Scene Through Different Eyes

This wonderful image is a photo taken by Phil McMenemy, and posted with his permission. He has a Gallery in Dumfries and Galloway. He has a Facebook page ( which I strongly recommend you visit. I found the gallery by chance in mid Winter a couple of years ago and my partner and I found ourselves staying for a couple of hours, being plied with coffee and biscuits! This poem records our meeting and our conversation!

Reed Lines at Laurieston

Two men, discussing serious business
Come to Freud, and a question about line.
From where sprang the fascination with reeds
Standing tall in image after image?
Were these the soft echoes of a lost past
In a world of steel girders, hard drinking,
The rule of muscle over tenderness?
The reeds may have expressed a turning back –
None of the images grappled with steel,
Concrete or engineered blocks of matter.
But they spoke a deeper truth about strength:
How the feeblest things in Nature survive,
Bending before the Autumn winds, at ease
In the anonymity of the crowd.
More, they speak to us with their hushed music,
Like soft brushes on the drum skin of life;
They work together to provide shelter,
They bow their heads in the rains and they weep.




For you, an origin – a beginning?

No; more than that. Not just a plain ‘kick off’;

A softer discovery of new life,

Or an opening of a new universe.

From here though, it prompted reminiscence.

A rediscovery of the lilies

Intoxicating in their abstraction.

For you, the leaves shone under grasses

Bowing down in maternal reverence;

Sheltered by the soft curves in still embrace.

From here, the motionless blue held the scene

In the infinite space, timeless, away

From the destructive boot print of events,

Beauty’s companionable stillness.


Fairy Loup 1


Two woodlands;

One enclosed, trees like cathedral arches

Creating a windless

Damp thickness of air

On which the rich redness

Can float in magical celebration

Drawing us onward to the gilded brightness.

The other

Opening out, trees leaning back

To allow the light

To paint a textured

Green, glistening with moisture

Across the woodland floor,

To provide a bed

For all kinds of magic.


Two Trees


Looking up across the rubble and straw

Of a landscape abandoned to the winds

The compact and quietly contained brother

Waited, softly shaded beneath the dark skies.

Up ahead, the gnarled gristle sinews caught

The force of the sun and stood defiant,

Proud, thorny branches pointing, decrying

The worst abuses of the faceless Gods

Then night came; the older sibling softened

Before the shining immensity; stars

Rested on the canopy, quietening

The fearful  rage.  Below, caught by the sun’s

Last hurrah, the young blood shone in the glow

Basking in the brilliance of creation.


Beech Tree Twinkle


Who would have thought this ecstatic

Outbreak of colour, this dance

Of wind and leaves, this cascade

Of beech litter, was a flurry

Of life passing.

The trees rejoice in completion,

Fling their clothes in triumph

To cover the seed beds of the future

And we can only gaze on, dazzled

In our small world.




In the glister of sea and sunshine

Nothing human stirs.

Here we can drift with the breeze of Summer

And become Nature.

Can we be sure though that this will do?

We like the idea

Of beauty staring lined and wind burnt

At the old stories.

We stand on the shoulders of suff’ring

Held above the tides;

Survival no longer has to be hewn

From ungiving soil.

We can shelter beneath eves, bloodied

By interred sinews;

No more do we watch the tides with fear

For lost livelihoods.

Perhaps it is in the angry skies

Reddened with outrage,

In the salt stained ragged rock outcrops

And the swirling froth,

In the dark wind swept trees – that we find

Reality’s roots.


Summer View


It is just as it is –

The mindless flow of forces

Rolling in from nowhere,

Meeting land where shifting surfaces

Cover a senseless movement

To a timescale beyond sense.

Mineral against mineral

Waves connecting

The thin sliver of moon

With the rock’s undulations.

But we wear no white coats

And carry no clip boards.

We are warmed by the sun

And shiver before the winds. We are moved by life

And touched by the empty bench

Of lost companionship.

The scent of the sea

Covers the scene with memory,

The constant motion

Holds our heart beat

To the endless rhythm of change.

The sheltering bay and the sea’s roar

Comfort us with the rich

Patterns of irreconcilability.

And so we give beauty

To the bare facts of Nature.


Proud Little Boat


Alone, grounded, sea miles away –

Should I be here, or on some quiet

River, drifting gently

Whilst your man hangs a line

Hoping for some action?

Still, I am ready

Should the moon’s rush

Bring the flood upon me,

Or that cold front

Tries to blow me to the scrap yard.

Lily Ladder



Platelets floating on the sunlit stillness,

Brush strokes caress the blue serenity

To rock us gently. The water puckers

Its lips to kiss the rims of the heart shapes

Gathered in quiet communion. Each one

Holds its space, some circled by fellowship,

Touching, holding hands, facing the same way;

Others fastidious, alone, private.

All blushing in the afternoon sunshine,

Their skin leathering as the year decays

Whilst at their core, the vivid yellow burns

As a life force braced for the Winter snows.

Misty Valley


We are guided through the boglands

And the bracken by trails of stone

Meandering over contours

Hidden to our elevation.

The walls’ ramshackle endurance

Attest to the unknown labours

That create and sustain this view;

To men and women who stride out

In the face of blizzards and gales;

Who plunge arms into frightened ewes

To haul new life into the world;

Who hack and hew in the woodlands

To save the habitat’s balance;

Who drive fence posts through rock and marsh

Whilst clouds of insects suck their blood.

This glory of texture and shade

Is their and our reward, given depth

By the moving mantles of mist

Burning off in the morning sun.



Nothing moves,

The evening light

Drapes itself

Over the water

The world’s last breath

Long ago rippled

The surface, now

Returned to

Idle reflection.

We are drawn

Towards the black

Forest depths.

All that remains

Are the colours

And shapes on the iris

Of the closed eyes,

Brilliant and shocking

After staring

So long at

The unforgiving

Glare of life.

Poppy Castle


We see the colour; perhaps it blinds us,

As we stare open mouthed at the poppies

Massed like a great army, each flower dying

But their numbers still overwhelming us.

Take the colour away and the pattern

Is no less miraculous, with the shapes

Hiding simplicity behind tumult,

The shading calling out delicacy

And movement, all speaking to us about

Mysteries: strength behind fragility –

Creative individuality

Within mankind’s uncounted millions –

The wonder of a chorus of voices.

Behind these heralds of mortality

Stand the stone walls asserting permanence,

Claiming power to withstand disorder,

To crush all tenderness, deny weakness

But they fail; mortar is dissolved by rain

And stones cling in decline to their scaffold,

Or they are overrun by surging life,

Interred in the vibrancy of Nature.

Chocolate River – Even Flow


The rich cocktail of nutrients

Moves steadily towards us

Barely moving through a bloody

War torn guard of honour

Windless in the last fires of the day.

The green sward of new growth

Is out of reach, over the fly blown

Fathomless stillness.

All is fire and destruction

Where we stand becalmed.

Turn aside though and we see

The hidden life force rushing

Past our earth bound gaze,

The brown peat turns white

In the thrill of the chase.

It sweeps past destructions’

Epitaph, too full of its own flow

To notice these remains

Of old tragedies.

And we absorb the vigour,

Inhabit the fresh green of new life

And give ourselves over

To the rhythm of the current.

Rough Island


We look out, facing a distant army

Gathering, glinting white across the bay,

Harvesting the winds and ready to march

Towards us, modernity in their sails.

The sanctuary across the causeway

Leads the defence of our forgotten pasts,

Pointing like a sting ray, alert, ready.

The Rheged citadel in which we stand

Is just a faded memory, a bump

In the rocks and heathers. Modernity

Was its past, preservation its present,

But ill equipped to ward off the powers

The soldiers across the bay are fighting.

Collateral damage in that just war

Is the fate of many places like this.

So while we can, we shall breathe the sea air,

Listen to the oyster catcher’s shrill call,

And smile in the wealth of our heritage.

Fairy Loup 2


The woods open their arms

To draw us in, alone

To where the Springtime charms

And the breeze makes soft moan.

The velvet forest floor,

A verdant fairy loup

Half masks a hidden store

Of magic as eyelids droop.

Then conjured from the shade

Loups a lush whirligig

Of colour and shape, made

Where spirits skip and jig.

Canopy 1


Flat on our back, looking up, do we see

A distant world of light and shade, whispers

Seducing us to let our eyelids droop

And our minds soar into the canopy

To join the rooks in their raucous freedom?

The romance of the canopy calls out

To us and touches our dreams of escape.

Men of science however see Nature’s

Practicality and function. They ask

‘How?’ They look up to measure light’s wavelengths;

They calculate ‘leaf area index’;

They find ‘eddy exchange co-efficients’

For heat and water vapour; in the heights

They see turbulence and change. The filtered

Light may charm our eyes but canopies are

Serious business. They conserve water,

They improve the air, relax our brain waves,

Slow our heart beats and shelter us from wind.

We don’t need romance to look up in awe.

Canopy 2


Wrapped in the cool green shade,

We are at the country’s core.

From here we conquered seas;

Here were metal works’ cribs;

The first State ownership

Of resources reserved for Kings

Were these canopied spaces.

In this shade, the deer run

Free and the badgers frolic.

Beneath these buttresses

The poacher sets out his traps

And the shy goshawk bursts

Through unseen highways

Which our eyes cannot fathom.

This is the place for myths

Cocooned from the everyday,

Raised from the everyday

By the uprush to pattern

And light. This is the place

For secrets, dark thrills, lost loves,

Midsummer night’s dreams.



They can grow in thoughtful disconnection

Shining their light in sunshine or in rain.

They belong in untamed patches of land

Standing in majesty above the sea

Of insect rich green in heath and hedge bank.

Here, their statuesque solemnity holds

The exuberant pink frivolity

Of the sweet scented honeysuckle, in check.

Let the shackles go when the stone croft house

Has for too long endured a Calvinist

Restraint, and now in the Summer sun, shouts

Its relief through a blazing radiance.

Whilst yellow for foxgloves suggests poison,

Echoing Van Gogh’s ocular distortions,

Here they scatter the canvas with delight,

And spin us outdoors to ride the warm winds.

Chocolate River – Even Flow 2


Back to the torpid stream

And the evening draws in.

We can rest, the mature

Green beneath our feet

And the fire of the day

Receding towards the night

As the colours fade

Absorbed by still waters’

Fathomless brown depths.

We turn to the monochrome;

The need for texture

And touch, the wish to let

Ourselves go into the white

Sensuous flow below

The weir, where we may be swept

To who knows what Paradise?

Tree and Bluebells


The woodland floor shimmers, like the shiver

Of bows across the violin fingerboard,

Busy, soft, scurrying with life.

The new day is full of expectation,

The promise of honey in the perfumed

Coolness; the start of some epic drama.

Above the whispered harmonies, the birds

Declare their presence, wrapt in the moment,

Flitting out of sight in the dappled light.

In the distance, a warm echo chamber

Of rich brass chords draws our eyes to the sunlit

Clearings growing closer through the morning.

The scene is completed by assertive

Forms, the characters for the day’s dramas –

Beech trunks, fern triplets, and the old tree stump.

The day warms, the volume grows, harmonies

Darken until all the detail explodes

In a fanfare, a blizzard of colour.