No 14 - February 2001
Summer green, this showery day - each tree
picked out in 3D rain-bright clarity;
part-moon the same dirty white as the
wisp-ends of clouds, fledglings foolish
funny in their false starts and alarms.
Longer they too are caged the more the guards
regress. In idleness they draw on and dye their
arms and chests, add ribbons to their caps, plait
leather and metal round their wrists. One has
come by a short spear, another a sword. Soon he
will invent a ritual for the chopping off of heads.
Clouds have lain hold of the mountain. Two
jackdaws, in a glide, fall across the sky.
In the lee of an oak a squad of rooks surf
the eddies, sliding up over one another,
skimming down the wind’s face. Gusts push
and pull at a trailing bramble, which saws
and shreds a hazel’s wide leaves, winning light.
He wears the secret smile of an unassailable man.
Certain of his own death, nothing bad can be done
to him again. Springtime birds are frantically feeding
He leaves a clip of scrawled poems dedicated to his
‘always dead self’, and woven with an intricate symbolism.
Tower guards, irked by their apparent
complacent waddling, shoot to kill at
the crows; but only to scare, chuckling,
the dogs away from the graves. Because
they, once, petted dogs like those? Crows,
caught young, it is argued, can be tamed too.
The huts would-be scholars disagree over
the poems’ meanings. One says, getting louder
- and hope is as essential as food here - suicide
is no sanctification of any truth, is simply
an obsession fulfilled or a life found to be
not worth living. White florets on leafless
blackthorn speckle the background of conifers.
In green army caravans sour-faced nurses
strip/delouse the men. Cursing doctors
give injections. Each naked man is handed
white trainers and a blue tracksuit too large.
“They’re ashamed of us,” word goes out.
Outside, soldiers walk with young men s
pavement swagger. “...ashamed of us.”
a doctor, hearing the prisoner’s whisper,
cries out, “No! No!” Printed notices
have been stapled to hut sides
- BIG MEALS WILL KILL YOU.
A bonfire has been made of their rags: a white sun
hangs in the speckled smoke. Coaches, agleam with wet
and windows, slide between huts. Soldiers, holding lists,
herd prisoners, hand them up the metal steps. Cameramen
walk backwards along the queues. Flat of hands
test the short bristles of the seats,
back and buttocks rock their softness.
Each coach has to reverse into the compound
to turn. Each window has at least one face
waiting for the wire fence to pass. Beyond the so
few trees, ribboned off, is a sparkling minefield
of buttercups, daisies and brown plantain heads.
Scattered over cratered ground (already
overgrown) are the chalk-coloured
rumps of serviced ewes; then stacks
of black plastic bales - soft eggs
pregnant with silage. Two magpies
sit aslant a high wooden stile.
Among fields, flat and furrowed as the sea,
an island stand of trees has a scrapyard of cars,
mostly red, boots and bonnets open like so many
dark-coloured birds perished and petrified in
each their moment of alighting. The right-left
left-right swing of a level crossing’s red lights
holds them, barrier reflectors like continuation dots...
A three-dimensional mesh of
threaded membranes, the whole fungus
is thickest at its subterranean
base, on the surface manifests
itself in a phallic obtusence.
At birth what makes a baby breathe
is its lungs’ release from womb-sac
compression; death a final exhalation.
The further from the reality of death
the more he fears it: amidst it daily
he fatalistically awaited his turn.
Now he walks in charcoal night, hedge flowers
chalked in moonlight, car beams drawing moving
shadows on moving walls of fog. Drops depend from
honeysuckle tendrils, glass-point rounded leaves.
A slug rears up off the road to sense the breeze,
detect the nearest vegetation. Come morning these
held droplets will have become a cleansing frost.
The brain weighs just over a kilo, has ten
billion nerve cells. Physical sensation of a new
idea is that of a curtain thrown back, or two
matrixes connecting, eyes coming wide with
comprehension ... most idiots are occasionally savant.
On the guardhouse birdtable, it’s the male sparrow
who anxiously tends the fledgling, grown in all
but tail, that flutters and wide-beaked cheeps
at him. Soon as the parent flies out through the
fence, the young bird unfluffs its insistent
helpless pretence, pecks with smooth efficiency.
Rainbellied clouds hang over the towers. A young
man, sense of self gone, breaks off a piece
Of plastic guttering and, weeping his despair,
swings it and pokes it at other prisoners.
A guard, in passing, shoots him, comes to examine
the body, his face cheerfully expecting the attacked
men to be grateful. He studies their grief.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The