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.

Beckoning

A deluge in May,
Kerbside surface spray,
Torrents overwhelm
Dank country lanes.

Driving in low gears,
Waterfall chicanes,
Wrong latter ways,
Reminds me of childhood

And leaping over streams
Beneath a tarn-light bay,
Beside a dead man’s seam
In long-lost dreams

And longer lesser days.
Over there, a castle, see,
Its ghosts roam free
Through basements, attics

And these oak-pannellings
Overlooking a sodden
Village green;
Stumps received,

And sandwiches filled with
Cucumber and cheese;
The church hall leak,
Well, we can fix,

While men in linen-whites
Played winning willow innings,
Then ominous rains returned,
And a beckoning for tea.

Someone Else’s Song

I heard the end of your song
Before you finished singing;

I found the end of my life
Before I finished living.

Now I’ve been singing someone’s song,
Their words in my mouth, verbatim,

And over time their phrases replaced
Everything I had forsaken;

Routed out, vicarious mouth,
Only my soul’s voice was not taken.

Ansonia’s Song

Are these matters
Commensurate, I really have
Little or frequently no idea.

All I know is relative
Within my idealistic heart,
This desire, wanting you near,

Like a pendulum pulling on
The weights of my attention,
Harmonic oscillations,

I stand in the hallway of my life,
Dust appears in shafts on light
Through a stained glass window

Above a blue door I cannot open,
Doomed to stay motionless
Until I am used for new fires.

The Postman Always Knocks Thrice

A postman’s signature
Knock, three raps
And then another,
On the doorstep
A parcel’s born
And the coffee mugs
We ordered have arrived.
Underwhelming gift,
Little porcelain
Counter-intuitive
Surprises unsurprising,
For their smaller size,
With William Morris
Designs also seen on
Wallpapers, on rugs,
Are purposeful
Only for espressos,
Yet portrayed online
As substantial mugs.

With a greater global
Population, and less cocoa
Germination in Ghana
And the Ivory Coast,
Chocolate bars are half
The length they used to be,
Or even a third, in 1985,
Yet with the expense
Aligned to inflation
A hidden cost is greater.
They think we have not
Noticed, nor the momemt
When one day there may also
Be less milk in a pint.

Board games too, observed;
We played a game just
Yesterday where the stage
Back in the day felt
Expansive, with nuances
And details now long-lost,
Like ancient adverbs
In etymologies. And so
It is the same with politics,
A contraction and reduction
Of facts and elements
That seemed before to matter;
Was there ever a fabric
Of truth? And technologies
Engender a similar impact
On relationships and
Workplaces and families
And finances as everything
Condenses in to the will
Of a small belligerent
Minority, stars and planets
Swallowed fully into
Unforgiving black holes
Fuelled by testosterone.

The only advantage to me
Is if mid-passion you’d turn
In our near dotage
Cupping my wrinkled face
To say it’s not what it was Nick,
But seems a great deal less,
While robo-postmen
Knock three times downstairs
With smaller parcels again,
Commercialism minimising
Like inner Matryoshka dolls,
I would say definitively
Darling, nothing is the same
As when first we fell in love.

Tundra

You said that my chest
Is where the caribou’s
Hooves leave their trail,

The pine cones in my
Bones and breath
I held until you felt

The forest’s cloak of snow
Fall to the frozen ground,
Heralding a Spring in you

As wide and vast
As the experiences
Of sudden tundra

We shared in wonder
By horse and sled,
Under a permanent blue.

Ode To Rhodes

Littoral landing strip,
A Dodecanese feature
Where you’re never more
Than a mile or four
From the Mediterranean.
You used to take your life
In your hands
When runways
Were little more than
Extensions of beaches,
Where sand swirled around
The slowing propellors
Like a sarong around
Euros’s daughter’s hips
As they saved Sparta
From a routing.

We avoided the bland
Concrete carcasses
Where anodyne hotels
Made mockeries of myths
And air-conditioned coaches
Turned in circles like
Steel moths regurgitating
Flocks of tourists.
An embarrassment of
Englishmen splashed on the
Melting macadam
Display still to this day
An art-form
Of complaints to
Patient pencil-moustached
Fluent majordomos,
And competitive pool-side
Societal traits.
We left our luggage in the room
Of a traditional taverna
On the hill across from
The old town, the heat
Of the evening reverberating
Like gecko veins,
The soft distant hum
From ferry engines,
You wore navy blue shorts
And I thought that your hair
Would cascade over your shoulders
Forever, as long as our hearts
Beat with iambic blood,
With the scent of sea salt
And blue sun-lotion bottles,
You wore the torc and
A bracelet bought from
A shop in the shade of
A side street in Kos.

We learnt a few Greek phrases,
We praised the waiters
Who danced the syrtaki
And later served
Tumblers of ouzo on ice,
A meze of tzatziki,
Goats cheese and
Flatbreads with rice.
I dreamt that night of
Sailing with you to Kiribati
On a balsa raft, and when
I retraced the possible
Meanings from my sleeping
Subconscious travels
You laughed, the sweetest
Feelings ever reaching my ears
Before or since, we
Embraced and kissed.
You said you loved
My unabashed romanticism,
Unwrapping the towel which hid
The book you stowed all that way
To surprise me.

The following week we flew
To Instanbul, then Baku,
Then through lush valleys and
Chasms beyond to Kabul,
Where nothing since
Nor with memory’s bonds
Could transcend or refocus
Seven days of sandy bliss,
The bones of my mind return
With heavy loads
Across the sun-browned
Mountain-tops, through
Secret coves
And olive groves,
To insights of a timeless love,
Within a timeless Rhodes.