CAVE MOUTH. May 18th, 2017
On the walls of the Chauvet Pont d’Arc cave
painted hands appear to wave:
hello; I’m here; attention please?
It might be one, or none of these.
Perhaps the ruddled outlines show
that thirty thousand years ago
the totem of the human hand
epitomised the hunting band.
Or else a parting gesture; one
that might suggest the host had gone
the way of all their leaping prey.
What token would we leave today;
some simple sign that might resound,
elucidate but not confound
and symbolise our own collapse;
a stencilled mushroom cloud perhaps?
TWO RIVERS. May 11th, 2017
The risen river’s rolling news
exposes us in what is spews
along its matted, flattened bank;
the trace of us that never sank.
It hiccups into filthy frills,
buffets bramble-buried mills.
It skins the fallen trees it trawls
across the lumps of weir walls;
mere arcs of foul froth
that spun the wheels and the cloth
that covered both the backs and frames
of painters brushing up their names.
And, bled of all its umber taint
it still deserves its wash of paint
when spring emerges from the rot.
The settled river now is not
that naked, noisome, colic churn.
It glints like some bucolic burn,
pollen dusted, hatching wings,
mailed in fish-blown-ripple-rings,
shaded in its lay of green;
and there the wrack abides, unseen;
dug in, sharing with the rats
another of their habitats.
FRIEND OF A FRIEND. April 12th, 2017
I’m certain she knew what she hoped I’d infer
though she stopped euphemistically short of a slur.
You’re earthy, she said, and I knew what she meant;
sophistry could not obscure her intent;
I wasn’t the sort she’d have sought for her friend
and both of us knew that we’d have to pretend,
assuming she knew that I saw through the bluff;
assuming she thought me perceptive enough.
I SAY TOMATO. April 5th, 2017
In the mosaic press of a popular voice
we parry with colour, nuance, and choice
but channel incursion, exploitative trade;
the travels that twisted the lexical braid
of the bawd and the bard, the poet and scribe
whose witness we suckle, whose wit we imbibe
as if it were native and not the result
of wanton barbarity, plunder and insult.
We relish this leaven that lets us digress;
we riff and orate, emote and confess.
Less do we ponder parts of the world
where prelate and pirate had standards unfurled;
who struck out for wealth and pilfered the words
that followed the sea lanes like faltering birds
to nest in a language I wield as my own,
as steeped as it is, as crookedly grown.
THE ENLIGHTENMENT. February 24th, 2017
I balk as superstition’s arrows
wing at snakes and hit the hiss,
knowing firmly fortune farrows
as it will and doesn’t miss
which is itself a fateful view;
if I cast fortune as a force
that won’t distinguish me from you,
that romps from every wonted course.
I must be superstitious too
but trammelled by a class of laws
I can’t construe as gods or fate.
For all I might commend my cause
there’s nothing to propitiate.
LACES. February 10th, 2017
I first tied my laces
as a seven year old boy;
the joy outweighed the prospect
of an ice cream, or a toy.
Now, before we play outside
I show him how it’s done,
hoping he’ll persist
until this little struggle’s won.
I know he finds it difficult
and so I don’t explain
that laces aren’t the half of it;
I want to tell him, look again.
Watch your hands, I want to say,
look at what your fingers do;
as if they don’t belong to you.
And that’s precisely how he feels;
but not exactly what I meant.
Unlike me, he doesn’t care
how fingers crook, and tease and tent,
or craft in canny union
those auditory clues;
the clapping hands that say
you’ve tied the laces in your shoes.