Wandering Minstrels

Wandering Minstrels

How did we get here?
Why did we come here at all?
At least this is the lane
that leads up the hill to the hall.
Are we too old now
to be wandering minstrels?
But it is all we can do.
Remember when we sang
to the sparrows and no one knew?
Like a raindrop on a reed,
we are here and gone.
While we are here,
we play for your pleasure, everyone.
That is my new introduction.
As always we’ll end,
after a few dance tunes,
with our bright benediction.
The lord of this hall puts good food
and mead on the table
for anyone who entertains him well, they say.
So let us go up there,
unsling our instruments, sing and play.
Was that just a wolf
or a boar we saw in the wood?
You do not know what you will meet
in strange lands like these,
sometimes you can come to no good.
Play a few notes on hurdy gurdy and flute,
while I tune up my lute.
Come now, unpack your horns,
viols, bells and drums.
Listen, an owl calls from that high tower
as nightfall comes.
Let us hope as we come from afar,
the lord and his company
have not heard our tales and lays before.
Now I knock at the door.

 

The Enigma of Worlds

The Enigma of Worlds

Only a crossword I could not complete,
only a puzzle I could not solve,
only a carousel I am too old to ride on,
I can only stand and watch it revolve.

Sometimes I wonder if I had a better brain
would I have the wit
to work out the enigma of worlds,
see where all the fragments fit,
but I fear that I may not cope
with what I may gain.

And what was that from the corner of my eye,
I saw as I felt winter passing by?
A little man who was not human
in a white smock, boots and cap,
like someone I saw before I fell into a nap.

It was proof you can enter Faerie in the street,
not just where woods and mountains meet.
In that land old men with beards are revered.
It may sound weird,
it is because they may or may not be a wizard,
some of them holy and favoured,
others fallen, to be feared.

Mother, take me to see the hens,
back to when I scrawled with pencils,
doodled with pens.
Leave me there, alone,
and I will make it back again
to whoever I am now.
The long forgotten fairy tale
in my mind will never pale,
its seas await for me to sail,
its lanes lead to who knows where?
The wise owls still live in the tower.
The sound of the sea in a shell,
the bell that rings in the well
will lead me there.

How can you upset an apple cart?
It has no feelings for a start.
I know that saying,
I am only playing.
Best to smile before we part.

 

 

The First Fly

The First Fly

The first fly of the year.
It batted its wings,
flew from a corner,
out from a crack in the paintwork,
a slit in the window sill.
I sat very still, and watched it flit
about the air of my kitchen,
hit its head on a window pane.
Insects are forgotten in winter,
spring brings them back again.
It is late February fly,
I wanted to tell it.
You have woken too early,
fooled by bright sunshine.
The sun stays low in the sky,
gives no heat to my feet or my face,
and the frost has frozen my bin lid,
made hard my lawn,
traced white webs on the pavement,
but it is natural so that is fine.
Should have hibernated longer,
whatever flies do.
Insects have not been my study.
Where they are when they are not here,
I have not a clue.

Cold crumbs for the sparrows
lie on the roof of my shed.
In the bare back garden bush they chatter,
I wonder on what they have fed.
Sea gulls swoop in from the sea shore,
crows caw in the trees.
Spring seeds will sprout
when winter agrees.

In spring and summer we await the return
of the finch, swift and swallow,
not the wasp and the centipede,
the snail and the slug.
Apart from the bee and the butterfly,
insects are largely disliked,
dismissed as the bug,
especially by the farmer and gardener,
for on what they plant a flea may feed,
a white maggot may devour a seed.
It is nature, however, so what can you do?
Humans have been partly my study.
Where we are when we are not here,
I have not a clue.

 

The Wreck of the Royal Iris

The Wreck of the Royal Iris

First they crush a crystal with a stone,
then they study the silver dust,
magnify the mass,
sup some tea from a cup,
look up, and think,
no more to hone.
That’s that experiment done.
No need to do another one.
But where is all this going?
Oh, I know.
Look what can be seen
through the navigator’s compass and glass.

Alas, the Royal Iris, the old ferry boat’s gone.
A sea gull’s cry shears the sky.
Now there’s something,
something to sadden a sailor
or anyone like me who remembers
a time long gone by.
For some reason, they left it to rot,
down south, on the banks of the Thames,
to lean to one side, a relic
Charles Dickens might have lifted his pen
to take as one of his chance inspirations
for some descriptive work,
maybe in Great Expectations.

The wreck of the Royal Iris
with cruel neglect, they left to rust.
Black ink black, burnt bread brown,
dark orange yellow red rust
that ate its way over its crust.
Cold air they let bend back
the iron of its hull,
allowed jagged edged holes to appear
they had no intention to repair,
and left its ropes mould
with no strength to pull.
I studied its newspaper photograph.
It seemed such a waste,
a savable loss, so unfair.
I smiled in my mind
to remember a time,
simpler, more kind,
when I was a schoolboy,
and I stood on the shore,
among shells and seaweed,
and I said to my friend:
“Look, there’s the fish and chip boat,
sailing for the Isle of Man.
I wonder why they call it that,
the fish and chip boat?”
My friend did not answer,
for he did not know.
We watched the Royal Iris go,
cut its way silently
through the grey Irish Sea,
out from Liverpool Bay.
It was not one of the big ships,
not that impressive to me,
but it was lovely lit up with lights,
a magical sight, as the sun dipped in the west.
Yes, I remember the Royal Iris,
when I had all my life before me.
In many ways, that time was the best.

Breaking Through The Screens

Breaking Through The Screens

Unfortunate directions,
why do they exist,
and earthly temptations,
we are told to resist?
Looking back, I see wrong paths,
mistakes I have made,
those long laughs now seem hollow,
but true smiles never fade.
I still dress as I did then,
in summer in T-shirt and jeans,
wait for high ones from elsewhere
to break through the screens.

I cannot imagine their faces
or what they will say,
but once they are here,
I will want them to stay.
They will sail from a vast place
of ocean and air.
Beyond the first meeting,
I cannot go there.
You cannot go back to then
to when it was fine.
You can only remember,
this side of the line.

The old invocations,
the long forgotten words,
they once meant something,
were piped by the birds.
Once in a castle gatehouse,
a youth sat by a fire,
told tales with more magic than
Orpheus played on his lyre.
But I could not hear him,
at the window I stood.
Though the door was bolted,
that moment was good.
There was juice in the stone,
and sap in the wood.

What do I wake now?
I am still on the search
for what it all means,
wait for the true teachers
to break through the screens.
I know it will not be,
though my vision cleans,
I can still summon them,
come breaking through the screens.

Elegy On A Red Double Decker Bus

Elegy On A Red Double Decker Bus

Red double decker bus,
where are you now?
Are you only in London?
Did you rise on your back wheels
to take your last bow?
I sat on your top deck
when you took me to school
or for a day out in town
as we call Liverpool.
Seems that you have gone
with the steam engine and tram,
so much has vanished,
sometimes in a haze it is hard
to know where I am.
Up the dull silver steps
came the bus conductor,
his ticket box and money bag
by a black strap
hung from his neck.
I paid him my pennies,
got off at my stop,
down from the top deck.
Present day single deck buses
lack bigness and charm,
with only a driver and no conductor,
they look too one level and calm.
But ferries still cross the Mersey,
and the Liver Birds still sit and stare
on the Liver Buildings roof.
That The Beatles were born here,
for tourists and locals,
there’s plenty of proof.
The old red brick tobacco warehouse,
I pass by on the train,
looks like the shell of a fortress,
forbidding in winter,
lashed by the rain.
Whoever comes after us
will not know the pleasure to ride
on the top deck of a red double decker bus.

Need Knot Not What

Need Knot Not What

Retie a knot and what have you got?
Work out a plot and you are left with what is not.
With a line and a rod,
a cup of good wine, it is fine,
to say you a not just out
for a float in your boat on the ocean,
as if in a play, you can say,
you are fishing for God.
No one may believe you.
Do not grieve, in time they will leave you,
and you will be left with the same questions
you asked in your youth.
It is not wise to think age
brings you closer to truth.
We are all out in our boats,
far from the shore,
saying, if I give you less,
will you give me more?

The bracken brown stag with his antlers
rises from the slopes of the mountain,
and calls for his mate in the mist.
Meanwhile, come here and hear
the old pummelled, bruised boxer,
lent back in his public house corner,
lament that he can no longer
make his fortune with his fist.

Untie a knot and what have you got?
A piece of string made to tie up a thing,
everything disappearing to the last dot.

Need knot not what and what have you got?
An ink spot that leaks to a blot,
a copper leaf that curls and crinkles to rot.
A tangle of words untied
may spell well what
twisted thought tried to hide.