poetry diary

I rhyme to see myself, to set the darkness echoing. (Seamus Heaney, from Personal Helicon)

Month: January, 2011

On felling trees

There was a fir tree this morning,
beside the drive.
Now there is a new horizon.

That tree came home for Christmas
in nineteen ninety eight.
A triumph of domesticity;
surviving planting out,
children and twelve summers,
until it blocked the light
and had to go
despite a fight.

Felling trees is always sad,
I find – their slow joy of growth,
and patient presence;
stillness and solid love of earth,
roots us all as one,
and tames the sun.

So shame on the axeman.
You have much to learn:
let houses move instead.

© Matthew Rhodes 2011

Kenilworth, England (Fortress III)

In a place like Kenilworth
you see the character of a country:
a castle built for a single party,
still remembered
after four hundred years.

A queen came here once —
in the days of power

(for a week).

And so did a general,
and not so fond of parties,
or queens,
sixty years later blew down the walls,
drained the lake,
and spoiled the fun —
when the days were earnest

(in an hour).

But not the memory.

People come to see the walls,
not the holes.

And who would build afresh
such castles in the mind?
In these days of quiescence

(with a decade, or two,
of luck, and pain).

Such power persists
through centuries —
time to deal with it?

(Not here, not now).

Not ever —
in a place like Kenilworth.

© Matthew Rhodes 2011

Fortress II (Dunstanburgh Castle)

Without the walls, wave-tossed rocks
cry loneliness, even now.

You yearn for sky, I see;
and feel your pain.

So hard to be stone in love
with air – caressed and shadowed;
shaped, smoothed,
and finally –
consumed as dust.

© Matthew Rhodes 2011


Fortress I

Unfeeling stones that sat, grassbound
and sheep-licked, even in Alfred’s day;
touched by light, as they were once
when carted from the hills.

Human hands, still –
then and now through time –
shaping fortresses and fates;
passions turning walls to blood,
and nothing new.

© Matthew Rhodes 2011

Courage – 0649 to London Marylebone

Day building slowly from the east.
Dark frames of magic beasts reach out,
uncurl and strengthen, with the sun
still crouching, growling, out of sight.

Unthinking motions of the spheres.
Unhalting journey of these trains.
The force of gravity; this too,
draws on, and down; you cannot fight.

And now the sky grows light, and grey.
You cannot hide, can’t run away.
Courage, my friend, is not out there –
courage is yours, for every day.

© 2011 Matthew Rhodes

I wrote this on the train as the sun rose this morning, in mistaken response to a prompt that I thought I’d read somewhere on the web to write a poem about courage, but can’t now find! (Stop press – I just have – it’s writers island). However, I opened up my laptop and found an empty file labelled “Courage” so here’s a poem…… (I’m glad I did, it made the journey much more fun).


Who’s that smiling underneath my window?
The need to write, the need to love.
Flowers bloom and fade, your face does not.
Your face does not, your face does not.

Where are we going with each little rhyme?
The world goes on, and on, and on.
All at a pace, it’s time to stop.
It’s time to stop, it’s time to stop.

What is the future, for each of us now?
We find our ways, the days are kind.
Many and varied, never enough.
Never enough, never enough.

Looking for angels, we never arrive.
Hope is the wonder, the glint in your eyes.
Hoping and wondering, that love will survive,
And when we are ready, you’ll come to my side.

© 2011 Matthew Rhodes

I just felt like a love poem (kind of) tonight.

Walking to work – Leamington 7.30am

Rainfall gentle against my skin;
sky draws night from dampened streets.

No one moving without purpose, now:
yet all without haste – fresh:
the quiet, clean energy of another day.

These are the harbingers of city life –
street sweepers and delivery men,
a woman setting out her stall,
an opening door.

Peaceful, and incomplete.

© 2011 Matthew Rhodes

I’ve always loved the early morning in towns, all over the world – just before the day starts, and the people arrive, but after the first shops and cafes have opened and are just readying themselves for the day. There is a better poem here, but I thought I’d make a start and see if I can improve on it with time.

Shared with Jingle’s Poetry Pot Luck April 2011

Seeing things differently revisited

This is a reworking of my very old poem below. Not sure I’ve learnt much, but enjoyed the challenge from we write poems. I feel this would benefit from another rewrite yet!

Existence, at nineteen, is a blank page
in a book unwritten, and without

And the moments of love
that follow,
if you are lucky, by chance,
and in unexpected places,
resonate for years, like wars.

The poetry of life is a wonderful thing
and at forty four more complicated again
than you can possibly expect, when wondering
about existence, and love, is a route to pain.

Different perspectives: understood more, and cared
less for, having invested so much in our own.
Mostly by accident, in fact, we have bared
our soul, and sought others’ identities, on loan.

And those moments of love
return, again:
just moments – months or weeks;
so much more than rhyme,
which is easy, in time.

Poetry is not.
Uniqueness –
cannot last.

© 2011 Matthew Rhodes

Seeing things differently

This is a poem I wrote nearly 25 years ago, in 1986, which I am going to rewrite in the next few days in response to a prompt from we write poems. It reads as a little artificial to me now, but I do still like the gentle rhyming and its simplicity, and I think I just allowed the words to flow with the rhythm. I was doing an engineering degree at the time, if this is any excuse (?). It’s a bit odd seeing how long ago this was – and I still exist (and write poems)!

Existence but a line
in the poetry of the world.
Love no more than a rhyme
in a stanza of life’s ode.

The soft consistent beauty
of every grain and cell,
a source of constant bounty
for all to read and tell.

In myriad interpretation
verses might shift and change,
but no sum of contemplation
can rearrange the page.

One instant understanding,
time then turns your head,
and views always appearing
in different hues are read.

Seek not imposed uniqueness –
the words alone are fixed.
For each in their uniqueness
to diff’rent meanings led.

© 1986 Matthew Rhodes

Beyond self..

are others. Waves lapping on untamed shores;
flotsam, current-guided to unknown bays.
Sands shift, pebbles move; waters are kisses:
dissolving as they ebb, turning sand grains.

Leaves brushed by floated breeze, caress air
and fall, embracing earth and boot, water
darkens and stirs – damp rising from the worm
blends into mist and breath, warm against skin.

New feelings, like children born, grow and die
leaving echoes, and strange resonances
in unexpected places. So to you
I will come, beyond self, sincere in love.

© 2011 Matthew Rhodes