How it is

They too were waiting in the late afternoon.

Nothing much was said but his toes tapped a tune.

She was motionless, her eyes fixed on some sight

that I could not see in the fading daylight.

Behind them the sun sank in its golden hour,

the geese flew to rest, Nature was in full flower.


The Legacy

That blue jug – such a demure

container – “Tea, vicar!”

it cries in its pasty modesty.

It’s cheap, chosen for ‘niceness’,

locked for ever in a colourless

domesticity; no ambition

to step from the suburbs,

to be other than inoffensively useful.

It is what I try to escape from.

But to my daughter it is an heirloom,

a bit of a world where

she knew love and safety;

it connects her.

A Family Christmas

When I awake, it is not to the sound

Of the dawn singing. ͚Wake up͛ urgings broke

Through sleep, and brought me round

To a more prosaic world where the yoke

Of duty holds the gaze down to the dank

Surface of life. My mind

Fears that in this universe I rank

As nothing; that life is found in the rind

And not in the heart or the flesh.
It is not true of course, since this surface

Is a clue to deeper feeling and senses,

Though hidden, rich as lace

Passionate but private. Barbed wire fences

Could be no more effective in holding

A firm distance between

Me and this vivid colour. But, folding

Myself into my disguise, I͛’m then seen

In the way my family knows.


Happy Christmas to any pausing readers!
The hymns were sung and the sermon endured.

Gifts of politeness exchanged and unwrapped

with the shy warmth of the semi detached.

We stood in the pale shiver of morning,

waiting restlessly, trapped in our ‘goodness’,

to be freed into a haze of tinsel,

toys and turkey. We though were Time’s plaything,

and it soon tidied the magic away,

boxed into some dust drenched loft, to be sought

when the shadows lengthen and the bones freeze,

and the queen goes ‘tick tock’, as the nervous

glint in her eye dies to grim-lipped routine.

Still the hymns were sung, the sermon endured,

the snow falls and the story enchants us.


Before the quiet rustle of relatives,

Watched by the bare fields below clouded skies,

I stood stiffly beneath the memories;

Dry-eyed. Words of comfort washed over me.


Love came to me not in the pink softness

Of recalled embraces, nor in the lilt

Of soft words, but as a hard thing, a forge

Hammering my character into shape;

As an argument, painful, embodied.


Her tigerish dislike of sentiment

Knotted her guts. Law’s dry rules governed her;

She dared not dream, all hopes were

Crushed by the weight of her fears;

Her despair she planted in me to fight

For her, to turn to music, to the poetry

We glimpsed in her annual pilgrimage

To Scrooge’s awakening to unbridled joy.

On playing safe

I’ve long prepared myself for this,

Through the mawkish tears

Of a child’s bedtime abandonment,

To the ruthlessness of adolescence.


And now the price must be paid

With you gone, all absorbed

Into some unknown soil.

Now whilst I can see the richness

Of grief in your silence,

I must skate lightly

Over my self-made glassy film.

Your stocky presence firmly set

On the ground has dissolved

To some cocktail of my own making.

The cadences of your voice

Are my fabrications from memory.


Past my childhood

The truth is we shared little

That I could see beyond

The reflection of you

Caught in my daughters’ eyes.



“It feels strange,” she said,

Seventy seven years having passed since this cold

Empty greyness was softened, given life,

By her childhood games.


What is strange about

Such vivid memory is the mystery

Of time slipping away, lives completed

Yet landscape unchanged.


It is fifty two

Years for me, though all my memories are shared

With the living, reinforced by telling

To those who were there.


It still feels strange though.

The landscape framing personal stories

That contour and colour an inward life

With no outward sign.