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Years

July 15, 2017

Years

 

Were I to live another ten

I’d reach the very brink of old,

the gorse would bloom ten times again,

 

I’d reconnect with long lost friends

and see my children’s dreams unfold –

were I to live another ten.

 

I’d turn my face to church and mend

my broken faith; in blazing gold

the gorse would bloom ten times again;

 

I’d visit towns like this and spend

my evenings looking in, alone,

were I to live another ten.

 

We’d make love, winter nights, and then

as springtime warmth replaced the cold

the gorse would bloom, ten times again.

 

The years ahead diminish when

I measure what they may not hold:

were I to live another ten,

the gorse would bloom ten times again.

 

Kent & Sussex Folio 2017

Blackberries in Ukraine

July 15, 2017

 The news tonight showed fighting in Ukraine.

My eye was drawn, not to the scenes of war,

but swollen brambles glistening in the sun,

in the hawthorn hedge behind the soldier’s arm.

 

The camera didn’t catch him quietly claim

his harvest, but I somehow saw

his hand release the rifle, reach, and one

by one dislodge the berries to his palm.

 

Though I can’t wage his war, nor feel the pain

his comrades, enemies and he endure,

I taste the same sharp juice which dyes his thumb

and fingertips, and stains his uniform.

 

Were he to visit here, would what is strange

or – as for me – familiar strike a chord?

In foreign fabric, does he see homespun:

his world and mine lit by a single star?

 

Abroad, we introduce ourselves again

to what we know; to where we’ve been before –

and hear the chorus crows and doves have sung

at dawn since days began: discord and calm.

 

Gold Dust magazine, Issue 31, June 2017

The small things goddesses do

July 15, 2017

In ancient Greece, a goddess, nymph

or god was always near at, and

prepared to lend a helping hand

to make a herdsman from a prince,

a shipwrecked sailor reach the shore,

and war from peace, or peace from war.

Too neat, I always thought, too neat…

 

Until, collapsed from drink and stress

in a London park, and hauled to my feet

and then let fall, by CID,

an Aphrodite in a summer dress

appeared, with the warmest smile,

and sat with me as I revived

enough to shuffle, sheepish, home,

while she returned to the hills, alone…

 

And when they set the pumps to flood

the Athens park, beneath whose shrubs

we’d slept, and sent us scurrying with

our sleeping bags for higher ground,

Demeter, dressed in widow’s black,

emerged unbid from dawn to give

us carrier bags of bread and grapes,

then turn and walk away

without a further glance or sound.

 

So they were right, the poets, that

the gods descend in mortal shape

and influence the course we take:

slight variances of fate, perhaps –

no major shifts of plot; as acts

of kindness surely cannot not

impact how those they touch proceed,

nor how they impact those they touch

in turn…

 

But are they kindnesses?

We count as playthings merely, seen

from Mount Olympus, and I need

to ask those careless goddesses

who squandered intercession on

my undeserving youth, have I

exhausted all my share?

 

There’s neither shade nor sky. I watch

you slump against the hollow rim

of where what’s yet to come, or gone,

is dried and lifted by the wind

to fall and fleck the dunes; you dare

not dream nor raise your eyes beyond

horizons where the haze begins.

 

I do, and see that neither what

nor how we pray, makes any odds

at all to goddesses who change

the views they look down on, at whim,

between this arid lowland, and

a valley blessed by quiet rain.

 

Published in Anima, Issue 4, Summer 2017 http://www.animapoetry.uk/new-products/anima-issue-4

The scent of green

July 15, 2017

I’ve all I need: my books, TV, a view

of sparrows and squirrels in the apple tree;

and when they mow the lawn, I almost dare

breathe unlost summers in the scent of green.

 

Other girls never returned to their life before –

I quietly hid my uniform, away

from where my hands might search the wardrobe rail,

and placed my demob bag in the attic, to fade.

 

My family welcomed me to their routines,

but the clouds of peace hung heavy on our home

and no-one wanted more for me, nor seemed

to wish me to want more, than I’d once known.

 

I couldn’t wish what they did not, nor keep

my raw imagination under rein:

she flew too fast – and when horizons loomed

she shied, I fell; and never rode again

 

and half forgot I’d shared a bond, dark hours

and dreams with friends, and helped to win a war,

and danced the conga in Trafalgar Square.

Days pass. In here I’m safe; I’m fed; I’m warm.

 

Crannóg, issue 45, June 2017

Buzzards

July 15, 2017

I hear her first – a screech half stolen by

the wind; then glimpse her lift away; flat tail,

white band along the underwing, as sail-

like storm clouds race behind. Again her cry

guides me towards first two then, when they’ve flown,

four buzzards, where there had been one, aloft

above the skylark field, adrift but deft

in their control, each twice as wide as long.

Within a moment they have veered away

atop the wind; my spirit soaring free.

I’ve walked and worked this valley more

than thirty years; complained about the way

the world has changed, but never thought I’d see

four buzzards, where there had been none before.

 

 

Commended in the 2017 Fosse way Writers Competition.

 

 

The flower preserver

July 15, 2017

Dusk almost hid behind her eyes

as with a voice of quiet tears

she handed me the columbines

her sister’s unforgiving man

had picked, the day he reappeared,

still labelled in his brutal hand:

Our love is stronger than your lies.

 

They bring me flowers to preserve,

my clients: quiet memorials

to love, death, marriage, birth;

to people, moments, days now past –

parched, pastel talismans that pull

like tides upon the heart and cast

their fragile shadows on the earth.

 

I work in silence. When the shop

bell rings I read the blooms and how

they’re brought – a bridal bouquet dropped

with nonchalance, a frail fern leaf

less held than touched, the tightly-wound

ivy and easter lily wreath,

a chaos of forget-me-nots…

 

I give them what they come here for:

a clue to whom they may have been;

a bar to whom they might become.

I can’t preserve, much less restore

that April day, nor all those dreams

we shared under the springtime sun.

I’ve kept the primroses I wore.

 

A slightly edited version of this was runner up at the Shepton Mallet Poetry Competition, 2017

 

Catching the train to work

July 15, 2017

Today the blackbird sings for the first time:

a warp for the robin’s weft; their sonic loom

afloat in the drifted mist, its weight defined

by the delicate silence it’s lifted on.

 

Behind, the door latch gently clicks. Ahead: the dew-

drops pick out daffodils in liquid light;

the green and crimson perfect curve of new

rose stems, appearing overnight;

 

fresh honeysuckle leaves unfurl in rows

of twins on tendrils searching sightlessly;

my neighbour’s newly white-washed cottage shows,

in silhouette, her awkward apple tree.

 

I step into the dawn, and into zone

on overlapping zone of birdsong, cast

from slender branches, garden shrubs, the lone

oak’s healed stub, announcing winter’s passed.

 

A boy walks through this music more than four

decades ago. He feels, but does not see

the far-off ploughman, paused, eyes raised in awe,

transported by the moment touching me.

 

Today’s the magic Leaping Forward Day

which startles us with shoots and song each year:

unheralded, obscurity cedes way

to light, and in this moment, all is clear.

 

 

Runner-up in the 2017 Fosseway Writers Competition