poetry diary

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

Category: Poems

A willow tree

Trembling willow leaves
alive to summer winds, fall
to winter’s first breath.

*******

Contemplating the willow tree in our garden.

Waxing boots

I break the yellowed beeswax crust,
like muddied ice on moorland paths;
and fingers gather stubborn lumps,
which cling, like peat.

Roughened leather, weather-washed;
these boots have waited on the shelf –
two children, mortgages and jobs –
three decades since

first making fearless tracks through bogs.
I’ll start with rigid toes: scarred, scuffed,
consuming wax, and gritstone-hard
like Froggatt Edge.

Yellow runnels form, working back,
like sheep paths up on Kinder Scout,
but warm and fade to firming hands –
my fingers sting

from friction rather than raw cold;
and pleasures of secret valleys,
days’ ends and pack-less walks to pubs
awake again

as fingertips, now numb, relax
on yielding, loosened tongues; enjoy
eyelets and subtle seams, still etched
with nineties’ wax.

This scent is history and mud,
tired colours deepening like love –
massaged boots becoming landscapes;
laces, snow-waxed hills.

 *****************

Froggatt Edge and Kinder Scout (pronounced with a  short ‘i’, like in India) are hills in Derbyshire, UK, near where I grew up. I used to do a lot of hill walking in my late teens and early 20s.

Posted at dVerse.

Sharing autumn skies

When I say ‘I love you,’ now,
we speak as trees in late summer,
and whisper in September winds
as the first leaves fall.

When I say ‘I love you,’ now,
we have seen the trucks collecting lambs
and held the empty starlings’ nests,
black against the dawn.

When I say ‘I love you,’ now,
your roots flow deep into your hill
and mine surround my grassy knoll;
binding earth we know.

When I say ‘I love you,’ now,
I do so freely, as our branches touch,
expecting nothing in return,
but shared autumn skies.

****************

Feeling wistful.

Posted on d’Verse Open Link Night.

Late autumn morning

Opening my blind
to frost-iced roof tiles, last night
lingers in the sun.

Local Government (after W H Auden*)

In Homeric disputation
With civil servants, in chorus,
From Departments of uncertain
Provenance and purpose,

A strangely passioned obstacle
I sit, attempting to fulfil
Great Birmingham and Solihull’s
Most democratic will.

By whose selection (ill-advised?)
I bring my radical appeal –
To officers and time-served staff,
In meetings rarely real.

And daily stand for ‘common-sense’
(Or sometimes things only I know)
From conference room to conference room
In rain, sunshine or snow.

Though warm my welcome everywhere,
Governments come and go so fast,
I cannot say from day to day
If policy will last.

Unless I speak of energy,
A world of which I know a touch,
When people know so little now,
I don’t need to say much.

It does, however, bother me,
When a government announcement
Fresh in from the great capital
– I’m sure it is well meant –

Misspells this proud old region’s name,
Confuses their East with our West;
So simply thus reminding us
That apathy is best.

**********

* This poem is a deliberate ‘parody’ of a poem by W H Auden called ‘On the Circuit’ which I’ve written as an exercise suggested on a poetry course I’m reading. Auden himself suggested writing parodies as the best way to understand the poetry of others.

‘On the Circuit’ has 16 stanzas in an 8,8,8,6 rhythmical pattern with the second and fourth lines always rhyming. I’m afraid I collapsed in exhaustion after 8 stanzas, but I’ve also tried to include some of his style with the odd obscure word and a gently ironic tone (?).

I have a voluntary role in one of our local government institutions here, and this poem describes it.

Posted on d’Verse Open Link Night

Postcard

In black and white and titled –
“Spencer Street, Parish Church & Old Well, Leamington Spa;”
post-marked nineteen twenty-nine
from Amy to Miss Bryant,
Leigh View, Stoke Bishop, Bristol.
Just to say she feels so well –
quite herself again today.

This cannot be but good I feel,
across all time and space,
that even though there’s misery
sometimes, and rain and war and ghosts,
that for at least one gentle day
enjoyment came to Amy,
who felt so well to tell her friend
(albeit just in black and white).

And on the card a fine electric tram;
‘Eureka’ Teas and Dining Rooms;
women in majestic smocks
(and proper hats) chat and relax.
A gentleman with a boating hat
poses, Gatsby-like, with bike,
to draw uncertain stares.

Half a penny postage:
about the cost of my last text.
Yet Amy’s day of happiness,
has travelled for a hundred years
to reach this desk and make me smile
(albeit just in black and white.)

**************************

I‘m not sure where I acquired this postcard, but I keep it on my desk, which I’ve just finished reclaiming from my children, now they’ve gone off to college.

Posted on d’Verse Open Link Night

What makes this absence?

What makes this absence in the air?
Is it that empty bathroom shelf
and unmade bed?
Or this abandoned bookcase, still bent
from vanished books?

A placemat less; one fewer pair of shoes
beside the door. No small pink coat
or unexpected cuddly toy;
unopened mail and midnight showers.
Less background noise, less easy warmth;
no arguments about PCs
nor endless distance calls.

A gap in every conversation –
questions unasked and jokes uncracked.
Plans unmade (or worse – unshared,
unknown, unasked).

No singing in the hall; no mock-hurt
stares; no tellings off; no call for lifts –
an excess too of time and space –
now all for what,
without those unassuming smiles and hugs?

A final emptying of need, that
like a summer out of time
faded slowly to this point:
a smiling figure at the gate,
anticipating rites of spring;
half-turning, with her bag,
she waves.

**************

My daughter announced she was leaving home last weekend, and off she went.

Posted on d’Verse Open Link night

To the sea

What do you know of me?
Enough, and nothing.
And what will you do with me?
Consume you, whole.
But I can swim, and like it.
I can wait.
How far do you go?
How long have you got?
You are beautiful and strong.
I care not.
I know this of you, and yet I care still.

Outdoor concert

Summer oaks tremble
to music she summons with
delicate fingers.

As Spartacus

You stood longest, yet at last flew too,
and so I scorn you most.
For still we might have won, us two,
just as we did before –
against all odds – when you were true.

But now in chains we sit and wait,
like in the classic film:
the judgements false; the hour too late;
and Romans standing at the gate.

No tents, no chariots, no swords, no hope;
no future but the rope.
For you no Spartacus will stand,
and as I rise, I know.

******************
Romantic idealism and business do not mix. I agreed to leave the business I founded and built yesterday after 14 years, more than 100 people employed and many happy memories. It feels like the ending of ‘Spartacus’, except Tony Curtis is remaining seated, happy to become a slave once more.