`Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss
Silently and very fast.'

                 ... W.H.Auden

The Natural

gifts of all abundance were given him
but he had no time for that and reeked of sorrow
until the last challenge
when he threw off his cloak of doubt.
for he had loved beauty all the years of his life
and had fallen in love with the beautiful,
the animal that shared his torture,
she who gave nothing to no-one.
never been kissed and cuddled, never played ring-a-roses
an antiquated childhood without merit
preserved intact by his dreams
`Some day I am going to be somebody'
Mistaken footloose unheralded
he slips away into the night
an unknown celebrity who has attended
the formal closure of his deepset fears.
Now in the night of his days he knows greatness
But it is for himself not the world
Never again will be the sweet bloom of youth
when he transfigured a generation by his statements
for the natural it is over
his reward is himself
he fought eternity to a standstill
and takes his prize.

Master from Germany

I am a voice of the Protestant North
And I abhor this master from Germany.
He slips into our life to our speech to our thought
I abhor this master from Germany.
It's `Good old Adolf this' and `Good old Adolf that'
And all that he did is under your hat,
I abhor this master from Germany.
What he did I can't understand
He is a meaningless man
Just one of the killer band,
Death is a master from Germany.
His hypnotic stance His sick paranoid mind
Death is a master from Germany.
And he lives in us all Wasn't buried at all
Death is a master from Germany.
Will he ever rise again As long as there are men
Who can't understand the hate Born too late
Death is a master from Germany.
Children must be loved Treated like a dove
Starve them and they fight Break the world to rights
A house about your ears Gotterdammerüng and tears;
A master from Germany,
Death is a master from Germany.

Child of our time

I am the black man,
    ignored by the world;
I am the shadow,
    hated by myself.
Persecuted by the seekers after wisdom and truth,
Condemned by the hands of ignorance and superstition.

The poor poor people
The poor poor people
I am of the poor poor people

When you have nothing hate is easy
When you have nothing love is everything
When you have nothing you have nothing

Fizz of champagne spouts from the fountain
Strawberries and cream; tanned breast and belly

I am the black man,
    bereft of love and tenderness;
I am the shadow,
    torn in my psyche.

I am of the poor poor people
The poor poor people
I have seen Paradise through the eyelids of Hell,
I don't believe it; it seems like a joke.
I am of the people
The poor poor people

I am the black man,
    hated by the world.


I am of Ireland
And the holy land of Ireland,
I am of France
And the bonny land of France.

I was born to Scotland
The dour grim land of Scotland,
I was born in Durham
The dear green land of Durham.

I live deep down in England
The Saxon land of England,
I live secure in Roman Bath
The Somerset city of Bath.

It is a long way from Perthshire
And the tenements of Glesca,
A long way from Lanark
And the farms of High Blantyre.

The English hold me together
With their drugs and with their pills,
They bleed me six-monthly
To keep the nightmare from my brain.

I am of Ireland
And the holy land of Ireland,
I am of France
And the bonny land of France.

I loved Aphrodite
In the shape of three Scots lasses,
She tore at me and savaged me
Took me back to my childhood.

I was born to Scotland
The dour grim land of Scotland,
I was born in Durham
The dear green land of Durham.

I have seen the hills of Roncevaux
And I have swum the Grecian sea,
I looked out over the morning world
And made my way to the citadel.

I come from civilisation
The inheritance of Europe,
From Enlightenment to Renaissance
I was born with the silver spoon.

I listen to the songs of Robert Burns
`A Parcel of rogues in a Nation',
`Ae Fond Kiss', `A Red Red Rose'
`Auld Lang Syne', `Green grow the Rashes, O'.

I live deep down in England
The Saxon land of England,
I live secure in Roman Bath
The Somerset city of Bath.

I grew up to village and squire
I grew up to carry-oots and black pudding supper,
I grew up to Gilmorehill and Edinburgh New Town
And now they're dreams lost in The North.

I am of Ireland
And the holy land of Ireland,
I am of France
And the bonny land of France.

All alone from birth to death
No roots laid down in infancy,
All alone from birth to death
No love ever to intrude.

I cheated them; I robbed the grave
I carry my love within my heart,
And bring her out and dust her down
When there's no-one else awake but me.

I am of Durham
The Prince-bishopric of Durham,
I was born at an evil time
The poetry will survive.


We burnt him on the beach:
Ariel laid to rest.
Trelawny pocketed his heart ---
Ever the souvenir hunter.
Me, I just thought of horsemen
On the marshes at Venice.
The milords galloping and talking,
Never was there such talking,
Anarchy, gluttony, pederasty.
Now the guitar is put down for good.

Byron plunged into the warm water
And swam out to his boat
Cleansing himself of the pain.
Not a significant step like across the Hellespont
But it was the end of him in Italy;
Teresa couldn't hold him after that.
The death of Shelley pointed the route to Greece ---
Now was the time for action:
Before the bones were too old to act.
One last gesture against the Europe that had outlived Bonaparte.

Shelley's revenge is in a cage at University College, Oxford.
There, in marble, a naked goddess weeps the dead youth.
The chapel is inscribed with lines from the Adonais.
How he would have laughed. He whom they never tamed.
He who was music, inspiration, the pure singer.
He who rode the waves straightbacked in his flying yacht
Expectant that all secrets would be revealed to him.
He is with Byron now. Byron whom the doctors bled to death.
There's enough blood in Don Juan to storm Heaven.
If you want to write poetry it must be done with all the heart.

Pat's poem

Patricia is a friend to the elves and the pixies
As my brother Mick, who is six foot two, says
`She is one of the little people'.

She brings ripe strawberries from Sainsbury's to the sick
And blood red roses cut from her own garden.
She flits about the country in her battered old Volkswagen.

She would vote for David Owen three or four times if she could.
She believes in the Irish adage `Vote early and vote often'.
She sits for hours outside polling booths on election day.

She is determined to keep son William out of Borstal.
She is forever tracking down his errant ways and correcting them.
She takes him with her to America where she makes long speeches.

She is very pretty but tries not to show it.
As William says she is an example of Sixties decadence.
But she is reformed now as she and her Professor privatise the NHS.

from the village

`I am the last poet of the village'

                   ... Sergei Yesenin

a barbarian from the village
who, with the horsemen,
galloped down love
and finally found contentment
in the magical world
of computers.

I was going somewhere
out among the stars
the vast interstellar spaces
flung me back
on planet Earth.

the family came from Malcolmwood,
now sprung from Coatham Mundeville
to New Milton
and Darlington,
now spread through
all the old red Empire.

the assault on Heaven
stems from rivalry with John Keats;
I am twice his age
but I have never
touched him,
not with words.

I must make peace with my father
who used to play the piano for hours,
so proud of his left hand,
all the Thirties and Forties tunes;
who finished up
a sick old man.

My father set out to be a minister
studying Classics at the Uni,
financing himself with bursaries;
then he lost his faith
and fancied himself as
MOH for Angus.

Then commonsense prevailed
and it was to England
as a chest physician
handling the cure for TB
and empathising
with his patients.

The world caves in
for those who have
no faith in love,
they shrivel from within.
There are parents in this world
who do not teach these things.

There has not been such joy
in Scotland
since Montrose burnt Inverara'
as when Tommy Gemmell
put the ball
in the back of the Inter Milan net.

Jim Baxter playing footy-uppy
at Wembley in '67
while Denis Law clapped;
As a small boy
I was taken to see Tommy Ring
play at Shawfield for Clyde.

Gemmell, Craig
Clark, McNeil, Murdoch
Johnstone, Lennox
Chalmers, Wallace, Auld
and Yogi on the bench with Jock Stein.

Shankly said:
`football's not about
Life or Death ---
It's more important than that.'
There's not a team
like the bully wee Clyde.

I haven't got a friend in the world
no-one to talk to
neither has Fritz Cat
he has no friends either
we make a right pair,
sitting passive in the silence.

this is England
friendship means the pub
nobody visits or phones
is it different in the North country?
it was when I was young,
we talked.

the starry nights at Glesca
I was going to solve everything
and I have
the mysteries unveiled
there is no mystery,
only living.

poetry says the simplest things
in the most complicated way
that is why
as you age
you leave poetry behind,
a broken husk of childhood.

little Mut adores son William
he is good for digging gardens
she battles
to rule his mind
protecting him from indolence
and disrupting his lethargy.

little Mut battles with dragons
as she on-faces the NHS
singing the Owenite song
a Democrat

little Mut loves Auden
`Wystan was so promiscuous'
she reads Kathleen Raine,
Larkin and Peter Riley
but secretly
she prefers Agatha Christie.

little Mut loves her garden
she knows
all the plants by name,
she is a collector
forever scavenging fresh breeds
to lighten up her summertime life.

the generation to come
Calum, Sally and Diana
we always learn the hardest way
by our mistakes
it is a pity
experience is not inherited.

a barbarian from the village
educated by the English
a poor start in life
but ruler of the green world
of woods and bracken,
like Robin Hood.

taught Latin but not Greek
taught mathematics
bathed in science fiction
the escape from this dreadful world
to far-off suns and planets
where happiness reigned.

Coatham Hall is where I come from
the old house with windows
for staring at the moon
cats, dogs and idle afternoons
the train-set in winter
there is no way back.

I summoned the horsemen
that were hunting the fox;
the fox that kills
for the sake of killing
we hunted across the world
and came to nothing.

I summoned poetry
and rode it high
for twenty years
wondering where it would lead
the silver tongue
that ran out of magic.

Press the keys
before the little black box,
light up the window,
a computer is an entrance
to the interlinked pathways
that cross the globe.

I talk to America
and to Scotland
I play little local games
Fortran and fortune,
the technology rushes onward
to make my experience redundant.

a world where the knife
cuts little Mut
a world where they stretcher me
into Casualty
to find my blood disease
run amok.

the leeches lie in wait,
the messy side of life,
after forty
it is all downhill
I, who once,
was so alive.

the farm, the great house,
the row of cottages,
the pub;
the people so full of warmth
who looked over
my upbringing.

there is no way back.
to recreate
the vision in words
is for a master.
I just remember it
like some fabulous dream.

ceremonies of the horsemen


We come by winter, we come by blood;
And at our head there rides the god.
Gates of iron in driven snow!
Is this how Kyrus fled his foe?
But a million men in battle panache
Could not hold one hurtling red avalanche.
Sheer rock face and towering forts;
What more for a Spartan's retort?
Dead barbarians in their frozen masks
Proved incapable of the simplest task.
Old gossip of when once they fought
Proves victory was always bought.
A Scythian woman choppt Kyrus' head
And his dangled skull drank blood by her bed.
Barbarians! they denounce us?
In their formal barbaric tones.

We come by winter, we come by blood;
And at our head there rides the god.


The citadel's secure and the women well raped,
there's a touch of Spring in the air.
A winter journey on Alexander's broad back
cuts cheer from our desperadoes.
Their magnificent city is just a stone tent
where the mountain sun may venture.
So we'll burn it in summer when the heat gets hot
as a monument for Persia.

The citadel's secure and the women well raped.


His grand dreams are now of cities.
His grand dreams are now of fleets.
He can even worship Kyrus:
Foulest ever to rule the Medes.
He would send sailors to distant Ocean.
He's becoming one of barbaric Them.
This isn't why his lifetime's been:
They always want to kiss a hem.
Achilles was given the hour to die.
On a deathbed prepared by Patroclus.
Now I can give no reason why:
Why I must keep him one of us.
From Glaukos poison ( my sword at his throat )
And in my hour I meditate our youth.
The world a footstool: Just our thought;
Raised near godhood I know that truth.


The vision will continue; the events will proceed.
Lover, before I join you: I mount the battlesteed.


`Our heart is full of terrible pity,
It is the old Jehovah himself preparing for death...
Can you hear the ringing of the bell?
Kneel down, they are bringing the sacraments to a dying God.'

                                         ... Heinrich Heine

Junker Nietzsche decreed it
Peasant Heidegger obeyed it
The killing of the lawful God.

Darwin, Newton and Freud
must share the blame
And Frazer picked up the pieces.

Heidegger sought God in the village, the folk;
He ran home movies of Swabia
Before the Nazi horde.

Nietzsche did the damage,
It had been coming for some time,
he summed it up as `God is dead'.

And for a hundred years
All has been nonsense
Love the only defence.

Someone has to say it,
For the Jews,
The Jews of Treblinka,
of Auschwitz, of Belsen.
It has to be said:
It was a mistake.
The politics of the Sudeten Reich
raised to an ugly vision
That paralysed men
who had read Hölderlin's `Archipelago'.
How separate are feeling and doing?
Disembodied intellects are not
To be trusted;
Nor people who don't feel properly
Because they weren't brought up
To believe in anything.
Only trust people who know
The Jewish family life,
The kinship and the clan.
Sickness is a lack of human warmth.
It is the machine in us.
Pure calculation.
Thank God for schmalz.
I would have around me
Men that are fat.
I will off to the pub.

It was nothing new.
It happened at York.
People died at York.
And pogrom is a Russian word.
Yet Rebecca was set free.

Dreyfus was France's ignominy
The French couldn't accept him.
Nobody loved him.
Just a soldier doing his duty
France's ignominy.

Germany won't be clean
In a thousand years,
Not after they opened the ovens.
They will shriek aloud in the middle
of the night:
No. Not yet again. Never.

`My ancestors gallop'd the Rhine by ice!
My ancestors dangl'd the eagles as scalps!'
I was always against Empire.

The red stone of Iona.
The dark vault of Durham.
I was always against the Christians.

My life has been the hunt for love
Nowadays I don't try so hard
I was always against pretence.

The magic of love in the Renaissance.
They burnt Bruno. They burnt the troubadors.
I was always against the Puritans.

`simplicity. music. poetry.' This little life
held safe against the growling of the world.
I was always against the grandiose.

The past has memories so rich of friendship.
The present is a secure enclave against time.
I was always against the future.

Penelope Landa was Jewish.
Her grandfather Woolfson owned a department store
In Argyle Street, Glasgow.
Every morning he would walk into work.
If Penny borrowed money from him
On top of her pocket money
She would have to repay exactly, on time.
Her mother had nursed with my mother.
Penny is one of the immortals.
In those days I used to drive my old Ford Popular.
A car that went over the Alps.
A car that went over the Pyrenees.
The black standard model.
To Freiberg, to Sitges, to Florence
And to the Phonograph club in Buchanan Street, Glasgow,
Where the Jewish boys and girls used to line up
In the early morning and dance `La Bamba'.
I had no money but I remember the jokes.
The last I heard of Penny
She was living in New York State with her children.
And that's near half a lifetime ago.

Brando on the steps of Sacré Coeur
General Guderian at the crest of the hill
I was captivated by the horsemen.
Enthralled by the certainty of their defeat
But, between, the great dash thru a lifetime.
Stendhal's Fabrizio, Tolstoy's Prince Andrei;
These were the young men to emulate.
And now the taste is sour in the mouth
Because it led fanatics to Buchenwald.
A failure of culture. A failure of love.
The discipline. The order. The Germans.
And it couldn't happen here. The smiling killer ---
There is nothing new under the sun.
We are all to blame. Parents and parents of parents.
Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, Simon de Montfort.

The horsemen have made their mark upon the moon ---
The outward urge. The eternal seeking
for God thru microscope and space probe.
Science is our substitute for religion.
The hope that somebody somewhere will find something.
They are our ruins. We built it.
Some future century will look down on us with tears.
There is always another horseman.
A Parsifal.

I am of the race that sang under torture.
I am hate. Undiminished hate.
I could gas the Jews and eat cherries in the afternoon.
I was brought up an animal without love.
Cold without feeling I spit on the world.
Let it suffer for my birth.
I kick the old dog in the stomach.
Frozen. Weeping for my lack of empathy.
I dispose of compassion in my mind.
All I am is hate. I will pull down the temple.
Rub the noses deep in the dirt.
They won't forget me in a thousand years
For being born into this agony.

As a child I hid in the greenwood
Deep in my imagination.
As a youth I cursed man.
Grown I have been spurned by a generation.
I have never known God.
He is an invention of the Devil.
I seek God before the Big Bang and in the DNA.
But I belong to the Devil.
He is my only friend. Acquaintance.
All my life I have lived in Hell.
Love doesn't exist.

Poetry is the religion for me
As an arrow messenger homes on Chingis.
It is there that I find what is missing.
Making me complete as I share the life of the rose.

The poem is accomplished, the art perfected
I would grasp the moon in the bottomless pool.
It was virtu that I upheld,
The Greek vision of what cannot be surpassed.

I am so tired by this lifetime
I never expected it to last so long.
But still there are fresh words to galvanise me.
Remember the lone horseman that was Yuri Gagarin.

There is no belief in God.
All that's left is the onrush of progress
Leading us to the temples of Angkor Wat.
We are alone in the universe. Alone.

I do not like where we are going.
I am glad I won't go the full distance.
The thing about us barbarians is that we always believe
That the next ship will find
The crock of love at the end of the rainbow.

home movies

Darkies from Twerton

Little Mut steels her lips against
The darkies from Twerton.
`They will not pass' she vows
`I will classify them',
`categorise them', `label them'.
`I will consign them
to the lower depths
where they will fret with their sores.'
She is having none of this sympathy.
Not for the darkies from Twerton.
Triple locks on the doors
and keep the windows shut.
The darkies are here
for your goods and possessions.
A penny for a darky.
Anyone seen a darky?
The darkies from Twerton
will haunt to the end of the earth.
`They will not pass' she vows,
The darkies from Twerton.


At fourteen I wrote down
How terrible it was
For my English teacher:
The business of no love
And nobody there.
He never mentioned my essay.
The woods and the gardens
Were clothed in the brightness of green.
I stood and watched a woodpecker drill away.
Beating pathways through the nettles
I created a living pattern,
Every moment of the summer I was outdoors
Living wild phantasies of my imagination,
Winter and night-times I retreated into books;
The material for the summer's onslaught.
Reality was not for me,
I had had enough of that.
I left the world early,
It has never come back to me.
I exist between the squeaks of my poems
Like some empty tomb.
I have never lived.

Twenty, Thirty, Forty

Twentyfour was clean white sheets and Jo,
That was when it came together and fell apart.
When everything was great and natural
But I had someone to meet.

Thirtyfour was saying goodbye.
The last glimpse of a lost face
Through the shadows of a window.
That was the beginning of a new Hell.

Fortyfour was Torremolinos and Granada,
The writing pouring out of the heart.
I had no-one to meet
And I had woken out of a ten-year trance.

Love's imagination has been my ruin.
I chased after all the rainbows
And found nothing but disillusion.
There is always an empty space to be filled.

Back to the agony of fourteen
Without the magnificent immortal dreams.
I never expected anything from life.
I won't be disappointed.


There was only one way out
Of the hell-hole of fourteen.
That was by being top of the class.
I kept my ambition to myself.
Never revealing it at home.
And I made it.
Then at seventeen I met Cornelius.
He was so much more brilliant than I
That there was no competition.
He was waiting to go to Cambridge.
I competed for a while
But then had to throw in the towel;
Skulk off to Glasgow feeling inferior.
At Glasgow I was top again.
But I had learnt that there are people
In this world whose ability transcends belief.
And I was not of the elect.


A fisher-king of sea-folk
Walked the world's own way
Saw Pelops in the morning sun
Flick his back at day,
Took the high road homeward
Laughing at the sight
They tore his leg off as he stood
And flung it --- at the night.

A summer-girl at noon-time
Stretched herself on grass
Raised her breasts to Heaven
Kissed back at the glass,
Took the cat walk homeward
Jiggling in her pride
They ripped her clothes off as she stood
And had her --- legs astride.

An old man in the evening
Drools spittle down his beard
Shuffling his half-rhymes
Holding back the Weird,
Takes the night ride homeward
Shivering to the fire
They tear his tongue out as he stands
And praise him --- in the choir.


In his time my big-boned Uncle Tam
Was rated the fastest sprinter in Scotland,
Good enough for Powderhall.
He settled down to life
As farm manager at Hairmyres Hospital.
His great loves were horses and flowers.
He knew all the Northern jockeys
And would advise them on their gardens.
He died a grim death from cancer.

My Aunt Phemie was a painter.
She would paint her china plates
Then fire them in her kiln.
She was famous for it.
Later she used transfers
But the pottery from her own hand is best.
Her sketches were exhibited in Paris
In the Twenties.
Blind, she is still going strong at ninetytwo.

Uncle Robby was the baby of the family.
A born mechanic
There was nothing he didn't know about engines.
It was his whole life.
But as he grew older he went into shops
And made a great success of them.
It's a pity his heart gave out early.

My Aunt Bessie was ferocious,
A dragon to her nieces and nephews.
A maiden aunt,
Twenty years older than my mother,
She attempted to put the fear of death into us children.
She forced me to eat the bacon rind.
When she asked me
If I were pleased she was leaving us and going home
I answered `Yes'.
One of the great victories of my life.
In her old age we looked after her.

Grandpa Clark bought me a brass flute
And assured me that Rangers
Were the greatest football team in the world.
I had not yet heard of Celtic.
He was so dapper
With his suspenders and his suits.
A retired draper
Who went right through the First World War in the trenches.
He left us
And there is a photograph from Tighnabruiach of him
In his eighties.
He died in Ayr at eightyeight.


A President of the United States
On both sides of the family:
Polk from High Blantyre and the Irishman McKinley.

Through my grandmother Clark
The Perthshire Duncan blood
Allied to the brilliance of the Haldanes.

The Clarks were a mongrel Glasgow breed,
A mixture of Irish and Highland Scots.
None ever rose to be a burgess.

The Pettigrews farmed at High Blantyre
For generations,
The family spreading far across the old red Empire.

The legendary brothers from France
Who brought their Huguenot ways
To the Lanarkshire farms.

The brothers from Coatham Mundeville
Who have made their mark on the world
In quiet unsung ways ---
Poetry, children, wives.


My life has been a total defeat
Everything I have attempted I have failed at
The horsemen have thundered home to roost.

House, car and cat are all I have,
Cat is getting old
Poisoned by the high-protein diet of Whiskas.

There was no love put there at the start
Just a little topping-up from Susan and Penelope
And the bittersweet heart of Fiona.

Rachel, Jo, Deirdre, Jan, Felicity
It wasn't all a waste of time
Just seems that nothing's come of it.

My blood disease isn't supposed to be a killer
But it has nearly done for me once
And I have the monthly injections to keep my mind sane.

The future isn't what it's cracked up to be
The past is a ruin
Nothing for it but to write a poem:

Little Mut jumping up and down
Shaking her triumphant fists in the air
On the mend from her operation.

Hearts of Olden Glory

Skiathos had been coming for thirty years.
The gradual accumulation of pressure
Until the voices burst clear through
Into the upper air.
Daytime was fine; the island was green, beautiful
But when night-time came my voices would talk.
They were going to shoot me. Kill me.
So I swam for it. Safe to Greece.
Pursued by the voices.
The greatest achievement of my life:
The naked swim from Skiathos to Greece. So clever.
But I wasn't safe until the drugs began
In the hospital at Volos.

But they were the wrong drugs.
I couldn't continue.
Till that day she came into my head
And led me to the knife.
Then they found me the right drug, at Hillview.

It is lonely without love.
The voices were compensation.
I miss their conversation,
Cruel though it was.
All my life I craved for the voices
And now there is an empty silence.
But I had love from girls' eyes,
They were real. No more ---
The lilac has lost its Autumn leaves.
Winter has come.

a beginning


lifetime to lifetime;
an age of horsemen,
           hear the gallop of a troop;
the charge at Marengo,
           at Fredricksboro,
the sad air near Balaclava,
Omdurman as genius faded.
           hear the hooves of a troop;
burnished breastplates glisten,
uniforms scarlet and blue, line,
and the flowing spectacle
           of a coursing run,
a solitary bugle, the banner waving.

to approach life;
           first with a nervous gait,
           then as confidence comes,
           the full weight of exhibition,
           fluttering silks, the entire ambition.
yes this is a beginning.


on the road to Marathon cicadae crackle,
the sun and the ancients,
a birth called Europe.
I was born to the greentime,
tall trees and long grass,
farmcountry, bustling brooks,
the Saxon church to the horizon.
Hall Garth by the winding river;
Coatham Mundeville
           a dozen houses placed on the A1,
sitting their hill,
Jeb Stuart, Joachim Murat,
Belisarius, Patton;
as I on my bicycle,
stormed downhill
           to the sing of the wind,
lancing with reeds,
           pursuing those hated cats.
my bike was dark green.
is there too much pain
           the remembrance;
yes this is a beginning.


ah paper can you know what youth is,
the unburstable bubble inside one's head,
energy of lifetimes;
from dawn to dusk the chase continues,
effortless ease to a welcoming sun.

this carnivorous house,
three hundred years has kept and scanned,
families fade as seasons;
the broad land spun and sheared,
welcome to generations, the turning soil.

and rabbits rutting,
the honeycombed woods flowering,
aconite, snowdrop, the mulberry;
thick undergrowth, the weeping trees,
caught in tangles, creepertorn.

and the turnip pile,
to grab and chew the sweet meat,
cutting out with a knife,
Jack Lanterns at the Hallowe'en;
squabbling dogs, the roaring fire.

from lifetime to lifetime.


my first visits to the town,
fascinated by model soldiers,
the dream of one's own little war.
I marched battalions.
and the horses,
supported by matches and plasticine,
those fragile legs;
building castles from wooden blocks.
and the horses;
the meet once started from our house,
black coats, pink coats,
and trembling nostrils, steam in the air,
lifting foot and foot,
nervously poised for the chase.
in those eyes, uncertainty of watching strangers,
fear of bustling hounds.

and a fox, a dog fox;
dashing across the main road,
hounds horses head over heels,
all traffic was stopped;
they trapped him by the river.

this memory of my christening cup.


dragging a sledge in the snow.
we used to slide down meadows,
risking the stream at the bottom,
a barbed wire fence, yes was danger;
the local pond of doubtful ice,
that too was risky.
icicles frozen solid at the back door,
break them off and suck;
cool crystal for a snowman's mouth.
I built a man as tall as I was.
cutting holly for Christmas decorations
I stood on steps and looked over the wall;
a white domain, heavy lorries on the hill,
trapped by slush they slide back down,
there was always trouble.
memories of moons and white snow;
not to stray far afield on winter nights.
the church choir come visiting,
the vicar fat and jolly;
especially shadows from the fire,
a set of six Indian braves
for my Christmas;
looked on them for hours;
hatchets bow and arrows finefeathered,
this remembered.

life was so much simpler in those days.


and across to the bowler,
cricket on the lawn,
the appeasement of broken windows.
one brother to bat, one to bowl,
and another as wicketkeeper.
our stumps would mark the lawn,
and the frayed ground where the batsmen stood.
May, Cowdrey, Dexter;
all took their turn.
and six for over the house,
six and out for over the wall;
if over the wall the ball running down the road,
even to Hall Garth,
the fielder out the gate pursuing.
the lawn for tennis, croquet, football,
and jungle wars of the undergrowth.
Fred Trueman, Tyson, Lindwall, Miller;
small wars.
French cricket was devilish,
a family group of thrusting hands
as shadows lengthened on the grass.
strawberry teas,
analysis of innings,
there were no losers.


with my father watching the barn
as fire consumed the baled hay;
took a day to fully burn.
the firemen ran hoses up the drive.
from the bright red blocks
of fragile appearance,
red yellow combs of sweltering heat,
unbreathable against;
I clutched his hand tightly.
a sacrifice to appraise the future.
consummation of harvest.
there were rumours of deliberate firing,
revenge for past accounts;
who would burn the sweat of a year's back?

poppies in our garden,
large petalled, the delicate seeds;
poppy day, Passchendaele;
not the wars of my youth.
to learn of bleed and bloody dying,
taste the inferno.
death tipped his cap at me,
I knew loss;
a stranger settled in my mind,
too young to recognise mortality.


Praxiteles' darling,
did the cities invent war,
never the countryside.
from Athens to Syracuse,
honey child to ignominy.
I think you preferred Thrace,
rough meadows, the churned butter,
sheeplands, to a city devouring its gods.

youngest of the generals,
galloping the shores of the Morea,
hoofmarks in the sand, the water rising,
a handful of horse accompanying;
if ever was greatness deserved Iskander,
man against the fates; won,
a poem lived and died.

we all know Praxiteles in our youth.


summer teas,
hot pancakes, still warm from the girdle,
the butter melting,
and strawberry jam;
cakes of every variety,
too many cakes.
the sun outside, heat haze to the distant,
the old house was cool.
families gathered for the weekend.
there was a tribe of us.
used to go up the moors for picnics,
pursuing plovers, the idle streams;
water waking with sparkle,
searching white heather.
or the beach, at Sandsend;
spent hours constructing earthworks,
moulding rivers to our will;
we battled the sea endlessly,
the incoming tide.
skinny little boys, thin boned.
a tribe of us.
there was only living.


Chretien knew of it,
the sacred chalice,
my christening cup.
I saw it often in the china cabinet;
born a pagan.
dreamt that one dawn
a flame would stir.
the grail summoned to Jerusalem,
to pay service for two thousand years.
born a pagan
after the solstice and the harvest moon;
at the meeting of the old and new,
the day the first V2 rose from our Earth,
puncturing the skies.
but Chretien knew of damsels, knights, lords,
flattered my thirst for romance;
Lancelot and Guinevere, the matter of Britain.
the great year swings round,
soon to be floodtime;
born a pagan,
not yet a Parsifal.


where do you bury a bone?
wrapped in wreaths of forget-me-not,
those delicate remembrances;
a chaste bone.
meat, where's meat?
was it ever real,
the red juice spurting from a heart,
fluid excretal.
knew that pale face would catch a death.
trampled by a horse.
where's greentime?
buried with the mud.
I'd ask you for a prayer,
but born a pagan;
may the worms rot!

Douglas Clark/ Coatham/ Benjamin Press, 69 Hillcrest Drive, Bath BA2 1HD, UK/