I see no path through these dark woods,

Where I am trapped, blinded by dreams.

Sun, do not shine, and tantalise –

With shafts of light, crowning the trees,

In gold; and views of distant hills

Misty and peopled with poetry.


I wrap myself in darkness, moods

Softened, curtains drawn, so sunbeams

Make no assault on my dry eyes.

Only the mild caressing breeze

For company. My dream world fills

Misty and peopled with poetry.



Yet my spirit needs other foods,

To face the world; with peopled teams

To share the pains and show how wise

And joyful truth can only freeze

When locked within a dream that thrills

Misty and peopled with poetry.



Was the sun shining?

Did the air feel warm?

I might have been working alone

Or distracted, called on the phone,

Trapped by the lure of the e mail

Enjoying the banter, or pale

With defeat, the storm

Spent, the breeze whining.


Life is then composed

Of hidden moments.

It escapes the grasp, passes by

As the trout evading the fly.

I nail it down within the poem

Admire its lustre, gilt and chrome,

But it rots, ferments

Its value transposed.

True Poetry

There are odd moments as he blunders
through the dark corridors of erudition,
fearing the Minotaur’s savage hunger,
and wrapped in scholarship’s revered fictions,
when he steps into air, sun on his brow.

Blackbird’s bel canto, the smell of mown grass,
the flow of water brown peat turned to gold;
these bedrocks of beauty need no classic
allusions, no dictionary trawling.
What he sees in all his simplicity
is partial, his own creation, soft edged
and commonplace. Here in the light he clings
to the hope for an escape from nature
into a personal vision, and stamps
the full force of his mind on sunlit hills.
He wears his learning like mating plumage,
ermine robed claiming a place next to Kings
before he falls back into darkness,
to where no Latinate exactitudes
or exquisitely refined perceptions can
lift him back to the sun. He must reach out
to companionships of confusion
held by simple memories as the sea
rolls its mundane course in the grey moonlight.

Sir Alec Guinness

The grown-ups are dying

Not the old people but

The men and women that make the world,

That see how it is and

Walk through it confident

And with a kind of stability.
They wear suits, quiet ties

Strong sensible shoes and

Functional spectacles. Their passion

Is private, and quietly

Modulated by experience.

They have learned to respect

The triumphs of daily

Endurance and imagination.


His gentle voice combines

Sadness with soft smiles, and

Provides a resting place for we who

Have not been reconciled

With ourselves and our worth.
He is not trying to change the world,

But observes, listens, seeks

To learn a craft, offers

A truth wryly, accurate and sharp.


An empty space, all ideas fading out of reach,

beyond the clamour for one

unique original insight. No more

in this knowing world are we shocked?

‘Concepts’ now seem like children’s games

played in a bomb shelter whilst death

maims and tortures above our heads.

Weighty maternal curves have slipped

into the past. Industrial

angularity has posted

its ugliness in defiance

of sentiment; cows have been sliced

and beds unmade; sheds exploded

into shards of beauty; walls curled

through forests; worlds turned inside out;

gestures’ rhythms have startled us;

the vibrant stillness of colour

has bowed heads and arrested hearts.

Even pissing against the wall

punked its way through the febrile search

for revelation, so we sneer

and turn away. Where next? Seeking

the Pissoir’s replacement, we find

it is not there – just a mirage

teasing us with the lies of fame.

After all, the Pissoir has gone,

absorbed into the established

canon and its authentic voice

flushed away, leaving deposits

of cosy ceramic copies.

Is this then a twilight, misty

memories of hopeful fury

doused by the hopelessness of death?

Or a pause; exhilaration

hidden behind a weary search?



A kind of darkness; leaf mould, mist

Dank and rich, water sluicing mud

Into pathways, staining walkers’ pants,

Capillary action dampening

The spirits of all who pass. The dark

Seeps into the hotels; the heavy

Mansions weighed down with the sweet comfort

Of the middle people – middle aged,

Middle class, Werther’s originals.

Yes, it was weight more than a darkness,

Not ominous, more heavy, dense,

Over rich, sugar saturated.

It required the openness, wind blown

Heights, rock faces of adventure, seen

Between the thick foliage below,

As if the drama of the mountains

Sprang out of the valley’s rich brocade.

For me, freedom comes on the bare rock ridge,

The barren fields of summit boulders,

Looking down on the coach bound trippers

Who cling to the deep hued luxury,

The chocolate filled lounges, the heart strewn

Gift shops and carefully staged viewpoints,

Who bask in the closeness of people

Whilst we nod, shy in our solitude.

The heavy stone and lush gardens may

Be to me like Christmas Day after

The turkey dinner with a blazing fire,

Paralysed in a fug of family,

But the summit ridge needs the valley,

Its colour, its promise of comfort.

Galloway Autumn


We say images are timeless

as though they last for ever

so hiding our terror of grief,

the fear of collapse into formlessness

or worse.


But if we peer through blurred lenses

in the morning stillness,

All we see is time, stretching back

to a pale horizon where the desert


Before us wait the witnesses
to a timescale beyond thought
letting the air sway them, drifting
to music outside our hearing, piping
the Fall.

Beyond the desert, this land
Sweated in the Tropics
A seething storm of life and colour
Smothering the landscape with excess,

Fearless in growth and display
Knowing that abundance must bring
Abundant death, in turn however
feeding vigour and fresh discovery
Through grief.

Transported from desert and Tropics
In both visions of Galloway
the wisdom of time has been garnered
Is celebrated in the Autumnal shades
before sleep.


This is another of a series of poems that were inspired by a book, “Scenes Through Different Eyes”. This was a collaboration between Phil McMenemy, a photographer whose images he has allowed me to post here and Julie Dumbarton, an artist whose work can be seen on her website ( They each brought their own skills and vision to the same landscape to create a beautiful book. Phil’s work can be explored on his Facebook page ( or on his website ( Having bought the book, I didn’t want it to sit ignored on a coffee table and so I wrote a sequence of poems that forced me to look and think about the photographs and paintings. They will be posted here over the next few weeks.