Ex Isca

Who would have thought
That the views of the city
Are best found just below
The birds’ eye line
Up here, where the pollen flecks
Waft breezily
Where the dandelion seeds hover
Like canopyless umbrellas
Is a mountain top, with views unparalleled
An enceinte of low wooded hills
Thick greens of oil paint daubed in ribbons
Moss, mint, bright limes, laurel
Trees and shadows sketch their lines
Ex Isca, across the distant Haldons
And Blackdowns and the gloomy Moor
Yet in the foreground, all around
Beauties of a man-made kind
The gothic arches of the museum
Spreckled sandstone, daisy quatrefoils
Flying buttresses of the cathedral soar
And bend convexly like a giraffe’s legs
The river, a metallic snake, winds sideways
The distant sea peeps in through a cruck
In the wall the Romans’ built
Who would have thought
that the views of the city
Are best found up here
On a rooftop car park
Or vertiginously balanced
On a Department Store toilet seat
Stories of our land six storeys up
Up here, where the pollen flecks
Waft breezily
And where the dandelion seeds hover
Like canopyless umbrellas

Fifty Two Oaks

Up in the wood, I counted them,
I counted fifty two oaks
One oak for every week
One oak for each furlong between here
And the edge of the Needwood
One oak for the rhythmic patter of time
As the year has seeped like grains through my fingers
One for each lot of weekly earth-rotations
One for each acorn, greedily snaffled and stuffed
Into the saggy pouch cheeks of the cheeky squirrel

One of them stands alone though
On a field boundary long gone, long rent
And each week I steal a photograph
When it’s not looking
In Winter, it is architectural, formly, strong
In Spring, a sappy burst of life, leaves like measles
In Summer, it wears a sculptural overcoat of green
Before Autumn’s striptease
The oak has it the wrong way round
When the sap rises, surely it should strip, ready for action?
But no, this oak goes bare in Winter
Like a hardy, shirtless football fan
Or a naked sprint to a snowbound sauna


I am me

Who are you, behind your veil?
Your façade, your carapace, your pretense of being
Who they say you should be
Of being somebody, anybody… nobody
“Feedback” they said, will help you find
Your “authentic self”
But it’s a game, don’t you see?
They are no more authentic, no more true
Than a Georgian front on a Medieval truss
Or a beautiful face, hidden behind the slap
No, theirs is a shifting form, a phantom,
Bending with the wind, morphing to resemble
Who they believe they need to be
But it’s never themselves; the truth there
Lies hidden under deep strata, truth told
They may no longer know the truth
Resist: resist the beguiling vortex
Of lies, quarter-truths, the ‘game’
Walk forward securely through life
Let your reflection be of you
And your soul remain intact

Five Pubs

In our village there still survive
Five pubs; one’s gone ‘gastro’, tantamount
To selling out, with ‘sharing dishes’ and ‘mezze plates’
So you must conclude, it doesn’t count
Another, popular in waves
Has changed its décor, a last-ditch attempt
To go up-market, gentrify
But now’s regarded with sheer contempt
The third, you need to be committed
It’s a good way hence, a half-mile yomp
All right going out, but after Three
It seems like Five, a wearisome, beer-fuelled klomp
The fourth is currently the most favoured
One side, low-beamed cozy locals’ den
The other, smartly daubed in ‘Linen White’
Reclaimed oak and wood-fired hen
But the fifth, well, it’s a drinkers’ pub
Worn old flooring, knotty pine
Scratchings, pints, pies and muzzie,
And a chillingly creaky old pub sign

The front advances

South-westerlies comb the ridge
An ancient ridge, wiry-haired with Scot’s Pine
Hornbeam and scale-skinned horse chestnuts
They act as a break
Before a break in the trees lets the storm
Seep in, be channeled
Along the holloway of sorts
A muddy cleft, worn low by countless feet
And the countless hooves of ox and beast
Over countless years
And there in my look-out, my crow’s nest
I see the rain approaching
Like waves billowing before the break
Like the milk diffusing through my tea
Like the rippling curtains of the Northern Lights
I see the front advancing
The change in the air, all dryness seen off
The pressure drop, lifts me
The disquiet amongst the angsty birds
Then the first dribs, at first I can count them
One drop, it leaves a crater
A second, third, then the thunder of the guns
The front’s artillery unleashes its power
Softening the enemy
Before the fine mist, the rain’s rapid rattle
Horizontal, spatters me
Finishes me off

Whipping winds

The God of Wind is on the throne today
The air confused, chaotic, a cacophony
Of trees stripped back to bark-bare
Fields rummaged and raked roughly through
Leaves wildly whipping in the wind
Thrashing in the thermals, like a comet’s tail
Or the glinting stars on a sorcerer’s shawl
Lifting, looping, landing
Like a Harrier jump-jet
A contredanse between bract and blade
Flat-footedly falling at my feet
Blocking up the brook’s banks
Crumbling crescents, dune-like drifts
Gluey, gooey, gummy
The fruits of the Summer season
Now the till for tomorrow

Neon islands

Aridly I stride through the plashy pools
Of leaves and rivulets of riffling rain
Dancing, to avoid a slip
Twixt bruised hip and the sheep dip
Of swellingly sodden socks
From the puddle puthering over the lip
Of my desert boot
Squeaking, the soft pad of my soles
Beat a melody to the soulful tap tap
Of my dog’s soft pads, a light drum beat
We traverse the stormy seas this night
Between one island and another
The billowing waves, blown leaf-fall
Browns, russets, reds, ochres
My boots a burnt umber, fading to black
Where the water seeps in
To my soul and down my neck
Cresting, breaking on the shores
Of each island, a blustery haven
Beneath the neon burr
Of unholy orange, lighting below
But not between, there lies nothing
Just the deepest shadows
And the wettest waves

Shadows in time

On the Museumplein, Dutch Masters look down
On beech leaves dancing, drifting in brushstrokes.
Early Autumn sun bathers soak up rays
In jeans, scarves and thick jumpers.
Here, next to memories of sunflowers,
Yellow Houses and starry nights,
There is a shadow of the past
Here, with the city reflected in watery veins,
The broad-minded live on narrow plots
There are shadows in time
Of the little girl, her family, the old man
Friends betrayed, decamped
Exterminated, lost and thousands more
Besides, with no Secret Annexe
No story to tell, other than a whisper
Of twisted crosses fluttering above stepped gables
And a sadness, faintly audible, distantly felt
That washes out to sea


I don’t want to feel this way, guilty
Guilty at my thoughts, guilty like a 5 o’clock shadow
On a life lived clean shaven, until now
Now, it feels good, this release
This freedom, this turned tap
Of giving in, pernicious thoughts, darkness
A toxin, a drug, it fires me
Bright-eyed, retina flaring, my blood races
I tingle, shiver, sweat with anticipation
Of venting at you
At pulling you from your comfort wild-eyed
Staring, shocking you with my ire
Stripping you, naked with my spitting invective
Dragging you, tarred and feathered through my streets
Which you corrupt with your very being
Pelting you, dripping, with my vituperation
Egregious eggs, stinking, smeared
Into your snake-like casement
For all to see your truth
And mine too