Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Whisky is the flame he warms at
while his hemisphere tilts from shadow to sun to shadow.

A tongue of song for his friends
(who are corn to its scythe as quickly!)
sings now by a cold hearth.

Sad schizophrenic.

Street-corner orator,
mocker of the church:  ' all its baubles and beads...   its opiates...'

dancing now to silent music.

Marx, his hero, would shy away from such a sight:
a ‘party-member’ who, with nails of gold,
has manufactured a crucifix.

tin horn blues  -
a drunk vomits
into the litter-bin

They grip the image in their young minds
like new moon’s silver,
and wish their childish wishes for her.
They try to set yesterday’s emptiness
against today’s fullness, and reflect
(as we all might): the World has worked a wonder.
Each mind’s grindstone strokes and strokes
her to a jewel, until  the light
from the finished facets glitters in their eyes.
They are dumfounded by it;
each head is a spinning top  -
the World swirling to the one colour  -  her colour.

Later, in the midnight hour,
cradles of bone nod her to sleep  -  and them.

against the baby’s head:
the mother’s cheek

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Her needles are quiet now, a silence has come over her  -
what dream or nightmare dances in the hearth’s flames: his childhood,
his youth, or finally, him lying open-mouthed , eyes staring, riveted to the ground?

The clock ticks (drip of his blood).

He is always there in every reverie: a boy running, already
crippled from the blast, running, running, until a red star smashes through his forehead
(she’s stretched forward at this, gasping: ‘barley’ ‘barley’ but no, not in this game.)

The clock strikes;
suddenly she’s out of it, asking:
‘where’s time gone?’
‘A dinner to make!'

…soldiers’ shadows
across his
staring eyes

                                                                                        Note:  barley: a truce term

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


On that day , she got into her car and drove down to the seaside;
taking off her beautiful birthday coat she folded it, laid  it neatly on the shingle and  walked on into the sea.

They found her weeks later caught between rocks on another shore.

Naturally her parents retrieved the coat. It hangs now in her favourite charity shop:
a dejected looking thing: shoulders slumped, sleeves hanging lifelessly.
Many have admired it, some have even tried it on , but nobody buys.
The sales lady tells me they complain of a strange sea-like smell…

(or, perhaps, fear-induced perspiration)!

in the
sea's sigh

Friday, June 17, 2011


New Orleans  -  made it here at last; living in the French quarter,
Bourbon Street no less!  -  a sixty-year-old kid with a lollipop.

Burgundy Street, Canal Street, Basin Street,Decatur Street, what a litany:
strolling them all, chewing on a stalk of sugar-cane
(that kid with the lollipop again).

Later, in one of the most famous venues for revivalist jazz,
we were amazed to come across a notice by the dance floor: NO DANCING!
Here, bathed in a music invented for dancing to: NO DANCING!  -
how ludicrous!

Having had a couple of mint juleps earlier, we danced anyway!

pomposity pricked
to the tune of
'when you're smiling'

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


They found him swinging  (a clapper in a wooden bell) in his workshop.
Everything tidied, and the note written in his usual beautiful script  -  a love note!

We are left to reflect now…ah! Reflections:

His pale moon-face in the window...
Her pale moon-arse waxing and waning above her young lover…

They found him swinging…

Christmas bells  -
a dead friend

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

(for AT: banjoist/artist)

It was to be a poem with a banjo in it;
a knocked-over barrel of apples of a poem;
a New Orleans rag from 'Auld Reekie'
But, all I could remember of your banjo
was the wall it hung on: black  -  a mural of Belsen:
skeletons shimmering,
like uncanny constellations;
and I wondered if it is still there,
hale, and lurking below layers of wallpaper;
a comfortable Constable;
and a flight of ducks.
Still there,
shimmering yet,
that flight path of madness.

the tune lingers  -                                         
the stretched skin

                                                  note: 'Auld Reekie' : ancient name for Edinburgh

(contemporary haibun July 2011)

They come,
dressed in robes of silence,
dressed in robes of love.
Faces weathered;
calloused hands gathering in the four quarters
In a blessing.

The wind sighs,
sighs round this shelter built by remarkable men
(hands shielding the candle’s flame)
who came to stone and bankered and broke the iron granite
for the love of God.

A shelter built; a world within a world; a body given up.
Remarkable men, moving into the darkness
shielding the flame.

monks chant
wind howls 
silence undisturbed

We worked at ‘heads’ until our own spun, and thought it the end of the world
if we took a corner off, or ‘poxed’ a stone altogether.
Worked out in all weathers, ‘head’ after ’head’ after ’head’; and always ‘himself’
standing glowering  -  a hard man, turning the air blue with his cursing
if his billy-can wasn’t boiling on time, or mocking the blood dripping from a mangled hand.
Standing, always standing with his straight-edge, all eyes for hollow or chipped arras;
grumbling back out under his armpit  -  ‘do it again’, ‘do it again’ ,
until once he would say (reluctantly) ‘ it’ll do’  -  just that  -  ‘it’ll do’
and the air gave out its bells with a sigh.

Since then  it’s been a lifetime of shaping stone: dragging from prehistoric clay:  angels’ wings; senators’ beards; huge breasted women; tracery as delicate as lace;
fine work, work to be proud of;
and he’s dead long since,
who shaped us

old mason
coughing, coughing  -
the young ones eye his tools

                                                         Notes:     ‘heads’:  dressed end of a stone
                                                                           Poxed:   ruined

An old sepia photograph: the stone-yard.

All the masons gathered, some puffing on their clay pipes,
some snuffling their snuff, some raising their billy-cans.

Four stand prominently, proud as any barber-shop quartet: with
their curled moustaches and thumbs stuck in apron-tops;
ready to face anything (as, sadly, they did in 1914).

Beside them my own grandfather stands, pointing to his banker:
wondering, no doubt  -  who’s taken his mallet!

left as a gift
his carving mallet
finger-grooved handle

                                                                        Notes:            banker:  work-table


Like Kerouac  -
into the black star-studded night was her pleasure,
full measure of The Golden Eternity to taste;
to sup the cup; to unravel the tangle of being;
to unravel this riddle that gripped her gentle soul like a shadow.

She was a Baccante:  ‘drinks for all!’
She was Magdalene among the butt-strewn alleyways of time.
She was anarchic jazz in the midst of strict measure.

But, suddenly the light thickened (as once for the blackbird on my window cill:
the un-guessed element freezing her flight).
She struggled with its numbness (I was told);
struggled  -  spirit with rag of body  -  to counter death’s weight (I was told).
But I know, it was always the thought of heaven made her shiver most.

a string breaks
her song stops:
'don't think twice...'

Between two days
the cherry tree has become weighty
with a frothing of flowers;
and stands  -  a clasp of natural elements
pinned between a fog of particles
and the mind building it (building us both):
the laser-light of consciousness forming
a spectrum out from the prism of the poet.

I stand,
between the cherry tree and a deeper part of myself
(that is the deepest part of everything);
witness to the eternal crucifying
and the eternal resurrecting.

Blow, whispering sigh, destroying now the blossom.
Blow, whispering sigh of life  -  building and destroying this helpless ghost.

the cherry tree
by the war memorial  -
blossom come and gone

She lies  -
a black thread on the scorching earth,
a cloud of flies (or is it a child?) croons over her;
suddenly, he tugs at her head  (for child it is!)
as he might be tugging a turnip from the ground:
no halloween lantern was ever so gruesome:
sunken cheeks, huge teeth, and eyes staring
at some hungry dream.

Death, a snivelling mongrel that will not let him near her,
growls at him:
a withered stalk broken by the wind of the madness of it   -
he cries.

if only
weren't salty