Saturday, 29 March 2014

Let The Wind Shape You

The trees bend to fit the ridge.

They grow, as best as they can.
Deliver dark leaves
and let the wind
shape the branches.

You put your roots down.

So now,
let the wind shape you.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

More Questions Than Answers

A Spring Equinox Story For Poet Red Shuttleworth.
Word-smith and friend

Lately, I have been getting younger. The years that shaped me haven't, it seems, gone away after all. The old attitudes, values – as they were first inculcated into me have started to bloom again in time with the spring flowers. I am started to fill the shoes of those who have long gone before me. This is not a self-conscious thing. There is no striving involved. It just happens with every move I make, every thought: even the ones that get voiced.

The days are lengthening now. A friend of mine wrote those words and sent them across the Atlantic (Pacific?).

I take my pen for a spin. After all, it seems to me, I have to put my money where my mouth is. Feel compelled to walk the high wire and everything that involves.

A silver flask. I tell them that the flask is my best friend. Take it with me everywhere. A constant supply of spiced tea to burn the throat. What I see is a kitchen which is three flights down. To get to it you have to walk along a corridor of red carpet tiles. No daylight ever finds its way into this corridor. K says when the building's empty she won't go down there. Especially when it's getting dark. Says it feels like someone is down there: someone always just out of view on the periphery of things. Someone who is always waiting down there, always watching her on the few times she has had no choice but to go down there.

In this city of bones and excavations there is a logic to what she is saying.

I try the handle and the door opens easily enough. And yes, I can feel it too, the eyes watching me as I stand on the threshold. But with upstairs only a minute or two away, I don't give in to full scale panic. Truth to tell, I like the idea on this mundane working afternoon of finally meeting this particular ghost.

The kitchen window is at street-level and it's a strange thing to look up and see people going by from the knees down, their shoes at eye level. Across the street there is an old flint wall. Endless varieties and variations of blues, browns and greys forming stony constellations. But the ghost makes no move to betray itself.

I turn around quickly.

Nothing. Just the shadowy corridor and the red carpet tiles.

Back upstairs, a TV monitor on a filing cabinet wired to a camera that watches the doorstep. Nothing to see. Just the flagstones of the doorstep.

I walk away, but something in the TV seems to be watching me.

Turn around quickly. Shadow on the step where it is too dark for shadows even though the days are lengthening.

Towards more questions than answers.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Old Countryman

He was an old countryman through and through. With his nose pointing towards the ceiling, Sunday afternoons he gave up the ghost with his slack mouth invitingly agape for the errant children who dared themselves to see what things they could get away with dropping into it without waking him.

A pheasant.
A fox.
Once a small potato.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


Vapour shroud, this land is the undersea.
Dead fox on the central reservation.
Ancient instincts have not evolved but then
the supposedly superior humans
come a cropper too, long tedious queue
says something is wrong, then the POLICE SLOW sign
white van ripped open like a sardine tin.
None of which helps to solve the old question
with Johnny Cash rolling to the rhythm
of an antique train eastward or south bound?

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Good Prehistoric Pub Guide

When we were kids - and I'm sure I'm not alone in this, going to the pub was the best thing ever. But when I say going to the pub, what I really mean is being left in the car with a bottle of Coke, two straws and a bag of crisps. In those days the bottles were always made of glass that had an ultramarine tinge to them. The straws were made of paper and striped like a barber's pole. Crisps came in cellophane bags and only two flavours were available: salted or unsalted. And if you wanted salt it came in a deep blue sachet that you had to sprinkle on yourself. Periodically, an increasingly beer-happy adult would stagger out to check that we hadn't died or set the car on fire - cousin Dave had once achieved this spectacular feat after experimenting with the cigar lighter. I don't know what made Uncle Bill angrier - seeing his car go up in smoke or not having anything to light his cigars with any more.

When summer came around, it brought with it the glory of the beer garden. Somewhere, not far from here, there was, and probably still is, a thatched inn that claimed to be the world's smallest pub. With its wattle and daubed walls and conical roof it could also claim to be the last surviving prehistoric pub that served pints of foaming ale to the labourers who erected Stonehenge. Archaeological evidence also indicates that these particular Neanderthals were very good darts players too.

It was in the beer garden of this, the most sacred of sites, that we were finally let loose from the car. The prehistoric beer garden which almost certainly had a ley line connecting the jukebox and pool table had the usual array of metal tables with a hole cut through the middle to support the flowering of umbrellas emblazoned with mythical beasts and woodland creatures used by the brewing companies to signify their beer. The barman, forgetting himself and the time shift wandered among the tables wearing a Druidic robe and talked some heathenish nonsense with a group of wizened old men who had drunk themselves into a parallel universe. Occasionally, the High-Priest barman would make some kind of effort to pull himself together and joke with the tourists about football and the unusual weather we'd been having lately. But by now the sun was draining from the sky. The Coke bottles were empty and the straws gone soggy. The cellophane bags held nothing but golden crumbs and a few precious grains of salt. It was time to be going - back into the twentieth-century and onwards into the twenty first.

But some of us only pretended to leave. We had everyone fooled. Bits of us are still propping up the megalithic bar, supping draughts of stone age beer. Darts at the ready for anyone who decides otherwise.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Not The Right Kind

White light framed in a square blends with the night.
Not the right kind to signify window
because the light keeps flickering, blurring
and nothing in the air wants to keep still.
Half-watching those curves, the lone road moves on.
Comes to a white sign swinging from a tree.
Rising towards you, a brush and black paint.

Friday, 7 March 2014

The Black Cat

Black cat, all cloak and fangs, cascading down
the long shadows of the stone garden wall.
The shed door, opening on the mower
in its green-gold plastic armour plating
sallying forth, waging war on the lawn,
slicing legions of grass blades in half.
The black cat, that pantomime villain, skulks
in the wings as a swing-seat slowly arcs
under a fat man vacantly chewing
a cold and congealing roast chicken leg.
The sun's doing nothing: has no intention
of slowly sinking. On the other side
of the fence, two pink old ladies defend
themselves within a golden parasol,
enough meat charring on the barbecue
to feed a third-world village, they sit in
a mess, nest of newspapers, stupefied
on red wine. The power of the black cat,
its grip on the sun, the orange ball that
burns and flares, fur and claws and paws starting
to smoulder, clinging on until the sun
gives up, dies in the long spikes of its grip.

The Grey Heron

The grey heron, that most prehistoric
of birds, its lazy, slow flight gliding grey
against the backdrop of rusting bracken.
Cloudy space between the trees on the hill.
I returned to the forest alone. 


Monday, 3 March 2014

The Silver Face

There are no planets colouring the sky
but the universe has a silver face
floating in the crayon waves of water.
The eyes are shining pools,
the nose a snowy peak,
the mouth a burnt out star,
the teeth a smile of storms.


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