Corners of Fecundity

Sharp up by the dog-tired
Londis; wedged-in
By funky Biffa Bins
And that flaking breeze-block wall;
Jammed and jimmied in behind
Broken fence slats, mossy with
Creosote, is a fructuous lee;
A wind-shadow –
A ghost-less liminal nook –
Where the spirits can’t be arsed;
Where gaze falls,
Yet just sees
The lottery scratch-cards
And deals on chilled Monster.
Yet, for all this, it is

A corner of fecundity;
Here, a strange loam builds –
Fuelled by unloved chaff;
The part-gnawed crusts, damp
Of a once-mighty Ginsters;
Sleazy scalenes of a BLT half;
No B, just T, these days,
Squalid off-cuts of
This and that,
Tumbled to the floor, indelicately
Cobbed, from a rattling Fiesta –
To settle with Batter bits,
Gum wrappers, Stella cans
From yesteryear, jewels
Of chipped bottle glass,
And meaty faggots of wind-rolled leaves.

In this ill-favoured sod, where
Biodiversity meets perversity,
Time acts patiently, un-judging;
Allied by micro-beasts –
That chomp, and puke and fart –
To make this urban grow-bag,
Where, mulched by half-chewed
Kebab barf, *those* iceberg shreds
And a hospitable crack
At the wall base, up rises –
Nourished by chilli sauce
And malodorous Mango cola –
A juvenile ash, racing for the sun
Past the Biffas and soffits and such –
Levering the mortar and breeze blocks
Apart; bent on earning an ASBO.

Predation

Ever since I took the name
‘Magpie’, for this
Thing, here,
I’ve been seeing them
Everywhere; saluting them;
Asking of their families;
And their darling children –
Superstition?
No, just continuing
A long line; a tradition,
Of stuff and nonsense.

Still, the magpie
Took on a persona –
Mercurial; mystical;
Imbued with powers
From the Earth, or
Magnetic fields;
Or limbic energies,
Spiritual fluxes
From other worlds;
Realms beyond our knowing…

…And all that.
Until, that was,
Out on my bike
I must have
Disturbed one of them,
Them perishers,
That black & white flash, stalling;
Ramming on his emergency brakes;
Skidding to a halt in front of me
Tyre marks, mid-air;
He was speeding, for sure.
And darting back, guiltily
Into the shadowed blackthorn.

You’ve dropped your bag
I mouthed, as the leather
Satchel thing, whatever –
Dropped from his mouth.
But no; it was a baby chick
A blue tit; neck bent
Backwards; closed eyes
Skewiff; all over the shop
Its little legs.
Butchered, by Mr Magpie.
Harvested, for his wife;
Dinner, for his children.

And yet, all I could hear
All I could think of,
At the moment of this crime
Was Chris Packham’s
Snorting, orgasmic laughs –
Predation.
It is the nature of things

And with it, spirit energies
Dissolved, met a reality
Head on.

Skylark

Head down, dog padding
Through scruffy undergrowth;
Soft soundings, nose alert,
Attentive to the inattentive,
Smooth yet probing darts
Weaving around and between:
Stumble hazard, on leads
Or upended turfs;
Thistle humps,
Or last year’s potato-crater.

The field is fallow now,
Tides of weeds have washed it,
Swashed with dandelions and bugloss
Chickweed and willowherb
The florally malignant
Scent of Roundup absent here
The only metastasis
Is wildness… and how…
How it has returned.

Blown from the high fells,
In a few short months
The skylark has made his commute
Dancing on the vortices
Plummeting and soaring
Grabbing the air with fanatical flapping
Twittering and chittering
Warning me, warding me
Away from unseen homes.

In this scruffy sward,
Abutting the gravel mine,
Scarred by habitation,
Criss-crossed by heedless joggers,
The dock and the skylarks,
Horsetail and lapwings
Signal a retreat of sorts,
And the return
Of an ancient civilisation.

Drove Road

Paths walked for long years,
Long legs, shoe-shod
Or cloven, a short hop
From field to fair
Along these ridges
Fringed with trees;
Viewing points guarded
Only by skylarks
And hovering jackdaws
Whooping on thermals


Years on, these same paths
Cut across the high hills still;
Close-cropped chalk lands
Skylarks still chattering
Their nattering call;
Sentinels too 
The mossy finger posts
And picnickers parking bays 
Offering tarmacked vistas
Onto overgrown drove roads –

Roads no more:
Bamboozled by brambles’
Blood-bringing barbs,
Nipped by nettles’
Venomous vitriol,
Even the boxy pupils
Of the Wiltshire Horns
Study no longer 
These routes of traverse 
That wane like whispers –

Memory lines lost –
To plants, to ploughs
To the past.

Ridge and Furrow Retraced

Afar, a thin lichen blotched steeple
Knapsack brown
And badged with green
Like a lanky Boy Scout.
Ahead, a blackthorn hedge
Cleaved near the root 
By billhook and determination;
Muscled over, sloping branches,
Silhouetted like nature’s tally-marks.
Up close, the ridge and furrow:
Broad ridges, a yard across;
Furrows, a yard wide, and half that deep – 
Fixed in earth, these fossilised waves,
Collecting the winter sun,
Refracting light, vivid outlines.
They do not crash or break 
They billow only over a lifetime’s course 
There is no wash or rip 
Every seventh is the same not higher.
The pull of the moon does not mould
These ripples of turned and re-turned earth.  

The sound of the oxen still echoes here
And the Medieval plough casts ancient shadows.

He’s out

The enigma, the maverick,
For years living amongst us
One of us, with us,
Cheery hellos
An urbanite bon-viveur;
Friend.
Stories of distant lands,
Different worlds –
Of legends, lattes and luz
Of adventure, treasure, discovery;
Pushing, challenging, creating –
Procreating.
One of us, with us –
All a deception, a mask
Lie upon lie
Some of us suspected
Some wary…
Lie upon lie
With us, to us
Betrayal.
Many enjoyed the roller coaster
The ride on the tiger’s back;
Armed with stories and craft and guile
Seeking friendship
Seeking money.
Redress?
For the long arm tapped his shoulder –
A two year vacation –
Food, bed, togs and tags
All freely provided
At our expense.

He’s out.
Amongst us, 
Liking us,
But one of us?
With us?
 

You’d think.

You’d think
That when you know the time
When it leaves, the train
You’d think
That maybe
You’d be ready
You know?
Pack up
Stop gassing
Leave the meeting
But no –
You think
You’re too important
Too critical
To leave
On time.
So now, we watch
And snigger
As you
Totteringly wobble
Click clack
Swayingly sashay
On your high heels
Twisting ankles
Turning heads
Clasping hands
Macchiato in the one
Mulberry in the other
Smart phone
Unsmartly wedged
Under diamanté ear studs
You’d think
You’d care.
You’d think.

Sly Old Sun

Glazed eyes with tiredness
Another morning, up before
Any right-thinking folk should be;
Slowly rising,
Like the sly old sun
Nefariously peeking
Over the distant hedge
Pulling aside net curtains
Spying, shiftily –
Like that Mrs Scofield
Our dinner lady, crotchety
And her husband who
Really,
We hoped was dead –
Now its piercing stare
Advances
Like the salty swash over
Lustrous shingle –
She had that, did Scofield
Always scratching –
Accentuating forms
Under its low gaze
Crystalline puddles, froze,
The veins of leaves,  protrude,
Like her temples
When she barked at us
Most mornings.

Sudis

At mop fairs, men would come
To sell their labour for a fare price;
Days measured by the swinging arc
Of bill hook or adze, sickle or scythe
Or miles of trudging, scuffed leather
Behind the plough, stooking the sheaves
Labourers, lengthsmen – 
Badging, tending, tilling.

Clean cuts to beech knuckles, bent and pinned;
Clean cuts through rich earth, sharp mouldboards
Clean cutting the leaf mould-fuelled loam;
Clean cuts to the crop base, harvest and heap;
Clean cut the oak frame, for barn or byre.

Now, hedges are flailed and thrashed
Fallow and fruitless, gaunt and grubbed;
Now, dispassionate blades, blunt with motion,
Rip and rend, leaving only siege works;
Now, rived caltrops, a vicious barbed sudis
Deter intruders with thrusts and jabs.
Now, the stook of the wheatsheaf long gone;
Days measured by the swinging arc
Of muscle and might and man,
Lost to the clamour of money and motion and time.




Petrichor

Now, it is easy to forget.
Now, it is hard to remember,
Life before the burn –
These endless days of sun
Hexagonal cracks
In dust-parched soil;
In earth once tilled.

Now it is easy to forget
Yet yearn to recall –
The smell of Summer rain
Warm rain, drenching
That dust-parched soil –
Craters on the Moon
Or volcanoes, calmly waiting.

But the smell;
The smell of Summer rain
On thirsty ground
Lingers in me;
That fresh, uplifting memory –
Grass, springing back to life
The earth, breathing out…

Petrichor… flaring nostrils
Deep gulps of air,
Firing in my brain –
New life, new beginnings.