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 

Limpet

Christmas Day is empty
no-one passes by:
blackbirds wait beside the door,
there’s nothing in the sky

and I in my home scar
hunkering down
like a long-lived limpet, familiar
with this part of town

Lost and found

Out on a limb,
like desperate travellers looking for somewhere to stay
like lonely shepherds in the dark
like a young girl suddenly with child
like wise men laughed at, following a wild idea

we are lost in a shapeless world
waiting for something to happen
out of step with time

unaware of the resting place
and the angels
trying to see through the pain
something in the shape of a star

until at the perfect moment, just off the beat,
the sound of singing
or a knock on the door,
a safe delivery:

as if we had found something lost
like a coin or a sheep
or someone sleeping in a field:
someone who, on closer inspection,
appears to be us

Edge of eternity

I stand on the edge of eternity:
a door opens, and I look back at the universe,
which sparkles and throbs with life

I know I must not touch
the angel at the door
of creation

If I do, I will have to go on
into the realm of angels,
but back there in the coruscating night
people are calling to me

I still belong
in that crazy fairground

I do not know why,
or how I can help,
or what I have done so far

I reached out,
but no-one responded

I like the look of the angel
at the door of creation, and
the angel smiles at me

I do not touch him:
all I want is beauty,
or is it holiness?

I do not touch the angel

I look again at eternity:
the nurse comes
to give me painkillers

When my father was alive

Sixty years on, the trains
still run at the bottom of my garden.

I return, expecting to see
uprooted rails, something for walkers,
a crazed cycle path,
but I hear the train, and I see
the track, though the meadows it ran through
have been shaved and smartened
into a blazered sports field, and a fence
blocks my old path to the dark woods.

I search for signs of my childhood,
marks I might have made.

Someone has thrown away the broken tooth
and the bicycle,
and the moon my father chased up the street
got away – as did the boy
who pulled his toy from underneath a moving car
while I stood transfixed.

But the numbers remain:
the pavements, the houses,
the steps towards school.

The scene of my first major crime
(grand theft marble)
has been wiped clean
like my sins.

No more lovely young girls,
no more shotguns,
no more holes in the ground.

Everything is neat now, 
except the forces’ club and its
car park in no-man’s-land,
leaking on to the street, as it always did.

Swinging on some railings by the iron road,
I dropped a magical red magnet
and could never find it.

Perhaps that is what draws me back
to this unremarkable street,
this shadowed and temperamental sky
under which strange things happened
to someone I almost knew.

Yesnaby

Travelling back through the centuries
past standing stones
and hollow hungry mounds,
we arrive at Yesnaby, 
where cliffs and castles
fall into the sea, 

waves crash recklessly in
eating away at what is unseen,
giving us no warning
that soon we will be crashing too
struck down by a mystery,
inches from all those Viking footprints,
broken bones and bruising on the horizon
and all over the island

But that unpredictable beauty lingers
as my eyes close 
just for a second
until the real world breaks through 

And still I remember Yesnaby
where as usual I did not go far enough
and so missed the glory of it all
not once but twice

The glory is still there, though,
a thousand miles and a few yards away,
waiting for me

This is not home

Sun peppers the sea as we step like ghosts
down from the dark galleries
where the blood-red line between beauty and terror
is sometimes visible
behind the writing on the wall

Disintegrating tree-stumps
mark the ancient quay
long sucked away

We, lost children sent
on a forgotten errand,
look for the lingering paths,
watching the tides,
following old footprints
that fade away

We carry faint maps
between our shoulder-blades,
the mystical beginning
and the end

This is not home, nor looks like it
though there is something in the trees
and mirage hills
that hovers shining out of reach

No signposts here,
no memories: just
ripples of grace around our feet
and a muddy gate
that might be pushed open

Boathouse stones

Those stones you used to dance on
by the boathouse at the head of the loch
are under water today

When the sun shines between showers
I see their shape
suspended like gold,
floating

We shelter behind rough stone walls
from the intermittent wind:
earlier we balanced
like marionettes strung from the sky
tiptoeing on slippery logs
to cross a tumbling, unexpected stream

Now as we climb painfully home
we tread the edge of creation:
all that is here today
may be gone tomorrow,
or a shadow of what it was, 
just under the surface

We balance again – 
shadows trying not to fall

Early evening fen

An antique blanket
the colour and shape of lapwing
is flung over a ragged hedge

or so it seems
hanging down, knitting a background
for the winter sun

Further back the impatient reeds shift
from foot to foot
and we look for the marsh harrier
in vain: he has better things to do
and secret places to be

As the shadows blacken
a chinese water deer
strolls across an accidental clearing

forgetting for a moment
the harshness of reality

We stay hidden, and a barn owl pays us
an unexpected visit
white against the scintillating sky

Old wood, Thornham

Promising nothing
our path slides at first among
manicured money, well guarded,
then runs toward the sea
risking everything

Butterflies dark and light
mark the way
like laughing children:
they play in the dust, 
and so do we

This is a manifestation
of the Kingdom:
the coal barn like a temple
hard against the river,
the tide going out

Old wood is the magic – 
ancient pillars and 
abandoned boats:
we run our fingers across the surface,
feeling the universe beneath