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


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

Kicking up leaves

Swirling vortices through the air
Unseen, searching, pick the pockets of nature
Flinging up debris
Crisp packets, chip wrappers
Pushing a crinkled can towards the drain
A fuss, a flap, a cacophony of chaos

But here, where the wind shakes hands
Or promenades to and fro
As a line dance
The crisp crunch of Autumn’s sweeping
Align, like the planets from the Sun
Or queuing taillights behind a drizzly accident

And me, with carefree guilt
Kicks them up
Scuffs them, swishes them, sweeps them away
Right footed, and my weaker left too
Clears the lines
Swirling vortices through the air

A whisper through leaves

There she is again; the voice, dulcet, soft
half-sung, semi-distant
audible, but faint; clear, yet indistinguishable
a whisper to me, gently, skin to skin
lip to ear, touching
a caress, sonic, wave forms that reach out, unseen
and come to shore with the riffle
of brine water over beach stone
or morning breeze through beech leaves
an echo, of past lives and what will become

Over the city

IMG_3227_fotorIt had been a full twenty years by my reckoning, since my travels had brought me back. Graunching and echoing through the tunnels, on metal flanged wheels to Highgate, and a meeting nearby. The Tube track is deep underground here, a forgotten ruckus buried under the hill. Here in fact, the Northern line lies buried beneath a deep gully, hiding the station further, masking sight and sound. The ascent then is a long one from the platform to the road. The escalators assist the first pitch, before steel edged steps, their criss-cross treads polished almost to nothing from the daily sole erosion. Here, us troglodytes emerge from our cave mouth, eyes greedy for focus in the deep shadow-shafted light. The leaf mould and mulch lies heavy too; banked up behind iron railings and discarded coffee cups with their Tommy-Tippee lids. Scrunching and dry either side of the steps, the leaves whisper conspiratorially to one another as the final climb to the road, the peak. The topping out reward: a wall of wrestling sounds. The hacking smoker’s cough of a bus exhaust; the gasping whine of the release of pressure brakes. Up Archway Road and across to The Park, the noise gurgles away, only metres from the road, suppressed by elevation, pretty terraces and lines of London Planes. They lean into the road, craning for a better view. And what a view, out over the city. Endless: here, the red light on top of Canary Wharf; there, a distant tower block mirror glinting the sun; this way, a line of smearing red tail lights in the snail-slow jam up the hill, that way a meandering brook of houses undulates away down a hill, following the lie of the land. A fine place to build a city. A fine place to put a hill.