No Rest

Do not tarry for too many minutes
below Chanctonbury’s decimated
circle of silvered-skin beech trees
They were planted without regard
for any long-term fixing agreement
set fast to grow by a man’s measures
of water on their fragile root balls
There on disturbed nights
that dark copse is circled
by foul-mouthed flying guides
Above you in the weighted boughs
are stirrings of banshees and phantoms
as you tremble under battery lanterns
Too many whitened deep roots
screw through long-buried
druid bones and other scatterings
of now-forgotten Roman emperors
The trees endlessly finger through soils
disturbing turned souls with their tubers
once lost and unequal in life and death
but finding a rare settling of parity
under levels of pressed Sussex chalk
and now haunting your visit

Cox

Slipped backwards with a slight grumble
of keel complaints on that steep slope of gravel –
and our loose rudder is quick to shift – left or right –
as if kicking sullen under reversed ways –

its complaint is slowed – then dismissed
by my pull and straightening – my first correction –
We drift into being a crew as dry blades lower
into the fix of pins – set as bared pegs on a line –

You are the cold engine – me – a tugged-corrector
of your early misfires – of too-short reaches
and lax recoveries – they will tip our vessel
like a nervous fish in an ever-shrinking pool –

as we outgrow circling and find a desire for waves
and their high rises – then lives will depend
on us mere coxes – us shouters and fag-suckers –
we will need to read sea water – as if born to it


 

Sea Rowing

There – almost baiting us –
ten thousand wind-ripped
waves palpitated on the lake –
but they are merely
breeze-skipping ripples
for us would-be sea fishers
of much bigger catches –

We are required to practice
in such innocuous conditions –
this millpond darkened stew –
before that unknown swell
beyond our harbour wall –
where there are no hard tugs
of a circling gig’s rudder –

but instead sideways drifts
and cuts by undercurrents –
high sea arts to be mastered
in ungenerous conditions –
We will then be willed to shore
by pulls of oars and others’
fears – with salt on our lips
providing a taste of sea rowing


Hamilton Place

The tin top cottages
should be haunted – but there is no ghost –
no made-pail Hoogstraten –

A man ripped the roof
off his own propped home and so next door
was left for him – alone –

Now stand those twins
with no tiles or grace – rotting near Hoogstraten –
and his resting place

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

Harbourside

I tripped on a snake
coiled into the form
of fixed turns –
wrestled into itself
by its history of twines –
once factory-whipped
into rope – once born
to a pull of sureness –
to hefts – to shore ties
by long-known named knots
which avoid slippages –
Salt was my second skin

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

Lewes Martyr

She lays fond recall
of burning the Pope
onto today’s
bonfires of Lewes –

but only with
late-night distance
from the day-trippers
and the easily upset –

that small army
of misunderstandings
who do not march here
or through Sussex –

at these most robust
of memorials for the dead

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

Pevensey Levels

The filleted contrails
meet at an equal
destination over there –

weak carbon offsets
of traceable aspect lines
for the flightpath artist –

but not strung long enough
for the followed eye to apply
into the capture of nature

It is runway flat under them
so pray they don’t align here
and find this level for land

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

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.

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.

The Cull

It bolted into my beam
and was too fast for me
to stop the car in time –

a grey and white rush
of life under my wheels
and I could not avoid

the eye-shined badger
in the space between
ruts and embankments

A thudded weight cursed me
through the steered curves
with the guilt of road-kill –

of something too noble
which was always under
others’ orders to be culled.

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 find is a tide mark of oil-based products

As kids – we looked for rare treasures after the waves had retreated

Mermaids’ purses and seaweed – our stolen weather stations

The currencies of beachcombing are no longer nature’s ways

 

E221018

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
of white lines –
UP TO THREE HOURS

Two boys on bikes gob
and then dare each other –
on their brakeless machines –
to ride the Tesco steps


E110119

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

Falmer

It is drizzle

almost

the fine rainfall which is fixing
as the mass of coats and hoods
pass around the stadium
in an unholy circled attendance
at Saturday’s Mecca

Pies and chips

washed by beer

and kids swigging at bottles

now weaned from their mothers
to attend this mainly male church

Here to learn the hymns
and repeated mantras
passed down

No matter

West Pier

It may have been the 1970s –
it may have been Brighton –
but no one can confirm
when my father saved a pier

I was railing high –
navigating the gaps in the planks
with a slender fear –
a cheap thrill
as you walked above the sea –

and below – under the bolted timber –
waves hypnotised the iron work

The tang of salt over candyfloss
was taken up like Friars’ Balsam
through your head –
as we passed the rides
Dad saw smoke

a daft smoulder rising up
from the deck
and we stopped – bent –
to look for timbers –
for them burning

but it was just
a cigarette butt
still curling

PC 883 -as he was at work –
called out to an attendant
and the fag was drowned
with a red bucket –
marked ‘FIRE’

 

E311218

Brighton 1 – Watford 0

This concrete and steel
oozes last week’s freeze
where I sit with my pint
high in the East Stand
having travelled with my boys

but they are already perched
on the folding seats
as I wait for my beer to push
me there via the toilets

where scarfed men shuffle
and queue in silence for urinals

there they unwrap and rezip
after pissing a few quid
before the match
on to others’ left pubes

these gents hope beyond hope
for a home result
as they wash down those hairs

Denis Potter at The Picture House -Uckfield

Here   hiding
under the cover
of lowered lighting
and a backdrop
of
acoustic guitar

with a heavy glass
of London Pride
A tongue-end taste
which takes me
back to then   1984
trying to read
Potter on Potter

But playing
other songs
from old TV shows
inside my
head   He wrote
(almost) musicals
and smoked


E210219

Verge

As if there was enough death
to recall at this time of year
there is another one to add
to the villagers’ engraved lists,

but she shall not be set to stone
in a public place, instead placed,
for now, in a far-removed room
to wait, to wake to dried tears;

she will not cry, or laugh, again,
pull faces, look for the moon,
take a selfie, be misunderstood,
she will not cry, or laugh, again.

Sky lines

Bared, here in the sky,
as if upturned, roots
inverted, then left,
a myriad of black veins,

spot-clotted by lime leaves
and the left behind roosts
of the gone summer’s birds:

Like those casts they make
of ant colonies, dead-fused,
but these reached branches
are the uttermost fingers
of the stood still giants.

BN01

I only know I am walking in Brighton
because the numbers 74 74 74
on taxi cabs semaphore the fact
that and the Number 24 is in club mode

It could so easily be east London’s
red bricks and lunatics
pumped bars
shops of tat and shops of coffee
with scooters outside McDonald’s

and pairs of staggerers off to shag
whilst round the back of the Co-op
people raid the big-mouth bins
looking for out-of-date two-for-ones

If I was younger
if I was single
only ifs
I would struggle less with urban stuff
which is Brighton’s after-dark equality
to every other smacked-in city

St. Catherine’s Sniff

I do not need to
Travel to California
To be struck by the low reek
From skunks,

Those striped creatures
Condemned by Jesuits as:
‘Not worthy to be the dogs of Pluto.’*

Here that crepuscular
Scavenger of the dusk
Lifts its too-proud tail
To squeeze

A malodorous attack
Upon us both:
‘The sin smelled by Saint Catherine
Must have had the same vile odor’**.

‘Hold your nose,’
I suggest to my wife,
But the foulness
Is already there,
Inside.


* **Thwaites, Reuben Gold, ed. (1633–1634). The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents. Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France 1610—1791. VI. Quebec.

Special Measures

The text you sent was brief
about that bastard
the man who is paid to stare
in teachers’ meetings

This is how they keep you
in your place
that senior leadership team
who throw daggers

To deal with it
you picture him squatting
over a hole in the ground
squit-struck
still staring

Return

In The Griffin the staff tossed a ball
across our route to the empty bar,
girl-to-boy, boy-to-girl, and back –
a four-way playground match
of childish throw and catch:

The landlord muttered an apology
as their game was put away,
and from adjoining rooms came
the sound of lunch being scraped,
and of coffees replacing plates.

We then found ourselves alone,
only gin and beer to accompany us
in our own pub game of catch up,
our days apart were recalled
as we tried not to drop our ball.

Early in Uckfield

So, they were gathered early
in their Sunday best
for a christening,

and she said that kids
can be so irritating,
as she sipped coffee in Costa,

and then she complains
about the churches
which let children run wild:

He asks if you can rip a new fiver,
and the man with the plummy voice
jokes about fake Euros.

Then an American accent plays
within this cobbled troop,
with his knowledge of money,

as one of their kids, jacketed,
wanders among the group,
with a straw, Irritating them all.

On Duke St.

As I left the car park
men hunkered down,
in stain-greyed sleeping bags
they bartered their pains:

I passed a young bride
outside a loud bar,
she was laughing
unaware of the rain:

I found Duke Street,
there for a book launch,
a drink in a record store,
to tip my glass to his.

On my way to the bank
the black sky collapsed,
and on my return
I gave the bride a soft kiss.

Sussex, September

The unstable season
of rookies, fireworks,
and Sussex smugglers
has set off in Uckfield
under a sluggish cloud
of torch-raised smoke,
in imbricated ranks
to the drums and hollers
of the oddly-uniformed,
dressed for rememberance
and celebration of times
when Sussex mattered:
then the littering residue
of this lit revolution
is ineptly swept aside
by shopkeepers fighting
the wind-tipped slews
of firecracker paper.

Under the Flight Path

I am hemmed in
by rhododendrons
and poor-fruit
rusty brambles,

here part-hidden,
with lost headstones,
by bleached grasses,
I am waiting for you

(sat on Sarah Newlyn’s
berry-stained bench,
with my cooled coffee
and folded ‘paper),

under a flight path,
itself dubbed over
by the bubbled
squabble of birds

in the thickets
and tremoring hedges,
as loud crows plot
the distances in air

with their deep caws
and dark eyes,
their navigation
is fixed by sight.

And you set down
beside me, beautiful,
with your return,
into our hidden hold.

A Village Called Ugly

Welcome to Ugly
your new home
in the world,
Daddy isn’t here
for his two
favourite girls,
and he never
hugs mummy,
or kisses her lips:
Ugly, the village,
in which you now live;
it sneers and snaps
on the rumour mill,
marriages kept alive
just for the kill:
welcome to Ugly
a hamlet of hate,
if you haven’t
got perfect
then it’s far too late.

The Swimmers

At Temple Grove they emerged
in their towel-wrapped attire,
a mother, maybe, and her daughter,
in spot colours, those of rich cottons,
lifting them in the gloomy outfield
as they placed white feet on grass,
in that tiptoe way we all have to
when barefoot in summer;
as they dripped pond water,
and held themselves from shivers,
we spectators for the ball game
wondered at their wild pleasure.

Under the Woods

Among the ragged shadows
of the canopy umbrella,
cut by the leaf-shaped gobos,
here that broken sunlight will die,
increasing neck-breaking risks
as I avoid tripping up on
worn rib roots along the paths:
here the blackbird hacks
with its cut-cut-cut alarm call,
and my rescue is almost assured.

Beddingham Landfill

The picked at scab
scarring above Beddingham,
containing such poisons,
rain-washed infections,
which leach, for this ever,
into the tide-turned Ouse.

Up there they buried
square metres of radiation,
and household stuff,
tonnes of weighty nappies,
and other tipped shit
of our modern lives

into that former chalk pit:
High open-heart surgery
on the South Downs,
that gull-dived littering,
best buried and grassed over;
invite butterflies.

Smeuse

Smeuse – that low-run gap
where the wild things are –
under Sussex-set hedges –
but now a reduced tag –
worn out – as are the places
without any lasting labels –
things will no longer exist
My kids already fail to name
occasional birds or trees
and without nature’s
passed down placeholders
a creation disappears –
until we chance to recapture
the nameless creatures
and pass the landscape on
with their ancient titles
and collected echoes
of common-place parlance
We may lose them all –
no word for ‘sparrow‘?
Then no sparrows are left

 


E0201219

Sheffield Park, East Sussex

The wide open workshop
was beyond my education
(three terms of metalwork
forty years earlier was never
any kind of apprenticeship).

Greased tools, backs bent to it,
at components, stripped elements
of dead men engineering,
here exhumed across scale layouts
of locomotive parts, almost lost

until men in overalls, and tilted caps,
pulled on levers and tools to fix
the lines from one shut station
to another, suffered, under Beeching:
to get the steam into the pistons:

Our kids milled, kicked at ballast,
and were more intrigued by a ring tone
than the scale of rod-shoved wheels,
and steps so high, halfway to Heaven,
for these men, so we left the engine shed.

The Poll

That drab civic room,
where we had voted,
here the Parkinson’s
support group met:

a chesty (badged) lady
offered us coffee,
pamphlets were handed,
flicked, to be kept.

A clipboard was passed,
to take names and numbers,
and to indicate interest
in meeting again:

My wife bent down,
plundering her handbag,
pulling out a tissue,
here the ending begins.

Walking on Water

Arlington Reservoir vibrated,
that low bowl of gust-cut waves,
the quantity now the difference
to my previous walk here,

that and my end-of-day inability
to route march any more:
as a kid, returning from school
they called me ‘Bell-fast’.

A stared sparrowhawk, high,
worked miracles to remain in place:
I am the opposite of that bird,
landlocked, working to move.

The gravel scuffs, my soles wear,
it hurts, even in these boots,
and because I have sent myself
back before the rest, I must

sit at the car park and wait.
My youngest is the first to return,
and to hide my accelerated pain
I ask to be taught to skateboard,

and as I stand, held by him, unsure,
the wind drops, and I balance 
as on a small boat, not quite Galilee,
but hoping he still believes in me.

Heated

A few weeks back,
this summer,
and I would be stood
in a mist,
but this ridiculous
month of June
offers no such
cool sleights
as I stick-click,
lop-sided, alongside
the sucked-slouch
of the muddied Uck;
then hollered at
by the diesel’s sad call
as it sights
the unattended crossing,
and all the time,
across Manor Park,
bedroom windows are flung
in an un-English surrender
to the day’s heat
still found in bricks,
as the padding fox,
so thin,
sets off the estate’s
choir of panting dogs.

Two-shot Tories

A table of old Tories
in the Kemptown cafe
plotting the downfall
of your future today:

Grumbling ’bout democracy,
and ‘leftie threats’,
whilst wanking their pensions
on skinny lattes:

The last generation
to enjoy a grand old age,
they’ll spoon all the sugar
and ensure nothing remains.

New Town Clock

The clock’s being replaced
on Uckfield High Street,
under Emergency Orders
it’ll now strike thirteen,
and then in line
with the ‘Bill of No Rights’
you’ll get a timely vote,
but only if you’re white.
The people of Uckfield
will sleep easier this week,
clocks will chime thirteen,
they’ll dream in doublespeak.

New story HERE

The Witness

They are overshadowed by that evergreen giant,
the one thousand year witness to ceremonies,
to burials, and namings.

Coal was once hoarded where the hollowing
of the yew meets the earth. There, inside God’s tree,
they find a held shelter,

but the air is reduced, taxine within the yew’s
five propped branches, he is hallucinating
as he tastes her,

that passed mead of love, now drugged by her.
Add Odin’s ability to bind and unbind,
and a two millennia lie,

he has no defences left, hung, and crucified
by the centre of her which wets his fingers
in the yew’s compression.

The Red Bridge

I long for a ghost to greet me here,
halfway across the rust red bridge,

to challenge me now with a lover’s kiss,
which burns to red on my own dry lips.

Her hair to fall long, beyond death’s hold,
but her neck, her face a brush of cold:

and for me to lean into death’s cool mask,
for me to succumb to her breath of chance:

inhale the vacuum expunged from her lungs,
and I breathe into her my breath of song.

Contrails

The words
‘under contrails’
rounded on me,
those raised scars,
high gatherings
of man-made clouds
over this county,

the icy remnants
of others’ flights
to warmer climes,
and I was grounded
by the weight of my foot
after foot:

I no longer dream
of taking off,
arms wide,
a kick and up,
but I leave a trail
of sorts.

Where I Sit

I sat with care
on a wide (sawn) stump,
it cut back
by an oxidised blade,

I found a seat
of chamfered comfort,
but still a hard cushion
of battered rings,

where the rounded years
had been taken 
by the scouring rain,
and the decay of things;

now rubbed back,
grooves removed,
until the turn of time
had been loosened,

and the history of it all,
once held central,
had been hard-weathered,
no more nature’s annal.

Seven point five

A boot-sucked drop
down through Views Wood,
across a mud-scuffed bridge,
and the ditch in half-flood,
I clamber, not climb,
up the leaf-pressed path,
the rooted friction
is the step and staff,
then led straight on
by the hawthorn hedge,
the sun a million miles
off to my left,
and on to the centre
of a man’s dictate,
under an oak
into the ‘Private Estate’
of neat-lopped birches,
a graze-readied patch,
across the tarmac
past Buxted House,
a hotel for a night,
I wait to wake one time,
where the haa-haa dips,
where the grazed declined:
Up to the church,
with no village encroach,
but now a lone landmark,
of curious ghosts,
of gravestones’ tilt,
and a gate held fast,
where gothic still creeps
on buttress and nave,
but under Christ’s yew tree
the past still prays,
whilst far cross the valley,
the village now lays,
and down past the pillbox,
no old battle ground,
here the tilted cry
of the dead – never found.
Across to the gate
where the grounds expire,
this is the time
I so long desire.

Humid

You could see the unexpected humidity
in the weep of the trees

almost a rainforest drip in the woods of Sussex

and being tall I had to dip to avoid
the damp stroke of lime leaf on my neck

that of a sweated relative
or grease-ball teacher.

Underfoot the cinder path was an equal impact
on memory as I lugged my groceries

back

back to

that playground in Surrey which grazed kids
and scuffed the sandals
a home to sparkled
stones and shiny ants

and games of ball
chase
kisses
and secret skipping songs of girls.

No Rain

That kicked-up
wild garlic hit
was the mist
through which
the walk took them

on that route,
slow
upstream,
and then sloped
above the low cut
of rain-denied river.

Each step was
another distance
which closed
the gap
between them.

On his solitary return,
under the dapple
of sodium,
over hard tarmac,
the true nature
of things
returned.

Two Women

I met Makris and Demeter
bent over a half-inflated dinghy

and me, the old boy,
interrupted their labour

with a brief history
of my youth on The Thames;

‘meander’ came back to me,
along with ‘blade’ and ‘gate’,

my recall faltered at Barcombe,
on a twist of The Ouse to Lewes,

their sure sweep of youth’s grace
patched my pause with their words,

they were back from The Anchor
to this downstream landing;

they sparkled in the late-May light
with an assurance, in such love,

and I walked on against the current’s force,
but only knee-deep in meadow grass.

TN22

Seven AM,
just me and the dog,
on the piled steps
of the lifestyle shop,

as an off-white van
rumbles up the hill,
leaving a rolled cloud
of diesel ill-will,

blaring inanity
with windows wound down.

A commuter snarls,
bent into her frown,

striding with a latte
to catch the train,
her life evaporating
within London (again).

And then the false dawn
of amber street lights
kill themselves off
as she departs this life.

Flag Stoned

The bunting had fallen
and strung in its place
long blown metres
of roadwork tape:

Our town had spent
all the developers’ tax
on wider footpaths,
which will now crack

under the weight
of various vans,
part-parked on kerbs
by the delivery man,

who will still take up
one of those lanes,
blocking the street
back to the library (again).

Ask the shop-keepers
if it was worth the chaos,
screwing the high street
for a developer’s pay-off.

The Visitors

I have negotiated
with such black rooks

(in our last two homes)

those soot ghosts
trapped in chimneys

most living

less a stiff pair
which

come the summer’s
long release of heat

woke nested flies
finding the window panes

there
made spot-spattered

fly-trapped

those small dark
scavengers
of the dead

The living rooks
were easier to
release

Explanation

What bravado
the boys of Sussex
displayed,

and I tried to explain
to my youngest child
after it all,

as we sat outside
the imperial brick
police station:

I spoke about
how some things are
rehearsed,

I talked about
missing empathy,
how thrusts of ego,

cocktails of drugs,
that itchy fug,
near-fungal,

under their skin,
will always
do them in.

The Back Door

For AM, an apology

Again door-stepped, and you, a good man,
guide my regrets, which I wept
(unlike like my foul-flat egress)
onto your quick-stained shoulders.

As my carrier you guided me up
to the sunlit seat where my shame was
burnt off. All quite unexpected,
as was my recall of the tossed

unfair words which I had spat at you.
And after, to lighten those weights,
I delivered, by tremors’ hand,
a small token towards better taste:

a simple gift to aid forgiveness,
which may settle, for us, eventually,
to be re-lifted, swallowed back,
as tears are, then wiped to avoid hate.


After Needlewriters

I turned my back on the bleached
slice of moon, that ancient stalker,
over bright, (still impossible for
smart-phone or trite word capture).

Lewes fidgeted, early to bed, ill-lit
by the the old devil overhead,
cut by earth’s shadow,
incapable of glazing cobblestones

There was that end-of-wordliness
on our walk down Cliffe High Street,
the ghosts had retreated to attics,
wrapped in ‘No Popery’ banners.

At such time the town behaves,
the worriers and campaigners,
the yet-druv, and the string sellers,
finding world peace under duvets.

We recalled Woolworths, long lost,
as I looped lunar stuff (we talked
from the pub to the car park),
I kneaded those minutes into now.