Becoming (part 1 Elmet)

The land sings with strange echoes,

The prophet bent against the wind

Stiffened and dumb, pointless fingers

Crooked beyond pain; the whispers

Of forgotten graves, the echoes

Scattered across nameless fields.


My own echoes –

That speck of rust in the eye

Blinding me to summer’s absences;

The discovery of otherness

And of my own presence, cradled

Fuzzy headed in a teacher’s arms;

The texture of mud in the rain

And the tang of sherbet.

Something undiscovered – Shirley –

Important only in a retained name

And a sense of something missed;

A world wrapped around my father,

Everywhere leading the way,

Gowned like a raven.

History sprang free from books,

Tasted in cod liver oil and orange juice,

Serenaded by war sirens,

Painted on the terraced stone walls

Echoes muffled with no home key.


Soft focussed myths hid

The brutalities – the killing

Asbestos mills, our dog

Put down by an angry farmer,

The grave plot waiting across the dale

For dying congregations.


But there were clues to the elemental –

The water crashing down from the moor,

The snow drifts against bedroom

Windows, the shiver of cold winds

Through the bones.


Some years ago, interested in the connection between my childhood and place, I wrote a three part musing of which this is the first.


The Walking Stick

Sentimental stick,
bearer of the weight
of memories, limping
from the shadows.
It came on a quiet day
in Bakewell
though I’m not sure I was there.


My grandfather leant,
hiding his weakness
on the knots and knuckles.
I can see his smile
and hear his chuckles
as he rattled this stick
beneath the barking dog’s gate.
It is badged just the once
with the innocence
of a family holiday,
a faded puffin, still,
like a cat’s grin.
Now my past leans loosely
on the stick’s venerable
shine, captured in the round
warmth of my hand.
How odd that this stick
will outlast me and offer
its absorbed history
to whoever will grasp its handle

To My Children

The places where you are, are unformed;
Not knocked out of shape
By logic or intention.
They are where the instincts stir
Amidst the hot soups of creation.
There are no words here
Just a skein of melody
Drawn out by the winds of life
Enriched by the world’s harmonies.
It sings inside me –
It flows through your children’s beauty,
Through your passion for justice,
Through the warmth of your friendships.
I hear it in moments of solitude,
And when the sea beats on the land
And in the cold clarity of the mountain top.


He was always ahead somewhere.
Loud and expressive whilst mute I followed.
First to the girls – always I imagined
In a larger world with confident stride.
He was away – as I clung to the sheets.
He was out in the world, not to return
Until dusk, and even then just beyond
My line of sight. I still pursued this vague
Shadow of my own making – he had gone
Into the ocean of my world, stretching
Ahead into the unknown.
I find now
That I was the one to wade in new tides,
And he stayed at home in the familiar,
That I stand at the margins, belonging
To no domestic hearth, out of home’s sight
Still driving on to the dream of new lands.

Late Summer

I felt the colours brushing off my face

as I drove through Summer’s exuberance.

I was an arrow, dull-rusted by time,

blunted maybe, aimless, but on a course

set by some naked marriage of fury

and desire. All I saw were like airwaves,

trembling wrinkles hiding behind make up’s

smooth public face of a pretending life.

Here was where the bite meets the blood;

where dark dread drives shame’s secrets;

where hope loses hold and the voices set their terms.

Here was where bodies hang in the darkness

and we take shelter in the helplessness

of the ripe barley, the soaring buzzard

and pale smiles of polite recognition

A Family Photograph

The photograph caught my eye;
All gone save two.
The smiles have faded;
The moment was fleeting,
Just a milestone
Left by the roadside
For travellers passing the other way,
Or to arrest me
As I spiral past
Still looking for the route.
There are no signposts;
Only the shape of my forming
Stays still to guide my steps;
The lean towards a silent father
In whose company
I could not be lost.


This refers to an old family photograph from my childhood, which showed how family dynamics are made so clearly visible by the unconscious ways we behave.


As I watch the sound of voices

Sucking the air from the room,

The roar of my silence swells.

Its skin bursts and the smiles

Are punctured by the dry prick of wit.


Best ignored – and I am left

Wondering if the sparkle of goldfinches,

The rattle of rain on the windows,

The drunken sway of the wind in the trees,

Are the ‘still small voice’

Or the last refuge for my absence