Above the Weir

The kayak wobbled
on the tamed river
as we paddled –
but out of time –
past bikini-strapped girls
and kids your age
whom we sat above
in our inflated craft

Within ten minutes
we had found
the quiet normality
of an unbroken tension
where water boatmen
skated in spurts –
here dragonflies dipped
to a secret dance
above our bright bow

We kept time for a while
and then you gave up
to let me drag routes
around low branches
and through narrowings –
I briefly quit with pain
so we were set adrift
against the nothing current
below the next weir

You held the ropes
as I tried to lift my weight
from the muddy berth –
but my legs could not do
what legs should do
so I dragged myself
up the herd-worn bank –
gripping grass clumps
to bring me ashore

I hold the memory
of that recent evening
as fondly as those of my youth
when I lived for the Thames
and her sly currents –
when I could cross
the tops of weirs –
but now I am reduced
to the sloth of the Ouse.

Into the Season

We have yet to see
our exhaled breaths
as we avoid the burn
of the cold handrails
on our expectant ascent
of fifty-odd concrete steps
to our fixed tipped seats

We have yet to inhale
that repeated wide view
of our floodlit pitch –
re-lined in the week
into a restart of hope
against eleven men
in an unloved strip

We have yet to sip
the bitter hot drinks
that we will queue for
in the muted half-time
of slight disappointments
as old rivals are set to win –
according to media streams

We will fear the descent
which others will take
before the hard blast
of whistle and biting winds –
to then exit The Amex
for seats on misted-up buses
which will take us home.

Eighteen. Yesterday

You will hear bird song in Brighton
as you walk the mile home on Eastern Road
with a belly of beer as your low ballast

There will be winking cabs but your gut
will steer you and your mate a slower route
because the clean up bill would be too much

And your ears will be thick with shouts and
laugh-rubbished conversations in places
which were loud and sticky underfoot

The bingo hall will be dark because the old
are too clever to stay up this late –
all except your mother who will wait

Any High Street

It has become a confusion
of charity store drop offs –
butted to trim nail bars
and empty estate agents –
and now this English town
has a gaudy tanning shop

The bench-rested watch
the parading mothers –
taking note of the too-bared
shoulders and legs
the unnatural colour
of those buggy shovers –

these age-anchored repeat
their Daily Mail complaints
about floods of immigrants
as the pale-faced punters book
to turn brown in the new salon
of not-very-English tans.

The Lanes

The local lanes have been narrowed
by the thickening of nature’s ripeness
The scabbed tarmac routes are reduced
by the slow encroachments of greenery

Each blind corner is an increased fear
but still taken in third gear at over forty
as if TE Lawrence had never died
on such a cluttered route as this

Summer is an alien with her land grab –
her low leaf boughs weighty obstructions
which hide rotted bodies and tossed litter
until the rape of leaves under winter

I drive between my rural commitments
of drop-offs and collections along roads
which were never designed for our speeds
nor any misjudged braking distance

Tractor Histories

They were parked in two lines
but not quite furrow straight

We walked through the
static display of old tractors

I read out the name plates of
those dearly beloved brands
now green and red patinas
over mottled paint and flaking rust

Rested greased beasts – loved or kicked
– depending on the maintenance

But my youngest wanted shade
and showed no interest in such things

Only Being

I convalesce under the counterpane
with the play of evening birdsong
and that blood rush roar of jets
lifting the propped sash higher

The late light on the roofline tiles
is almost that Mediterranean red
against the flat chalk-blue sky
but I am rolled up in Sussex

The same songs will find me
waking in the same place
as the light and sky are turned
and the curtains are ripped

Then this moment will return
of me laid low by the small efforts
which others do not notice –
I have lost the art of only being

A Man in White

As I dropped over Falmer
I sped past a man in white
who was bent-double
among the weighted hedges

The descent past the stadium
was a collision of thoughts –
it then offered a roundabout
and i doubled back to offer

I rehearsed my approach
reminding myself of the place
and how I would have to slow
with hazards
with a wound window

But there was no man in white
in the place
only the waving of branches
under the charge of turbulence
no one on the untrod grass

Eating Out

Grown men nibble on ice cream cones
as a Chinese woman commands her dog
and two girls giggle whilst playing crazy golf

Below Volk’s Electric Railway
I drink coffee and watch the planet rotate

On the horizon the wind turbines move
to the onshore whip of nature into wire –
giving us that current and difference
which the rattling train line absorbs

Forever connecting nothing but thrills
the steel and iron of Brighton Pier
creates another kind of consumption

I fear for the woman with her stacked tray
of chips and teas as she crosses the beach
The gulls here are quite mordacious

Beachcombing

On the shingle-driven beach
I looked for shells
but found plastic

We are no more the guardians
because everything we use returns

The indicant we leave
is a tide mark of oil

As kids we looked
for rare treasures
after the height of waves
had retreated away

Mermaids’ Purses
and seaweed

our weather stations

The currency of beachcombing
is no longer nature’s ways

Parking Bays

David places the cones
at military distances
of old-paced equality
and makes sure the sign
which reads Funeral Today
is visible to all

It is a one way street
and not overly used
but it’s best to be sure
and there is nothing worse
than the blackened hearse
having to double park

Later in the day I watch
the staggered procession
of roughed-up mourners
making their way to church
on that road which has seen
the dead of Uckfield parked

Full English in Brighton

The bare strip lights and over-loud radio
nudge me into an uncomfortable state
in this low rent cafe

A grease-shadowed place

I stir my mug of tea and drop the spoon
into a water-filled pot of stained cutlery
as I have done so many times before

My order cooks loudly
in the best-not-seen pan
as the chat back there
gyrates between water rates
and about the old man

A square plate
piled high
(the dish a brown colour
which briefly worries me)
is placed on my table
with a nod to the few
sauces available

Tea at Charleston

A heavy shower traps me
it bolts me inside the car
under the fry of rain on roof

I am returned to campsites
and useless kagoules
those flimsy foldable coats

The windscreen streams
with hundreds of floods
and another revisit

when I was pressed
to the panes in my bedroom
where
on the wettest of days
the only sport was teasing
the fattening condensation
into vertical rivers
with my breath as mist

I find
the tearoom is closed

Sussex opens on Tuesday

A Place to Sit

His round carver’s mallet
rung out vibrations
and workbench chimes
as he forced his chisel
into the oak

Other redundant tools
hung
shelved
and sung with the whack and saw

We talked about art and ecology
and how they could combine
as he formed his perfect edges
against nature’s aged grain

He was crafting a bench
one commissioned to sit
in Alfriston’s book store

No plans or dimensions to hand
because this was true art

We compared the unwritten notes
of our marriage dissertations
and found that such study
provides no long term rewards

On Luxford

The old boys’ bench
affords a wide view
of Luxford Fields

of trees to the north

Here is my basecamp
on the ascent
over difficult terrain
of root split tarmac

Dog walkers and kid strollers
criss-cross the scuff

taking turns to shout
and to chase

Behind me shoppers steer
between tight spaces

which revs and white lines
take for three to ten hours

Two boys on bikes gob
and then dare each other

on their brakeless machines

to ride the Tesco steps

BST

British Summertime
day one
as seen from this flint field

high above the Winterbourne’s
estate-dictated course

above the rush of the bypass

that continuous inland tide

Here I listen for the reduced birds
as seagulls are distance summoned
by the hip-jiggered tractor’s
turn of furrow

You have walked on
with me left here
above this valley landscape
with an extra hour of light

as if the clocks had stopped