No Thunder Yet
No thunder yet, best be wary though, could be soon,
weather men warn.
Later, clouds lower, bulge, darken,
turn black, dark blue, swollen
with trapped tempests.
Bomber plane bold, they frighten, threaten.
Like tables for a banquet set
spread summer gardens,
defiantly green, yellow.
Birds, butterflies, moths and bees,
the invited guests,
observed by magpie servants in the trees.
For now, storms stay south,
but lightning could come,
to flash on roofs, crack horizons.
If I live that long,
maybe I will have my moment,
like King Lear on the heath,
find words to have my say,
my silent soul will speak,
prove that I see clearly through poverty and pomp.
What I learned of life’s unfairness I would condemn,
its brief beauty praise.
Pictures In A Glass
Soon the throb of summer’s engine
the high ascending sun will waken.
There’s only now, the swallows say,
while sparrows mourn what winter’s taken.
No close the door, draw the curtain,
go to the shore for pleasure certain.
Follow the lines drawn by the tides,
listen to what the wind has shaken,
Green scaled tail of a dormant dragon
is a hedge coiled round a garden.
We’re sorry now, the seagulls cry.
Will the captives be given pardon?
When you were a lad and you had a lass,
you never saw such long, long grass,
and it seemed that summer would never pass,
now pictures survive in a glass.
In My Winter Chair
In my winter chair,
I think of what was there,
and will not be forgotten.
I may be mistaken,
I am almost sure,
but cannot be certain,
that I saw a nightingale in summer,
perched on a tree in my garden,
its song finer than that of a spring piper,
stirred me more than the retreat
of an autumn drummer.
Swifts and swallows flew south for shelter,
but like the sparrows, I must stay,
and endure the winter,
but I have the memory
of a nightingale in summer.
Are you buying any of these things?
If you are, who are they for?
In this world where there are paupers
and there are kings,
what would you do if you knew all things?
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.
poem by Philip Dodd for the Six Best Poets Project
painting by Kathryn Carlyle
Narrow my eyes,
look out over the harbour,
strain till I know
my concentration is certain,
my vision clear,
free of mist and miasma,
distinguish boats in a line,
moored to the foot of a far wall.
At rest from a voyage,
blue sails sag in a low wind.
With them I would go,
feel and hear the flap
of blue sails on the blue sea of summer,
follow paths whale and dolphin may furrow.
Feeding Ducks In The Park
I bought two buns from the bakery.
The shop keeper would have thought they were for me.
I had to smile on his wrong assumption
as through park gates I passed
into the green of grass and tree.
On my way down paths, between mown lawns,
I went to see the aviary.
Rare birds from foreign parts,
I studied through wire netting.
Peacocks stamping over gravel
remain in my memory.
In time I turned away,
continued my journey.
The smell of mud and water grew stronger,
the air damper, the closer I came to the boating lake shore,
till they were there, finally,
what I had come for,
some of them resting,
others web footing over wet roots and stones,
the ducks I had come to feed, a pleasure not a chore.
It was freedom, release from routine,
to throw bits of bread to them, chunks of my buns.
I smiled to watch them
squabble and quack over every crumb.
And when my white paper bag was empty,
I sat on a bench, under a tree.
Felt light, at peace, for it was done.
The ducks had come, eaten my buns to the last crumb.
I stood to go, stroll away.
They quacked and waddled after me.
Maybe I will sit there one summer
when my hair is grey and my legs are numb,
and smile on the memory of when I was younger
and I spent an afternoon feeding ducks in the park.
If I had nothing much else to do,
and blew loud on a kazoo,
I could almost sound like you,
ducks stalking rudely after me.
Where did you learn to be heartless?
Who taught you to be cold?
Cry to drain the darkness from your eyes,
try and haul back what you have sold.
I say to those who think and speak
from a negative root.
I prefer rough winds in an anorak
to stale air in a suit.
Cheerful times, things done for a lark,
like feeding ducks in the park.
Let me take time to discuss the dandelion.
From my kitchen window I saw it, just now.
All by itself it grows in my back garden,
on the edge of the lawn I have yet to mow this year,
between the bench, the bins and the fence.
Maybe, I thought, it only sprouted this afternoon.
Certainly, I did not notice it there, yesterday.
Let me consider what it means to me.
Firstly, it is a welcome sign of spring.
If summer is bold, spring is shy,
showing itself in small ways,
like a lone dandelion.
I went outside, to look at it, closely.
Took two photographs of it,
which is unusual for me, odd.
Looked to me in the grass like a yellow sun,
reflected on a green sea from a green sky.
No, not a weed to me, as it would be
to keen gardeners, as they are called, dismissed as such
by them, uprooted and dumped on a waste heap,
for only flowers they plant themselves from seed bags
have beauty in their eyes, but what it is, a wild flower,
like the blue bell, the snow drop.
When the ground is dry and I mow the grass,
the dandelion will remain, like a sun beam in a green glass.
Dandelion is from the French dent-de-lion,
which means lion’s tooth, I read.
How they came by that, I do not know.
Does not make me think of a lion or a tooth.
Sunshine, yes, as I have said.