Saturday, August 9, 2008

Three birds

When sea and sky roll in an indistinct haze,
When light and dark melt in an orgy of praise,
Where up and down tumble like leaves in a gale,
When a faraway island dives down like a whale,
Then, she says, from her cliff overlooking the sea
That crashes with fury against the dark wall,
Then will come the three cranes to the disfigured tree
Where stands the great bull.
And the three cranes shall call
And the dead will crawl out of their worm-rotten graves
And shake off the earth that has clothed them so long
And filled with the breath of that magical song,
They’ll be drawn to the island across the dark waves.
And she keeps her eyes trained, for she knows they will come,
For her heart beats in time with the mythical drum.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


My mother said the snow fell thick
That Stephen’s morn so long ago,
Although the ward roared like a stove.
Outside, the little chestnut grove
Wore cheerily its hat of snow,
As pink-cheeked children stooped to pick
Up handfuls with excited yells.
And o’er the town, St. Clements’ bells
Pealed joyously the news that I
Was born that day, she used to laugh,
While the cottage hospital staff
Ate threadbare mince-pies on the sly.

Sometimes, while wanting to unwind
Or waiting for the hand of sleep
To cradle me and brush my hair,
I find myself once more back there.
The snow again lies thick and deep,
The building dark and ill-defined.
No tinkling laughter lights the gloom.
I peer inside the darkened room
But all is dead and all is cold.
I tap the frosted pane and scream,
Knowing well I’m in a dream,
But knowing too that I am old.

I’ve not been back, ‘cept in my mind,
Since leaving on that New Year’s Day,
Encased in layer on layer of wool.
And now? The Cottage Hospital
May be a car park or a grey
Apartment complex ill-designed.
‘Tis nothing – just a piece of earth
That once bore witness to my birth.
No ties, no chains. We chose to roam.
The candle grew not to a torch.
It flickered briefly in the porch,
Then blackness overtook my home.

Conversing with gods

I have conversed with many gods
And taken tea and chewed the fat
And listened to their rambling thoughts.

Sometimes, when they are out of sorts,
They do not care to sit and chat
And conversation merely plods.
And then I’ll smile and take my leave
And lay my hand upon their sleeve
And mutter words of sympathy.

But mostly their loquacity
Ensures the afternoon is spent
In bonhomie and merriment.

They never see me to the door
Nor shield their eyes from burning sun
Nor glance along the village street.
They do not raise a hand to greet
The neighbour’s wife. It is not done.
They can’t transgress the one true law.

Their windows, grey and thick with grime,
Opaque now since the start of time
Stare blankly at the passers by.

I cannot help. I must not try.
My job, starch-aproned district nurse,
Is just to listen and converse.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Upon the quay

Upon the quay the ropes are thrown
And grizzled faces squint ‘neath caps
And ponder fish not found on maps
And listen to the wind’s low moan.

Upon the quay, the keen gulls land
And contemplate the marching band
That haunts the pier from dawn to dusk
With instruments o’erloud and brusque.

Among the bustle there are few
Preparing for the daily kill
Who know they populate the view
For those up there, upon the hill.

Upon the hill, they sit and stare
And wonder at the life down there.

The deep end

In the shallows they splash
With weak-muscled panache,
While their mothers watch well
Lest they do something rash,
Like ride on a swell
To the deep end.

Yes the water is cool
In this uncovered pool
And the markings are clear,
So only a fool
Would venture too near
To the deep end.

Step by step, as they grow,
Straining down with one toe,
Till they’re steady of limb
In the unending flow,
Till they’re ready to swim
To the deep end.

The swimming pool

Am I resentful that we stayed around the swimming pool
While the others had a ball upon the beach?
You said you much preferred it at the swimming pool –
Chacun á son goût – yes, each to each.

I said that I’d stay with you at the swimming pool
Although my feet were itching for the strand
I’d really no desire for the swimming pool,
Chlorine-laced, unint’resting and bland.

Love revolves ‘round making compromises,
Sacrificing personal desire.
But don’t be quick to hand out any prizes –
The blackberry lies sweet among the briar.

If I’d have turned my nose up at the swimming pool,
Headed for the beach with all the rest,
Would my guilt have strayed toward the swimming pool?
How was love in such a way expressed?

But, ask, am I that resentful of the swimming pool?
Were there compromises on your part?
Chacun á son goût – the beach or swimming pool?
Neither of us selfless in our heart.