Ash Wednesday

Ash is blowing away on history’s wings.

No more the daily product of fire, swept

Together on bended knee from soot lined

Hearths; Cinders is a figure of folk lore;

Loved ones are gathered to be thrown to air;

Stains and foul odours are no longer purged

By ash; no more does ash shine the silver.

But it still sticks to woeful Wednesday.

Its pall can still douse the pride of lost hearts.

With the embers of vanity painted

On brows, bowed before the unchanging force

Of time, we still hope for transformation


Cold Front


The dampness trickled down my neck
as we walked through the fertile mists.
Midges were dancing by the beck.
Around us gathered all the ghosts
of association lifted
from memory by warm wet winds.
In the undergrowth life shifted
its limbs, stretching fingers to find
the fermented leavings of past
adventures. Around us, the songs
filled the air, the scents of life cast
their spell, until at last, we longed
for purity, abstract, released
from bustle and jostle, all still,
the horizon a single crease
across a blue sky and frosted hill.

Our voices rang clear in the cold
’till we too were chilled to silence,
relieved to let the frost freeze old
obligations, close down the sense
of the unfinished, shadows gone
in the crisp noon of Winter sun.

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.

The Wall

Ahead stands the wall.

Unavoidably there

for no reason.

Blank indifferent unmarked.

The mists of Winter

fall from the skies

with the lethargy of despair.

Only the wall remains,

the wall and the breathing.

Clouds of vapour, bearing

the unmistakable scent

of a life, of the unconsidered,

hang in the air;

a condensation.

And so it comes to this –

the wall and moisture

mysteriously at a moment

in doubt with each other.

Both unseen, unseeable.

Only the shade crawls

through the silence

to reach the wall with a shudder.

But is there music?

The World of the Spirit

With his head lifted up and all senses

six feet above his destiny, he seeks

the flights of freedom in the thinning air.


There he can dream of the ineffable,

pure wholeness of the imagination,

wings stretched to embrace the invisible.


Head and heart may merge in the clear sunlight

where the elemental truths of the earth

seem to reside, raised to the eternal.


How shocking then the world on which he stands,

shoes stained with dirt, place of defecation,

bedding for the expulsion of desire.


There he finds where the wholeness of the poor

drinks unholy waters, ingests poisons,

thirsts for blood crushed beneath his ecstasy.


Now he feels his bare feet clamped to the soil

and the spirit stirs not in the abstract

but in the arguments of connection.

There’s no such thing as a baby


A baby? No such thing.

Only the discourse with its blurred edges

and misunderstandings.


You may stand in the forest,

Winter bejeweling your breath

and a lone cry in the pearl vacancy


as you listen to the heart’s

empty rhythms. You may turn your eye

to the far horizon where the geese fly.


You may cling to the illusion

of transcendence, of a personal vision

but you are not there.


You are where the sounds of strife

make you shiver, where you lose yourself

in the exchanges of difference,


where accusation and affection

chip away your edges, grow scar tissue,

where you change with the world.



All sensation boxed – a mouth,

a spool, a rocking chair

in an empty room,

buried to the neck in sand,

or waiting under the dead tree –

only words, endless words,

inescapable rambling words,

the ceaseless torrent of anxiety.


But the door has closed,

the tree is dead,

the tape decays.

All that remains is the beat

of babbling bewilderment,

the distant sound of laughter,

the hand resting softly

on the lips and

the musical lilt of words.