By Windover Hill

No rich patron for St Andrew’s Church,
unmoved by digging at historical facts,
dropped, slumped, almost marooned,
leaving it off-centred on Alfriston’s Tye,

a cross set high on a rough mound,
above the bezier-curves of The Ouse,
of her flood-carved meanders,
kept from the village by a low flint wall,

this house sits, quiet, above the tide,
that moon’s claim upon timed rises,
which shift according to typed charts,
there is more than one God working here.

This low Cathedral of the Downs
will always be half-framed by the slope
of that grazed slant of Windover Hill,
unsure of the Long Man’s presence.

Inspired by – Keith Pettit

The Inheritor

I let my grey hair over-grow,
wear out dead man donated clothes,

I occasionally tap paths with my worn-down stick,
missing the beat of my off-time limp.

I’ve been re-set by a strangle, unseen,
I am less of a man, a reduction in mien,

offended by nature not playing it straight?
I eye the barrel of pain’s aimed complaints.

‘Life’s unfair,’ she spat out the words,
a line which I’ll refuse to rehearse.

But forty years later my recall has grown
of my mother’s bile rising, I swallow my own..

Life is fair, it is in agreement,
until we are held up by our parents,

then their bias, that family axiom:
We make our own lives by not repeating them.

I let my grey hairs over-grow,
wearing out dead man donated clothes.

Field Work

I write this, aching from my simple effort,
now bench-propped, on Luxford Field,
with car shunts and engine revs behind me,
then killed, still, replaced (for now) by birdsong.

This afternoon, under ripe end-of-March sun,
(we will judge once more with warming fears),
I wave at the future,  upright in a buggy,
trundled up the path, bobbled over lifted roots.

And then the farcical entry of a dog shocks
the three matte pigeons, and a shined rook,
which lift away, leaving the expanse empty,
untimely, far too early for the annual fair,

it’s arrival to be rung by the hammering of pegs.
That fun, on this field, is still a drought away,
until then there will be the scattering of litter,
couples snogging, and teenagers swigging.

But today, with this lunch hour to be consumed,
and low warmth enjoyed, the town joins me
in the old art of laying, uniform, on the grass;
one skill which we were taught well at school.


 

Abiogenesis

You too have climbed
from the alluvial swamp
of youth, of immaturity,
that dark cloy which sticks,
a viscid ignorance,

up from that shallow place
to our adapted older-selves,
without His re-engineering,
One’s dulled interest long lost –

ever since J. Robert Oppenheimer
re-purposed the identity of God,
and made mankind the last hope.
‘Survival of the fittest,’  is questioned,

but we stand, good, on two legs,
presently erect on this planet,
us, the last keepers of the foul waters
in which we clean our children,


Before

Each weekend was a curst return
from pitch-black,
boot-filled, lifeless ditches,
each boy scolded for deep cuts
and rips off furrow-tripped meadows.

We ranged, untouchable, free,
across fallow farmland,
never knowing every acre was doomed.
The River Addle, our course of choice,
went first, piped and diverted.

Next came the laying of black lanes
for shot past trucks and cars  –
killing machines, legally driven,
which then road-blocked our crossings.

Our wild life was inequally divided
by over-takings and lines of sped death,
cutting us off from the dark woods,
that far copse of unmanaged oak

which, before they lay the orbital road,
was our furthest-ever destination
on our stone-kicked roamings,
in squelch-squeezed Wellies.

We had read nature’s encyclopedia
within the oaks’ shadowy gloom –
the same woods where Dad
had me shoot all that moved.

HRH

I have danced on the stage
at the Royal Albert Hall,
sidled a swept Princess
and a hundred-like fools.

Their rules of movement,
to me unsaid,
I turned to a tune,
not that which played.

I spun below domes,
under the clouds of song,
with a woman so slight,
because ballet is wrong:

Their rules of movement,
to me set blind,
I turned from their tune,
not the dancing kind.

From Kensington Gore
dropped on to Queen’s Gate,
ripped fast from the ball
by my own complaint.

Their rules of movement,
to me mistimed,
I removed from that tune,
that which was mine.

Take me from such
dance floors and grace,
I have no true patience
to keep me engaged.


 

I Should Retire

The mean clock is doing it,
the balancing trick, ten-ten,
as ever the secondhand there
timed it, re-ticked on cue,

aligned with the brief minute’s
late-late reach to the far right,
just as I looked, synchronised,
to check another missed hour,

and I should retire at this point,
not too late, never, ever too late,
but for a man (of so many years)
it is so correct to consider such,

as others’ worlds spin in beer rounds,
long wet snogs, and streamed films:
I shall find comfort in a double bed,
propped-up pillows and hope,

whilst fitter men, soaked in bitter,
fuck-and-dance, dance-and-fuck,
in beer-washed sticky nightclubs,
swiped by Tinder, as I sleep soundly

through their infectious ribaldry,
and not have to hear the repeat
of chat-up lines I re-rehearsed
back in 1982, but never copyrighted,

then there was no intellectual theft,
instead we stole left-over half pints
and lengthening kisses with strangers,
to return to single beds in shared houses,

waking to cold kebabs at ten past ten.

Mutants

Princess Anne loves genetic crops,
she’s inbred-proof it really works,
there’s other experiments in mutation
displaying success beyond expectation:

Trump and Putin re-mixed the truth,
and now the States is democratic proof
that all it takes is a misogynist’s grab
to be Putin’s pussy; sat there on his lap.

This isle, set adrift by Farage’s caper,
limp as cold chips wrapped in newspaper,
is turning into another Gulliver’s find,
becoming a nation of the very small kind.

As toxic shocks of religion have shown
mix god with politics and here Hell will grow,
add in racism, bestow false hopes,
and the future becomes a right royal joke.

The Reader

A slight detour on the way home
to find my maybe-Quaker silence,
there, behind the shelved volumes,
in the near-silent reading room,
under zero gravity conditions –
just an old man’s licked turn
of an immaculate newspaper,
upon which he then comments,
so entering an amplified communion
with his just-arrived lady friend:
‘Shall we abandon this place?’
is his loud enquiry, almost to all.
And with his launch our vacuum
of unspoken words returns.

Numbered

He was born too late for ’21,
by ’68 he burnt with the charge:

Delivered 1950 in Bogside,
(part-named after Pope Pius XII),

the second of seven of Derry,
by fifteen years old a butcher.

Then to other blood at eighteen,
(after Fitt was struck in ’68),

and just one year later he was
Derry’s second-in-command:

A man at twenty-one counting
the dead after a bloody seventh day.

Politics’ cloak worn in the early 70’s,
but Mountbatten died on Shadow V:

Your man was the IRA’s number one,
that day when eighteen sons died.

By ’93 he was welcomed in London,
seeking peace within Number 10.

He lived 3,500 weeks, two sides,
and over that time 3,500 died.


 

The Piano

I lifted the hinged lid
of our upright piano
to find the centrifugal
of her studied song,

to listen to the hammers’
strikes, soft and loud,
in her found piece
on well-rehearsed keys:

but all I could sense
was what I breathed in,
back with the same smell
of my grandfather’s home,

sat again in his foreign fug
of deep wax and old wood,
back to a lost performance
sent by the piano’s opened belly:

There I slipped the cloy of voices,
to explore his own orchestra
of orderly outdoor plantings,
to escape the staining odours.


The Last Man in Europe

I see Eric Blair, upright, thin,
his bottom lip fag-lowered,
stiffly at his carried Remington,
posed at the high round keys,

which he knew too well, the sound
of a-e-i-o-u, those strikes
at very-necessary English vowels,
on fret-ish presses, in haste, to complete

The Novel – over coughs, those near-death
rattled expulsions, then later
to another hospital, long after a sniper’s
bullet fell him, blood-mouthed, in Spain.

He removed all his loved from the centre
to the offset Isle of Jura, an Astor invitation,
to her blanket bogs and Brecan’s whirlpool,
which his one-legged brother-in-law swam:

Eric could not row from that same draw,
instead he was guided to a shipwreck
upon a skerry, only to drown,
not much later, in a rip-tide of blood.


She Walked Out

Touch lightly his then bared back,
so harden his limp-loose skin,
walk close into unplanned shadows,
test his strength in kisses of sin,
offer yourself over would-be lovers,
those harpies who prop the bar,
remove him from lowly temptations,
place your centre in his cold hands,
let his fingers then loosen your hair,
and pull hard on your buttoned-self,
strip him down in your unsaid dreams,
gorge on him, let him fill, live well.


 

Derek Walcott, 1930-2017

‘Rhyme remains the parenthesis of palms,’
possibly misquoted, by myself, not the man,
that islander, playwright, poet, and giant,
gifted in language: ‘one of the chosen.’

Born under flesh-stained colonial rule,
he ran fast ‘cross the pink law of the Empire’s tongue:
stood huge on a platform, with Seamus and verse,
to see off the trains commuting their words.

It was the tidal returns, the moon’s low fold,
which refilled the pen he always held:
that implement, squat, was his quick mouthpiece,
the wordy, Saint Lucian, commander of language.

Along Brodsky, and Heaney, he will loudly reverb,
as his silent waves rise on sand-scribed words:
and the triumvirate will laugh at their own bawdy jokes,
in their office of tongues those three foreigners spoke.


 

The Flood

Evangelina Chamorro Díaz
climbed, primal, from the flood,
risen from muckled timbers,
smothered in Creation’s mud.

Heavy oxen struggled for land,
as Jesus Hidalgo filmed the girl,
some held out calloused hands
to return her to this world.

The deluge, instructed by God,
heaven-sent to test belief –
the sunken cattle didn’t know,
because God is a lying thief.

Evangelina Chamorro Díaz,
on slowed limbs from that slime,
an ascent of natural selection,
proving God isn’t on our side.


Story here.
Video here

Ozymandias

Lifted from water, brown as the Nile’s,
he was found under Cairo’s dust-slums,
in a bare-foot place of disrepair,

(another ruin to make Shelley smile),
given up, again, to the constant sun,
him, the lost King, Ozymandias.

uncovered, “boundless and bare” –
from under the city’s ruined piles,
in a three-tonne bucket, he becomes

the brief provider of a foul rain,
as the mud, which was newly carved,
slipped back to the dragged-at hole

from which he, the busted Ramses,
was shifted, ignobly pulled.


News Story Here