Poems

Pirouette

 

How long ago she managed to hold

herself on toe, and twirl, and twirl

with grace and charm, bold

as the little ballerina girl

 

who stares at her tonight,

the sad ceramic leg now chipped

and immobile. ‘Sleep tight’

she says ‘sleep tight my love’ light lipped.

 

The little mirrors have lost their sheen

a cloudy eye confirms,

tracing leg line flecked with tourmaline.

So these are nature’s terms,

 

So these are nature’s terms.

 

Office Pantoum (for Don)

 

Answer to the call of duty

With decorum and tact

Bow to your superiors with deference and grace

As corporate law commands

 

With decorum intact

Refine and shape your act

As corporate law commands

Denigrate yourself in serving protocol

 

To refine and shape your act

For rise through rank and file

Denigrate yourself in serving protocol

Never dare to disagree with those in power above

 

There is rise through rank and file

For women who speak in soft and sultry tone

Never daring to disagree with those in power above

Sustaining status quo

 

Women: Speak in soft and sultry tone

Avert your eyes to apologize

To sustain the status quo

With your mastery of fixed form rules

 

Averting eyes to apologize

Men must follow suit

With equal mastery of fixed form rules

Of hierarchy and rank

 

In suit the men must follow their leader

In drunken stupor at bar barely loosening bonds

Of hierarchy and rank

Easier to succeed as man in man’s domain

 

In drunken stupor at bar, with bonds barely loosened

Frankness forcing fixed forms of intimacy

Making it easier to succeed. But as man in man’s domain spending

Half of life on jam-packed train

 

A form of intimacy rather avoided, frankly

Sweating in the stifling summer heat

Half of life on jam-packed train

Thinking of other life

 

Unlived

 

 

 

 

The Wind Flies Them So High

 

We singed a song on bike at dusk

While searching road for toad

Hemelet was left at home, forgot to wash the knee

Jeremy not finish yet so can’t we wait for he?

Kite was flied and toad was see’d

And of that night remains

The untied knots

Of gentle thoughts

That nub of life contains

 

 

 

 

Pastoral

 

Yuzu, Mint and fallen apple fill the famished air

Nature-claimed cabin – still stands on boar-wild soil

 ‘The old man died here’ long lines on her face let on

Roots and tubers trespassing world-wearied walls

All he owned on broken floorboard

A game of go – mid game gone

Forgotten

 

 

 

 

Aloft

 

I put them on a boat and sent them out to sea

To eradicate from memory

Spouting vitriolic

And bombastic bile embolic

No fathoming these figureheads

We’ve been jib rigged fore and aft

 

The Russian at the stern

The Brazilian at the wheel

The continental cads roped and hooked about the heel

And as ballast or’ the bulkheads

The American I did furl

No fathoming these figureheads

We’ve been jib rigged fore and aft

 

Aloft!

Dreadnought we fear their leeward tack

Windward wake and worried

The five will feature knotted true

Skull as lonely seamen do

No fathoming these figureheads

We’ve been jib rigged fore and aft

 

 

 

 

Salt Breathes Life

 

Gentle sound of clams purging sand

As ice cracks in early spring registered only by tiny attentive ears

Sensitive to sound with time in life to listen

 

No need for extraneous ornamentation

With richness of line, pattern, shade of shell together

Forming mosaic rivaling sand mandalas

 

Salt as balm stirring life

Salt as evil stifling it

Take your pick

 

But either way, as mandalas are brushed away

Something terrifying about last gentle movement

 

Before boiled death 

 

 

 

 

To Hell with the Villanelle

 

To hell with the villanelle, write your poems in free form

The fixed and structured dampens flair and lively play

Avoid the past to the last and vow to not conform

 

Trust narrative’s imperative else’ your poem be lukewarm

The form must not determine what you feel, think or say

To hell with the villanelle, write your poems in free form

 

Break from the shackles of the past, escape what was the norm

The fixed forms hamper freedom, they’re not relevant today

Avoid the past to the last and vow to not conform

 

Those derelict and dusty forms today cannot inform

What the young and vibrant have to say and why they won’t obey

To hell with the villanelle, write your poems in free form

 

Avoid the cold and calculated, opt for open loose and warm

Hold your ground and rage against all you must inveigh

Avoid the past to the last and vow to not conform

 

The master’s of the villanelle you cannot out-perform

Write from your heart and soul what you feel you must convey

To hell with the villanelle, write your poems in free form

Avoid the past to the last and vow to not conform (April, 2019)

 

 

 

Fall

 

From that impossible height

Taught ropes

Allowing tranquil sweep

Through ancient terraced canyon walls

Eons deep

Youth and yearning soft as liquid light

 

 

 

 

Frisson

 

As vehicle of God’s good grace

Vested in surplice and stole did arouse

In solemn mood in bride and groom a trace

Of gentle love as lei of wedding vows

With little left of former power to flaunt 

In memory of youthful primal play

As daring can, and indeed will do when filled with want

Faced the pair in loving pose to pray

With soft and sultry voice of earth and sea

As net to fish his wanton words enmesh

With heated lips to open ears he whispered earnestly

To join as three in free and final dance of flesh

Passions stirred awaiting what they lacked

Alas they mingled not, for he was sacked

 

 

 

 

I Learned a Lot from Larkin

 

Simply said with light and limpid touch                               

A finely chiseled phrase works wonders                                

Nudged to the left but not too much                                    

When register is right                                                            

Form and content quit the fight                                

 

Images held for just enough time                              

Jog the soul gently midst dull daily grind                              

While riding on the train                                                       

To help us feel with heart and mind                                     

The shape of glass in rain                                                      

 

Rhyming couplets now might seem a little quaint                

A British thing perhaps, that conservative constraint           

Halcyon and soothing                                                           

Formal play to ponder pain                                                   

How to leave a word alone, alone out in the rain                  

 

Relinquishing the grandiose allows one to convey                

Such depth in lithe and sylphlike forms                                 

One seldom finds today                                                         

Let the little words hold weight                                            

Cut the fat, truncate, truncate!                                              

 

My little ode to you now done I’ll pass it on to everyone

And when my friends come round to chat

I’ll tell them Larkin’s where it’s at

Gone for over thirty years and yet

Fresh images, still now, beget

 

 

 

A Question

 

O wise one please enlighten me

On art and artifice

‘Artifice is trying to be

Of art, well, art just is’

 

 

 

 

Cages

 

You can see the leopard’s happy

In its fabricated pen

With space to run and stretch its legs

Left to right between the pegs

But he’s a little tired now

 

Let’s go see a different one

That moves and looks alive

Of course they do, just like us dear

Listen carefully and you can hear

Their soft and tiny voices crying

 

Bang the glass - it runs away

Jumps from the wire and on to the tray

I looked into its eyes before it moved its head

The one beside him’s sleeping

Or is he maybe dead?

 

Soft and tiny hands are held

Wonder wandering restlessly from cage to cage

Do they sense the numb and listless gaze

Is of a different order

How easy to ignore the horror behind the door

 

They are there and we are here

Borders hardened over years

Learned so thoroughly

Subtle preparation for

The greater discountings in store

 

 

 

 

Trailblaziing

 

I slowly traced the great network of interlacing trails

You made with your hands through the sand

On your knees in the park

 

Your last kingdom

This raw play of imagination

Moving your body through endless space

 

Now that the screens have claimed your attention

I miss cleaning the dirt from your knees

Smelling the fresh grass stains

 

And wonder what is lost in this forging of new trails

Through vast electronic fields

With you, immobile, staring into flat space

 

I've heard the cyber prophets say

Bodily play is falling away

With ever more to explore far from where we are

 

I’ll remember your face, utterly absorbed

Fulfilling innate earthly desire

Trailblazing

 

 

 

 

Gartenphantasie

 

Come dear children enter in

Through copse and boscage paper thin

 

Traipse till dusk grafts life in snow

Trapping moonlight afterglow

 

Only in this limpid light

Will they approach you free of fright

 

Softly stroke their brittle beaks

To find the lonely ones who speak

 

Of past regrets and future fears

And listen till they’ve shed their tears

 

Life is rendered richer now

Newly colored and spun

 

Through quivering words

Of tales from birds

 

So consider your journey as done

 

 

 

 

Grand Gran

 

A visit with you then

Was like lunch with the queen

British and lavender clean

A twinkle in your eye, cig in hand

Everything regal and grand

 

I’d listen to your stories

Of Shanghai shops and of the war

Of British ships and glories

Of the colonies and all that fell before 

The lovely liners brought you

 

To this gentle western shore

Where you could scan the sea

Driving scooter on the quay

Through sand salt woven windswept land

Shopping list in wrinkled hand

 

To buy the dainty doilies

For Royal Albert cups of tea

We’d drink with scones and butter tarts

Or Yorkshire puds and pie

Before I’d say goodbye

 

And kiss you on the cheek

In reddening room of crimson sky

At end of dying day

And wave to you from the road outside

Where they say you passed away

 

 

Who has time

 

to follow the gentle sway

of my pedicles and umbellets

but the children,

their birdy eyes and fragile fingers

delighting in my decay

 

in the breeze that tilts

these fourteen crests of seed,

my progenies survival

held in these handsome stilts

soon to be tossed as weed

 

or set in suspended animation

preserved in liquid amber jars

for my limonene and manganese

my seedling's tiny stars

my fronds a sheer chemise 

 

my last and lonely sexy dance,

a little strip and tease.

 

 

 

Birdhouse

 

A boy. A man. A birdhouse.

Boy balancing on toes, head slightly tilted,

touching the tip of the v-shaped roof.

Just enough height and light to glimpse them

through the little aperture,

their only source of light.

 

Boy to man: ‘They look like pterodactyls.’

Man to boy: ‘they’re related.’

Boy’s elated.

But to the man, the frantic movement

of the five gaping beaks,

necks strained as if gasping for air,

is haunting

 

Bird’s heads tilted up,

necks perpendicular to the tip of the v-shaped roof.

Just enough light and height to glimpse him -

the boy’s glistening eye

almost filling the little aperture

through which they will be fed tonight.

 

Tiny birds. Small boy. Old man.

The sum of their lifespans but a breath of geological time.

All gently connected for an instant

in the dying light of early night.

Man to boy: ‘it’s time for bed.’

 

 

The Star Gage

 

The tiny inkblot paper thin

Impossibly lets light within

 

Renders real within the brain

All that’s seen in light’s domain

 

As mirrors play their tricks on light

Inverting letters left to right

 

Here the world divides

 

Inverting letters left to right

As mirrors play their tricks on light

 

All that’s seen in light’s domain

Renders real within the brain

 

Impossibly lets light within

The tiny inkblot paper thin

 

 

 

 

Commuting

 

I saw a child today

on the train

 

red glove held firmly 

in grandmother's hands

 

and something in the way

they gazed at the rain 

 

shattered my future

dissolved all my plans

 

 

 

 

Coeus vs Aurras

An entertainment in which sound and sense do battle

 

Does sense not side with history?

 

            I counter sound holds mystery

 

With meaning lost in flowery prose

 

            Just listen to the blighted rose

 

Please hold your tongue; let sense hold sway

 

            I shall refrain from trite cliché

 

Let logic guide the mind’s release

 

            You slight the role of blind caprice

 

Now Jejune rhyming is the norm

 

            As rhymes and word play strengthen form

 

Structure has authority

 

            That pinions word’s sonority

 

As so it should nay thought’s decay

 

            Does sound not sanction verbal play?

 

Not with meaning left in lurch

 

            Nay, sound is seasoned through the search

 

For what, I ask, if not sound sense.

 

            Through sound we stall and buoy suspense

 

With loss of syntax rifting norms

 

            To which your paltry prose conforms

 

Envoi

 

Here the entertainment ends

As they refuse to make amends

 

To thoughts and feelings felt replete

Both shun admitting sad defeat

 

And of the viewpoints they possess

Both are valid; nonetheless

 

As words are merely words not law

The battle must here end in draw

 

 

 

 

Peitho

 

With eyes like stars in disguise

Through the pallid night light stalks

Steals her men away from their wives

On orphic evening walks 

 

 

 

 

Garden Sestina

 

The stream

diverted from its natural course

allows a little of its water

to feed into pails

in early evening

as the sun slowly sets.

 

The garden boxes, arranged in sets

next to the stream

partition the light of the evening

altering its course

from the ruddy sides of the pails

flushed with spring water

 

to the edge of the garden; water,

soil, sand and larvae set

for sweet sleep under the pails.

The trickle of this tiny stream

runs its wondrous course

through children’s toes, evening

 

out into a small tin trough. The evening

air lingering on the surface of the water

also runs its cragged course

moving from the trough to the sets

of children’s toys before returning to the stream.

The placement of the pails

 

allows for easy ladling of water, with the pails’

lips positioned over the beds awaiting their evening

meal of minerals, from the life-yielding stream.

The soft light reflected on the surface of the water

directs the children’s attention from the toy sets

to the slow creeping course

 

of the sun’s setting light. As a matter of course

garden etiquette demands the pails

are filled every night to assuage the sets

of small creatures yearning for evening

sustenance. The children too, dancing in the water,

are enchanted, drawn into the life of the stream.

 

Of course, penning this poem in the early evening,

charmed by the children running round pails of garden water 

was an easy scene to set, gazing at the trickling stream.

 

 

For Charlie

Your supersonic cyber savvy art and words

Eyewink light and candid crisp

Soothes my soul and keeps me young and yearning

 

Just write like Charlie speaks and words will flow

I say to myself racking little brain

Battling fear and loathing

 

Trying to write a poem that just manages to float

A few inches off the ground for an instant

Before collapsing under its own weight

 

I vow to lighten tone with tongue firmly held in cheek

Toss “breadth of our domain”

Get up, dry tears and start again

 

Poem dates

 

The Wind Flies Them So High (August, 2018)

Pastoral (January, 2019)

Aloft (March, 2019)

Salt Breathes Life (March, 2019)

Office Pantoum (for Don) (April, 2019)

To Hell with the Villanelle (April, 2019)

Frisson (April, 2019)

Fall (May, 2019)

I Learned a Lot from Larkin (May, 2019)

Cages (May, 2019)

For Charlie (June, 2019)

A Question (June, 2019)

Trailblazing (July, 2019)

Gartenphantasie (September 10, 2019)

Grand Gran (September, 2019)

The Star Gage (November, 2019)

Commuting (December, 2019)

Coeus vs Aurras (April, 2020)

Peitho (April, 2020)

Garden Sestina (April, 2020)

Pirouette (May, 2020)

Who has time (July 2020)

Birdhouse (July 2020)

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