BHAFC 1 – Burnley 3

There is a beer-and-pie feast
in the bar-fed anticipation
in the echoing East Stand –
high on the Upper Level
with the buzz of line ups
and incoming league results
in other parts of the land –
but by half time the sense
of dread has resurfaced
and is not pissed away
by one more pint and bogs –
instead we then succumb
to the gnaw of raw nerves
as the clocks stop at ninety
and extra time is not enough
to pull us up a place above
where we were the last time
we were here and hungry

Lined

The parallel profiles
of the fifty to sixty linden trees
are bitten-thin by the wind
at this time of year

but their ever-tall alignment
of bared trunks
is still my local fixture

There – spaced by landed
strides off an owner’s count –
along this now hemmed-in route –

once a sublime wide avenue
to a grand house –
ridden up forty-ish years earlier
by a princess –
Sporting Life by her side

Now it is the route to a
sprawled estate
of modern servants
who push their buggies
and pull their dogs
along the uneven surface –

a shaded path
for the good half of the year –
for the other bared months
it is fifty to sixty sundial
shadows – if there is sun –

I haven’t counted the trees –
each a timer set by a lime
in the low winter light

Little Georgian Antiques

Arrows still fly at Battle – spiritual ones ..
against Anglo-Saxon self-satisfaction* –
as if The Bengal Colonel had then leapt
from the stretched canvas into Ninfield –
and prowled around the village green

set to devour their war-won remains –
that pyrrhic victory over downed fascists
who were set by the Sussex gravediggers
Look inside its mouth to find meaning
said Grace – to anyone who would listen

to her – and Richard – and Reuben – they drew
from the post-war rationals against hate
and conjoured up creatures and shapes –
As if Terry Gilliam had sucked the oily teat
of these artists’ bared brushes of surreal
extractions –

as if colour and lines were not rationed
and all of Picasso’s art was lost to Bexhill
And I see Scarfe and Steadman in the ink
of cross-hatch – etched so hard it scratches
the paper into furrows of staining –
the future will be saved from the past by art

(*Reuben Mednikoff)

De La Warr

I am here – thick-and-mixed
among middle class minions
who eye up the croissants
in the De La Warr Pavilion –
they discuss in great depth
the state of the nation
as they queue so politely
for the barista’s attention –
The winter light bounces
off the buffed bar surface
and my large mug of latte
warms me to their circus –
I leave via the shop –
where I eye the gift dirge –
my shifting behaviour
is verging on absurd –
Return me to boozers
with their beery truths –
avoid gentrification –
and all it consumes

The Lungs of God

I stand under this vault
of our common church –
off-centre on this sea-girt isle

Our stone tradition of roofing
is more to do with fools’ fires
than Heaven’s weight

Here the light is insipid –
no tang of incense
only the blue miasma
off flume emissions

My legs tire – but find no pew –
no tuffet to take me
to the path’s cathartic
kneel-down call

Feathering

It’s not the same pull or heave
as it was in my rowed youth –

no – this is chalk-and-flint stuff
below fast streams and run-offs

I am far removed from the flow
of the Thames through London

I now dig at the Ouse’s history
of dead poets and burning barrels

where no old boys or public schools
oversteer on her narrow channel

We aim to somehow fly
with the feather of our honest oars –

in a boat designed for work –
not built for pots or snobbery

Ghost Holes

This bar’s serving hatch is always left agape –
tonight I see it is a varnished picture frame
holding unfair perspectives of the pirouettes
of the not-Degas barmaids in uniform black

In this pub’s cellar are floating phantasma –
I am often told – here under my pint-fixed feet –
below the boards – Orbital corner-of-the-eye
lights are known to cross the cold stones

They are – the old boys also claim –
fixed by the presence of the town’s tunnels –
those mislaid smugglers’ rat runs now
bricked up within the dead-end arches

Other spectres are regulars in the saloon –
they bother the rushed staff and punters
from their precarious stools – a feat in old age –
added up they would predate electricity –

and then they shuffle off – with chains of change –
shifting between the bogs and their tall thrones –
always back on their seat to summon spirits –
from the optics – but not with their pensions

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

Dew

There has been no rain overnight
but the underfoot dew is enough
to darken both my boot toecaps
and to soak the dog’s knotted hair
as she bounds into blind prospects
of hedges and low distractions
And I look up at the underbelly
of another aircraft on another path
and do not envy their chosen route –
I then shout out for the dog’s return.

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