(The first line of this poem is taken from
Michele Robert's poem "On Midwinter Night")
Day the Sea Froze Over at Scarborough
walked to the shore as usual
and all was silent,
the scream of the seagull froze
above the un-pounding waves.
crystal curve caught in mid-plunge,
surely the weight of it will crack
the prism, release what lies beneath:
the crab, the weed, the worm?
stand and stare
at the roar-less sea, there's ice enough
to burn a thousand tongues,
cold enough to ache.
swallows fly and drop
and reform once more, our comma,
our full-stop, our question mark
punctuating the sky.
as I walk, the thaw begins.
Water droplets blindingly glitter,
slush edges the beach,
the dregs of souring ice cream Sundaes.
we who have seen
turn to comfort one another
from the glare of others'
keeping me inside myself
for that Summer's touch.
inspiration from Edith Sitwell
Once we moved through hazes,
warm and golden,
Dagobert and I;
caught in a tapestry of silken threaded creatures -
birds with custard tails,
unicorns and lions with torn faces,
parrots with stuffing for a soul,
dead but riveted
to our progress in rose gardens by the sea.
silly girls laughed
to have their hats picked by the wind
and rescued by men twice their age.
Colonel Fantock and Peregrine
are gone now,
replaced by over-done trippers
dreaming of Spain,
and I am the lost ghost
I always imagined myself to be.
"What a lovely poem and brilliantly evocative of Edith
and her siblings.
I loved reading it."
(Author & Great-nephew of Edith Sitwell).
in the Wolds
clogs our boots.
We’re two work horses
treading the furrows.
Flint beneath our soles,
splintered metatarsal, spine or skull,
of those who trod before
the paths we now take.
Combusting manure a bed
for snow drops,
dreaming of Spring.
The geese call
a ragged cupid’s bow
unstrung in our sky.
I am no longer
as you married me,
perhaps not even as
you would have me be.
Sometimes we kick
and show our teeth.
Sometimes we nuzzle
mingling our steamy breath.
One day we’ll reach
the sheer cliff’s
eternal drop to a world
woven from water.
We’re two shires
in our traces,
shoulder ‘gainst shoulder.
And when I stumble
as the incline
becomes too much,
I know you’ll tenderly wait
Caution: Danger of Unstable
In memory of Julia Darling, 1956-2005
of the roaring waves,
in the barrenness of winter,
the quietness of love,
in the pleasure of writing,
a fragment of my mind has found its peace.
still I fear
the tick of the beetle,
the wormy beams,
the rot in the timbers,
though treated and fumigated,
never quite eliminated.
at my structural integrity
while always attentive to
the creak, the shift,
the cone of sawdust,
unkind signs of
my inability to avoid
awful drink half sipped
in the half dark
left half done
in the half light
a sentence half spoken
through a half open door
half caught by the half listener
through broken grills
in a half-way house
a half smile turns sour
given half a chance
and we're half way there
before we've half way noticed.
with inspiration from Sappho
you, love was contained, stoppable,
that moment, a perfume bottled.
I know it floods and brims every pore,
heady, over-powering, by turns. Raw.
came to you enwrapped in orange silk,
my hair dried roses of buttermilk.
considerate in your description,
wood nymph, you say? A gawky one, then.
that I am I give to you, I
contribution to our summer’s pledge.
did you know what you had taken on?
hurts, shreds, of my contrary person.
have and to hold, ’til death do us part.
the gentlest touch of a sweet-heart
out our scars, the smarting of a bruise,
snags, wounds, while wanting only to soothe.
after our squabbling, starched silences,
tender loosener of limbs and faces,
its warmth back in between us, binding
appeared hopelessly unravelling.
not sure you know how I cherish you -
you make me feel wise though I’m a fool;
you see my courage though I’ve lost faith;
I’m walking slow and you keep my pace.
September 2001, New York
were sold a lie.
we saw was a picture of acceptance,
that was not the whole of it, no,
a bit of it.
were not shown the fire,
he shoved himself forward
get air, any air, all the oxygen going
saw the blaze in the floors below.
he had a choice:
roast, suffocate or jump.
long did he hesitate?
then he did not go softly, no,
writhed and turned
he went faster.
air gives no resistance to a falling man.
he died as he went down,
cataclysmic lurch of heart or lungs or brain
the ground hit.
me a cloud's grace,
There came a moment of inattention,
I think I was trying to make sense of my own design,
when it began to unravel.
I dropped stitches,
felt the yarn untwist then knot between my fingers.
There came that moment of inattention,
when my own fashioning began to seem unwieldy,
and I purled instead of plained
and our glorious pattern looked
awkward, unworked, unbeautiful.
There came this moment
when I saw what I had done
Then there came another moment
when together we scooped up the sorry mess and wove
a variation on what we had before
but more brilliant.
to the Somme
I didn't know him,
yet still I weep. Gone
ninety years, bones no longer
and still I weep.
For a life unlived,
for an undignified death,
oh I will weep
for the fear and the cold of it,
there's no greater loss than
that of our compassion.
I would not have agreed
with his urge to fight, to prove
with arms and guns.
I would have argued with him
to stay, to bear the white
feathers, the taunts,
begged him not to kill
for the thrill of it.
I would not have loved this man,
would have hated him for going,
yet still I lay down my head