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Thursday 30 June 2011

What the parish priest told the altar boy.

At diverse times, though all before the age of ten,
our priest (ex-monk) explained to me
that temporal happiness can come in only one
of three designs:-
                          that it can be the darkness of closed eyes,
                          the shape of praying hands
                          or it is cruciform.
You have to find, he said, the shape for you.
The shape that God intends for you.
I was confused.

You must not drink before communion, he said.
(This in the vestry early in the morning.)
God sees you drinking tea - and when you drink
what do you also do?
I have a biscuit with it, I observed.
He almost had the vapours there and then.
You break your fast, he said,
You excommunicate yourself.
You break away from God. That is
the meaning of your word: breakfast!
Again, I was confused.

After a long illness he said that he would take me
to a place he knew in Switzerland.
We would stay together in this place
until my health returned.
Alas, my parents would not let me go.
That, too, I found confusing.
It was years before I understood.

Non-conformists are non-believers in disguise
I heard one day. They'll meet hell fire.
Officiating at the war memorial one day,
he walked away when Methodists arrived.

The Bible was a banned book in his view.
You should not read it David, he explained,
you are not trained. It's not a book
for people. The priest will tell them what it says.

This is a late response to Jingle Poetry's prompt to write on Saints, Monks or Meditation.


Wednesday 29 June 2011

Chromatic Nematodes

Killer beasts, these pretty things,
the undiscovered, undisturbed
for sixty million years,
mutating in the forest canopy,
acquiring its exotic colourings
and colourful life styles.

Transparent, blind, voracious,
dazzling in the sun,
they launch themselves from tree tops,
to hunt in packs
and glide and slide in tight
and fight formations

weaving complex patterns
singing in their half-tone way,
and full of grace - and insects,
birds and climbing things
they catch en route -
to vie with butterflies.

My thanks to Magpie Tales for this prompt.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

It's touching 90 in the shade

It's touching 90 in the shade,
and still the children play
a game of their devising.
Queening it, a girl receives their tributes:
sticks, wild flowers and branches, stones.
Gracefully she takes them, smiles
approval of the gift, and lays it down.
They bow or curtsy; in return
she claps her hands, dispatches them
on further errands. Obedient,
and seemingly oblivious of the heat,
they run or scoot or cycle,
fast as they can to do her bidding.
She, cool and other-worldly,
youngest of them all,
stirs not an inch beyond
the willow's deepest shade -
the little girl from India.

Monday 27 June 2011

The House is More Than Any of Us Know.

You know the satisfying sound
a gear engaging makes,
one from the workshop of a master engineer?
It is the sound made by the house from
midnight on, the sigh
of one responding to my change of mood, achieving
something like a flawless ratio
my current needs and its reserves of power.

You know the crack and flap
a sheet makes on a line on gusty days?
It is the sound the house will use to scare
away intruders in the night,
those souls who wander in from dreams
to trespass in our world.
If they are threat, the house will see them off.
On still days, when the sheet hangs soundlessly,
the house will not disturb our dreams.

You know the sounds a dog makes
shaking water from its fur -
even to the sigh it makes
when it feels dry again?
Those are the sounds the house emits
when shaking off the troubles of the day,
unwinding itself loosely into night.
As on a tide that's ever turning,
it rocks us from our cares into the deep.

You know the sound of distant voices,
their rhythms unmistakable,
the words so incoherent
that you can't be sure?
From somewhere in the house those self-same voices
drift in and out of hearing in the night.
Then nights ago it struck me: This is song,
like bird song marking boundaries between
the house and not-house, wakefulness and sleep.

Sunday 26 June 2011

Sky was bright with the satellites

The title and first line are one line of a lyric - see below.

Sky was bright with the satellites
and dull with the radio.
The waves that splash upon these shores
we do not care to know.

Cosmic shock waves threaten us,
and still they do not thrill
with packages of photon power,
high energies that kill.

And U.V. rays and x-rays too,
though slightly less a threat,
accelerate our ageing
and bring the big regret.

Rays of radar, infra-red,
micro-wave and ultra-V
for ever swamp our world.
Thank God for light to see!

But think: if our eyes needed x-rays
or radio to see...
then what a change would come upon
revered reality!

Our night is bright with satellites
while Nature spooks the land:
so many things we cannot know
except at second hand.

The challenge (at Poetry Jam ) was to write a poem from a lyric or to incorporate the first line of the lyric in the poem. I chose the latter option. The full lyric is given below.

Lock It
by The Falling Joys

I gave you a necklace Purple and Blue
You took it so gently I felt see through
Sky was bright with the satellites

The Wire door slammed and the night began
We drank and were together
then you laughed at the sound of the crowd around....
Christ I really like

You Sat on the steps and we watched the View
The house was full but there was only you
Time was right because you told it to

You laughed at the way I moved around
You said my feet never hit the ground
I look away but then I couldn't move...

I really like you

Take Me Home
Lock it Up
Take Me Home
Lock it Up

Hear the sound of the cars downtown
As a light house sweeps its arms around
Drive me home I wanna see you alone

Beaded so fine like Spanish wine
My gift is yours so read my mind
Let it be... See through me

Sat on the steps with thoughts of you
The house was full I couldn't move
Time was right because you told it to

I Really Like You Chorus Take Me Home Lock it Up Take Me Home Lock it Up

Take Me Home
Lock it Up
Take Me Home
Lock it Up

I gave you a necklace Purple and Blue
You took it so gently I felt see through

Take Me Home
Lock it Up
Take Me Home
Lock it Up

Saturday 25 June 2011

Song of a Once-Lost Soul!

Full well I know that I must be
condemned to death's eternity,
it is not feasible there'd be
a holy place reserved for one
so tainted with impiety,
a creature that not God nor man
nor other creatures prize,
a sinner and a failure
in my loving saviour's eyes,
one who rather is despised
for being what I am.

Thus was my state just yesterday,
but now my fears have rolled away;
I'm up again, my saviour's near
and I am tanked with foaming beer

Friday 24 June 2011

The Jinksy Mountains

These are The Pastel Mountains
as sculpted by the sun,
blurred lovingly by heat haze
on a day that's just begun.

These are The Fairy Mountains
on which bright pixels dance,
and wandering through their valleys,
the mind is in a trance.

These are The Peaceful Mountains
where never wind has stirred,
where no sound breaks the silence
except the sound of bird.

These are The Slate-Grey Mountains
prospectors trod of old;
their jaggedness their beauty,
their colours come from gold.

These are The Jinksy Mountains
(not Jinxy, understand),
which if not wholly natural...
Blow me, they're Jinksy-planned!

You thought them just a picture?
You're wrong, my friend, you're wrong:
they're Land Art for the record.
She's another Richard Long!

Thursday 23 June 2011

An R.T.A. with a touch of magic.

I remember it
as from a dream:
Stan and I both slowing,
still breathless from the climb.
Ahead of us the road,
foreshortened, fell away
beyond our view.
Stan sitting up,
hands resting for a moment on the bars
before they drop down to the brakes:
I'm looking where I'm going here!
Saying it as Randy vanished with the road,
a small dot hurtling down.

Then at the bottom, tight right-hander.
Of Randy, not a sign; but round the bend,
propped by its pedal, standing in the kerb
and upright, nonchalant almost,
as though he'd put it there,
his bike. Back wheel a figure eight.

Next thing, we see a line that might
almost be painted in the road
to draw attention to the bend
so perfect is the curve of it,
a long black mark that hugs the kerb,
burnt rubber from the tyres;
and on the chevron by the roadside,
a shattered red reflector;
while to our left, the hedge demolished.

A loud groan from beyond the hedge,
the star-shape of the red reflector
imprinted in the forehead's
bone and tissue.
And then the ambulance;
and last of all, the doctor's query:
"A motor cycle accident? Must be!"

We never did get over
the way the bicycle had parked itself.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

The School House

Last Thursday, as most of you will know, I disappeared from the Blogland radar and did not reappear on it until yesterday, having previously explained that the reason for my absence had to do with our daughter's 25th Wedding Anniversary. The explanation is that we had hired a cottage at Countisbury, near Lynton amd Lynmouth for a family get-together. The cottage being, in fact the old School House. We had been once before - for my 70th - and everyone seemed keen to renew their acquaintance with it. My first picture shows it from the bottom of the very steep, narrow drive along which you descend to it from the Lynton - Porlock road. I thought a little of its history might be of interest.

It was built by the great aunt of the present owner (who now lives in Nottingham) in memory of her brother and to replace the former Dame School (here) . It originally took children aged 5 to 11 from its immediate area (Countibury consists of a few scattered houses and a public house) and was a one class, one teacher school. Soon after it opened, however, the schools at Oare and Brendon closed through lack of support and their children were moved to The School House.

The school part of the house consisted of one large room (very large, given the standards then in vogue - small hall sized, I would have said). My second photograph shows one corner of it with what is now the open-plan kitchen beyond. The remainder of the building consisted of living quarters for the head teacher. As far as I could work out, it would seem that this consisted of 2 or 3 rooms downstairs, not big perhaps, but again, generous by the standards of the day, and a further 1 or 2 upstairs.

Those children who lived close enough would walk up through the fields (picture 3) to school. Those who lived further out would come to school on Exmoor ponies and were granted an official pony allowance. There was also, just below the playground, now a barbecue area (picture 4), a "pony splatt" or small paddock, in which the children could leave their ponies to graze whilst they did their lessons.

Between what was the splatt and the surrounding hills runs a small stream in a deep ditch. It is in fact The River Lyn which did much to wreak such devastation on Lynton and Lynmouth in 1952.

The first teacher was a Mrs Mary Beck. Mrs Beck became ill in 1940 and her daughter Muriel then carried on until 1971, living on in the house until 1997.

It is said that during Mrs Beck's reign no child left unable to read, and certainly we met with a couple of its ex pupils in the shops in Lynton who spoke with great affection of the school

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Growing Old

It's been a revelation, somehow,
                                growing old.
It isn't what you think when you are young.
The days are only partly what they are,
they're also what you've stored up from the past.
Your memory,
           that part of you you cannot summon as you did,
is kicking in unprompted, without leave.
It's redefining:
                meanings, programmes, tasks;
adding layers to the you you've always been.
You still are what you've always known you were,
but part of some great challenge still to come.

They tell you at each turning of your life
(consulting lists the actuaries make)
how much of you looks back and how much on,
              the ratio of past to future tense.

The good and bad of yesterday we thought had gone
have followed us
                to shine a gentler light on where we are:
we are walking through a life from room to room.
It's a house we knew of old
                           though long ago.
Each room brings ancient histories to light
and each new light reflects a different past.
And as the past moves through its days and seasons, 
so do we see the shadows lengthen or reduce.

We read as much into these old projections
as will give them power to turn a life around.

Monday 20 June 2011

Venus Fly Trap

squared the moon

light intrinsic

most lunar
in its intimacy

in the way it
pulls the mind

unloads its light
and darkness

at your feet
and then

as sunlight does
falls warm

in knife blade rays
on forest floors

stirs the surface

so does the
surface stir

and draw you in
as clearings do

contains you

of something basic


deep as ocean
part now

of its emerging

change one square

and you lose
all sense of all

that Rothko
gave the paint -

its strange
religious power.

Sunday 19 June 2011

Eve before the apple

Eve before the apple dreamt
in softened pastel shades
of limpid waters, shady nooks,
pale suns and gentle rains.
And Adam too, was placid, calm
and even in his ways.

But something in the apple burnt,
a poison at its core
that left her with a taste for fire -
unknown in Eden's bounds -
a thirst that Paradise itself
could never satisfy.

Saturday 18 June 2011


Somewhere, surely, there's another Mount Olympus
where tomorrow's Gods convene, new Gods from old,
no greater, no less human than the ones who went before,
Gods we have fashioned faithfully - and all from ancient moulds.
And surely there's a labyrinth, complete with Minotaur,
that we, in new-found innocence will certainly explore.

And somewhere, I'm assuming, there's a Gog and Magog Land,
a promise that some day an improved world will rise
a world restored to glory, and several times life size.
And surely there's a promise hidden somewhere in the dark
that Noah and all his people when this world has been undone
will find their mountain dry again, A Gaia in the sun.

Friday 17 June 2011


Did I dream as a small boy
a narrow lane with clock towers ranged
on either side, and at its end
a golden tower beneath whose clock
I was to meet my Great Aunt Maud?

And did I dream that I'd arrived
to find the great clock striking twelve
and Great Aunt Maud nowhere around,
then dreamed the clock struck on past twelve
and seemed as though it would not stop,
until with one enormous "Dong!"
the face fragmented, showered the ground?

The hands still moved, but madly now,
the cogs and ratchets, weights and chains
were blurs before my startled eyes.
I thought I'd dreamed it, but was told
the clock was real, was Great Aunt Maud's.
Her carriage clock (The gold was brass?)
had stood for years, and struck the hours
totally sans face and hands.

Faceless people, hands in prayer;
faceless clocks, hands locked as one,
were constant in my early dreams.
Corrosive after-images, they followed me
from depth of dream to height of day.
But did they also lay false trails,
mock memories of bogus dreams?

Both might be true, I might have worked
the carriage clock into my dream -
though it is gone from memory.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Playing with the Angels

Three hundred angel dancers skipped 
for seventeen unending minutes 
a pinwide width of birdsong caught
in flimsy branches
                  wind-swayed and quivering.

In case you're doubtful,
let me
             run that past you one more time:-

Three hundred antimatter atoms (antihydrogen, in fact)
jigged about
for seventeen long minutes
                                 by magnetic force fields
                                 in a man-made vacuum.

Neither version seems more likely
or unlikely than the other.

Some slight brush, a passing contact
with any substance from the world we know
would have sufficed for them
to interactively destruct
                         for each to cancel out the other.

The vacuum could not hold.
What, I wonder, if it had?

And what, I wonder could not hold in the Big Bang?

Had the Big Bang managed more consistency
                                         with mankind's intellect
then matter and its antimatter 
                              would have found a perfect balance 
thereby annihilating everything
                              before anything got going.
                                                        Which is why
the scientists of Cern are playing with the angels.

Their next step is to bathe their particles in microwaves
                      illuminate them with their laser beams
                                      hoping to discover
what it was went wrong in the Big Bang
and how the hell this universe survived?

The experiment to which this poem refers was conducted in CERN's Large Hadron Collider a couple of weeks ago, so is somewhat behind the times - goodness knows what they might have done by know!

I regret that I am now about to disappear again for a few days. This weekend we have our daughter's 25th Wedding Anniversary, which I mentioned earlier. It was one of the reasons for my week away from blogging. I was preparing some photo-montages for the occasion. On this occasion, however, the posts will continue to appear - notice my restored faith in Blogger. Hopefully, I shall be visiting etc today, then not again until Monday, or perhaps Tuesday, when I shall do my best to catch up. This would be a good time, I think, to thank all those friends who helped to keep the site ticking over last time. Much appreciated. Adieu, wish us some good weather!

Wednesday 15 June 2011

The Whole Wide World

The Isle of Wight,
climbing to its highest point.
I'm yards behind the leading boy
who stops, triumphant, on the brow
and looks around, seems mesmerised,
then looks at us:
"Up here!" he calls, "Come quick!"
and waves his arms, shouts: "You can see
the whole wide world from here!"

It's early days of space probes; images
of earth afloat in space are cropping up
in papers and elsewhere. I too can see
what he has misperceived:
the island as the Earth
suspended in an azure space
of Solent and the sea.

Except for this - he sees it too -
our Earth is tethered, not quite free:
down by The Needles space runs out
and isle and mainland seem to link.
"What's happened there?" he asks
and points. (Quite solemn now.)
"Bit dodgy that, I think!"

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Secret Weapon

During World War II
                           there was
                           in our neigbourhood at least
a rumour I had often heard
as gossip in the gardens - that the Germans
                           had a secret weapon, 
                           one that could travel underground
                           and move through earth not moving earth,
                           manufacturing no movement but its own.
It could travel any distance (almost)
                           could creep beneath our feet
                           and our foundations
                           displacing nothing,
                           not the flimsiest root of tree or plant,
noiseless, undetectable, it would leave everything intact
    at a given moment
                      or a given signal
blow everything to bits.

I knew people who believed this tale
or said they did
                repeated it as a known fact.

After the war
             a funeral
                      and I began to wonder 
might not the dead behave like that?              
                                   those in the churchyard
stealing their breathless way beneath
                                     our grass roots
disturbing nothing in their journey through the generations
shadows slipping through the eons -
and how many epochs stretching out before them?-
until they find their mark
                          and wreak their vengeance
on the living
             or reward the dark.
Maybe that was where the Germans 
                               found the concept for their bomb,
and maybe those old gossips had been spot on all along...

Monday 13 June 2011

Derek Jarman's Garden

Photos of Dungeness, Lydd
This photo of Dungeness is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The sea brought sculptures to his door:
a heft of timber like a megalith
bleached marble-white, salt stained and pitted,
mortised by a craftsman long ago
to give a window on this flotsam world.

And through that window, flints and shells
sea kale and cotton lavender, a tangle here
of wire, a Gordian Knot of rope, a twist
of driftwood; lovingly arranged on shingle
into which by wizardry the plants are pressed

that are indigenous to this lone beach,
equipped to fight the salty winds
for their continuance. We too are threatened
and the threat seems real: across the beach,
a hulk-like shape that could irradiate us all.

Derek Jarman (Jan '42 - Feb '94); film director, stage designer, artist, author, diarist, lived in Prospect Cottage on the beach at Dungeness in the shadow of the atomic power station. He created a unique garden from what was there and what could survive there. There were, and are, no fences. No boundaries. The garden is part of the beach and is continuous with it. The cottage is not exactly open to the public, but his fans have maintained it and the garden in the style he made his own.

Sunday 5 June 2011

watercolour and haiku

on a broiling day
a distant stretch of water
reflects its coolness

I am now giving myself a few days off blogging, a week at the most, the more effectively to attack a few domestic projects that are becoming bogged down - not least, one associated with our daughter's 25th Wedding Anniversary - and maybe to catch up on my reading and re-charge the batteries, that sort of thing. (I am also hoping that by then Blogger will have put its house in order.)

I do intend to be keep up with the visiting, though maybe not commenting quite as much. My grateful thanks to you all for support thus far. See you again anon.

Saturday 4 June 2011

Porn King

I'd known him first at school
seen his portfolio
assembled from -
or largely so -
the contents of the art room bin.
Salvaging their rejects
had won him a distinction.

But not content with
with such redemptive work, each week
he'd set art homework for himself.
Monday was his Judgement day.
He'd bring it in for our critiques:
pencil drawings, photographs;
his girl friend draped
impossibly -
and nude, of course -
on rocks or fallen trees
wash basins, baths,
inverted chairs,
a mangle and a boiler.

Though in the real world
not the form of art most coveted,
his pencil drawings
outranked the rest in popularity.
One went for a Meccano set.

A porn king in the making, I suppose.
Even that far back.
But art school's life class
was the catalyst -
though not as you might think.

A coffee break,
relaxing in the corridor,
gossipping and sparring verbally
the students mill around
The model
having donned a robe
comes out to telephone.
The instrument is out of order.
At first she hesitates
then slips out through the main doors
to the public box
not ten yards down the street.

She's back before the
session bell, but not alone,
her former equanimity
destroyed: a great dane,
head and fore-parts thrust
beneath her robe, its rump
and tail still visible, is savouring
a close encounter with
the very part of her anatomy
the pose had most concealed.
Two burly students rescue her
and lead it back into the street.

"There's money, mate in this!" he says.

When I next heard of him, he had dropped out;
had two failed businesses chalked up;
was on his third and fourth,
two private night clubs: "Changelings"
and "The Zoo"; both doing well -
as was he. "By being 'private'
clubs avoid the law",
it was explained to me.
It was closed down.
The Health Authorities, I heard.
Unsavoury activities -
or something - in the kitchen.
I've often wondered what they were...

Friday 3 June 2011

Four Haiku

the hover mower
blowing earth from nearby beds
creating dust storms

on the hedgehog house
a thrush taps insistently
out pops a robin

in the back garden
half an empty bird's egg shell
in the front the rest

on the blue rose bush
all the blooms hide their faces -
from us and from the sun

Thursday 2 June 2011

Prophet of Our Time

In days of old
prophets were made
of stuff like him;
were men of vision,
seeing clearly,
effects produced
at times
from tiny causes,
beyond all rational

But this is the myopic
so he must study
string theory
and the theory
of complexity;
and be well versed
in critical states;
and worry
that the scientists
and techno-people
and all those who advise
our politicians
might somehow
have screwed up again.

Entered for One-Shot-Wednesday

Wednesday 1 June 2011

The Child-Artist and the Artist-Child

The way the child
                 sees what he sees
and only later as an adult
                          what he knows
and then forgets forever
                        because he never really understood
                        the way we never really understand
                        a dream
                               what he had seen.

That is the Eden that we've lost
                                the one we teach our children
                                and our childrens' children
                                so quickly how to leave.

All Edens are as fragile as the puff
balls on a dandelion
                    the vision that      we blew away
                                         and laughed to see it go
she loves me... she loves me not... she loves...
Whether she did or not, we soon forgot.

We might have drawings from that time
a doting parent kept.
                     Like colours on old photographs
                     the vision is no more.

The young child draws because he must
he is the only artist in the world
and waits, you see,
                   in a foliage of feeling
for some maturity
                 for language and for logic
                 to open on the stems of seeing.
The moment, when it comes, is fogged.
                  conceals his triumph from his eyes.
He draws comparisons 
                    his drawing and another's.
Nothing now will ever be the same again.