Poetry

 

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.

 

Alicante 1- 3 May 2016
 
White doves soar,
batted away by a man in a purple shirt,
enclosed in a ground-hugging
basket-work chair.
Bright Spanish sun shines through their translucent wings,
dancing over the square’s
central curving kiosk of white glass.
 
We revel in longed-for sun
in this exotic city space,
blessed by enormous trees:
multi-rooted Moreton Bay figs
a hundred years old.
Their horizontal buttress roots
hold the sunlight
in a lizardly embrace.
 
Above, dense green/black foliage
towers into intense blue sky.
Through it, soar and sway
gigantic palm trees
spreading leaves a glitter,
in their distant tops:
as tall as the six storeys
of Art Nouveau buildings
forming this square.
 
Sea breeze cools us,
stirring the palms, ferns, acanthus
rooted in sand.
Faint plucking of guitars…
Laughter, hard Spanish vowel sounds
clatter like thrown pebbles.
Smoke drifts up from pungent cigars.
Sparrows dart and cheep.
Traffic hums…
 
Alicante in May.
 
Rambla Méndez Nuñez Porta del Elche
1 May 2016
Hard sunlight on pale limestone:
another square, where
you have to step back
to stare at Santa Maria’s
writhing Baroque:
music in stone.
Twisting Solomaic columns
flank fat cherubs, eternally caught
in deep-carved swirling curves.
 
Santa Maria gazes skyward
caught in permanent ecstasy;
flanked by patrician saints:
robes whirled sideways
by frozen Baroque winds.
 
Tinny bell clangs:
cream canopies flap
in seawind sweeping up
steep steps to this hanging space.
Quiet conversation: couples
intimately intent,
cigarette smoke blowing in the sunny air.
Her blond/brown curls shine, alive and free,
In contrast to pale, unmoving swirls in stone.
 
Deane’s pencil moves
To seal the moment.
 
Mi Café Plaza di Santa Maria, Alicante
2 May 2016
 
 
 
Living rock
eternal wall, here eons
before the castle engineers
closed it in from sunlight
to hold materials for war.
 
Stone breathes in its hard limestone cells,
as we, soft temporary lifeforms,
sit, bored, on this
black and white glass floor.
 
We, too, waiting for water and light.
 
Castillo de Santa Barbara, Alicante
3 May 2016

 

 

 

Hard sunlight on pale limestone:

another square, where

you have to step back

to stare at Santa Maria’s

writhing Baroque:

music in stone.

Twisting Solomaic columns

flank fat cherubs, eternally caught

in deep-carved swirling curves.

 

Santa Maria gazes skyward

caught in permanent ecstasy;

flanked by patrician saints:

robes whirled sideways

by frozen Baroque winds.

 

Tinny bell clangs:

cream canopies flap

in seawind sweeping up

steep steps to this hanging space.

Quiet conversation: couples

intimately intent,

cigarette smoke blowing in the sunny air.

Her blond/brown curls shine, alive and free,

In contrast to pale, unmoving swirls in stone.

 

Deane’s pencil moves

To seal the moment.

 

Mi Café Plaza di Santa Maria, Alicante

2 May 2016

Living rock

eternal wall, here eons

before the castle engineers

closed it in from sunlight

to hold materials for war.

 

Stone breathes in its hard limestone cells,

as we, soft temporary lifeforms,

sit, bored, on this

black and white glass floor.

 

We, too, waiting for water and light.

 

Castillo de Santa Barbara, Alicante

3 May 2016

 

Shropshire Songs October 2004

Nightmare and the Golden Syrup Tin

“Out of strength came forth sweetness…”

The bees swarm up from the lion’s carcass -

So the thrill of Sam’s Mass

Soars from the violence

of his death;

setting the hairs of my inner ear a-dance.

The mouth of the gun

Mimics my desperate dance

To avoid the man

Who wants to kill me -

Only waking from nightmare

Saves me from him.

In the pitchblack door way

I collide with Deane’s soft body.

Comfort comes as he abraids my back,

And loves me.

So I’m alive, when

A year ago I might have died.

The disgusting fat’s

Not oozing from cigarettes,

But parent-bequeathed, it

Clogged my arteries.

In February five times

So I lived, to experience

Horror, joy, and comforting

Over and again.

Returning from Liverpool

Double rainbow over Lime Street Station

Delights us through our drenching.

Pink light over the chemical works –

Its reek filters into the car.

“49 Iraqui police recruits massacred in civies…”

Domed oaks define fields, silhouetted

Against grey storm cloud.

A giant white cloud

Theatrically lit

By the ovoid moon;

Its silver rim cuts through

Iron-grey skeins and shawls of vapour.

“My sister’s bought an apartment in Nice.

Their Georgian house in Dublin’s will be worth millions…”

In the car, scone crumbs litter our wet trousers..

Satisfaction at a dramatic day

Feeds our spirits as we power southwards

To our cowshed cottage on Harmer Hill.

Deane lowers the window to smell the rain.

“You’re looking much better today”.

I’m pleased:

My aching legs and feet stood up to

Pounding the Liverpool pavements;

I shot off two films, and enveloped them,

To fix memories of a special day.

I feel a vague

Astonishment in retrospect:

I’m still alive.

I year ago I was failing,

Any exertion bought on searing pain.

I stopped, gasping, in tears, having to rest

In stages up the steep Ironbridge slopes;

But triumphant

To have made it, as I cleared the crest.

My face was grey.

My heart was failing

But I did not know.

 

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?

Cullercoats – July morning

Wave lines, etched silver, gleam,
part-lit by pale yellow rising sun.



Horizon’s dissolved.
In matte grey sea and sky,
far out, the anchored ghost ship
sleeps, mist-shrouded.



Cliff edge road thrums:
tyres of people’s cars,
their drivers work-intent.



Tide-uncovered rocks below
crouch, crumpled, broken iron-grey.
Man, silhouetted,
collects sea-food
from his metal cages.



Chest arm-wrapped, Deane dreams,
striped in white and blue,
duvet swagged: warm drifts of snow.

In flowing cool bright air
I rest and write, holiday content.


I July 2012

 

Wallsend [Not World’s End]
Deep Place Deep Past


Thin plough scratches
discovered under heavy Roman fort:
Wall’s end – Hadrian’s peace
laid over wild locals’ land.
Soldiers’, horses’, traders’ traces found:
chainmail fused, stable-dung and coin.
Tyne river-road bringing floods of people, things…
its tides as constant when the Romans leave.



Military activity dies, and ploughs return –
until King Coal’s awakened
in his tunnels deep.
Chain-lowered/hoisted
men, boys toil – and die;
women grieve.

Huge slots of graving-docks
are carved into the river shore:
great ships, Swan Hunters’
rise and tower over workers’ houserows.
Launched, they conquer oceans…
die, u-boat torpedoed.
The shipyard dies,
politician-killed.

Romans rediscovered:
under new museum’s watchtowers
I’m disappointed not to see more Wall;
only the flattened fort
reduced to tracelines..


Segendunum

Flurries of children
try to fathom dull stone lines,
fill in their fluttering worksheets.
New bath house:
damp halls full of quiet and curious tourists
no longer echo to the soldiers’ shouts and brawls.



Thousands of years
evoked in panels;
objects’ attempted eloquence.
modern voices speak
old lives to life.



A yellow craneship –
Big Lift – passes seawards
past the empty quays,
stilled docks.
Orange-suited men survey them,
ant-like far below us.

For what future?
To become the past
We do not know.



Newcastle Rap



Quay-side Seaside;
Chinook Salute.

A broken forest floats
out to sea,
rhythmically rocking,
dipping/rising,
in the black and silver Tyne.



Kittiwakes cry,
nestled tight on
whitened ledges
under the soaring bridge;
Olympic rings threaded
through green steel lattice
high above our heads.



Movement homewards:
yellow Metro
crosses its
openwork blue wedges.
Red double-deckers
sliding southwards,
held in Stevenson’s tight curves.
Chrome quayside bus
crossing the red/white Low Level
might take us Ouseburnwards,
rather than our own
tired feet.



Deane advances,
Bottle of rosé in hand –
Triumphant!  Enjoy!
Holiday!

Slug and Lettuce pub, 5pm
4 July 2012

Picking gooseberries

Green/gold globes
hold the sun;
I glory in this
summer gift.

8 July 2012

Boathouse 6 Awayday 26 January 2001

Paint layers, scraped through, the walls stencilled,
speak of earlier, dirtier work,
as we sit in cushioned chairs;
the new surfaces pristine, brightly lit,
discussing raw learning – but
at several removes.

“New media: live communication –
is actually difficult – time-lagged;
while the picture suspended between you
builds on the screen – and words
are added.”

The morning’s tension crackles  -
Ron Geeson storms out
right at the beginning…
Jenny has to go out for a smoking break –
And the three silent men
make me wonder why I’m here.

Shall I absent myself in spirit?
The building speaks to me more
than these people do.
Sounds of sawing, escapes of steam, ship noises
remind me of the other hand/eye work
once done in here and still going on outside.
The soles of my feet
on the carpeted floor
talk to me of the massive Boathouse timbers,
worn into deep patterns and pathways
by generations of working boots – when
the last blockmaker, Tom Birch
demonstrated the versatility of
his Victorian cutting machine.
To record the ending of his craft
we sat on his special workbench.
Only the two of us – then –
in the whole echoing building.

Now it’s trickles of tourists downstairs
playing with bleeping machines,
shooting ships out of the water
or climbing the rotating Eiger wall
at underhung angles;
while upstairs, instead of rows of navy clerks
driving their desks,
it’s us, teachers/reseachers –
web-casting,
throwing out nets
to catch notional shoals
of eager learners.

However much we might dream
as John Molyneux so eloquently said,
we can’t do more
without more.

Aubade

Scrape of shovel on gravel,
Liquid slop of cement mixer-
Is our Berlin aubade,
Rather than Glasgow’s
Dee-daw of giant crane
Swinging its arm
In dangerous arcs,
Moving its bucket
Over the river.
Both cities’ energy
Poured into
Reinventing themselves.

Berlin 20 June 2003

Aubade: Pink and Blue
Heart Bypass, Southampton General Hospital
February 2004


Angry pink of dawn suffuses the wide window,
Filling from the top; displacing intense blue,
Trail-crossed, in the space below.
As the furious pink forces downwards,
Life returns to me.
I register
I’m still alive.

My rearranged body’s enormous scars
Transform it into alien meat.
My leg’s trussed by gross blanket stitch
From ankle to groin,
Like a leg of lamb, ready for roasting:
Only the rosemary’s missing!
My breasts are now separated by
A curving scar which I can’t feel as part of me,
Except as intense irritation on the skin,
- A rash from iodine flood -
And as a horrible peak of nerve-broken flesh under my chin.

The trilling tea trolley accompanies
The murmur of my friends
Telling their nights
Of pain and cold.

My rearranged heart thumps painfully against my ribs.
The old padding’s gone.
A week ago, they cooled and cut me , bruised me,
Replumbed me,
Made my left leg re-supply my heart!

On Sunday night
Before that morning’s operation
Joan allayed my terror:
‘Gather your loved ones round’.
Her great strength and wisdom
Held me suspended in a web of love,
While life-saving violence was done.

The sky’s now golden, silhouetting
My students’ wonderful flowers
Yellow, green and white.
Remember them.

I have to remind myself I’ll live – apparently –
But depths of fear glint blackly still.
And anger:
Why me at 60?
Those who gave life to me nearly killed me.
My father, war veteran, fierce and angry,
Underwent two bypasses
Only last March.
His white hair thin,
My yellow flowers rejected . . .
Why has my heart succumbed
Arteries filled with fat – now –
When I’m twenty two years younger than him?
It’s your fault
I had a two ton giant sitting on my chest
Crushing life out of me.
My mother’s legacy too.
Interrupted by my father
As she painted her watercolours
On the boat
Her heart suddenly broken
By the deep sea cold of Studland Bay.
She was seventy; I’m ten years younger.
We saw only her dying breaths,
Which Deane first noticed stilled.

This memory surfaces
As I return to the ward,
After tedious tests to tell if my brain’s affected
By the lethal bubbles of the heart-lung machine.
We tell the surgeon of that horror and pain
As I return to my bed.

But in October my father’s money saved me:
A thousand pounds and Deane’s two hundred and fifty
For an angiogram – only offered on the NHS months later;
Probably too late -
At the same time as this operation in February.

I see now I’m rescued- for a further instalment-
Why?
To love and be loved
To love, admire and nurture our newborn grandson, Roman,
- To hassle my enemies and make my mark,
- To go on making my contribution,
- To write letters of complaint about the hospital food
which fails its first test: do I want to eat it?,
- To receive the kindness and gentleness of nurses,
The professional pride of surgeons,
The mutual therapy of patients;
To take part in rich discussions with them all.
- To be the recipient of assaults?
My body’s covered with bruises and punctures
- for cannulas, drains, plastic bags of blood, jabs.
It’s not mine, but theirs to reassemble.
I would protect it-
The flight mechanism kicking in-
The sickness injection’s an assault. I scream: ‘Don’t hurt me’!
I want to escape
To the calmness and quietness of home,
To heal in darkness and silence.

Yet there’s a crow
Beak bent with the effort
Of trying to get in here,
To mark out E3 ward
For his spring territory.
Beyond, Southampton’s container cranes are framed
in New Forest green, ships barely visible.

My fellow patients’ pains and dreams
Catch me up too:
Freda’s husband, Tom, so gravely ill
In the same ward;
Afraid to go to sleep
In case he doesn’t wake up.
From her hospital chair, she bravely says
She’ll care for them both.
A widow and a widower’s wedding postponed
By her heart trouble.
He loves her madly,
His Valentine card flashes a heart
Lit in pink lights . . .
Lithe Rosemary the New Zealander from Masterton
Visiting her 90 year old mother.
Caring for her, she’s had a heart attack
Without realising it.
And now she’s in hospital. . .
Reversing the usual fate of generations.
The 48 year old grandmother whose blood is clotting;
And lovely life enhancing Johanna
Weaving her mesh of love,
As she once held her folk dancing fiddle,
She carries her box of wires around
Which listen all day to her heart.
When will she make music again?

Time doesn’t even drip;
It drags
Hobbles painfully
Down to the loo; lurching lopsidedly;
The only place where I can be alone.
My heart hurts
Deep inside
The regular thumping against my breast bone disconcerting;
Fire on the skin..
But it’s beating strongly, strongly, strongly . . .

The confident surgeon-
He of the roast lamb stitches -
Gives me terrifying news:
If they hadn’t kept me in when they did
I would have been an emergency
Within a week.
But he also says that I can go.
If I can shuffle round the block and
Clump up and down some stairs!
This good news
Confounds the dawn’s angry threatening.
So Phase Two begins.

Adam’s birthday moon  9.2.01
Adam’s birthday moon sails low,
Its menacing bright orange face patched with
Indigo ink-blot features
Moved across it by our speeding car;
It’s Groucho Marx, but more frightening.
The unnatural disc slides out behind buildings,
Giving spice to our happy journey.


Oxford to Edinburgh 17.2.01
Leaving the sun at Oxford
We slide across brimming brown rivers;
Mazy floods silver the ploughed meadows.

White radar discs like giant plates
Half hidden behind a mound
Listen to the east -
To what voices?

Moored canal boats at Heyford:
More brown water rubbing boundaries out,
Joining meanders to the marshes,
Fog blurring white waters into sky.

Canal bridges spring over the water ribbon.
So many long boats!  What happens when
They all start to move?

Three railway-lines coincide,
Sliding together
At a derelict signal box.

The canal wanders less than the winding river,
Its course marked by willow brushes;
The rail track bending only in giant curves.

What’s that black mound?  No coat tip here?
The north bound A4220 crosses on an embankment - Banbury.
It was a bright gold summer dawn
When I last left here for London,
Full of optimism.
Contrast the cold grey mist of February:
I’m content.

Big cranes hover over Banbury:
The smell of Marmite smarms the air.
Sinusoidal drainage undulates the sheeps’ feeding field.
Almost white-out: the brown field disappears.
The mist seems to arise in wisps
Out of the ploughed earth.
Goods wagons whisk by, staccato.

Leamington Spa: open spandrels and saw tooth trellis,
White stucco and spiky church pinnacles.
A boy, brown hair spiked stiff
Slumps, immediately asleep
In the seat opposite.

I’ve already finished the cheese baguette,
Its hard edges scraping my mouth’s soft tissue -
How will I last out the long miles
All the way to Edinburgh?

This morning I found more of
the Ashmolean’s treasures:
Roman copies of the Greek ideal,
Some static and hierarchic,
some swirling in turning movement.
Beyond, a huge fragmented torso:
“Ichyphallic”, his hand
holding his phantom giant root,
His chest disced by scapings for holy dust.
What strange, fearful ceremonies
Focused on him?

Runic patterns, enhanced in red and black,
Gift of a Swedish king
Face a porphyry Roman head;
Byzantine icons glimmering under the stairs.

Gentle insistent harpsichord patterns and chords
draw me upwards:
A beautiful calm blond woman plays,
her regular rhythms
unfazed by the sudden ebbs and flows of tourists
gazing at citherns, the Messiah Stradivarius, curious
guitars with inset intricate geometric architecture
shaping the sound holes.

We cross a majestic river
Chocolate brown, tree fringed
In brighter light.
We cross - the M 40?
The sun a pale yellow disc
sailing above us,
lights up paper, plastic waterbottle, silver CD player
of the girl across the table.

Spring green geometrically patterned behind us -
Coventry.  We slide past a
Yellow compacting machine.
The brakes jerk off - making the girl opposite grin
in astonishment.
The train’s filling up,
Every seat taken.
“Only five minutes late” - for a Virgin train?
Caught by a sudden chill of Coventry-cold air,
I sneeze heavily, drawing sidelong glances.
Factories fill the valley, their long roofs and blank sides
Parallel the track.
Wiggly oaks, trunks craggy grey-green, loom
Over grey rock outcrops.
Tall pines march by at Berkwell: more floods where
A man fishes, immobile.

The blind man taps by me in his grey jazzed shirt,
grey zigzags, and white patches, black plaqueted.
He’s been looking with love at the bright baby girl
Talking to her with animation, but
I cannot see her response.

Ample views are now visible, pink earth of a
drowned flood plain.

The Florentine profile of a girl beside me,
Her hands composedly clasped as she sleeps,
Impresses me with stillness, as the train draws us
smoothly northwards.

A giant red angle anchors the frame of
Birmingham International Business Centre.
No-one gets off.
The station’s been reclad in profiled steel sheet,
plum-red and grey.
Plastic flowers: ferns and geraniums,
hang from red square columns.
Another starting jerk - bad driving or bad maintenance?
“Cross-country service for Edinburgh”.
The sun’s reflected, irridescent, on a factory.
BA planes wait ready in a holding bay.
The runway circuit re-emerges on one side,
Tower blocks march away on the other.
Right: closely packed car capsules gleam, a metal mosaic.
Bridge rush, catenaries our train doesn’t need, overhead.

Three tall silver flues, black tipped -
A gleaming steel palisade of fence
keeps out boys who live in the houses,
Red roofs regimented.
“Ten minutes to Birmingham New Street”.
Brake grinding roar through bramble thickets and rubbish-strewn cutting.
30s factory: “Arthur Holden and Sons”’
heaps of broken brick.
Board School - one of the good ones - red brick and blackened stone;
Container yard: yellow giant cranes
poised over the trackbeds;
Logged containers piled up in asymmetrical stacks.
Double arched railway embankment rises over us,
a wiggly single track beside it.
Cement stacks...
“Strikingly low prices: £15, £20...”.  What of?

Neo-classical pillared hall by
large new horizontally striped
glass megastructure - office/factory?

“Very much to time.
Birmingham New Street Your next Station Call”.
People heave upwards as we slide
over the bumpy crossing points into darkness, but -
Good - upwards:
The circular Bullring’s still there: “Offices to let”,
Its podium a counter curve.

Train windows pattern the dark;
And we’re out again in the sun, and still. I. 30.
Layers of grimy concrete, algaed, rear into the place blue sky

An Indian/black family hovers, uncertain,
Put off by the cardboard reservation dockets
For seats which nobody’s come to claim.
We’re off - past dirty aluminium walkways, towers, offices, warehouses...
Birmingham’s complex urban fabric fills in the space
both below us, and the sky view.

“Service on time.  Please keep the aisles clear as
This will be your only means of escape in case of evacuation”.
I don’t want to think of those deaths in Hatfield...
BT’s studded cauliflower-stalk tower, flats, houses, old warehouses,
canals, dirty churches, red and green trains...
We slide over blue brick bridges;
piled rubbish slides downs slopes. 
Criss cross of rail lines..
“Ravenance metals”.
The blink man clicks his plastic pole together.
Mother and daughter opposite me munch, ruminative,
on chocolate biscuits.

Gorse gleam at Gatton Bridge;
Poplars, pre-spring, have a yellow glimmer

Much later….
We draw into Waverley’s deep groove.
At last



Found and Lost, or Sail and Return

The sea breathes heavily,
Its scouring pull
Drags down the pebble beach
In regular roars.

I run up the gun bank, camera ready
To record Nottingham’s return,
Grey/black, piggy back,
On the monster pink SeaWise carrier, Swan.
It’s steamed around the world
Bearing the stricken ship:
Stern ripped on Australian rock,
All the way from Sydney:
Sea to sea.

The two ships’ final stages
Coincide with Adam’s last leg flight
From Sydney,
After a month
Auditing Sydney Water.
He’s been living life
More abundantly –
As Christ promised we would
In his first coming.

Bundled people
Stare, excited and cold
Through the December halflight;
High tide lacing the promenade,
At the pink ship’s turned flanks;
Its lighted tugs pulling and slowing
At bow and stern.

My first shot’s framed by tamarisk.
I try to capture the ships’ steady movement
Faster than walking pace,
With a frieze of watchers along the railings.
I wait till the ships’re framed
In the harbour entrance;
The naval war memorial
A right-hand sentinel.

Then my frozen right hand tells me
I’ve dropped my warm green glove.
I retrace my steps, this time
Facing into the bitter east wind.
No sign of glove;

But ship and son are coming home!

December 2002

Hot Walk to Caunos               September 2005


“Been up to Caunos?”
“Yes”.  “Very hot, isn’t it?
That’s one thing about this place,
Nobody rushes here, really”.

Little germs of sweetness:
pomegranate explosions in my mouth:
the hard seed’s eaten by the brown hen beneath my feet:
“Sidé”: pale lemon rind reveals the opalescent pearls within;
each with its pink fishlike nucleus
tightly enclosed in a complicated yellow architecture.
The old man had just a few garden fruits to sell.

Flowers flourish in the heat:
Autumn crocus: paper white quills, centred by delicate golden stamens.
Tiny purple bee orchids, stalks breeze-stirred, their place
on the rocks marked by a twist of paper in the wire fence.

We’re delighted to see
the ancient theatre’s carved stone tiers aren’t empty:
a tortoise noses carefully through broken stone,
oblivious to us, until
I screech, hand punctured by sharp purple thistle spikes
as I try to photograph them – and Deane’s feet.

This dizzying heat’s tempered
with a lovely breeze playing over the rock saddle
between the river and the sea,
where the mysterious Caunians built their city.
The theatre’s dug into the mountain
at the highest point, looking over
the twin harbours; the sea,
backdrop to the actors.

Adam plays with his camera close-up,
and thinks of happiness with Tony,
and the old lady who sold them orange juice, freshly squeezed
here, one day in April.

The massive sixth century church was built
On much older structures;
the cross prominent over the doorway;
red marble flooring, side aisle columns, a lacy capital,
but it has no roof, the solid doorways fallen in, crooked.

There was a bishop here when it was new;
but malaria killed the city,
turning the citizens green:
mosquitoes bred on the silted up harbours…
Then no-one lived here
until malaria was conquered
in the 1920s.

So Dalyan’s a new town – only the mosque looks old,
but the site on the river’s oxbow’s perfect:
the rock cut temple tombs eloquent testimony to earlier people
who relished this special place.

The late sun warms us as we sit, contented,
By the river fringed with wide splayed pleasure boats
under the spreading eucalyptus trees:

“Planted by Greeks”.

Moon over Minaret       24th September 2005

In keen anticipation of moon over water…
my birthday treat’s not cancelled after all;
not waiting in vain, we board, with Fred and Diana from Bedford,
the hospitable boat, settling down
on the ample thwarts, happy as children
who can hardly bear
sharp-toothed disappointment.

The broad green river, tall reeded margins,
slides round high limestone cliffs;
sudden jasmine scent’s a topnote to the river water.
I try to capture solid pink cloud-blooms on my film,
tethered to the pointed mountains,
as we spill into the lake’s vast, darkening
expanse.  Even
forwarned by the map,
I’d no idea of its immensity,
Stopped to the north by a huge triangular mountain:
snow-capped in winter, over Köycegiz.

Indulgently,
they give me the helm,
which I manage without
relinquishing my wine glass.
“Happy birthday” seems to have the same tune
in Turkish….

I twice exult in the black water-lines, seen,
and mirrored again on my camera,
As we motor steadily to distant lights.
Fred’s interesting, but his London voice
Goes on too much.
I’d rather have silence
To live fully in this experience
Of movement over water.
We land; I meet German Maria
on the way to the loo hut under the trees.
another northerner choosing Turkish magic.

Black water laps a promontory
crowned with a circular pit
What are the log seats for?
Two ducks chat quietly;
at first I thought they were frogs.

We eat: flattened chicken, salty lamb-balls, onion-tomato-aubergine –
and spiralled pasta, a little drunk
on harsh red wine.
Adam has a second meal with the locals –
small fat birds with stick-thin legs
upended in rich bean sauce:
they offer me a mouthful.

From then, the evening becomes stranger:
Magical, dislocated.
Our boatmen bring wood to the firepit.
Over the flame
the wish to connect across cultures through song
pulls Molly Malone, Danny Boy, Tipperary..
out of our memories.
The boatmen reply with swooping Turkish love songs.
Then two other groups draw into the circle,
and Funda’s wonderful half-tones
electrify and connect us all –
both unutterably strange
and unmistakably universal:
melancholy Azeri songs of parting,
in this vast unpeopled space.

Reluctantly we leave them,
Rushing down a glass of scalding tea,
cooled with slips of melon.

One boatman disappears, drunk under the cushions.
“I had too much raki.  I was seeing double” Osman tells us later.

Did some vast cataclysm
create this enormous crater?
Dense stars clot into thickened clusters;
Milky Way vault
holds down the lake;
starshine polishes black water to a sheen.
Suddenly the distant town’s lights go out:
a greater darkness under heaven’s lights.
The boatman’s steering straight as a die
Past the glittering hot spring’s dome.
Mars glimmers red
at the end of its barred reflection.

Suddenly a gleaming demonic eye
glares at us from over the distant mountain:
orange, segmental;
- to us northerners,
on its back: the waning moon
throws an elegant zig-zag
gold ripple
over our widening wake.

Turkish pipes and drums skirl and thrum to us
over the water from the Denizkizi restaurant;
Imagined movement echoes the rhythm of its name:
Mermaid.

The florescent tipped minaret,
moon-anchored -
pinpoints our landing:
unerring, deftly, we dock,
delighted and dreaming.

Morning Boat to Market

Above us: orange/grey limestone crags
slotted/probed by
man or nature:
to rest the dead – or to
create new life in nests, among
feathery green/yellow pines with long down pointing needles.

Steady engine hammer cuts our furrow through
cool breeze over green water.
The three of us are content – well breakfasted, postcards written,
at our stately progress
through the enormous amphitheatre.
The boat unreels lace edges to our wake.

“I think I saw a turtle!
Something came out of the water and went back in”.
A flotilla of fat boats
freighted with expectation
heads with us towards the market
at the top of the lake.
“I’d like a white shirt”
“I want a new watch strap – green –
and some new glasses – if I can get them made in time –
and Catherine’s congratulatory blue/bag.”
Deane saw a flying fish
jump out of the water:
I’m too slow to see it, busy writing….
The boatman’s reading a book.
He looks like Paul Newman.

Ahead, rank on rank of lavender blue ridges;
clouds rest heavily on their tops.
No fishermen – maybe they start earlier – or
they’re too many fish in the sea.
Humans here seem insignificant, peripheral; but then:
two yellow boats, with many flags, one two-storeyed,
hung with yellow/brown baskers,
lash us with their indigo wake.

Is that pine scent from  the rocky red island?
“I think I might have seen a tortoise under the rock there”.
Below us, sun reaches the shallow lake floor.
The boatman takes a narrow channel
between sparse reeds.
Not quite a mirror,
the lake’s blue milk widens.
Two towns glitter vaguely on the mountain’s flanks.
The boatman plays pop music,
loblolly singing, master of his boat,
he nods in time.
As we pass a man snorkelling off another boat –
down there must be something interesting to see,
Suddenly the boatman stops us dead.
“D’you want to swim?
The lake’s ten metres deep here,
over a village drown in a 1940s earthquake.
Horror - and ecstasy.
We delight in lake taste – not seasalt –
As the immensity of water shoulders us blessedly,
like St. Christopher,
but immersed, not carried high.
The surface warp shimmers lavender and blue,
Woven with woolly white weft:
Coverlet over the dead.

“This boat’s had a few knocks”
“Maybe when Osman’s driving…”
Adam scares me by diving under the boat.
I strike rapidly round,
to make sure he emerges
from the other side.

Paul Newman’s a plasterer in England in the winter.
He wants a job in Wimbledon –
his girlfriend Sarah’s there.
Our other passenger’s a plasterer from Chelmsford.
Think what the boatman’d miss:
This peerless lake;
slow days ferrying foreigners across,
and down the winding river to the sea.
But each day much the same.

As we approach Köycegiz,.
the lake’s shirred surface almost becomes a moiré …
Reluctant landfall
Breaks our boat bubble.

Shropshire Songs October 2004

Nightmare and the Golden Syrup Tin


ìOut of strength [and death] came forth sweetnessÖî
The bees swarm up from the lion’s carcass -
So the thrill of Sam’s Mass
Soars from the violence
of his death;
setting the hairs of my inner ear a-dance.

The mouth of the gun
Mimics my desperate dance
To avoid the man
Who wants to kill me -
Only waking from nightmare
Saves me from him.

In the pitchblack door way
I collide with Deane’s soft body.
Comfort comes as he abraids my back,
And loves me.

So I’m alive, when
A year ago I might have died.
The disgusting fat’s
Not oozing from cigarettes,
But parent-bequeathed, it
Clogged my arteries.
In February five times
Bypassed.

So I lived, to experience
Horror, joy, and comforting
Over and again.

Survival
I feel a vague
Astonishment in retrospect:
I’m still alive.

A year ago I was failing,
Any exertion bought on searing pain.
I stopped, gasping, in tears, having to rest
In stages up the steep Ironbridge slopes;
But triumphant
To have made it, as I cleared the crest.
My face was grey.
My heart was failing
But I did not know it.
Returning from Liverpool

Double rainbow over Lime Street Station
Delights us through our drenching.
Pink light over the chemical works –
Its reek filters into the car.
ì49 Iraqui police recruits massacred in civiesÖî

Domed oaks define fields, silhouetted
Against grey storm cloud.
A giant white cloud
Theatrically lit
By the ovoid moon;
Its silver rim cuts through
Iron-grey skeins and shawls of vapour.

ìMy sister’s bought an apartment in Nice.
Their Georgian house in Dublin will be worth millionsÖî

In the car, scone crumbs litter our wet trousers..
Satisfaction at a dramatic day
Feeds our spirits as we power southwards
To our cowshed cottage on Harmer Hill.
Deane lowers the window to smell the rain.
ìYou’re looking much better todayî.
I’m pleased:
My aching legs and feet stood up to
Pounding the Liverpool pavements;
I shot off two films, and enveloped them,
To fix memories of a special day.


Friendship

Canal water the colour of Darjeeling tea
Flows above the Dee from Horseshoe Falls
We amble – happy,
Squelching through muddy patches, beside
Brown water seeded with gold and crimson leaves
Beauty and friendship richly together.


Pilgrims to Siena
June 16 2004


Academic pilgrims
Crowd into the sombre marble Aula Magna,
University of Siena
For the Prigogine Lecture.
We come for knowledge
Of all that moves (in) the earth.
Religious pilgrims
For the promise
Of Eternal Life.

Danish professor
Following Galileo Galilei’s dictum:
‘Measure everything that can be measured;
And make what cannot be measured, measurable’
Ranges across the world;
Measuring eco-diversity
In plants and fish-
In Turkish lakes
And in violently created new land
Of the Surtsey volcano.

They came, footsore and subject to robbers,
From northern Europe
Along the Via Francigena,
The road to Rome.
Given shelter in Siena’s
Majestic frescoed Pilgrim Hall in
Santa Maria della Scala:
The first hospital in Europe, founded
To tend their ills.

We came, by air and train,
Brain-sore, trying to fit our heads
Round ‘exergy’, ‘eutrophication’, ‘benthic’, and ‘ventose’..
To me a foreign landscape, or
Obsure prism over the natural world.
The man next to me-
Restless- disagrees with the speaker?
Texts to somewhere else.

The professor concludes:
‘We do have a new ecosystem theory!!’
‘Why do we not a apply it to ecological engineering?’
‘A world education!!!’
‘Using all possible explanations..’
My neighbour leaves..and the rest clap loudly;
So they must hear something significant
I am deaf to.
Wise owl professor sums up:
The medal winner’s
Established new relations between
Thermodynamics and ecology.
His achievement’s marked by a
Blare from Sienese trumpeters
In yellow and black tabards.


In our world
Nationality’s dissolved:
Knowledge’s everyone’s.
Italians honour a Dane;
On the high table an Argentinian
Leads a university in England;
Multi-lingual audience filtering what’s being said,
All in our language: English!

In the pilgrims’ world, Latin was the lingua franca;
The kingdom, Heaven’s.

Siena

Swifts’ drive-bomber-ballet
Fills the small bit of sky
Still sunlit.

Their screams sometimes audible
Above the Campo’s human hubbub.
The shell shape scoops sounds together,
Multiplies and plaits them
Into an opera,
Dog-bark punctuated.

The passagiero’s
Made balletic:
Little girl chases pigeons,
Lovers lean together;
Silk dresses flounce past, on stilts;
Tourists sulk at cold spaghetti- but
‘Your clouds pass remarkably quickly!’


March(ing) in Dorset
March 14 1999


On Creech Down, coconut breath of gorse cuts through
Clean downland air
Winter woods comb the sunlight;
Tanks crump.
Eager dog fields greedy lambs in winter wheat,
But the farmer’s wife
Gallops to foil others:
“Silly sheep!”.

Sam’s birthday’s the dark
Undertone of our walking talk.

Michael, foot bound, digests the Sunday prints, then
Draws the landscape’s flowing lines.
The view’s incomparable:
Westering ridge backs run
From Needle’s shining white chalk wedge
To Portland’s dark blue sawn-off slope.
Poole Harbour’s ellipses,
Pale blue defined by indigo shadow.

Sunlight’s searchlight gleams on:
Yellow sand, white clay, khaki tanks, field mosaics, gleaming towns..
Southwards, sea glitters beyond the land’s last uprearing,
One power boat’s wake cuts through the silver blue.
Close up in the Kimmeridge pub yard,
The sun’s low angle etches every dry stone texture.

Incomparable day, incomparable Dorset.

Dark Places - Secrecy and Technology Bus Tour - The Cold War Legacy in the South with John Hansard Gallery 23 January 2010

Earth:
yellow Chilbolton mud, blond Chilmark stone.

Fire:
grams of explosive’s intentional burst
demonstrates to eager students
containment’s greater power.

Water:

January’s rain
overbrimming rivers, lakes.

Air:
Porton Down remains invisible,
but on the bus’s screen
we see “geospatial intelligence”:
purposeful streams of
electronic particles
communicate:
Death – or Counter-Death.

Invisible nets use
“Geodynamic recognition”
to identify
“Ballistic missile infestation”
via “single line of space access solutions”, to
“ensure global precision strikes”,
“disrupting the adversary’s space advantages….”

Dynamic graphics:
scything arms always in rotation:
linked by sparking lines.
Bullet missiles dodge and flare
inside security’s web, emerging to counter
outside aggression,
converging on enemy’s menace:
They penetrate sea, air, space
via “analysis software”,
aimed to produce

Explosions of Unimaginable Force.
Result: “Debris Field ….”

Dinton Park, Fovant,
Iwerne Minster, Compton Abbas,
Fontwell Magna, Stourpaine…
Dorset villages grind slowly past:
sodden, but shouldered
by ancient hills,
people-shaped.
Humans moved over centuries
downward  from menaced hill forts
into the weather-sheltered valleys.

Present past and horrid future
Surreally juxtaposed.

Pegasus Bridge
Royal Signals Museum 23 January 2010
David John Willison RE  Born 25 December 1919
Died Andover March 30 2009

That model:

the bridge and Grondet café
where his life was saved,
forced me to face
my father’s nearly last hour,
together with
his actual passing.

Neck severely wounded
by jagged shrapnel
at D-Day plus I or 2,
My feelings’re
Unresolved
About his death.

Sorrow – not much.
Pity – a little.
Hatred – still a slow fuse.
But – mostly, pride,
in his fierce courage under fire.

Shropshire Songs October 2004

Out of strength [and death] came forth sweetnessÖî
The bees swarm up from the lion’s carcass -
So the thrill of Sam’s Mass
Soars from the violence
of his death;
setting the hairs of my inner ear a-dance.

The mouth of the gun
Mimics my desperate dance
To avoid the man
Who wants to kill me -
Only waking from nightmare
Saves me from him.

In the pitchblack door way
I collide with Deane’s soft body.
Comfort comes as he abraids my back,
And loves me.

So I’m alive, when
A year ago I might have died.
The disgusting fat’s
Not oozing from cigarettes,
But parent-bequeathed, it
Clogged my arteries.
In February five times
Bypassed.

So I lived, to experience
Horror, joy, and comforting
Over and again.

Survival
I feel a vague
Astonishment in retrospect:
I’m still alive.

A year ago I was failing,
Any exertion bought on searing pain.
I stopped, gasping, in tears, having to rest
In stages up the steep Ironbridge slopes;
But triumphant
To have made it, as I cleared the crest.
My face was grey.
My heart was failing
But I did not know it.
Returning from Liverpool

Double rainbow over Lime Street Station
Delights us through our drenching.
Pink light over the chemical works –
Its reek filters into the car.
ì49 Iraqui police recruits massacred in civiesÖî

Domed oaks define fields, silhouetted
Against grey storm cloud.
A giant white cloud
Theatrically lit
By the ovoid moon;
Its silver rim cuts through
Iron-grey skeins and shawls of vapour.

ìMy sister’s bought an apartment in Nice.
Their Georgian house in Dublin will be worth millionsÖî

In the car, scone crumbs litter our wet trousers..
Satisfaction at a dramatic day
Feeds our spirits as we power southwards
To our cowshed cottage on Harmer Hill.
Deane lowers the window to smell the rain.
ìYou’re looking much better todayî.
I’m pleased:
My aching legs and feet stood up to
Pounding the Liverpool pavements;
I shot off two films, and enveloped them,
To fix memories of a special day.

 
Pilgrims to Siena
June 16 2004


Academic pilgrims
Crowd into the sombre marble Aula Magna,
University of Siena
For the Prigogine Lecture.
We come for knowledge
Of all that moves (in) the earth.
Religious pilgrims
For the promise
Of Eternal Life.

Danish professor
Following Galileo Galilei’s dictum:
‘Measure everything that can be measured;
And make what cannot be measured, measurable’
Ranges across the world;
Measuring eco-diversity
In plants and fish-
In Turkish lakes
And in violently created new land
Of the Surtsey volcano.

They came, footsore and subject to robbers,
From northern Europe
Along the Via Francigena,
The road to Rome.
Given shelter in Siena’s
Majestic frescoed Pilgrim Hall in
Santa Maria della Scala:
The first hospital in Europe, founded
To tend their ills.

We came, by air and train,
Brain-sore, trying to fit our heads
Round ‘exergy’, ‘eutrophication’, ‘benthic’, and ‘ventose’..
To me a foreign landscape, or
Obsure prism over the natural world.
The man next to me-
Restless- disagrees with the speaker?
Texts to somewhere else.

The professor concludes:
‘We do have a new ecosystem theory!!’
‘Why do we not a apply it to ecological engineering?’
‘A world education!!!’
‘Using all possible explanations..’
My neighbour leaves..and the rest clap loudly;
So they must hear something significant
I am deaf to.
Wise owl professor sums up:
The medal winner’s
Established new relations between
Thermodynamics and ecology.
His achievement’s marked by a
Blare from Sienese trumpeters
In yellow and black tabards.

In our world
Nationality’s dissolved:
Knowledge’s everyone’s.
Italians honour a Dane;
On the high table an Argentinian
Leads a university in England;
Multi-lingual audience filtering what’s being said,
All in our language: English!

In the pilgrims’ world, Latin was the lingua franca;
The kingdom, Heaven’s.


Summer in Sweden  July 2007 Leksand

Brown wavelets
undulate
the yellow water lilies.

Cool flows the air
through the hissing silver birches.
Sharp and sweet –
the wild raspberries in my mouth.

Vetch and tansy, tangled
line my path.
The white windows are quiet
in the red houses.

The lake, wind-ruffled blue, is
framed by spiked pine;
the sudden sun
gleams.


To Suomenlinna  May 2008

Black clouds scud across the moon.
The market place – where the ferry’s supposed to go
Is dark, deserted, cold.

After our tedious five hours’ wait at Heathrow
We nearly missed the plane,
Not hearing final announcement of departure.

We sit in a glass hut
hungry, tired and anxious,
Another three quarters of an hour
For the ferry:
Glad of our fur boots and hats, but
Not knowing where we’re going to stay on the island,
Or how to summon the driver,
If the brewery’s closed.

The oil-black water’s
Hardly stirred
By our gliding motion.
Smiling sailors sit with us, relaxed;
But when we land – finally –
On Suomenlinna
They form up and march
Back to the academy.

The brewery’s windows are blank - at 10.35…
No help – hopeless,
We stand in the freezing wind.
But a friendly Finn
Quietly phones Directory Inquiries,
Finds the driver’s number,
And Timo comes in an
Elegant grey van.

To slake our hunger and thirst
He negotiates in an army bar
For beer and toasties.
Long-haired men
Drink quietly
Surrounded by shell cases,
Pennants and wooden panels.
In single words we find things to share:
Timo’s eyes sparkle
At Deane’s drawings.
He unlocks his workshop:
We find: Aalto shapes in Carrara marble, and in
A wooden slatted cocktail table;
Eroded German armour plating
Lit, lace-like;
Metal, wood guitars;
A spinning top loaded with nail men,
Accompanied, torch-lit, by jazz trumpet…

Sharing his joy in creation;
We’re cheered, warm;
Fall happily into
Our barrack beds.