The Dream

We were going out there.
The launchpads at Canaveral are now
Like the temples of Angkor Wat.

A Bath beggar sits cross-legged on the pavement.
The busking string quintet plays
Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance No. 1.

Evensong at Durham Cathedral.
Nine hundred years since this Rocket was launched,
The Industrial Revolution comes to a halt.

A world gone wrong, the faith dissipate.
Fritz Cat's funeral music: a hymn for Glasgow.
Little ordinary lives leading to the grave.

We were going out there.
Ten-year-old boys kill toddlers.
We save our poison for this planet.

We were going out there.


I was a hunter.
I came from the North.
They threw me a spade
And told me to dig.

I failed at everything.
I lacked moral fibre.
They put me on the scrap-heap
And told me to write.

I had no words.
I didn't win prizes.
They ignored my books
And told me to drink.

My guts gave out.
I couldn't live.
They fed me porridge
And told me 'Go home'.


I have walked the wild paths
At dead of night
Pausing to look down at the gleaming town.
I have coughed my innards up
Every night
Retching out their contents of beer.
I have laid my pretty ones on the table
Staggering home by night
Clutching the books in my pocket.
I have seen the great ones come and go
No happier at night
Not deigning to spend time of day with me.
I was a lad when they cut the White Horses
Almost night
My gibberish has been spouted forever.
They name me at Hambleton.
They name me at Bratton.
They sing me in Uffington.
They paint me at Cerne.
I am words out of the darkness
Was here before Rome.
This night
I celebrate in drink to the shire.
Hob's goblins; Herne's hunt;
I was here before the English.
Summer night
Beckons me.
My black cat howls for company.

Prince Heathen

It is twentytwo years
Since Martin Carthy chanted Prince Heathen
Amongst the trestled wooden tables
Of the upstairs room
At the Golden Cock pub
In Tubwell Row, Darlington.

Now in Bath I listen to it on CD.
That night we talked of Dylan
And Lord Franklin.
This night I ask if all is said.
I was the pagan who took the West by storm.
Oh Lady will you weep for me

The minstrel boy to the war is gone
In the ranks of death you will find him
That was when I wrote The Mong:
Swathes of horsemen hurling themselves against Europe
Taking revenge for Roncesvalles.
Oh Lady will you weep for me

The antiquated engines of love trundle out,
I have forgotten how to write poetry.
Then it was Spring, soon it will be Fall
The Summer has passed in holiday.
I sent out the horsemen for sport.
Oh Lady will you weep for me


Old men, who should know better,
Sidle up to me and say:

Young men, who should know better,
Sidle up to me and say:

'Adolf had it right about the Jews.'

Six million columns of smoke-dust
rise from this century
and they ask for more.

For Frankie Kennedy

This is a song about no-one
This is a song about nothing
And the wild Irish fiddlers
Play panic at the gates of Hell

This comes from the dark of night
This comes from the babe on the knee
The wild Irish fiddlers
Play Heaven at the gates of Hell

Listen to the mourning chime
Listen to the heave-ho of the tide
All the wild Irish fiddlers
Come play at the gates of Hell

Wake for one last minute of riot
Wake for one last sip of the Heathen drink
For all the wild Irish fiddlers
One day rest at the gates of Death


I stand a failure.
The barbarian at the foot of the citadel,
Ignorant of Adorno, Derrida, Deleuze,
The New Left Review.
It is absurd.

She took twenty years out of my life.
Now I am old. Desperate for Viagra.
I think I will moan
In the coffers of the galaxy.
It is quaint.

There are three hours to Happy Hour
In the Livingstone pub
And I will have to sweat out each one of them.
Give us some genius.
It is cruel.

Festival and incantations.
It is too hot to think.
Perhaps some great event for me
Will occur between now and my death.
It is absurd.


Albert done croaked it.
He electrocuted himself
'cos his legs had given way
And he couldn't walk the hill
To his council flat no more.
He didn't want to go into St. Martin's.
He was 83.

He took his shoes and socks off
And put his bare feet
In a basin of cold water.
Then he wrapped the bare electric wire
Around his waist
And switched the electric on.
He had a lot of guts.

He was Company Sergeant Major
To the Somersets
In the War and Greece.
Later he ran the Territorial Army in Bath.
He was a right bastard.
Wouldn't stand for no bullshitting.
He loved Greece,
The Changing of The Guard
At the Royal Palace,
He drank retsina till his dying day.

He walked miles around Bath,
and in the surrounding countryside,
To his work in engineering and to the pubs.
He would drink his beer and barley wine.
At home he brewed his own ale and plonk.
His wife died over thirty years ago in childbirth
And he never looked at another woman.
He was left with two daughters to bring up.

He made chutney for himself.
He made marmalade and jam.
His tapestry is famous.
His Mantovani LP collection was exhaustive.
He played music all the time.
He saw the sexshow in Tangiers in '38.
He wore his bunnet
And always had a twinkle in his eye.
He was Albert.



Coatham Hall is up for sale,
The house of the Amundevilles
At Coatham Mundeville
In the Jarldom of Sadberge,
Just five miles north of Danish Darlington,
We rented the older half.
That is my home.

Pevsner says
'Very plain C18 stone house with original staircase.
Large early C19 W wing. Shallow hipped roof over all.'
Coatham Hall is where I come from.
The wee Scots boy growing up in the English village.


Behind the high walls round Coatham
A wilderness:
Paradise for a small boy's summer.
Paths to be flattened through the head-high nettles
Where the trees had been cut,
The exploration through the woods to farmland.
The old house itself;
Kitchen walls five foot thick,
Damp running down,
The long stone corridor with the stag's head looking down.
I grew up there with clamped emotions.


Grandfather Clark was a Planter
And the Pettigrews were at the Boyne,
Land in County Tyrone and built Crilly House,
But our Pettigrews were from Malcolmwood.

The Duncan connection through the Macreadies,
And MacKinleys through Ireland. No Polks I think.
My father came out of Calton
Flushed with his brilliance.

Heir to Irish Glasgow
I supported Celtic,
And walked around the University in a dream.
The beauty of Mathematics.

A rich material world,
As entitled to from Coatham
But no meaning
Until Penelope blew my head off.
Love is all you need.


Fiona and Susan.
Now thirty years and out of the mist,
Cats are much more sensible.
I came from the beginning.

Penetration is a male thing,
Not to be sneezed at.
I walked out in the morning air,
For it was that time of year.

The demons whisper: Have fear.
All love leads to breakdown,
Better to survive by oneself
Than live out an agony.

The old house at Coatham didn't have ghosts.
We played croquet and French cricket on the lawn.
Two younger brothers and my parents.
I wish I had the words for it.

'Love is a vapour/We're soon through it',
says Basil. Thirty years.


When I got my green Hercules bike
For my birthday, my first bicycle,
I fell off it badly in the snow.
In days I returned and mastered it.
For twenty miles around I explored
Past Brafferton and up to Great Stainton,
To Sadberge and Thorpe Thewles.
I even made it to the sea at Seaton Carew.
I loved my bike.
I would ride off for the day
And return joyfully to the empty house
With no one to greet me.
But there was the pleasure of returning home.


In later years I had my black Ford Popular
Which took me to Glasgow and back.
And to Sitges in Spain
And to Freiburg before Celan.
I loved that car.
I could take the engine to bits.
I rebuilt the body to preserve from rust.
On the Corniche at Nice
Was its finest moment.
I drove through the rush hour in Milan.
And Paris with a bust headgasket:
Machine gun shots on the Champs Elysée.
I loved that car.


Twentyfive years in Bath
Designing a wilderness at the bottom of the garden,
A substitute for Coatham.
Failing at another job.
I wish I could read my poetry aloud,
But too many nervous breakdowns.
I always sought the dream
Of having someone else inside your head.
And it came: schizophrenia.
My blood disease should kill me.
It tries every five years or so.
But love,
Not being alone in the world.
That haunts me.


The sand pit, the rockery,
The view over the wall at the Great North Road,
The white summerhouse,
Gooseberries and strawberries.
Edwin, my own age, at the farm.
I was born to greatness,
The English country house.
Now to be sold.
I went out from there determined
That I would solve everything.
And I have.
Me and the brilliance at Glasgow.
It is all clear.
I wrote it.

On Love

Jo complaining about her first experience of sex:
'But I don't feel anything'.
Me thinking that for all the excitement
My emotions weren't touched.

The bones in Susan's face, the pain in Susan's eyes:
The recognition that this was the same.
Coming home after the long parched season since Fief,
There are so few of us.

You always look for it and never see it:
Easy to be deceived.
My best friends are seventy-year-old men,
The trouble is burying them.

Would I know it if I saw it again?
But of course, we are a closeknit family.
I read of homecomings, Muzot, Harar.
For fifty years it has been my obsession

Like Heidegger and his Being.
Freud, Melanie Klein, Fairbairn, Winnicott, Bowlby,
and Nancy Chodorow are my teachers.
I think at long last I have come home.


'Did you have a nanny?', asked Fiona.
'No, my mother nursed me', I answered.
'That's where it comes from', she said.
'I don't think I could take that', I replied.

My mother was a marvellous Scottish farmhouse cook.
Her lentil soup, a tureen she renewed every week or two,
Has entered my soul. Take a ham bone and build on it.
She cooked bacon and eggs on a slow gas flame to perfection.
And fried pancakes.
Her rock buns and biscuits are of the memory.
And when it came to roasts she was laughing.
Brussel sprouts and cauliflower.
She could make trifle like nothing on earth.
And her tablet was unparalleled.
Rabbit stew was like chicken. But better.
Rhubarb pie and custard.
Lemon meringue.
Strawberries and cream.

I have lived a life of sweet dreams and nervous breakdowns.



It was all done for you.
I really should have died
last summer when I was on 95% oxygen
with two collapsed lungs
and the doctors and nurses shaking their heads
after catching MRSA at my operation.

Now I haven't the nerve to send you
the copies of my new books
after the way you played up over
those email messages back in '96.
The whole business hardly seems worth the bother.
I'd have been better off dead.

I don't want to write poems
so American college students
can scrabble over my guts.
I get a reader every 15 minutes on the Internet
but they are totally anonymous to me.
Nobody's sleep under so many eyes.

You must think me insane to write to you
when I haven't seen you in twenty years
but it was all done for you.
Even the lies of Hulagu's Ride.
Put them off the scent.
I'll miss you with the horses and hounds on Boxing Day.


I sit by the campfires of the tribe
On the evening after the afternoon
That my Bath defeated Brive for the European Cup
In rugby football at Bordeaux.
And I think how I never have been so alone.

The youthful opportunities of transcendental love
Have vanished into the periphery of vision.
The future is mundane, detrimental.
I would wave a candle at life
But its remorselessness crushes me.

Once I believed in the morning
That the onward surge of living leads to success.
But now I know better,
It is enough to be alive
The energy of a new day confirmed.

I have been there.
I have seen the eyes and heard the voices.
Written down the bloodjet metaphors of poetry.
The Augustan anthem rolls off my tongue.
There is nothing in my life now but being alive.

I don't want orgasms. I don't want death.
What I want is the dream I carry with me.
Of not being alone in all this mumbo-jumbo
Of sharing a skin.
Not knowing where one person ends and the other begins.
They will have to bury me to put an end to that.

Two poems for Sally Purcell

1. Again

In Intensive Care
As I realised that I was going to live
I wrote a note to my surgeon:

'Why did you save my life?
Now I will have to go back home
And suffer once again.'

I don't want to live
I don't want to die.

2. Medicine

Every morning I swallow my pills.
The pink capsule lets me drink my beer.
The blue tablet stops my blood clotting.
The red and green capsule thins my blood.
The orange tablet controls my blood pressure
And minimises my erections. Or is that just old age?
The cherry red vitamin pill is just for fun.

And I have my monthly injection of depot
To keep the schizophrenia away.

God bless the NHS.


Nearly fifty years ago
I used to lie in my bed at Coatham Hall
In the darkness
Watching the dying red glow of the coke fire
Before I went to sleep.

Norma, our maid, used to creep in
And change into her pyjamas
Shadowed against the fire
As she sought for warmth.

Once I watched a lively mouse
Run along the top of the fireguard.
I would try to get the cat to sleep with me
But it always objected and fled from beneath the sheets.

In the early hours of the morning
I would awake screaming in hot sweats.
This happened frequently
And my mother, worried, would come to comfort me.

I was screaming at the nothingness I
felt all around and in me.
The emptiness.
My being alone in the world of my head.
No affection reaching me.

I have been alone all my life except for three girls.
My trilogy.
Love is all you need.

poeta nascitur non fit


All poets are in a competition:
the prize is immortality.


In this life we are each
given a set of cards to play
of our nature and our nurture.

All we can do is to play the right card
at the right time
and hope for the best.

We have no control over the outcome.


On John Clare's gravestone
the Latin motto
is written in English.

Surrounded yearly by
the Helpston children's midsummer cushions;
John Clare, who so loved Nature.

Mary Joyce lays her tribute.


Drink to me only with thine eyes
And I will pledge thee mine.

I am of the tribe of Ben.


My books rival the Brontës' Poems for sales,
I will never be famous.


<< Censored >>

At fiftyfive

You should know that my life has been a disaster.

I couldn't hold a job.
I never found a wife.
My health has been dreadful.
And the poetry was an absolute waste of effort.

It's all been a terrible mistake
putting me on this planet, Lord.
Couldn't you have chosen
a better time and a better place.

I wonder if I'll ever grow old.

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