Category Archives: My Poems

TWO TREES

Anna gave me a painting of two trees
(thinking, I guessed, of Kahlil Gibran’s image
of marriage, two trees growing together,
swaying and blowing together in the wind,
two trees, not one tree – she said Yes)
two trees in a sloping meadow, the side of a hill,
the grass all around them yellow and parched.

Late summer, then. The year going by. The years.
One day they’ll chop those two trees down.
First one, I wonder, then the other? Or both
on the same day? I know that is not what he meant
but I would not like to be the one tree
left in that painting, the one tree left
sighing and trembling, leafless, in the winter wind.

Nor – even more so – would I wish that for her.
When the day comes – for this is no Grecian urn –
let it be two trees that are cut
down, cut up, whatever, two trees
still, though trees no more. A pile of logs
in the middle of a field. And atop the logs
two birds – a pair of jackdaws – rubbing noses.

“We may no longer gather rosebuds” – from BETTER THAN SLEEP XI (Bruised Petals)

We may no longer gather rosebuds:
Listen – midst the ash and bone
Limp red roses whisper tales
Of rosebuds dead and gone.

The flies drone on then stop. The silence
Fills with heat and sun and smells.
A fly moves. In the silence
I think I hear St Osyth’s bells

Ring out across the empty marsh
Green and grey, the cold grey sea
Washing the foaming sand, a gull
Call – call – call – to me.

THE EMPEROR and THE POPE

The Emperor and The Pope are numbers IV and V of the Tarot Trump Cards. I see a link between them.

IV – The Emperor

Old Nobadaddy aloft?
Is that who this is?
The jealous demiurge,
He Who Must Be Worshipped?
Or is it some ruthless ruler of this world?

And why Four? IV –
for Philip IV of France,
who demanded obedience even of Popes?
Believed that everything that was
was his by right. Divine Right.
And seized it, in the name of God.

God? Old Nobadaddy?
But Philip didn’t believe in Nobadaddy,
aloft or anywhere else,
apart that is from himself,
Nobadaddy incarnate here below.

And lo! – Nobadaddy incarnate
all over again
and again and again and again
here below on Earth.

V – The Pope

If that was Philip IV
then this must be Clement V
who, having wined and dined,
sits there holding the sceptre
and wearing the crown
that Jesus declined.

From the throne of
the kingdom of this world
selling the keys
to the Kingdom of Heaven.

The throne and the crown
that Jesus turned down.

SESTINA

When you were ill I feared that you would die.
I held you as we sped along the road,
Siren blaring, held you when the push
And jerk of bored and tired porters threatened
To overset you, sat and held your hand
When you at last lay back, breathed out, and slept.

Time passed – tick – tick – and I too slept,
Slept as I now wish one day to die,
Easily, in my chair, your hand
In mine. Then woke at dawn. Outside on the road
Clouds hold back the day, rain threatens.
Soon the shifts will change, some nurse will push

Me out. I gaze, observe the suck and push
And suck, and suck, of your laboured breathing. You slept,
Now you are calm. What will they do? Death threatened.
Or was it life that threatened? When we die,
Blake said, we are born out of this death: the road
Does not come to an end. Upon your hand

The line of life leads on but vaguely. My hand
Has clear straight lines, lines that push
Up onto the fingers, mark out the road
I tried to read on your hand while you slept,
The road that I must follow till I die.
Your road. Once, more than once, you threatened

To leave me. You did not mean it. I too have threatened
In fury, but when you gave me your hand
And promised to stay with me until we die
I believed though I’d been given the push
So often, seen the door close, slept
Outside the door or on the open road.

And I don’t mean figuratively. Door and road
Were real. Only I was not. Was threatened
As a passing ghost might be. I slept.
Years went by. Now I hold your hand
And watch your lips and hear the suck and push.
It was always me in some sense playing I die.

Outside the road awaits. I kiss your hand,
Feel the push of little veins threatened
By life. I learnt to die while you slept.

TO AN OLD WOMAN SITTING GAZING AT THE SEA

Would you go for a swim?
It’s too cold.
If it were hot, would you go for a swim?
I’m too old.
You are not.

If it were hot, really hot, would you
strip off your clothes and plunge in?
I would, I would but
I’m old
and it’s cold.
But you would?
Oh, I would.
I would …

And once you were in,
how long would you stay?
Would you stay in all day?
All day?
I’m too old.
If it were hot, really hot, 
you could stay in all day, and all night.
All night, yes.
I would stay in and play
by the light of the moon
all day and all night.

ESCAPEE

I’ve been sorting out stuff for a new, printed, Selected Poems. This is one I wrote many (too many!) years ago,

I’ve an aunt who will stretch out and purr
Or miaow
And another you’d swear had been bred for her udder –
A cow –
A mother a mare who carried me long
A father a cuckoo who laughed and flew on
My cousin’s an owl, my uncles are sheep
Shorn
My sister a jaguar sleeping
At dawn
When the rats nip the moth-eaten
Broken and beaten
The good back to life – and don’t see
Escapee
From a factory farm at a loss in a wood
Me