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,

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


With empty eyes
I reach out and touch the future,
scatter seed
in the sand

by the siren song of the moment
my skin glistens
under a silken sky

by unseen pictures –
figures in strange landscapes –
I journey
but never arrive

Held in this chattering dream
I become part of the past,
a giant under the snow

And now I cannot sleep:
I shift back and forwards,
changing the shape of the air

Waves spill into another world:
freed by the sea, flowers
wash up on the shore

  • Written ten years ago, when I was recovering from an operation


Where the road turns and heads for the quay
music leaks out of the church, 
through the ruined arches

Noah and the dove watch it 
flood and fall back,
cellos marching past the waterfall
of the flute,
one orchestra against another

The mystery of the music spans centuries
and the castle, off to one side,
hears it too

Notes and scales drift out into the wrecks of buildings
that punctuate the Ness, 
abandoned after the war,
waiting for artists to roll the stones away
and resurrect some kind of beauty

Eventually the magic fades:
small boats jog lightly in the harbour

  • Written after a visit to Orford, in Suffolk

Blackbird at the door

Up on the hill
a blackbird pecks at parchment leaves
around the sill of an unknown grave

and I remember how you fed raisins
to your private blackbird, which
came to your door and knocked,
unlocking your smile

Further away two jays
play, skipping from tombstone to tombstone
like angels
and I am alone
in their blue world
tiptoeing nearer and nearer

They see me coming, and
I see them going:
they do not ask for raisins, and
I do not smile: I hear no knocking
at the door

Not yet

Easter rabbits

Is that Easter I see in the distance?
Or is it just a pale brown hill
in the shape of an egg? 

Small figures that may be rabbits
make their way up the hill,
which looks like chocolate –

though it is hard to explain
why chocolate would not melt
in the Mediterranean heat 

There seem to be trees on the hill,
and two or three rabbits
seem to be climbing the trees, 

which is not the sort of behaviour 
one would expect of rabbits
unless someone is trying 
to kill them 

Nothing is moving now
and I am losing interest:
it is getting dark
and I have a busy weekend ahead 

I expect the rabbits will disappear 
into holes in the ground
and, for all I know, never be seen again 

unless they pop up unexpectedly
out of a hat
two or three days later 

You never can tell with rabbits


Walsingham shrine

Staying behind Calvary,
I lean out from
my bedroom window
and try to touch the crosses,

which are too smooth
and too completely empty
as if someone had slipped away, 

avoided the issue,
and planted a garden instead,
the grass too short and bloodless

No words, either:
no stones to roll away

More like daytime TV 
than a resurrection

Occasional tanka

out of the sun
just like the red baron
you fire shadows
into the evening sky
tear my poor heart in two

I left the ash
underneath the altar
near the pancakes
ran heedlessly down the road
as if it didn’t matter

I try to see
the pain in your body,
your wisdom too
but all I can handle now
is the light you let fall