Farming Today

Under Glynde’s grey turbine
I know I am irrelevant

It is as if my chest’s creaks
are now unsure ship timbers

set grinding by lifts and turns
of blown low pressures

Her blades swoon over us
in that signature revolution

She asks of me a greater effort
to stand for any time in her shadow

Can you find a name for her grab
and snaffle of another westerly?

Words hurt you – they are your
turned blades in your turned head

And this act of standing upright –
above Gote Farm – is my anchoring

on these Downs of compromises
made between giving and taking

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

A Crew

There is a slight run of resonance
with squared dips of catches –

it quickens with timed recoveries
along those rumbled turns

of leather-collared connections –
so that the forward lean-to-timings

lever everything to leant finishes
and the opening up of your lungs –

and we haven’t even talked
of power with the blade’s bowing –

We can master the cockboat’s turn
through hard rudder tips into the wind –

by finding strength in fixed ways –
by using the entry and exit in unison

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


Hamilton Place

The tin top cottages
should be haunted – but there is no ghost –
no made-pail Hoogstraten –

A man ripped the roof
off his own propped home and so next door
was left for him – alone –

Now stand those twins
with no tiles or grace – rotting near Hoogstraten –
and his resting place

The Last Corner

First an eye-crash –
that was the quick blindness
which I slammed into –
it enveloped me under
a tugged-at gallows hood
as I ferried our slumped
kids through their unsettled fears
of the dark – a risen thing

with the hour’s rainfall
which spat – then gobbed
across the lane’s shifts –
springing like shone frogs –
a slimy tide of refraction
down the switch – on and off –
of the unintended chicane –
set by claws of branches
and lumpen road kill

in that true – truest black –
I drove under the storm
that had redacted all colour
from my high beam view
of the tongue-wet road –
that horror film palette
of some evil and of some good –
in stretched marks to bends –
in white lines which warned
of the too-tightness
of that last slip away camber

First Class

As my path-running dog bolts – yet again –
at the vertical thinning of grey squirrels –
I hear – and then see – those almostvermin kids
gather across the far side of the school fields –

where they struggle with bunched keys
to unlock the rattled and knocked store –
where the bright balls and corner flags
are piled behind the fist-drummed tin walls –

There the brazen – almost-male – chorus
of laughs and throat- bubbled testosterone –
of catching-ups – is loud before the blast
of Sir’s voice from afar – which pulls them

to five-a-side battles in their dark uniforms –
until the rattled shed is locked hard again –
I return from those few seconds of my school days
to see the dog waiting – I call to her on my way

Cold

Believe in your child’s ghost –
but then let her spectre run
from the road-kill shock –
from the flare of the
body-struck headlights –

those halogen matches
will ignite her terrified flight
into the woods –
But don’t eye that place
where she first learns to haunt

in the permanent night
of tightly weaved birches –
where Nan Tuck flies afeard
of her burning death throws –

where the recently
spilt spirit runs
from the quick-kill road –
Who let the trees take the young
from our arms?

The wounding country lanes
kill our flightless birds
with too much winding speed –
She will be cold tonight

The Remained

Even in the unfair fall
of rain on the night – of
discharged un-loadings –
after the torches lit
the memorial bonfire –
the three wives of war
will be still – to remain
without any complaint
about huge losses to
King or Country –
or other such standings
of the state’s manhood –
that stupidity of men
Keep back from
the lightings and fusings
of the electrical lines –
It is as if God was unable
to save the widow wives

Inside My Lover

I am entertained inside her lento lungs –
travelling alone and partly dusk-blind –
within her low suck of cooling breath –

I inhale her exhale of purest oxygen
and with it comes an unwinding –
an expansion of my otiose senses –

an awareness of this as existing –
of living things set around – but
obscured by the falling of the hour –

Now the manic chp-chp-chp-chp-chp
of panicked blackbirds to one side –
joined by the rude crows overhead –

that tuneless duet of birdsong is overlaid
on itself by others’ alarms and queries
which set off – concentric – around me –

As I tread – as I compact the leafy mucus –
which she absorbs into her membrane –
the fallen are re-sown by the plough
of my steps on this weaved footpath –

Her cold stew of re-use – of rotting down –
is nature’s re-design – it is not random –
be it the branched capillary urge
of saplings – or the fork of tipped boughs –

or the patterning of her cast off leaves –
already thick enough to hide the paths –
Now on cinders I miss the give of the mulch –
the weighted compress and its last sound

Naming Rights

Should I give a name
to those stolen logs
and breaks of wood
which were dragged
and then laid in place
in the muddiest parts
of our dipping routes?

They span the indents –
the heel-suck puddles
in the uneven paths –
Not bridging boughs
too stepping stones
I will leave it now to
a far greater authority
to find the best thing
to fill that word space

Above the Ouse

Here are the random spillages
of sorrel-glazed sweet chestnuts –
an overnight downed bounty
which has settled on the layers
of leaves and paths underneath

The splayed-open spiky cupules
offer – like unclipped purses –
their copper-only change –
I finger out those fattened nuts
which were once so desired
to fill the bowls of soldiers –

As I gather – not easy work for me –
the loosened crop on my route –
they mass to make my pockets
weigh as if full of dreadful stones –
but these will not pull me under

Pevensey Levels

The filleted contrails
meet at an equal
destination over there –

weak carbon offsets
of traceable aspect lines
for the flightpath artist –

but not strung long enough
for the followed eye to apply
into the capture of nature

It is runway flat under them
so pray they don’t align here
and find this level for land

Late Out

This dessicated path
is an off-white scar
under the moon’s phase
of waxing gibbous

Boots and tamed dogs
have worn this route
into a grass-bare map
which I read by that light

The holding flightpaths
of man-made meteors –
of ephemeral accords –
circle among the clouds

The transmitter mast blinks
with a beast’s red eye
shaming Arcturus and Mars
so even those stars fade

This as the bypass hums
a song of our war won –
our tilt against creation
by over engineering

Above the Weir

The kayak wobbled
on the tamed river
as we paddled –
but out of time –
past bikini-strapped girls
and kids your age
whom we sat above
in our inflated craft

Within ten minutes
we had found
the quiet normality
of an unbroken tension
where water boatmen
skated in spurts –
here dragonflies dipped
to a secret dance
above our bright bow

We kept time for a while
and then you gave up
to let me drag routes
around low branches
and through narrowings –
I briefly quit with pain
so we were set adrift
against the nothing current
below the next weir

You held the ropes
as I tried to lift my weight
from the muddy berth –
but my legs could not do
what legs should do
so I dragged myself
up the herd-worn bank –
gripping grass clumps
to bring me ashore

I hold the memory
of that recent evening
as fondly as those of my youth
when I lived for the Thames
and her sly currents –
when I could cross
the tops of weirs –
but now I am reduced
to the sloth of the Ouse.

The Lanes

The local lanes have been narrowed
by the thickening of nature’s ripeness
The scabbed tarmac routes are reduced
by the slow encroachments of greenery

Each blind corner is an increased fear
but still taken in third gear at over forty
as if TE Lawrence had never died
on such a cluttered route as this

Summer is an alien with her land grab –
her low leaf boughs weighty obstructions
which hide rotted bodies and tossed litter
until the rape of leaves under winter

I drive between my rural commitments
of drop-offs and collections along roads
which were never designed for our speeds
nor any misjudged braking distance

Tea at Charleston

A heavy shower traps me
it bolts me inside the car
under the fry of rain on roof

I am returned to campsites
and useless kagoules
those flimsy foldable coats

The windscreen streams
with hundreds of floods
and another revisit

when I was pressed
to the panes in my bedroom
where
on the wettest of days
the only sport was teasing
the fattening condensation
into vertical rivers
with my breath as mist

I find
the tearoom is closed

Sussex opens on Tuesday

Two Women

I met Makris and Demeter
bent over a half-inflated dinghy

and me, the old boy,
interrupted their labour

with a brief history
of my youth on The Thames;

‘meander’ came back to me,
along with ‘blade’ and ‘gate’,

my recall faltered at Barcombe,
on a twist of The Ouse to Lewes,

their sure sweep of youth’s grace
patched my pause with their words,

they were back from The Anchor
to this downstream landing;

they sparkled in the late-May light
with an assurance, in such love,

and I walked on against the current’s force,
but only knee-deep in meadow grass.

By Windover Hill

No rich patron for St Andrew’s Church,
unmoved by digging at historical facts,
dropped, slumped, almost marooned,
leaving it off-centred on Alfriston’s Tye,

a cross set high on a rough mound,
above the bezier-curves of The Ouse,
of her flood-carved meanders,
kept from the village by a low flint wall,

this house sits, quiet, above the tide,
that moon’s claim upon timed rises,
which shift according to typed charts,
there is more than one God working here.

This low Cathedral of the Downs
will always be half-framed by the slope
of that grazed slant of Windover Hill,
unsure of the Long Man’s presence.

Inspired by – Keith Pettit

Continuation

This is my constant (since childhood):
along a rough path of almost-identified
bird song, high-scattered;

but I am no longer drawn to the slip and suck
of uneven grasses, to be welly-filled
so my socks squelched:

Not over the land topped by last year’s
stamped brambles: As ever the grey sky
has dropped,

she rests lightly on this damp copse,
where locked-in trees are north-greased
against climbers.

The birds I once shot, our farmers’ pests,
ruminate overhead on bowed wires,
adjusting with flap-claps,

and, still, ever, that distant roll of
tarmac breeze, of sped tyres
on a constant road.


A Letter from Maria’s Seat

Quem te deus esse jussit*

1.
Lady Maria-Josepha Holyrod,
a quill-scratcher of enquiries,
sailed badly from Brighthelm:
‘L’Unique Miss Madam’
Mother re-anointed Maria
in ink and long-hand love
in her last address to her child,
her travelling sweet witness
to sword-thrust royal-shifts
across bloodied France,
posted from the girl’s carriage
on visits to grande houses.

2.
Maria looked from the mound,
Sheffield Park, settled in nature,
‘I live almost in the Garden’
she wrote, March 9, 1794:
Her planned wood view, back
on all that her family owned,
the land, the trees, the life,
but no more such a sure future:
She wrote in fear of local orders:
‘Drive the Cattle from the Coast’.
She signed her many letters:
Adieu! Ever yours, MJH.

*Learn the person God has commanded you to be


SOURCES:
Google Books: Girlhood of Maria Josepha Holroyd [Lady Stanley of Alderley] – Link HERE
Royal Collection: – Link HERE

The Last Frost in Sussex

the-last-frost


08:24. I am touching the last of a cold God,
over unevens, under unornamented woods,
now contained by us – for the good of all:
February over-sugared, overnight, here underfoot;
the stripped hedgerow is briefly lit, crowned
by the blinding hour, those umber-dipped
high stick fingers touch the very last of His
visible burnt presence.

Along the raised path, the short timber route,
over the flood-expected meadow, a convenience
for us led dog walkers, commuters, drunkards:
It has a ship’s complaint under my over-weight,
a sea worthy distrust of unstrapped cargo,
my stick a peg leg poke across her slippery deck.

Greater tussock sedges, rare Sussex lumps of grass,
green icebergs gathered, wait for the June onslaught
of Japanese knot weed, a foreign flood in this field
after the cold-breath time has been put aside, quicker
with each warmer year. The woodpecker stopped
in Buxted. 08:32.


Bonfire 2016, Lewes

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong
gives it a superficial appearance of being right.”

Thomas Paine, former Lewes resident.


Here – trapped again –
clipped at The Swan
with a Liquidators track –
a requested song –
ska for the drunks
who cannot dance –
especially the white
low-middle-class –
and those blacked-up
for bonfire fun –
hoping to upset
everyone –
White men as black men?
Not very ‘clever’ –
please torch the cocks
and their racist feathers

E021118


Moving a Sculpture

farley1
UNITY, by Allan Mackenzie

For AM

Farley Farm
was close to drugged,
slow with November’s
perpetual damp;

my view was short-taken,
by dozens of time-kicked
bricks in the long-revived
fat hip barn:

Having spent the morning
stacking dusty blocks
I was all for piling-up
everything more artfully.

A gardener appeared,
arm-locked in the steering
of a wheelbarrow of plants,
now lifted, redundant.

We required his own way
of up-rooting things,
and the piece was loaded
under his soft advice.

There, laid in two parts,
the sculpture divided,
over scatter cushions,
to soften the journey.

A grave length remained
of worm-turned turf,
where the statue had stood
we left a patch of earth.