Our Nation’s Favourite

Under vintage leafless beeches
you gauged your variations of steps –
it was too easy to tread unevenly
on a path of cross-hatchings

and line workings against sunlight –
there you dipped into a greyed intensity
of illustrative shadowing – losing our dog –
briefly – in a denser pencilled place

Then sweet eyewashes of flowerings
lifted your head – a sugared inhalation –
a thickened spoor of air-blue scents
poured from that ancient under-storey

You stood above ten thousand bright dabs
bent to old arts across a green daub
of workings among greys and silvers –
your count of a whole year gone

was marked by a favoured calendar shot –
another easy colour-by-numbers to fill
once you made your way back to our car
to tell of your walked losses and findings

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