Archive for March, 2013

27/03/2013

The Southern Pole

 

The reptile river winds its banks

Through stories deep as nightjar’s eyes,

Where crickets sing the moon its hymns,

And life comes writhing from the soil.

 

Each leaf has grown a thousand tongues,

And darkness glows with hummingbirds.

The air is water, steam and cloud,

The snake skin stream is hot to touch.

 

The frogs have tales of human feet,

Which ventured here and left no trace.

They smoothed the wriggling earth a while,

Then turned to rock, then back they turned.

 

Beneath these countless births and change,

The scream, the cry, the song remains.

 

 

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27/03/2013

Exhibit

 

 

They dragged me from the peat at night.

Untied my hands, my feet, my soul.

They washed me, cleaned me, dried my eyes.

They took my braiding, took my sword.

 

I’d lain between the worlds untouched,

I’d spoken with the dead and proud,

I’d walked the path and swum the lake,

I’d soaked my blood in veins of earth.

 

They wrenched my body from its ghost,

They stripped it, left it hanging on,

Awoke it from its spirit sleep,

Displayed it as a trophy scalp.

 

I reach to try to catch your mind.

You stare, repulsed, but don’t respond.

 

 

27/03/2013

The Southern Way

 

We stand and watch the setting sun

Drag lines of brent geese to the marsh.

The hedges, fences, ditches, walls,

We’ll break them when the darkness falls.

 

Across the counties of the south,

We’ll rise as one to till the earth.

Communion held amongst the fields,

On common land, feed common mouths.

 

Across the span of time and space,

We reach to plant and cultivate.

With digging pamphlets, hoe and word,

We’ll turn the furrows in our land.

 

In battles for those Surrey hills,

We’ll fill the dark with freedom’s seeds.

 

 

27/03/2013

Beyond the Overland

 

They walked the ocean bed and leapt

The current springs and waves of kelp.

They drove their herds through bass and shad.

They camped beyond the lowering cliffs.

 

They wore the fronds of ocean tides,

The moon pulled threads of silken light.

The phosphorescent foam of waves,

Tied strings of pearls and amber beads.

 

Their songs would echo through  the streets,

Around the harbour walls and boats,

And those who heard were caught for life,

In nets or pots or harpoon wire.

 

Some say they came from further south,

From lands they sought but never found.

 

 

26/03/2013

The Long Man of Wilmington

 

The scratch of flint and skin of turf,

The chalk of lines wiped clean of birth,

Of suns, of inner lands and fire.

The bitter white of giant’s lives.

 

Emerging from the thinnest times,

The butterflies are etching tales.

Their ways beyond the track of man:

And man it was, and man they made.

 

They scraped the turf, they turned the turf,

They symbolised his wreck of turf,

A mastery of their eyes within:

Deluded sense of distant earth.

 

And there the yellowhammers sing,

And there the lark has taken wing.

 

 

26/03/2013

Fox on Pendle

 

How far? The shadows on the sea:

The pools of Irish light and rain,

The Dales, the Fells, the Lakes, the sky,

And heaven burning through those eyes.

 

The sodden feet where dotterel land,

The pounding heart where plover call,

The simple path, the vision scraped,

The buzzard circling overhead.

 

How far? From Israel to the mill,

From handloom to the broken hand,

And further still, the trees and hills:

He saw them, feared them, felled them, climbed.

 

How far? Beyond the passions’ reach:

As far as words and mysteries teach.

 

 

26/03/2013

A Half-Forgotten Hymn

 

Beyond our acid moors and smoke,

Where crags and limestone tooth the sky,

An empty hearted oak grew old

In downland forest, inward grown.

 

We stalk our moors and cough and choke,

Parade our bitterness and pride.

Puffed up with scars and open sores,

We gather all our people round.

 

We hear the oak may topple soon,

Its rotten roots are losing grip.

Its age once countless now counts down.

It stands alone, it stands forlorn.

 

Together we begin to sing

Our tuneless, half-forgotten hymn.

 

 

26/03/2013

Roman Fort (Mastiles Lane)

 

The winter nights had scarred the grass,

So daylight owls could scatter voles

By drifting up before the sun

And lazing on the barrack poles.

 

They came from many different worlds:

We saw them, heard them, speak in tongues.

They walked the land on rigid lines.

They sacrificed to moonless gods.

 

They came and raised their camp in view:

We’d smell the roasting fires at night.

They washed and burned the heavy rocks,

They drew their water from the spring.

 

The owl brings panic with its flight,

The Romans keep their torches bright.

 

 

24/03/2013

Questions on a Homeless Night

 

I wonder

 

Have you ever been alone?

Just you, a cliff, an empty sea,

A past and future lost for words,

A pallid memory of the sun.

 

To feel the swell of night’s updraft,

The pull of moon towards the tide,

The drag of skeletons in chalk,

The thought you never had the time.

 

And have you ever found the strength

In silence, stars and drifting gulls?

And knowing there is only you:

Just you, a cliff, an empty sea.

 

The silver waves and shingle roar:

I wonder, has your life meant more?

 

(Brighton, 1989)

 

24/03/2013

Rylstone

 

Up on the moor, beneath the crag,

A ruin rots its walls in rain,

The bracken shoots break through the rust

Of last years’ growth and crumbling rock.

 

The curlew’s call, reclaim the sky,

Await the screams of summer’s swifts.

This point round which disaster whirls,

Is still and calm and sorrow deep

 

They left the shell and took the heart.

From hanging hopes the stories drip,

From dropping ropes and sheering axe.

A ruin stands its speechless ground.

 

And every spring those curlews call,

There’s freedom here to question all.

 

 

24/03/2013

Second Hand Clothes

 

Across the car park cobbles shone,

Inverted haloes, drizzle formed,

Before I crossed the road I’d smell

The resin smoke and naptha rags.

 

Cravats and faded patterned shirts,

Cut off from history, cast adrift:

The gladioli, hearing aids,

The ancient fabrics, damp and cold.

 

Above a tape of Mark E. Smith,

Of Morrissey, The Doors and Cud,

The doorbell rang, the clothes rails scratched,

The northern rain kept up its beat.

 

It could have been a thousand years:

How many hands, how many tears?

 

 

(Blackburn, 1987)

 

24/03/2013

Degrees North

 

Beyond the north: a second north.

Beyond that north the memories fade,

And tales take hold of dark and ice,

Of endless nights, of swans in flight,

 

Of dead who walk with mirror step,

Of land where rock will crack and burn,

Of skies that burn, of snows that burn,

Of seas that swell with monster’s bones.

 

Beyond that north, there’s nothing more,

There are no dead, there’s nothing born:

The formless still, the waveless sea,

A void as deep as space is cold.

 

It’s in us all, that silent space.

It’s in our blood, it’s in our graves.

 

 

18/03/2013

The Island Girl

 

Across the water on your eyes,

The depths and glimmer glint of soul,

Of shoals on reefs on island shore,

And there to swim and dive and dream.

 

The light where times converge as spark,

And from which point the point begins.

Beyond the stillness comes the breeze,

Of headland holding back the seas.

 

The strength of you, the space of you,

The moments and the life of you,

There are no distances from you,

This beat, this pulse, this isle of you.

 

And there we fly with gulls and sighs:

I kiss the sea light of your eyes.

 

 

To Maria.

 

10/03/2013

Leighton Moss

 

1. The Ghosts

 

So nothing dies, it lingers on,

It sinks beneath the matted reeds,

It hovers on the winter air,

It wraps its roots around the oak.

 

A bear has whispered through the woods,

Its tundra paws are soft as moss.

We see it in our open hearts,

We call it from its long lost path.

 

A lynx is in the reed bed’s edge.

Its stories deep as morning mist,

We summon memories from its shade,

Its whiskers taste of vanished dawn.

 

The sedge and forest, lake and burn,

All echo with the drifts of death.

 

 

2. The Wood Well Oak

 

The time zones buckled, seasons bent,

The rings lay thick, then thin, then lost,

As moisture, snows and distant droughts,

Were channeled through its heart of wood.

 

It stood beside a woodland well,

With leaves of cloth and dreams of love.

The people circled round like rings,

They merged their hopes with form and place.

 

A hundred years it took to rot:

From deep within the fungus grew.

It fell, one April, in a storm:

But even then its Spring leaves bloomed,

 

The wood well oak became the land.

The circles stopped, the cycle rolled.

 

3. Reed Bed

 

The waters teem with life and death,

Electric fevers of the Spring,

They’ve waited for their time to come:

In sun and light they burst and fade.

 

The land is crawling, grasping air,

It gasps for rain and captures birds,

It lifts and folds its crystal tears.

The land is dust and rock and grave.

 

The reeds are caught between these worlds.

They play the air and call to land,

Their echo-verse is ages old,

They breathe the water’s swirling song.

 

Fragility – it marks this place –

Where life wells up, but leaves no trace.

 

 

4. Bittern Fire

 

The light explodes in neural fires,

And life – intense and candle bright –

Reflects its spark from reed to reed,

And smokeless burns from eye to eye.

 

Invisible, the bittern blends.

Within the reeds it bleeds its form,

Through willow stumps, to deepest sedge,

Where only beak and eye are sharp –

 

Are photon sharp, are stark as stars.

The final sight the frog will see:

A dart of light, a blade, an eye,

Then gone and gulped and nothing more.

 

The bittern merges with the sun.

The life is one, the reed bed home.

 

5. The Last of Winter (A Northern Song)

 

The winter-scattered waxwings pause

For breath in rowans, twilight peached,

And dusted with the northern lights,

Vermillion and yellow chrome.

 

A Kalevala dance of wings,

Of brambling orange, white and black,

Of fieldfare stories, flighting seas,

At night with redwings, sharp as snows.

 

And on the lake the goldeneye,

Which fledged the earth, now dives for ice.

It pulls the songs out of the pike,

Then pops and bobs and shivers wings.

 

The tundra sun is turning round.

The arctic calls: its losts are found.

 

 

6. Saplings at the Margins

 

Embraced by roots and twisted truths,

With molten magic coursing through,

The bursting stems and latent forms

Are whole and fragments, buds and bark.

 

Conducting sun and seeping earth,

The branches whip the sky and marsh.

The sap they suck from distant stars

Is swirled in centuries of growth.

 

A universe is wrapped in reeds:

A fecund, replicating world,

A place of bird song, frog song, birth,

An immanence of creaks and leaves.

 

The sedge and willow bend and bow:

A pen and flute within the flow.

 

 

03/03/2013

The Snowden Monument

 

1. Stone

 

Up on the moors a marker stands,

A point of reference for a past,

Its millstone blocks are still edged sharp.

The past is gone, the past remains.

 

Its plaque is stamped with cold relief,

Released from duties and from loss,

It stands apart from choices made,

From compromise, from harsh mistakes.

 

Beyond the ridge the village slips

Into a valley, blind and bleak,

Still full of life chipped from the stone:

The stories new, the stories worn.

 

The world is circling round these rocks:

Forgotten cairn which marks our loss.

 

 

2. White

 

The milk and mortar ends of time,

The cotton sheets and cobbled streets –

Which shine beneath the western skies –

And clouds which hide the hills from sight.

 

The Mesolithic depths of life

Are dragged from earth like dock-leaf roots.

They glimmer, broken tooth and jaw,

The glaucous grin of history’s scar.

 

The markless drifts will melt the walls,

The lambs will slow and watch the gulls,

The frost will dust the shadow’s track.

A tarnished memory turns its back.

 

The bread and fish, the starch and lead,

The white forgotten light of fate.

 

 

3. Gold Standard

 

The towns and villages were choked,

With lines of sunken eyes and hopes.

The basic decency of folk:

Together bound, together broke.

 

They gathered round to try again,

Rebuilding shattered lives of men.

Where wealth was measured out in graves:

A balancing of lost and saved.

 

The mills were emptied of the souls,

As soulless mechanisms rolled,

Across the disregarded world:

They snuffed out hopes and hoarded gold.

 

The rich can claim no small success,

As lives are crushed for their excess.

 

 

4. Freedom

 

Where golden plover rest in flocks,

The sun will set and ages pass,

And forests grow and fall and rot.

Each spring the plover find their nests.

 

Where tewits tumble through the clouds,

Our lives are measured out in earth,

In hopes and prayers, in bitter joys.

The tewits call the start of spring.

 

Where curlew mourn the rising sun,

We cut our links and try to run,

We buy the land and think it ours.

The curlew drift on wings of song,

 

The moor has drawn us here to see:

For those who don’t, the birds can be.

 

 

5. Debt Burden

 

You sought it in the word of god,

You sought it in the human heart,

You sought it round the noble fire,

You sought it, then you let it die.

 

You sought it in the free exchange,

You sought it in the chains of gold,

You sought it in the price of time,

You sought it, then you let it die.

 

You sought it in the bought and sold,

You sought it for the highest price,

You sought it at the highest cost,

You sought it, then you let it die.

 

You lost your hope and lost your way.

You built up debts you could not pay.

 

 

6. Traces and Tracks

 

The landscape stretches out of time,

Beyond the solid to the sun:

The setting, bloodied, monstrous sun.

The moors are full of spirits lost.

 

We crucify our histories here,

We break the links and travel on:

Erase the mysteries of our age,

Betray the ones who need us most.

 

The empty tombs and hollow shrines –

Where rites of truth and pure belief

Were once the center of the world –

Are crumbling and forgotten stones.

 

Across the moors are hidden tracks

Where spirits weep on cotton grass.

 

 

7. Handcart

 

The madness of the century churned,

Within, without, with demagogues,

With splits and deaths and compromise,

The wheels ran smooth and fires were stoked.

 

And fear had spurred the horses hard,

And land deals turned and history spurned.

The rich could cheat the grave once more,

And pour their assets overseas.

 

The shattered bones and broken homes,

And promises to workers burned,

In chapel halls and Liberal clubs,

Where speeches drifted cheap as smoke.

 

The mad, the rich, the charlatans:

Their cart rode past and you hitched on.

 

 

8. The Speech of Moors

 

The ancient language of the hills,

Hides questions in the tussock grass.

So close to earth, they feed its roots.

So close to sky,they shake the seeds.

 

Your scattered ash returns the words,

As old as rock and lost to time:

The dialect of moorland farms,

Forgotten lanes and trackless moss.

 

Up here your lives can ebb away:

A cairn, a plaque, a hiding place.

In snows the sheep will huddle round,

So far from everything you were.

 

And this is where the questions start,

It’s where they end, it’s where we part.

 

 

 

Dedicated to the people who always carry the greatest weight, and who always suffer the most in times like these.