Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Stolen Tongue of a Scarecrow

Two ravens. Sisters, or mother and daughter?
Both smoking. Both were looking at me,
eyeing me up and down as if I was a shiny
thing that they might like to swoop upon:
carry me off to their nest.

Ravens?  Certainly.
One had a cawing, croaking
voice tainted with the smoking
blackness of her beak.
But the other, older sister or mother speaks
with the stolen tongue of a scarecrow.



As in a still life, strange objects get deposited in this room. Today, a violin has decided to join in. It slouches inconspicuous like an old-time private investigator against a white wall between a shoe and a baby pickle onion jar. The shoe is an open toe summer job with polka dots. The jar is a third full with shiny things: buttons, pieces of mirror and mother of pearl. The strings of the violin are gone. Just a black neck rising to a piece of wood that curls like the figurehead on an ancient ship. If I was a musician, I'd know the proper names for these things. The sun picks out a perfect cobweb the size of a gramophone record and just as old and dusty. The violin starts to make itself known. It shows me a yellow book filled with sketches of plains illuminated by moonlight. It lights another cigarette and refers me to the glossary.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Love Story

Having spent a good proportion of my day painting a ceiling, the mental jukebox persisted in playing this tune until the job was done, cobwebs dusted away and most of the cracks filled in...

Friday, 28 September 2012

Happy If They Knew It

Llewellyn Powys at Chydyok

I had been working in my garden. The sun was just below the horizon and the dew was already on the small green walks bordered by sweet-smelling roses and carnations. The stillness of the evening was broken only by the whistling of a blackbird. I sat down on a rude seat I had formed beneath an old tree and, as I thought of the fruits and plants that were ripening around me, I exclaimed to myself: 'How happy if they knew it, are they that till the ground.'”

William Barnes, quoted in Somerset and Dorset Essays by Llewellyn Powys.

Willliam Barnes

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Moon Day

Grey grass rolled out like a rumpled carpet. A moon on the horizon in a misty halo.
Frost in the grass, like distillations of the moon painted on the blades.

A window. A chair from a dying man's house brought to this place. Wood on mat.
With careful positioning it is possible to create a view that gives an impression of endless trees.

That tall fir. It looks like a witch dancing in the wind that rolls like brushes on the roof, windscreen – mesmerising like a car-wash.

This half bottle of sweet wine. Why?

Magic. That's what we crave.
Something that acts like a filter
between what everyone else sees.

Yellow, red, green.
Misty halos around
the moon.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Black Field Furrows

Little frigates of dirt sail on the curve of your skin under the horn of a nail. 
The water is spiked, laced with tranquilising oils. You’ve been here for what, 
one whole hour? You don’t know, 
can’t tell. 

Can’t be as confident as the clock.

A flake falls like snow into the furrows of a black field. 
Dead skin from where you ran the nail across your brow. 
Dead skin ticking down like the slow 
clock telling time in particles of dust.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Return Of The Invisible Gangsters

There’s a lay-by near a bridge. It leads to a village named after the bridge. There are a lot of zeds in its name. The village has a long, curling name like a snake. Damp parlour weather. A white showman’s trailer pulled behind a bull-nosed truck. Parked in the lay-by near the zed shaped bridge. Silver foil from a cake dropped on the rainy slate. Shines like an eye. A pair of boots lying on their sides as if they belong to an invisible gangster after a shoot out. We’re a long way from home, boys. The rain falls in a mist. Views of falling water. Slate shores. Bridges further below. Arches. Vertigo. Tall weather for tall tales. Invisible gangsters after a shoot out.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Day Rises

Brackish water, cola-foaming at the greenish shore pebbled with shadows,
leaves dry as tobacco, their delicate skeletons fading, transparent.
She pours the water, the black water into a cloudy jug
carries the water, its brackish cola foams, ascends the grey boards
littered with words, pages that spill old-time jazz men
their cheeks ballooning with red air to make blue sounds
that carry up the stairs where she places the jug – white pages
in a velvet book with mossy bindings, ivy-berried punctuation marks
lying next to a white shroud where a trench has been dug
and in its muddy puddle depths a mirror lies broken
a jagged line like lightning tears his faces, zags his skin
as she ladles the water, the brackish water into fluted glasses
and they drink, drink to the day that rises in a cloud
filling the room for them to travel through, filling the room,
their guidebooks already half-written, filled with maps
painted in watery inks.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Messy, Isn't It?

Listened to Messy Isn't It? - The Life and Works of Richard Brautigan. What did I learn?

Firstly, the 'messy isn't it?' note is a myth.

Secondly, through a combination of story-telling and lights set up on timer switches, it took a long time for anyone to realise something was wrong. Actually, I already knew this. But what I didn't know was how gruesome the state of his body was in when they finally found him.

Then there was a detail that might have come from one of his stories: it took them days to remove his shadow from the floor. They had to get a belt sander in to do the job.

Thirdly, there was a letter enquiring about the possibility of doing more teaching work.

He never bothered to finish the letter.

Otherwise, the programme was concerned with his brilliance as a writer. I already knew that.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012


Flakes of dead skin collect on the black keys from where you dragged a fingernail across your brow.
You were considering how brown was the colour that you most associated with school.
The pieces of skin fell like flakes of snow into the furrows of a black field.
You were imagining your grandfather making chalk lines on a piece of slate.
And then, although you can’t be as precise as a clock, lay for what you
think was one whole hour in a bath loaded with essences and oils.
But it wasn’t all brown: you now remember that there was grey.
Grey jumpers, grey trousers – short in summer, long in winter.
A foil tray gets lifted by the wind, rolls and makes a sound like a muffled drum.

The water was spiked, laced with lavender and other tranquilisers.
What a hideous thing the school uniform was! Grey, like slate.
Despite the hour long soak, there are still frigates of dirt sailing
on your skin, along the curving spaces under your nails.
The same nails that you dragged across your brow.
You imagine him spelling his name although this is probably an injustice.
The slow ticking of a clock travelling through particles of dust.
School with its pencils, rulers, polished floors, satchels, shoes
all in the same shade of brown – conkers too.

Deep in the slate mines archaic language gets passed like a lantern from one miner to another.
They work in the dark, sweat and dirt on their faces. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Hollow Tree

The trunk of a tree hollowed by a lightning blast.
Picture that bolt. Take its metal colour.
Use it to shade the colour of your dream.
What shape is your dream? It concentrates
all of its energy in the front of your brain.
Earth clings to your fingers. Its red clay.
Other colours: pale green tinged blue
come rising out of the earth.
The yellow white brain of a cauliflower
crystals of rain the silver blade returns
again and again to black hollow
and the wonder of the green
shoots returning.

Monday, 17 September 2012


For weeks now we’ve blown hot and cold. Though these temperate words don’t really do it justice. We’ve scolded and poured larva and frozen each other with Siberian freezes. A day or two ago I heard an old woman say he’s finally got that monkey off of his back. Here’s the hectic concourse to chaotic street to cycle path where someone always forgets and steps onto the wrong side of the line. A Big Issue vendor in his official red vest and matching red baseball cap stands outside the sliding doors where people issue forth in various states of calmness or confusion or confusion masked with calmness. It’s the one’s that hesitate that he’s interested in. Those that don’t immediately set off with clear eyed conviction. In a loud, convivial kind of voice, he’ll say can I help you as if that was his real job. Once I heard him say, manners don’t cost anything. Where does he come from? What’s his story? Can you really trust him?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Before Anyone Else Has Thought Of Getting Up

Morning. I sit in the yard with a whole jug of coffee
Havana cigar and its 6:30 am on a Sunday.
Headphones clamped on
listening to Levon Helm very
loud with nothing wrong in my world
which is a garden damp and misty.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Room

The room drinks in draughts of cold air that comes
through the window that stubbornly refuses to close.
I try to marshal my thoughts so that I can fall into sleep.
It seems important that I am to do this thing.
There’s the danger that sleep might steal
along before the thoughts are picked up,
turned over and put safely into place.
At the moment, the images that come
with the thoughts are scattered like sheep,
vulnerable all across the darkening hills.
Another window, through bad design,
lets in light from the kitchen belonging
to the flat next door. The light falling
on the bed, the cold air playing
across my face. I could probably
work with these things but what I can’t deal
with is the woman who keeps screaming
in the house next door while my thoughts
run through the cold fields followed by
the foxy-red baying. I wish someone
would help me gather them safely
in, hose them down and lay them
in some kind of clean, straw smelling
place of calm and order.

Friday, 14 September 2012


The hay bale topples from the stack. Gets wedged between the smoking exhaust and the tractor window. Wilf curses and opens the door. Leans out of the cab and starts to push: lays his gnarly old hands on the curve of straw. His foot slips and he starts to fall, the ragged jagged edge of the rusting door slicing his throat as he goes.

We thought we were going to lose him his stick-thin wife said. It was just like cutting a pig.

Wilf. His gnarly hands and white hair.

From Sunday to Friday, he was sober. Never touched a drop. Never used tobacco.

The stories and legends that grew up around him. Like Christmas time. They'd get up early on the eve of that good day, rising in the dark, to get as much done so that the next day would be easier.

Saturday night's he'd go into the barn. Pull back the dust sheet from his burgundy Ford. Drive his wife down into the village. Go to the inn. His stick-thin wife would take nothing stronger than bitter lemon. But Wilf would drink pint after pint until he could drink no more. Smoke a cigarette. Then another, until the pack was gone.

That was the only time the car would get used. Same as the front parlour only got used at Christmas. For the rest of the week he drove a pick up. The cab was caked with mud. The seat covers were held in place with baler twine. They were made of fertilizer sacks.

One Saturday night, when they finally managed to get him home, he fell asleep in the kitchen chair. For a laugh, his stick-thin wife put a dog bowl on his head.

Christmas Eve. He'd walk across his fields, down to the village with a torch held under a piece of red silk. Many a village child believed that they'd seen Rudolph that magic night.

Wilf. The clearest of eyes. Like hard-boiled eggs but with blue yolks. The century passed him by and stories and legends grew up around him.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

White Compact

We left the security of warm houses, convenient towns.
The car led us to a lane where we had, the ice making the wheels spin,
to take it easy. We descended a hill that had more curves than a mirrored slide.
Who was driving? Doesn't matter. The entrance to a farm,
the farmer in the yard with a long beard like a wizard.
He even held a staff-like stick.
The first flakes of snow whirling about him.
The farm track, white compact. And out of nowhere,
the barn owl, a ghost, floated just above the white compact.
The eerie silence, the world stopping.
White and compact, mirrors of ice,
the first snow flakes whirling about us.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Elemental Kind Of Life

It must have been an elemental kind of life: exposed to the wind, rain, winter and rough weather with none of the usual creature comforts to fall back on. There were times when the field turned into a sea of mud. The cattle would set their hoofs into the wet earth and create little depressions, craters that filled with greenish water. They had their favourite places where they liked to gather. Mostly it was on or around the main path that crossed the spine of the field: the path that had to be used to reach the caravan. Where the cattle didn’t go, the grass was very long and water-logged. Twice a day, he slipped his way across this field, the mud clinging to the soles and uppers of his boots, flicking up to land in spurts and spots on the legs of his jeans. 

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Railway Telephone

There was a telephone ringing on a twilight railway station.
The passengers waiting on the platform were wearing
wool coats, fur coats, leather gloves.
There’s a baby crying in the waiting room.
You’re going to have to make yourself useful here!
Hold that baby so that the mother can do something
about the telephone.

You hold the baby and the phone stops ringing.
The baby stops crying.
A voice speaks into the phone like a crossword puzzle.
You have to fill in the blanks to try and understand what’s going on.  

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Old Pathways

Old pathways.
Droves subsumed
with blankets
of undulating
tar through
clover fields
ox-bow rivers
as a picture
in a child's
pop-up book
for the probing
of a child's fingers.
Greenish clouds
shape a tunnel
of motion
liquid, airy
to stop
the breath
us in

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The View

Suggestion of motion in a tawny shape. A buzzard, I think. Body the size of a cat.

The motorway laid out before me. Some effect of the sun and rain makes the surface, the white markings, strangely vivid, extra-dimensional like the pages in a pop-up book.

Natural urge, compulsion, to poke your finger into the scene.

Greenish clouds melded to the sky to form a sort of tunnel.

Suggestion of motion, catches, as we the say, the eye – the corner, seen from the corners
of your eye as if the eye is a room from which we have a view

of motion, the breath-taking wingspan

in a darkening room penetrated by moonlight

aftermath of something gone wrong, belly up, as we casually say

someone following instructions too literally

an unmade bed by the window through which we can see the moon babbling on the

A man in chinos rests one foot on a wall. Looks out, I think, to sea.

Waits for messages – and, as you know, we picked them up in the dark, collected through headphones and kept as dreams to be shared in the unreality of morning.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


His accent.
He wasn't from
round these parts.
I asked for rum and black.
He rolled his cigarettes
with liquorice papers.
In my seventeen
year old eyes,
this was sophistication.

I once saw him walking along the railway line.
Railways... it was always railways with him,
he even wrote a book of poems
- Train Spotting long
before the famous one
rolled along.

I saw him walking along the railway line.
He was wearing a shirt the same colour
as the sky, hand in hand with a small child,
his son.

Over the years,
like parallel tracks
rolling towards
the horizon
the distance
between us

We could talk about structuralism,
post-modernism, revolution and Milton
- poke fun at lecturers.

My best memory?
A summer's day standing in someone's
garden and him saying let's get drunk
and we did slowly emptying the fridge
like naughty boys stealing cakes
from Auntie's pantry.

Now the world has indeed
been turned upside down, you finally
disappearing right over the horizon,
fizzling out like the filament
in the final light bulb.

Monday, 3 September 2012

TV War Storm

We were watching TV as if in a storm.
A silent storm that marooned us on
separate islands where we couldn't
shout to make ourselves heard.
Though I don't know if you
were even trying.
On the screen, scenes
from almost a hundred years ago.
Bemused men in tin hats
staring into our eyes.
Just staring and then a young
woman pulling a face in a way
that seemed more natural, modern.
But this only lasted for a second:
the blank men returned, continued to hold
our gaze as we stared back at them,
framed in this flat-screened LCD TV,
the room comfortably warm, lit
with soft-glow bulbs a hundred
years between us.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Railway Architecture

The trees seem to breathe expansive sighs of relief
after the mustard-coloured metal sheets
bolted together and green
netting protecting crops
from goodness knows what.
The last tubular gasps
of a carriage being swallowed
by the tunnel through the
long field of grassy furrows
sectioned by electrified ribbons.


Mist men in furred caps
lumber jack shirts
fishing, somehow slipping through the net
no factories, offices or wives to hold them.

Steel water swirls in mud bowls
yellow flowered weeds
follow the rails and tracks
where grey pillars form structures

their use, purpose
only to be guessed at as
variegated shaded leaves
entwine the archaic arches
return the line,
railway architecture
to some kind of nature.


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