poems

A window

 

Now I am not I,

Nor is my house now my house

‘Romance Sonambulo’, Garcia Lorca

 

He was sitting at a window

Watching the day resolve itself

From the night’s black screen

To the muted green of dawn,

 

The morning greeting him

With an unruly garden

Which had not yet yielded

To autumn’s chill air.

 

Night's rain had fallen heavily,

Silvering the unkempt lawn.

Tussocked grass, clawed at

By roiling coils of bramble,

 

Gnawed by clumps of moss,

While apologetic poppies

Shook their sorry bonnets

Amid the raw jags of nettle.

 

He was looking at an apple tree

Planted by some unknown other.

Branches chafing in the wind.

Rueful fronds. Last leaves left.

 

A few sad apples

Clinging on, inelegant baubles

Pecked by crows, springing skywards

As the birds took flight,

 

Carcasses littering the lawn

Like carrion. He was listening

To the house coming back to life,

Soft noises in its deep recesses,

 

Bringing new colour

To the cold light of day,

As he praised his good fortune,

Found gratitude in small mercies.

 

He was sitting at a window

In the house he owned,

No more his than the sun

Prising apart the clouds,

 

Casting the table in white light

In this house he had restored,

Saved from ruin, and made

The view he now beheld

 

Momentarily endure.

Portrait of my grandparents

 

Impeccably dressed in Sunday best,

They’re quite the pair: him tall and goofy,

A string-bean Swede, her short and svelte,

With farm-girl glamour. Back from chapel

Or off somewhere flash, each wear

The dreamy gaze of the young

 

And in love. Sun-soaked drives

Down Cheshire’s blossoming lanes:  

Car blazed to a sun-streaked blur -

Past milking fields, trees shedding

A confetti cascade. A spring

Uncoiling into endless summer.

 

Or perhaps no further than this garden.

The evergreen place this portrait depicts,

As something vague slowly resolved

Into something indelibly real:

Like an old forgotten photograph,

The lives they'd pictured differently.

 

All that a camera cannot disclose:

Sun essaying its lustre from the clouds

While they held their smiling pose,

Footprints left in the deep grass

As they walked toward the house

In cahoots, holding the other close.

The Horses

 

Genealogy lesson:

Ticking projector

Flickering light

On a plastic screen

 

Pulsing a prosthetic

Heartbeat inherited

From the faces

Extant in the frame

 

Suburban arcadia:

Limned by long-lost

Aunts and uncles

Cradling cup and saucer

 

Beside the roses

My gran laughs

Under auburn hair

And horn-rims

 

With a rubber band

My grandad flings

A glider skyward

In doomed flight

 

Grandparents

Watch my mother

And infant uncle

Running in circles

 

Throwing bread

To horses – a mare

And foal – at grass

In a nearby paddock

 

My mother

Turns, breeze

Lifting a hair

From her face

 

She asks me

For something:

Her small voice

Lost to the air

The Stone Age

 

Our eldest child brings home

Sticks and stones from the park.

 

 Bits of grit, lumps of gravel,

Marble-sized pebbles, tiny rocks;

 

Indiscriminately selected twigs;

Branches, feathers, lichen, bark.

 

What will grow from this stony rubbish?

He cannot know or say, though each

 

Holds some use, as a curate’s egg,

Growing the small, neglected stack

 

In the corner of our porch

Where leaves and cobwebs collect.

 

A broken nest. A stone age ruin.

A disinterred cairn. Relics

 

 Of his untroubled realm:

Days without rules or doubt,

 

Cruelty or loss, where things,

Like names, do no harm.

Deeside

 

Fourteen years flash by in an eye-flicker.

Sweet little Ballater, this regal town

With its quaint, Beeching-ed former station,

Corner confectioner, the Balmoral Tavern,

Lochnagar Indian, two Co-ops, one Queen.

Still the same. Still different. Still home.

No flag atop the Balmoral pole this week,

Just a smattering of snow to help to keep

The skiers and lifties up at Glenshee.

Fourteen years ago you scrambled up

A hillside, young poet with an old soul,

Average mind, lungs full of hash smoke,

Trying to write, trying to know something

Of life: “the river shivers like a silver shoal,

A strip of foil unravelled.” The little distance

You’ve travelled. Returning with two sons,

A wife, your parents: older, slower, more

Mortal. Their bequest, this regal town,

These sterile fields, ancient woods,

Mountains and valleys echoing with

The sound of their unspoken thoughts.