When Things Turn Out Fine

When Things Turn Out Fine

The celebrated turned up late.
They shone on everyone,
and left not too early
but the party seemed over
after they’d gone.

There are crumbs on the plate,
wine stains on the cloth.
What remains is meant
for the mouse and the moth.

We still have our table.
The music plays on,
and the moon shines clearly.
The party is not over
until we’re gone.

There’s strength in the strings,
light in the line,
grace in the wings
when things turn out fine.

Somewhere water flows
over stones in the wild,
and in dreams an old man
wakes as a child.


Matthew Flinders

Matthew Flinders

Matthew Flinders stands a statue
in the market square
in Donington, a village somewhere
in Lincolnshire.

Looks fine in his naval uniform,
seems proud to be him,
with his telescope and cabin cat
that he called Trim.

You may not have heard of his name before.
I had not, either.
Now I know he was the first explorer
to circumnavigate Australia.

He wanted his wife to sail away with him.
Was told she could not by the Admiralty.
They said, no, Matthew Finders,
that is forbidden by the laws of the sea.

Nine years she waited for his return,
heard the sea gulls cry,
until she watched his ship drop anchor,
its beauty hurt her eye.

Voyage out like Matthew Flinders,
navigate your path with map, compass and telescope,
not knowing where the tides will take you,
still master of your skills with sail and rope.

Here’s to the health of Matthew Flinders
who sailed far south to find new land.
Until the voyage is over,
may you do more than you first planned.

One Of Many Names

One Of Many Names

I fell with my horse at the Battle of Beersheba
but I fought on the winning side.
The last thing I saw was a silver flash in the sky
after I heard the shout to ride.

Almost broke my back building the Great Wall of China,
did not live to see it complete.
Remember me as a slave in an Inca temple,
iron chains round my wrists and feet.

I am just one among the names
never mentioned, left forgotten.
I know what is true, what is rotten.
I was there when it happened,
I saw the sight.
I witnessed the flood and the darkness
that seemed the end of light.
One thing I know,
those who rebelled never got it right.
Take comfort.
Only clouds hide the sun by day,
the moon and stars at night.
Mine is just one of many names
not worthy of fame,
but we like to think we were a help to those
who climbed the steps to light the flame.

The film flickers, there I am, captured on camera,
unknown early aviator.
See my flight fail, my plane crash wing first in the bare field.
There is no sound, no narrator.

The Clouded Window

The Clouded Window

I live down there in that basement flat.
I wipe clean the clouded window
to look up at the street and sky.
From the front yard floor I climb the stone steps
to join the strangers passing by.
Sometimes I smile to see the fishmonger’s cat,
out on its prowl, sniffing at the bins,
free of the squalor I read in black and grey
in my newspaper, stained with crimes and sins,
but as we sleep through most of the dark,
in the contest it is the light that wins.

I climb the stone steps from the front yard floor,
go to the market for fruit and bread.
My voyage was slowed by ice and fog
but I managed to float on the turbulence
like a beaver would on a log.
Home in harbour, I lit a lamp and walked the shore.
I would dream a novel if I had the words,
try to tell of how things were,
in prose fine as the call of birds,
when we were wanderers on the green plains,
and saw the mammoths roam in herds.

The spider weaves its web to catch the flea.
There is no end to how bad it can be,
but the further in we go the more light there is to see.
If we can clean the clouded window,
we can see the street and sky,
we could climb the steps to say hello
to the strangers passing by.

Snow will come sweeping in, rain will always fall,
but I will never wear a hat,
and though I smile to see it on the ledge and wall,
I do not envy the fishmonger’s cat.
No pet could be fed better than that,
but I do not envy the fishmonger’s cat.
No, I do not envy the fishmonger’s cat.

Wipe clean the clouded window
to look up at the street and sky.
Climb the stone steps to say hello
to the strangers passing by.

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