Late Summer

I felt the colours brushing off my face

as I drove through Summer’s exuberance.

I was an arrow, dull-rusted by time,

blunted maybe, aimless, but on a course

set by some naked marriage of fury

and desire. All I saw were like airwaves,

trembling wrinkles hiding behind make up’s

smooth public face of a pretending life.

Here was where the bite meets the blood;

where dark dread drives shame’s secrets;

where hope loses hold and the voices set their terms.

Here was where bodies hang in the darkness

and we take shelter in the helplessness

of the ripe barley, the soaring buzzard

and pale smiles of polite recognition

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On Self Pity

I’m not sure what day it was when I saw

the sun’s indifference, the wind’s neglect

and the cold heart of the morning chorus.

I had tried bargaining for a clear sky.

I had stretched my hand in the night terrors

to feel the cold hard wood at the bedside.

I had obeyed the dictates of magic –

teeth first, pants before socks and shoes in line.

But time tramples its cruel certainties

across all delusions of tenderness.

To one side in the playground, in the shade,

loitering safe from clamour and grazed knees,

time seemed my friend, beckoning me forward.

But the world turns and the shades cover us.

 

Now I see this gloom is sentimental,

a running away. Love must be a gift,

a deed borne on a cushion of weakness

like a royal crown – one that I can forge

from fading perfumes and strange harmonies,

from momentary laughter in the eyes

of friendship, from the sympathy of pain.

 

To live in a major key takes courage.

St Ives

image

Where is the tang of salt,

the reek of the sea’s harvest?

No more the seafarer’s roll

caresses my pier side stones;

no more the women’s red hands

bear fish stained air to cellars,

to chapel, to marriage beds.

I am left to the idle,

the fanciful escapees

that smother my golden sands,

and the sea only knows rage

or seduction – picturesque

to the exclusion of life.

 
Pilchards were my life – “pilchards”!

Even the word lacks beauty –

‘a devious shining worm

of a man’ this oily fish

has become in a packaged age.

Eyes have turned to the shining

light, springing into the air,

to the translucent turquoise,

to shapes of leisured gesture,

and the abstraction of form.

 

But beneath, I lie silent,

founded in oil and offal,

grieving for the days of fish,

the certainty of produce,

of sea, land and working hands –

plain, factual, functional.

A Family Photograph

The photograph caught my eye;
All gone save two.
The smiles have faded;
The moment was fleeting,
Just a milestone
Left by the roadside
For travellers passing the other way,
Or to arrest me
As I spiral past
Still looking for the route.
There are no signposts;
Only the shape of my forming
Stays still to guide my steps;
The lean towards a silent father
In whose company
I could not be lost.

 

This refers to an old family photograph from my childhood, which showed how family dynamics are made so clearly visible by the unconscious ways we behave.

Family

As I watch the sound of voices

Sucking the air from the room,

The roar of my silence swells.

Its skin bursts and the smiles

Are punctured by the dry prick of wit.

 

Best ignored – and I am left

Wondering if the sparkle of goldfinches,

The rattle of rain on the windows,

The drunken sway of the wind in the trees,

Are the ‘still small voice’

Or the last refuge for my absence

Suburbia

 
Clean the drive, shine the windows, 
Scour the kitchen, beat the carpets; 
Polish the paintwork, wash the sorrows, 
Cover the blemishes, clear the weeds. 
But the spider creeps from its corner, 
Rains stain our shine with Sahara’s sand, 
The wastes of living feed the future 
And for us to flower, the tears must fall.

Transfiguration

He stood on the mountain top. At his feet

the world of the everyday was muted,

transformed into a pathos of colour.

Surely here was where heaven and earth must meet?

 

Skylarks singing the songs of the heavens;

Nature raw, eternal, a living past

unmarked by the trivial and worldly.

Surely here was where heaven and earth must meet?

 

Black-winged crows, ascetic, puritan, soar

around his head, lit by the evening sun,

animal piety cleansed in the wind.

Surely here was where heaven and earth must meet?

 

Convenient delusion. Here above

the cares of the day, he can imagine

an exaltation of a pure spirit.

He can box off the transfigured, safely

located in a mystical escape.

The past is transformed into dreams, blood free,

pure and mind locked. A life of engagement

with the poor and neglected can’t be seen

in dazzling lights of holy ecstasy.

 
Much better had he stepped into the slums

where the putrid waste of wealth sours the air,

and given transfiguration a place

in the midst of Want, Hunger and Despair

 

Something odd happened when I posted this so have put it on again!