Fountain

An empty space, all ideas fading out of reach,

beyond the clamour for one

unique original insight. No more

in this knowing world are we shocked?

‘Concepts’ now seem like children’s games

played in a bomb shelter whilst death

maims and tortures above our heads.

Weighty maternal curves have slipped

into the past. Industrial

angularity has posted

its ugliness in defiance

of sentiment; cows have been sliced

and beds unmade; sheds exploded

into shards of beauty; walls curled

through forests; worlds turned inside out;

gestures’ rhythms have startled us;

the vibrant stillness of colour

has bowed heads and arrested hearts.

Even pissing against the wall

punked its way through the febrile search

for revelation, so we sneer

and turn away. Where next? Seeking

the Pissoir’s replacement, we find

it is not there – just a mirage

teasing us with the lies of fame.

After all, the Pissoir has gone,

absorbed into the established

canon and its authentic voice

flushed away, leaving deposits

of cosy ceramic copies.

Is this then a twilight, misty

memories of hopeful fury

doused by the hopelessness of death?

Or a pause; exhilaration

hidden behind a weary search?

On Crosby Sands

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The figures, sightless, stare through gales, careless
Of Winter’s blasts of loneliness and night’s
Grey spectres; vandals hold no fears, seagulls’
Demented cries arouse no ire. They stand
Inviting telling words and metre, rhythms
To give a sharp perspective, wisdom, truth
To Life’s odd mystery. They wait, expecting,
It seems. A silence circles, calling me.
Should we rebel against these fancy notions?
Life after all is found
Not in these arty statues’ wordless promise
But in a messier place,
Backdrop to sand and sea, where no-one sketches;
Statues may turn their backs –
Poetry does not spring from metals or from
Good-enough pragmatisms.
The choice between refined aestheticism
And work-a–day communal life
Is my mistake; no exhibition here,
No place for looking on at art.
The statues are companions, also born
Of struggle; we together look
With disappointments at our back, with hope
Ahead in nature’s shifting seas.

The King and Queen

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We approach rightly from below
Looked down on, by the couple
Whose royal gaze
Takes no account of the driving rain
Nor the human particularity
Of the attention
That I bring to this hillside court –
My escape from pain, my wonder
At the beauty of curves and hollows,
My sense of a loved father brought
To something eternal – Castleford
To the music of sculpted forms;
The same prosaic rootedness
Of the Yorkshire idiom, factual
No nonsense,
But become a poetry through broad backs,
Curved shelters, sensuous bones.
All this the regal pair look through,
Above and beyond, yet bound together
By their role, needing each other
So as not to face alone
The unforgiving corrosion
Of time and the elements;
Fragile in their power,
A power not to change the world
But to survive tempest and scorching sun,
A survival with their human scale
That brings hope, a kind of meaning
A joy, etched in souls
As we stand drenched in the greyness.

This was written 18 years ago, before the sad theft of the sculptures in Glenkiln in Dumfriesshire in Scotland. The King and Queen of Henry Moore, I love. I always saw a bit of my Dad in Henry Moore – my Dad was born and brought up in a town just down the road from Castleford, Moore’s birth place and Moore spoke with the same rooted practical accent that my Dad had, but was able to chisel out lyricism and sensuality that was usually well hidden in my Dad.