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Showing posts from 2023


I love the word Aftermath, with its apparent Anglo-Saxon simplicity. I read that it means after the mowing, perhaps a second or later mowing; more specifically, it can refer to the crop of grass which springs up after the mowing earlier in the summer. Even if the quality of the grass be criticised as not having the fragrance or sweetness of the first crop, or worse, dismissed as 'the bloomless aftermath', it is after all new growth – a reminder of what has been, and of what is yet to come. Aftermath Yes, the grass will grow again. There will be another season here upon these same old fields where sheep shall safely graze again as if it were the first occasion.   Fresh growth of flimsy blades will spring to feed a new-born generation here once more, in time, expected along with others, all those others drawn forth to prosper in the sun.   And some who left will come again remembering this place. A pair of swallows from the past will score the sky above the

The Wolf Mother speaks

  What a complicated relationship we have with our fellow creatures! When I said that, I wasn't actually thinking of our exploitation of them – important and sobering as that is – so much as how we relate to them, what we ascribe to them, what similarities we notice, or imagine, and what we as humans think we gain and learn from them. It's an ancient story of course – not just to be saved by an animal, but nurtured, even suckled. Why wolves should be so often chosen for this role is curious, but two thousand years after this particular telling of the story, the story of protective parental wolves continues to be told, as in the Jungle Book. Like other versions, my poem presents a speaking wolf. Having an animal thinking and talking opens the teller to the (usually critical) accusation of anthropomorphism. But if anthropomorphism is about seeing animals as more like us, or us as more like animals; then the attribution of human characteristics to animals, and vice versa

Strangeness and Familiarity

  A few thoughts about strangeness and familiarity... and imagination, brought on by discovering that this was the time when a familiar but strange man, endowed with a huge imagination, met his abrupt end. It may have been nearly five hundred years ago, but that day in early July probably felt much the same as today – so,  familiar : a warm English high summer's day, probably with a few screaming swifts darting over the Thames and a blackbird alarm call or two, responding to an unusual gathering of people.  The central character, nature lover as he was, perhaps would have noticed those familiar birds; their life and freedom – their physical freedom, as well as their freedom from imagination. It is strange trying to imagine how it would feel, having been imprisoned, to step out into the open air, to climb a slightly rickety scaffold (he made a joke about it) and then observe a few formalities, knowing that in a moment one's neck was about to be sliced through. The evidence

Midday in Stoke Churchyard

So here we are, entering the month that's half way through the year. My poem for this month shares that half-way point, having been written when the sun had travelled half its long day's journey – was at the top, at midday. A church yard isn't an original place to sit and write a poem, what with all those prompts of mortality, picturesque views of church and landscape beyond, with a bit of peace and quiet favouring rest and reflection. Traditionally perhaps one expects the poet to write their churchyard poem in the evening, with darkness imminent... but in my case, it was the brightest of times – one of those lovely summer days when the contrast between light and shadow was at its strongest, walls radiated warmth and life felt as though it was between breaths. Midday in Stoke Churchyard The tower tips, propelled by clouds, travelling its own way, away from the sea. Someone is mowing.  Here on a stone lichens have dropped, spreading their circles of silvery skin on to

The Swallow

  Perhaps there are too many bird poems already and perhaps all the things that might be said about them have been said, and certainly better said, than anything I can do now –   perhaps, in short, birds in general have become too poeticised, perhaps, perhaps... And yet the arrival – that long awaited, much looked forward to – was that really a swallow? – of the traditional herald (no, not that poeticised word 'harbinger'), of summer's-on-its-way, inspires (another poeticised concept to be avoided!)... well, at least, triggers ideas, memories, and happy associations. So here's my simple celebration of the swallow. It's a great pleasure to head it with my friend's painting, which alludes to various questions and man-made stories associated with this lovely bird – details below.   I've tried to incorporate them into my poem, as he has in his picture – more after the poem, if you're interested.     The Swallow   Stream-lined swallow with t

Here are many voices

   Here are many voices. Each one silent though full of words, waiting to be woken. I recognise these names and titles. Many are friends from long ago, beside the newly arrived and unacquainted – quite a few I’ll never know.   Nothing so patient as the unread book ready to unlock its store of story – eager description, gentle reflection, anger, sadness, earnest instruction. Some urging laughter. Others just trying to make you cry – sealed up and silent   as I draw near I hear in my head this voice of mine talking in various accents. My index finger touching the bindings can open up, unlock, unmute – set free stories and thoughts packed tidy and tight waiting like goods in a hold.   There they remain, heavily freighted with authorial intention, their burdens of words bound up and silent, unless another with finger and voice releases those words giving them sound. Until then, inside their covers they wait, weighted with so much to say

Looking at a Surface...

  Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Surface 1 Superficially George looked on glass. I don’t know if he saw heaven.   2 Perhaps he saw himself? But that’s another story – a different surface altogether showed a lovely face.   3 I see you on the surface. My skin is where I start and where you meet the world – a membrane keeps my inside in and all the outside out.   4 It’s just psoriasis. A profusion of the epidermal layer – excessive and exuberant skin cell reproduction if you want to put it simply. Whether it’s guttate, erythrodermic possibly pustular, even inverse the psoriatic phenomenon declares itself upon the surface   5 where Perseverance searched. And others delve, descend and dig – prospectors poke the diver dives… what lies below the surface?   6 Qin’s massive mausoleum waits to be discovered.   7 Surface for the dry geometer is readily defined – there’s length and breadth, but never depth being two-di


  Cleanthes     Draw near my friend – you must hear what I say.   Be of good cheer.   I am old – soon to depart. All that was made is created again. Green grapes grow into clusters of ripeness, afterwards raisins.   I have worked, I’ve worked hard for wisdom and knowledge come hard to a striver like me.   Once I was strong and knew how to fight but now I am ready to stop, to welcome the rest. I haven't been eating.   The soreness improved after fasting – they told me to eat again but as I have travelled most of this road I won’t retrace steps.   He has his wish, whose wish is to have enough: I desire nothing, only to have what is meant to be. There is no need for me to make changes, so I will stay fasting.   Each step is a change, not into what is not, but that which is yet to be. Dear brother, give me your smile. Farewell to this life. My fire will find new fuel. Don’t be distressed.   Your pain is yours you make

Dehydrated Frog

    Freeze dried dead, extended, stiff leathery thing found in the grass where once it died and had its being.   Behind in flight those lengthy legs tapering into reptile’s wings –   all flesh gone, skin drawn tight   little misericord dark with age – arms like mine bring hands together across a mummy’s empty chest –   fine fingers intertwine and clasp in supplication.   Your eyes are closed as if at prayer.   Leap on   in faith my frog, and leave – leave earth and water far behind all forgotten, no longer needed   may I die like you in my own grass with no assumptions in full flight.     January may be the start of the year: a time for looking forward to new events, new experiences – new life no less; but at the same time, that two faced god Janus peers backwards at what is lost, gone for ever, now dead. An artist friend painted the frog I’d found. It may seem exaggerated, but it’s a realistic picture, almost photographic. We wer