Measly Acres

The water is up;
Thundering under the old bridge,
Leaving nothing of the arch
That hides a hundred trolls
Of sleep-deprived nightmares;
Bath time for them.
A boiling soup, rich like rich gravy
All clay and silt and sole-trod leaves,
Left over from headier days,
Rips through, all-a-commotion.
This little brook is apologetic
Most days; hardly there –
Whispering along, behind the row
Of ’60s bungalows, protected
By decorative breeze-block garden walls
And shadowed, sloping lawns
Down to overhanging trees –
Beech front properties no less –
Here, miles from the shore.
The water is up,
Bank-topping, eddies round the oak base,
The dogs’ Convenience inconveniently
Lost, for a while at least;
Pummels through the scruffy shrubbery
Grown long on being out of site
From unquestioning Council mowers.
But where’s it from
All this; all this torment and chaos
And pent up free-flowing anger?
How can it rise
From these measly acres –
From these woods and fields
This thin scrape of topsoil
This pebble bound sod?
Yet it rises, it rises.

Who dug the ditches?

Under the scruffy hawthorn –
Dog-eared and tatty,
Dog-sniffed yet brooding –
The ditch runs;
Only a whip of thorns
Protecting it from wandering eyes.
The ditch;
A man-made beck
That beckons to nothing
But flash-flood over-spill
And tsunami waves
From lorry tyres
Smashing and thrashing
Their pyrrhic victories
Against road-edge puddles.

Yet they are there.

These ditches.
These long lines of art
Where man and nature
Worked together;
A partnership,
For once,
That worked for both.

Were they made for the roads?
Steel armed navvies,
Armies of shovels
Digging in unison.
The last spike in
Finishing the turnpike?

Were they made for the fields?
Farmhands and hired hands,
Stopping root rot
Or building a floss
To turn the stone of the mill?

Each was made
With salt-soaked brow,
And blistering toil;
With nicked-fingers,
And aching backs
With rough handled hoes
And hand-me-down trenching spades
Under warm July skies
Zipping with insects,
Skies now painted in sepia –
But were bright and true.

Who dug the ditches?
Their faces, lost to us;
But their work,
Their art – of
These unsung rivers –
Is their story, living still.

From death, life

Straining necks, peering, tip-toed
Above the crowd
Long-limbed, lanky, awkward,
Tangled gait
Like a gate-legged table
These seed heads –
Dead heads on high boughs –
Left untended, standing tall,
Yet swaying, in time
To an unheard tune;
Rhythmically moving
In invisible breeze.

Now, the tune has gone.
Just yesterday it seems
They were bursting with life;
Yellow-headed, like discs
Of sun; stars upended, sidelined
Frisbees of happiness
Creating laughter
As we bound through the sky.
Today, deep browns, drooping leaves –
Partied out, the hangover
From a summer-long session
Of indulgent photosynthesis.

But from death, life.
Curious goldfinches sort
The wheat from the chaff –
Pushing through the stalks
Like long grass in a summer meadow;
Sidling along the stems
In short hops and bounces;
Sneaking up, to scare the kids,
And dine on a seed feast –
Rich, plump, fairest yarrow
And with it, whistle the siren call
Of tomorrow’s summer.


Like remote-control boomerangs
They sweep across the water,
Whistling past my eardrums
Eating on the hoof
Gobbling insects on-the-go
Like commuters snaffling a sarnie;
Skimming above narrowboats
They dart and dive
In a deathly dogfight
Through the late summer skies
Returning at length
To warmer thermals –
Their Serengeti homes
Left, for rent or reuse…
Savanna mudhuts
Bonded to eaves, waiting
For the slow erosion
Of time and wind
To return them to the air
As their occupants before

They picked the cherries

Mid January; low sun
Cold sun, weak rays
Refracted through murk;
Yet, the bounteous summer
Shines on our shop shelves –
Raspberries, strawberries
Flushed with nitrogen;
Boxed and batched
Shoulder to shoulder
In discounted ranks
Standing to attention
In New Year multi-buys.
The paths of commerce
Changing the Earth’s angle of tilt
Removing the seasons,
Removing nature’s harvest time;
Making the special, ordinary
Disconnecting us
From the orbit and amplitude
Of our home.

Down on the lay-by
Next to where the early morning
Mini-bus gathers up its
Crowded workers from their
Crowded flats,
Two girls, giggled
Slavic screams
Of joy, aimed up high;
One pulled the branch down,
The other, on tip-toes
Tipped the fruit into
Her upturned hem.
They picked the cherries
In the place they grow
Two for the pot, one for them.
They picked the cherries
Which we, in our wisdom
Let lie, go to waste
Bird food now, our riches
Squandered, for a January
Pavlova or March Eton Mess.


Today I saved a bee

Today I saved a bee.

Bouncing against the pane
With pain in his heart
From wisps of spider web
Cocooned around his legs;
Pollen flecks on fur-backed biceps
Going to waste, bound for nothing.
As he struggled, I could feel
His fatigue, his exhaustion;
As he struggled, I could sense
His desperation, his longing
To be free again –
A freedom
So enticingly near
Yet invisibly far.
Gently, I cupped him
In a chipped pattern-print mug
From Stoke or somewhere;
An unwanted charity letter
His temporary cell door.
Gently, I unravelled him
Disentangled his webbed feet
And let him fly
And with it, fly free my heart.

The Monster Munches

Sat in his car, his jaw
Gyrates like a camel mouth;
Lips, wobble around their orbit
Some distant star, pulling;
Meteors of corn-snack crumbs
Whizz through space.
His lap, the fetid remains of
Big Bang Meal Deals
Mildewed monthly remnants
Revealing the past
Like mouldy litter-strewn tree rings;
He surveyed his solar system –
A passive aggressive deity
Passing judgement
On all mortal life.

The dog, outside,
Sniffed the car door hopefully –
Opportunistic, no doubt
For pork pie jelly bits,
Or sausage roll scraps,
Or a dreamy cheese triangle,
Discarded; oblivious
To the Omnipotent God-head
Bedecked in drapes of finest Hi-Viz,
Appraising us haughtily,
Through finger-smeared
Window glass.

He looked at me, sneering
In snack-fuelled superiority
Silver-foil mouth spewing pink puffs
Of extruded plasti-food;
His dusty orifice mindlessly fed
Calorie-rich emptiness
From bratwurst fingers.

If only we were worthy –
Sharing his majesty;
Eating at his high table;
Destined for those Hallowed Halls
Where only those who die
At the hands of deep-fried
Live an infernal life.


Sloshing through the chalk stream
Barefooted; clear waters run shallow
Flint barbs glint; these sward-sharp cobbles
Washed clean of sand; crows circle above
The white cups of crowfoot below.

Where Lower Byrom meets Great John,
Flaked tarmac, shredded by spinning rubber,
Lanc rain and the soles of endless souls,
Reveal sparking setts, peaking once more
At the grey northern sun.

Up on the Needwood plateau,
Long roads, straight as a rule-edge
Dip and climb through ancient forest shards
The Enclosure-roads are tired now
Old granite pavers smile out, remembering

On the posh estate, behind pig-iron gates
Fantails, peacocking like on Continental plazas
Spring forth; not for us, this fancy-dandy –
Spouting like a soda stream –
Just a snicket, toed-in and true.

On the Square though, are the real thing
Fished from streams; dug from fields
Where once the glaciers flowed –
Glassy in the rain, glossy in the dry;
Twisting ankles on their rounded backs.


The light is dimming now –
The sun tearing away
To our dark side; its diurnal doppler,
Just as the ambulance sirens
Scream to nothingness
Down the dual-carriageway

It is then, as our glitterball
Starts its twinkling
That a pack of dancers
Leap into a Quickstep –
Light of foot, gracefully
Tip-tapping through the branches

Bumbarrel, Pudneypoke,
Prinpriddle, Huggen-Muffin –
A tuppence-weighted
Zebra stripe, flashes airily
Waiting for the moment
To shimmy, to feed, to hang

Dog Tail, Long Prod,
Poke Pudding, Feather Poke –
Vortexing whispers
A crowd’s chittering laughter
As the evening warmth
Passes through them

Bottle Bird, Bottle-tit
Bottle Builder, Barrel Tom –
Squeezed together
For shared communion
In a feathered beer jug
Web-built, moss-walled

Nimble Tailor, French Pie,
Oven Bird, Miller’s Thumb –
Huddled in hedgerows
Careening through heaths
The jitterbugging Hedge-Jug –
A long-tailed social network



Gentle valleys, severed from the sea
By the pebble bank
Prominent, like a runner’s spine
Skim-stones at one end
Door chocks, the other;
Going nowhere, yet doomed
Just the same
By the sea roar
Its washes, swashes and crashes –
Its tickles, caresses and claws –
This unrequited love,
Only stopping when the Moon goes
Is silent, distracted,
For that briefest moment.

To the north, the reeds sway like concert-goers
Cylindrical heads, swooning like lighters
In rhythmical hands;
To the south, the fresh water
Skimmed by the breeze,
Wears fluttering white wings –
Wavelets dance like Chiffchaffs or warblers
Hoovering up insects whilst out
For their late evening supper.

On one side of the Ley, gentility & calm
On the other, menace, lurking