Tag Archives: poetry

Cosmic Chameleon

Cosmic Chameleon

When Narcissus knelt
and fell in love with his reflection
was it his face he saw in the water
or one mirror of the fluid mask
of the cosmic chameleon?

The juggler who spun orbs in the air
with his hands at the summer fair
who said they were planets he knew of
that he turned in a wheel,
was he only a travelling entertainer
or was he him in one of his disguises,
the cosmic chameleon?

And when he is alone
and he looks in the mirror,
who does he see?
Maybe a myriad faces
of the beings he could be,
the cosmic chameleon.

That man in the aisle on the train,
why did he look stranger than any other?
Why did you watch him disappear on the escalator?
Was he only odd or was it him, playing a part,
the cosmic chameleon?

And that businessman in the newspaper,
talking about how he made his first million,
why did he disturb you, had you seen his face before?
Are you sure he was not the masked meddler himself,
the cosmic chameleon?

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Water Birds

Water Birds

When the street lamps are lit in the evening,
I sit by the window,
look out on the always autumn,
see the trees below,
glisten in the glow.
I am still there, sat in that chair,
calm at the centre
while the wheels turn around.
In my time of absence,
there I’ll be found,
watching leaves lift in the waltz of the wind,
thinking what if you and I were water birds.
We’d build a nest high in a tree,
glide low and slow over the lake.
Though it will seem like a dream,
we will still be there when we wake.

Grace is too clumsy a word
to describe the rise from the reeds
of the wings of a water bird.

All your medals are gold,
never silver or bronze.
You could only be first,
never second or third.
You know you have won,
lift your arms in the air,
like the wings of a water bird.

We’d be free of time and the need for words,
if we lived like water birds.

Owl

Owl

There is an owl in vowel,
if you discard the v and the e,
and there is an owl in scowl,
detected in bare simplicity.
Think of the words you have read,
look in the garden shed,
note the owl in trowel.
There is even an owl in bowel.
If you go to college,
find an owl in knowledge.
You do not have to be an ancient Greek
to think an owl too wise to speak.
No other bird is heard
in so many words as the owl.
There is an owl in cowl,
in the sound and the spelling of yowl.
The owl may hoot most unlike the wolf
but there is an owl in howl.
The owl is counted with other birds,
in so many words, among the feathered fowl.
Ebony eyes may stare blind in the dark,
but the large, startled eyes of the owl,
framed by a frowning expression,
may see a bat flit into a belfry,
look too wise for a lark.
The owl has nested in words,
the judge in the court of birds,
perched on a branch, high above ground,
heard in the sound of prowl and rowel
and undeniably jowl.
As for the hen,
you can find a hen hid in then,
not to mention when and whenever.
To conclude, you may laugh,
when you have a bath,
to see an owl in the towel.

 

Twenty First Century Protest Song

Twenty First Century Protest Song

People worried about climate change,
demonstrating in the city square,
sending signals while still in range,
to save the rhino and the polar bear.

How dare our leaders refuse to talk,
the weapons they wield could end us all.
They break off the flower from the stalk,
forget that life is brief, world is small.

Twenty first century protest song,
buskers sing outside the White House gate.
We got so right how to be so wrong.
Rise early before it is too late.

Fear for the future of too much heat,
icebergs melting to swell plastic seas.
Freak storms, flash floods, the nightmare complete.
Sign the petitions to save the trees.

Twenty first century protest song,
chant outside the Kremlin in Red Square.
Defiant choir more than a million strong.
The demand for peace is only fair.

Pass Into The Past

Pass Into The Past

And when you look around,
and when you look within,
when sure of what you’ve found,
then you can begin.
Somehow you are allowed
to pass into the past.
The people in the rooms
thought what they had would last.
The portraits on the walls,
the pictures in the frames.
Whoever made those calls
did not leave their names.
The statues in the rain,
the dark red violin,
the white cloth with a strain,
the old toffee tin.
These stories are not yours
you seem to know so well.
With keys for all the doors,
you find more to tell.
And when you look around,
and when you look within,
if you fear what you’ve found,
you cannot begin.
The wolves are in the wood,
you cannot go there.
Cold and heat battle in your blood
as you climb an iron stair.
Aware of a ticket in your pocket,
you enter a railway station.
Confused by all the trains,
you wonder if you have a destination.
When will you ever know,
come near to understand,
what screens and mirrors show,
a world strange and grand?
Those paintings that they stole,
those signs they daubed on doors,
that flag hung on a pole,
raised between the wars.
When fear heats your heart,
your lamp begins to dim,
the waves still fall and part
where the dolphins swim.
And when you look around,
and when you look within,
the marks etched on the ground
tell you who will win.

A Photograph of Poets

A Photograph of Poets

A photograph of poets. Scrolling down a page on my computer screen, I was surprised to find it. I smiled to see them. They posed, looking very aware of the photographer and camera, each of them sculpted by their own vision. Good to see them in one room together. Later, I learned the photograph was taken in the office of the publisher, Faber and Faber, 24, Russell Square, in Bloomsbury, near the British Museum, London, on the twenty third of June, 1960. It would have been interesting to hear their conversation, before and after the photograph session. But it was not recorded, not even in memoir. But there they are, in black and white, from left to right, Louis MacNeice, Ted Hughes, T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender. All of them smart, dressed for the city. T.S. Eliot looks eldest, Ted Hughes the youngest. All of them famous. Fame is rare for poets. What they wrote will endure. It will provide literary work for college lectures, seminars, tutorials, essays, examination questions, professor’s papers. And there will always be the few, the small circle, who read poetry for pleasure. I wonder what they would make of what happened to their art, what present poets have done to it? Critics as well as poets, they would have a lot to say. More interesting to ponder, what would they create if they still lived to write? They launched their works on the same river. They listened for words in the wind. To let them go, they had to. And when the photographer was satisfied with his photograph, T.S. Eliot, as the host, may have said: “Goodbye, all of you. Thank you for coming. Goodbye, Louis. Goodbye, Ted. Goodbye, Wynstan. Goodbye, Stephen.” And maybe they would have said to him: “Goodbye, Tom. See you soon. Goodbye. Goodbye.”
And taking different directions, they would have been soon lost in London.
T.S. Eliot, alone in his office, may then have had a cup of tea, thinking to himself: “Well, that went well.”

Caliban

Caliban

( Lines inspired by Caliban, a character from The Tempest by William Shakespeare )

Orphaned on an island, isolation utter, exiled from other shores,
mother banished here for witchery.
Not beast, not man, what am I?
Riddle that I am, I rooted for the answer.
Regret I failed to dig that deep.
Solitary life I led, then the magician came,
left here with his daughter, Miranda, she like summer flowers.
Prospero put me in my place, measured by his regard,
taught me to move my mouth with words
instead of grunts and squeals like wood hogs,
ruled me not with might but magic,
summoned a tempest on the sea
to wreck a ship, such is his power.
Knows he cannot civilise me, only command me as his servant,
a slave to bring him sticks and logs to burn with red and orange fire.
Separated from the magic of my mother,
I brood on the darkness in my brain.
I know, for I have had long to ponder, I am like no other.
Not beast, not man, what then is Caliban?
Sycorax the witch, my mother, left this life to leave me here.
I lived on fish, berries. A freak can only repel.
Would not mind to live as a crab, hard shell on my back,
sharp claws to pinch and grab, quick to swim, dig,
hide in rock pools on the coast, loud with wave fall.
I look up at the moon, like me, alone,
unless, free of cloud, stars spread and shine.
Envy crabs on the shore, have families, like fish do,
like gulls that swoop in the coves, shriek on the rocks.
I woke to the slime and salty smell of seaweed.
My mother’s spells conjured me but them I cannot speak.
Free of laws men made, no axe could cleave cold chains that bind me here.