We Know Who We Were
We know who we were,
as for now, do we know who we are?
We ask the right questions,
the few answers we find,
we mull over, debate.
Wish I could waken from sleep,
find words to crust a tune.
Sail out in a boat on the ocean
to slay the kraken with my light rod,
my radiant harpoon.
Away from the civilized confusion,
the traffic hoot and hum.
Attend to the silence only passing winds disturb.
Back to wood, stone and water,
to bird song in the green wood I come.
We know how we were,
as for now, do we know how we are?
I move my hand over the uncultivated land,
the unharvested ocean.
Wish I could breathe in deep like a whale,
pipe out high like a dolphin,
swim free of shackle, no fortune to fail.
Excursion Back Through Time
A fossilized meteor shower
I study through my lens.
A rainbow splash from a comet crash
provides data, a case of chance ancient art.
Put my foot down on the pedal
for my excursion back through time to start.
This insect splayed on a stone
is the ancestor of the spider
or could it be a crab?
Such questions prove that geology
is really far from drab.
My heart would harp,
my soul would sing,
if I found the crown
of an Atlantean king.
Miracles and visions,
you cannot rely on them.
If you want to wear the garment,
you must sew the hem.
First forest I glimpse in my glass.
Horned beasts with hard claws
sniff through tree and grass,
all free of the hunter.
Now the prism flickers with colours,
prepares to open its doors.
Wonder what will be revealed,
what time thought better kept sealed?
After the Asteroid Accident
After the asteroid accident,
the dinosaurs were no more.
It happened sixty five million years ago,
the scientists are sure.
Dinosaurs live on in Hollywood,
animated on the screen.
Museums display their skeletons,
picture how their age had been.
Schoolboys play with their dinosaur toys.
They know the names of each kind.
By freak fault and cataclysmic chance
evolved our finite human mind.
That was some accident,
sixty five million years ago,
when an asteroid hit planet Earth,
off the coast of Mexico.
To live on Earth is strange.
It really is quite queer.
Don’t lose your sense of wonder.
Be happy that you’re here.
Armoured Knight stands guard on my sitting room shelf.
His post was once on my bedroom window sill.
He is part of my past.
An ornament I bought in a gift shop in Woolacombe
on the North Devon coast.
Souvenir of a summer.
1970. I was eighteen. Worked in a hotel kitchen,
my brain blown open by ocean,
I pined to find words for what I could hear in sea gull cries,
far and high in the sky,
yearned to see white sailed boats voyage out from coves
Photographs of sunsets never developed well.
My camera could not capture
the hues of heaven I saw on the western horizon.
Armoured Knight I brought home in my haversack.
2017. Sixty five now.
Years ago, I somehow managed to break his lance.
Now his right hand grips only air.
Once I had to glue him back on his black plastic stand.
But why now the mention?
Recently, late one evening, I turned my CD player on,
leaned back in my arm chair.
My body light, forgotten, I attended to song,
became just an eye,
my spirit clasped by the top joint in the stalk of my spine,
aware only of words and notes in the air,
my gaze came to settle on Armoured Knight,
stood guard in his place on my sitting room shelf.
His helmeted head suddenly moulded into a mask.
The mask melted to reveal a bare face,
that of a man, a captain of soldiers.
He stared at the ground. His face pale, bony, stern.
His thought on battlefields behind him,
wars he had witnessed, weapons used by men,
from bow and arrow, sword and spear,
rifle and cannon to machine gun and tank.
He grew more macabre than a ghost,
a foul portent, ill omen,
till he could be given no other name than Death.
There he stood, Death himself.
Cold, battle boned, sword sharp, hard.
The spell broken, the vision vanished.
Armoured Knight restored himself.
An ornament. Nothing more.
Twine With No Twist
A masked ball in Venice.
No, I don’t want to go.
I don’t like bewilderment, deception,
the idea that life’s a carnival show.
A travelling circus.
No, not with lions and elephants
wheeled in cages from rough town to rough town.
It would make me sadder than a droop mouthed clown.
But why name the places I don’t want to be,
the sights I don’t want to see?
If you cannot resist you can make your own list.
I walked by a garden and saw a stout tree.
No storm wind could blow it down.
If I were an owl I’d hoot in its branches,
my feathers black speckled brown.
A natural stone bridge spans a gorge.
Far below it flows a river.
I could be brave and live up there in a cave,
but even in my white wool coat in winter
I fear I’d still shiver.
If I name the places where I want to be,
the sights that I’d like to see,
it would be a long list notched on twine with no twist.
Roy Rogers was a clean cowboy,
he made his silver six shooters shine
before he walked into the saloon
to stand at the bar
to the sound of a honky-tonk piano tune.
Every grubby cow poke
could see he was no joke
but the man who put the robbers in jail.
Behind his white tooth smile,
he had a brain that no one could figure,
but the sheriff was glad when he rode into town
with his guitar and his faithful horse Trigger.
That last verse may have surprised you,
don’t let us pretend.
It was summoned by a memory
I came to tag on the end.
Come and count your woes.
Do they equal the number of your fingers and toes?
Are they less or more?
Or are you blessed to have none at all?
You remember it yet, the green garden was wet,
you felt the sudden splat on your scalp of a cold rain drop
that slid off the leaf of ivy and rose.
Now count your blessings.
May they amount to many.
Maybe only the grumpy
say that they have not got any.
A coin dropped in a wishing well
could be your last penny.
It may comfort you,
even though you know with the world as it is
your wish will not come true.
The eagle sits on the peak of the pinnacle,
surveys the lands below,
can see a hare prick its ears on the moor,
salmon leap the steps of a waterfall,
maybe even hears the fern and the yellow gorse grow.
Meanwhile, the snake and the lizard
crawl up the sides of the pit
from its unseen black basin.
If you think this a riddle,
work it out, if you have the wit.
The air of Armenia smells of water and stone.
If you are there you will remember
your first taste of a fresh pomegranate
plucked from a local garden tree,
its juice so good it cannot be described.
I think they must chew and drink them
in eastern heaven.
Walk the aisles of an English supermarket,
and you will not find them,
only those imported from places like Syria.
So you don’t have to ask why they taste rather dry.
Close your eyes, count the holy number seven.
Taste a freshly plucked pomegranate,
you are in eastern heaven.
If you’re a duck you’re out of luck,
you’re never going to be famous,
unless you’re Donald Duck,
but he’s not real,
he’s just the creation of an artist
who worked for the Walt Disney company
in the early twentieth century,
but why would you want to be,
when you have a pond or even a lake,
a canal or a river to swim around in?
To understand the purity of your pleasure
we humans cannot begin.
We can only watch you waddle through the reeds,
rest your webbed feet in the shade
with everything to have and nothing to lack.
I have no time for envy
but I would not mind being an anonymous duck,
to startle the air with the occasional quack.
Today is very May.
England wakes as a green island,
celebrates itself and its very own merry month of May.
Trees lift their leaves on their branches to the sun,
waken from winter to strengthen in its light and warmth.
And I’d like to be, no, not a platypus,
but an anonymous duck,
better than being a pilot or the driver of a truck.
A duck is never short of friends.
They waddle about in company,
not like the lone heron or the stork,
and they have a gift for cartoon comedy
when humans make them talk.
O, God, it was cold in the winter,
but now it is warm in May,
a bird’s chirp seems to say.