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