A selection of poems from 2022 – 2023.
They come asking where
is my lost coffee cup, my glove,
my God? I promise to have
a look round, returning often
empty handed. Settling
for my company, they share
a while the deep pocketed
hope light as lint on my palms.
And we talk as though we have
no hand in our mutually assured
destruction, reaching past love
to grab knowledge by the throat;
but who among us has not crossed
dignity’s boarder to seize a point
in conversation? I know of silos full
of sin, camouflaged so skillfully the
satellites will never see them, ready
to launch on any given other.
I deem a threat.
ON A WELSHMAN
Because we have a lot in common like
the mistrust of machines or the question
of what happens when the head’s bowed.
God seems always gone to you, migrating
to some warmer clime.
You let go what’s unusually leashed,
for better or worse you’ve taught me
that much slowly, never in a raised voice
but with a touch of the arm while walking
and a stop. listen. The raptor glides overhead.
Watched a man watch his daughter
eat scoops of sea foam ice crème
one morning before eleven; she had
no business indulging, nor he smiling,
still the clouds made way for a bit
more light, and James was corroborated
YOU ARE THE BRANCHES
A window’s hung on the east
wall. Simple scene, lattice overrun
by vines perennial, verdant
more so in gentler months.
Framing the evolution without,
I often thought that lexicon
of leaves revealed more within
than many sermons.
Waking among them, tremendous,
swimming in on the neolithic
mist, we hushed each other, believing
our cheap canvas camouflage.
It was magic, their scale
to my small life.
One evening, heart drumming
into the sod, I crawled on my tummy
near as possible, primitive pen knife
in my shorts’ pocket, a brief rite
of passage before teethe brushing
and sensible bed times reined me
back in from boyhood.
I was not worthy
of their unsophisticated
prayers, cast as coins
into the wishing waters
of the deep, expecting
change. It came.
For all their poverty
of diction they knew
the second language
of trust which I had not
full, they sat at water’s
edge, spending indiscriminately
as I held out my hands
begging for a penny.
They flocked to her
grave, once he was down,
eager for her company
over his. Shovel by shovel
the earth subdued
his memory I was left
alone with, to witness how
a mother’s wing always
finds a way to exhume itself.
We’re a bit drab, collected
mostly from the lost
and found. Rarely do we excite
in ritual, as it often resembles eating
your greens. Blood loss is common,
as are open wounds. Our best quality
is the ready admittance of self
righteousness, for which
we have no remedy
other than turning up.
HERE I AM
The bush burned
briefly in the child’s face
I could not hold
the gaze, a quickening
here and there between
the scruffy looks and
finally it retreated long
into the mirror, flickering
beneath eyes afraid yet
asking to be consumed.
Among match stick houses
and mid-century telephone
wire we have forgotten
about the fragility of the ship’s
hull and the autumn when
the stomach turned for fear
too little was harvested; forgotten
about stone and iron and that we
had great grandparents
at all; here we present history
with the future only, expecting it
to bow and ask for directions.
SONGS (SEPT 30)
Drums were beaten
among food trucks
and craft beer stalls,
and giving one ear for half
the hour we called it a draw,
“enough for now”.
They called it honour, but I
felt none among thieves.
Couldn’t say what
but it resembles surf
as from the North Sea,
so that when the tide pulls
the fissures in character
widen and I fret you’ll
be lost, hypothermic
in the wash.
BURN (in memory of Gordon Fee)
We cannot all design rockets, though
from time to time are expected
to fly. Fuel in excess, every preacher
can be consumed, it is the precision
what is lacking. We look then
to the scholars on fire, mathematicians
turned pilots, who, refusing to sacrifice
thrust for trajectory, trajectory for thrust,
go brightly, leaving us a path of light.
REASON FOR POETRY
The language of the universe is said
to be pronounced by finite equation.
Black wells, immeasurable and growing so,
reduced to tidy sums. No wonder
we are formless and void, desperate
for a word’s warmth, the visible, if illegible breath.
I have not often chosen the better thing.
Firs as cut from construction paper at dusk,
early morning’s noiseless firmament,
coffee from disposable cups or Made in China
while the antique wastes. I have not
often chosen the better thing, though being
patient it remains, never taken from me.
Finally called on out
of necessity or nostalgia. Still,
a comforter. One folding my hands
into pockets, I am shepherded
from exposure’s life sentence.
Someone must go slow
because they all go
so fast. If no one takes time
we’ll end up running out
the clock with nothing full
about us but the inboxes.
I saw God once, not in a bush
burning but as a leaf
dying, preforming a slow pirouette
from a great height to a mass
grave made holy ground. The movement
was so graceful that for a moment
I felt as if I might dance also.
Many sick admitted, many
unaware of what is
sick. What will they settle for?
Comfortable rooms, entertaining
speech, pats on the back,
“there, there, it’s not so bad.”
Are they contented to sit
in judgement of one another
or will they turn
to sit in circles, waiting with the one
ear left since Gethsemane?
Some we come to see
soar, heard as a symphony
from the back seats.
Most we come to see struggle,
heard as a child’s recital, the off
notes clanging in our chest
cavities, permitting us also
to risk approaching the piano.
Locally sourced in weather and weeds, appeased only
by death’s happenstance, certain as a tossed coin.
No, far more strange
than known, free than owned.
Procreator of Methuselah’s star, yet drawn to sit
around our ailing fires, even to gather the ritual’s kindling.
Her song, shouted into the wind
with no drum, no accompaniment
but hunger pangs. I asked if you heard
from beyond time and matter, half
condemning your distance. “I have”
came the echo “and made you
near enough to reply.”
MERCY SEAT, MANGER
The rite long mistaken
as proof of allegiance is made
holy by the spark, locatable
at the start of time’s long chain
reaction, warming here a space
left in straw. The gap
between the cherubim filled.
Geese, not angels, past
my kitchen window this Christmas
night. I strain to spot a form, obscured
in frost and fog, but hear clear the new
creature’s cry east up river; the history
sending hope to all future.
Flesh as feed, a body holy
for the hungry in a trough.
Herdsmen corralled to make
matters worse, signing to all
things they are made clean.
A girl with no longer a secret
in utero but in heart, treasure
hidden in a field.
The impenetrable promise was
the house wouldn’t collapse in
such dramatic or unpredictable
weather, but it’s the creeping
erosion of a faith not attending
the depreciation report
that worries, the footings
hammered at youth into bedrock
washing unnoticed to sand.
Ninety-nine left unanswered
on the hillside as the one stray prayer
is tracked in the dark. Not so lost
to hope’s precarious edge,
it will be a long walk
back, but the burden is treasured
and joy sits expectant
on the horizon with first light.
A star once, I spread
warmth on a limited sphere
of living. Flowers along with
civilizations rose and fell in
the inevitability of my benevolence.
At some indistinguishable point
there happened a tip inside
from expulsion to implosion,
so that now I consume only,
insatiable and vast, no morsel
of matter or history satisfying
the shadow of my appetite.
IRONBRIDGE (v THOMAS)
So this is where it ran, on the Severn,
your antipathy to industry’s toxic reach grasping
at your mother tongue
up river. If ignitable would you burn it
as the cottages, caring little for the fallout
in the name of nature’s better principles?
I haven’t met God much
outside a handshake
or a hug. He seems to tie himself
up in the fragile trust we tether
to one another. God exists
largely in the connections we make
and break and make again.
We’re always breaking.
So God sets himself in the torn
bread and the bloody places
we scaffold, having chosen
not to shy away from the horror
of our relations but extending
his hands in a show of trust
we do not know
how to offer one another.
I came to Manafon
for melancholy, but the country
church was not silent
in the least. Filled instead
with birdsong and talk
shared with a vicar
of golden heart, plucked
from the man’s body
hanging in the window.
No grave faith here now.
Only saints alive with colour
and a winter valley speaking
quite clearly for God.
In the sparse room, away
from commercialism’s bustling
temples, we prayed. They
bowed in silence, I
sat in tears, as we all tried
to put God together
with the children eastward
under the rubble.
So it’s on us, is it
– famine, fire? I will give
you Hiroshima, the camps
and gulags, but when
the plates are in conflict
what have we to do with it?
Original sin feels woefully
unoriginal now, an
ancient history I doubt
tectonic. What have you then
to say for yourself? Come down
from that question mark
and we’ll believe you.