Saturday, 28 March 2015

River and Waterwheel

On summer solstice day whilst journeying
Like Dante, I came upon a river
Glossily flowing by,
Stippled by sky;
At weirs it hissed and tumbled trembling,
Falling like napped flints, glinting hither-thither.

In its fast-flowing but shallow reaches
Its stony sun-striated bed
Was clear through brown water;
An eel-grass halter
Dully waved at the bankside vetches
As sailing clumps of vegetation sped.

The heat was up and the mid-morning sky
Like Wedgwood-ware was blue and white,
Pouring down light; the swifts
With dips and lifts
Screamed above collared doves, wary
And chestnut in an alder’s thick-leaved bight.

Outleaning with its grey and ragged bole
Crack willow fingered at the stream;
Moorhen with scarlet bills
Stalked the banks’ sills;
The willow’s shock-haired seeds like spoil
Voyaged in the breeze and the sun’s gleam.

And so the waterwheel: in water’s roar
It split the polished serpentine
To acrobatic frothing,
Coiling, bucking,
Absorbing power to drive its gear
And through a flywheel, a production line.

Its battered paddles, wetly mossed with age,
Heavily trundled, flinging spray  
Which flashed like metals turning
Or sulphur burning;
Downstream, the water’s shattered suffrage
Settled, and foam and mote-specked swept away.

Here and far the wheel’s rattle caught the ears  
Like a shout in the dark forest
Of waters; there’s no showing
What brute knowing
It’s symbol for – the bitter tears
Of one who’s on a treadmill or a quest.

© July 2013

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Months: Lyrics: March

Having written a monthly series of longer poems, all in the same format, on the months of the year (posted together 6 February 2015) I decided to write a series of shorter lyrics with variety of form and concentrating on just a handful of things observed. Otherwise the same "rules" obtained - each poem to be written within the month and based on actual observation. Again, the series begins in March and ends in February. Initially each poem was going to include references to the Christian year but that rather fell by the wayside under the struggle of composition. Something I now regret. I wrote the poems between March 2014 and February 2015. I intend to post them monthly and draw them all together at the end.


March murk done, the chilly dew
Drips from the shock-head churchyard yew,
   Quicksilvers grass,
   Glistens like glass,
Speckling the dusty graves anew.    

Freshly, the tight-fist orange sun
A cloud-tall morning blush has flung;
Daffodils prattle in the breeze,
Blue-skinned crocuses flop and sneeze;   
   The dip-gathered frost
   Like a glint-toothed ghost
Hugs close its winter miseries.    

Drumming its creaking bone-break thud,
The woodpecker, splashed with Jesu’s blood,
   The year’s agonies
   Shrilly cries:
Lady Day primrose lights the wood. 

© March 2014


Monday, 2 March 2015

A Blackbird in June

Night and morn these solstice days
A blackbird in a silver birch
Carols loudly. In pre-dawn haze
And evening gloaming, his clear song                          
Like dropping water from his perch
Sprinkles the garden’s crowding baize                     
Purifying its blood and dung.                                         

Chattering, the bright-eyed sparrow
And stiff-legged starlings, richly pompous,                        
Have franchise on the streets and harrow
Fiercely for scraps; and through the day
Pigeon and bold robins make rumpus
In the gardens: it’s dawn and narrow
Twilight that the blackbird holds sway.                   

At four o’morn the light is brown,                                 
The grinning fox and rats retreat;                                    
At once the blackbird buffs his crown
With many-fluted thrills of sound;
And later in the day’s-end heat
He’ll treble in his cantor’s gown                            
Till dusk dies of a blood-red wound.                       

This longest day and shallow night,
These blackbird’s tuned intricacies
Embody health which salves the bite
Of the fox’s bloodied tooth; but come
December with its frozen leaves, 
The blackbird’s song in blackest night 
Will choke, struck down by the wind’s drum. 

© June 2013

A Penzance Ballad

I would I were in Penzance town
   With the grey clouds scudding,
And the salt-fresh rain hurling down
   And the wind’s fist thudding.

There the granite mansions gleam,
   Shaken by the wrack;
A leaping veil of spray like steam
   Writhes to the gale’s attack.                                     

Screaming gulls are laughing-mad;
   Like litter on the wind
They fling across the promenade
   With all the speed of mind.

Loose windows rattle day and night,
   Rain rapping the panes,
The scantle roofs are soaking-bright
   And the stones in the lanes.

In Penlee Park the thrashing trees
   Groaningly give way;
The shrubs fold over to their knees,
   Leaves flying like spray.

In Market Jew Street good folk huddle,
   The wind seizing bags;
Cats sidle primly around each puddle,
   Their fur ruffled to rags.

O, what a sight is in Mounts Bay!
   Beneath a broiling gloom
Flint-black breakers roar their way
   Onto the beach like doom.

There’s a frothing maelstrom on Battery Rocks
   Challenged by barking dogs;
Comes a mighty spitting curler and knocks
   Them away like logs.

Even the brave Scillonian boat
   For all her rough-weather gear
Can’t stare a Force Nine in the throat
   And slinks behind Albert Pier.

O, the far wet west is a savage place,
   Stark, elemental, grim;
But it calls the exile who turns his face
   To that far wet rim.


© June 2013