pax aeterna

pax aeterna

Following fresh snowfall

a shaft of low sunlight

stole through a broken wall

as the same lazy smile

steals over you after love.

Laying there snowbound,

that pale suffusing gleam

fell across my mound

and resurrected me.

the essence of you

the essence of you

You are a simple stroke,

      The swift essential line

By which the artist can evoke

      In Man what’s divine.


Then, you are divine form

       Cast in essential grace:

God took as human beauty’s norm

      Your glowing face.


Then you are a glowing blade,

       Essence of the metal

Drawn from the rocky core, and made

       Perfect as a petal.


Then, you are a perfect flower,

        Quintessence of the red

Upon a curving stem – the colour

        Of a lover’s bed.


I lie in your loving arms

       Distilling your essence,

In consummation of the charms

       That spells your presence.



They asked me at the table where you were – why

Had I come without you? Who was I

(The waiter said) to be without “the lovely girl”?

One evening, in the smoke and swirl

Of voices and guitar, we were known

To be together, They remembered you

And remembered me, as two, as one.

We have no record, but in soul and blood.


We are writ in water, a shadow in the wood;

We are words unsounded and our deeds

Are secrets all. – Ah, but we are in the seeds

Of half creation, the sea’s spring and the buds

Of mountains. And when you whisper, all

The havens thunder forth the fact of love!



When you leave the bed and slip away

out of our lovers’ hide, into the hard day,

I lean my head against the wall and wonder

if all this world’s mad machine will sunder

a love that grows as true and wild as ours.

My eyes run round these blank white walls and ceiling

and the sightless window, I stunned at what feeling

we two, skin to skin, have generated here

from nothing but ourselves; and I fear

however wild and true, whatever the powers

of this love binding us now, stringing the streets

and leaping the rooves between us – all else competes

against it: all the millions in this city

broken in the search for our treasure – millions we pity

from the fortress of our arms when long hours

of loving lie beyond.

Dare we apart,

and again apart, defy by mere loving art

snatched here and there in the rubble of time and shelter –

dare we still defy the machine’s mad welter?

shore deserted

Shore deserted

He could no longer hold the sea back

Nor stop the cold waves browsing on his ribs

                       Now that she must leave this shore.

        Yes, there had been encounter here, a play,

A sequence of events. Here are relics

Of a fire that cooked a meal,

Kept warm their shins once, many times,

Accompanied the kindling of their limbs –

Black stubs of driftwood, missiles spent,

Clustered in a narrow ceremonial circle.

The ash has blown away already.


Reveals nothing new on the long strand: only the weal of weed

And the surf-line and the same sounds that nursed them.


                                     Then let the sea surge up again!

And in a monstrous tide such as first laid limits to this shore

(Up to where sand is overhung with turf)

Wash away all her footprints, his beside,

And all the properties two players left behind.

For seas will outmanoeuvre men and women’s love,

And what they thought was their beach was the sea’s –

Always the sea’s – as was the sound of surf, not theirs.

Even the kindling of their limbs was jetsam’s

Warmth, their rendezvous always between the tides.



There was a time when night ringed day,

Night ringed my isles, and an unquiet sleep

lapped the shoreline all night deep

       And the song was sung.

I used to watch the wavelight going

And feel blood slowing across the cold,

Forget a time when rocks turned gold

      Or dusk grew young . . .

Yet, sundown westwards was a dawning east.

No more I wake up melancholy

For you have made my sleep so holy

       By your double rays

That we’ve compressed the night with hope

And kissed the silence into song

And linked our rippled isles so strong

        Warm blood wins always.

Kuala Trengganu

Kuala Trengganu

On my long shore you are the sea.

Down my long night-time you are the free

White dashing curve of waves –

The white interminable curve that craves

Only the loving shingle and the sharp

Drawn breath of rhythmic dark

Beneath which pebble ranges shift

Against the searching under-drift

       Of foam-soft fingers.

The tall moon still lingers

Over palm-tree seaward tilting;

My long shore’s still lilting,

My long night-time’s iridescent

Under your wave-beat.

                            Why lead this present

Ever into future? why, Lord, this night

        Ever into dawn-light?  



At first it was only the rock-face that I saw,

A distant majesty of white, a hint

Across the bleak sea, a glimmer reflecting,

A sun not risen yet.


Is it a rock-face?

So early in the morning there can be no certainty.

I’ve sailed this patch of empty sea before

And I had been told this was a landless ocean:

The drooped horizon and the motion of hurrying

Waves the interminable narrative.


But then this rock

Suggesting land – a geographic point

At which a continent leaned out and turned the dark sea

Green and white.


I would not try to explore

The continent behind the shore. If this was

A swelling of firm earth out of the flux,

A site of fixity and love, I would not seek

For any further knowledge than that this land

Lay here against the sea, an anchorage,

A place of stillness, joy and resolution always.


It has risen like Atlantis overnight!

     These white citadels and palaces of rock

still glisten from the oceanic suck.

And now I’m anchored here and gone ashore,

Climbing again and again above the rhyming

Breakers into our tilted fields to lie

Beside you in the sun, I ask if this land

That claims eternity will not sing back

Another night beneath the impenetrable drift.

Blue Nile Gorge

Blue Nile Gorge

O shall I find a way to conjure you

      Across the wandering spaces?

Or in the bombardment of black and broken water

       An in these canyoned places

That magnify all sound and wash my skull

       Ear through to ear, shall i capture

One single cry from you, one smile or sigh

        That recollects our rapture?

The cascading of your love is far too sweet

         To share such savaging,

And the depths of your wild eyes too silent and clear

         To mingle in the blind raging.

Yet here within, beyond all space and sound

        That are themselves messageless,

In the beat of my own heart I catch a throb of yours

        That slakes my loneliness.

the river

the river

There you stood, on the other bank

and the river between us.

We waded out into the mainstream

expecting to touch fingers

before the force and depth

separated us for ever.

Fingers we touched and more, clasped

four-legged against the current.

Then we were lifted and carried away

and we became the river.

Forgive us Lord we cannot now

clamber back, nor even drown.