Insect Hunting

There was that microcosm
fixing my dawdled childhood
in which I centred myself
in a kneeled-to wondering

as unidentified insects
routed in and out – between
bent blades of variegated grass –
and in that airtight stillness

nervy sparrows let me forage
alongside their skits and hops –
until we were all fed enough
by the microscopic wonders

and then I unhinged
my tight focus – pulled back –
unhooking from nature
as Concorde halved the sky –

that white flechette – fustian –
slapping pigeons from the trees –
it was another sudden brutality
in my sub-sonic childhood

The Christmas Call

..We know nothing of man .. far too little..’ CG Jung

It is over two decades since we last spoke –
you offered no responses – not when I ‘phoned
or when I cheerily arrived at the family home

with – or without – a disquieted companion –
then I’d try to engage you in light conversation –
but that was your silent-met cue to exit the room

And our mother never gave me a full explanation –
except that – He goes upstairs and paints ..
pictures .. from his imagination .. It’s his escape ..

He doesn’t get out much .. nearly an old man – You –
a temporary loss in her thinning line of sons –
each boy sets her wondering – What went wrong?

I watched her fight her eldest – a patio-battering –
from behind the Crittall windows of my bedroom –
I saw her ill-faste fists set upon her eldest child

That is what she made – Us in her ugly likeness
of turned cheeks and of emotional tightness –
that son she striked – he died too early for her liking

And now – on the ‘phone – She is too ill to talk to you
your first line in this garrulous time of your remove –
then a snapped order – not to try again – It upsets her!

You don’t speak to me for years then bark commands –
Do they count – along with your hardened demands
against my ragged ripostes at your loss of voice?

No – do not speak to me –
Please leave it twenty more

The Blinded

The olfactory hit kicks in –
smelling at a filed return
of youthful tree climbing –
of guns-made-from-sticks
and of our lumpen crashing
among swallowing bracken

I am now drawing so deeply
on this propel of perfumes –
of the under-tree rotten scents –
and also taking the shaded chill –
which seems to feed the smell –
which was the first suggestion

My childhood – found in the kernels
of peeled sweet chestnuts –
was so open-ended that nothing
was going to set a conclusion –
Then on to the unexpected
cinder path – where it ends – again

In Line

Weird kids never came out –
not back then –
that’s why they were not in
our rushed pack
of loosely herded imaginations
running under the command of
Up to the ruins!

Us from identical houses
yet each uneasily unique –
being found guilty
of English differences –
set by the age of cars on drives –
which kept us in our place –
forever fixing our sub-classifications

The weird kids only went outside
to be the last-in-lines –
to retreat to bedroom isolation
which was still a viable option –
back then

Old Devices

We’d race to get the telephone –
stating our number as rote taught –
our mother in her poshest voice
but rough for sister talk

Relative news transmissions –
but not intended to be heard –
I knew nothing of kindred facts
’til I stole truth from her words

We were ignorant between acts –
maybe flattening an irksome book –
we’d stare through the yellowed nets
whilst half-tuned to loosened talk

We tugged at the reluctant drawers
where our history was lost and found –
there tucked between old table mats –
sepia smiles were loosely bound

News bulletins marked the hours
or were shoved through the letterbox –
that narrow window on the world –
ink fears of the Eastern bloc

Ignorance was a short-lived bliss
in those disconnected times –
no algorithms on our wrists
to redress the truths and lies

Into the Trees

Under the trees we find the path –
that one we missed last time –
and climb above the flood plain
on which – five miles downstream –
fools build fifty-four homes

We are now in nature’s green skin
where branches and hand-propped boughs
form unfinished rough shelters –
these experiments and adventures
decay to an undesigned usefulness

Further on the slunked gully runs –
here kids built mud and stick dams
until a wire fence was erected
and that sucking and silting stream
was blocked from the apprentices

The track is beaten and heat-cracked
which encourages youngsters on bikes
to take the risks we also under took –
but we hadn’t the engineered machines
on which they hurtle as fearless riders

The trees reverberate with monkey calls
and the shrill complaint of a lost child –
it is as if the internet doesn’t exist
as the off stage scramble of children
escalates – not quite Lord of the Flies.

From the Gift Shop

In the dream there were scatterings
of things you had bought and then kept

Small gifts from a trip which were never given –
a sprinkle of purchased intentions

I bent with ease to pick each one up
and being of sleep they adjusted
to become other things and other thoughts

On waking I re-assembled the slim moments
from yesterday that my slept mind had touched

– I had briefly looked at a snapped picture of you
from that shortness of unschooled innocence
that age when we inhabit a world so small

– I sat in the sun on a hard garden bench
with my awareness shrunk to that of children
into only considering that which I could see –
down to that hemisphere of no more than a step

– Momentarily I had thought about a family trip
That was a rarity then and more so now

– An ugly fly landed on my emptied plate
but there was a jewel’s quality to the intricacies
of the fly’s translucent wings and rolled eyes –
an emerald’s glint as it fed on microcosms

We no longer stride the globe of our forbears –
that inheritance which childhood soon sheds

Our interests and eyes wander too wide
and so we stop seeing into the eyes of flies

The Old Boy


Grandfather was of a slipped generation
with his Bakelite-twirled-to radio stations –
tuned to his low-hums with orchestras
and his wound-up clock – that western sutra –
its regular pendulum his hands-free baton
conducting his lonely tea-mornings taken –
until he rolled his guard-rattling Raleigh
out of the garage – always wordlessly –

for his brief progress to priest-led prayers
down to the hymns and those-who-care
His trouser leg rolled – clipped – chain-safe –
he pedalled away to kneel at God’s place –
I re-delivered his Guardian newspaper
to his emptied room – our in-house neighbour –
In such regular times I’d take a sneak –
a look inside The Old Boy’s suite –

His life with us was lived behind two doors –
the only bedroom with parquet-floors –
in that other place – not fully his own –
in his free chapel – there prayers alone –
beside his shelves of impossible books –
Schweitzer tallest amongst the hardbacks –
Some with his dead wife’s dated name –
but no further indications of her ever being –

That forensic examination of his living space –
with my untrained eye – I made mistakes –
I never read well his folds or light marks
which re-leafed books do often impart –
I now decipher those responses I get –
I am near his last age – and he gains my respect

041118

Projection Booth


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In the airless cupboard
of our sixties new-build,
in that three storey house,
up on the second floor,
we gathered, brothers,
to delight in the wonders
of the boxed projections,
a Chad Valley picture show
of Thunderbirds Are Go;
with fat batteries loaded,
like dad’s shotgun cartridges,
in the spring-tight blue barrel,
and then, a twist of focus,
our slide show began,
on the whitewashed wall:
Us on a shelf, in the warm.