How it is

They too were waiting in the late afternoon.

Nothing much was said but his toes tapped a tune.

She was motionless, her eyes fixed on some sight

that I could not see in the fading daylight.

Behind them the sun sank in its golden hour,

the geese flew to rest, Nature was in full flower.


Original Sin

The cat sleeps, filled with bloodied remains

clawed from dark corners without shame.

I smile at its unprotected innocence.


The rain rattles on the glass, calling,

as I, safely folded into pretence,

let my eyes drop, choosing a kind of blindness.

The Lost Village

I don’t know. Was that the wind

some rush of circumstance

through the barren market square?

The clink and banter of exchange

no more fill the streets; visitors

pass through politely, or pause

to recapture something lost.

The sound of children’s laughter

has long merged with the rustle

of the unclimbed oak,

chiming only in memories.

The church tower casts its shadow

over unshaven arthritic

graves, anonymous in the clipped

grass. Preservation is the God,

worshiped in manicured stonework

and plastic windows, as all round

the old village fossilizes.

Old! Old! For ever looking back

to lost days of golden sunshine,

to hope and home. Still the village

sings its siren song to longing

travelers unsure of their way.

The Annunciation


What the hell is going on? We’re stuck into the penitent fogs of Lent, death silently lurking behind every corner. We’re trudging through the cold grey days, wind in our face, feet caked in mud. And just at this moment, God chooses to pop down for a happy announcement.


Could God not have waited? Another month wouldn’t have mattered. A bit of morning sickness could have been anything in those days. It’s not really necessary to blurt out the news of new birth on the day of conception – no doubt God is suitably excited ….


I suppose from where He sits, birth and death are close cousins, the building blocks of meaning.

The Poet’s Aspiration

Can a poet get by without a mask? *

Something to distract from the floundering

confusion, the blind self-absorbed stumbling

as he lurches fitfully at his task.


Behind the crow’s carrion comfort,

in the corner of the wattle cabin,

cold from the clamour of suffering and sin

helpless word play is his ragged consort.


Dramatic resonance may be his dream;

Hitamen’s blankness powered by cutting verse,

Perchten’s frenzy driving out evil’s curse,

Tapeng’s marriage of sacred and profane,


But I would prefer masks of disguise

that direct my eyes to the grains of sand,

the beat of my heart, the reach of my hand,

the hope for song in the world’s endless cries.



* P J Kavanagh’s belief

The Village

To the left

through the rain

the shade of a church tower

draws you in.

The road, puddles

filling each blemish,

speeds us past.

But you have to look.

It scoops your soul

from its business

and holds it

where the bells used to swing,

and the graves tied

past to present.

There was place,

home, rootedness

in your dreams.

Don’t turn left…..

Kirkby Stephen

It’s only in towns like this –

with unpeopled streets, February-gaunt,

under dusk hugging sleet;

built for function, no display to taunt

us with glamour and wealth,

modest, shops shyly in wait

behind small windows and narrow frontages

waiting to serve needs

stimulated by the land’s labour;

untouched by the lustre of greatness

or the lust for consumption –

it’s only in towns like this

that we must face our ignorance,

our not knowing of the town’s truths.

We can dig down a little,

to where neighbour acts on

uncollected milk, or to

where ladders are held steady

in Autumn winds.

But truths of grief, joy and love,

the ambivalences of mutual

dependence, the driving forces

of creation, these remain hidden

behind narrow streets and rough faced walls.