Sutherland

The summer light casts its net

over the fading days

and time glides by, carried by winds

across bog peat and orchid.

The cuckoo’s pure notes float

for miles in silent pauses

as the world catches its breath.

The stop-start of man’s haste

down strips of road echoes

the ancient pattern of moor and rock –

flat unresisting planes colliding

with stubborn mountain blocks,

standing alone in a timescale

of geology and star.

I shrink with sheep and wheatear,

with midge and mistle thrush,

with thrift blooming on the cliff edge,

to the beat of a feather

against the Atlantic furies,

to the blink of an eye

against the spin of the earth’s core.

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Two Bands in Iowa

I greet the new day with soft hands

and a dead bat, foam covered.

The drip of the day is absorbed

to douse any threatening spark

that may spin out of dawn’s chorus,

that trills with exuberance,

that defies tragedy with gifts

of attention and delight;

but if I listen carefully

I hear a different music,

strident, combative, burning through

the morning, drunk with anger,

marching closer, spitting splinters

until all is confusion,

melody turned to the deathly

clash of desperate acclaim.

On the Threshold, Close to Life

As I stand shivering

Outside the room of your friendship

It comes to me that this

Is a familiar place.

I have seen patinas

Of this same shade in other

Hallways; these tremors are

My resonating strings.

I

In one room I can glimpse

A holy man of passionate

Piety, disguised by

Restless profanities.

His sharp smile betraying

A disturbing recognition

Of the hard edge of faith –

Compassion’s cutting edge.

It was this rootedness

In our earth bound realities

Packaged in intellect

And drive that drew me in.

At the door, stepping in

And full of anticipation

I find a vacancy

An unexplained absence.

II

So I turn, another

Draughty vestibule sheltering

My frozen schoolboy self

Short trousered and alone.

I must leave this hallway

Stepping away from the lit room

In which, as I look back,

The boy and I could have played.

A new thought mistily

Had sprung up, that I might have made

A friend, had I only

Stayed; my own creation.

III

Now I see Harrogate

As the scene for more teetering

On the threshold of life

Aching with love; silent.

No, much worse, terrified

Of letting my passion be known,

Ashamed of who I was,

Crude, graceless, hurtful.

IIII

So I come, hesitant

To the door of another friendship

If that is what it was –

Golden promise to ash

Cold and grey, diminished

Shockingly in its weightlessness

Transformed from a solid

Strangely lumpen living……….

….To drab grief, his parents

Damaged, mown down in the cross fire

Of this childish tantrum,

Farcical tragedy.

I see now, as not then,

That I knew nothing of despair

That it could not be found

In the dead boy’s hanging.

Then I thought, romantic

In my youthful naivety

The cry, “Eli, eli

Lama sabachtani”……

……At death’s side, agony

Intense in its grip on the soul,

Christ transfigured despair

To life uncrushable.

It was not however

The acute dramatic moment

That would define true hopelessness

Despite its poetry.

The long stare, open eyed

Pupils lifeless, dried of all tears

Only the road ahead

All colour drained away.

Here stands hell, paralysed

Dreary, silent accusation

To our failings in love,

Featureless and endless.

This was his legacy

To his mum and dad; I escaped

With a different lesson

About nearly friendships.

I don’t know, wondering

Now as I look back, did I stand

Alone in the hallway

Looking but unnoticed?

Was I not visible

But out of reach, turning away,

Finding safety in solitude?

Miserly in giving?

The Step Family

I sit here in the shade,

A pool of sun-drenched jade

Blue, made for happiness,

A shimmering calmness

Stretched, untouched between us.

Here blows the scent of wild

Rosemary, warm and mild,

Grey tinged incense; of mint

A zesty, sharper hint

Cutting my lone quietness.

Flocks of starlings defy

The heat, and seek out high

Currents of air to taunt

My earth bound pensive, gaunt

Solitude and pale stillness.

Together they can live;

Chattering loud, they give

Each other purpose, the air

Belongs to them, shows their

Flair in thought-free closeness.

So you gather beside

The blue waters, allied

In domestic exchange,

Moist, warm, touching but strange

Against my cool dryness.

Running

Natural in childhood
all urgency and discovery
free flowing in innocent energy.
Channelled in youth
all striving and competition,
sinews stretched with peppered ambition.

Always a bit odd after that.
Hard to imagine Theresa May
picking up her skirts
and showing a clean pair of heels.

And what about Churchill
or Attlee – running seems
too childish for such weighty figures.
Boris of course can lumber about
doing a comic turn framed by bodyguards – but then, he is not serious.

There’s always the heart attacks
and the rugby players
clinging to their immortality,
and stringy women bouncing
to the pony tail’s beat.
Nothing recaptures
the leaps and dashes
of childhood’s playful vitality;
the rush to grasp everything,
the fear of missing out.
Yes, running belongs to childhood

Tony

I see him change, a fixing, stiffening

Of attitude as the tension narrows

The veins; not a flinching as a raindrop

Falls behind his collar, or a spider

Scrabbles for grip on the hairs of the skin;

More a drying out, a worry wrinkle

Around the eyes; a watchfulness that sees

Less, an energy that moves more slowly.

He has to try and hide uncertainty.

Is this defensive fortress the true man

Or do we just reflect what surrounds us?

Cared for and he blossoms with all his flaws,

His wounds move others to growth; he slows down

And leaves more room to unfold shared wisdom,

And to see what moves below the surface

Mars and Venus

I look on ………………….

I observe ………………….

I scrutinise ………………….

My gaze objectifies the female other …………………………..

I judge and claim the standard as my own…………………………

I act and the act requires a response…………………………………..

I lurch and wait for punishment………………………………………….

I judge and fear a shameful exposure …………………………

My gaze confirms my hopelessness ………………..

I scrutinise seeking reassurance ……………………

I observe to conquer my ignorance ………..

I look on in fear………………….