one came to any harm and I remain (I think) non-violent.     The Axe   Down there, as far as you can go... There they were, in the distant corner spades and mattocks, scythes and axes – heavy tools, unused and shining stood to attention in

My blog this month isn't a poem – nor even several...

  My blog this month isn't a poem – nor even several. No, this time it's a set of little films of poems. After sharing them with several of you, I apologise straight away if you've already seen them, but you might be interested to hear some thoughts on the matter. And if you don't want to hear me thinking about making films of poems, just ignore what follows and go straight to the YouTube link.   I hope you enjoy the films. And please tell me what you think! You may remember a couple of the poems appearing in past blogs, with me writing about the possible presentation of poetry in this way. Time was when poetry existed solely as the spoken or sung word – it took some time for it to be written down.  Now, for the most part, it exists and flourishes in both these forms. Recently, and refreshingly, it seems to have been recovering more of its original orality. Now we liv

Barn Owl Pellet

  Barn Owl Pellet   So this is what I’ve ended with. A set of skulls upon my page – two empty helmets still intact which rest on their incisors.   The pack was black, tight-packed in felt, dropped like a bomb which might have scattered bits and pieces, body parts   but as I pick the pack apart finding in fur, nail-clipping ribs, femora from a miniature dinosaur, a mandible with its row of molars   aligned in order like corn on the cob – here’s another to lay alongside – all these little light-weight bones bone-white and clean after their sojourn,   a burial of sorts, I find no trace of flesh remaining – just disjointed skeletal fragments wrapped in fur to protect a delicate throat   now collected into sets. All that remains of once warm mice, shrews and voles, has been gathered up   and rearranged upon this page.   I draw close. That which was rejected – this dusty debris, this residue is momentarily moved by my own

Masters and Servants

  Being almost square, this Holbein portrait is unusual, but there’s more that makes this particular one special.   The life-likeness of a man who lived some 500 years ago; the wonderful textures and freshness of skin, feather and cloth; the intriguing composition and disposition, creating that powerful sense of expectancy, awareness of things about to happen…   The man’s attention is drawn outside the picture – he’s watching and waiting. Waiting for something to appear, some other sort of development, a request, an order even? And, although hooded, so is the falcon, which unable to watch, simply waits.   Robert Cheseman served his master, Henry VIII as his representative in Middlesex.   Sometime after this portrait was painted, he was called upon to go to meet and bring Anne of Cleves to her husband-to-be – an unproductive foray it turned out to be, but that’s another story. (Although interestingly a portrait played an important role in that episode).   Robert Cheseman for his part wa