The Boundary Ghost

A crop of prime turf
is to my back
My thin brick perch digs in
to my lowered leg aches
after a blind walk from Ripe’s
church across three fields –
now sat stiffly in Chalvington

Here they face me –
Picknell’s dead family
Engraved stones staring out
at an unmarked boundary –
was it laid in my eye just now –
was it suggested by Robert
Who Departed This Life
February 7th 1869

A slab is sunk tightly
between three yews
It bears equal surnames –
set to unequal end dates –
to be kept In Loving Memory
More of his
relatives crushed
in their compressed beds

Then a blackbird’s repeated
yack-yack of late insistences
lifts me from that moment –
away from Robert’s ghost –
to have me rise
from that low wall
and to leave them all
well alone – for now
and to walk back across
that even outfield –
around his unmarked boundary

Country Lanes

Mad Max offered me shares
Fifty-fifty in a gentlemens’ club
I could
Taste their wares – test their tits
was his opening roadside pitch

Girls ain’t the problem –
undergraduates aplenty –
it’s the bloody bouncers
with their qualifications
That’s now our problem

Max is missing some teeth
his breath stinks of dog food
Turn on your heel, Mike
and carry on along this lane
Strange men lurk in Hailsham

Below Snatts Lane

Our spun dogs leapt
into a hidden swank*
only reappearing – only –
when cooled
by that glum – that cold –
woodland pond

Their wet coats stunk
Quick on spindle legs
they fast-darted in
and faster beneath
another clump of
undergrowth

Not late enough – not then –
for mist-above-dusk
over heat-sucked ditches
and almost rivers
Not late enough to rise
from dew weighted grass

We followed those routes –
those laid before
by others and left those
laid behind by us
We were those last two
travellers on earth

*swank – Sussex term for wetlands

Fighting in Newhaven

Here Ho Chi Minh – under
his pseudonym of Thàn
served travellers’ pastries
on a French ship routed
from Newhaven’s docks

His silver service ways
and polished tableware
have been long-buried
under that now piled skyline
of scrap metal and waste

Still a French ferry – but today
slipping out to diesel rumbles –
with beer-plied pleasure seekers –
holidaymakers – and
a deck of saturnine truckers

In this light a ghost-white hull –
Turner’s Fighting Temeraire
awaits clearance to enter
and roll her weak bow wave
through her last high tide

But she is no more than a fret
breathed out by those who lust
for lost British sea power
This slumped harbour reeks
of sun-dried fishing nets

Below its fort’s high facade
Newhaven’s battalion collapsed –
West Beach fell to le Tricolore
Sussex were druv when a strip
of her sand was lost to France

It would be easy to follow steps
and reach an edge of this island
but stupor and heat keep me seated
Rust is pre-eminent in Newhaven
There is no revolutionary cure

Above Glynde Reach

I picked a bent path of grass treads
between time’s tipped-hat stones
in St. Andrew’s – Beddingham’s
dry-high whispering graveyard

It hasn’t absorbed any rising tidal
surge or sudden winter wash – of
God’s clearing-out-no-chance-flood
since He-knows-when-of-last

Once vagrants were listed here
in this river-fashioned parish
in a sub-Lewes rolled distance –
68 villains, 6 bordars and 5 slaves

Now Major and Mrs. lie thigh-to-thigh
in parallel places under that shadow
of repurposed stone and fixings –
another bypass and road of sorts

as cars hurtle at a throw’s distance
taking travelling parishioners
beyond unmarked boundaries
without a detour to see bowed stones


Malling Down

We will seek any natural –
and unnatural – sedate shade
under these new northern arcs
of lifted latitude summers

We can still find strolled shelter
under an avenue of plane trees –
but only if dull conspirators
do not deny them a sure line

now their leaf-fat shadows stretch
over an unkempt rough plot
which is – by the hour – turned
by sweat-glazed ground workers

where annual flown-in migrants
and ever re-seeding interlopers
have lost their place of emptiness –
kept at bay by a developer’s fence

On the Meridian

It is a valorised thing –
according to Tesco’s
stuck clock –
it keeps all minutes
at ten past each hour

An upturned claw on top
of the brewery’s
brick chimney
sits finger-ready to grab
electrical strikes

as charged forklift trucks
whirl and rattle
quick around that
barrel-high yard
to meet loading outs
and unloading empties

where white smoke
from Jenner’s pipes
almost declare rogue
Popish thoughts
without bonfire boys
in that lazy town of
timeless martyrs

Men with beards –
each worth a tall story –
gather in cafes –
some sat high inside –
some sit outside
under chalked signs

How to tell such saints
and vagrants apart?
Hipsters and tramps
trading shit for kicks –
that stink of piss marks
their short-distance

The Ouse runs up and in
muddied and quick –
as if time’s rule
has been put in reverse
whilst so-special shops
sell out of bow ties
and string

to men and women
who prefer to spend
their Lewes Pound
– Keeping it local
they also voted for
One Nation Conservatism

If you stand still
for long enough
on Cliffe Bridge
the world and his wife
will pass you by –
ten times –
in both directions

On tidal urges
from her river’s mouth –
and in unseen particles
from a local incinerator –
all that Lewes renounces
does – in time – return


Pinned to https://www.placesofpoetry.org.uk/

Hustings

Please hide a lemon
in your old man’s coat –
their tear gas is primed
but that citrus is hope –

suck on its stung flesh
as if you suck for your life
Your vote for democracy
has been long-denied

We all carry crosses
but some are not struck –
we’ll all hang our heads
Hangin’s not enough

Read widely beyond
their ruled short lists
Education is brief
’til you’re taught by the past