Rock Pools

In these recharged times
of eye-sucking screens
the two boys still felt
the pull to cold rock pools,

where Fred wrist-delved,
turning possible pebbles,
but Wilf was slowed, upset
by his so-aching tooth:

Me, their photographer,
was quite unsteady,
cautious over rough slices
of tripped possibilities,

and my parental recall
of other times, of deep cuts,
but still they climbed, hunters,
stalking in their innocence

of that shorter progression,
just before their steps lengthen,
when they will stumble
with the strides into ageing.

But now they leapt from high
to scribe in sand their names,
a stick scrape, like us before,
to be tide-washed from the shore.

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.

Abiogenesis

You too have climbed
from the alluvial swamp
of youth, of immaturity,
that dark cloy which sticks,
a viscid ignorance,

up from that shallow place
to our adapted older-selves,
without His re-engineering,
One’s dulled interest long lost –

ever since J. Robert Oppenheimer
re-purposed the identity of God,
and made mankind the last hope.
‘Survival of the fittest,’  is questioned,

but we stand, good, on two legs,
presently erect on this planet,
us, the last keepers of the foul waters
in which we clean our children,


Before

Each weekend was a curst return
from pitch-black,
boot-filled, lifeless ditches,
each boy scolded for deep cuts
and rips off furrow-tripped meadows.

We ranged, untouchable, free,
across fallow farmland,
never knowing every acre was doomed.
The River Addle, our course of choice,
went first, piped and diverted.

Next came the laying of black lanes
for shot past trucks and cars  –
killing machines, legally driven,
which then road-blocked our crossings.

Our wild life was inequally divided
by over-takings and lines of sped death,
cutting us off from the dark woods,
that far copse of unmanaged oak

which, before they lay the orbital road,
was our furthest-ever destination
on our stone-kicked roamings,
in squelch-squeezed Wellies.

We had read nature’s encyclopedia
within the oaks’ shadowy gloom –
the same woods where Dad
had me shoot all that moved.

HRH

I have danced on the stage
at the Royal Albert Hall,
sidled a swept Princess
and a hundred-like fools.

Their rules of movement,
to me unsaid,
I turned to a tune,
not that which played.

I spun below domes,
under the clouds of song,
with a woman so slight,
because ballet is wrong:

Their rules of movement,
to me set blind,
I turned from their tune,
not the dancing kind.

From Kensington Gore
dropped on to Queen’s Gate,
ripped fast from the ball
by my own complaint.

Their rules of movement,
to me mistimed,
I removed from that tune,
that which was mine.

Take me from such
dance floors and grace,
I have no true patience
to keep me engaged.


 

F5

‘The years teach much which the days never know.’
Ralph Emerson

Half a century has passed,
of my oblivious education:

Valves glowed behind Bakelite,
those wireless invocations,

mail was flap-rattled –
some bore oddity stamps,

wearing cent-priced strangers,
sent from inky confidantes.

My search was inherited,
in spine-bust encyclopaedias:

I learnt the word ‘concentric’,
and skipped the Roman Empire.

The Triangle

Past that rough triangle
off Heath Road, Weybridge,
a slow junction lined
by gloom-slimmed birches,
these woods we all knew
as the murder patch,
where a woman was killed,
his low theft gone wrong,
and a foul faked rape
by other thrust means,
(facts then unknown):
we kids were alive to
her near place of death,
there scoured by detectives’
metal detectors:
and we looked for shadows
on every pass,
we innocents whelped
on his criminal act.


The Visitor, 1984.

Recall is now grey scale,
but I once dreamt in colour
without any gnaw of limp,
or hint of restricted reach:
back when stiff was good:
And I would wake to this:

Eight AM, clear-road Sunday:
Floored up the A316,
in my stripped-down Landie,
roof-less, screen-dropped,
me, blown, almost removed,
with the doortops off:

I circled, again,
old Trafalgar Square,
to corral, with fumes,
the climb-shined lions,
those I once ascended,
(now boxed snapshots).

I then accelerated
under Admiralty Arch,
to bomb down that drive,
The Mall, a red carpet
of tarmac, on my whirred
agricultural tyres,

fast past the Jacks
of Buckingham Palace,
and then out, away,
to the Home Counties,
where my rough thoughts
took someone else’s wife, again.


Addlestone Crossing

There to see my father,
propped-up in a polished box,
one that my eldest brother,
chose, on the basis of, what?

Death was still too sour to us,
the parlour’s air throat-clogging,
this feared place of passing youth,
ten yards from the level crossing:

Often halted by its turned gates,
and scoured spin of wheels,
on our way in and out of town,
with Dad, and his thousand skills:

he could dissect a battleship,
break apart any gun,
extemporize upon anything,
with sketch, and rule of thumb.

Now boxed-in, he tarried,
we’d leave him, lonely, there:
my brother could not stand
the shop’s execrable despair:

In that time, almost gone,
I learnt about death’s prop:
that last lesson from my father,
our paths no longer crossed.