DOG. February 8th, 2018
While fonder forces shaped my clay
the dog of doubt remained a stray;
but once the blinkers fell away
I saw the prism in the ray
and knew the dog was set to stay.
Now I find I filter truth,
that all those verities of youth
like fairies pay you for a tooth,
trap the prism in the ray
and keep uncertainty at bay.
I would rather brook delay
than hasten what I must betray.
The dog will always have its day.
SHELVED. February 1st, 2018
Books I’ve borrowed, those I’ve kept,
live like lodgers on my shelves,
their broken spines, when spotted, speak
of characters beyond themselves,
of people I don’t see;
briefly each one reappears
and through this momentary rent
I savour something of the past,
and wonder if the books I’ve lent
say anything of me?
I SAY TOMATO. February 1st, 2018
We parry, with nuance, with colour and choice
in the mosaic press of a popular voice,
but we channel incursion, murderous trade,
the ventures that twisted the lexical braid
of the bawd and the bard, the factor and scribe
whose witness we suckle, whose wit we imbibe
as if it were native and not the result
of plunder and ruin, bloodshed and insult.
We relish this leaven that lets us digress;
we curse and emote, we jibe and confess.
Less do we ponder parts of the world
where flags of our Father, and fathers unfurled,
who tapped as they mined as they pilfered the words
that followed the sea lanes like faltering birds
to nest in a language we wield as our own,
as steeped as it is, as crookedly grown.
LACES. January 26th, 2018
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 how they clench in victory
when someone learns to use
those little magic wands
to tie the laces in their shoes.
CAVE MOUTH. January 18th, 2018
On the walls of the Chauvet Pont d’Arc cave
painted hands appear to wave;
hello; goodbye; attention please?
It might be all, 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, if a parting gesture, one
that might suggest the host had gone
the way of all their leaping prey.
What token might we leave today,
what symbol of 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 humps 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.