Above the Ouse

Here are the random spillages
of sorrel-glazed sweet chestnuts –
an overnight downed bounty
which has settled on the layers
of leaves and paths underneath

The splayed-open spiky cupules
offer – like unclipped purses –
their copper-only change –
I finger out those fattened nuts
which were once so desired
to fill the bowls of soldiers –

As I gather – not easy work for me –
the loosened crop on my route –
they mass to make my pockets
weigh as if full of dreadful stones –
but these will not pull me under

At Anfield

The scouser outside
the pub gave a stare
at our unashamed
blue and white colours

from behind
his circular eye glass –
with it’s stretched froth
and shallow backwash –

he spied our short cut
through the car park
and called out –
Six-Nil !
before he dragged

his fag into his lungs
to chase his beer
into that strain
of shirt and buttons

On our return
to the parked car
the only difference
was his demeanour –

that and the fresh pint
and a virgin cigarette –
Ey! One-nil –
Not bad –
Good on yer!

His beer was held high
above his thinned hair
as he tipped a glass
to the Albion’s lost game

Bottle

Here clear water springs
halfway up the hill –
forming a slow stream

into leaf-rotted mud
which could – at source –
be bottled and branded

It would sell in Lewes
as a holy of holy waters
off the Sussex Downs

because small miracles
still curl in these parts –
by the sagacious oak

and sacred hawthorn –
a liquid gift from God –
for five Lewes quid

Ali

This latest named storm
is as magnificently loud
as Seaford’s raw shingle
when overturned by tides –
but now it is tipped across
the highest of these trees
which emit fearful creaks
and then offer a low footfall
of snapped touchwood

These tall variations
take each sucker punch
like hardened pugilists
with their bent bones –
whilst whipped saplings
spill their dried germen
as they cower and crowd
like ingrateful men
sheltered from a fight

I sit to rest my shuffled legs
and shut my blasted eyes
to truly see what I can hear
as the stripped off leaves
fall in layers around my seat –
each arrival noted by the puff
of a soft landing on another –
In the hush of this ripped storm
I find my ancient connections

Sunday in Seaford

There the sunburnt woman
sits alone – her cheeks inflated
and colouring to that near-pink
of shrimp-stained flamingos

whilst two older ladies draw
their lines in snapping charcoal
on bared sketch book pages –
each hoping to record beauty –

two on art-pressured sheets
and one – later – in the mirror –
England’s ruddy south coast
still blushes as if caught out

The tradition of seaside decay
settles alongside the ageing folk –
curling as flotsam – delineating
the ragged edge of our known world

And here we locate ourselves
in a bolted and braced beach hut
to watch the dog walkers and seekers
parade in opposite directions

Turn Left

I take the dipped fork
of near-identical width
but this left path is falling
and narrowed in breadth

It follows the slope
of the redundant stream
where the hills ran off –
once-washed – bare reached

But now drainage and driveways
have altered old flows
above ancient rights
there is no such urge

I pass standing iron –
a fence absorbed in a tree –
it needs no hard posts
in that adopted place

There’s a weighted trade
in these heavy woods –
between man’s intervention
and her constant response

Under Buxted House

The gouged stream ran more loudly
than on our last slogged hike –
that rush was the first signpost
on this Sunday-worn path –

I had chosen the wrong boots
for the rain-slip and clay-stick
of the surface which had changed
after the previous day’s storm

Here the invasion of knotweed
was secure in these conditions
unlike my own slid footings
over roots and low branches

The moss sides of tree trunks
were theatrically intricate –
as if that last heavy downpour
had instructed them to thicken

I was thankful for my dog –
and my walking stick – both found
ways amongst the cake mix mud
to routes left unaffected overnight

I do not have names for all that I saw
Nature does not care for me
and refuses to give up her confusion
for us walkers of man-made breeds

Out of the Woods

The soil is dry and compacted
under the last threadbare fall

The laggard stream clogs
between the dropped branches

The cow parsley – and others –
stand as unpicked summer fossils

The weighty berries tease
among sharpened brambles

August should now stutter
into the slow rot of Autumn

But that immigrant heatwave
has not shifted from us

The seasons are so confused
by our greedy interference.