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







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







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








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



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)






From that impossible height

Taught ropes

Allowing tranquil sweep

Through ancient terraced canyon walls

Eons deep

Youth and yearning soft as liquid light







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’







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







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








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.






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







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




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







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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