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


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, 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


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.