Above these tides of dreams and life,
Where birth is but a breath from death,
And all the fears you thought you’d fled,
Can gather round to smooth your brow.
Above them – can we say above? –
They flow, they ooze, they doubt, they prove,
A conscious flood of yesterdays.
What made you strong – that quivered lip?
That toy you held, because because you knew
It couldn’t last? You gripped it tight.
The love you held as if they’d leave
A note for you, and nothing more?
The tides keep rising from your past:
On each remembered kiss there’s blood.
response to the films and novel “Solaris”.
Is every walk a walk of death?
Across the marshes to the isle,
Traversing fears and passing ghosts,
To rise at last amongst the lost.
Is every site a monument:
A shrine to memory, life and love,
A locus for the wanderer’s truth,
A proof that we had meaning once?
Each walk may seem to set us free,
To live at last amongst the souled,
To feel the flow from earth to sky,
To be apart and yet to be.
I recognise the way ahead:
Each wondrous view will mark the dead.
The moors are weighted with this rain.
Another ridge of peat is lain.
The curlews haunt the hills and wail.
The moors are closing round the dale.
The hamlet, old as language, turns
Its back on changing thoughts and forms.
Along the beck the pathways creep:
The gritstone pavements, rutted deep.
The mansion house, a hollowed shell,
Where spirit fires are burning still,
And owls can echo history’s cries,
Beneath the towering summer skies.
The valley sits above its pasts:
A flick of dust which cannot last.
These fossilised, volcanic screams
They marked the very edge of life.
One side: the town with bullet holes.
The other: gravestones marble bleached.
And where the trains came rumbling through
The weight of Europe bowed the fence,
A force unseen which broke the necks
Of every dove that ever crossed.
And dancers lost their footing there,
And slumped into the waiting tombs,
And poets closed their pocket books,
And burnt their evidence of dreams.
The morphine killed the pain and fear,
But hope has ways to keep you here.
So what is truth and what is not?
In words, the evidence of loss,
Of spirits swirling round the peak:
The nameless souls who named the hills.
I heard the songs, I saw the dance,
I felt the heartbeat in the rock,
I saw the springs of pasts converge,
I formed Brythonic words again.
This place – where lapwings guard the skies,
And ravens roll about their throne –
Has stripped my language from its roots:
My English never climbed this far.
Relentless winds have scarred its name,
Across the passing clouds of time.
The rock thrush calls through vultured skies,
And high above the spirits build.
The valley plain has seen the change,
As voltine butterflies emerge.
The gathered heat has history’s tongues,
And summons up the mystery’s ghosts.
The Perfects’ silent, deathly pyre,
Which lingers odourless and long.
The mountain griffon circle round,
As step by step we walk the track
Which wartime settlements had planned.
Ignored by all, the bones are dust.
Across the border nothing’s changed:
The Cathar’s rock thrush sounds the same.
Along the beach by Holkham pines
The ghosts stand watch on buried signs.
You feel them in the northern gales,
You hear them in the needles’ shake.
They choke the midnight bark of deer,
They still the hunting tawny owl,
And out before the rising tide
They pull the moon and drag it down.
The coast is endless, planet wide,
The sands are drifting, silence swirled.
But there amongst the broken pines
The Holkham ghosts are waiting still.
They hang and harm, they smooth and calm,
They break believers and possess.
Along the beach the seals lay lost,
And screaming terns are chasing foam.
Kids scan the sands for glinting gold,
A garnet carved, or inlaid bronze.
I watch the skies for signs of change,
For winds to switch from west to east,
And air to fill the marram grass
With falls of redstarts, warblers, shrikes.
But still the westerlies keep strong,
And all the sands can offer up
Are crystals ground from broken glass,
And gannets choked on fishing nets.
And whispered tales of monks who slept
On eider’s nests and faith alone.
This single line which marks a map:
A trail a single footstep wide.
And human understanding wanes
A single yard on either side.
The Viking sea laid at my back:
A highway through the ancient isles.
Ahead a gale and mountain track:
This vicious land where death is wild.
A hurricane hurled through the hills,
Drove rain as sharp as Cuillin peaks.
The track became a test of will,
As far from hope and help could be.
This singularity that’s life:
Absurd and free, I left the path.
The city’s still and empty paths –
Between the churches, through the fumes –
Are lines connecting times of change
From peasants’ lands to gilded claims.
We trace Brick Lane and Spitalfields.
We visit Blake: his grave at odds.
We walk down Moorgate, cold as plague,
And breathe the fires of old Blackfriars.
Beneath the heartless greed and lies,
The godless domes and faithless spires,
We find a world of poet’s songs,
And Celtic track-ways lost, not gone.
This hidden London seeks the light,
Downtrodden worlds and open minds.
The storm had turned the river white,
And everywhere the waters flowed.
The plain trees dripped and deadwood drenched,
A thousand springs welled through the rock.
We took the river, cold and deep,
And waded past Achilles’ stream.
Our footsteps on the gravel bed,
The same as heroes, gods and men.
And from the water, plants and air
We sensed a deeper current there:
The flood would usher in the heat,
And Demeter would swell the fields.
From facts we walked, from knowledge fixed.
Then – story drenched – emerged in myths.
My screams are petals, leaves and buds,
Their blooms, I howl down from the stars,
In solitary flights they fade,
From treetops shed their seasons’ end.
I cannot say I do not fear
What lies beneath, what is so near.
I cannot hide, nor pass unseen,
Before these people I have been.
These eyes have held a mirrored sky,
Ensouled the air and stared through depths
Which others see and doubt no more:
These pains which come with beauty’s name.
Although I have no choice but this,
My screams are blossoms of my bliss.
Above the chaos, lives and clouds
A stillness – silver, pure as light –
Envelopes all and coats the stars,
Creates the blue and planet’s curves.
Above, in flight, as one we flow,
As lines, as points, as rippled air,
As pressure nodes of thunder’s birth,
We burst a universe of wings.
And there where blood and breath won’t flow,
Our feathers brush the edge of space,
And on this stratospheric arch,
Our wings touch tips then head for Earth.
We carry in our hearts the calm.
We’ve seen the truth: it’s all there is.
You lead me through the lives of stars,
Encircle all who wish to see.
You slip through time, you link and bind.
You light the deep and endless blue.
Your revelations never cease:
On moonless nights you show the way;
In caves your luminescence shines;
On forest floors you mark the trails.
You hold me as I fall apart,
And cradle all my fading sparks.
You gather up the thoughts of me,
And place them on the tops of trees.
Your light, which flows through every point,
Connects me to the flux of life.
linked up to the great: Poets United
Beneath the patina of oak,
The sap of ages weighs the worth
Of prayers and hopes, of rights and wrongs,
Without the curse of falling leaves.
The carver and the carved are found
United in this judge’s bench.
In every cut are questions marked:
Belief and doubt are scratched the same.
And where the rational preaches calm
The oak will stretch a hanging rope.
Its shadow falls on certainty:
The measured minds will lose their voice,
Beneath the words the oak spreads roots.
Behind the incantations: fear.
(poem inspired by various stories of M.R. James)
A space between the sky and death
Where tides leave tracings of belief,
And words can summon or dissolve
The science of our solid world.
That space, in which the phantoms play
With fragile games and fickle minds,
Conventions, platitudes and thoughts
Are shaken from its nightmare’s breath.
And last when shards of safety shred,
We’re left an awful truth to face:
The nameless horror on the beach
Which twists and turns and tightens on.
The space in which we all are thrown:
We walk, we sleep, we die alone.
(based on the story by M.R. James)
They saw the signs: the swelling seas,
The bloodied skies, the shaken trees.
They shut their eyes, they shut them tight,
In silence sought the simple light.
They hid their houses high in hills,
While down below the valleys filled.
They closed their hearts, they closed their minds,
In isolation cut their binds.
They fled before the falling fear,
Made anguished cries so god’s might hear.
They ran away, they ran so fast:
Ran from their futures and their pasts.
The Ondine flooded out their homes,
The Sylph made patterns from their bones.
These leaves of beech first breathed in spring,
And trembled, touched by summer rains,
Turned copper crisp through autumn frosts,
And with our coming, shiver on.
We flick our wings against the thorns
Of sloe and brittle bramble shrub,
We take our pick of haws and hips.
Amongst the beech we hide from hawks.
On winter nights the starlight calls
Of redwing heading further south:
The finest needle points of fear.
We huddle then behind the leaves.
We wait together in the beech.
We fly together in the snow.
The cry which stripped the street away,
Which left the ancient marsh to rise,
And claimed the gardens for the pine,
Lets loose the wolves and bears of old.
A scream the soul of night itself,
Which stretched the forest, coast to coast.
Inhuman land beneath the moon,
Unused to axe, to fear, to smoke.
And then up close: the clack of beak.
A yard or so: the scratching claws.
A foot and less: near silent whisps,
Of wings so soft they make no breath.
And last I hear the heart and pulse,
And feel nocturnal howlings rise.
The voices echo through the isles:
An invocation from the skies,
A ceaseless chant around the hills,
A manic chattering of spells.
We are interpreters who hear
These mystery songs and forge our tales,
Our ocean rhymes, our waves of light,
Our words of human fear and flight.
The wisdom in the speech of birds
Is knowledge from a different world.
Our mountain stories magnify
The hubris in the things we know.
The shearwater spoke no words:
We missed the truth in what was heard.
shared with Poetry Pantry