I have become immune to fears,
Self-isolated well for sixteen years,
They parade unpaved disparities;
Penthouse peer, wealthy elite,
At different ends of a London street
As those avoided by Charities.
Having heard men demoted
And with vanity bloated
Rose pomades for their ego-whores;
The trumpet and flag as bad as the gun,
Why does it surprise most everyone,
When they evince long since I closed my doors.
They stole the ways which I adored,
Replaced with substance I abhorred,
And shaped a brand new Anschluss.
Trace it back to where it began,
Roman praetors had a plan
Overthrowing Tarquinius Superbus;
We are living still within their laws
From Linnaeus through to Aristotlean cause,
From scientists rife to churchgoers;
So I bought anteaters for my thinking-lawn
Long before ideas were born
Of secateurs and mowers;
Painted a cross on my front and back doors,
Filled memory-cupboards, finished my chores,
Pulled down the eyelids of my sea-shutter.
Divulged to my love a secret knock,
Watered the plants and changed the lock,
Set sail on a harbour-dream cutter.
Brazen magpie blew,
Flew, food in its mouth.
Although the tor is empty,
There are dragon chains.
They said you’ll miss all these things,
Little difference, significant rings,
Yallow daffins in a vase,
One or two new succulents,
Buckie oil, a bubble bath,
Sunshine on the garden path.
But no one could tell you otherwise,
Every blessing a stepping stone
To the next solution of barley and sloe;
Sometimes you slipped for so long
Into the brown-sludge blanketing river
Friends and colleagues were very surprised
When you returned to work
To deliver the slippage of your future.
We had the picnic without you,
The slithers of peacetime, changing weather,
Seven baptisms, end of a tether,
Laughter lighter than a feather.
I retrieve now several dreams
From when I was confined as an unworldly teen
Of sabotaging breweries;
Instead, I became arch-saboteur
For all the debts you would incur
To forget the gift and the giving.
You appeared at first ethereally,
Time suspended, landscape dreams
Where the sum is and is not, equally,
In a house I once frequented, the rooms
Displaced, and at first with anger
Surfacing for those who had betrayed,
Until you emerged, and brushed this away.
I wanted to say something profound
Or funny, but I could not move my mouth
For it was filled with straw, so I stood
Denuded on a lounge-room floor.
You laughed regardless and touched
With an ineffable lightness
The crown of my hair and the line of my jaw.
By your presence absorbed,
In the company of subconscious royalty
I would offer lifetime loyalty
For just a moment together
For afternoon tea, where we would pause
The universe, and turn off suffering.
My formative years are at their end
And time and space now bend
To your will.
You removed the poisoned pears
From the Munro bowl which was not there
A second ago, the clay of the dream
Remoulding itself around a core
Of memories, desire and fears from before,
And from this world you disappeared.
At the quayside I waited,
Fishermen witnessed, their breath abated,
Just as your letter requested,
Causing all the years of myth and lore.
I did not want you to go, but the dream was bolted,
And now I must live somehow once more.
Bootleggers, bandits, floggers and touts,
Bedlam bankrolls crime which sprouts
And flushes fulsome flouters out.
Those entrepreneurs earning
From public grief and yearning;
No one in a grave is turning.
There is a reality discrete
Where with humanity we will meet;
I’ll prepare the argosy fleet
And see you there on Sunday.
The looters’ lot we will repay,
Kindness diverts the Doomsday.
With nations weaker,
My outlook being bleaker,
Fissile next I’ve seen.
I fell into the lake of self-despair
And saw the bodies hidden there,
Beneath a thickset shelf of ice.
I lay in several states transfixed,
As gliding shapes of skaters mixed
With sounds of drowning edelweiss.
I heard the parents take their leave,
Returning home to wash and grieve;
I saw them at the shoreline twice
And then how soon they disappeared,
The search teams too, who volunteered;
Compassion has no asking price.
This did not happen quite this way,
But it’s the feeling day by day
When courage and care go missing.
There is no one fitter than you today
To break through floes fixed in your way
And find new times for reminiscing.
Siberian huskies brought on a sleigh
Bottles of confidence brewed to say
The shames of old I’m dismissing.
Find my hand through the frozen midway,
Mountains and rivers with summer will stay,
Together for written rhythms fishing.
First daffodil wilts;
Locusts big as Luxembourg,
Gulls to fish revert.
Midriff mildew stings
A hair-foot giant flower bee;
Seven counties in her wings,
Nests in embers we foresee.
A female blackbird black won’t give,
We trapped her willow wanderings;
She stole the roads, the pheasants live,
When murders end, so too detectives.
A company of wigeons
Fed seeds beside the streams,
Wreaked havoc on decisions,
Commuting coughs in web-foot dreams.
In the river there lived a spirit,
A translucent Naiad, butter-blue,
Now the water she will not visit,
Her body turned to wood for fuel.
There is no taking from nature
Without nature keeping track;
Wild boars will measure the failure
When they bring the forests back.
The title is taken from a Chinese expression, “to shake the tree and feel the wasp sting”, written as:
With balloons of lead, freely I floated,
Never too soon for my ending;
A bird in the hand with olives I coated;
The more that’s said, soon mending.
On laurels I slept with Time outrun
And resurfaced for the good battle;
When the last cow dies there will be no Sun,
No stones in the sky for the cattle.
Using wire, masts and copper
We called a vet to inspect a sick Friesian;
He spigotted heaven with spotted grasshopper
And found the heifer-lesion.
They showed me the bark with vascular wilt,
Teachings kept me on my knees;
Circumferenced trunks with a black quilt,
They could not see the wood for the trees.
I’m writing now, undisconcerted,
Until I’ve burst through the surface of adage,
Their pith the stuff and substance subverted,
The vet took his tools in his baggage.