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The Green Man

How poor a thing
This rich man is.
A hoarder,
A gatherer of wealth
Never spent
On anything of value,
Merely added to
Increased
For no other purpose
Than the increase itself;
Kept for himself,
His vulgar boats,
His mean queen,
His flunkeys and footmen.
I bet they
Spit in his soup
And piss in his pot
When he is not
In sight,
When he is away
From his golden throne
Busily shitting
On the little people
He hates so much
But whose money
He loves so dearly.
How can he not see?
His memory
His very name
Will be reviled
Will be spat upon
By those little people
By all people
Forever and ever
Amen.

Fusion

We made 
The sun
In England 
This year
In just
A flash
It was here
And then gone.
When it shines
Again
Let’s hope 
It stays.
For on that day
We can turn off
The engines,
Stop the burning
And begin
The clean up.

Rain Made

Rain clouds
Dull grey, somber
Stretch far past seeing 
And scatter their billion 
Seeds of cold 
Wet silver 
All over this land. 
My land,
The land I come from,
The land that made me. 
We come from the stars 
Above the clouds 
But, underneath it all,
I am rain made.

Old Hands

It’s late.
I’m reading a book 
Unlearning how to write
Or maybe not.
I see an old man’s hand
Turn the page.
I see whitlows,
Ragged cuticles,
Little bitten nails,
Shiny skin, and 
Wide open pores.
Old hands.
My mother's hands,
God help me.

The Sparrow Tree

The laurel in the garden
Summer-clipped
into a now round ball
tight-leafed and wind proof
speaks to me
in querulous voices.
It is a home for birds
their perches
the unseen, un-leafed
branches
hidden from killers
of all kinds.
I’m glad I made the sparrow tree
a place to live.

Lives Around Us

Driving home on a wet Wednesday we passed a boy wearing a black Parka. He  was walking at a good pace. As I watched him he pulled his hood back off his head and ran his hand through his jet black hair a few times to get rid of his sweat. He was in his late teens, perhaps even older. Seeing him ruffle his hair made me wonder why he was in such a rush and where he was rushing to. In seconds, I had a view of his day. I saw him waking in his crumpled bed, alone. I saw him breakfast on toast and coffee, and then run out of his flat, late for university. I saw him doodle during a lecture, and smile at the girl beside him in class. I saw them speak. And then he slotted into now, beside us, rushing home, needing to get washed and changed ready for his date that evening.

None of this was true, though all of it could have been.

For some reason, I became intensely aware of everyone around us. On either side of the road were houses that were mostly in darkness. Each window that we passed became a portal to other people’s lives. 

We came to four big Edwardian houses that were the homes of three pensioner couples and one widow. The couples each had routines that they had developed and refined over may years, and nothing but death or infirmity would change them. The widow was the happiest of them all. Free at last to do as she pleased, her windows now hung with gaudy golden swagged curtains in place of the timid beige set that pre-dated her widowhood. Her neighbours looked on her with envy and happiness and frustration and fear.

None of this was true, though all of it could have been.

A block of council flats slid by. A two story building, the upper floors for younger people, the lower for those with mobility issues that precluded the use of stairs. At one of the first floor windows, a bed sheet had been hung in place of curtains. In the flat directly below, lace curtains had been carefully tied back to frame a bunch of flowers standing in an ornate glass vase. A faint tang of weed floated in through the car ventilation. I wondered which residents annoyed the other most, the couple upstairs hiding from the shame of their poverty, or the granny on the ground floor toking her medicinal herb.

None of this was true, though all of it could have been.

Coming to the turn off for our house, we saw a big crowd of people standing near the corner of the turn. I had never seen anyone waiting here, let alone a group. They were gathered in front of a smart bungalow around a couple of shiny new cars. At first we thought there had been an incident of some kind, a car crash or a fight or even both. Then I noticed that one of the vehicles was a hearse. A pinewood coffin lay in the back. I saw the screw-down fastenings that held it in place. I realised that one of our neighbours had died, and that I didn’t know anything about them and that now I never would.

This was true, though it could not have been.

Sit there. Lie there, in your bed, in your own space. Close your eyes. Who is the person nearest you? What are they doing? What have they done? Don’t think about yourself. Keep thinking about them, and then think about who is nearest to them? What are they going to do, and how, and why? And then think about the people just a little farther away, and how their lives are turning. Can you feel them? Is their life touching yours? And then reach out again. More lives, more things happening to other people, more unknowable purposes and emotions and characters and histories. Step further. The French farmer. The Scottish fisherman. The Belgian teacher. Step further still. The Turkish beggar. The Greek pensioner. The Syrian bureaucrat. The Saudi mechanic. The Japanese banker. The Aboriginal social worker. All lives that we can never know, all happening at the same time as ours. The sheer, crushing weight of it, the busyness of it, the incredible wonder of it. The horror of it.

What lives around us.

The Future Passed

When I was a boy
The future was a thing
I didn’t look for
And couldn’t see
And now the passed
The things not done
Are right there
Right behind me
And I see them clearly
For the very first time.
I’m with the wicked witch;
What a world,
What a world,
Said the brilliant bitch,
What a world we have made
Where a windbag can be king
And the good black knight
Can only suffer the slings
And arrows from the outrageous
Fool, while the
Soldier of misfortune,
Rasputin,
The liar in his lair
Spun from the Web
That we gave him,
Untruths the world
And chokes the west
With his golden gas.
And on it goes:
A critical voice
Is silenced
By a shake;
A continent is misled
Into wilderness
By the bibulous
And iniquitous;
And the inscrutable
Become invincible
By stealing our minds
And mining and steel.
And so we are led
By a godly good woman
With godawful judgement
And matching dress sense
Into god knows what
Or why, or when.

Too Beautiful

On the land they call Linley
That once was a wasteland
That, underfoot, is still,
The frost, being unset by her
Bejewelled the grass.
The near-distant harshness of cars
Surrounded me
As I stood on the summit
Looking south
Being warmed
By her heat.
The bright blue sky
Was the wash on which
She painted herself
And her portrait
Her face
Was too beautiful to see.

Autumn

Autumn.
The change-time.
The living but dying time
of fruitfulness
and listlessness.
Looking back on
summer gone
and spring so far away;
waiting for
the cold bones of winter
to wrap us in its
fleshless grip.
This passing
from now to then;
from what was
to what is
to what will be;
this unstoppable,
unending change,
a ceaseless wonder,
more than at any other
time of the year
sets us in the moment;
in the now of being;
in the knowing
that what we are
is nothing,
an instant
already gone.
And the relief
of letting go
is immense.