Brancaster

This is a poem I wrote 12 years ago after an earlier spell in hospital, for an operation to remove my prostate and its accompanying cancer. Not long afterwards my wife and I headed for the North Norfolk coast...

Knowing all of the night –
the dry, dry paths and piercing pain,
where the spirit is mysteriously absent
and strange breath is forced into sleeping mouths –
I find your big blue sky hard, like horses galloping

Yes, darkness fades, but fear remains
however bright the sun:
shafts of love splatter randomly
across artificial rocks
while kites run across the scorching sky
cutting the future into slices
too hot to hold

On the beach, stumps of ancient trees
criss-crossed with nails
carved by the soldier sea

And now the spirit spins down unexpected channels
surrounding me:
I am staked out, exposed
up to my neck and out of my depth

The tide slithers in: send no boat
or helicopter

This is where I belong:
the sweet salt waves washing bitter black desert away

I close my eyes,
but fail to dream

Out in the wild

Out in the wild
where there is blood
I find traces of dragons
and gates to false gods

I should not be here
but the way was open
I came too far

I know the towers will fall
stones will crash to earth
heaven will fall apart

I fight the dragons
and sometimes I win
but I forget to shut the gates

I clean up the blood
and no-one notices:
the sky is dark

The brain’s a balloon

The brain’s a balloon
filled with gas:
it’s on a mission
swinging through the atmosphere

The telescope is broken
and people have been killed,
but still they know everything

They know everything
because it is the thing everyone knows,
and 50 million people
cannot be wrong

The brain’s a balloon:
it has an inflated sense
of its own importance

It is getting warmer:
it has almost found
the answer

White wolf

Do you hear the white wolf?
We hear him howling.

Do you see the snow fall?
We see it tumble.

Do you see the night approaching?
We feel the touch of the stars.

Do you see smoke in the distance?
We smell a fire crying.

Do you see the mountain nearby?
We can taste the wilderness.

Do you see the wolf in the snow,
through the smoke at night, below the mountain?
We know the wolf is there.

Will you reach for him?
He is in our hearts.

Garlic

Today I am mostly garlic:
yesterday I was toast, and
tomorrow I shall be honey

This is a journey I have made before
from breakfast to bed and back:
the sting and the sweetness
on your unsuspecting tongue

Today I am classic Greek:
yesterday I was Scottish, and
tomorrow I shall be mostly French

Please do not be confused:
my soul carries scars
you need never see

Today I am thunder:
yesterday I was mostly rain, and
tomorrow it will be too late

Can you hold
all of my hands
all night long?

Enemy

I am away
from the hurl and burly of life:
I lurk in my house, 
watching the enemy go by

The street is empty:
my enemy is invisible –
he may kill me
or he may not

I cannot hold your hand
or comfort you
in case the enemy leaps 
from your back to mine 

He may leap 
or he may not

He is not in my house
as far as I know

 He may be 
or he may not:
he may have been 
and gone

There is no way
of knowing

The sun is shining
but I cannot leave my house: 
I am probably too old –

I may be 
or I may not

There is no hurl and burly of life anywhere:
everyone is in their houses

They cannot go out:
they have forgotten the password

They may retrieve it
or they may not

God has the key:
He may throw it to us –
we may catch it,
or we may not

Somewhere underground

Somewhere underground
where tree roots and fungi interconnect
where rock falls apart and lets strangers in,
where cities crouch under cities
waiting to re-emerge

a man walks through walls,
living partly in stone 
and partly in air,
waiting for the viruses to leave

He moves out under the sea
and back
unearthing those things he values most
but paying a price,
needing to concentrate

One day he goes too far,
steps forward without thinking
then stops:

losing his grip on two domains,
he finds himself frozen between them
head in air
body in rock
unable to move

Somewhere underground
someone is laughing,
but no-one can hear him

Out of context

Out of context
your lips are extraordinarily direct
your eyes unmistakable

Out of context
I am uncertain
about my reaction

Why are you here tonight
out of context,
not fitting that space allotted to you?

Uncertainty is a principle with me:
sometimes it helps
and sometimes it doesn’t

Sometimes I die
and sometimes I don’t:
sometimes I am simply 
in a box, like a cat
out of context

like you 

I want to be constant
but I have a plank in my eye

I am uncertain
whether it is out of context
or if we should walk on the beach
dissolve into the sunset,
uncover everything,
solve the universe,
set it in stone

Grey day for a photographer

In white snow
on a grey day
lines fade away
and there is no shadow

Like an avalanche,
beauty buries itself,
paints itself blind,
covers its face

and you, even you
are almost invisible,
shape-aching for the sun
to throw itself
into the fray

or darkness to fall

either extreme revealing
suddenly,
like a secret,
the real universe –

the one that was always there:
full colour
every hue
high definition
digitally true

Bomb map

I saw the bomb map yesterday,
before I was exploded:

paper-bag-brown tags like a deflated concertina
litter the streets
spatter the battered past
like lost letters, sorted but
no longer expected

And ghosts, too –
captured light emerging
from another dimension
displaying the precision of chance –
one house totally destroyed but
still attached 
to its untouched neighbour

Gazing at the tragedy, I know that inside me there is
something in ruins too,
something destroyed,
but next to it – on the outside –
something standing firm,
looking good

No map could track this disaster –
only something miraculous
coming down from heaven
healing the rift in history

I shift from one foot to another
desperate to stand in a safe spot
praying for precision
in my favour