Retirement

I am at home in the wilderness

watching the town’s bustle from distant

vantage points beyond fellowship’s reach.

The tracery of forgotten streams

curves around me with a soft comfort,

heated by the indifferent sun.

Warm rising air lifts the outstretched wings

as, head still, the hawk watches, cold-eyed,

ready to pursue his dark ethic –

kill or starve. Here, sheltered from the truth

of connection, from love’s sand paper,

I can hover, cladded by stillness.

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The Really Big Issue

When did I learn to pass by

as the thin gruel of humanity

clutches its bags and shivers

in the shadows?

I may avert my eyes,

become pressed upon some business,

but always, in my fear, I judge.

The dock is too small,

bursting with villainy.

It is my home.

The Mystery of Connection

The handshake explains itself;

beyond the closed boxes of words,

where angles dissolve, and shapes

hold the tenderness of raindrops.

It has a fleeting wisdom

that lodges in hidden corners

so skin can shelter from grief

and mind can construct a square life.

The explanation remains –

the shared disappointments of love,

or desire’s trembling quiver,

a buttress to failing courage

or rivalry’s robust grip –

all in muscle’s wordless memory

where reason’s stiff boned fingers

find no reassuring purchase.

The caress of skin on skin

like wrapt gazes’ exchange of light,

leaves no visible trace of

the mystery of connection.

Rochester Cathedral

image.

Pale light, softened by the grey green glass,

Shaded into darkness,

But offering a stillness, marked precisely

By the still candle flames that guard

And measure the peace.

In the softness, a circle of chairs

Stand waiting. Their angles

Suggest fellowship to come, but also choice

Of solitude where a quiet sob

Or groan is the off’ring.

Here we are sheltered from the urgent

Noise of the icy winds

That cover the city’s contours with filmy

Eye water, draining texture and shape

Narrowing horizons.

Here eyes rest and heads clear, looking up

At last, daring to see

Something wider, something beautiful

Amidst the tired industrial life

Of the Medway landscape.

Rather old Winter visit – somewhere around 2000…………

Two Bands in Iowa

I greet the new day with soft hands

and a dead bat, foam covered.

The drip of the day is absorbed

to douse any threatening spark

that may spin out of dawn’s chorus,

that trills with exuberance,

that defies tragedy with gifts

of attention and delight;

but if I listen carefully

I hear a different music,

strident, combative, burning through

the morning, drunk with anger,

marching closer, spitting splinters

until all is confusion,

melody turned to the deathly

clash of desperate acclaim.

On the Threshold, Close to Life

As I stand shivering

Outside the room of your friendship

It comes to me that this

Is a familiar place.

I have seen patinas

Of this same shade in other

Hallways; these tremors are

My resonating strings.

I

In one room I can glimpse

A holy man of passionate

Piety, disguised by

Restless profanities.

His sharp smile betraying

A disturbing recognition

Of the hard edge of faith –

Compassion’s cutting edge.

It was this rootedness

In our earth bound realities

Packaged in intellect

And drive that drew me in.

At the door, stepping in

And full of anticipation

I find a vacancy

An unexplained absence.

II

So I turn, another

Draughty vestibule sheltering

My frozen schoolboy self

Short trousered and alone.

I must leave this hallway

Stepping away from the lit room

In which, as I look back,

The boy and I could have played.

A new thought mistily

Had sprung up, that I might have made

A friend, had I only

Stayed; my own creation.

III

Now I see Harrogate

As the scene for more teetering

On the threshold of life

Aching with love; silent.

No, much worse, terrified

Of letting my passion be known,

Ashamed of who I was,

Crude, graceless, hurtful.

IIII

So I come, hesitant

To the door of another friendship

If that is what it was –

Golden promise to ash

Cold and grey, diminished

Shockingly in its weightlessness

Transformed from a solid

Strangely lumpen living……….

….To drab grief, his parents

Damaged, mown down in the cross fire

Of this childish tantrum,

Farcical tragedy.

I see now, as not then,

That I knew nothing of despair

That it could not be found

In the dead boy’s hanging.

Then I thought, romantic

In my youthful naivety

The cry, “Eli, eli

Lama sabachtani”……

……At death’s side, agony

Intense in its grip on the soul,

Christ transfigured despair

To life uncrushable.

It was not however

The acute dramatic moment

That would define true hopelessness

Despite its poetry.

The long stare, open eyed

Pupils lifeless, dried of all tears

Only the road ahead

All colour drained away.

Here stands hell, paralysed

Dreary, silent accusation

To our failings in love,

Featureless and endless.

This was his legacy

To his mum and dad; I escaped

With a different lesson

About nearly friendships.

I don’t know, wondering

Now as I look back, did I stand

Alone in the hallway

Looking but unnoticed?

Was I not visible

But out of reach, turning away,

Finding safety in solitude?

Miserly in giving?

The Step Family

I sit here in the shade,

A pool of sun-drenched jade

Blue, made for happiness,

A shimmering calmness

Stretched, untouched between us.

Here blows the scent of wild

Rosemary, warm and mild,

Grey tinged incense; of mint

A zesty, sharper hint

Cutting my lone quietness.

Flocks of starlings defy

The heat, and seek out high

Currents of air to taunt

My earth bound pensive, gaunt

Solitude and pale stillness.

Together they can live;

Chattering loud, they give

Each other purpose, the air

Belongs to them, shows their

Flair in thought-free closeness.

So you gather beside

The blue waters, allied

In domestic exchange,

Moist, warm, touching but strange

Against my cool dryness.