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

The Lungs of God

I stand under this vault
of our common church –
off-centre on this sea-girt isle

Our stone tradition of roofing
is more to do with fools’ fires
than Heaven’s weight

Here the light is insipid –
no tang of incense
only the blue miasma
off flume emissions

My legs tire – but find no pew –
no tuffet to take me
to the path’s cathartic
kneel-down call

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

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

This Parish

We stick to the leaf-kicked route –
a parting of the dry sea of leaves
cleared by dog-following boots –

We tack down its meandered drop
to the time-softened abyss –
plugged not by God – but drains –

where a watercourse once hollowed
the hillside into this shallow dean –
before the slugs of tarmac upstream –

Here the irregular plots of silver birches
ignore the fallen old lady in lime green –
this is the parish of ineffectual giants –

these natives – a copse within the woods –
are a finger-daubed fearful tribe in white –
chary – waiting – as if standing ready –

listening for the infected invaders
from other places – for intruders
who will bring other such followers

to spread the canker and pestilence –
which was not the way things changed –
not until we changed the weather

Hangover

There is an almost mist of ghostly off-loadings –
like pellucid Nan Tuck – or the long-lost Lord Lucan
My night now haunts me as a half-recalled dream

I breathe and count steps – taught by Seneca’s NHS –
Let only your body wander – don’t admit useless thoughts
The dog bounds due east in her leaps at life’s time

Unseen from overhead I’m no more standing – erased
under glances of passenger lists –
I am lost in the skinned canopy’s leaf-bare branches

I am then ducking below berry-weighted evergreens –
where the temperature drops by one or two degrees –
and still the weakened sun scathes my misted wine eyes

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

October Half Term

The paths were soft under me today
although this low sun is still capable
of tricking the insects into revival –
setting off a dragonfly over the bridge
and pulling late flowers from pods

until the quick slaughter of an early frost
will clear our compound of anxieties
for the seasons – those off-kilter fears
which are felt as warmth on the skin –

At such a late time of year – she says
to her friend over steam-lifting coffees –
I rest my stiff legs under the cafe table –
I feel no quiver of guilt at the dried mud
which is the hardened path to my seat

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