Soft Focus

It’s just like life, I think, as I wander

To the local line of shops. The roadside

Trees are faded shadows in the grey mists

Clouding their branches. The future trails out

Into a wash of dishwater. I see

The world vaguely; colour is drained away

And the scene stretches its hand to summon

Memories of a black and white history,

As if we all sat with Miss Havisham

In a cobweb draped decay, life muffled,

Mind drifting into private delusions


Land of Hope

The traffic groaned, we did not hear,

We wandered gravely furrow-browed,

Oblivious, our minds unclear,

Our senses numbed, our shoulders bowed.


No blackbird song can pierce our world,

Our thoughts were fixed on stranger shores,

Where truth was dreamt midst currents, hurled

By home events and distant wars.



We stumbled on; we stumble on

As if we had a noble aim

In view, whilst nature’s treasures shone

In sunlight’s golden evening flame.



The track leads up towards the woods

Whose shade and dappled sunlight kiss

The lids of tired eyes, cool the blood

That haunts us with its silent hiss.

This dusty path is marked by those

Who comfort with their lolling tongue

And pleading eyes; in the hedgerows

Lurks the nettle’s sting, cobweb hung.


At last we come to where the view

Unfolds, and draws us out to scan

The distant hills, no longer blue

But vague, where our ambition ran.

Dawn chorus

What we do not see stirs the woods to life

The hidden spark of dawn fires a babble

From survivors of the darkness.

Music it is not; just a cold rhythm

Crying out in fear and hope for the light

For safety in enmity.

What if the light came to hushed disregard,

If the first cry was met with indifference

And no bird sang in reply?

So, safe in the crooked branch of the tree,

No one to challenge his supremacy

He must surely die voiceless


The morning hurries on.

A sound track of wind

machined from the tarmac

bears the weight of speed.

Pace after pace.

Creaking joints

need the morning oils

of strain and stretch

so I can join the traffic

rushing through the awkwardness

of what is to come.

The path shrinks beneath

brambles and crowding nettles.

I hold myself in,

eyes fixed on the next step,

fearing the snag of thorn

and the poison sting.

Only in the tired dust

of a late afternoon trudge

can I see the dark jewels

shining in their ripeness,

still and waiting.



A kind of darkness; leaf mould, mist

Dank and rich, water sluicing mud

Into pathways, staining walkers’ pants,

Capillary action dampening

The spirits of all who pass. The dark

Seeps into the hotels; the heavy

Mansions weighed down with the sweet comfort

Of the middle people – middle aged,

Middle class, Werther’s originals.

Yes, it was weight more than a darkness,

Not ominous, more heavy, dense,

Over rich, sugar saturated.

It required the openness, wind blown

Heights, rock faces of adventure, seen

Between the thick foliage below,

As if the drama of the mountains

Sprang out of the valley’s rich brocade.

For me, freedom comes on the bare rock ridge,

The barren fields of summit boulders,

Looking down on the coach bound trippers

Who cling to the deep hued luxury,

The chocolate filled lounges, the heart strewn

Gift shops and carefully staged viewpoints,

Who bask in the closeness of people

Whilst we nod, shy in our solitude.

The heavy stone and lush gardens may

Be to me like Christmas Day after

The turkey dinner with a blazing fire,

Paralysed in a fug of family,

But the summit ridge needs the valley,

Its colour, its promise of comfort.

The Woods


No history has carved a memory

In these woods. No folk melodies breathe here

In the mists of morning. The old pines lean

Helpless and dying where the storms have blown.

The gnarled hands of working men have bypassed

These crippled oaks. Stones lie where God placed them,

Nursing the disorder of creation.

The wooded hill bookends urban stories

Of the glow of blown glass, of the clamour

Of forged tools, of the chatter of tradesmen.

Trees lean back staring vacantly where winds

Sweep the far hills with melancholic verse.

They look to the skies for the songs they know,

From times beyond the reach of history,

And they sing them in the shiver of bones.



I don’t want to argue

But ‘avenue’ is ‘avenir’ –

About arrivals not endings

Is this a T S Eliot moment?


The guard of honour

Lines the arrival of bride and groom

Setting out, one hopes, on a life

Of what? Of love, adventure or escape?


Have we seen a courtship?

Certainly a shared sense

Of magic and discovery,

A mutual sympathy of vision.


But as we look along

The shaded avenue, we see

An argument of colour and texture –

And an argument means a real meeting.


We look down the path

And wonder if we will reach

A different destination

In the light or deeper in the forests?


Where have we arrived?

It is difference that is fruitful;

It is the argument that makes us

Look closer and see the world more clearly.


This is the last of a series of poems that were inspired by a book, “Scenes Through Different Eyes”. This was a collaboration between Phil McMenemy, a photographer whose images he has allowed me to post here and Julie Dumbarton, an artist whose work can be seen on her website ( They each brought their own skills and vision to the same landscape to create a beautiful book. Phil’s work can be explored on his Facebook page ( or on his website ( Having bought the book, I didn’t want it to sit ignored on a coffee table and so I wrote a sequence of poems that forced me to look and think about the photographs and paintings.