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

Commissions

To live at all is a miracle enough – Mervyn Peake

He wasn’t a signwriter by trade –
These dabblers have other uses
A wartime false commission
to inscribe – For Officers Only

on lavatory doors was sufficient
for Mr Peake to steal drawn hours
and cross-hatch his written lines –
to give rise to Lord Titus Groan –

to see an Earl born under Arundel –
for Mr Peake to guide Steerpike
to towering observation points
below matched scowled brows –

before our artist set his slow eye
among Belsen’s drawn atrocities –
before his mind was drained –
Mr Peake was a miracle enough

Again – Another Fall

Again
it is that time of year
of carcasses picked apart
by visits of daggered beaks

of leavings
of black stains
of crushed-to berry juice
of later felt stomach aches
spread like buckshot pellets

A stag is stretched –
set upturned –
laid out of the way –
dead parallel to passing traffic
with its legs rigid
in its last-struck gallop

Road kill –
it is that time of year
of car strikes
between Uckfield
and Halland
in Sussex
Again – another Fall

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

Lost For Words

A conqueror’s high esteem
of varied Pevensey shellfish

is marked up – still to this day –
when out catching pandles

Sussex’s fathoming in
Latin’s infectiousness – off pandalus

But reducing – a word in decline
in this part of the country

Something to do with grammar
schools and formal education?

There is no local voice
or old inflection –

no dialect in
our National Curriculum –
surelye

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

Memory Fields

Behind Chiddingly’s
mouse-crept churchyard
a still minute’s silence
was being observed
by two dozen plus
quite brightly-dressed
stoolball players

A quarter-hour chimed
from high and behind me
as they rained
a polite light shower
of applause
and then took to field
for their ageless game

as a slumped family bent
beside a turned soil mound –
under helium love
for Her – recently lost
They also met silence
before that rung reminder
of time’s impatience