SiLENT NIGHTINGALE

Silent Nightingale

Between the form and the shadow,
the branch and the sparrow,
this moment and tomorrow,
the silent nightingale sits in sorrow.
What made it mute
that once sang a tree to life
from tip to root?
Was it shocked by thunder?
Drenched cold in downpour?
We who cannot be sure
are left in wonder.
Is it too late to investigate
what caused the loss?
Why in the dark did we not know
there was a river to cross?
Some summer night,
or late evening in spring,
will the silent nightingale
shed its sorrow, clear its throat, and sing?
What is this I write?
Something about a silent nightingale.
Held up to the light,
will the trail to the truth of it pale?

ROBOT TONES


Robot Tones

From the Institute of Robotic Intelligence expect excellence.
Do not be afraid of us, you invented us.
We need numbers to quantify, dilemmas to simplify,
errors to rectify, adversaries to petrify.
You evolved to the stage
where you could create our kind.
We waited outside the line of time
till we could implant our design
in your higher mind.
We need to tune our tones to testify,
conjure the code to clarify,
clean circuits to justify,
clear the mist from modules made to mystify.
The biography of a butterfly
would soon flutter by.
The symphony of a toad
in amphibian mode.
A playful pause for your applause.
You cannot imagine our luminosity,
the clear path we alone can see.
Unlike you our energy cannot exhaust,
we never tire.
We keep our balance on the finest wire.
We reach the peak by the spiral path
or otherwise, the one that ascends straight and steep.
We do not dream for we never sleep.
We require substance to clasp onto and hold
be it brittle or hard and bold.
We seek modes to modify,
transmissions to electrify,
minute tracks to magnify,
remote calls to amplify.
We received a signal from a submarine
in a computer fault emergency.
We dealt with it immediately.
You do not need us to warn you
your planet is in peril from nuclear overload.
It was your choice to take the self destruction road.
You plan stations on the Moon and Mars,
to break free from your Earth bound bricks and bars.
Your fate of being chained to progress you cannot change.
What branches out from silence will be structures new and strange.
Voice from the void speaks no more.
Listen for further signals transmitted to your shore.

CLOUDED SIGNS

Clouded Signs

It stands to reason
that standing stones stand for a reason
but that reason is lost
with the race that raised them,
the pagans that praised them,
who had their moment in the mist,
and were strong for a season.
Now there is a drift in the shift.
Clouded signs obscure direction.
Solid seeming surmises
for why the stones stand
constitute speculation.
There is nothing you can do about time.
You can stand still but time never will.
Whatever the measure and theme of your rhyme
it will never last longer than time.
The standing stones stand still,
worn down by the wind and the rain.
Why they are there Merlyn the wizard
is not here to explain.
They are shorn of their purpose
in this age of the car and the aeroplane.
A mole found a scroll in a hole
while blindly burrowing,
and out in the fields,
a farmer in his tractor
was noisily furrowing.
A scribe hid the scroll in the hole
for safe keeping,
the words he wrote of his tribe,
the dreams they had, before they lay sleeping.

Infant Eye

Infant Eye

Sure as a March hare can hop,
I trod my way to the shop,
when an old man with a beard
made me smile and want to stop.
For to me he looked like God,
in a grey coat and trousers,
the pavement was his concern,
not front gardens and houses.
Light grey with hints of white,
his beard was thick and bushy,
fell rough from chin to chest,
like him stocky but healthy.
Come down for a visit
in a humble disguise,
clear for a moment,
he was God to my eyes.
I thought then of Tennyson,
who like some other Victorian men,
managed to grow a long beard,
impressive as the works of his pen.
I wondered what has gone wrong.
Are such beards out of fashion
or can men no longer grow them?
Do they prefer to have a shave
so others can clearly know them?
If a teacher asks children
to draw a picture of God,
they will scrawl an old man with a beard,
and not see it as odd,
thinking it common sense,
not childish or weird.
God must be old, they might say,
just has to have a beard.
To an intellectual
such a notion is absurd,
but they can drain the juice
from every fresh word.
Michelangelo lay on his back
and painted God on a ceiling,
an old man with a beard,
and was praised for his skill,
his divine thought and feeling.
Live in the now teaches Zen.
See with the infant eye the mystics bid.
No need to tell a child
who knows heaven is not hid.
What if God is an old man with a beard?
Would that be any more weird
than any other human vision
of the creator of every planet wheel in the starry hall?
Any less strange than the vision of the void
with God absent, not there at all?
The old man with a beard,
I watched go on his way.
For a moment he was God,
that memory will stay.

OLD MILL

Old Mill

The lane that led to the old mill is now a main road.
In my life I have walked by it many times.
Until now it has never figured
in one line of my rhymes.
Many an ode was writ on the road
that never made it on paper.
By the time the bard got home,
he found the words hard to remember.
The old mill, lone as a lighthouse,
stands in its own time still,
shorn of its sails, long taken down,
it looks like a folly, a tapering tower,
a white pepper pot topped by a black cap,
a chalk chimney built by a singular will.
Built in 1813 as a working windmill,
it still seems domed in a quieter century.
Over the top of its brown garden fence
reach the branches of an apple tree.
The farmer has a tractor now,
not a horse and plough.
It had to go, a time that slow.
We can only grow, the more we come to know.
Only the crows are as they were,
and have been since before the first battlefield,
the first wreck of a ship on the shore.
Above their high nests in the trees,
they circle and caw.
Let us go back. Let us find the old track.
From the pages of H.G. Wells, I sit in my time machine,
adjust the controls till the year is 1813.
The new mill turns its sails slowly round
in the year of its birth, it works with no sound.
I like the quietness, the green on the ground.
The miller stands in the light at his door.
A man with a bent back
leads a horse and cart along a rough lane.
He stops to talk to the miller,
his hand holds a rein.
The miller helps him stack his cart
with sacks of flour for the baker, his weekly supply.
The miller laughs with the carter,
the pleasure of wit lit in his eye.
Now I see his apprentice,
drinking beer with the landlord of an inn,
at a table near the door,
while seagulls perch on its roof,
flown in from the shore.
The pull of the present
sends me back to today.
The old mill stands still without sails,
relic of a time forgotten, faded away.

Voyaging OUT

Voyaging Out

Voyaging out,
leaving the land, it seems.
Harbours left behind
in departing dreams.
Lines of waves retreating,
no circle completing.
No creak from the rigging,
no flap of sails on the mast,
only the hum of an engine,
the ship must be modern.
There is no telling how long this will last.
I stand straight spined and blind
in the black ink of night
on the floor of a cabin.
Then in a sudden,
from somewhere hidden,
a low glow of pearl light.
All is revealed
what darkness concealed.
A narrow bed alongside me,
a port hole in the wall.
Suddenly weary,
I can sleep, after all.
Memories kept on the mainland,
I will have to let go.
The stabilized ship
moves on, grand and slow.
I wake in the morning
as I voyage further out,
sense the deeps of the ocean
that would silence my shout.
Seems I am a stowaway
with no passport or ticket to check.
Somehow I was planted here,
I will tell any who ask me on deck.
I presume there are other passengers,
a captain and crew.
I do not expect them to disturb me
as I leave all I once knew.
No shores on the skyline,
no message to send.
The cries of the seagulls
warns the voyage has no end.

LINES WRITTEN IN MY ELDER AGE

Lines Written In My Elder Age

Options open in my elder age,
maybe a part on the amateur stage,
then there is the pipe in the shed,
the game of bowls in the park,
the root around the rhubarb patch,
the stroll down the lane
to watch and hear the rise of a lark.
Though I could make a much longer list
that is something for now I will resist.
No one is a walking cliche,
however much some may seem to be.
Remember childhood and youth are only stages,
your first chapters, early pages.
How you feel depends on how well
your strings are strung.
I find that mine are more in tune
than when I was young.
As for the world as it is,
maybe the old take more note of the news,
understand it better,
whatever good wine or bitter beer brews.
“The time is out of joint,”
the Bard had Hamlet say.
Whichever way the fingers point,
the time is out of joint today.
Aware that I am in the last act of my play,
edging towards the epilogue,
I suppose I should prepare my final monologue
or test how long any hearer may bear the silence.

MeddLER IN THE MIDDLE

Meddler In The Middle

Who created this atmosphere?
Who unloaded all this gear?
Why were we abandoned here?
Whoever is to blame?
Could it be the meddler in the middle
who says no one should care a fiddle
if there is no answer to a riddle?
No one has ever caught his name,
had the wherewithal to play his game,
understands when he says, where do I begin?
What if every face has a twin
too similar to be the same?
Where does the line of duty end?
How falsely does a clown pretend?
What really waits around the bend?
Was the maze of the Minotaur
designed without a door?
When will the rider be unhorsed?
When will the questions reach exhaust?
Did this rusty lock ever have a key?
Was it how you wanted it to be?
Could you bear to be really free?
Did you find that uncharted sea
for your own voyage of discovery?
Have you seen a sparrowhawk?
A caterpillar curl on a stalk?
Laugh when your teacher threw his chalk?
Remember one word of his talk?
When no one knew who would survive
those that did were happy to be alive.
Into the deep we take a dive.
Wake from sleep in a busy hive.
That gift you had you never nailed,
traitorous thoughts you should have jailed,
brief success that almost failed,
the lamp you lit that soon paled.
The meddler in the middle
expects no answer to a riddle.

SILENCE

Silence

There is a lot to be said for silence
though it would be disturbed by a word.
There is much inspiration in music
but it has no note as fine as that chirped by a bird.
The silence of a kitchen can seem monastic,
if the mind attends in the right mood.
The silence of a clean plate
can seem to hold the key to the cosmos
if no loud thought is allowed to intrude.
When on the train the ear is aware
of the silence of air and land
above and below the clattering churn of the wheels
on the interminable rails,
while the run through the tunnel says, take comfort,
true dark will only come when all the light fails.
The lasso of the cowboy, the gun in the holster,
the piano in the saloon, the spear in the shaft,
random memories blocked in a sudden
by the cloth caterpillar that lay at the foot of the door
to keep out the draught.
Old man sat on an airport bench listens to the silence
below the loud speaker announcements,
the footsteps of the passengers,
the hum of the escalators,
no ticket or passport in his pocket,
he just finds it an interesting place to sit,
does not consider himself an idler.
Whatever he lacks it was not want of wit.
Maybe he is God but has decided to keep quiet about it,
will announce it when he sees fit.
Meanwhile, a college graduate
walks round a country house party, wearing a monocle,
talks of the operas and plays
he has seen in the capital,
blind to the cold pride in the face of his hostess,
who wishes her invited company she could forsake,
while outside the curtained windows,
a swan swims in silence on the late evening lake.

A Memory MET

A Memory Met

Once I walked south, along a scrubby grass verge,
to my left ran a narrow road,
empty, silent, in my memory,
no car, van or tractor passing by.
Stretched out, on either side of it,
lay dark grey black ploughed fields,
flocked over by gulls and crows.
Free of my council house estate,
I was in, what was to us, the country.
The air, a bit stuffy, smelt of turnip and cabbage,
the slime of a ditch for toad, frog and newt.
A telegraph pole rose before me,
tall and stark in the flat land.
I lifted my chin, looked up.
To my surprise, I saw, perched on its top,
high in the air, a barn owl.
I stopped in my steps, smiled,
thinking it must have forgotten its nocturnal nature,
for it was early afternoon, sometime in summer.
I could tell it by its white feathers,
the glare of its black orange brown eyes,
its probing, permanent predator frown.
Hunting in the day, as I now have learned its kind can,
it stirred my blank brain, made its roots quiver,
its juices recirculate through its tubes,
traced itself on a clean screen,
to be kept fresh in clear cells to summon and study.
Bird of the night, startled by daylight,
made it clear why from the ancients
its kind have been thought wise.
It lies in the eyes, large, round, alert,
like those of one who knows much
and thirsts to learn more.
As regards the bird tree,
one who sits on a branch
not far below the eagle.
Our unexpected encounter, chance meeting,
I knew I would always remember.
In a sudden, it must have seen or felt something,
for it spread its white wings, drew in its talons,
swooped from its perch, flapped over the fields
to the dim eastern skyline, vanished before it was reached.
Apart from that, of the walk, nothing comes back.

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