Poetry

 Closed

The motorway sign says
“Do Not Enter Portsmouth”

What? Are we closing ourselves in,
Eyam-like to contain the plague?

A port can’t do that:
Commodore, Connemara, other freight-laden ships
weave their cross-Channel tracks, unceasing…
so that we may eat.

Police: no sea-swimming, park bench sitting
Soaking up the sun?

Virtual escape’s possible
If we’re web-connected:
phonecalls, facetime,
silent lettered dialogues,
winged poems, virtual cooking, friendship’s news…
even group sound/sight zooms.

But this strange hiatus, dislocation’s
becoming too familiar,
as warming spring blossoms, blooms.

Easter Saturday 11 April 2020


Southsea Rose Garden Lumps Fort

Collapsed magnolia flowers hang from their branches:
white handkerchiefs, carelessly folded.
Expectant robin on wire-thin legs
trills, puffing his chest feathers;
head cocked, expecting crumbs.

Early yellow rose, climbing a pillar
scents the sweet Rose Garden air.
Crossword-engrossed,
same man occupies same seat
in the garden’s magic ellipse.

An old friend, not seen for years,
hails us from three metres away,
tells us his story from three days ago.
As he sat on the beach, eating a sausage
before taking his pills, two police ladies,
ignoring his crutch, his deafness plea,
shout, right in his face: “GO HOME”!
Fratton’s air quality where he lives,
close to the station’s very bad:
red brake dust, black diesel oil
coats his windows.

More peaceful here, high on the fort’s coast.
Greygreen lichen rosettes decorate our bench.
Friends and lovers murmur together,
Gaze at the pale blue sea:
Eternal, whatever we humans do.

9 April 2020


Lockdown Easter Saturday Rap

Diagonal waves
trash/kiss the pebble beach,
leaving with a lace-edged
withdrawing hiss.

Bare beach:
human-emptied.

Man climbs steelwork of
pier’s swing pirate ship
at present stilled.
Stranger reads poetry, beached,
with friendly hipflask
at his hip.

I spot police-boat
ominously anchored
through the pier’s obscuring struts,
ready to chide loving father, daughter
arranging dinosaurs across
their shared and stony landscape.

Eagle-eyed Deane spots
police at entrance
to our favoured resting place,
enwrapping Rose Garden.
Now it’s barred to us
and to all the others
who find sanctuary there.

Boys gleefully climb their fir tree.
Sudden deep ship boom;
Must be foggy way out there.

My park bench speaks to me:
“In Loving Memory of
Dr. Kevin Knight from
His Partners at Lake
Road Health Centre.”

Doctors, nurses, carers
now are dying
before their time
instead of in their
ripe old age:
unnatural deaths.
Ministers’ incompetence unmasked
as medics are:
helping failing lungs
keep breathing
as they slow
and then they stop.

How can we get any
sense of an ending
In this deadening
Death parade?


Cumberland House Garden
Rich green grass sward glistens,
daisy-dusted.
Squirrels dart up
grey/green tree trunk
into its white-clouded branches.
Bluebells cluster
chiming, rhyming,
cups of tulips quiver
in the sunny evening breeze.
Seagulls screeching,
crows’ staccato cawing,
Deane a–sketching
as I’m writing,
loving being
in the sunny
open air.

II April 2020



Symphony of Skin

Amazing skin
holds us in:
surface/interface/interior:
hair grows through it
after we are dead.

Scratch/caress;
frottage comforts us.
lover’s clinch,
friendship’s hug:
touch calms and enfolds us.

From reservoirs inside
tears seep, semen spurts, lymph leaks…
wounds bleed.
Skin also sweats, dries,
heats in blushes,
shivers when we get too cold.

Skin stretches: elastic, flexible,
over our bones and sinews;
older, it slackens, folds,
wrinkles and sags:
a record of our life
visible there on the surface.

My wounded face
melanoma removed,
is cratered, a burnt out bonfire.
Transplanted neck skin
covers the hole,
plastic stitches rimmed.
Hopefully, one day
the hole will fade –
from black/dark red
to normal pink.

Jesus to Mary Magdalene:
“Noli Me Tangere” –
(but in Aramaic).
Now we too must not
shake hands, hug, kiss, embrace…
Bumping elbows is too much hit and miss.
Only skin’s touch keeps us together,
keeps us sane and comforted.

14 April 2020


April in Lockdown

This April is the cruellest month
I’ve ever known.
After so much rain,
unbroken sun calls us out at last
into the open…where
we’re seared by biting eastern wind,
police-admonished not to sit or congregate…
So – ‘cabined, cribbed, confined’,
we’re compelled to stay inside.
death and loss is out there
in other people’s breath,
their coughs, their panting and their sneezes..
Yet we’re alive,
sustained by neighbour’s loving help,
offers get us food and drink, and
newspapers, which numb us
with rising numbers of the dead,
pain of the dying, uncomforted.
My doctor fears that I might be
the one to kill her
in touching with gloved hands
glowing heat of an old scar.

16 April 2020



The Quick and the Dead

Remorseless spring
rushes us onward,
yet we resist its incessant ringtone;
virus-fear holds us in:
housebound/home-held;
no blackbird sings.

We’re the quick, not the dead;
Not yet written off,
Not yet ROLEd: Recognition
Of Life Extinguished; or
DNR: Do Not Resuscitate.

We’re the quick, not the dead,
not rotting, reduced to bones
inside our sunken coffins
in Highland Cemetery’s rich orange
and profitable brick earth.

Southsea’s many dead
lie quietly here
under heavy stone,
cross-toppled, writhing ivy wrapped.

Wind-tears salt my wounded cheek.
Hatless, Deane stands by
his parents’ gravestone,
remembering happy days;
two very special people
embraced together
in their tomb.

Stately Wellingtonia rules a corner.
heavy chestnut spires,
clusters of bluebells,
garlic spikes
thrust upwards, past
John Virtue’s fancy cross,
Portsmouth’s first
Roman Catholic bishop;
his faithful sister-nuns
singing to us across an open-stone
white book.

Admiral’s hat, buckled belt and cane
lie prone in stone.
Brewer’s heavy granite temple
weights the earth,
impenetrable catacomb.
Inside, Duprees’ dead bodies:
“Died at Wiesbaden”, “Died at sea” -
expensively transported
to rest in Southea’s homely soil,
funded by breweries
gushing beer.

Soldiers’, sailors’, airmens’
bright clean white stones:
lives cut short:
too early war deaths.

Dogs’ eager yaws
towards their confreres
reined sharply back;
owners pull them apart
to maintain their distance
as we must too

Sad, foot weary,
We trudge slowly through the streets
homewards;
another heavy day
is ending.   

19 April 2020


Southsea Common

Daisy-snow sprinkles the un-played-on sports field.
Running shoes’ red soles’ rhythm rapidly recedes
from my much slower sauntering pace.
Sheltered, sun-warmed, lying on
my favourite S-shaped seat,
I clutch my hat from north wind’s snatch.
Solitary kite’s streamer flutters Solent-wards.
Old fat white dog sniffs at interesting grass tuft.
Brittany Ferry’s sunlit foredeck slides along
the seafront, harbour-wards.
Two golfers a long way apart
aim in each other’s general direction:-
high risk strategy if you don’t want
a ball in your nut!
I relish this wonderful wide green expanse
I’m crossing, thanks to military defence,
open to all of us, otherwise
confined within our walls
alone at home.

20 April 2020



Rage

Rage-flash contracts space:
police chase children out of the sea;
break up knots of clustering teenagers,
scour the beaches of meditating sunbathers;
instead of saving vulnerable
women and children
from being beaten or even killed.

Recovering prime minister loiters
in his luxury country house.
Inept politicians fail to order
much needed masks and gowns
which prevent invisible contagion
spreading death from face to face.

Relentless sun shines down, indifferent,
day after day,
while our lives contract
to imprisoning housewalls,
while monstrous spring advances,
colours blazing, burgeoning,
blooming,
surrounds us all.


Theatre of Camber

Queen Jean surveys her queendom:
The Camber’s enclosing waters:
yachtfilled, old salts inhabited;
busy fishing boats
coming and going;
rusty scallop chains
heaved over stern thwarts.
Footpathing families pay her homage.
Waving a greeting,
from her balcony,
graciously,
she blesses them all.

22 April 2020



Layers

Seagull circles overhead
soaring the thermals
above Myrtle’s verdant garden.

Sky’s blue vault
looks infinite,
but isn’t.
Ionosphere’s insulating layer
protects us from deep space.

Inside our lockdown bubble
we’re frighteningly distanced
from nearby life and death:
struggles in hospital and care home
where medics work
unprotected by visors, gloves and aprons:
layers not ordered by government,
not yet delivered
by army convoy.

I’m lying prone
on curving concrete steps
in warming sun,
listening to brother and sister -
sitting safe distances apart -
catching up on recent family news.

Busy robin’s nesting
inside those dense red leaves,
making the branches shake.

Pale California poppies
furl themselves
for evening,
as we slowly say goodbye.

23 April 2020



Beach

Seakale’s bursting into flower;
roots two metres down anchors it
in shifting shingle.
Tight green buds unclenching
reveal its round white flowers
densely clustered;
sweet-scenting the sea air.
So is the smell of pot –
or maybe vaping –
two boys are enjoying
up on the ramparts.

Joyously, two dogs
nuzzle and playfight,
rolling over and over –
as we’re forbidden to do
to friends or family.

Magical evening calms us
as blue-grey lambent light
fades slowly over luminous sea.

25 April 2020




Lockdown Silence

From our upper circle bed
the street slopes upward to the sea.
But Southsea linear theatre’s
eerily silent, even for a Sunday.
Cars and cycles swish across the mid-view;
Pram-pushers determinedly seek the seafront;
panting heavily; runners
swerve their pathways
to avoid us.
But to my deafened ears
no seagulls shriek
no sparrows cheep –
(vanished years ago)
no voices sound,
no blackbird sings.

26 April 2020




Blue: the new normal?  
“Essential travel only”

My right hand’s skin rejects
the alien feel of wrinkled blue
plastic glove he offers me
to sift my way though
his many giant prints
of Vernon’s demolishing:
cranes, earth piles, deep excavations,
stark in black and white.

We three sit in plastic chairs
widely spaced around large sheet of cardboard,
his album open in between us:
this weird encounter
of people who know each other well,
and probably are all well,
while the pale ginger cat
stares at our unnatural behaviour,
not stroking and caressing him.

Bluebells’ blur:
April’s glory
passes in a flash.
High tide’s blue slab
lures us seawards
through acres of shiny
alien gravestones
past ruminating cows
over hardened clay earth ruts
to seapath: close translucent waves
lap gently
as we veer to left and right
from cyclists, walkers
bouncing stones
flat to the bounded horizon.

Up a thickly wooded lane
with a trickle of water flowing seawards:
three people, open bottles in their hands,
laugh at Deane’s perennial joke”
“Candy’s dandy, liquor’s quicker”
No pub to go to
so bring your own!

A broader avenue: Pook Lane’s
boundaried by magnificent trees:
chestnut candles, limp new leaves
quivering in heavy sunlight.
A pale women with a curly dog:
cancer diagnosis postponed
for forty weeks:
a message to turn anyone blue,
asks, across the necessary distance,
if Southsea’s seafront’s closed:
her car-bound husband likes
to look at passing ships
while she walks their dog
across the Common…

All these encounters
distanced, made unreal,
yet the virus makes us talk – as
we might never have done before.

Warblington
April 26 2020



Forbidden swim

“Get out of the sea!”
On the very day Bondi’s open again:
“WE’VE GOT OUR BEACH BACK!’
written across a jubilant swimmer’s skin,
Myrtle is ordered to stop her swim.

To be in the water as long as possible,
she swims, with the tide pulling her
all the way back,
to find her clothes.
Police crunching along the shingle.
find it hard to keep pace with her.
Hurriedly getting dressed,
her towel drops …
that’s when the police depart…

Bondi’s beach is ‘open’ to swimmers
but “running, sunbathing
or even walking on sands’
Forbidden”.

Please tell me:
Where’s the logic in that??

30 April 2020



Coffee Cup Eastney

Skull and crossbones
slap their flagpole.
Child chuckles, yelps,
trying to get my attention.
I’m prone, eyes closed,
on this narrow wooden bench.
All the way from their flat
near Fort Cumberland
his parents have walked here
with their disabled child

Boy tries to drape
piece of string like a necklace
around an upright timber.
As they rested,
“We had to get up, when
the police approached.”

Bright day: seafront’s thronged.
Skeins of wind-etched cloud
blown seaward by strong west wind.
White laces the eternal blue
of earth’s protective vault.
Deane draws the barracks
paints brick red, chrome yellow
of two AA vans:
drivers shooting the breeze.

A pair of parked ambulances,
empty, doors open
confer, nose to nose
by the blocked off road
along the seafront.
Where are the drivers?

By Canoe Lake
a man splutters
right into my face.
Will I get his virus
when I get home?
Fear makes me obsessively
scrub my lip
with soap and water.

Then I forget
and rest again.

Saturday 2 May 2020


In/Out?

Golden-wedding’d
tennis champion Ann’s
stayed indoors
all these weeks,
protecting Trevor:
cancer-recovering,
vulnerable.

Our tai chi Florence,
masked, hatted, double-gloved,
greets us lovingly:
we’ve missed seeing
her perform: oldsters together
moving rhythmically
to gentle Chinese music.

Friends wave benignly
from their first floor balcony,
fluttering their Union Jack.
“I’ll have a lot more by Friday!”

One sunburning cheek
the other breezed-cooled;
willow fronds dancing
along the chimney pots.
Cathedral bells’ mellow chimes
ring passing time.
Small birds twitter,
Seagulls talk and squawk.

Less vulnerable, so less afraid,
we’re out,
enjoying hot summer sun
in spring.

Garden of Rest
St. Thomas Cathedral
Old Portsmouth
6 April 2020



Rowing Club Picnic

Ship’s wake slams the concrete step
Waves suddenly spurt over my bare feet.
Abigail flaunts her antique shawl
worn in memory of her dad
just died at 52
of a heart attack:
strange distanced funeral
in Tunbridge Wells;
only ten spaced out people
allowed to attend.
Judging the wind direction
she threw his ashes into the sea
with a blue vodka libation
to say goodbye.
Police challenge
but let her be.
She believes the virus’s
made the world
a better place:
clean air and cleaner sea;
we’re kinder and more attentive
to how each other really feels.

Lean grey frigate puts to sea
crew distanced along the deck;
soon a faraway silhouette
disappearing eastwards.
We’ve a grandstand view
from Rowing Club steps.
Her red-crossed England t-shirted friend
calls us to admire his
pebble-skimming skills.
Dogs swim purposefully out to sea,
obediently return: ball/stick in mouth.
Hovercraft rises, swings to seaward:
Swells slam the concrete once again.

Slim enormous turbine blade
balanced along a small coaster’s deck
heads harbour-wards.
Cross-legged boys next to us
smoke a joint
then cycle away.
Prosecco bottle nestles in a crevice.

Deane remembers his mother
launching a boat here
built by the club, who named it Freda
watched by three admiring proud small boys:
Adam, Tom and Tim,
loving being here with their grandma.

High tide’s pluck and suck’s
my lullaby, concrete cradled,
blue chinks shine through
my white straw hat.

Friday 8 May


VE Day 75 years on

Queen Jean, glass in hand:
“I think I’m the oldest person here!”
remembers VE Day;
She’ll tell me the story
when her son lets her out.
Hard not to kiss and hug her.

Draped flags flap
on balconies and forecourts.
A White Ensign
big enough for a ship’s
hung over a roofline,
where bronze Nelson waits to
board his Victory.

Under cosies: teapots,
cakes on cake-stands
friendly chats to strangers
in 40s head-wrap or peaked cap;
but because of distancing
we’re not invited to the party.
We trudge our way slowly homeward
To our own welcoming cups of tea.



Virtual Mayor-making – and death

Will it be virtual Mayor-making – or
feathered hat, heavy chain
weighing down his head and chest?
Rob’s wistful wish:
this year’s ceremony
will be remembered – as different,
even if nothing actually takes place.

What’s happening to
his constituents
in the confined spaces
of Somerstown’s dense flats?

Even on Grand Parade’s
wide pavement, it’s difficult
to talk and keep apart.

East Hampshire’s dead:
Mayoress Elect’s work:
All cremated, not buried
in the five extensive cemeteries.
No one’s died so far in
Old Portsmouth,
but many in the city have succumbed
the further north you go.

9 May




VE Day 75

Broad searchlight blades
intersect, separate and cross,
flare the Common’s trees,
probing beams towards the city,
watched by crowds of silent people
silhouetted against night sky.
Bright Venus sparkles high overhead.
Red/green paths of light
colour the Swashway.
Parked fleet glimmers on the horizon.

Searchlight symbolism’s understood
but feeling’s muted;
we’re sombre in unnatural quiet:
no shouting, dancing, drinking, coupling,
nor any flag-waving
do we feel like doing
now.




Sea’s free! Ebb tide   9 May 2020
Little boy weighs the heft
of his chosen stone.
Mother/father/son clash their
red plastic Transformers together:
mock battle on the pebbly beach;
unstopped, unscolded -
perhaps - at last?
Little girl’s mesmerised
by uncertainty:
will waves pull away
– or come back again,
to flood her toes?
Bald men flaunt their shaven chests
then flatten, delighted,
immersing themselves
at last in pale blue water.
Father holds his bare bottomed baby:
to pee, then washes him:
salty baptism;
All unhindered, unharassed…

Has the beach been liberated
from the police?
At VE Day it was barricaded
blocked by barbed wire…
no swimming, sunbathing then.

Delicious rose scent greets us
as we enter the Rose Garden’s magic elipse.
Flurries of squirrels climb the pine tree.
Yellow roses flare against
the pergola supports,
suffuse the air with their
special golden scent.

Silent group strung along a fence:
what are they looking at?
A squirrel nibbling something white.
“We Russians, living here, also
have red ones back home too!”

Caroline feeds her wheel-chaired son
caresses his short black hair, his feet,
tenderly puts on his star-girt socks on,
and then his ankle boots.
Blackbirds practice their operatic solos;
after our long confinement
consoling us with music
in the peaceful evening air.
Unnoticed, yet we share their space

Sexed up vixen yips at 2,
sets off deep loud doggy barks
together they reclaim the night.
Attic-trapped squirrel’s
captured, boxed,
and liberated in a distant park.
Sea-swimming dog rounds the Castle
keeping even pace with humans.
Skirting board blur of darting movement:
grey mouse in unexpected place.
Knot of flatworms
wrestles, writhing, working
in the compost bin,
I knock them earthwards
as the lid comes off
to give them yet
more food to eat.
Balanced in her precarious
drainpipe nest:
downy feather messages
float on air shafts:
our pigeon coos.

We barely notice
their existence,
yet we together
share the space.

15 May 2020



Glory

Sentinel beech,
leaves almost
fluorescent green,
flanked by two white-laden mays,
stands guard:
presaging the Monarch’s Way.
Magnificent avenue
of towering beeches
framing distant Stanstead House –
just as they were planted to do.
Fierce wind tosses their very tops.
While they shelter us
from the freezing northern breeze,
one great forest tree’s been lost:
a mighty oak, torn apart.
The broken trunk,
triangulated, spears
many dying branches
covering the ground in heaps of drying leaves.
Standing stump’s
blackened wound
reveals its weakening decay.
Giant grey beech trunks, prone,
lie like stranded, landed whales.

Delicate bracken trellises.
Late nodding bluebells.
Foxglove spires
begin to show their colour.
Newly planted trees:
sunlit trunks in
white protective sleeves,
jostle, close together:
augury of new life;
hope of renewal/liberation,
back to our ordinary,
populated existence:
all we long for -
– in hope or anger,
but still await.

Stanstead Forest
13 May 2020




Nearing the end of lockdown?

Exuberant jet-skis swirl
and turn, spurting plumes
of sunlit spray.
Did we see a paddle-boarder
standing alone
in the middle of the sea?
Welsh Mervyn works on his autobiography;
it’s only the third time
he and Alexander have
come to the seafront
since the whole lockdown thing began.

Icecreams! Swimming! Lollipops!
Paddling! Swimming! Chatting!
Sitting in the sun!

Wave-ruffled, blue, blue sea’s
the background
to whizzing skateboarders, tattooed runners,
racing cyclists and sit-up-and-begs.

Father stoops to give
his chest-bound baby
her first scent of roses:
glowing purple, paling violet, hard bright red.
Woman sniffs the marguerites.
Crows caw, other birds twitter,
resident blackbird chuckles his alarm.
Who knew Portsmouth
had so many different dogs?

High on our perch
over the entrance,
Colin hails us, wheeling Adam,
wearing his Walking Hat
on his way to
our usual rendezvous.
Deane, “ancient monument”
finds drawing ‘Southsea Rose Garden’
backwards, difficult.

Curly-haired, bearded Tommy
who runs North End’s Thatcher’s pub
shares a bottle with his
friendly sports-capped mate.
“I’ve lived in Portsmouth all my life,
but I’ve never been here,
never ever seen the Rose Garden before!
Exploring Portsmouth on our bikes!”

Hannah reads aloud the flowing Arabic:
from her illuminated Koran;
tells us she’s a doctor
driving to Winchester
very early; went to the High School;
her twin teaches geography
at PGS!

Heavily laden container ship: ‘Yang Ming’
progresses slowly towards Southampton,
towers over No Man’s Land Fort.
Another, too far away to see it clearly:
Cruise ship or is it hauling cargo?

But anchored fleet
on the horizon’s
going nowhere.
How bored their crews must be:
even more confined than we are.
“Stay Home”,
we’re released from,
at least, partially,
at last.

Saturday 16 May 2020




Field full of folk

Two Spanish girls flirt their black lace fans:
illustration in an antique book – for real!
“Four ducklings in the Rock Gardens pond!”
No sign of them, only the drake,
swimming in circles.
Black-headed gulls weave their elegant
invisible tapestry over our heads.

In the sea two kayakers,
one instructs the other
to paddle backwards:
her words clearly audible
over the soughing waves.
Sugar-mouse pink swimmers
emerge from the water.
Hopeful fishermen –
on shore and boat-bound,
try for fish rising
as the sun sinks
towards the horizon.
Small brown coffee van
dispenses cheering paper cups
by the Chinese bandstand.
Happy Prosecco parties share their joy.

Footballers, cricketers, swerve-ballers, kick-boxers
fill green Castle Field:
colour and movement.

Everyone smiles, relishes our freedom
to come alive again together,
in our precious open space.

19 May 2020


The Senses of Portsmouth

The sweet smell of the sea,
the vibrant colors of summer
radiating in a blinding glow.
Birds singing, people laughing
and the sound of the wind
blowing peacefully through the grass and bushes.
Many different hues of green,
all with flowers that smell like
SPF 50 sun-tan lotion.
The blur of beaches and buildings
all along the coastline.
A couple of sailboats
on the horizon of the sea,
waiting to be used
once quarantine is over.

Henry J Fast
Aged 10 and ¾

Monday May 18th 2020




West wind storm

Yesterday? “Need to travel? If poss, walk or cycle.”
South coast hills obscured by thick white mist.
Today we’re sheltering from a gathering storm
by Langstone Harbour.
Sunlight glints on sea-filled
coupled-cockle shells.
West wind-driven, rapid cloud and sun
colour the harbour in successive stripes:
leaf green, pale sage, dark ruffled green,
aquamarine, ridge-patterned navy blue;
decorated with white dots of swimming seagulls
drifting slowly on the ebbing tide.
Wind devils’ downdraft scours quick circles.
Ebbtide caresses the anchored bladder wrack.
Translucent waves pulse the shorebank.

Tall poplars, thick woods, shelter us
from the onslaught of punching air;
their leaves sigh and flutter, or,
torn off, land on roughened water.
Wind’s fierce roar’s louder and louder:
amplified now to a full blown gale.

Unperturbed, two fishermen,
spaced rod’s length apart,
one hidden under enormous umbrella,
scan the waves, patiently waiting
for a fish to bite.

Light: changing, spotlights Hayling shore.
Cyclists whizz past, navigating
the rough surfaced track.
Tiny dogs, smaller than cats,
step delicately by,
accompanying their family.

“Keep fit, Clarkies!” shouts Bill Tremlett,
digging in his drought hard soil.
“Yesterday dismasted yacht was rescued
by a man in passing rib.”
Rotating radar screen on tall black mast
marks Eastney’s sewage tanks.

Toddler hoisted off father’s shoulders
runs to catch up with mother and pushchair.
Little children smile, wave in greeting,
astride their tiny pink/blue trikes.

“Save the bees”, “Orlando Florida”, “Endure”:
chest-mounted slogans pacing past.

The flattened Mulberry sinks more deeply;
broken in wartime 40’s casting;
never made it to Normandy.

Blown grit coats my teeth.
I relish storm, sun and panorama,
wide cloud-strewn sky and
ever-changing sea.

23 May 2020


Reunited

Silver carp, gold finned,
cruises slowly,
till brawling drakes
land suddenly on pale brown pond;
he flicks his tail and vanishes.
Dense yellow flags’ thickets
glimmer in reflecting surface.

Our family, reunited
after two long moths.
Roman and Nilla – taller –
tell us about their days:
two hours’ schoolwork –
“Then we chill!”
Pale see-through willow fronds
sway gently in the evening breeze.

We’ve clambered up the steepest slope
through garlic scented beech woods -
hard going, but we made it
to the top
over the railway tunnel,
Roman carrying the wicker basket
trying to find a shaded spot
for us all to sit and eat.
Keep Out!” “Private Property. Buriton Estate.”
Barbed wire to blue-flowered field.
Nowhere at Dean Barn,
so we backtrack
to the South Downs Way,
find a lush green meadow:
perfect!
Tree shade, hot sun, blowy air.
Herd of copper coloured bullocks
sit companiably together,
red-tagged ears, tails flicking
biting flies away.
Over cow pats, dry clay ruts,
shaded hedge, we walk to
felled forest;
return through shady woods
past lime-trucks deep in coombs;
under the railway – passing train –
to Buriton’s peaceful pond:
tranquil, beautiful - and
shared.

24 May 2020

 

Cooling evening air
blows in from the frenetic street
through shallow Mughal arches
to this peaceful temple precinct,
raised two flights above the mundane
trading of everyday.

Smiling men shed their sandals
and disappear – though the temple’s
closed till after six:
it’s a festival day,
the season of weddings and celebrations.

A patient guardian in green/gold sari
reminds us to take off our shoes;
scrutinises us across the courtyard.
She sites below a delicate
scalloped white ceiling.
The two oriels, half-domed, frame
five arches to the covered court.
In the background,
a pair of ancient wooden doors,
elaborately locked and bolted,
stand guard over the temple’s
inner secrets.

From open shutters,
cooking curry scents the sunset air
along with the smell of lavender –
the colour also,
of the delicate paintwork.

Intense negotiations continue
in a side office – where something’s examined
in a strong light under magnification:
hard sparkling chips from the core of the earth –
bought and sold here.

A girl brings another, in bright flowered trousers,
a red magazine – gratefully accepted.
A mangy dog barks at us angrily,
howls in misery,
bites Deane’s ankles,
till he’s fed some sweetmeats
by a plump woman clad in
green and gold.

Curly haired young man
chuckles to his mobile
as Deane paints his vision
of this tranquil, inhabited
Indian sanctuary.

Devzi Ji Ka Maindiz Johari Bazaar Jaipur                  14  November 2017


Pigeons in pairs
swoop across the red rectangle.
The boy with a giant pink flag;
the master pigeon-wallah,
waves it languidly
in the cooling air.
The waiter comes to check on progress
on Deane’s watercolour
of this brick Brutalist courtyard.
Its regular recession and projection,
each storey varied;
some recessed and some brought forward,
some with pierced balconies
covered with roses,
red, white and yellow
spilling over the ledge.

Slow swimmers measure the pool length
while I enjoy the quiet luxury
beneath me, of soft green and blue towels
draped over the sunlounger.

The sun sinks in the sky,
scissored by pigeons’ continual flight paths,
swift warp and weft -
to the sound of jangly music
while fellow guests walk around slowly,
minds far away
at their mobiles’ endplace.

Long drawn out phrases
of the eloquent call to prayer
rise and fall, slantwise
over the hotel enclave
as the sun’s light fades.

Frangipani scents the hot red sandstone
greeting us as we pass into
the wide interior.

ITC Rajputana Jaipur
13 November 6.30 pm


Indian Road Rap – Jaipur to New Delhi
8am to 4pm 15 November 2017

“Great India!”
“Blow Horn!”
“Save Girl Child!”
“Plant Trees!”

“Work is Worship”:
Yellow clad women work, crouching, planting,
backs bent hoeing,
cutting up harvested branches,
banging clothes in water on concrete
cleaning dirt out of them,
walk straight-backed to carry heavy head loads.
Men sit, drinking chai,
or lie, prone on charpoys.

Rich earth, brown furrows,
stalk stacked sheaves
in circular stooks.

On board men sell us – or fail to entice us
to part with our rupees, for
newspapers, leather bags, tea and spices.
People scooter past, one/two women sidesaddled.
Gaudy lorries, loaded: glass, cement, grain
pass us, hooting.
“Hotel King” “Hotel Prince”
compete for giant wallspace,
always one kilometre ahead!

Field dust, yellow, coats everything,
hangs in the air,
making smog, with burning stubble;
sunlight intensifies, densifies it,
making it harder for us to breathe.
Building, tearing down = human energy.
India moves itself on diesel-fuelled wheels.

Round cowpat/straw fuel discs,
stacked, circular, like flat cupcakes.
Complacent cows, grounded,
watch the frantic humans
with slow moving eyes.

“Be what you wear!”
“Live, love, eat!”
“A Complete Family Restaurant!”
“Air-Conditioned School”.
“Ashok Leyland
Mahendra First Choice Cars,
Any car service.”
“Navy/Army/Airforce/Police”.

Concrete skeletons:
Unfulfilled dreams.                           134 km to Delhi

“Raffles International School”
Giant politicians’ smiles.
“Touching Life Every Day
Sarya Ratna Prayang”.
“Take Service Lane:
Adhuik Hotel”
“Gangaus Midway:
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner”
Anushree
“4 Seasons Food Court”
“Bikana Valu”.
“Valvoline”.

Bulging yellow stacked sacks
pass us, heavy, on loaded lorry.
Wingless, two planes are being dismembered.
How did they get there?
Abrupt hills loom over the dead flat plain,
others blasted apart, destroyed for building stone.

“Hotel Grand Tara 24 x 7:
Luxury rooms in Budget”
White sheets and towels draw lines in the sunshine.
Tower blocks appear in thickening haze.
“North highway Xpress”.
Suddenly the coach slows its progress
veers violently leftwards
under the flyover.
We go slowly back again,
stop by piles of bluish cement dust,
heading for a motorway café.
A man cracks nuts on the flat-roofed
Walnut Company.

“Raata International School:
huge complex in the middle of nowhere:
“Future ready schools” at Dughera.
“Amity University Jaipur”
“Motimahal Restaurant”
“Muskan Mindway RC Restaurant”
“Any Time is Icecream Time”
“KKP Cement, Build Safe”
“Great Weekend Getaway: Tree House”.
Tower blocks and sheave stacks.
“Stop! This project is worth a visit”
“Heavy Vehicle Keep Left!”
Neemrana Moterbike Factory: Industrial Area.
“County Line Logistics”
“Slow, Horn”
“Greenlan Laminates”
“Pepsi Miranda”….                 And these are just the signs in English…

Giant concrete pigeon’s
poised for flight
from the top balcony
of pink/grey multi-storey house.
“PayTM Accepted Here.”
“To pay the toll
Scan payTM QR Code
At the Counter!”
Smashed up car…
No getting out of that one.

Giant Hindi signs, tops joined together,
form a horizontal architecture
I cannot read.
Shahjehanpur:
Industrial area.

“Dream Marriage 150 Lahks”
= Lovers’ Hotel?
Parked khaki lorries – by government decree
their loads and drivers marooned
110 kilometres from Delhi
to combat the capital city’s smog.
“Have to take right turn here
because of jam further down.”
“Horn, wait 4 side please”:
Lorry full of sacks.
Blue brewery, “Herbal tastings”.

Now we’re going the wrong way
down the motorway.
“Saving Lives:
In Case of Accident, Dial This Number”
Lorry overturned
concrete piles spilled
in awkward heap
blocks the sideroad.
“David is leading the way”:
small white car
“for Goliath [us] to follow.”
“All India Parmit”
“Tax Collection Point”.
Giant steel cylinder, parked,
going no further.
Lorry, headfirst into a bushy side ditch.
“Hero Corp”.

“Ladies and Gentlemen:
I’ve never seen anything like this.”
We’re now driving directly into oncoming traffic
veering across lanes,
roaring over ruts and potholes
and deepsided ditches.
Square brick kiln chimneys
rear behind dense vegetation.
Sudden horn noise…
“Golden education”.
People crowd round a dusty red field space:
broad-chested men
wrestle in quick bouts.
Maeve consults her dictionary
doing her French homework.

A tethered buffalo raises its head
over the roof of the lorry it’s carried in.
A man’s perched, resting,
on the roof of his truck, tarpaulined,
going nowhere, like all the others.
More miles and miles of state-stalled lorries:
No end of waiting for them in sight.
Another checkpoint
manned by the army
armed with big sticks
aimed to keep order.

Now huge industries
In sheds on both sides:
How are their workers getting to work?        95 Km to Delhi
On the side road
we veer round a tented holy shrine
with a central blue draped mound:
is it a body, lying in waiting for burial?

“Asahi India Glass Ltd.”
“Tot Copper Ltd.”
“CRRC Pioneer”
“Jindad Buildas”
“HSIIDC Welcomes You To…”
Khaki-wrapped canvas covers
a train carriage on a low loader.
A factory pours its thin stream of white smoke
into the already foggy air,
as we rear and rock over deep ruts,
back confronting the oncoming traffic
behind another loaded bus:
maybe a bit safer that way?

We overtake a red tractor
pulling a trailer loaded with orange bricks.
“Mannot Veg Dhaba
Just a 25 Minute Drive”.
“Bolt express”
“Police Assistant Booth” – empty.
“OM Logistics Limited,
Making Business Simple” –
Not when it's stuck
In the middle of a traffic jam.
Another shrouded stalled railway carriage.
Rows of red tractors lined up on a trackbed.

Punjabi Urban Dhaba.
Police force us off the flyover.
“We got caught by a volcano once.”
“At least we’re moving”.
Green water channel beside us is static
green slime; black banana skin
floats in concrete compartment.
We’re not moving, lorries inch past us;
now we’re as stalled as the opposite lorry jam.
We’re stationary behind another coach
full of Westerners.
A fancily dressed lorry suddenly rears towards us, side-on,
Gasps of horror from the people who see it.
“Just look on the bright side, ladies and gents.
We’re not flying out until tomorrow…”
The other coach turns back across our track.
The boy goes ahead to check what's happening.
Ambulance siren.
Now our guide’s got out…
What’s he going to do for us?
“Supply chain solutions”.
It’s a broken down lorry blocking our progress.
“Use dipper at night.”
O Kara’s red/gold tassels sway in the dust.
A crowd of men could push it out of our pathway.
Driver’s back, looking resolute,
moving cautiously forward.
“Visit Again Travel Tourism”:
another crowded bus sways past us.
“Shree Amber Karni”

Our boy bravely stops the traffic
past a menacing lorry
loaded with sharp steel girders.
We’re on the right/left side again!
Good speed ahead!                              77 Km still to go.

Nearing Delhi, a white car with dead roses
fixed all over it
passes us on the left hand side.
Six horses, sideways on, look over
the wooden edge of their lorry.
A turbaned man tends a large flock of sheep,
moving slowly along the side road.
A crashed lorry, front stove in,
Is towed to a repair centre full of others.

I’m losing the will to continue
this real- time record…                       2.25pm

Entering Delhi:
“This taxi respects women”.
Soldiers in face masks
guarding the barracks.
Two sit in the bus stop
holding their guns.
Gkurkas in barracks
Flash kukris in unison.
“Foot Over Bridge”.
“Speed Calming Go Slow”.
Man in a silver suit
walks the highway.
Man asleep on the pavement
toes pointing our way.
Jungle in the city.
Eternal monkeys leap and preen
oblivious to passing traffic.

We made it at 4 – at last.

Celia Clark



Water: still mirror –
reflects our upper world.

 

It also moves:


solid rain, rushing torrents, unceasing tides, welling springs, seeping rills, sprinkling mists,

snow: powder and crust, melts….


But what’s underneath the surface/skin?



Our bodies:
water:

blood pumps, lymph swells, menstrual red flows, urine gushes,


saliva and semen spurt, sweat drips;


eyes, fluid bathed, cry

and smear – brine tears.




Immersed in sea,


only our skin

holds us in;


not dissolved, but moving through


that vital element we share


that primal soup

we lived in, gilled.




With my curved shape,


I connect


with my amphibian,

bathed,
rocked, supported, lulled -


though, lunged only for air,


confined to surface.




But what’s below, terrifies..


Beautiful depths:

Glass clear,
shimmering green, turquoise,
aquamarine, indigo…

What are those shadows?


Powerful currents, churning tides, swaying seaweeds,
flashing fish, transparent jellies:



Another domain,

unknown,


like the fluids

beneath our skin.
Water: still mirror –
reflects our upper world.

 

It also moves:

solid rain, rushing torrents, unceasing tides, welling springs, seeping rills, sprinkling mists,

snow: powder and crust, melts….

But what’s underneath the surface/skin?
Our bodies: water:

blood pumps, lymph swells, menstrual red flows, urine gushes,

saliva and semen spurt, sweat drips;

eyes, fluid bathed, cry

and smear – brine tears.

Immersed in sea,

only our skin

holds us in;

not dissolved, but moving through

that vital element we share

that primal soup

we lived in, gilled.

With my curved shape,

I connect

with my amphibian,

bathed, rocked, supported, lulled -

though, lunged only for air,

confined to surface.

But what’s below, terrifies..

Beautiful depths:

Glass clear, shimmering green, turquoise, aquamarine, indigo…

What are those shadows?

Powerful currents, churning tides, swaying seaweeds, flashing fish, transparent jellies:

Another domain,

unknown,

like the fluids

beneath our skin.
Glendalough Ireland  19 October 2012

Robin Hood Gardens Poplar 30 July 2012
Two giant walls:
Tall concrete honeycomb
Wrap protectively
Round the green pointed hill,
Its winding paths
Overgrown now,
No longer trimmed;
Its mosaic turtles, fish,
Still sparkle
In the long grass;
The rose pergola
Still lovely, blooms in red and white.
“Gather round!
Our Olympics is about to begin!”
Children leap over hurdles,
Their parents serve
Strawberries and cream in glass bowls;.
The playcourt vibrates in vibrant hues.
A community of many colours
In their holiday gear
Celebrate summer together.
Indifferent towers
of Canary Wharf and cheap
Blank-eyed flats
Glower to the south –
Is that what’s to come here?
A faded picture says:
“Here’s your new homes…”
But this patch of earth
Is where we live
Happily together!

As the world competes at Stratford
just up the road,
Is this vital communal flame
Condemned to quenching -
For greater profit?
The Smithsons’ ideal vision
Of city living
To be lost – for ever?
Obliterated –
Its people blown away?

 

 

 

 

 

 

America's Cup

Sea's slosh and suck
slam the concrete steps,
throwing up heavy white foam:
Bubbles cool my brown legs.

Shark-shaped sails,
towering verticals,
giant black wings,
narrow wind-catchers
slice seawards,
fly the shining hulls,
lifted on slim aerofoils
to slice through
neon green water.

 

 

 

Water: still mirror –
reflects our upper world.

 

It also moves:



solid rain, rushing torrents, unceasing tides, welling springs, seeping rills, sprinkling mists,

snow: powder and crust, melts….


But what’s underneath the surface/skin?




 

Our bodies:

water:

blood pumps, lymph swells, menstrual red flows, urine gushes,



saliva and semen spurt, sweat drips;



eyes, fluid bathed, cry

and smear – brine tears.





Immersed in sea,



only our skin

holds us in;



not dissolved, but moving through



that vital element we share



that primal soup

we lived in, gilled.





With my curved shape,



I connect



with my amphibian,

bathed,

rocked, supported, lulled -



though, lunged only for air,



confined to surface.





But what’s below, terrifies..



Beautiful depths:

Glass clear,

shimmering green, turquoise,

aquamarine, indigo…

What are those shadows?



Powerful currents, churning tides, swaying seaweeds,

flashing fish, transparent jellies:



Another domain,

unknown,



like the fluids

beneath our skin.

Water: still mirror –

reflects our upper world.

 

It also moves:

solid rain, rushing torrents, unceasing tides, welling springs, seeping rills, sprinkling mists,

snow: powder and crust, melts….


But what’s underneath the surface/skin?

Our bodies: water:

blood pumps, lymph swells, menstrual red flows, urine gushes,

saliva and semen spurt, sweat drips;

eyes, fluid bathed, cry

and smear – brine tears.

Immersed in sea,

only our skin

holds us in;

not dissolved, but moving through

that vital element we share

that primal soup

we lived in, gilled.

With my curved shape,

I connect

with my amphibian,

bathed, rocked, supported, lulled -

though, lunged only for air,

confined to surface.

But what’s below, terrifies..

Beautiful depths:

Glass clear, shimmering green, turquoise, aquamarine, indigo…

What are those shadows?

Powerful currents, churning tides, swaying seaweeds, flashing fish, transparent jellies:

Another domain,

unknown,

like the fluids

beneath our skin.

Glendalough Ireland  19 October 2012

Robin Hood Gardens Poplar 30 July 2012

Two giant walls:
Tall concrete honeycomb
Wrap protectively
Round the green pointed hill,
Its winding paths
Overgrown now,
No longer trimmed;
Its mosaic turtles, fish,
Still sparkle
In the long grass;
The rose pergola
Still lovely, blooms in red and white.

“Gather round!
Our Olympics is about to begin!”
Children leap over hurdles,
Their parents serve
Strawberries and cream in glass bowls;.

 The playcourt vibrates in vibrant hues.
A community of many colours
In their holiday gear
Celebrate summer together.

Indifferent towers
of Canary Wharf and cheap
Blank-eyed flats
Glower to the south –
Is that what’s to come here?
A faded picture says:
“Here’s your new homes…”
But this patch of earth
Is where we live
Happily together!

As the world competes at Stratford
just up the road,
Is this vital communal flame
Condemned to quenching -
For greater profit?
The Smithsons’ ideal vision
Of city living
To be lost – for ever?
Obliterated –
Its people blown away?