Sheddings

Here are a few poems which were written in a small shed, surrounded by trees, in an English town, with the sounds of urban life drifting in alongside the bird song, planes, sirens and trains.   I call them sheddings both because of the place they were conceived but also because I felt them to be like the shedding of skin, written more for my benefit than for readers (though I hope some readers may like some of them at least).   They're quite simple, about everyday things - like love and disasters ...

THE RAREST THING

 

To you I give

That rarest thing

That thing that is

Unwavering

The love that holds

The lightest air

That marries matter in

A final share

That never wanes

Or croaks or moans

But fixes on the furthest star

And sees you as you truly are

That waxes jubilant

On any shore

And never, ever

Asks for more

WONDERS NO WONDER

One day, one day

When heaven came to earth

And, in an instant, radiant light shone out

So a luminous now could begin

And we could start again

One day, one day

When God’s angel stepped out on soil

She held it to her lips and smelled of

Life, decay and how

From mud all beauty grows

One day, one day

She climbed up high and

called out from a mountain ledge

‘Don’t wait for wonders

Or miracles or signs

We’ve nothing for you now

I love you, yet you’re all alone

But soil and worms and bugs abound

They’ll carry you, and see you through

‘Care for what’s small, ignore the grand,

Care for each other, And that’s really all.’

Then with a glance to her feet she flew away

And left this land

Leaving us, struggling still,

To understand

FALLING AND FLYING

I feared that I was falling

But found to my surprise that I was flying

That winds had chosen to support my soft body

To transform my flailing arms

Into strong, hard beating wings

As each eddy and updraft helped me rise

The winds I found

Helped me realise too

that my vision which had become

nothing but a tunnel of

Air hurtling right down to a stony ground

Had now become instead

a vista of wide horizons

Of mountains, forests and lakes

That could be mine

And as I learned to soar

I found my heart once more

I learned to trust the invisible air

And saw so clearly what was fair

You are that wind

You with your panther hair

Your knees held up to your chest

Your smile that questions and cares

Your mix of motion and emotion

Rising all around me

To the limits of space and time

That leaves me

No longer falling

Only flying

THUD

A chandelier of stars

Crashes down through space

Hits the earth with a thud so loud

It’s like silence

Lakes burst into flame

Glass towers crumble

Panic flees the cities

The squirrel shakes with fear

So now you have it

You were big and now you’re small

A centre, now just an edge

Be sure you’ll never know what did this to you

Only that it did this to remind you

How infinitesimal your lies are

Your truths smaller still

A GOOD MADNESS

Don’t fear a good madness, the kind that catches you at break of day

Then hurtles you down its tunnel tight

Shuts out everything and reminds you of your gift of sight

Don’t fear it but loose the straps and lose all caution

Shush the small mouths chattering in your head

Throw out the habits of a lifetime’s careful dread

Who knows whether this, not that, is what’s really real

That the mad surmise might be something special

Drawing back the veils of reluctant truth not a pointless wrestle

And as the poet said, to make us truly dare

What if the darkness is truly light and the silence is the dancing

The cliff is but a horizon and we’re at our best when we’re chancing

You know it’s not proof that all the geniuses, too, were seen as mad

Not vindication that they were scorned and ridiculed

Not confirmation that the crowd’s so rarely wise, so often fooled

But just this once jump in, ignore the stares and sniggers

Of petty people jealous of your cause, victims of an interior moan

Who lack a good enough madness of their own

Shout high and loud at your breakthroughs, cry on the ground at the dead-ends

Feel the force, the flow, as you find your big river

And after so many years of waiting, know your spring is here

The world has enough sanity

Cautious weighings, balance sheets and postponed treats

When life is short and demands you dive off - with both your feet

SIGNIFICANT OTHER

One day in May

I discovered

That my significant other

Was finding me less significant,

And more other

 

She said our relationship

had become more a ship

Sailing quietly away

And ever less a well of

Lingering elation

 

I realised that

I who had been the chosen one

Was now no longer chosen,

And, once again, was only one

 

That

I who had been lover

was now just

Over

That I who was

Once the very best friend

Was now, well, just at an end

Excised, revised

Terminated, concluded,

Like a letter put away in a drawer one last time

A long breath that ends in a sigh

A line drawn in the sand

A full stop

To make a mockery of my momentum

And my false hope

You can’t step into

The same river twice

Every kiss can seal it

Or unseal it

And as every softly spoken word

Fades

You can’t mistake

That it contains

a token

Of what is so easily broken

DICE

Einstein warned that

God doesn’t play dice

No atomic casino

Makes our world

No ambivalent particles

Of fire and ice

Make throws at random

For love and hate

To shape our lives

And seal our fate

 

Yet it takes but a moment to see

That he does with you and he does with me

 

A throw to choose your parents

A throw to choose your place

A throw to choose your nation

A throw to mould your face

So we may find confirmation

Convince ourselves of our own good

Our character or our wisdom

To do so well and earn this happy mood

When a chuckling God sees only

Random throws

Roulette careers

Meritless winners and

Luckless seers

He knows that the casino always triumphs

The rejoicing gamblers only win for a day

And, come tomorrow, they have to pay

I would he had tried a bit better

Cast a lot, cared a jot

Made some tenuous link

Between what we do

Or what we are

And what we’re not

Though if he had

We’d be left with no excuse

For everything we win

And everyone we lose

SCHOOL

Schools smell

Not of learning but of diluted hell

Of waiting for the clock

Picking holes in worn out socks

Bored stiff between a best friend’s tiffs

Flicking paper, cultivating cheek

Because schools reek

They crush the meek

And contrary to morning prayers

The meek inherit nothing

But the stairs

Schools can pay

Not in books but in edgy play

Where mud flies fast

And boys and girls are easily passed

Who would do it

Given the choice

To teach and serve

To mark time and rejoice

At terms end

For a silent voice

GOING UNDER

10, 9

I think I’m going under

These waves, coming over me are

Deceptively warm, but they’re cold beneath

For a moment they’re embracing me but then, gulping

I realise

They’re swallowing me

Their ebb and flow. calm and pitiless

8, 7

It’s been a long time coming and I know

I had it coming, that I had thrown the dice, wasn’t kind

Bragged and blamed and shamed

I was your nightmare and never found my dream

Told you I was the rent you paid for the privilege of life

And you told me I was a fine for a crime

Someone else had committed

6, 5

I ran out of tricks

Ran here and there

Begged and borrowed

Stole and blared

Knocked on your door at 4am

And lied when I promised I’d never do it again

4, 3

It’s not hard to see

I’m going down

I’m the water circling the drain

A partnership of gravity and resistance

And you’re not coming with me

2

That would have been nice

You and me

Better than three

I picture it still, then

1

That’s all I’m left

And now I’m going under

 

MISSING

I told my friend you were missing in action

Some incident, a random firefight

An orange flash of indignation

And you were gone

 

It’s obvious

Just how much I miss you

The way you lower your eyes

And raise your hands

And cross your legs

The ways you

Laugh up to the spring clouds

Cry down to the autumn earth

 

I told him that I also miss

How you sit so still

Or us, together, in silence

Hearing the rhythm of your breaths

In the wasted small hours

I miss resuscitation

Hand in hand is good

Mouth to mouth is better

Soul through soul better still

Because without you I ache

Without your motion

I stutteringly brake

My blood falters in my veins

My very breaths doubt themselves

Without you, nothing is

And I am nothing

And I miss my better self

Almost as much as

I miss you

FATE

Picture this: a boat weaves lazily

down a deep green river

On board the sitters sip and sway

Just one of them knows

That around two gentle bends

A vast waterfall awaits

 

Picture this: a man’s pet parrot

Feels the coming earthquake

Shrieks manically

As he curses her and looks on baffled

At her mistake

 

Picture this: the shaman reads the bones

Feels what portents it contains, and moans,

Rushes out to shout and wail as the hunters

Return late with their catch

Watching him, tired and angry

 

Who wants to hear this?  Not you, not me

Life is short, who knows what tomorrow brings

It’s inconvenient and who’s there

To thank the monger of doom

With the livid stare

Who nine times out of ten is wrong we know

And yet. And yet.

The hairs on my arm know

What’s about to blow

GROWING YOUNG

I would like to grow young with you

As the leaves fall from other trees

Let us fill ours with iridescent green

Let’s dive into unknown cold pools

March headstrong through humming jungles

I know we can’t deny

What time takes away

But let’s pledge that

For every year on the clock

We’ll take one off the spirit

And every line and wrinkle we’ll reimagine

As a new path to wander down

And as we gaze at the twilight years

Let’s see in them something more like dawn

A chance to discover what’s fresh, the source of life 

To find in the end the truest spring

Refreshed with all our lives

BLOWN GLASS

I want to blow up glass

Of straight lines, neat corners

and gentle curves

I weary

Of order and precision

I’ve had enough

I want a million shards and

A billion fragments to fly through air

 

I want to feel

My blood brought out by

random brutal blades

It all began in explosion

And every life starts with a bang, a boom

And our worlds will end in violence too

 

ICE

Pearl drops pearl

Lake flattens sound

Eerie light follows itself

And we love in the round

 

Rain drops rain

Fear flattens love

Whispers follow whispers

All lost above

 

A reindeer track

Across a frozen lake

A pale blue horizon

The faintest crack

Its dark beyond

The border line of fading light

The same is true of inner sight

Surrounded by the void

PREY

There are few sights as sad they say

As a predator that’s run out of prey

Nature teases power and reminds it

That time trumps power in every way

 

First, she makes it easy and

Let’s the hunter hunt

To fill its fill and stand its rock

Proud and loud, a conqueror’s shock

Bellies full and teeth all shining

A savannah full of meat, prepped and ready for dining

And so it goes for a good long while, until

The sun wearies of this unfair trial

And then there’s nothing left but bones and skin

And then she chuckles at an eagle sat forlorn on a crag

Lions snoozing on an empty plain

With nothing left to chase or scare

They lose their motor and their will to live again.

 

Most hunts fail

Most chases falter

Most victims avoid the slaughter

And the proud warriors so often shrivel

As fate sneers at their burnished muscle

Because the predator so needs the prey

Just as the master needs the slave

 

Nature has a sense of humour

A humour as cruel as the sharpest teeth

As harsh as talons

It’s a tease that whispers in the ears

Of muscled power that hunts and causes fear

And says: never, never forget who really runs things here

 

 

STRANGER

 

You too, stranger, breathed cold air

And felt winter fill your lungs

You too stranger, began to shiver

Knew real fear down to your marrow

You too know that feeling

The second after waking up

When the cares of the world return to you

And you too stranger

Have reached for love

And know full well that

We are each others’ itch

But, oddly, that very fact

Makes you stranger

CATASTROPHE OF WIRES

Behind the gleaming fronts,

with knobs and dials and flashing lights

There lurks a darker truth, of patches, fixes, joins and cuts

To help the signals hop and jump

And keep the show alive

No-one now remembers quite

Which task each spiky one performs

They’re palimpsests so far from us

No-one has the original plan and if they did

Would find much use in a map

of a territory lost so long ago

Covered in a mass of routes and paths, detours and shortcuts

A delta of detritus that leads

Who knows where

Civilisation rests on a catastrophe of wires

A quiet order waiting for

The crash no one will understand

So far beyond our little minds

A crash of our own making

ELASTIC

Halfway down the ladder from

Fixing the gutter in an autumn wind

He reflected on his dawning fascination

With obituaries, graveyards and old stones

His new-found sympathy for historic failures

Ancient clocks with intricate mechanisms winding down

Postcards from half-remembered lovers and

Stamps from half-remembered lands

Sugar in the tea will do nicely today

Abstinence starts tomorrow

Along with everything else

Like the plans made and put aside

While life wound its own elastic

Which, pulled too many times, loses its grip

Making notes and lists to keep a hold

Polishing old silver to make it bearable

Squinting at the face in the mirror to disguise the lines

Heaving in the spread

Until one day you realise

You’re looking backwards more

than you’re looking forwards

ambling in reverse and just waiting for

a hole in the pavement to swallow you up

MY PROBLEM IS SIMPLE

My problem is simple: love

Things were so much easier when it was just come and go

We could laugh and float, care a little but not too much

Share casual kisses and carefree touch

My problem is simple: I’m locked

So much easier if I didn’t have to fear

That I’m disappointing or boring you or just not good enough

That your eyes have wandered off

My problem is simple: you

Our lights and our shadows are each other’s weaving

We are each other’s limbs

And so we feel each other’s pain and

Some extras blown in by the wind

 

I’ve known people, including me

Lost in wanting things

Lost in wanting fame

Lost on a road without end

Where the word enough

Can have no meaning

 

And I’ve known others, including me,

Found in a place called home

Found amongst sure love

Found amongst contentment

Confident that these boundaries are enough

To belong without regret

 

 

 

LOST IN A GOOD WAY

We can be lost in a good way

Or lost in a bad way

But we can’t always judge the difference

Which only becomes clear at end of day

 

Lost in a good way is when we discover

Surprising valleys, lanes and alleys

Caves and ruins that enchant

Winding rivers and a ridge’s slant

Lost in a bad way is when

We can see no way round or no route home

Stuck in a timid purgatory,

Breathing in and out to steady ourselves,

Quietly panicking at nameless stones and crags,

as the fog descends,

and time is running out,

our stomach tight and losing light

 

We sang the old song

I was lost, but now I’m found

But the idea that I’ve found myself

Seems unsatisfying when I would so much rather have

Found you

THE ROAD

There is a road where we can’t but see

That for every two steps forwards one back’s decreed

Where for every sip to every lip

A slip and stumble intercedes

We long to hope

That there’s an arc

That pulls our world to truth and good

Where light is drawn from all that’s dark

Where magnets pull our better nature

Into some happy tale of bubbling springs

Of cells in concert humming

Of harmony and hope and Kumbaya

 

But sad to tell there is no proof

No certainty, no affirmation of our truth

On our road there are only hurdles

Ditches, barriers and disappointments

Every jump falls back to earth

Every balloon deflates

 

But something drives us on

Something in our belly and our heart

That challenges the cold logic of synapse

Something animal that is also what’s most human

Dogged pursuit

Mule-like stubbornness

A lion’s pride

To fight against the fates is our fate

To challenge destiny is our destiny

To prove the world wrong

Yes, that in the end’s our greatest song

 

THE LAWS OF PHYSICS

 

You

A light that illuminates me

from outside

And within at the same time

A glow that calms and excites me

A warmth that enfolds me and powers me

Us

Entangled from a distance

Interwoven

Orbits converging

Becoming each other’s moons

Each other’s sun

HEREAFTER

We make, we shape, we contend

That every beginning starts at the end

That meat is murder and property is theft

That love is a drug that leaves you bereft

I hold in my hand an extraordinary stone

That’s seen it all, and pulses with power all its own

This magic could do anything

Smash any rock

Two steps forward, one step back

If all meaning waits outside looking in

Conjured up by a fevered imagination

Never born, a seed, immanent and original

If the only epiphanys are ripenings

The only Eurekas a happy connection

Then it must be up to us

To hold the praise, the blame, to find

the remedies for our own shame

In our own minds

And if billions of stars with trillions of planets

Make us vanish to a dot

Let’s blow up our bubble, immune to the laughter

Of a careless, eyeless universe which lacks

Even the ghosts to be the hereafter