Norfolk

Clouds the size of minor planets,
Cumulonimbuses, and expanding;
Cirrus sunsets mesmerising.
You can tell as we approach
The coastline, you can smell
On a breeze rocksalt and diesel
Even before you see creaking
Metal shop signs, rust flakes
Concealing their meanings.
Intrepid starling squadrons,
Nimblest swifts and swallows;
Birthplace of tsarist pretenders
And far greater adventurous sailors.
You can see these fields of rapeseed
And mustard from space
And if we had our way
We would paint the whole world
For just one day in yellow.
Warblers and wayfarers,
Farmers of the Seas,
Accents as broad as a snoring giant
By folklore kept in Cromer’s cliffs;
At times ineffable, I can hear
My own inflections veer
From North back into the East,
Comfortable as hands in midwinter
Mittens, this never-ending
Friendly vernacular.
Raindrops do not stop
Wrens and finches singing
In a land without misgivings;
Expert chefs with epaulettes,
Neither judgment nor regrets,
And in her epicentre there are
Markets blessed, cathedrals and
A Kingfisher Spirit winding.
Time is slower here,
And though everything has changed
So too has nothing,
For I thought as a child
With those clouds in exile
I could not ever perceive
Bluer skies or as widened,
And though I am ancient
And travel-weary from hills,
That child is yet to be denied
And he is proven still.

I threw my bones out the window
From a room where I once slept,
Photographs abounding
With our divorced and dead.
You know when they’re getting older –
Dust thrives most unchecked;
Dead flies and curdled milk;
There are spiders the size
Of your clenched-up fist
Within their potting shed;
They can readily fall asleep
With nodding heads
By 8.15p.m.

Their Labrador died recently,
Her third leg went,
And I felt that it was palpable,
The quiet blanketing silence
Like a black pall of snow
Over this whole house;
Instead of friendly greetings
There’s a tough wringing
Out of untrustworthy Time
To dry on a washing line
By copper-clad clock hands,
And as a musty tablecloth
Hosts marmalade unopened,
So too the inevitable jar
Of last year’s home-made jam.

Soul Coast

My feet are a foreign land
As I stand where surf relapses,
Whitecaps are my family
And encapsulate with great
Succinctness
And sadness

My lifetime of experiences,
An escapologist, an emphasis,
My bare toes in saline curls,
Where is my soul’s house
In this here and now?
I too loved the feet of her odes,

As measured as moonlight
With feminine verbs,
I caught a punctured headlamp
From a lane that would curve
And chicane until it meets
A coastal kerb, above

The haunting cove,
And I am compelled,
Once again, to restart,
To daylight’s return.
On periwinkle sands,
A mustard-coloured heart.

Immolation

I set my soul on fire,
Alive on a pyre of
Dry hyacinths and
Sad gladioli dreams,
A blind man’s
Sandals, and shoes
Without seams.
By a scruff
Of the neck my flames
Took hold of and wholly
Captured that beach,
Held up like a brace
Of heaven’s partridges
With only a tidemark
A cause for retreat.

A scandal for a year or two
And then the villagers
And media and cartels
Will sleep. We are all
Victims, one way or
Another, of sins.
A distant windmill withers.
In a dream sunk
Within a different dream
Your hand came out
Of my mouth like a tongue,
Like a mythical petrified snake
From a deep sunless cave
And for the first and only time
I was made complete.

Ode To Loss

I missed my coast-path daily,
Habitual old rabbit-paw friends;
And daily my undressed heart is
Stopped, sunk and restarted.
This is why a government
Installed defibrillators
In disused telephone kiosks
In every town and village.
For Dear Lord knows
I was not born to enrich anything,
Nor with only obals to pay,
Those coal-pennies tied by my wrist;
Nor to be so opportunistic
In blustery thoughts
And deeds as unrobust
As the grounded rusty trawler
Rattling in abandonment
As to dismiss
My heritage. I am from
The northern fringe
Where death is expected
And life’s an acquired taste.
Spare me accusations
Of being awfully maudlin
Or as morose as those unfed mosquitos,
Lethargic beneath the cliff-top lamps;
The near-dread ghosts unappeased
On their deathbeds are
Entitled to lucid oaths
And tiptoed pleas.
What use is a coastline, anyway?
An edge, ellipse, an ending;
Good grief is not for mending.
In those silent dunes to our left
Just over your shoulder
A young boy died,
Tunnelling with plastic spades
The sands gave way to
Somewhere colder inside.
I carry that family’s sadness
Compassionately and completely
Yet without their approval
Or knowledge.
Unwanted gifts,
The authorities in joint-wisdom
Installed a wooden sign which reads
Non giocare su queste sabbie;
Back then I misinterpreted this
As do not live now or then again,
Not more than a day or two,
That’s all there is remaining.
And over there, beyond
Greenish sea-sump pools
With seaweed symphonies and
Cruel ghoulish-claws of June,
Is where that lad’s car
Fell fifteen metres down the scar
Then through lagoons
Only to reach its rest
Wedged between a dream
Or two. He survived;
A farmer’s daughter now his wife,
And if not for him and
Loss of loss
The authorities in their
Infinite wisdom glossed
Would not have installed
A heras fence on this eternal cliff-top,
Although in autumnal winds
The fence would drop,
Often taking flight just like a
Dull metallic gull or
Mournful curlew’s song
From last year’s furloughed crop.

Umbilicus

Constant reminders
In my body’s retirement
Of your indelible
Indiscretions
Dissolved into me,
My skin the sea
Filled with your molluscs
And a coprolitic fossil
Of your movements,
Your impossible
Puzzles and befuddled
Cryptic sentences
Like lugworm trails
Where the blight receded,
You see his sand-cast there
But not his burrowed body,
For flesh and form
Took leave long ago,
And all that remains
Are contusions.

Emerged from your gulf,
Urgent as a siren
Until the giant waves
Rewound, every mole
A continuum from times
Of settlements in iris,
Unfunny jokes,
Inverted laughter,
I made no demands for
The complexities of your
Shell-emptied nautilus,
Salvaged from a sea-bed,
Thrust up through a hole
With samphire-weed and poison.

Seagulls squawk and spiral
On a Fibonacci horizon,
I do not own a hair on my heart,
I do not own a thorn-seed;
I was born on Steppes of Despair,
And that is where I am mourning.

The Coast Of Devotion

A part of my curse,
Inculcated, in marrow,
Nearing kingdoms of self
A wider gulf narrows.

I’m rebuffed, beaten back,
By bluffs from sea-sparrows,
Fall from a deck
On to self-tinctured arrows.

Where you are on green,
I’m red at the light;
When I dreamt I was falling
You stood through the night.

I expect this will pass,
For the future’s in sight,
Where I can’t compete
With gifts in your life.

A future sea-faring
In circular motions,
Just out of reach
From shores of devotion.

When all is extinguished
Find new attuned heights,
Blessed by Love’s arms,
Devoid of the night.

The Coast Of Shrouds

I prefer heavy rain
As rain keeps me grounded;
A shipwreck submerged,
A ghost keeps its counsel.
Crowds too kept at bay,
A drowning skiff is confounded.

I lost all I loved back then,
And all I would love forever,
Is it surprising to know
I could not imagine life
And thoughts within it.
Thoughts like skittish clouds
On the coast of shrouds
As unseen suns diminish.

Canto Dell’aragosta

They used to eat lobsters here,
Before beginning the end of ends;
In restaurants, on promenades or piers
Which have since all disappeared –
Overlooking the Papal Bay of Scampi
Patés of blue tomalley.

Fresh from the sea, picked from a pot,
Seasoned with salt for a rich polyglot;
Suspended in freezers, icy blocks,
They tied the pincers, joined the dots;
As he played with his ring
He lied to his wife that his lover had gone.

A lobster with one claw or less is named
A Cull, in Maine and the eastern seaboard.
The male transfers sperm through its legs,
The red is the red of the roe;
We breathe through our gills
Through the gaps in our toes.

Once we have extinguished all nature,
Where will dharma and karma take us?
My hands are changing before me,
My body will soon have its telson.
I will adapt to a life on dark distant beds,
Before I am speared, for fatter men fed.

An Unrestarted Heart

This road is the road of my death.
I stood motionless in its lucid waters
Where parallel to the ocean

I speared a neon fish.
He admonished me with a fossilising
Shock of ages, waged in his eyes

Which were tiny, glaucous opals.
He once danced and shone
In shoals unknowable as stars.

I am opposed to my own taxidermy.
Standing in the sea leaves me thirsty.
The sky is perforated by jars

For storing a catch which is ours.
Lobsters, swordfish, octopus hearts,
Once the muscle is stopped

It’s almost impossible to restart.
I witnessed it only once, as a boy,
And mythology claimed it for herself.

How far we had journeyed.
I envisioned my existence
With gulls and oppressive seasalt air

Which stripped the elders of teeth
And their ability to remain human,
Their silence as fragile as chalk,

And it corroded all moments
And customs, the colours of
Spring summoned in my lover’s hair,

The jigs of tradition around
A pole each townsmen bore
To the beach with such gravitas

Commensurate only to their souls;
The saline air froze time,
Woven into their hair, banded

Together like a comet’s tail,
Like the spawn of the golden eels
Which are reeled in by fishermen

With the sun tattooed into
Their ganseys. I too will be spry
And fry, live and die,

There is nothing starker.
For now, I arrive and I cry
Behind my steering wheel,

A harpoon through my hope,
Ego skewered by a dart
Outside an unlit supermarket.