Lines written after my mother's funeral


My mother is out walking her dogs.
My father watches smoking his pipe.
The dogs are our cocker spaniels.
Sandy with his gold feathers flying,
Mac with his black coat shining;
My mother will walk them forever.


The tree surgeon has hatchetted my lilac.
Now it is bare head-high spikes
Where before was green plumage.
He hopes he has stopped the rot.
Twenty years it stood there unpruned.
Growing vaster and vaster every year,
Rich in purple blossom.
Now it cannot support itself anymore
As the weight of branches makes it split;
So the lilac has a fresh beginning.
The buds already show on the bare wood.
I hope that the poison was not too deep
And that the frost won't get at it.
Now it has a second chance
To re-occupy its space in the garden.
Not many of us get that.
Can you be young again after twenty years?
The lilac may outlive me yet.


Some people are loved by the centuries,
I am such as those;
Big John and Little John at the Englishcombe Inn
are always selecting me new beers,
The poetry publishers finding me new poets to read;
I have the luck.

At the hotel Anne de Bretagne south of St-Nazaire
I drank Vouvray wine and tasted nouvelle cuisine,
At the restaurant Le Commerce in Bouaye
the brilliant chef cooked me steak;
I have seen what no-one else can see,
I have the luck.

Some people are loved by the centuries,
I have lived my life with George Smiley and Rabbit Angstrom,
We have grown old together;
Neil Young and Robert Zimmerman:
I am my own favourite character,
I have the luck.

I could have married Sandy Denny
But then what would have become of my poetry,
Instead I settled for Fritz Cat
and wrote Susan a set of books;
Some people are loved by the centuries,
I have the luck.


I sit in the silence.
I have no words.

I have a name.
I write it down.

Gallus was the first of us,
Inventor of the Latin elegy;
Charmer of Cleopatra at the tomb window,
While Asinius Pollio crept up behind her
With the embracing blanket.
He loved Lycoris, and wrote it;
But Antony stole her away.
Not a word survives;
Proscribed by Augustus.
He is part of my name,
All that exists of him is in the Eclogues.

I have a name.
I write it down.

Daedalus, inventor of magic;
In the countries of the future
They will remember him.
Architect of Knossos,
Designer of the Labyrinth.
You give us a good reputation,
Citizen of the axe.
You were at the beginning.

I sit in the silence.
I have no words.

I was born a god.

Young Brock

I have seen foxes parade down the centre of our streets
Under the sodium lamps,
I have seen and heard hedgehogs scuttle up the path
Outside my house;
But never, until last night, have I been face to face
With mystery.

For sixteen years I have walked home across the green
On returning from the pub,
All I have ever seen on the way have been boisterous dogs
Watched over by nervous owners,
Last night was the different night,
I heard a noise and stopped and stared.

Young Brock was ten yards away,
His white streaks showing on his head.
The night was silence and there were no stars.
We stared at each other for a full minute,
The magician and the badger,
The wisest beings in the world.

Then like a hare he was off down the hill,
So close to the ground.
I hope he has come to keep me company,
It is lonely in solitude with Fritz Cat.
After sixteen years the badgers are come
And I have communion with Lords of Nature.

Mary of the Songs

Great Mary of the Songs said to me:
`Why aren't you writing?'
I answered `My black widow haunts me.
`In the mists of winter I see her face.
`In the brief mid-day sun I strangulate.
`The black widow stands between me and summer.
`I must write her. She will be the death of me.'

Big Mary of the Songs said to me:
`Is it at an end, your poetry?'
I answered `If my lilac takes.
`If my lavender revives. If the sun shines.
`I will live to name the place of my tomb.
`The black widow will dance on my grave in rage.
`I have made her immortal. She will never die.'

Sweet Mary of the Songs said to me:
`Was it worth it, the agony?'
I answered `I have purged the widow.
`No more will the black widow plague me.
`She was there from childhood and I have defeated her.
`I walk into an empty future with a blank mind.
`I lived with the black widow and now am free.'

Great Mary of the Songs said:
`Listen to me.
`You came from the morning. You walked to the citadel.
`You married the black widow. You wrote it.
`There's an end of it. Now you can be happy.'
I answered `Without my widow I am nothing.
`She was the heart of my days. Let it end.'

Lines written for Martin Heidegger

1. Home


I come from Coatham Mundeville
Deep in the Neville lands of Raby,
North of the great Cistercian abbeys
of Rievaulx, Jervaulx, Fountains;
North of Middleham Castle.
The White Horse on the Hambleton Hills
is my Southern boundary,
I was born in England.

Catraeth is close at hand. We lost.
A merry summer drinking in Dunedin
and then we rode South to death.
My friend Aneirin sang it. Another Flodden.
At break of day the sun comes out,
The fast Tees flows thru green Rokeby,
The red ivy clings to Coatham's walls;
I am of the Old North.

Richard of Gloucester loved our land,
It reciprocated in kind.
The young days when the Streaks used to
head North and South at eleven and three.
Green-painted. Sir Nigel Gresley. Mallard.
It is a hard grim world laced with Theakston's beer,
Peases: The Stockton and Darlington Railway.
It is home.

The Neville horsemen took England
under Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick;
the Yorkist Revolution. Plantagenet.
The red-coated meet in the drive at Coatham Hall,
The hounds, the horses, stirrup-cup.
It goes back that far. To the beginning.
From the morning to the citadel.
The great rock of Durham. Forever.

2. Away

Twenty years ago:
A silver-grey Ford Cortina southward on the Fosse Way.
Ten thousand years since the first settlement at Bath,
The triple hot springs of Sulis Minerva
deep in the Cotswold forest. The West Country.
Down the fire-break to the clearing,
A return to the thing itself: Love.
In the beginning...

A homecoming. A stepping into the light.
The magic of existence. The shepherd of Being thrown
Into the world on his knees. The land of Wadsworth 6X.
Stonehenge and Avebury. Glastonbury Tor.
Adelard of Bath, the Benedictine scholar of Arabic.
The Summer County: Somerset is the graveyard of ambition.
Royal Crescent; The Circus; The Assembly Rooms:
Jane Austen was bored to death.

The Saxon King Edgar was crowned in Bath Abbey.
The Theatre Royal was built to rival London.
Arthur won his twelfth victory at Mount Badon. Artorius.
Shelley ran two households simultaneously: Mary and Clare.
The German bombers came in the Baedeker raids.
I walk across the green to the Englishcombe Inn
Where the guest beer is the landlord's own selection.
Fuller's `London Pride' helps me sleep.

It was here that the lady bathed in the fountain.
It was here that the books were written.
St. Catherine, patron saint of Bath,
In astonishment debates me philosophically:
`Go back to the beginning
And see if it could have been any different.'
In astonishment I answer:
`It is always different and always the same.'

The Scottish Harp

I am of words, I made my mark;
The fleeting light before the dark.

The clarsach plays this morning in the barren Hall;
The books were a disaster,
Written to bring her back
They have attracted no-one.

Fritz Cat and I poured our hearts into those books;
The sufferance of lifetimes,
Sae Mirrie as We Hae Been
The Flowres of the Forrest.

The horseman rattled down the centuries of history;
All the cards were played,
Fritz Cat creaks in his joints
I face early retiral.

I wrote her books for company in the wintry night;
I woke up this afternoon,
To find grey hairs and an uncertain future
The passage of time spent in a dwam.

Back at the game I was born to (in the evening sun);
The last rose of summer clings to my eye,
Solitary is the path thru life
Write it down for what it's worth.

More Cat Poems



Early this morning Fritz Cat came scurrying
Up the stairs to wake me.
He put up such a performance that I chose
To ignore him and went back to sleep.
He must have been starving,
He was wimpering and miaowing all over the place.
He wouldn't leave the bedroom and sat in the front window.
Eventually at ninethirty I got up.
He was so pleased.
Purring and rubbing his back against my legs.
Downstairs I went to feed him,
To put an end to his misery.
But his food bowl was full of gorging ants.
An army had descended on his Kattomeat,
A new-flavour Chicken and Liver Kattomeat,
And poor Fritz had been denied his breakfast.
One lone roaming ant must have found food and now
The army from under the skirting board was everywhere.
Out with the fly spray.
A terrible carnage as I killed all the ants
Then threw away the meat blackened by dead bodies.
Then the last of the Chicken and Liver Kattomeat for Fritz.
He ate the lot
With no thought for the mass of dead bodies in the rubbish bin.
The ants thought Kattomeat good enough to die for.
So does cowardly Fritz.

Cat Collar

Fritz Cat has a new blue cat collar.
That will replace his old red one
that kept his fleas in order.
It is not a bright collar
to be seen from a far distance.
Rather it is a conservative collar
that gives him an air of opulence.
Now I will be able to tell him apart
from the young black cat next door
that with its red collar was his twin.
If I see the colour red that's not Fritz.
If I see no colour then that'll be him.
Cat collars do stink when new.
I don't know how Fritz puts up with it,
The aromatic scent of flea killer.
Still that's him settled for another four months.
Then Sainsbury's may have red in again.
Variety is the spice.



Fritz Cat stays upstairs all the time these days.
Sleeping on the spare bed
Or watching the world go by from a window.
He is master of the door to upstairs.
He can hook it open or push it ajar
As he likes.
There is nothing to stop him.
He only comes downstairs to see me
When he can find heat.
That is when the fire is on
Or when the storage heaters switch in;
He knows the hour for the timeswitch.
He is still affectionate
But his heart is in the upstairs.
He cannot resist it.
He would spend all his time there if he could.
He is a dead loss as a companion.
Roll on the dark nights when he will reappear
As he don't like being by himself in the gloom.
Not Fritz.

Cat Sick


Early Sunday morning
Fritz Cat was so hungry
His tummy was absolutely empty.
He came upstairs to wake me up.
He stood up beside my bed
And punched me in the eye
Then I awoke and Fritz panicked
He was sick all over the floor
A terrible mess
A brown gooey mess,
His stomach contents,
It took me an hour to clean it up;
Taking the colour out of the purple carpet
Leaving Fritz' stain forever
Until the carpet is cleaned.
I refused to feed him
I chased him out into the garden
There he sat in a huff, starving
Until I went soft
And invited him in for his breakfast.
This morning he didn't come
To wake me
He had more sense
And he got fed at his usual time.

Mouser Cat


Fritz Cat is getting old.
He don't hunt the mice the way he used to.
He only caught two of them last year.
Skinny shrivelled little bodies
With no meat on them,
Left as a present for me.
In the old days he was Mouser Cat,
I still call him that.
Fat juicy bodies at the kitchen door
Nearly every morning;
Fritz was a great Mouser,
A top-class hunter,
Out all night tracking them down.
Now he is getting old and lazy.
He only catches rubbish.
But he's still my Mouser Cat.

The death of Fritz Cat

He is buried at the bottom of the garden.
He died a soldier's death
Boxing Death with his front paws.
He died on the back patio
Where he was digesting a vast meal.
In his last week he liked to sit there.
He came to this, his house, at seven weeks old
And now he will never leave it.
He lived here for thirteen and a half years.
He was my little boy.
Until the last fortnight of his life
He would come to the top of the stairs
To say hello when I returned from the pub.
But as death came closer
He moved out of the back bedroom
Down into the fresh open air.
His appetite improved.
He perked up.
He was a famous cat,
Known throughout the world due to the poems.
`Why do we take on these animals
When it pains us so to lose them?'
There is only one Fritz.

The Dyesholm sequence



Sweet Dyesholm, sweet Dyesholm,
thy flowery haunts I love to roam,
thy woods, thy glens, thy mossy dell
Sweet Dyesholm I love thee well.
The brawling Cawder's rapid tide
around thy fertile holms doth glide
and murmurs there in gentle tone
I love thee well sweet Dyesholm.
Decked like a bride thy hawthorn fair
with grateful fragrance fills the air
wild flowers whose colours far outvie
the costliest gems of deepest dye.
Thy charms to me grow still more clear
In summer gay and winter drear
I'm bound to thee in fairy spell
Sweet Dyesholm I love thee well.
Each warbling bird, each humming bee,
each flower, each shrub, each spreading tree
swell out the chorus loud and long
I love thee well sweet Dyesholm.

Jane Pettigrew


Out of the ruin of my life
I see my great-great-great-grandfather
William Pettigrew, aged 33,
emerge from the door of his cottage
on a morning in January 1800
after his marriage to Jane Pollock,
aged 17.

Jane's uncle William Pollock, the blacksmith,
emigrated to Virginia;
his grandson James Knox Polk 
was President.
He came from Mecklenberg, North Carolina,
and died in Nashville, Tennessee.
William Pollock was born in Blantyre.

Alex was William Pettigrew's eldest son
but Robert Pettigrew,
who died a pauper in Calton,
produced William, the heir, born in Yoker.
Robert married Susanna McDougall of Renfrew.

William Pettigrew and his family
moved up the hill from Dysholm
to the family farm at Malcolmwood
around 1860.
Dysholm is a corruption of Davisholm.
Malcolmwood is a corruption of Milcolmwood.
He married Betsie Imrie on the day
before Christmas, 1858
at Auchterarder, Perthshire,
where she was born out of wedlock
to her father James Connell, the shoemaker.
Her mother Phemie came with her to Blantyre.

Then we have the start of
the Malcolmwood Pettigrews.
There were seven sons and five daughters.
Only my grandfather John was a stay-at-home.
The sons were wanderers.
Son William was off to America.
Robert and Andrew headed for Australia.
The eldest son Alex, Jimmy and Dick
were for New Zealand.
The daughters married:
Jessie, Jean, Liza, Susan, Kate.

Malcolmwood is at High Blantyre,
Lanarkshire, above the River Calder.
It is there that you find the bluebell wood.

Ah'm a Pettigrew from Malcolmwood.
Ma mither was one of nineteen.
Of whom fifteen lived.
I have thirtyfive first cousins.
My grandmother was the Irishwoman
from Green Hall Farm
with the laugh in her eyes,
Margaret McWilliam.
She was of Irish weaver stock.
The Pettigrews came from France.
They were master carters
before they were farmers.

My grandfather Clark 
was from Antrim.
He was related to President McKinley.
His wife was a Perthshire Duncan.
He was Glasgow Irish.
My grandmother was related
to the old Admiral.

Mary Queen of Scots
drank from the well at Dysholm
on the eve of the battle of Langside.
It is still called Queen Mary's Well.

My mother was Kate
and my father William.
I have two brothers
Mick and Ron.
Our sister Dorothy never lived.
We are a great family.

Maclay Hall

I am of the last generation born to Empire.
I spent three years living in Maclay Hall
at the University of Glasgow.
We were the last.

Highlanders and English,
Africans and Indians.
There was a common spirit.
Sitting on top of the world.

The sun never went down
on Kelvingrove Park.
Dave McCall was King of the Annexe.
Table tennis and squash.

Championship putting. Bowls.
Captain Charles Law at the helm.
It was the morning to the Afterword
When the dark night sweeps the classics away.

I am of the last generation born to Empire.
`The battelis and the man I will discruive.'
For thirty years I have sought the Grail.
No farther off than Maclay Hall.

Coatham Mundeville

I grew up at Coatham Hall
in the house of the Amundevilles,
of the Jarldom of Sadberge.
I am of Danish Darlington.

The Durham Ox was bred at Brafferton
by the Colling brothers of Ketton Farm.
The River Skerne wanders south to the Tees.
We have becks not burns.

You can see Aycliffe Saxon church on the horizon.
Nowadays the Motorway has come between.
It is the land of the South Durham Hunt.
Surtees' country. Jorrocks.

The Quaker Peases of Darlington created railways,
hiring George Stephenson to invent them.
Timothy Hackworth at Shildon built engines.
The green Streaks headed North and South.

I grew up at Coatham Hall
and played croquet on the lawn.
The grounds a wilderness fit for a Crusoe.
On my Hercules bicycle I probed the land.

The sun always shone; the snow was thick;
Icicles hung a yard long; there were cats.
Sandy, the spaniel, was our dog; Mac came later.
My mother baked hot pancakes on the girdle.

Love Poems

Lines written for Penelope Landa:


When I may write of her
That made me that I am
My rhymes need no more run
Her self enough of flair
I paint her picture not
Scribbling another's face
The reason for this waste
Unknown lost but sought
I knew her in a moment
When our eyes met the first time
A trance yet twenty yards away
As met fate sprang my mind
To read there's something there
To sense that all's not words
As the need for finding breaks
The hunted with the hounds
Is not the same as meeting one
Was sprung by birth to stars
Yet I may not write of her
That taught me I was real
Could the beauty be all mine
A reflection of myself
But that's not true 'twas there
Your poetry in the night
As you laughed and spoke till dawn
And I worshipped at your sight
I hear your voice no more
Yet I seek it through my life

Lines written for Fiona Macmillan:


You in the dim morning light
Laughing and staring
Your hair fluffed and shoulders bare
As you listened in the morning
To a mind racing its patterns
With no understanding
Appeasing its gods
Mouthing its prayers
And you listened in the morning
As the cool hard floor
Touched at tense fingers
Beckoning in the dawn
And you spoke of a someone
Who perhaps loved a someone
But you were so young in the morning
Who taught you this game?
But was love in the morning
As talked of another
And the eyes told of wonder
And tongues trapped together
As we prayed to our own gods
To tell them we were there
And you in the morning
As it went away

Lines written for Susan Jooks:



`You had all of me --- in your own way.'
There is only one way.
Through the eyes,
The interlocking eyes.
To swim in another person's head,
To have them occupy you.
That is the only way.
It is in the eyes.
Some things last forever.
I fed you love till it flowed out of your eyes.
Then we exchanged souls.
Now I can never be alone.
Always with you.
You have all of me.
It was the end of a search.
Now we have the after-time.
Wisdom was the prize.
We share that.
A short walk on a Spring afternoon
Taught me I had a home.


The grey ships are pulling out on the dawn tide,
The grey ships are leaving.
You sit in your citadel by the sea
Watching the grey ships leaving.
The city is burning all around you
Buildings crashing down, men dying
And the fighters are leaving.
Grey ships slipping out to sea on the morning tide,
The fighters are leaving.
As you sit in your citadel by the sea
Grey ships leaving.
The barbarians are over the wall
There are men dying
And the city is burning.
You weave your patterns on the page
Recording details of grand events
Watching the fighters leaving.
The barbarians are in your citadel,
They took your heart long years ago
As you sat in your citadel weaving,
And the fighters are leaving.
Grey ships pull out on the dawn tide
Sliding swiftly over the sea
While you sit in your citadel
I climb on the last ship and wave goodbye,
Loving you,

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