A Stroke of Fate

In memory of a dear friend cut down by a stroke 3 years ago.


Cold blows the wind,

Cutting the warm flow of life

Careless of surgical exactitude;

Callous companion to calamity

Content to dig deep crevasses

Across carefully nurtured lives.



The shattered face is on its own,

Left to smile or yawn unsheltered;

It can only watch helpless or sleep,

At the mercy of kindness or neglect.



It is hard to know

Whether dazed confusion,

Bemused distraction or some

Secret acuteness of observation

Is more to be desired. Her crooked smile

Spoke to the innocent charity that

Was the hallmark of her health, but perhaps

She was just waiting for us to go,

Waiting to rest from the griefs of her life?


Somewhat dated poem from my commuting days….


Triangular emergences

Hosed into the city

Pushed by the new disgorgings

From Rowley or Tile Hill Lapworth,

Bescott or Four Oaks.



The life of the whole city

Is squeezed through these doorways.

The faces are still, solemn,

Minds already at work

Anxiously preoccupied.



In different directions

The workforce makes its way,

Vanishing and transforming

Into new public selves

By which they can be defined.



This morning, bathed in sunlight

I can almost forget

That my own urgent strained path

Looks much the same to those

Who can lift their eyes to see.



This outpouring seems today

A creative energy;

A marv’llous diversity

Of talent and service,

A mute cooperation.



The individual drive

That turns mass production

Into innumerable

Variations of dress

Cosmetics, colour and style



Speaks to me through the faces

As they pass silently

Towards shops, offices

Building sites and workshops

The engine rooms of living.



And yet I do not see them

Other than as this shape

Or individuated

Sources of energy,

Positive or negative.
The length or curl of their hair

The texture of their skin

Twinkling eyes and smiling lips

The rings, the scarves, the hats –

I miss personal colours.



It seems that I cannot look

Eye to eye, at quiet

Places, uncompetitive

Physical presences

At playful decorations.


My view is more Methodist;

No candles, plain essence

Of the flesh made Word, safely

Protected in the mind,

Brownly or greyly watching

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.

The Poetry Reading

Thought I’d drop down,

where the drizzle was

pouring cold water over Spring,

to look through the school window.

Turned out the children were long gone.

There were the old folk,

drained grey like the day,

sitting in their old places,

their old smiles like candle light.

The innocence of discovery

had vanished, and in its place

a resigned detachment,

refined observation

and a wry retreat.

No playground fighting here,

No desperate passion.

Just once, the bloody talons

of cold fury were declaimed.

Just once, I saw a world I knew,

But it fell on straining ears

like a sad Victoria sponge

Appearances from a passing train

He stood there casually

One of those moments when we just are –

Unmemorably, looking the other way

Whilst forming a phrase in another

Life story – an interval in a seemingly

Unconnected tune.



It was a waiting moment,

The train had not come to take him

Home from work, or for an errand

Suitable for an uncommitted moment.

Bright orange earphone wires shone

In the evening sun.



His thoughts were idle

He was not even deciding what

Or even whether to listen to his ipod,

For now it was enough to let

The wires hang and entwine, spinning

In his work stained fingers.



The orange was shocking

This it was that drew my sleepy eye

As I sat on the train heading the other way.

Then I saw that this was not an absence –

Beige shoes and matched lines on his collar showed style –

A thoughtful presentation to the world.



The roads tiptoe across the rock-studded

land, tripping between dark pools and peat-scrapes.

They’re like tourists in an ancient culture –

a surface noise that slips across the truth

of the island where always the wind is king.

Homes hunker down trying not to be seen

by the shrieking rage of regal vengeance

once it has wiped the fixed grin of Summer

from its fury. It yearns to scour the earth,

to scrub it until the old bare sculpted

rock shines new and clean in the Winter cold.

Only the patterns of lichen as friends,

the wind wraps its solitude in wildness

and hurls the rain at shivering heartbeats.