When Atum woke, he forgot he had slept,
was aware he knew secrets and where they were kept.
Over a slain soldier no widow yet wept.
First tribes of humans he watched settle by a river,
a snake of water they called the Nile.
Vowed to cleanse them of hate, burn that black bile.
Brighter than the sun they worshipped, he shone.
Wisdom lined his brow, peace creased his smile.
Wide he stretched the fingers of his right hand,
as pyramid temples men built on the sand.
The foul acts of the Pharaoh kings alarmed his mind,
he had wished them to rule justly and kind.
Tribal feuds made his heart pump hard, stricken with pain.
Not warriors but farmers he valued, growers of grain.
Explorers in ships, he admired, and tellers of tales.
He steered his barge through the stars, blew wind in its sails.
Now in his face, see what was good, what was rotten.
Though no priest kneels to his name, it is not forgotten.
O, Atum, lord of the land, king of the sky,
where do gods go when the gods die?
Watch the wretched rain
pelt your window pane.
Just when you are about to go out
to the department store.
You are sure the weather man
did not predict such a down pour.
But you only have to dash to your car
from your front door,
drive into town through the wretched rain.
You pass a homeless man huddled
in a sodden sleeping bag.
Okay so he should have looked after himself like you did,
as you pop in and out of a shop and drive home,
leave him to hear the wretched rain
gurgle down a grid.
After a coffee in the kitchen you feel a little better,
glad to be sheltered and dry, free of the wretched rain.
The homeless man is forgotten but you will see such sights again.
Lone lost ones try to sleep on cold stone beds in the wretched rain.
Turn Backward Keys
You cannot get back there,
not to your childhood.
You cannot run to the fish pond,
be told not to fall in,
when world was the school yard
and the end began to begin.
You can glimpse the gate to the garden,
hear cries over the wall,
but you can only walk by
for you know too much now
and you are too tall.
O my, you loved it when all spun round right.
Now you dig the dark earth
in search of a lamp,
but the day is dim, there’s not enough light.
If you got back there,
you would want to stay,
till you saw all those who were there with you
have all grown, gone away.
Windows and harbours, bell towers and trees,
things that enchant you become turn backward keys.
But there’s something you always knew, anyhow,
the best time is now.
The Heron and the Crocodile
The heron finds the crocodile a convenient raft.
Perched on its back, it looks pleased to be ferried
slow down the mud brown river.
In the luxuriance of the light,
its eyes desires to see the flash of a fish below its beak.
The crocodile would eat anything that moves with flesh.
Unaware of the heron, it could not turn its head quick enough
to snap at it and devour it, anyway.
The heron knows this, has learned that the best place to perch
to be safe from the crocodile
is on the middle hump of its bloated, hard scaled back.
Stay close to your enemy to keep an eye on him
could be the motto of the heron.
Thus the heron seems happy to use the crocodile as river transport
to increase the pleasantness of its life as a fresh water fisher,
a bird of the inner plains of Africa.
From the twisted branch of a stunted tree,
vultures watch the heron float by on the back of the crocodile.
A familiar sight, part of the predator pattern,
they do not bother the heron.
The swim path of the crocodile
is obstructed by a bathing hippopotamus.
A shimmer of the scales of a fish in the reeds
alarms the alertness of the heron.
The heat of the sun is fierce over the lion land.
Records In Your Room
I had my time, you had your time,
the time when music meant most to you.
The nineteen sixties, that was my time,
my first full decade, born as I was in 1952.
Elvis Presley sang Heartbreak Hotel.
Some listened to it till they knew it well,
learned to play it on guitar,
to follow him to be a star.
Buddy Holly sang Peggy Sue.
Keep it simple seemed the thing to do.
Lonnie Donegan sang Putting On The Style,
played skiffle with mischief in his smile.
Harry Belafonte sang Island In The Sun.
Tap your feet to its calypso beat.
Bob Dylan sang Masters of War.
Made sure we knew what protest was for.
The Beatles sang We Can Work It Out.
They’d come a long way since Twist and Shout.
Bad news hit us like a metal glove.
They gave us hope with All You Need Is Love.
Peter, Paul and Mary sang Blowing In The Wind.
Simon and Garfunkel sang The Sound of Silence.
Martin Carthy sang Scarborough Fair.
All part of the folk revival.
John Mayall led the British blues boom.
To be tuned in, feel part of it all,
you had your records in your room.
Donovan sang Hurdy Gurdy Man.
Leonard Cohen sang Suzanne.
No more war, peace was the plan.
Fairport Convention sang Tam Lin.
The Incredible String Band sang The Circle Is Unbroken.
The fence was lept, the gate was open.
Tim Hardin, John Martyn, the list is long.
What a time for new kinds of song.
It was our music, the words and tunes we could understand.
Surprise and wonder, none of it was planned.
I loved it then, still love it now.
My path was clear, so was my brow.
Somehow emperor penguins
survive winter under the polar moon,
beaten by blizzards
that whistle an icy tune.
We know emperor penguins
were born to cope with the Antarctic cold,
dive deep to hunt fish,
huddle for warmth in a fold.
Screens show emperor penguins
how they walk slow in lines to the south pole,
lay eggs, raise their young,
climb up, out from a snow hole.
Strange to think wherever we are,
as our thoughts shift through notions,
there are emperor penguins in the frozen south,
whales and dolphins in the oceans.
Always there’s the danger, if the mind sleeps,
the jungle leaves part and the lion leaps.
Long live emperor penguins.
May humans help them stubbornly endure.
If the icebergs melt,
they’ll have breeding grounds no more.
Chance etched a penguin rune
on a frosty slate.
Under the polar moon,
we can help life go on.
It is not too late.
One side lost, the other side never won.
Consider the riddle, decide which side you are on.
Criss-crossed in the middle are the lines that divide.
Observe them grow faint as the vision fails.
No one more alone than an emperor on his throne,
cannot pick a bone with anyone.
Geese screech across the late November sky,
leave the far mere in irregular lines.
The trees will soon be bare.
Will you stay on the same side
or choose another cause to bear?
One side won, the other side never lost.
Answer the riddle to know which border you crossed.
A triangle has three sides, a square has four.
A circle has no sides but has been broken before.
Now the Arthur king in the tales
sat his knights at a table round,
all to be equal with no chair at the head,
but Mordred rebelled and broke the ideal
on the battle ground.
Both sides lost.
No one heard the final bugle sound.