Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Shaman's Pen

The computer sucks out his eyeballs
removes them, scoops them like a teaspoon
works a hard-boiled egg. The whoosh of
cyber connects, disconnects,
the inner him like Gollum fixated on the ring.
The virtual world draws him in until,
long lost in the dark hard-drive labyrinth,
without the ball of golden wool he cannot hope to find
the way back again. Meanwhile, the Shaman writes all day
with a gold fountain pen, draws down a fountain
of words that flow from the grey sky, the clouds, the wind, the rain,
the thunderous poppies with their violent
heads of reds and purples channelled thru brain, blood, muscles
and bone to be set free on spiral bound paper,
later, the pages, encased in a blue shell are
discovered on a walnut table revealed
in the maze of smoking torch-light, clues, maps
that lead to the Great Hall where all is renewed.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Air Creature

As if some airy creature has taken
bites from the sky a white void
shimmers in the nest of a tree,
silver races wires in parallel lines through blue diamonds.

Messages racing the great green miles
words filling the gnawing void but never keeping pace.

Friday, 25 April 2014

The Dog In The Rain

The old dog sleeps in the yard
so far gone he doesn't wake
for the rain. Just lies in a dog shape:
droplets dribble the damp fur.

She stands at the kitchen sink.
Water runs silver from the tap.
She looks at the rain falling,
falling on the sleeping dog.

Hears the splash water thundering
in the sink, silver eye spiral
in the whirlpool of the plug hole.
Hears the rain falling. Turns it off.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Two Suns

Not much was going on the night two suns went down.

The woman in the red dress washes dishes. She takes her time, yellow Marigolds half way up her arms. Her husband sits in the next room with his back to the window. Drinks from a green can of beer from time to time. A fat cat sleeps on a trampoline. So still it might be dead.

It's getting dark now. Curtains are drawn. Lights come on.

Trees make twisted shapes against the delicious, orange-black.

TVs are turned on.
The dishes are washed now.

The woman peels back the neoprene, pulls down a blind.
The husband takes another glug from the can.

Whatever passes for life happens behind closed curtains.

But what the morning will bring is another matter. 


Sky Watching

Now the shapes of webbed feet button the sky.
Heron, close enough to record the black beads.
The colours of crows in turns defined.

Up from the white field the rise
of a magic-avian-flying-carpet.

Clouds smoke the sun.
Are soon washed and gone.

Monday, 21 April 2014


The dust dry field vanished that afternoon.
Stubble, bleached to silver
where the buzzard,

all red, brown feathers
scans the verge.

Some mouse or rodent,
complacent movement.

Friday, 18 April 2014

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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Lamp Boy

Christmas Night.
Walk one end of town
to the other.

The old lamp-boy
says the best thing is
no-one's about on this day.

In the high street, yellow fog.
The shops, houses
breath out.

Monday, 14 April 2014

The First Electric Word

Bill drove home from the refinery. He could still see its stacks smoking in his rear-view mirror as he crested the final hill before home. At the top of the hill there was a track on the right. On impulse, Bill tugged down the indicator switch and swung onto the track. This manoeuvre required cool nerves. It was a fast road and visibility was minimal. Getting across in one piece was nearly as bad as playing Russian roulette.

The car bounced as it hit the track. There were deep ruts and he scraped the bottom of the car. He slowed her down and crawled to the piece of land set aside for a car park. It was a popular spot for kids up to no good. But at this time of the evening, he had the place to himself.

This could have been one of the most beautiful spots in the county if it hadn't been for the clandestine activities that went on up here. The car park was littered with beer cans, cigarette packets and the detritus discarded from the nearby MacDonald's. Someone had dumped a fridge in the hedgerow. Bill looked at these things but decided not to see them.

He walked to the white stone with the metal plate set on top. Lines etched into the metal giving directions and miles to locations that the plate maker decided were of interest. Salisbury 12 miles. Stonehenge, 15. The Isle of White. Land's End. America...

Bill started down the track and came to a wood as the land left the hill-top behind. The hill, although Bill didn't know it, where Marconi first experimented with sending signals by telegraph.

The first electric word.

The woodland floor was thick with vegetation and some of the younger trees had protective sleeves to keep the deer away. But Bill chose not to see these. What thoughts he had were peculiarly wrapped up with Geoffrey Chaucer. It seemed to him that this track would have been just the kind of place the Canterbury pilgrims would have ridden through. That Canterbury didn't get a look in on the metal plate was neither here nor there. He gazed into the trees and imagined that a man in a cloak was approaching. A man who would give him a ticket out of this life and the refinery.

Bill had know way of knowing, but his thoughts travelled on a cool breeze that entered the wood at that moment.

It was as good a place as any and the words travelled in a protective sleeve along an invisible wire farther than any destinations engraved on the metal plate.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Black Cat

Black cat, all cloak and fangs, cascades down
the long shadows of the stone garden wall.
That pantomime villain, skulks in the wings
as a swing-seat slowly arcs
under a fat man vacantly chewing
a cold and congealed roast chicken leg.

The sun's doing nothing: has no intention
of slowly sinking. On the other side
of the fence, two pink faced ladies defend
themselves with a golden parasol,

enough meat on the barbecue
to feed a village, they sit in
a 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, claws, paws
smoulder, cling on until the sun
dies in the long spikes of its grip.

(revised version after attending a superb writing workshop led by David Caddy)

Friday, 11 April 2014

Gentlemen Of The Road

It all comes from work. No getting round that one. The Devil finds work for idle hands. So she must be the Devil because I never say no. I buck against it. Put up barriers. Grudgingly get to it and before I know it something starts to swing. A rhythym gets going and the task becomes an end in itself. Some people pay someone with fancy theories to talk to. Others try pills and potions. But when I get into the swing of it the time just passes. All the old timers come and see me in no particular order. I remember their habits. This one drank two pints every Friday night and left it there. The other one knew more than I would ever know. On certain subjects, that is. Some of them are newcomers like this feller who has a mania for books. Never seen so many books. Brand new paperbacks, his bedroom smells like bookshop. He had a quiet way of talking and it's clear to me now that he was never cut out for what he had to do. Even if he could stand up to some moron who wanted to start a fight in the city Friday night. Let him go now, get back to the job in hand. I never understood a thing about gardening. Whenever I overcame my natural impatience for it and tried to get into the spirit of things, I'm always the one being shouted at because I've killed some prized tendril along with the weeds. But this clearance work's alright once I go through the usual resistance barrier. I've dug deep around the bole of the tree that's in the wrong place for reasons I don't understand. I've dragged the wreckage of paving slabs from the earth. I've used the secateurs – quite good those – on vicious purple brambles that clearly had it coming to them. I've sawn through the hazel branches and stacked them which is apparently a good thing to do. But what bothers me is that all those things we've got rid of now lie like wounded soldiers all over the lawn and it's going to be a big clear up operation and the sun is going down and I'm damn hungry and no-one's thought about dinner. She wants to keep these poles. I know they'll still be here this time next year but to argue is useless so I ignore them. She leans them against the wall, the tops of the sticks making marks against the sky that increasingly gather the shadows of night into themselves. From where I'm standing, they look like the sticks poking out of the top of a wigwam. I sit down now, which is a statement because I know that once I do this I'll never get going again, the warmth and the rhythym leaving my body and the hedge getting very black with these rosy clouds burning behind smoking vapours that will soon drown the whole thing out. 

 Gentlemen of the road welcome this fear. They live up on the drove and make this peculiar light their home. Speak its language and travel further into it because that's what it's for. Ha! these cultivated squares of lawns. These electric lights on formica kitchens where the food gets shaken from boxes as I shake dried biscuits into a cat bowl. We forget these things. But now I've remembered how the wind sounded up there, how it felt as it got inside you and all your ways of thinking, how the cry of a fox cub - the first time you hear it you jump out of your skin, sounds when the lamps of the village shop are long gone - sounds on the ghostly plain with the fire lapping at your booted feet, smoke impregnating your clothes and the only visitors are seen coming from miles off and might not always mean good which is why you live in a tribe believing in the old myth of safety in numbers. I sit out awhile longer. You go on in. Stars are out now, and these little white flowers come out in the hedge and that sky contains enough to keep me out here for hours and the hedges grow taller and the fir trees adjust their angles and the mental GPS starts tracking the territories all around, locates lanes and thoughts. Hold conversations with some of them before bending back to that fire again. Its light in the eyes of the man who sings a song beside it. I shiver, throw down my cigarette and go on in.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Third Arch

Cross the county line, a road and high wall.
Here and there parts of the wall
have fallen, tantalising glimpses
as to what lies on the other side.

But travelling at sixty and looking
out the passenger's side window
on a road that curves like a racetrack
is a hazardous occupation.

Doesn't stop me from trying, though.
The wall, and what might be on the other side,
a fascinating proposition.

What adds to the appeal are the stone arches.

Three of them, all different. The first arch
plays host to a muscular
stone lion.
The second arch supports
a proud white stag.

Then there's the third arch,
nothing on its plinth.

Something tells me
that if you try going
through there,
you'll end up dangling
from a rope.


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