Sunday 2 April 2023

The Pilgrim


The Pilgrim in him stirred at dawn,

rose from the sobbing hollow of the night

and crept from where his wanting wife lay dreaming,

slipped swift through the yawning door

to meet the bold blush of the sun

as it chased old mist from a snaking track.

He took nothing, did not look back,

his Pilgrim heart now eager to be gone.


For many years he trod this path,

pricked by a thirst that quenched his burning soul,

towards the shallow, bitter pools

where dust devils snapped at his heel and laughed.

And yet he would not stop to rest,

for had too often found himself seduced

by forest shade whose twisted roots

contrived to snare and lay him bare at last.

Nor would he turn, for he might see

the lurching footprints seared into the sand,

or shadows writhing in the wind

and night beyond,

that would not let him be.


Just once upon the way he paused

and wondered if…

but then the thought was gone.

He knew.

Her dreaming done, she too had risen with the sun,

had seen

and gently closed the open door.

Monday 22 February 2016

The Mirror

Good morning, sir, and who are we today?

I see another coat that doesn’t fit,

A different hat – so many different hats!

No tie, of course. You want no ties, you say.

So tell me, sir, who do we want to be?

A vagabond or pilgrim? Prince or priest?

Husband? Lover? Paragon? Or beast?

These shadows make it difficult to see.

Why don’t we try to step in other shoes

And walk a mile or two? Ah yes, you’re right,

Those other-people shoes would be too tight

And take us to a place we wouldn’t choose.

Let’s settle then for something without flaws,

In gaudy colours with a cunning weave,

A life-like heart to wear upon our sleeve-

A heart sir, yes, that always reassures!

No-one will ever know it isn’t yours…

Sunday 5 January 2014

Voyage des Rois Mages

Le soleil n'y était pour rien.

Lui, il brillait sans réfléchir

et nous, ce jour-là, mal lunés,

si peu enclins à compatir.


Puis ce ciel, qui nous couvrait de bleus,

frappant le sentier

où les dunes poussaient comme des ganglions

à travers le sable écorché…


(S'il y avait eu au moins un petit nuage hésitant,

une ombre pour nous suivre ou un soupçon de vent…)


En vain nous scrutions l'horizon,

quand soudain la nuit, saisie d'effroi,

s'écroulant sous un frisson d'étoiles,

nous rendit notre voie.


Car c'est l'une d'elles qui nous amena

jusqu'ici où, sollicités

par les pleurs d'un petit enfant

nos âmes se mirent à ruisseler...

Friday 11 March 2011

Song for Richard

Let’s sail through the night on a moonstruck barge,

Taste dawn on the deck as the stars submerge,

Embrace in the lap of a sunlit gorge…

And you’ll love me then,

As you loved me once.

Let’s climb to the top of a snow-blown peak,

Sift pearls from the shale of an ice-blue lake,

Entwine with the limbs of a mountain oak…

You would love me then,

As you loved me once.

We’ll shake up the dust on the Pilgrims' Way,

Sow sand-soft steps on the shores of the sea,

Tread poppy fields to where they graze the sky...

Will you love me then,

As you loved me once?

Oh come, sit with me by the dying flames,

And let’s speak again of the former times,

Of wistful promises and half-grasped dreams -

For you loved me then,

Yes, you loved me then…

Saturday 9 May 2009

Sub Rosa

Remember that single flower you picked?
Gathered in stealth and trespass,
Far, so far in that arid land
And I, a whisper on the wind.
How could you help yourself, I ask,
When all around was dust and sticks?

Was it her blush, her cunning sway,
That made you stop and marvel?
Or did you breathe the heady scent
Of thwarted dreams before you bent?
Did you not feel those thorns at all?
They ripped your heart from mine that day.

Warm petals parting, smooth silken lies,
Frisson of sweet illusion -
Safe, so safe in your treacherous arms,
That fraudulent rose, ephemeral balm…
Was it because the clouds had gone
That in your eyes she saw the sky?

Remember that single flower you took?
Wild and wanton, undeserved,
The one you swore you’d thrown away?
I found that flower the other day -
Fragrant still and perfectly preserved,
Pressed in the pages of our book.

Friday 19 January 2007

Coming Home

She sat facing backwards on the train to Crewe,
watching herself shrinking in the distance
while familiar landscapes flickered past the window,
though not in black and white.
They had been, once -
with hairline cracks that burst upon a screen,
and Mother, tightly-permed and nyloned,
clicked her heels through unconnected scenes,
pulling the silent, dreamy child beyond...

Her face reflecting in the tainted glass,
she stared at fields that billowed into view,
the bales of hay like wayward scones - and paths
that led to Sunday afternoons, and you.

Those twisted paths.

She can’t forget, she tried -
examined frame by frame her flimsy life;
rewound her soul until it snapped and died -
and still she never found the child who laughed…

And now she’s coming home for Mother’s sake:
dragging her luggage along Platform Two,
she bends to brush against your Old Spiced cheek…
and shudders.

Or maybe it was you.

Thursday 18 January 2007

When Daddy comes home

There is a moment in our day – which hitherto
had teemed with dimpled laughter;
tumbled, nudged and winked its way
across the sunlit birdsong-speckled hours –
there is a moment when the quivering springness
starts to slow; an instant when the light falls wingless
to the cold earth, a sudden folding of the flowers,
a hush of footfall poised upon the roaring brink
where with buckled breath we wait...
we wait for you.