Tuesday, 9 October 2007

The Leafing Game

Cycling up the hill to work
A stray leaf swirls before me
And almost by instinct I reach
To clutch this first faller.

First form, lunchtime, top field
We line up in front of unnamed trees
And wait fro the wind to whistle
Through and start ‘The Leafing Game’

This simple contest would thrill us
As we chased a leaf to catch
Before it hit the ground. We’d hurtle,
Twist and leap in their sweet rot
Until we were the last still holding.

As if it was our World Cup.
As if we were great sportsmen.

And maybe we were. Our great game
The perfect match of boy and nature,
The random and the skilled.
Now leaves are to be raked, cleared
They clog gutters, discolour lawns
Where once they were all our pleasure –

We prized the withered leaf and
Allowed for no more than a breeze
To ease our youthful hearts.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Moments In Love – The Art Of Noise

As I walk to the railway station, I slip
The buds into my ear and press ‘Play’.
And there, as the Estuary reveals itself,
I am eighteen and back in your house:
You’re back from visiting University
And you’re a Marco Polo to us,
Unpakaging your riches to rubes.
And there it is:
A twelve inch track into another world.
It gleams and is modern and electric,
Its subject, no more than life to be had,
Out there,
It looped and looped around the room.
Ten minutes stretching out of the old,
Expanding into Experience and ourselves.
No going back. Never, as the man said,
Such Innocence again. Again.
And we heard that it was good
And this Art mattered and was more,
Much more than merely Noise.

Monday, 13 August 2007


The fig is in full fig, last summer
the fruit hung like light bulbs
Bright beacons for the greedy birds.
Summer’s heat was tempered
Within its spreading palms
And beneath its cooling canopy
I sat, leg in plaster, and read;
“Sweet are the uses of adversity.”
A suburban Arden, for me, maybe.

This year it’s taking over
Our paltry postage stamp patch.
I am mobile again and cart a chair
To its green and thought filled shade
And remember Clare crying on finding
His favourite tree cut down.
And like the tuppeny Romantic I am
I think I know how he felt.
But I don’t. But I think I could.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

This why there is no poetry.

Service, of some description will be resumed shortly


Friday, 22 June 2007

“Be silent unless what you
Say is better than silence.”

Easy for you to say Sal,
Looking like a rock star
Who doesn’t have to talk
To the press.
Second album, platinum,
All success assured.
But what of the rest of us
Who cannot paint ourselves
Words are our work
Our bulwark against
Meaning less,
Meaning missed.
So haughty, dark Sal,
You hover as if from
Out of the sky.
A clear eye.
Who would not blink
When forced to face you,
Stammer and wish for silence
Beneath your powerful stare?

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Father and Son.

I keep coming back to Titus,
Beloved son of the man who watched
Everyone die.

Fourth born but first to survive,
He’d seen Rembrandt’s rise
Yet he also saw both wives die
And heard the bailiff’s unwelcome arrival.

A witness to the master observer,
From the workshop’s corner
He’d learnt to measure a man,
How to shore up mortality
With hired furs and white collars.

And then

At twenty-six he’d married Magdalena
The gilded scales finally tipping,
A child on the way. At eight months,
Did the old man close his eyes in praise
Only for them to be prised open by a cough
As the plague claimed Titus.
Dead at twenty-seven.

Had this father looked at him
As if he were a mirror –
The boy who drew dogs so well –
Only to find no silvered glass,
Just an empty frame.
Nothing left to picture.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

A Present From James

In my pocket, worn bright by daily touch,

I carry a conker. A strong brown nut from

My long legged boy who threw the stick,

Who kept his eye on where his target fell,

Who placed his heel on its spiked shell

And twisted with just the right weight

Before giving this gift to me.

"Look, dad," proud, he said "It's a good 'un"

Yes, son, a good one, the best. Proudly,

I lift my head at my desk, remembering,

As I stop before the reassertion of work

To see the neighbour's chestnuts sway.

Their conic blossoms like candles

On the most ornate of birthday cakes.

A promise of more fruit for next year

For children to covet and collect.

Other pockets to fill.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

An extract from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.


The gracious green stranger tilted his head and lifted his hair

for all to see his neck laid bare white in the light of the hall.

Left foot forward, Gawain gripped the axe, gathered it high

and down like lightening he slashed that naked neck,

slicing asunder the bones with his blade, the fair flesh of his nape

sheared in two as if the steel that rang on the floor of the hall

had sliced through the finest fat and not that striking Knight.

That heavenly head fell fast to the earth as the fellow’s feet

flicked and kicked at it as it rolled around the room.

The blood burst from the body blackening all that was green,

yet he never faltered, nor fell forward, not for one beat

but this stout Knight moved surely on his sturdy legs and

roughly he reached out among the crowded Camelot ranks,

seizing his wonderful head and raising it for all to stare at.

He stepped to his steed and brought the bridle to his hands,

slipped into his stirrups and stood astride his beast whilst

his missing head was held by the hair, then settled into his

saddle until he was steady as if he had had no mishap, despite

his having no head.

He swung his body about

that bled and ugly trunk

and many felt the dread

by the time he’d had his say.

Sunday, 15 April 2007



I sit in the cooling air,

A last glass before bed

In this land of lemons,

Rock and steepling valleys.

The birds call across

Each to each while cars

Zip and disappear in the

dark. Rolling around

the hills - no straight lines,

No easy stroll home.

The night swallows another

As I switch off the last light.


How many more years

Will you be pleased

To see a goose?

When do you stop

Being my boys?


A couple on the beach.

Their children play with pebbles

While they rekindle damp tinder.

What fire can be made

With flint in such kisses?


And in this bowl of peace

I find myself unfold

Into this golden moment

I stop and let it hold.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

"...I am in blood
Stepp'd so far, that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as to go o'er" (Macbeth III iv)

I remember them

Stefan and Sonny

Swinging at the back

Bitten nails, Inked fingers

Scabbed knuckles.

Year Nine, English,

Wednesday, Shakespeare

Equals shit.

But this was the bit

That hits;

The bit that fit.

They'd all said fuckit

Gone for the proverbial

Sheep as well as the lamb,

Had blood on their hands.

At fourteen found thinking tedious

And kept on wading.

They'd stepped knee deep

School a pool with

No seeming shore.

For that day the words worked -

A mad King and them.

They left the room dripping,


Thursday, 22 March 2007

All praise

The foolhardy cherry

Whose blossoms snow

As March turns the

Lamb into a lion.

All praise

The silly magnolia

Made giddy

By false spring;

Their candles guide

Us away from winter.

All praise

The snowdrop,

The crocus and

The daffodil

Those heady harbingers

Of hope against blight.

For at that moment

The barren is finally


For that:

All praise!

Monday, 12 March 2007

I have this dream
and I'm always going home.

Back to the loveliest tree
in all of Hitchin.

It's January and lit like
a golden X-ray

at the peak of Windmill
Hill as it was at 17

and drunk I stopped for
the first time and realised

Beauty wasn't a girl
that I didn't know.

It was the world.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Self Portrait 1669.
No grand hat or flowing sleeves,
Just a black slash below the neck.
The skin is now slack
And the fat lacquered
Cheek is pitted and cracked.
I'm no longer the flaxen lad
But a familiar to the rack,
The scratch of the sackcloth
And the hacking taste of ash.
This is my final attack -
Death is not a vacuum,
More like a latch on a wrecked
Door into a packed room
And actually no paint is a match.
It's time I faced facts.

Monday, 26 February 2007

After Mauritshuis.

Everyday it must be like this:

Remember, before you forget.

Of course, Rembrandt knew this.

The brush has words for those motes.

For the spine cracks,

The binding dries

and the pages go missing.

The candle gutters

and the rose cankers.

Age deflates -

A slow puncture.

The dust unsettles

But the paint remains thick.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Signs Taken for Wonders.

If I stop long enough…
I open a door
And suddenly it’s summer.

The trees lift their leaves
And the sun is
Kindly light.

I can see the hills of home
Gently swelling like a
Teenager’s breast,

The fields are parched
And marked for
Stubble razing.

Everything is aligned,
The horizon crisp
As a photograph.

Over the houses tonight
A round faced moon
In a clear winter sky.

A diamond frost
Like stubble on
An old man’s face -

All this nature
It means something,
Beyond weather.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Monday 19th February

London as Indian embroidery

Sequins, swirls, mandalas of light