By the Sea Shore

I throw off coverings of convention

And stand in the teeth of the gale

The salt spray sweeps away fears and troubles

And leaves me to be as I am.

Here the toll of bells can summon up no ghosts.

Time is ended by the waves rhythm

The shape of the sea bed and the moon’s pull,

Being breathes beneath Nature’s roar.

Afar, moonlight’s pale wash pits a walker

Against the flat expanse of sand,

One against the innumerable grains

Packed beneath the sea’s constant breath.

One man, a retort to the limitless,

A song in the endless silence,

Sung for the song’ s sake, for love and for hope

A launched message in a bottle.

The Railway Station

Stations had their own smells-

Steam bursts hissed the cocktail

Of oil, soot and hot grease

Across the open toed sandals

Of waiting boys thrilled

By the piston power,

The drive of skidding wheels

The explosion of smoke

Into victory’s disappointed fifties.


We were leaving

This heaving churn of mechanics,

This golden age of decline

And stepping across to a new platform.

No steam clouding here, no fire

Dragons, no soot, no scents.

We were stepping thoughtlessly

Into modernity, clean

Electric, speedy, taking

Us to a new world

Of specialist secrets, hidden

Powers and practicality.

The old romantics see this

As a step to sterility –

The scraping away of slums

For the clean lines of loneliness,

Of craft skills for the industries

Of service and alienation,

Of time for the local

For the stress of celebrity.


I however felt the pull of the future,

The elusive perfume of possibility.


Just before closing the door

I looked round

Eyes squinting against the morning sun.

Scattered across the floor

Were the lost papers

Skim read and abandoned.

I could have waited

To find patterns,

To wrap stories around bones of words,

To let my half closed eyes

Construct some kind of truth.

But there was too much there

And it was time for my eyes to close.

Easter Monday

Well, is that it then?

All the drama packed in a few months,

Birth and death compressed

To fill the dreary hours.

Now the sun warms and the bud swells

No one wants to know

What happens in the ‘happily ever after’.

Passion and romance

Are enough reality for us.

Evil conquered can be forgotten.


But we must go on

And tread the path we choose.

Our packs are our own.

There is no one for us

To follow beyond our memories;

No destination beyond our dreams,

Just the next step, the wind’s whistle,

Unreasonable hope

And the scent of the sea.

Yet the story cannot be untold.

It must flood through us with each touch

Of kindness, each gesture of compassion.


Walking in circles in forgotten streets

Fog shrouding my crepuscular paces,

Faces loom, leer, leave, to uncertain beats

And I blink, walk on whilst my mind chases

Some words to throw behind me, like breadcrumbs

In the forest. Here I can live unseen.

Safe, alone, save when a flailing hand comes

Out of the mists to touch me; what has been

Sits heavy on my shoulders, whispering

Plausible nothings. So I sing my songs

From this hiding place, blindly staggering

To nowhere, where wordless silence belongs.

Yet I send words spinning through the air

A flailing hand, a sign that I was there.

St Matthew Passion

A bit late since Easter has now passed but it records an experience when singing this Bach masterpiece in the centre of Wolverhampton UK.

We had arrived in sunshine –

One of those days when Summer

Looks in, unexpected at the back door.

Our minds however were in the shade

Of this solemn monument,

This foundation stone of received wisdom,

This anthem of the elite.

We stood together in the comfort of our age,

Open mouthed, singing the songs

In their heaviness, woven around

The certainty of death

And the unshakeable testimony

Of powerful voices. The oboe’s chocolate

Flow piped its tragedy to the eaves.

The church faded, grubby, dusty,

The sunlight found no purchase on these walls.

Reverence filled the pews.

But this was a city church

And death must take its place

Beneath the roister of trade,

The shunting for position

And the contained explosions of escape.

In the silence between the notes

A growl grows until the earth shakes

And a monstrous savagery, a scream

Of bone and flesh, a leather clad

‘Fuck you͛ roars around us.

No one moves,

The music goes on.

We might prefer our encounter with this death

To be cradled in a cloister

But he did die amidst the raucous shouts,

The cruelty, the neglect of a city͛s anxiety.

The Death Bed

Death stares unflinching beneath the dry rasp

Of airless rooms. Bones stretch the skin

To force their gaping will to the light.

Thingness triumphs, movement stops, the cold clasp

Of time freezes over warm exchange to thin

Slivers of memory in the night.



“͚Is that a fact?͛” he said, standing beneath

The budded tree. Careless colours

Claim their hour above the killing fields;

Songs are not unsung; they find their own breath

In voices in new choirs; rage hollers

Its defiance and the black night yields.



And does death blink? Its hunger satisfied

In the warming sun? Do the stars smile

And kiss each other in their cradles?

The black hole beckons, time͛s devouring tide

Sweeps all things down the unforgiving aisle

Crushing the lies of song and fable.
“͚And yet we live͛” he said, and hear the cry

Of those who love, the cry that drowns out

Oblivion͛s rattle with hot tears,

The songs of sadness and endeavour fly

Beyond the reach of death͛s leer, the shout

Of life lingers ringing in our ears.