Sunday, November 7, 2010

In the Darkness Reconciled




Born of water, the first element known
to the child is air, in that choking gasp:
earth soon becomes an irresistible
attraction, to mankind as crawling worm.

Fire appears later, as candle or coal,
Quite distinct from the domineering Sun,
it beckons with its warm and flickering light,
but repels the touch with a stab of pain.

The sudden flaring of the pink match-head
informs the child that hidden magic lies
in serried ranks within a brittle box,
out of reach, hidden from tiny fingers.

In October, mysterious work begins:
adults and older children in the know
begin to pile up wood into a cone,
on a dark spot now overgrown with weeds.

A guy is made, from old clothes stuffed with straw,
ready to be hoisted onto the pile,
but kept safe out sight until the time
of sacrifice and celebrating flame.

The why of mock death is never explained,
except as remembrance of dire treason,
but not as the fear of creeping darkness
that must be dispelled by the bonfire’s flames.

The loveliest mystery is left till last,
when the child discovers a pretty box,
all decorated with peculiar signs
whose meaning is a different kind of light.

Within lie the enchanted forms of fire,
each safe inside a coloured tube or cone,
ready to be released from their prison,
ignited by a salted twist of blue.

Weeks of agonised anticipation
pass by, until the day and that dark hour
comes round when the madness of fire shall rule,
and shining eyes behold the Golden Rain,

the burst of the Volcano and Snow Storm,
the glittering sparklers and the rocket’s glare,
all too soon expended until the last
Demon or whimper of the final Squib.

Somewhere else, a Catherine Wheel goes awry
and fails to spin, and a Roman Candle
lets loose voluptuous loads of fiery balls,
among the bonfire’s sparks of falling rain.

The women add their sacred rituals too,
chestnuts and potatoes thrown in the ash
provide a late night supper for their young
and bring the revellers closer to the hearth.

So Hera and Hephaestus reconciled,
participate unseen within the smoke,
inflaming the minds of the very young
to seek beyond the confines of dull earth.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Summer's End





















The time of sunlight is now past
and shadows lengthen every day:
you knew the bounty could not last
and darkness would demand its pay.

Gather the fallen apples from the ground,
squeeze out the sunlight trapped within their flesh,
hang some from the rafters and dance around
and try to bite the few that still are fresh.

Sit at midnight before a glass
and hope the one that spills first blood
will come and roll you in the grass,
before the snow lies on the wood.

When the veil between the worlds has lifted
cut good joints from a newly slaughtered beast:
see spirits rise where the smoke has drifted
from bon-fires burning the bones of the feast.

In the greyness of the morning
pick from the ash your cooling stones,
read the future that is dawning
for young virgins or aged crones.

When the children come knocking at your door
treat them with kindness and bestow your gift:
teach them the meaning of November’s lore
before their springtime blossoms fall and drift.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Sadness of the House
















The contents accumulate,
an aggregation of desires,
chosen with economic care
and young hopes of future ease,
only to be discarded
sacrificed on fashion’s altar.

TV tubes morph into flat screens,
their ganglia of wires are pruned
and the once loved leather lounges
are deemed unfashionable,
despised, they no longer please,
their kindly embraces now spurned.

Evidence is erased by paint
of youthful progeny and marks.
No toys litter the dust-free floor,
no boyfriends clamour at the door,
just the third dog waiting for
a visit by the family throng.

Juicers, used once, electric fans,
artificial flowers, pans,
huddle in the attic gloom,
their ruminations scarce disturbed
by thermal insulation
or new air-conditioning ducts.

Below, the beds no longer creak
with joint or lone furtive desire,
but still bear the weight of sleep
waiting their turn for renewal
of duvets or mattresses
or that last journey to the dump.

When the front door slams one last time,
the empty rooms can exhale 
the final breath of occupation,
and listen to the world outside
for the next engine on the drive
to relieve the sadness of the house. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another Light





















A single light flares in the night
and the blood singing in the ear
signifies that life persists,
in defiance of that fear
at the corner of the eye.

Why? is the question to avoid
when idle hands take up the pen
and dare to challenge empty time
to yet another duel
on the uncertainty of life.

While breath remains a sighing clock
the count down to the end goes on,
even in sleep, though unobserved,
the contrapuntal rhythms move
towards a deathly coda.

So, make an end, snuff out the light
And dream away another life.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

From Whence He Came


The desert in its parsimonious way
divides the dismal rocks by sandy seas:
the miserly sirocco drinks the dew
and locks each drop away from thirsty lips.

Bearded faces, like old myrrh wood resist,
patiently, abrasions of sand and time,
measured by crescent moon and pendant star,
wheeling above the plodding caravan.

Howling in caves, wind and man find their joy,
carving infinite forms in sand and clay.
Sun and moon no longer shall be worshipped,
replaced by spirit’s vast and empty cave.

The Prophet raves of salvation’s gardens,
filled with tinkling water and women’s sighs,
where men may pick fruit and caress houris
without fear of retribution or death.

This grand mirage, beyond the shimmering
horizon, promises the weary soul
eternal life in pleasurable bliss,
or burning Hell for disobedience.

So mused the trader in his lonely den,
bemused by voices roaring in his head,
scrying a bloody future for mankind
within the stony crystals of his mind.

Submission to the greatness of The One
was the only way to freedom and life
for wayward men, women, children and slaves,
all bound by devotion to His new god.

To convince the faithful, there must be Hell
and dreadful torments to persuade them all
to dwell in righteousness until that time
when angels would cast down the evil ones,

and place his followers in the gardens.
So dreamed the lonely scorpion, in his cave
or lying prone beneath the vault of stars,
until maddened to sting the world awake.

Limitless, the desert sands lay waiting
to receive the bloody spate of prophets.
Eyes widened by the poison from within,
the deluded djinn stared into the sun.
Blinded, he thought he was the chosen one,
but returned to darkness from whence he came.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In the Jar Remaining















She opened her eyes and saw
the shining ones, hovering
above her expectantly,  
each wrapped in glory, waiting
for the first of her kind to rise,
naked from the sodden Earth,
arms reaching out,  breathing in
that first breath of birth.

Officiously the fiery smith made haste,
hands weaving mystic gestures in the air,
he added voice to tongue as well as taste,
bestowing strength and beauty with such care
as only his great art, beyond compare,
could bring her forth, live from the sticky clay,
astonishing his betters, by the way.

Once he had perfected her form and face,
two goddesses, the bright eyed and the fair,
adorned his new creation with such grace
that all who beheld her were in despair
as to what finer gifts they could prepare.
While the Graces crowned her hair with flowers
those left out devised more subtle powers.

She felt blood coursing in her veins
smelt sweet garlands in her hair,
bore the weight of golden chains,
knew the  touch of finest cloth
upon her translucent skin;
gentler than the midnight moth,
a lurking evil not yet seen
in that perfect world.

On a golden crown the smith wrought creatures
from the sea, the land and the windy air,
like living things they adorned her features,
each sang with different voices, unaware
that their cold weight was more than she could bear.
To this art the messenger added guile
which formed upon her lips a winsome smile.

When all the gifts had been bestowed on her,
the high thunder said: “let her now be led
to the brother of he who must suffer
such eternal pain, never to be dead,
and in recompense for his theft she’ll wed
this worthy Titan, and take with her a gift,
this jar as dowry and my secret grift.”

She looked at the fateful jar:
fear and dread swelled in her heart
as she clutched it to her breast
and wandered through the wilderness
seeking the one named Afterthought,
but was rejected with mistrust
after travelling so far
to do what she must.

She cried, and beguiled Epimetheus
forgot his brother’s warning to take care
to spurn all gifts from high Olympian Zeus,
and soon was overcome by beauty’s snare.
Enjoying the woman, he did not care
for those who spin, measure or cut fate’s yarn,
or heed the pain of him chained to the skarn.

Left alone, she spied the jar
and felt curiosity:
what fine joys might it contain?
The lid was stiff, and furiously
she pulled hard to get it free.
When all terrors had fled the house,
with the lid safely shut again.
What else, she wondered, might remain?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Requiem


















Death passes daily, touching whom it may
but today I felt its shadow, coldly
falling on one too young to pass away.
What injustice, then, that the old boldly
dare to live on, breathing life's morning air,
so heedless of the lonely cares of youth,
hoarding ill gotten treasure, unaware
of your struggle with as yet unknown truth.

You, bravely, did not cast off innocence
but carried its bright banner as a sign,
to those ground down by life's intransigence,
that beauty casts out all that is malign.
Too late to tell you of your worth or say
in comfort that your life was not in vain,
Untimely, your escape into death, Lethe
but let these poor words signify my pain.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Love Parade













Pan blew the pipes but Mammon called the tune,
In Duisburg, not Hamlin the love rats danced,
all eager for the press of flesh, entranced
by hopes of sweet joy in the afternoon,
driven on by the techno beat, they soon
faced concrete and steel as the flood advanced

Children of a hopeful generation,
yearning for a country where they could feel
the beating of freedom's drum, elation
not guilt borne by a defeated nation,
grandparents ground beneath the Nazi heel,
quick slaughter in the night by air force steel.

Parents, behind walls in separation,
long languished in guilty isolation,
even before they had torn down the wall
and Duisberg heard the Turk's Muezzin call,
the urge for peace and love was a siren
calling youth to cast off their country's pall.

Of earth, nourished by iron and bloody bind
where hot metal and war had formed the kind
of trading cities all along the Rhine,
rebuilt by sweat, slaked by Pilsner or wine,
from office space and steel mill, surged those blind
rustic passions that will not be confined.

Crammed like lemmings they found their way into
the concrete entrance and were forced to go,
between the walls of that fatal tunnel
crushed and ground together in a funnel
like discarded litter in a runnel,
until some climbed out but fell back below
and lay crushed beneath fear's stampeding flow.

Now guilt of a lesser kind has decreed
Charivari will no longer proceed
along the dull graffiti covered walls,
for fear joy unconfined again will breed
the dithyrambic madness that soon calls
for youth's sacrifice in Valhalla's halls.  

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Entropy Knows Best

















Fragments, shards and raindrops
shatter, splinter, fall,
a scattering destruction,
an ever present pall
covering the sad remains
of life's weakly constructed hall.

Mountains, rocks and pebbles
become sand between the toes,
and after that who knows, who knows
where the world will go,
as the wind blows and blows
away the fruits of accidental love.

The greedy eye informs the brain
of this infinite illusion,
and makes all things whole again,
which adds to the confusion
between the living and the dead,
between fulsome heart and empty head.

Build up, assemble and repair
all that was ever made
but the destroyer will not despair,
entropy, remaining unafraid,
will take it all apart again
until the last atom is mislaid.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Love and Time
















Love and time may not be commensurate:
the first, blazing fiercely, may die away
as plodding time rakes ashes from the grate,
leaving but few embers to warm the grey
remains of passion's quick declarations
of undying love, never yet made good,
but only transformed to emanations
of the soul's longing to be understood.
Where now the flames ascending into air,
soon cooled by volumes of the worlds cold breeze?
Love cannot be conditional on fair
faces, words, acts or that lustful disease
that makes us dance to natures merry tune
beneath summer's sun or cool winter's moon.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Night Visitors





















The starlit sky is dark with hungry hordes,
gliding as silent as the looming clouds.
How well you see the midnight gold gleaming
on my tree, a feast for furry bellies,
drooping clusters of fine orange berries.

How many crops have you destroyed tonight?
Peaches, bananas, figs and soft mangoes,
torn and shredded beneath the gibbous moon,
soon to be abandoned for some new food
or fancy of your predatory brood.

By day you hang out in chattering hordes,
inverted, viewing the world upside down,
or sleeping after fertilising trees
or sowing swathes of half digested seeds
regardless of whether they're crops or weeds.

Naturally, you've acquired a bad name,
accidentally scratching some poor humans,
infecting them with Lyssavirus or
a horse with the deadly Hendra strain or
worse, killing a vet after months of pain.

Despite these faults you are charming creatures,
perhaps even distant cousins of ours,
living a life of freedom and plenty,
we should not begrudge payment for your toil
by sharing a few products of our soil.

You're welcome to berries from my branches,
but please don't touch my Paw-Paws when they're ripe.
Meanwhile I must clean the driveway again,
and cut down all the berries from the tree,
since my drive has become your lavatory.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Old Merlin





















I

I sit restless as the wind, unsatisfied,
Winter's days garnered in an old grey hide,
Puckered and tucked up in a wrinkled rind,
The oldest and the wisest of my kind.
Floating and listing after every thought,
Not weaving or dancing as I ought, caught
In love's webs, spun from Arachne's mind.

Pain of birth, joy of love, fear of dying.
Rain of water, flame of fire, clod of earth.
But of the free air I was born, flying
On dragon's quintessant wings without sound,
Adviser of kings, no subject of Earth's round
Of sufferings, I had a virgin birth,
In past days when of gods there was no dearth.  

I wander among the trees, no sapling
Now, as when I first learned their alphabet.
Beth, Luis Nion; Birch, Rowan, Ash; yet
Now I know them all, like fingers on my hand,
The meaning of dog, roebuck and lapwing
Escapes me, like leaves blown in the wind,
Or souls drawn to heaven, having never sinned.

The last of winter's frost lies on the tree,
White fingers pointing to the wind and snow,
As quietly I sit within life's lee,
Warming myself with thoughts of coming spring,
Wrapped in black cares and robe, a winter crow,
Dark winged with only a harsh song to sing.
I wait for her to come again to me.

I thought that I had learned of all her ways:
Of winking eye, of rounded thigh, of lips
Parted, arms raised, dancing with swaying hips,
Of nimble girls running with little skips,
Of full-blown maids, wide eyed with loosened stays.
To each enticement I had become inured
But in her ancient web still lie ensnared.

These new priests with belted knout, dressed in grey,
Told me their new god had a better way
To deal with the baneful bliss of woman's kiss.
But, it seems to me, he was another Atys,
Who, had kept his balls intact (unlike me),
Crowned with thorns and whipped on the pillory,
And killed after the ides of Hilary.

My first love was a kind of Cybele
And I too hung upon a sacrificial tree,
Swinging, with my head hanging upside down.
The lady of life and death came to me.
The harvest of true love she reaped away,
And with the man in red I went to stay,
Until in the Druid's lore I was full-grown.

When I think of later days my heart grows cold,
Of songs and laughter floating on the breeze,
Of times past remembering for one so old.
Those times have become as fabulous as Troy,
When I was middle aged and Arthur but a boy;
Days of love, riding through the apple trees,
Sighing after ladies, hearts full of ease:
Too many stories never to be told.

So, I wait here for her to come to me,
Wrapt in icy wood by her sorcery.
I see in the dull mirror of my mind
Her fair but fickle face and subtle charms,
Unbind the spell and take me in her arms,
A lover at last loved by his lady,
When she glides through the trees to set me free.

What poor fool has hopeless dreams of this kind?
Filling up the empty cave of his mind
With fleeting phantoms of long lost love,
Waiting expectantly for some sweet dove
To come at last and soothe away his cares.
That fool is me, the oldest fool of all,
I sit and wait release from lover's thrall.

Little gods of love there have always been,
Cosseted and loved by their mother queen.
Venus' naughty boy was known to trample
On lovers' bleeding hearts, for example.
Jealous of his psyche, this goddess ample,
Locked her up in dim halls of jewelled gold,
Hoping that her boy's love would soon grow cold.

She should have known that he could never flee
From his own darts of burning ecstasy.
No more could she give up her lover shared
With dark Proserpine, in that yearly round,
When she took Adonis with her underground.
Nor can I expect to escape the bonds
Of loves dark spell and burning lover's wounds.

When gold mates with lead and silver with tin,
Iron and copper in love bind and leave twin
Mercury behind lay within the twain.
God or man who understands this quatrain?
Saturn falls below bright Sol rides above,
Chaste Diana is hunted by great Jove.
Mars with Venus lies; Hermes dies of love.

II

Lost in the weeds and briars of my mind,
I stumble hither and thither, half blind,
Searching round for another of my kind.
Why do I waste my time with this and that?
Looking in the still mirror of this pool,
I see, staring at me, another fool,
White beard tangled beneath a wizard's hat.

Now, at the end of all my wandering,
Counting the sacred trees on my fingers,
I know when winter comes, why spring lingers.
Waiting for her return, flowers bringing,
Painting the face of the beloved earth,
Stirring the air with shouts of youthful mirth,
Filling the land with the boon of birth.

Once, by the sea, I rode to Cornwall's wife,
In the body of another nobleman,
And filled her up with seeds of golden rain.
I remember now her wild face and clan,
She was Arthur's mother, the fair Ygraine.
And I his magical father now remain,
Tangled up in this web of kingly strife.

There, too, I met swarthy Morgane, my fate.
A little girl she was then, full of hate,
When I came to take away her brother
And replace her father with another.
In a year or two, this father was dead,
Against the Dane in battle Uther led
His men, and dying from the field had fled.

When Arthur was near full grown, with no beard,
I saw her again, this woman; she came
To me for instruction in all things weird.
Morgane the raven; wide mouthed, squint eyed and lame.
I took her in and taught her well my craft,
Of bird, bush and tree, and the secret name,
But when she'd learned it all she left and laughed.

With pallid Christian priests she did consort,
And plotted with the knights of Arthur's court
To adopt this dead Saviour as their own.
Forsaking her allegiance to old gods,
She accepted the rules of their synods
And persuaded Arthur to wear Christ's crown,
To love the Saxon and not put him down.

She knew I loved her but opposed her plan.
With spell and deadly counter spell we fought,
This black lady of death, sweet Morrigan,
Who became the Magdalen of Camelot.
She, with Arthur's foul enemies did plot,
To remove king and queen from Albion's throne.
So that her bastard son could rule alone.

Lancelot to Guinevere she did bring,
Estranging this knight from his lawful king,
Sowing discord among all and everything
Bound up in the lore of the table round.
Agrevane betrayed the Queen's courtly love,
With faithless knights he hunted her to ground
And closed the trap to catch Lance with his dove.

I had seen this foretold in wayward stars,
When the moon eclipsed Jupiter and Mars
In Orion's wake: the scorpion brings war
And famine to the land where Venus' Law
No longer holds sway over kingly might,
Where Mars rules beneath Moon's deluding light,
and brother with brother contend and fight.  

Half mad and sick from the loss of his queen,
Arthur lay down, until a vision seen
Of his new god's glory, shaped like a bowl,
Appeared, shining before his weary eyes.
He called upon all his brave knights and squires
To go on a quest and find out who stole
This reliquary, bright with holy fires.

Once there was another bright sacred bowl,
A womb of poison brimmed with all things fowl,
That stained the fingers of a youthful bard
When to his lips the poison he transferred.
It sent him mad with the moons delusion,
He ran amok inspired by the confusion
Between what is seen and what is heard.

When love dies, in its place rise awful sighs,
Rending the heart and filling it with lies.
The sadness in Arthur's breast filled his bowl,
Which overflowed into his sickly soul,
Flooding it with this Saviour's bloody rain,
Poisoning the old world with Christian bane,
Replacing queenly love with nails and pain.

And so they all rode out to look, in vain,
For love's source and the cause of Arthur's pain.
When coin beats club and cup replaces sword,
Old gods become deaf to the wise man's word.
No longer does the bard persuade the king
But priests bend his ear about everything,
And force the world to kiss the Pontiffs ring.

III

I stand alone, arms stretched between two worlds.
Crystal spheres, singing their eternal song,
Impose on the sublunary whorls
Refrains of good and evil, right and wrong.
With supernatural might I set the scene,
In between what is and what might have been,
And stick my head right through the starry screen.

What I saw was a place of emptiness,
Holding in its embrace the firmament
On which we stand and bear unhappiness
Or joy, depending on our bent.
No god or saviour I found out there,
Beyond the Scorpion and the Bear,  
Only utter darkness without compare.

And in this dark womb of Earth I lie, caught
Like a fly in amber, or a ship in port,
No longer free to sail on life's adventure,
Or to believe there is a joyful shore,
A land where youth, love and beauty endure;
Unhampered by the ravages of time
Or the moans of priests in God's pantomime.

When young, the world shows us the face of youth,
When old its face is lined with snaggle tooth
And each day becomes a weary winter
Drying out the bones until they splinter.
Here, in the dark labyrinth of the Earth,
Where roots hang down and body worms inter,
I wait alone for my release from birth.

I lie uncared for by the goddess wild,
My cleverness with cleverness beguiled.
Arthur too lies Wrapt up in dreams of yore,
Buried on some imaginary shore
Or drifting forever to apple Isles,
Tended by triple queens whose wily smiles
Trouble the hearts of poets evermore.

The quiet water drips and builds with lime
Cold cathedrals of iridescent time.
Stalactite and stalagmite bear the load,
Where dwell hanging bats and squatting toad,
Worshiping the dark demons of eternity,
Before light tripping gods with bells did climb
From the ogdoad of Hell's paternity.

Saturn begot her by Harpe's timely slash,
Sister of furies, giants and nymphs of ash,
With shells and bells she came, down with the rain
Of Uranus' blood, born foaming from his pain.
And where she trod and in the air flowers
Rose and fell, roses and primroses; showers
Of love and joy filled heaven and Earth again.

What need have I now for such a fantasy?
Seeking rest in the arms of ecstasy
Or in the tangled webs of poesy;
Woven by desire to trap the lover
In nets of gold, where we soon discover
That love and freedom cannot be sundered:
Love soon leaving when its fruit is plundered.

The sword has done its work; Arthur is dead
Or lies in limbo, struck down by Mordred.
Father with incestuous son entwined
In an embrace of hate, eternal bind,
Signed in blood and the movement of the stars
They turn yearly with Sol and Luna's cars
Until born again to fight in future wars.

On Snowdon's peaks and in valleys of the Dee
I wandered terrified, a broken man,
Fleeing death, from the Battle of Camlan.
Taking refuge in these woods and caves
I live with wolves and crows, thinking of she
Who will come to me, like Venus from the waves,
To wake again my passion, if she can.

She came to Arthur's court from Orkney's Isles
And beguiled us all with simpering smiles.
The daughter of a petty king was she,
Too young to outsmart a demi-god like me.
With secret sighs she promised her favours
To none but me, an old fool who savours
Soon enough the rapture of a woman's wiles.

Once, from oak and apple, mistletoe I fetched,
Out of Diana's woods, to wield my power,
But now in Saturn's wintry grip I cower,
Like a broken tree, with arms outstretched:
Its trunk Hollowed out by Thor's thunder cracks,
So long protected by the Roman Pax,
Now felled from sacred groves by Saxon's axe.

Now I must go where none can follow,
Bound up in this hollow log I will stay,
Staring at the sky, waiting for Nimue
To fly to me, like summer's first swallow
Or wisdom's queen, piecing her king's body
Together from bits buried in that hollow
Tree, told about in Egypt's prosody.  

A Poem by Tony Thomas

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Walking Behind















Thoughts without words seem harmless in themselves.
The magic mushrooms open tiny caps,
grey parasols in the morning mist, they
have no thoughts or words to express their joy
at rising early from the soil beneath
the shady trees, sending forth their first spores.

Words without thoughts may not be so harmless.
The blundering butterfly may find a net,
assiduously spun by dawn's spider,
a glistening rainbow in the morning sun,
a pretty architectural miracle
to dog walking man, after angry words.

Words without actions may become a lie.
The fleecy clouds that never lead to rain
provide welcome shade from the glaring sun;
a promise to refresh a dried up land
that may not be kept by thoughtless nature,
whose actions do not require reflection.

Actions before words are the general rule.
A stooping bird plucks the spider from its web:
the dog barks and lunges at the bird and
the man, distracted from his reverie,
when dragged along, starts shouting at his dog,
as actions beget words in ready tongues.

Thoughts without actions may seem otiose,
but only to those of muscular bent,
intent on becoming a primal cause,
throwing sticks for dogs, they are not content
with just seeing, knowing and keeping still,
like calm waters undisturbed by the wind.  

Actions without thoughts are distinctly right,
for creatures clinging to their limbic roots,
as contemplation without action won't
fill the belly or reproduce their kind.
Mind, that ghostly adjunct to the body,
a disobedient wife, won't walk behind.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Moon Shade















The streetlights glimmer on the cobblestones,
an old horse drags its load with weary bones.
No moonlight shows beneath the looming cloud,
the sudden crash of chords is very loud.

The heavy figure seated in the gloom
glowers into the shadows of the room,
hunched forward, raising strong hands from his knees
he runs cold fingers over minor keys.

An angry heart heaves and sobs in his chest,
felt hammers rise and fall; he'd done his best.
Remembering the softness of her face,
the notes move softly at a steady pace.

Rubato and arpeggio combine
as gentle ripples on the waters shine:
guttering candles gleam upon an eye
filled with grief's passion but too proud to cry.

The Moon's bullion weighs heavy on his heart,
not yet transmuted into gold by art.
First, the adagio must dull the pain,
as blunt fingers caress the sad refrain.

Harsh anger waits, as it repeats again,
building ready to unleash waves of pain,
but the melody weaves its soothing spell
and his moon shadowed spirit serves him well.

Horrowitz plays Adagio from Moonlight Sonata

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rainbow's Bend

















When buds retreat into the branch in spring
and autumn leaves rise to the trees and sing,
the rainbow bends its gaudy ear to see
the ends of rivers rising from the sea.

The midnight sky blazes with stars so black
but morning brings the sunny darkness back,
banishing colour to the shadow lands,
and shattering the eyes with spectral bands.

Glittering hours rise with the glassy sands,
four thumbs oppose one finger on each hand,
our anti-clocks rewind their flaccid springs
and factories unmake our precious things.

The tongue drinks in the babbling from our ears
and quickly learns that all our hopes are fears.
The heavy heart pumps blood into our veins,
and sends old nightmares back into our brains.

The law of levity now rules the Earth
and every creature clamours for its birth,
fleeing golden beginnings to their end,
beyond the flatness of the rainbow's bend.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Babel Root

















Kapoor show sir, is what I say,
your orbit spider wends its way
to Heaven but like Icarus,
burns up and droops acephalous.

Boris loves it, poor man-boob slob,
and sings its praises, that's his job,
and so the phallic cage will rise,
delighting ladies with its size.

We know spirals are delightful,
but your twists and turns are frightful,
a parody of Coubertin's
rings, those conjoined Olympic quins.

I can see Charles, in the Palace,
come out swinging with his phallus
to condemn in stuttering words
your tangled heap of metal turds.

You should go catch a falling star
and build a Babel less bizarre,
more like a swaying bamboo shoot
and not that ugly Mandrake root.

Money is the name of the game
but Brits like to apportion blame,
so pray that they'll all be jolly,
dancing round your ruddy folly.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

First Taste of Heaven and Hell

















The chairs and tables were as I remembered,
some fifteen years after that first visit.
A light coloured wood, with smooth, curved backs and
the glass topped tables with a greenish tinge.
Near the window stood the shining column
of the coffee machine, on the counter,
the one that had made the terrible sound.
I must have screamed when the steam jet shot out.
from the pain that only a child could feel.
The fear had begun with the great steam trains:
I didn't want to be an engine driver,
leaning out of the cab, showing white teeth,
polishing levers with an oily rag.
I had screamed in pain on the platform too
and then again in the ice-cream parlour,
but recovered when Granny calmed me down.
The metal cup was strange and very cold.
all covered with tiny drops of water,
each one clearly visible to my eyes.
In the cup was a chocolate hemisphere,
topped off with a segmented wafer.
Clumsily, with a long spoon, I tasted
my first ice cream, and it was very good.
Afterwards, we stood looking at the cups,
displayed in the shop window opposite.
Some were silver and some were gold and some
were inscribed with copperplate writing.
"That big one there is for the Flower Show,"
Granny told me, before we walked back home.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Winter Roses

















The old man had been left alone now. The still warm autumn sunlight slanted through the open casement windows onto the polished boards of the studio floor, not quite reaching the foot of the table on which the vase of flowers stood. From behind his head, the cool northern sky lit up the white cycling cap that he wore and highlighted the threads of the brocade cloth beneath the blue vase.

The frail figure was sitting, or rather had been placed at an angle, so that he could see the dark corner of the room as a contrasting background to the pink and red blooms that Jean's wife had carefully placed in the vase the day before. He thought it would have been better if they had been arranged less carefully, since beauty often followed accident rather than design.

He could see outside into the garden, through the triple panes of the doors, and a bit of intense cerulean blue above the tangle of bushes and gently swaying mass of fruit trees. Beyond were the twisted forms of the olive trees that had endured for centuries. If he had not bought the land they would most likely have been cut down, to make way for some hideous tourist development, an act of vandalism he could not bear to think about.

The fresh smell of distilled turpentine and linseed oil hung in the air, scents which his now cavernous nostrils could barely detect anymore: perhaps through the atrophy of the senses that comes with age or the familiarity that blinds the mind to an omnipresent sensation. He dipped his brush into the oil and flicked in the spiral curve of a petal, mixing it with the undried madder on the canvas.

The tableau reminded him of the Tricoleur: the blue vase, the white cloth and the blood red of the roses. He was not overly patriotic: the ravages of the recent war had nearly killed his son and had hastened the death of his wife, but he was imbued with the true spirit of France. In his heyday, Paris had been the centre of civilisation and might be again, now the Bosch had finally been defeated. He did not care for politics much either, but knew the importance of symbols. The blue of liberté and the red of fraternité were incompatible without the separating white of egalité. What better represented freedom than the blue of the open sky, and what more telling sign of brotherhood that the red of blood? As to white, was it not the summation of all the colours of light bound together in harmony? Had he not devoted his life to balancing the raw colours of the palette into the opalescent perfection of female flesh?

He thought of his early nudes: too much bitumen leaking into the flesh tones, too much umber in the shadows. Red was the colour of fire and warmth pulsing within the human body, a necessary antidote to the cool, neo-classical perfection of Ingres and David, which he had so admired in his middle years. He had reintroduced the discipline of line, and dried and cooled his palette in the search for perfect form and colour, but had remained unsatisfied. For years now, he had breathed life back into his monuments to the female form. In old age, he wanted to feel again the presence of woman, the weight, the softness and the smell of the female animal: all those delights that were man's birthright had to be translated into the impersonal medium of canvas and paint.

In the heady days of his youth, the four of them had dissolved the world into a living rainbow, learning to see it in a new way, lifting the veil of varnished gloom forever. Colour had burst free from its restraining lines and edges, perhaps for the first time since man had smeared his caves with ochre and charcoal. There could be no turning back now; the stygian gloom of the academy had been overthrown by life and joy, and he had played a major part in this human drama. But where had it all led? He wasn't sure but could not give up the search for something more. Could he, even now, come up to the great masters of the past?

Crippled all these years, he was now helpless as a baby without its nurse. But he was thankful that God had spared his eyes. Degas and Monet had lost their windows to the world and were left with only dim shadows or the feel of clay beneath the hands. "Bad pain", he muttered, lowering the palette with a ruined hand. He would have liked some brandy; the occasional liqueur eased his pain and was a small pleasure besides. "Pleasure is important", he said to himself. "What is life without pleasure? The pleasures of painting, of friendship and of women." He had been unable to enjoy the greatest gift of the gods for some years now.

"What have the old to do with this?" he thought aloud. He remembered the half-length self-portrait with its sidelong glance and almost hidden hands, revealing the delicate longings of his soul. "I loved myself then, or rather what I hoped to become," he chuckled, reflecting on the hidden narcissism of those days, betrayed in this image of a still young man. He could wear the red rosette of honour now, if he wished, but cared little for the kind of social judgment it represented. Only time would measure the true worth of his labours.

"Truth, there had to be truth," he muttered to himself, struggling to raise the palette again. The battle for truth was never ending: the truth of line, the truth of form and, above all, truth of colour. Each act of painting, in itself a lie, was a deception and a fraud upon the viewer. "Glorious crime," he said aloud. Even the gods had to lie to reveal the world to men. He was no philosopher - what painter could afford to be, without doubting the worth of his profession- but he understood that without the sensual there was no world at all. Life was a picture painted with all the senses, and to appreciate it fully one needed to be an artist. The painter worked with the raw materials of the soul, seeking to reveal the glory beneath mundane experience. Without art the world was full of ugliness and pain. The artist was there to display the feast of life, rather than the famine. He had been poor, he had been unhappy, but he had always been an optimist, sustained by the belief that his special gifts could throw the cloak of beauty over the injured masses of humanity, to capture the eternal beauty of life and joy in the faces of ordinary men and women. As every fatalist knew, he had to make the best of it, whatever life might bring.

The precise, linear style that he had mastered long ago was no longer possible. He couldn't grasp a charcoal stick in his arthritic hands, let alone a finer instrument, and had to trace out the main arcs of the flowers with the brush, pushed between the fingers of his crippled fist. Ever adaptable, his brain had learned to transfer the delicate control from the fingers to wrist and arm, but the flickering flashing style of his youth could not be recovered. Now, it had become a stabbing, jabbing action, like some old fencer defending his honour to the last.

 In his earlier works, he had painted landscapes, still lifes and sometimes animals, but his preference now was for single subjects: the nude, a group of figures, a bowl of fruit or just a vase of flowers. He wanted to extract the essence of the subject and impregnate the canvas with the intensity of the feelings it aroused. Satan lacking true creativity, merely tempted man to explore God's creation. He was all in favour of that, but photography, that invention of the devil, could only produce a colourless, dead imitation, devoid of human feeling. The labours of the pointillists, with their scientific dots of colour mixing in the viewer's eye, were wasted in trying to produce a rival to colour printing or photography. There were no singing lines or colours in photographs, and even if there were there could never be any soul. A painting was an expression of human emotion and feelings, in response to nature, something a photograph, or its imitation, could never accomplish.

His painting was about relationships: between earth and sky, between inanimate objects, between people, and between himself and the world. Nothing was entirely separate; everything was in some way related to its surroundings. Everything reflected what was around it: light flowed over surfaces, broke up into a million hues, filled up shadows with indigo and purple, and poured its bounty into the eye, where it ran down to the heart and awoke love, passion and desire. The problem for the painter was to arrange the pigments on the canvas so that the light falling on the painting would be scattered in the same way it would have been from real flowers, fruit or women. This was a kind of magic that went beyond mere cleverness because, like the actor, the painter had to add his own message of love and beauty to the light, as it went on its way to the observer's eye. The serious viewer had the responsibility of learning the visual language used by each artist, so that he could fully enjoy the gift of sight being freely offered. Like Arachne, the painter must weave his colours with consummate skill, even to the amazement of the gods, whose jealous rage might reduce him to a shadow of his former self.

A patient spider, he wove on, despite the pain. Each subject had its special problems. The purpose of flowers, like a woman's smile, was to attract a lover, to enjoy the nectar within. The petals had not the fullness of the fruit that would surely follow, as summer followed spring, but displayed a more brilliant if less substantial tone. The very purity of its colour repressed the wealth of reflections found in an aubergine or in a woman's cheek. Woman was both flower and fruit in one, so most satisfying to the painter's eye. What more glorious subject than a full-blown woman, suckling a child at her breast. This was the subject he had chosen for his wife's monument, a last defiant blow in the face of indomitable death.

The servants had returned now, tending to his every need. The palette had been removed and the thumb guard taken off. Wheeled into the villa, and uprooted from his chair, his useless legs hung down, the limbs as gnarled and knotted as the ancient olive trees in his garden. He was accustomed to the indignity of relieving himself in front of others, and being cleaned up like a baby by his 'doctoress'. In the kitchen, soup and pate was being laid out.

Afterwards, in the studio, willing hands would clean brushes and squeeze out fresh colours, according to the master's standing instructions. He did not like being called master; that would be tempting fate, but preferred his surname, unadorned. Although he lived in the surroundings of a bourgeois gentleman he was not one of that kind.

After the meal, he was wheeled onto the terrace. He had taken a few puffs of the cigarette, which irritated his bronchial chest. The moist wind from the sea had never agreed with him. Very weary now, and afraid he might have one of his turns he signalled to the nurse that he had finished working for the day. Even in the warmth of the south, the roses in the garden would soon succumb to winter. Perhaps these would be the last he would paint.

The woman and the little girl stood in the newsagents, the bright artificial light reflecting colours from the shiny magazine covers onto their youthful faces. "I like this one," said the little girl, holding up a birthday card with a painting of pink and red roses in a blue vase. "These look more real," the mother said, indicating row upon row of roses, photographed to perfection.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Last Stand





















What is the mystery of Dave Mustaine?
But the fans just scowl when asked to explain.
Maybe it was the long, strawberry hair
or the screwed up face with its intense stare.

The drugs were heavy but the metal was free
when Dave was cast from the family tree.
Get even with Cat Stevens was what he planned
and after a long intro. formed a band.

Metallica played in the clubs round LA
Dave, Lars and James were the cult of their day,
One night of Trauma, Cliff went over the top,
but even in Frisco their fame didn't stop.

A contract with Megaforce turned them around,
so off to New York in a van they were bound.
When they got there Dave was drunk as a skunk,
was told by the boys, "pack your bags, you're sunk".

Back in LA, Megadeath was born, with
two Daves and a King old contracts were torn,
and some Rash drumming made them a killing
but, like fresh blood, new members kept spilling.

Screwed up with drugs, Dave continued to play
but messed up Alice's cover one day.
Cleaning his act he became a bell-weather
with movies and acting his shit came together.

But heroin's needle and fast playing technique
had taken its toll, and left him too weak.
The damage was done and had broken the band:
his fans wonder if he'll make a last stand.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Un-mused





















My muse has gone on holiday:
come to think of it
she has been away
now for quite a bit.

Perhaps she's just a fantasy,
made up to excuse
my poor poesy,
a ruse for delay.

Why do I need to be inspired
by a muse at all?
When I hit the wall
or become too tired.

The need for beauty is quite clear,
but a pretty face,
or goddess of grace,
need not charm my ear.

Surely it is just laziness:
or modest talent
that fails to impress,
when you are absent.

But even allowing for that,
the verses seem flat,
uninteresting,
words refuse to sing.

Dear muse, return without delay.
I'll do anything,
if you'll sing again.
Please come out to play.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Long Holiday

















There's always a queue for the last bus home:
many old folks have a ticket to ride
on the one that stops by the boundary herm,
 quite a few youngsters are travelling besides.

Not long now before we get on the bus:
we've never been on such a trip before,
though some start crying and make a great fuss,
for what's best described as a mystery tour.

It's been a long journey since we first arrived,
when we were all greeted with cries of joy:
our folks were worried if we had survived,
often asking, "is it a girl or a boy?".

Wails of fear go up when the travellers see
the charabanc come toiling over the hill,
although some turn their backs, they cannot flee,
while others stand frozen, perfectly still.

Charon pulls up and winds on the handle,
changing the letters displayed on the front,
the dog at his side lights a new candle
and displays sharp teeth like a cynodont.

When all are inside, the bus pulls away.
some try to hide but know it's all over
the sign on the bus says 'Hell is this way',
so we know the dog's name's not Red Rover.

The lightning conductor says, "Tickets please":
we give up our tickets in exchange for two pence.
Hermes thinks this is a Hell of a wheeze
and refers to our souls in the past tense.

With gnashing of teeth and cries of dismay,
cold coins falling from our unseeing eyes,
we get our first glimpse of Sulphur Creek Bay:
our new holiday home, what a surprise.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Thicket



I

Upon the rolling heath the prickly gorse
asserts its right to hold its ground by force:
ten thousand lances challenge earth and sky
among the tines its yellow pennants fly.

Beneath its boughs the purple heather grows
and spreads unhindered to the briar rose.
The wiry broom has no sharp armoury
but once adorned the helm of chivalry.

No heavy cavalry or armoured knights
clash in these valleys or the woodland heights,
and where the scrub gives way to hawthorne patch,
no entry there on pain of prick or scratch.

Here the crab-apple and the blackthorn thrives,
their flowers feeding wild apian hives,
whose voices murmur on the summer breeze
against the woodwind chorus of the trees.

What seems an entrance to the tangled wood
is fearsome thicket that has long withstood
rash incursions of animal or man,
but dauntless we must enter if we can.

II

In dreams the thicket rises once again
barring entry to sleeping realms of pain,
where rupturing the thorny mystery
would reveal nature's hidden theurgy.

Why are there thorns if not to cause us pain,
dire warnings never to return again,
but in our hearts, desire and instinct knows
there flourishes within a perfect rose.

Impenetrable is the inner way:
on waking its clear vision falls away,
the scent persisting in the light of day,
to haunt our being when we flee away.

The children in the wood are terrified
by every tree and thicket that may hide
the scabrous wing or yellowed toothy smile,
of phantom woodsman or the crocodile.

With forests levelled to the ground and all
the land used up for agricultural
production and the sprawling cityscape:
from this dark fate there can be no escape.

The wire once used to hem the cattle in
has been refined to cut and slice the skin
of that tender animal called mankind
who takes delight in torturing the mind.

III

Army of spiders dressed in sparkling grey,
in the ubiquitous dew at break of day,
the touch of steel upon a downy cheek,
a slake of water from a brackish creek.

Fear lies like a mist, frozen to the ground,
as each warrior feels the imagined wound
that will strike him down in this last battle,
falling on the heath like slaughtered cattle.

Then the flight through the thorn wood and the fall
caught in the thicket, where he cannot crawl,
the nightmare returns as the barbs cut deep
but in this fatal hour he dare not weep.

The roots of fear sink deep into the mind,
lacking nourishment from the ravaged rind,
they seek answers to the roseate riddle
sifting leaden truths through death's dark griddle.

At the limits of each sense doors open
onto a unity of pain, omen
of the dark entanglements of the blood
and the infernal thicket in the wood.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Poisson d'Avril


















April is the wettest month, cruelly
raining fish on the backs of gobby fools
or loosing doves too early from the Ark.
The cookoo may be heard but most likely
it will be violation of your bird
or the nightingale, "jug, jug, jug", you heard.

In Rome, hilarious laughter can be heard.
as the unkindest cut is cruelly
applied to Spring's first sacrificial bird,
or laughing at some ship of wayward fools
embarking on voyages unlikely
to find the scattered wreckage of the Ark.

Mooning or staring at the rainbow's arc,
when you should be tending your father's herd,
could brand you as a noodle unlikely
to inherit the flock or be cruelly
cast out to spend your days among those fools
at the pub, waiting for the next free bird.

In France, poissin d'Avril may get the bird,
but she may not be pure as Jean d'Arc,
gold digging femmes are always after fools
who often lose their family jewels I've heard.
Keep your wits about you or be cruelly
caught out by Poisson's probability.

In Scotland cover your arse, or likely
it will be kicked hard like some Taily bird.
They'll hang a 'kick me' sign and you'll cruelly
get the boot from Celtic to Rangers' Park.
As April Gowk your pained cries will be heard,
warnings to other unsuspecting fools.

Australian's monthly pinch and punch their fools.
Spain's calendar remains the same, likely
it won't change, it seems they haven't yet heard
the Gregorian chant: too slow the crow bird
flies to catch the dove returning to the Ark,
but inquisitions still hurt cruelly.

April fools are treated cruelly like
the Ark's Dodos, unlikely to arrive,
but birds as croquet bats, are rarely heard. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

What the Wind Said















The west wind blustered down the ill made road
and whistled through the clumps of pallid grass,
where snow patches had clung on into March.
The boy wiped the windswept hair from his eyes,
hoping the fallen model plane had survived.
In the shop it had seemed a perfect choice,
now broken on the road he felt less sure.

Home from school he had been sent out to play,
his father, returned last night from the North,
was still in bed and could not help at all.
He lay in striped pyjamas with a tray,
still working on a bill of quantities.
The old brown Morris, garaged from the snow,
did not know that its days were numbered too.

The draughts of Mars blew under the front door
and up the stairs to where the surveyor lay,
coughing over the yellow baking bowl,
breathing Friar's balsam beneath a towel.
The sugar in his blood was not a sign
of strength through sweetness but the acetone
on his breath bore the smell of early death.

The doctor was expected soon, meanwhile
she had tried all the well-known remedies:
cooked chicken soup to feed him with a spoon
and packed his sponge bag for the hospital.
She planned to send the boy next door in case
her husband's chest got worse and the doctor
confirmed that he had caught pneumonia.

It was funny how he remembered him:
chicken broth running down a stubbled chin,
the clutter of unwashed dishes in the sink,
the chevron pattern on the plywood tray,
the unmade bed as he was whisked away.
He could hardly recall what his mother said,
something about being good and going to bed.

The man next door, a family friend, was kind
but the older children seemed too subdued.
He was given comics to read and food
while the day passed slowly into evening.
Taking him to the parlour, the man said,
"Be brave, you're the man of the house now", but
in his head, the wind said, "your father's dead".

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hinterland















In the land of the jaune dent-de-lion
the wandering child is king of time, wading
waist high through wild and fading grasses where
star crowned poppies fly their scarlet ensigns,
firing tiny shots from pill box windows
into a no man's land of tangled strife.

Here, the common blue and meadow brown flit
from twining vetch to thistle spear, heedless
of the striding child unsheathing grassy
swords with tender tips, a tasty morsel
ground between teeth and spat from ruby lips,
trampling a random swathe from then til now.

Behind bay windows mothers fret and stare,
draw back net curtains and wonder when their
offspring will return with dusty shoes and
tousled hair, in time for jam sandwiches
and milky tea, and then race for the door,
and out into the summer evening air.

Alone or in ragged bands, the children
of the hinterland stalk between field and
woods, following the instincts of their eyes
and hands, seeing and grasping at each straw
of precious experience, before long
shadows call them home to dream laden sleep.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Demon Child





















Grant the mystery of his conception,
and stories of his childhood seem less strange,
whether man or angel was his father
is subsumed in his claim to be divine. 

Was Attis conceived from an almond seed
 falling into his mother's lap from Zeus
or Adonis sprung from a tree of Myrrh,
Caspar's gift to the newly born Jesus?

A small child walked through a field in Egypt,
idly gathered ears of corn in his hand,
cast them in the fire, ground and then ate them,
and each grain taken returned full measure. 

Persephone's child might have done as much,
inventing daily bread as well as wine,
but preferred indolence to childish play
and was eaten up as a sacrifice.

At three, Mary's lamb played with other boys.
He put a dried fish in a bowl and said:
"Now move fish, swim for your life", and it did.
"Cast out your salt and dwell in this water".

The neighbours denounced him to the widow,
with whom his mother lodged, and she cast them out.
Was she cross about what happened because
the dried fish was for The Feast of Shamo? 

Walking in the market place with Mary,
he burst into laughter when twelve sparrows
fell quarrelling into a teacher's lap.
"Bring him to me", the teacher told his boys. 

The angry schoolmaster twisted his ear:
"And what are you laughing at, Hebrew boy?"
The child opened his hand to show the corn
and said, "I scattered it to make them fight".

The boy stood firm until the corn was gone,
saying, "they brave danger for what they prize,
and will not leave till they have it." For this,
the master had them cast from the city. 

Back in Nazareth, in the pouring rain,
the five year old got water in a pool
and commanded it to become quite clear,
and out of the clay he made twelve sparrows. 

It was Sabbath, and there were children there,
who told Joseph how his son had transgressed.
When questioned by his father, Jesus said
to his birds, "Fly away and do not die." 

These lustful and active birds, sacred to 
Aphrodite, bear dead souls to the sky,
or perch upon the cross and chirping say,
"He is not dead, and will rise up some day".

One of the boys, a Pharisee, boldly
emptied the pool out with an olive branch,
but Jesus dried him like a leafless tree
and he fell stricken, dead upon the ground. 

The sign of mercy from the Father's wrath,
emptying his little flood, vexed the Son, 
and, like Eden's tempting fig, he withered 
the child who dared to tamper with his works.

The Pharisaic letter of the law
was dead, and drained the spirit from God's word
and like the tree that bears no fruitful weight
it did not deserve life's watery spring.

Some days later, while Joseph and his son
were walking in the market place a child
hit him on the arms: Jesus said, "Finish
your run," and the child fell dead in the road. 

After the outcry, Joseph reproved him.
Jesus, said, "I know these are not your words",
and those who had complained were struck down blind.
When Joseph saw this, he seized him by the ear.

Jesus was vexed, and said, "It is enough
for you to see me without touching me.
If you knew me you would not anger me,
for I was made long before you were born."

Seeing wisdom in the child, one Zacheus
offered to teach him letters and good sense.
"No man can teach him, but God," Joseph said,
"he will only bring torment to your life".

Jesus overheard them talking and said,
"O master, everything I say is true,
and I am before all men, and am Lord.
Unto you nothing is given: for I am
before all worlds and know when you will die".

When the Jews heard his words, they were angry
but they were unable to answer him.
The boy turned and said, "I spoke a proverb
to you, but you are weak and know nothing."

Joseph took Jesus to the master's house
and the master taught him aleph to tau,
speaking gently to him, with flattery,
but the child would not repeat the letters. 

Angry, the teacher hit him on the head.
"I know all the letters you would teach me,"
the pupil said, and repeated them all,
"But you do not know how to interpret them".

Some say the master was confounded and
recognised the wisdom of the boy but
others that Jesus became so angry
that he cursed the master, who then fell dead.

Many days later, another master came
and offered to teach the prodigy.
At the Doctor's house, Jesus opened a book,
but preached rather than read out the contents. 

The master listened attentively, as
Jesus spoke of the law, and encouraged
those who had gathered there to marvel at
the holy doctrine of which the boy spoke.

Afraid, Joseph ran to the master's house,
but the teacher had much praise for the boy.
Jesus was joyful at the master's praise 
and raised up the one he had slain before. 

With such wonders, the demon child punished
those who despised his words and restored to
life those who had offended him, showing
that he was lord and master of the world.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Crusader
















Crusader, how will you absolve your sin?
By petty mastery of field and soil
or buckling on your carapace of tin,
and forsaking your muddy patch of  toil?

So bemused by the glory of your Christ,
this Latin book that only priests can read
will drain your wealth and to Hell's shores entice
your ragged band where Christ won't intercede.

Warrior, why do you defend this cross?
Do you wish to hang beside your Saviour
and wear a crown of thorns to mourn the loss
of peace or gain some indulgent favour?

This red device emblazoned on you shirt,
inflames the hearts and minds of your company
but won't protect you from the desert dirt
or showers of arrows from the enemy.

Why did your millennial Messiah
fail to come on time, with his burning sword,
to slay the usurious  pariah
who bought your accoutrements with his blood?

After plotting with Frankish Godfrey's men
in the Rhineland you plundered for supplies,
trotted off to Constantinople, then
fought with the Seljuk under Muslim skies.

In triumph you rode to Jerusalem,
knowing your Christian army would prevail
and there did God's gory work, his emblem
flying from the walls marked the bloody tale.

And now, in the second millennium,
you sleep under the stars and crescent moon,
breathing in depleted uranium,
the deadly dust sown by last year's platoon.

Your crusade is financed by usury
and serves the Masters of Jerusalem
pulling strings in the US Treasury,
jerking the Pentagon's fatigued golem.

Crusader, how will you absolve your sin?
The tortured rebel and the murdered child
cry out for vengeance from the pain within
and weep in torment for a world defiled.

So bemused by the glory of your flag,
this doctrine of hatred on which you feed
will drain your health and put you in a bag
or win a medal for some evil deed.

Warrior, don't you know this war is lost?
Do you wish to hang down your head in shame
when those cheering crowds welcome home your host
remembering what was done in their name?

This proud device emblazoned on you caps,
reminds the comrades in your company
of those past glories told behind tent flaps,
whose martial deeds were mixed with infamy.

Why did your statesmen send you off to war
but fail to tell you of their lying creed,
a sacrifice for their profit's altar
in Mammon's name of unrestricted greed?

Now rotting in a veteran's hospital
Working that new prosthesis on your arm,
you won't be trotting off with generals
to save your enemies or do them harm.

In triumph you rode out to Muslim lands
knowing your righteous army would prevail
but now your deeds are buried in the sands,
with dead crusader's cross and iron mail.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mandrill





















Your burning eyes are so intelligent,
fixing me with your gaze between the bars:
I am afraid of your feral power,
though you are held prisoner in this zoo.

I am a man and you a gaudy ape,
a hairy clown decked out in coloured stripes,
boastful red and blue flags both front and rear,
signalling anger or desire to pair.

Where is your harem now, you prince of clowns,
or were you captured too young to have known
the jungle joys of  those swollen balloons
that baboons find so irresistible?

Like Bodhi Dharma in his cave you sign
that curiosity is not welcome,
your one-pointed sagacity a fire
of malign wisdom that we cannot share. 

A social creature you now sit alone,
distilling thoughts of hatred and revenge,
waiting for a keeper's one careless move,
before striking out with canine razors. 

Your eyes say you believe you are a king,
exiled from a steaming luxuriance,
our common birthright, where easy living
and sexual delight are close at hand. 

Now, you take refuge in philosophy,
like me you wait alone for something new
that will set you free to become, at last,
what you and I were intended to be. 

But we both understand those inner fires,
that feed upon dumb hatred and desires
for power that only philosophers 
or kings may muse on in their solitude. 

I am free to go, with my little clan,
to shuffle papers in my ministry,
and genuflect to tribal bugaboos:
alone, you chew on nuts and hatch your plan.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Ballad of Fardelbard
















The women loved him but he loved the sea,
its roaring swell and pallid creatures, down
where only words could reach beyond the eye,
into the fields and houses of the town.

To hear the sea in a shell he did not
need to listen nor reach a hand to ear,
but sift the shifting sounds of shining word
sands on wild beaches that he held so dear.

The child became a father to the bard:
robbed of his native tongue the brilliant son
by elocution rose to prominence,
blinding the father with his rising sun.

By limelight the grape became his poison,
and old Augustus' moll his wayward muse,
besotted by the wailing siren's call
his marriage or his sullen art would lose.

The ghosts of poverty pursued his lust,
delivering the fruits of family,
bloating the features of a pretty boy;
become father pig to Welsh menagerie.

But still the golden youth roamed free among
the orchards and the fields, where bellfried owls
like wise Athene's fowls bore him aloft,
rising triumphant by force of vowels.

Weaving a tapestry of glowing words,
a world transmogrified by Druid's spell
floated on airwaves to war weary homes
where each poem resounded like a bell.

Ambition and his legend as a sot
fed  the romantic spirit of the bard,
excessive days of wine and roses led
to love's ruin and verses by the yard.

Now Silenus was his drunken tutor,
the sodden cavalcade became a farce,
and when spurned by pregnant Ariadne
the threadbare cloth of art became more sparse.

Lured by the hint of fame from overseas
the bon viveur made plans to boost his name,
and leave the wet and windy shores of Wales
to seek his fortune in the lecture game.

The brightest star in Cymru's Constellation
Crossed the rough Atlantic to Idlewilde,
where to the consternation of his hosts,
became a stellar pain and problem child.

The winds of death unhinged the family door:
his purblind father became sick and died,
unleashing a poetic storm of woe
that ne'er abated with the ebbing tide.

Deaths dominion entered into his soul,
for a god denied was his salvation,
and with the tolling of this final bell,
the downward slide fed his inspiration.

A growing family, snug by the sea,
hid discontent and longing to be free.
The dollars came in bundles for his toil
but soon were spent on droll profligacy.

His sonorous and mesmerising voice,
booming through pendulous, booze moistened lips,
thrilled the Yanks and paid for his frequent jaunts
but left his family to their fish and chips.

His dissolution became near complete,
but even long bouts of poetic drought
could not douse his Welsh promethean fire:
his still prolific verse came pouring out.

The triumphant finale came in New York,
where author, actor and drunk pyknic clown
created the mad world Under Milk Wood,
the final drama for his Bardic crown.

His downfall was not long coming after,
despite drunken parties and the laughter,
mixed with regrets and pleas for forgiveness
the ruined body was ripe for slaughter.

Spurned by his wife, his bloated body lay,
filled to the brim with whiskey and decay.
Death's guise was Dr Reitell with his drugs,
who stopped his pain but sent him on his way.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Shadow Song
















With less than five and twenty winters,
sheep herded through the blood dark years,
to chequered floors in London flats,
the war formed children sat in mews,
bemused on sofas by atomic fears:
slyly amused by sneering Frost,
sniping nightly from Shepherd's Bush,
they thought their luck had come at last.

Hallowed edifices still stood tall,
basking in the smog filled air,
not suspecting that the winds of change
would soon sandblast their dirty hair.
Sweltering in the sardine tube,
thrusting through the teeming throng,
the young and weak were soon delivered
into the arms of the hard and strong.

Driven by desire and necessity,
the half open buds sweetly entwined,
each spindly thread of destiny,
drab grey dross or rainbow tress,
defied the scum lined tidal flow
to weave the city's tawdry dress,
and paint the garish daub we knew,
as London, swinging high or low.

Only sad memories remain a part
of who they were and what transpired,
in some dark stairway or untidy room,
in the gloom of buildings, now torn down,
where each crazed tear or love soaked stain,
sang with pain and joy a weary song,
casting faint shadows from days long gone,
within a now tired and lonely heart.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Remaining Grace
















Some small space where the world does not intrude
must preclude the well quilted countryside
of large estates and busy tenant farms,
fenced off by hedge and ditch or sharpened wire.

But, before the cunning of the chemist
had improved seed and beast to feed the world,
there was a brief respite when butterflies
and birds adorned the fields on summer days.

Now the hand of profit lies on the land,
forbidding the slightest impediment
to the optimum exploitation of
every rude clod of earth and grain of sand.

Never have so many been fed by so few,
so who dare oppose this economic
point of view, where great machines sally forth
to till and reap the bounty of the earth.

The swarthy swain and his coy shepherdess,
long since replaced by tourists on a bus,
have no place behind  computer screens
that display rainfall or the price of beans.

Even now, beneath some Hawthorne hedgerow,
grasses flattened by youth's illicit love
hide, secreted in an empty matchbox,
their weeping joys within a plastic glove.

The sentimental poet overstates
the bucolic pleasures of past ages
when bestial toil on empty bellies vies
with our present sybaritic luxuries.

How easily, the memory excludes
the painful nettle sting, the bramble scratch,
and in its stead recalls the glory of
a Celandine upon a Mallow patch.

Nature's aboriginal plan gave way
to the unremitting toil of calloused
hands, nurturing their world according to
the bucolic religion of rustic man.

When the pall of winter sits on the land,
frail nature's face assumes those sickly hues
that hide the inner powers we hope withstand
the claims of greedy bankers and their dues.

Let the poet recall spring's kindly face,
when nature's great mistress is past her best
there will remain the memory of her grace,
though industry has taken all the rest.