“How easy it is to make a ghost.”
While dandelions tell their feathered time,
Tired soldiers cross the meadow under heat.
The youth in the gun-sight cannot be aware
How light has turned his hair to shining down.
He sees his girl back home,—her naked lips
Are only naked now, because they blow.
Her lips are shining red, yet so exposed,
He has to turn his head. The sniper swears,
But softly. No one hears. The head turns back,
The mind turns back… “Three days ago, no more,
She wore her dreaming eyes and that white dress.
She blew until the grey smoke formed a drift,
And counted time away with naked lips.”
in collection The Ridiculous Nests of the Heart, 2003,
bluechrome, ISBN 1-904781-03-9;
published in Orbis, 126 (winner of readers' popularity poll, issue 127)
When, from sleep, your fingers close on air,
What image from the day is held so surely?
Perhaps you see a swallow tilt and turn
Above your cot, as herons curse in wonder,
And you catch it, with a gesture and a thought.
No matter that we count your months on fingers,
Those eyes express the confidence of wisdom,
As if the deal is flowing through your mind
And all you find, you study in your dreams.
Of course, there’s much to grasp and much to love:
Your parents’ voices; laughter from our table,
And river talk outside the pub at evening.
Already damp is rising from those fields
And even scent may have corrupted breath.
The moon is old; a fox will cough beneath it;
But you must rest, not troubled by these things,
As one who travels far from Adam’s garden,
Out of silence, to a word. One word will do.
in collection The Echo and the Breath, 2001,
Peterloo, ISBN 1871471869
Thoughts from a Caravan, After an Autumn Gale
Sometimes, I swear the landscape walks by night.
That hill,—a road-kill dog with fur of frost;
And barrow serpents, coiled round bones, awake
Together, to party with the giants.
Then boats are nudged from moorings, and caravans
Are shaken to creaks by club-callused hands.
Outside, the stomp-stomp-stomp of great bare feet.
When morning dares to light the heaving Malverns,
The sun is a poor artist, who struggles
To fix pigments on the dragon’s grey back,
Only leaving map-like splodges here and there
The colour of dried blood, Arthurian wounds,
In dips, on curves, as shadows move across;
And cows kneel down in fields, before such rain.
Winner, ex aequo, Poetry on the Lake "Bill Winter Award”, 2003,
and published in the Festival’s anthology, Hic Et Nunc.
All lives are wounded by the pins of air
Because the earth, in spinning, rolls us on
Towards the hidden point in every wind.
We cry alone, as part of one great song,
And God is dancing,—somewhere God is dancing,
Because the notes together make him drunk.
The tune he wrote, the world he wound to turn,
The silent people, standing to be hurt,
Are pieces in a pastime, not a plan.
He worships the mechanics, not the outcome,
He sets the bars and takes away all choice,
He hears the orchestration, not the pain.
Without him, tongues could shape no shrieking truth.
His complex, pricking tortures give us voice.
published in HQ Poetry Magazine, joint issue, nos. 31 and 32
The Great Divorcer
Dylan Thomas and John Keats both experienced a sea journey, to another land, and both died overseas. This poem was written about Keats but it is equally applicable to Dylan Thomas: which is why I decided to recite it above Thomas's former home, the Boat House at Laugharne; one of my favourite places. I've enjoyed many a family holiday at Laugharne, a Welsh coastal village which has changed very little since Thomas's day. The poem was published a few years back, in the HQ literary journal.