The Shaken Tree

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:

At Clumber Park

Your young heart yearned to return to the lake
Where the River Poulter’s breeching;
You read through a billet, decisions to make,
His words bubbled up beseeching.

With a parasol perambulate,
Ornamental bridge with a padlock;
Day visitors now will emulate
From Nottingham to Matlock.

You’ll pass in dreams the sluice and weir,
Pipes burp water to workers;
Horse chestnuts dress your path each year,
Your lover left for mazurkas.

They stripped the Hall of timber and bricks,
Snow for sheets where you slumber;
They stowed pianos and candlewicks
In crates with a stamp and a number.

I found the marsh where you would pause
For yaffle-sounds and bramble;
Still the swans preserve the laws,
And the lambs in the fields still gambol.

Ducking Stool

This is the place and this is the time,
Where Langland’s roots, fertile and wide,
With verdant shoots succumb to rhyme,
Vigilantes ready their faithful ride.
That mob with minds of malevolent fire
Assault me in my living quarter,
Drag me by hair, claim me a liar,
And then do the same to my daughter.
They assault me again in the masculine way,
A tumbrel is yoked, obedient ox;
This tumbrel which stinks of manure and decay
Some-time contained rotten Bramley and Cox.
The gum-stools designed to flaunt the buttocks
Of the sisters imprisoned, withheld;
This method is used on the land of the Suffolks,
The Marquis of Hay and the cruel Arundells.
Along a flooded tow-path there’s jostle,
Pandemonium blew through the river’s defences;
They pelt with cabbage and songs of throstle,
Onions and neeps and garlands of menses.
Once as a child I caught a grayling
In my fingers, that lady of the stream;
Her dorsal rainbow, my future is failing,
She slipped into a different dream.

This is the time and this is the season,
The River Lugg is in full spate;
Its confluence scars latitudinal reason,
Water-crowfoot and buttercup fate.
We disembark from the baleful wain,
The ox flicks at midges with his turd-matted tail;
Their leader asks if I will curse or refrain,
I give him the finger and spit at the male.
These actions would not have our status absolve;
We are shackled on two separate tilting boards;
Those oaken slabs with great art revolve,
Our feet for the sky, our tongues for the hordes;
The first new abuse consumes without warning,
Wrists well-restrained, water floods in the lungs
And takes the seat of words once forming,
Bleeds into organs, we speak in tongues.
We want to scream out but water’s our mouth,
Reeds for our hair and frogs for our nails,
Cold to the bone, North becomes South,
Newt-spawn frocks, alevin trails.
In a drowning lock I lost all my songs,
Until the spirit of the Lugg ascended;
With rainbow fin, unseen by the throngs,
Our death-bond’s better suspended.

Torrents of water poured from the board
As the stewards manoeuvred it shoreward,
It’s written in annals of Derwent, and Discord,
Profanities our torturer foamed forward.
“They will have died”, the defrauder decreed,
“May the truth now have them from sufferance freed”.
Yet two hundred years on, still great is the need
For effigies fitting the breadth of their seed.
That seed still spawns in the tides of the rivers
From Offa’s Dyke to the Tigris and Windsor;
I’ll be Time’s widow when Justice delivers,
And while that stool’s on display in an English Minster.