poetry diary

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

On a balcony above a cowshed in Colio

Once these homes were built
by men like me,
with balconies – how they mocked –
in Colio,
where to care for cows is hard enough,
and wives and mothers asked no more
than milk and children,
an odd festival,
and enough meat to last the winter.

But you might have been published in Madrid,
or fêted in Seville;
left the women and the mountains
to their timeless game,
and played your own.

Your balcony says enough,
on evenings like this;
moon rising over mountains,
still forest and a distant owl,
calling to me,
and now to you across the years:
‘Hola y gracias.’


We are staying in a traditional village 600m above the valley.


Mountains, unfolded each morning
by light from a resurgent sun,
spawn vultures, shaping corkscrews with the air;
their ancient purpose held by patient trees.

Compelled to stillness, cattle stand
apart, dropping dull notes from hidden bells,
and an old woman sits to watch
– a scene unchanged since Hannibal.

Like her I yearn for younger, warmer flesh –
more lively days and nights, with laughter,
wine and song – fading gently at the end,
perhaps, to the same slow rhythms of this land,
and thence to sleep.


This is a wonderful, largely unspoiled and timeless land.

In the mountains

There is a quiet greatness in the man
harvesting his hay
against the mountain’s weight
and the creeping, timeless flood of the trees.


We are on holiday in the Picos de Europa, Northern Spain.