Come sky, my wintry love,
be mine this afternoon.
For half the year I dreamed of you
and now the solstice calls me
to arouse your waiting heart.
Crocus pale your yellowed cheek
and black the trees as veins:
your supple back is arched around
the early-sunken sun.
Tightly drawn your skin my love
which veils the laden clouds:
so still and cold you are -
you do not breathe at all.
All nature’s hushed in you
the longed-for silent cry,
the sudden rupture of the chain
which held your heart in thrall,
the quake of all your limbs my love
as heaven yields, and there –
upon my hand, I find
your gift of virgin snow.
Clapham - December 1990.
Up towards the
black tree line
at coppice stand
against dark margin
of the land and sky,
I called you.
my voice and eye:
the wet field
to find you.
Where clouds race, trees sway
the secret of
your white thigh:
at pheasant’s cry
I loved you.
Mythe End - 1985.
Yield, my pale warrior, to me
thy silver rippled sap
- sublime disorder! -
and the long brown river of thy heart.
Tree thou wert, before
the giant band did open up
thy secret chronicles of growth –
which then became
so nakedly admired.
(Is this perhaps the blush
which I perceive
upon the creamy steeples of thy grain?)
For lucre I
am thy proprietor
who never picked thy leaf or
climbed thy living bough,
nor touched the roughened skin
which marked thy utmost reach of life.
I cannot tell – I wish I could –
the hill on which they came
to find thee on that day,
bright head high against the blue.
But still, my fingers know thy scars,
can try to reconstruct
the seismic shudder in thy frame,
the yawing bellow
of thy fall – that day.
And more, I know thy very age –
can count thy yearly episodes,
thy subtle hibernations all.
My hand, my mind possesses thee.
Yet just proprietor?
Wilt pardon me the
gross incursions I have made
upon thy flesh? – for now
my singing iron conspires
with thee, to listen for
the slickest whisper of thy heart.
Through me thou art reborn,
O fraxinus excelsior!
Shillingford – May 1997.
I sink into thy arms
and the soft dark
with trust each night.
Thou lullst me down
within that dark lake,
to swim with other mortals there.
And then begins thy play:
merciless, dost stand
and my heart’s desire,
smiling every time anew.
Fitful I rise a brace or more of times
only to succumb again
to the torpor
of thy warm embrace.
But then again
I wrestle with thy billow
as with some ship upon the wave,
I shift with every swell
and settle down again.
But thou, thou will not
let me rest
O thou harrier of my poor brain.
why not tell me straight
thou will not entertain me
through the hours -
and then I’d know
to occupy myself elsewhere.
But I’m thy fool, how must
thou laugh at me, make fun
among thy heartless friends
of this poor brow that
goaded cannot find
a simple span of sleep
but needs must check the back
of every passing hour until
the gloomy-fingered dawn
begins to show. O traitor thou!
How can I ever trust thee more?
Thameside - October 2008.
May I not steal
a little of your sleep, my love?
My own will not suffice
to feed my sanity.
Each night I watch
you drifting down, away from me
then wake and watch for your return.
I play among the shallows of that lake
the dark lake named Forgetfulness,
the concourse of all human souls
where name and form and vaunted self
are taken off like clothes and laid aside:
so naked each, they enter on the darkened tide,
transmuted mass of glowing particles
washed through, at one with all,
and sojourn there a while until
by dawn, mysterious palindrome,
from one they re-emerge,
take back their outer form
and join the world again.
Thameside - December 2007.
I could have waked u with a kiss
But I slept so bad, so bad;
I could have rushed out
to get u winter roses
But I had silly things on my mind;
I could have cooked u breakfast
of all the things u like the best,
But I was expecting a phone call.
I could have bought u a ring at Aspreys in Mayfair,
But was scrambling on and off the trains;
I could have asked u out this eve,
But u were out and out again;
I could have danced with u all night,
But my physio warned me not to;
I could have annoyed u all evening long
with little whisperings of love,
But u’ve been watching that detective
In her silly hi heels.
And all today I could have thought of u
… and I did, all day, between
and before and after
all the other little happenings of today.
And at the ending of the day,
I still can take u up to bed
and snuggle up and snuggle down
and hold u all night long,
you always are
Thameside - 14 February 2012
O don’t we know
how on the dull still days
when life goes on elsewhere
the womb of bed invites
us to indulge the endless afternoon,
to take the pleasure of our bodies
and find our private languours,
as the stillness weighs upon our minds
and light seeps slow away outside.
Until we rise, wordless,
a fathom deep in silence
stunned by one another
in the early dark – too late
for tea, too soon to eat,
and slowly come to surface,
thanking God and our lucky stars
for the irreducible gift
of our communion.
Thameside - August 2000.
How can you think
There’s a place in the world
Other than next to me?
How could you think
There’s a place to sleep
Other than by my side? We …
go back far too long, dear,
Have come too far by far, to think
Of turning the page.
We walk too tall
Together, dear, to think of
Evenings of mystery drama,
And constant sharing of food –
They’re part of our way of life, dear.
The travels we’ve done,
The places we’ve been, dear,
How could I remember alone?
And the cats, and the river,
The garden we’ve made, dear -
Could we just let them go?
Those fleeting smiles you give me,
The things that make you laugh, dear,
They’re the most precious to me.
Unthinkable it would be, to let
Any person or thing find room
To come between you and me.
The simple answer is no, dear:
Just don’t let things prey on your mind –
Just hold on tight to me, dear -
Never think of letting me go.
This deep receding tapestry of layers,
thread upon thread -
the horizontal greens,
the open spaces, paths
are stitched across by upright
silver maple, honey locust,
hornbeam, pear and darkling beech.
And she between them all
moves silent, as if behind a glass,
among the leaves, between the flowers:
her constant movement at the core,
her presence testified
by tiniest distant clink
of steel on stone
as she slowly works the earth.
And all the while, from every angle,
birds observe and commentate
in antiphon, and dart from tree to tree
above her head.
A gentle western breeze
disturbs the leaves, defies
the sun’s quiescent heat.
And slowly consciousness expands
to listen to the outer world
which tramples round the far
circumference of sense, defines
the private peace within.
Again I watch her move
between the threads,
at times in view, at others
out of sight, conducting
endless tiny dialogues of love.
with every living thing.
Barge Walk - 14 February 2008
It came upon us not at night,
with that old familiar
wakening to a whitened world,
but in the afternoon – the harbingers
of sky and wind conspired
to tell us it would come:
small scouts meandered aimless on the wind,
and then the army came in flecks,
then droves, sailing in
on curved trajectories,
these messengers from Muscovy,
cohorts from the northern wastes,
imbued with other-worldliness.
This other world we’d half-forgot
evokes an old vocabulary
of drifts and blanket sounds, muffled words and
echoed children’s cries, and promise
of icicles to come. Sea-gulls scream and wheel
above the river’s frozen face. The trees
with outstretched arms accumulate
their joyous burdens, proudly etch
themselves against the yellow bruised sky.
But more than this,
some greater mystery is here,
a soft compulsion - at first
a simple invitation, - beguiles us, takes
us child-like by the hand,
escorts us through the unopened gate
into the hidden garden, where every shape
adorned, arrayed in utmost finery,
awaits our entry, benignly
watches our advance, and offers us
to share the endless moment.
But, here’s the paradox, if we
are unprepared, not wise enough, to lay aside
our own imperatives, our self-made plans,
we find compulsion turns to power:
our will is overwhelmed, we lose the choice
to surrender or resist. The snow’s great majesty
declares itself, the offered moment’s lost.
Barge Walk - February 2009
Back ain’t too good today – this
dullest of November days
composed of nothing but
of those without identity.
So why’m I floating
over Kingston Bridge past
swan-skim on the grey water
(recalling that intrepid pilot Schlumberger
landing on the Hudson).
Beside the pillar at TKMaxx
the man performs some
with his shivering hound.
So why’m I smiling, past
young impassive faces, dressed up
in blue – the Dolphin Marching Band
from Poole in Dorset: drum-skins
these days tolerate the rain, as
crisp sticks rattle down on
them: miraculous arrhythmia deserves
a bob or two for all the way they’ve come.
Clutching her child’s bare mid-riff
the young mum argues with her man
outside the nail-care (male and female) shop:
nails are big business on this dullest day.
So why’m I wondering what
got into me? – a growing sense of Oneness:
all these faces, all these lives,
they move as if behind a glass while I
track down the little thing I came for :
the precious, nameless, thumb-sized
thing through which
my mouse can speak to my machine.
And this, among the Oneness, is the symbol
for that thumb-sized secret
we search for in ourselves,
to unlock the gate to Heaven.
No wonder that I’m smiling! and the back ain’t that bad after all!
Kingston - November 2014.