The Interrogation of Silence

I brought silence in

and sat it where I could watch closely

as I shone my light between its eyes.

Good cop, bad cop had been tried

and never drew a confession

or disturbed its thin lipped confidence.

Perhaps if I reminisce

the soft recall of mundanities

might vibrate some hidden heart string

in the blue shadow of the evening?

Or is it a catatonic spell

to be broken by the old remedy,

one hair at a time plucked from calf, knee and thigh?

Or should I just wait

for the pressure to grow until

words burst from fissures I cannot see

and cover my wounds with music?

It offers no help

but opens its arms to the passing

flight of the blackbird in full alarm,

to the flock of white doves that circle

with shared purpose on grey Winter mornings,

to the stir of ivy leaves

in the day’s shallow breathing.

Original Sin

We still misunderstand.

The crisp apple gave its sweetness

and the freshness misled us.

It seemed that we now know

how the world is made,

how the mind judges,

how Nature can be turned

to our advantage.

We seemed to know righteousness,

to distinguish the wheelbarrow

from the spirit of dreams.

We exchanged innocence

for a new mastery,

but now as the world burns

and death comes in flood and wind

the mastery destroys

and knowledge is revealed

as the expanding boundary

of ignorance. We save

a species and kill three,

we comfort the wealthy

and neglect the poor,

we define our freedoms

through the gun’s barrel.

And knowledge tiptoes

in the hearts of the humble,

in the oratory of the powerless,

in the searchlights of the blinkered.

Looking forward 2

You’d think that these words would tumble backwards

like a wake stretching into the ocean

until they fade to nothing save the tide.

But I see them breathed out to the future,

a wisp of condensation becoming

the wind across a silent land. I hear

my father’s measured rhythm – nursed by words

as thus; ‘In the beginning was the Word

and the Word was God’ vanishing into

the breeze that blows ahead of us, outside

our sight line, where the trees grow in the mists.

And I see the words crushed by gravity

to that nothing which is more than absence,

a greedy blackness where the future eats

all we have known. There, in those cloud-filled woods,

the words fall to earth with the bitter taste

of holly and yew, the sweet blackberry

and the scents of oak and lime, in the dark.

Crushed to nothing by the weight of history

they slip from the bonds of time to some new

universe, not where the word is made flesh,

but the flesh, the comforts of skin on skin,

are the words that fill the forests with hope.

A light bulb moment

“Harry!”

“What?”

“Did you know that I will have to curtsey every time I meet your Gran?”

“That’s the way things work here.”

“Will I be able to do it ironically?”

“No. You’re American.”

…………………….

“Do I get for people to curtsey to me?”

“No. You’re American.”

“It’s weird. I thought being royal was a job you did when people were watching you. Now it turns out, being royal is an identity………..unless you’re American.”

“Yeah – it’s like the laying on of hands for bishops.”

…………………………..

“Harry!”

“There’s more?”

“Well, I wondered what the job is. Is it being nice?”

“What do you mean?”

“If Kate and Will are royal at all times, in work and not in work so that being royal isn’t the job, I thought that since they go all nice when they are working, that must be what the job is?”

“Aren’t they nice when they are not working?”

“Depends where you’re sitting…..”

…………………………….

“Harry! This mental health thing; it only seems to be ok to respect the mentally ill for speaking out when they are ‘nicely’ ill and a bit sad. I don’t seem to be heroically sad enough to be mentally ill. I must not have understood the job properly………”

Looking forward 1

Dare we look forward

with the eyes of a child

where the day ahead

sings with unbroken skies

and simple pleasures.

Tears would have to come

too and now we fear them.

We have put our faces

in order, show ready,

packed our child away

carefully instructed

to be a ‘big brave boy,

no showing off now,

or it will end in tears’!

and find that the thrill

is inaccessible

in the boot, covered

with blankets of experience,

responsibility’s

spare wheel, and the bag

of games we now won’t play.

The picnic remains –

a small consolation

that hides magic’s loss

beneath the comfort

of food and company.

Now we seek that joy

in the remembered past,

the brandy snaps

and the taste of honey.

Tommy’s Stamp on History

(A little time ago, a football commentator announced the death of Tommy Docherty, a notorious soccer team manager, and declared that perhaps his greatest achievement was to change the colour of Chelsea shorts from white to blue.)

There are those moments that distil greatness,

when we can only stand in reverence.

Step forward Tommy Docherty – we sense

the world was changed for ever as the Press

made you front page news, sweeping aside sad

tidings from far flung places to record

the stamp of genius. The shorts were flawed

in their whiteness and, praise be!, this bright lad

could see the way forward. What can you do

but doff your cap in stunned admiration

as just one great mind across the nation

discerned that all Chelsea shorts must be blue!

A different kind of stranger

A grey evening for the colourless shuffle of rush hour.

I peer passively at the squirming line of traffic

as day fades and lights shine.

Lurch,       brake ……….

Through the glass, in the mirror ahead, 

clear eyes,  young and shining,  draw me.

Are they pausing in return on my listless attention? 

Crawl,        brake ……

A movement, 

brushing away a lock of hair, 

or relieving an itch?

Lurch,        brake,            idle…..

Another movement; 

I am alert now;  

a hand clearing urban dust 

or perhaps some moisture that clouds the sight

of those eyes, to me clear as dampened pebbles?

Crawl,          brake ……

Now, a shake of shoulder 

and the hand to her eyes points 

to obvious tears of distress

her whole body sobbing with private sadness.

Lurch,           crawl,              brake,              idle…….

There she is, unreachable and alone,

shaken by desperate unknowns, 

facing her demons, 

cradled by metal, glass, rubber,

escorted by commuters blinkered 

by the weight of the day.

Crawl,              brake,            crawl,               brake,            idle ……..

Whose tears reached me though the glass divide?

A different kind of stranger perhaps?

Lurch,                          accelerate ……….

.

The Price of Suburban Life

It’s a distant view; of lights flickering

foretelling the morning frosts but giving

no data, no narrative. All that makes

a community is well hidden

round corners, and badged with corporate design

devoid of personality. The space

for privacy, fences, and shading trees,

curtained windows, porches built to create

a double barrier between the world

that threatens and unknown intimacies,

these are all we can see from our distance.

And we are misled. The neighbour we thought

cared for his fragile and obsessive wife

smuggled his breakdown past us through long months

of agonised unemployment whilst she

nursed him and carried the money worries.

The old woman, wrapped in scarves offering

no jaunty style but anonymity,

makes her short stepped pilgrimage each morning

out for domesticity’s dull routine;

she goes to stand at a graveside with dreams

in which the music of her past can sing

in her memory, in which she can dance.

The view is a mirror, placed to block truth,

pointing us inwards at our own weakness,

at dark fears of routine that haunt our lives.

2020

As the frost curls its fingers round the last night

I look with still eyes at the glittering

lights of the lonely, imprisoned by facts.

The night looks back and there is no movement.

Each stands distanced, locked in its skin, untouched,

safe and impoverished, just a presence,

a fact, untouched by disease and difference,

inert, cold, in charge of its destiny

but dying alone. Just the vibration

of unseen waves, flickers of 0 and 1,

recall the mystery of hand on hand,

and all the arguments of attachment.

May this land hear again the strange noises

of generosity and of welcome.

The Current

Love begins with a splash as the dam bursts;

need tumbles freely down time’s erosion

rolling and dipping with adoration.

It becomes rich with the nourishment scoured

from the history through which it dances.

It floods generously across parched fields

and sparkles and warbles in the sunlight

until it settles, seemingly assured

of its purpose and direction, slowing

to silence, and drying in the dull heat

of afternoon. Now purpose becomes all –

a single line of movement, no playing,

no spillage, no waste, only the pursuit

as if love forgets it will lose itself

in the endless thirst of the ocean.