Poetry

Cut Off From The Everyday World By Water

The Hog of Staeningas

Holbein's Wife

Mottoes on Sundials

A Bayeux Horse Speaks

True Fly

This year a space in the darkness of trees.
A space defined
by thinning of bulrushes,
less willow hang,
hedges cut back.

A thickness of light in this liquid air,
green shadow low
in the river.

Empty fields are culled of their cattle,
cow pats, droppings of earlier seasons
brittle in mud.

A dead fish floats down stream
like the dregs
of a Ganges blossom.
Pale half moon inflated by gas
it quickens, tumbling

over the weir, spins like a cross bow arched
in full tension, sinks
into foam.

In a field nearby, de Montfort’s men
like herds were cornered and killed.
On this stretch of the Avon are traps
for eels and mink.

from 'Bee Purple' (Oversteps)



The Writing of 'Cut Off From The Everyday World By Water'
Roman trees are old upon my back.
Others of my breed may grunt and snort for nuts,
I would sooner check the tides and stand rib deep
in Bramber waves, shake off my belly mud and scratch my bristles itch.
Tomorrow I shall heave my backside up into a great and mighty mound.

Skin upon my rump is ploughed and pitted into strips.
Labels hang like flies around my neck ― Sheeplande,
Sheepdowne, Glebe Land, King’s Croft.
There are gnats above the barley in this heat.
Stalks of dry corn prickle in my ears.

Where is my forest now, my sea? Cut down or turned to silt.
Now I long to lumber out and hunt for older smells,
to shuffle, forage, root for acorns, sniff the cold sea spray.

from 'Frost Hollow' (Oversteps)



The Writing of 'The Hog of Staeningas'
Here, even the air is extravagant ― a mercurial light with wedges of purple. Wind chimes through an archway. Small stone figures are crouching in nooks and on steps wet with pink blossom.

A candle flares at the back of a nervous room.
Holbein is portraying his wife. Her eyes
are heavy. She is weary of breeding
alone. Tired of singing
the song of dependence she is
all sepia. Feels
like faded-out paint.

Last night this lake was wind-swept, wind-driven, charged with an energy. Today, quiet and full of brown life. Iron in the hills, they say. Roman iron.

But she knew he’d be drawn to those glittering climes,
would relish the follies of Gargantua’s court:
An age of new dragons, exotic, outlandish;
a fabulous time to be born.

The small stone figures huddle, seem to be yearning. Bird song ― foreign, untranslatable, million-tongued, pours down with the rain.

In Basel years pass; she abandons the portrait,
listens to tales of his life and successes, survives
on the easy coins sent and his fame. Hears tell
of new lovers, a woman in London, their
child; is informed of his death.
Holbein, her hollow-bone man.

A sudden dark bird in a patch of clear sky reflects on the lake. There are tremors of hidden fish here.

from 'Allotments in the Orbital' (Searle Publishing)



The Writing of 'Holbein's Wife'


After darkness, light

Enough at first – starlight, sun

Sufficient, this halving
of time

Alas, how swift

Movements of shadows are witnessed
by notches and twigs

I wait whilst I move

It becomes a matter of turning of tides –
the wax and the wane marked out
as a circular
O

So passes life

‘The sons of Aulus and of Lucius
built together at their own expense
a seat and a great sundial’

They are voids in the ash

Mottoes on sundials
are frail

from 'All the Invisibles' (SPM Publications)



They tip the boat sideways
to make us step off, still with our sea legs
and bowels of blancmange and it’s goodbye
to being lined up in the hull like clones
or flat-headed cartoons.

As we come stumbling out of the cloth
our eyeballs are whiter than fear.

A pause
for our hooves are tangled in threads:
russet and golden like apples and bees.
A young girl in blue hurries up
with cool water, soothes away
jitters and mess.

Arrows like blowflies crawl out of the frieze
zoom up and blacken the sky.

Ahead
are horizons of rage.

from 'All the Invisibles' (SPM Publications)



It has a chime, your latin tag,
musca domestica:
a warm Italian feel like cool frascati wine.
You deserve to rest your wings, be a guest

with oranges, the silver-green of olive leaves, to dine
and walk on sugared almonds with no fear
of spider or of man. Other insects of your kin

may think, erroneously, they are your peers
because they share a syllable, the latter sliver
of your name: the dragon and the firefly are dear

to lovers, artists, poets who will give
a gape of time in single-minded quests
for beauty’s gem. Yes, this is it: the pivot

and the crux. You, with your astounding eyes, are pest –
the Lord of Flies Beelzebub, maggot
in a corpse’s rot revealing time of death. The rest

is overlooked and written off. Is this the gamut
of your life, a hopeless, dismal, summer moment
chance to co-exist? Against the white

you show as blot, a splat on concrete or on snow
with wings dark-veined, transparent, dull –
yet rainbow light, like oil on puddles, glows

within a darker frame: the quintessential, frail
part that is not swatted, zapped or flung
outside the door, the window glass, the pane.

Animals were kept in shelters in the age of iron.
True fly did you go after them to warmth and liquid dung?

from 'All the Invisibles' (SPM Publications)