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.


Ivor Novello in Prison


Even before he opened the cell door,

before wakeful dread had released its hold

over his innocent foolishness, he heard

the sound of lilacs gathered in the Spring.


Was this a moment when fellowship’s glint

shone in the eyes of the unloved, reaching

from Winter doorways in frost covered rags

to the chink of cocktails on the chaise longue?


Or did the men mock, triumphant to see

un-heeding wealth brought low to share the shame;

bitter where no seasons brought their blossoms

and where love was a threat to survival?


Worse did he hear in that soft melody

a murderous threat from men who could live

only with hatred burning in scorched hearts?

He shuddered and stepped on to the landing.

The Local Choir

The singing grows from quiet lives, afloat

On ageing memories that form a rich

But hidden harmony. Its swell is flawed,

Off key at times, a little flat perhaps

On high moments; enthusiasm strives

To reach the heights of passion, hearts ablaze

But voices, croaked by passing years, regrets

Or private sadnesses, fall short, lack strength.

That͛s wrong – not strength but volume – strength is there

Tenacious, focussed, idiosyncratic

In tone, personal in shaping phrases, words

With texture pushed or smoothed, and rhythms shy

Or bold; the song emerges fresh, alive –

A heart felt ͚Hallelujah͛ cry of joy

Sorry, Mr Simon…..


Where are all those scattered years

scarred and scored with hopes and fears?

Are they hiding in some shuttered hall

trembling, cringing in a yellowing shawl?

In the shadows of a smoky flickering light

where memory might

hear the past’s soft humming.


Now I look into the dark,

strain my eyes to see the mark

of how I spent my lost productive days,

cushioned, framed in the romantic haze

of a dream world filled with youthful fiery hope

beyond the scope

of the past’s soft humming.

Kings College Carols

As I listen to the carols
Burnished by the pulsing
Vibrations of the arches
To a cold purity,
My mind is shrouded
In a misty softness.

I reach upwards
To find in the filigree
Forms of shaded echoes
Some golden revelation,
But the mist thickens
Around the borrowed song.

Best to move on
To the drizzle of Winter,
The soiled pavements
And glaring lights
In the anxious business
Of making a living.

There in the neglected
Dusk of December,
The stories of imagination
Lurk in the shadows
And sit in the strange
Corners of ordinary lives

Geese across the City Night

A blank page                       a single line appears.

Cool and grey                      apart from the melee

A single bird                         flying against the cloud

In winter                                framed by the skeletons

Wind beaten                         shrouding the evening light.

These afar                              a distant call crying

A solo                                      but soon a strange chorus

Conversation?                        Perhaps though too random

Overtaken                               by sound more felt than heard

Ear beating                              muscle and sinew bent

Overhead                                  to propel the arrow

Grey to grey                              across the world’s troubles

Here unseen                              as the passion of flight

Holds the eye                            and the wind beats the ear.

And then gone                           like a train in the night

Echoing more                            in some inward room

In the soul,                                  leaving a darker grey,

Sodium pin                                 pricked; traffic rumbling;

Urgency                                       left at a safe distance.

The Child Prodigy’s Choice

Do you think she knows?

I wonder if that youthful vision blinds?

The promise floating from the shimmering

Brilliance, the warmth of line – melody

That cuts to the chase, singing the sadness

Of the world, the harmonic mystery

That uncurls the protective thorns hiding

Our fear and need, those seed beds of beauty.



There was sacrifice; it was important

That we knew her links to the great, her prize

Winning potential; not though out of pride,

More to show the question – was her decision right?

Had she taken the stage, turned to applause

From the hardships of family life,

We may have talked of her, wiped the odd tear

From our eyes before a Mozart cadence,

Joined with the general admiration.



She made her choice however, through wisdom

Or instinct I know not. But I do know

Her decision changed me, opened the door

For me and for many others, to life;

To go from watching, listening to others,

To creating, living the music we find

Hiding in places we’d never entered.

So her choice was to live and to give life –

Surely she must know.