winter’s morning

winter's morning

      What is this love to you? – no more
       than a web woven of parting and absence,
       a cradle the frost spins for evanescence
       and fixes at three trembling points or four
       between reed and reed at the lake's brink
        on a winter's morning? Or do you see
        us two linked only by fragile tracery
        of long-wintered beeches? Or think
        we run ripples on the lake?
       as frail as these have a place in nature, 
       vanishing always between past and future, 
       and in love too is a place for yearnings
       and the torture of wind in the web and high
       mockery of leafless twigs. 
But where am I? 
O come and find me where the rock gives birth
in the deep luxurious hollows of the earth
and find me in the boles of mighty trees. 
Find me and love me in the mosses of my ease
where lusty roots and limbs timelessly  writhe, 
where our long summer's buried but alive. 

at destination

at destination

Do you know there are two roads?
We take them both. 
We take the hard highway, scuffing the gravel
with determined stride; and with us travel
innumerable friends and strangers, loath
within the crowd to hazard separation
on the sun-drummed route towards a destination
not one of us shall ever reach. 
But you and I
take also another road that the high-grassed fell
hides from the mob – a pathway plunging  a dell
undergrown too deep for any raiding eye
to delve our leaf-funnelled passage. 
Darling girl, 
here in this tree-borne birdsong and the hollow curl
of water at our feet, we two can stray
where we will – at destination all the way. 



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 sink back

another night beneath the impenetrable drift.

the river

the river

You stood on the other bank,
the river between.
Each waded into the mainstream
to touch fingers
before the force and depth
swept us away for ever.
Fingers touched and more, clasped
four-legged against the current,
then were we lifted, borne away
and could not clamber back
nor even drown,
for we’d become the river.

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-trees 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?  

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.



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 the seeds

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

of mountains. And when you whisper, all

The heavens 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?


Evolutionary Poems

Poems of Primality
We are all crumbs
We are all crumbs,
fallen from the Master’s table,
such Mastery as made this rock
and water made
and wind, sun, dust, detritus, silt.
These were gifts
indifferently surveyed
and we, we covert motions
creviced and murked and damp,
we swellings in the mud, we
glomerates, we gave back buds
and flowers, mosses, love.
Yea, love we showed him,
brandished love to Him preoccupied
with universal things,
knelt, bowed, on our provincial planet
demanding mercy.
                                      One of us
within our sedimentary nests
claimed him not Master but
Abba, Father, claimed and proclaimed
and so proclaiming died and rose
sealing at the wood crux
(where dimensions touch, eternity and time)
a pact of blood and water
between the fluke of Him and us.
We are his crumbs, we diamonds are
from his terranean carbon ranges,
tiny and rare, tears for his cheek.
And of his million million fires
we ring the smoke about the iris of our eyes
 His love to recognise.

Who are these, fur-capped

Who are these we come across fur-capped
At the roadside, staved, suspicious, wrapped
Against an adversary we are not acquainted with exactly –
Wary of lowlanders, never first to speak,
Yet responding to our greeting and (in the basic mode)
Sharing our lingo?
If not in line of time our ancestors,
Surely it is these that took our past
Up by the sunless tributary gullies,
Difficult to pass and single file for goats,
To what were once pastures in most parched
High summertime, and settled there above
The treeline, not for a season, but
To live and die.
The younger men trespass down,
With a few hides and artefacts of bone.
For a single day, or a day and a night’s unrest
Lodged at the town’s edge, their zest
Gone absent, narrow-eyed, observing little,
Watchful for exploitation, trickery and the derision
Of our children.
Then they are away again for another year, on foot,
Squatting at the roadside to regroup their hearts,
Rising hesitantly as our vehicle decelerates ...
Swart, monkey-faced, smelling of old smoke,
Uncertain if to smile or be on guard
Upon the currency (for ornament), salt, tobacco,
Peppers and white sugar in the warm
Darkness of their clothing.
On our return they are gone, we suppose
Moved off between high grasses on a trail we never noticed
Half a day’s tramp to where the mountains start
And their legends of precipitous routes by tree-cramped
Torrent. Then the bared steeps where their turf huts
Crouch windowless against the cold
That slays their frail each winter, an adversary
We are not acquainted with
                      Were these not they of the simple life
Whom we townsmen, sophisticates, boulevardiers,
Affect to envy?
On gazing upon cars nose-to-tail in Snowdonia
Coming by iron he moved the frontiers of his pride. 
First building furnaces in bellowed clefts,
He made the rock weep copper. From continents apart, brothers brought tin, and fangled bronze
To glint his awed submissive soul and question
Supremacy of forest, star and beast. 
Coming by iron, he moved the frontiers of his pride. 
God became smith, fabricating sanctity, 
And soon the clad wheel trundled his vulcan powers
Across all surfaces of land, until this day
Where steel snake-shackles his latter globe
And fangs back starving soul from dark
Deep-circled mysteries of forest, beast and star. 
Easter Story
If that day he did not die
Yet slept only, 
Yesu Nazarene, 
A sleep so clean
And total deep
It took breath and beat, 
To awake in vault
Tenebrous and cold
And by his own shoulder
Rolled back the boulder
Rousing the watch-by-night
to funk and flight ...
If from sepulchral portal 
Self-beguiled immortal
Stepped he in dawning garden –
Heart! do not harden
Against the glory
of a Saviour for a story
Credulous disciple
Took and told as gospel. 
How, how shall Truth be tellable
Else but by parable
Or ever Word made Knowledge
But is dislodged
A fraction into fiction?