FROM THE CYCLOPS (Menard Press 2002, AVAILABLE through CENTRAL BOOKS)

THE GENERAL


He who had been Lord General of the Parliament of England,
   Broken one king and helped restore another,
By the mutiny of his bones was confined to a chair,
    And the shadows of Old Age came across his face
    And he refought the former wars in his mind.
"I have written something in justification of what I did
   And put it in the great chest, and told various people
Where it is hid, and no doubt in time some English Livy
   May give to it the eloquence it lacks.
But in my heart I return to these matters again and again.
   We came to Charles Stuart at York that bright day in June
When Yorkshire had been summoned to doff its hats.
It would have cost him nothing to have listened to our petition
   Which was offered in all loyalty
In knowledge of how affliction had fallen on our Northern counties
   But because we criticised him he took us to be not of his party
So we had to follow him round, and turn our loyalty into a demonstration.
In the end I ran forward and thrust the paper on his saddle bow
   From which of course he tossed it off again.
And after that, because he chose it, Yorkshiremen trying desperately
   To avoid having to fight each other,
To which I and my Father, knowing it must come were unwillingly averse.
And when the storm of War finally burst
   You rapidly discovered the true neutrals
Who changed their party with each hint of rain.
   But why was I so certain?
Oliver conceived he had a duty from God
   But to me nothing very much was certain
Except that Charles Stuart meant to break the old custom of England.
   Richelieu had been doing the same in France
And it had been done long ago in Spain.
   Having to discuss one's actions with one's subjects
Must seem a waste of time to Kings, and even Oliver
   When Lord Protector, suffered from something of the same.
But I like a man who meets your reason with his own.
   There was that chap Winstanley, refusing to doff his cap
To a general with the best cavalry in Europe at his back,
But he reminded me of my dalesmen
   Who were heroes in our forlorn bewintered cause
But were known to vanish into an ale house
   In the middle of an overhot retreat.
So I went back to London, and said as much to the Council of State.
   But there are dark rocks about Menston
And over towards Almscliffe, and I grew up
   Seeing the moor about them
Which is neither pleasant nor christian
   And fills me with a dreadful exhilaration
In the presense of destruction
    But also makes you aware
        Of the sheer pleasure
   Of staying alive in an impossible situation.
Odd you may say in a man who has looked after stained glass
   And preserved ancient records
   And always been in favour of good government
But it has kept me going all the same."

THE JOB


I was called out unexpectedly about
   eleven in the morning, just too late to
be offered a drink, and was asked not to wait

for their architect in the afternoon
   but to dig at the back beside the french windows
and find the old sewer underneath their lawn

and house, which they were quite sure must be smelling.
   For myself I thought it unlikely.
What sane builder would risk a house collapsing

into the remains of something old? But they pay me,
   so I get out my tools, and begin to dig.
Grass and good soil, which came out easily.

But then it was clay - quite dry, and then soggy.
   Now that's hard, when it goes and gets soggy. But
they pay me, so I go on perseveringly.

And they don't come out offering a cup of tea
   but asking if I have found it yet.
And I tell them I can't find anything smelly.

And they look at me oddly in all that wet
   and tell me they're nearly sick with the stench.
And me I can't begin to understand that.

There's no smell there, I think, let alone a stench.
  Anyhow I do get down to flowing water
- and quite a lot of it - full of fish, maybe tench

though how any fish should come to such
   a place I do not know, and they all had
something strange to their mouths. Still it is all work.

So I start to broaden out my hole to find
   this sewer under the house they're going on
about. And that of course is much easier said

than done. But then there's a real complication.
   This water with all the fish in does not run
underneath their house as they think, but is coming down

from what's hidden under those mounds shaped like creatures
   at the top of the hill. Must be some spring hid there.
You wouldn't build on top of a hill with no water.

But I've never worked out what is hid under there.
  It's altogether the wrong shape for a farm.
Strange thing is they applied when I was younger

to close the footpath down past their house from the mounds
   as if their Sixties brick might be discoloured.
But they were turned down, and we walk there on sundays.

Anyway I told them it straight, and I had to get quite firm
  when they said I did not know my job, and
ought to go on, and that I must be getting warm.

People! Well I told them it was no use, and
   I'd prefer cash. Then they got in a bit
of a tizz and said they'd only got old

money in the house! I ask you! What did that
   mean! Perhaps it was me, and I didn't hear them right.
Anyhow I took a cheque. I did suggest

I filled the hole in, but they said that could wait.
   No doubt they meant for the man who came after.
But they must have got the same from the architect

for they moved out sharpish, and no one knew where.
   They gave no drinks, and spoke to no one unless forced;
and why were they old, yet never seemed older?

SONG AT 51


The sky is grey and has no end.
    I can see no mortal building.
Even the sheep are gone away
    And no birds give hint of song.

The only music is the wind's
    And it pushes at me
As is if to overturn and break
    Whatever stands in its way.

Soon no doubt I shall be dust
    And joyful in the gale.
But today I must keep my feet
    And hope my courage is adequate.

First hope and love have ended.
    I may see red berries on that bush
Down by that stream we walked along
    When we were very young

But I shall see them alone,
    And their brightness be of death
And not the first discovery of self
    And purpose in this life.

Tread on! Tread on! Most things can change
    And this despair will pass.
But from now I walk to another state
    I must face without abhorrence.

BLACK


There is a shifting of sand under the feet,
   And birds with delicate steps
Make patterns like stars, walking calmly
   At no great distance. Great rocks
Perch one on another, islands of
   Mutual support, that did not run
With the water, or disintegrate beneath its power,
   But stayed, at least for a while,
And in their defiance are uncouth.
   And on one of the black islets further out
A black cormorant, another grotesque
   In this natural sculpture. And the horison
Has a marking of black, and leading away from it
   And its strange legend of clouds
The grey waves do not blink.

FROM PLACES AND ELEGIES (Salzburg U.P. 1997)

BURNHAM BEECHES


When the winds blow at Burnham beeches
   and remove the gold leaves from the trees
there will still be that terrible quiet

and the sound of the fall of single leaves
   as loud and final as anything military
in the adjoining regions of our minds.

ODE FOR AN ENGLISH MILLENIUM


The patient tide of whose heart
   is the murmur of our sea
moves inutterably in the stark
   crystal of eternity

and shifts the fallible iniquity
   into a bad-eyed dream
for the posterity that shall be
   different from all we've known or been.

The essense of our material pride
   waxed wild in Hereward
after the arrow brushed the King's helmet aside
   and stone of old churches was overturned.

The poet sang beauty in a London dawn
   though love-hurt himself, and knowing corruption gnawed
the vital organs of a humorous nation.
   I stand as it were on an onanous shore

seared by the sensible doing of little things
   the return of the poor
the insidious niceness of commercial wrong
   blank indifference to past or future.

Send us some inner outlaw
   send us some dream of love
not little things through a magic door
   nor Eros as brother to War

but a mental wood where men may find
   a place of faith against the dark
sure enough to roar with the boughs in a high wind
   and forget the thorny wastes and the sun burning

and when Spring comes with its tide of despair
    and there are seeds impossibly to rear
let us speak of Alfred, broken in war,
    or of a young princess for whom the block was near.   

THE LIGHT


The road divides. Her heart-light flickers on.
   Down which road? It is too uncertain.

A distant light, which might be just the moon
   catches trees along the steep way down.

Another flickers in and out
   as on some hidden lane a tractor thrusts its snout.

But where's the light for which I've searched
   every hour without end for over thirty years?

I think I see it sometimes beyond a boulder
   in the grey moor spaces of the inner mind.

I think I see it sometimes in the brittle day
   but everytime I approach it has gone away.

Perhaps if I follow some skywinding bird
   I will find the true point on the card.

Perhaps I grasp where I should find,
   or am I merely man who cannot see his end?

Surely her presense chimed once with mine,
   but since that day I cannot find the tune.

Sin with age makes us all cynical
   and our flesh grows brittle.

But still I reach for her, cannot escape
   the distant beckoning light.

TWO IMITATIONS (2002)

THE AUTUMN WASTES (after TU FU)


1

Dew  like gems hurts and diminishes the maples in the wood.

From the mountains and gorges of Wu the wind is cold.

Waves, confined in the river, merge with a frantic sky.

Clouds, wind-tossed above the canyons, touch their shadows.

The chrysanthemums have opened twice,  tears for what's been.

The boat of my grief stays moored: I shall never reach home.

In each home they measure and cut the clothes for next year

                      And up on the hill

The washblocks thump faster than last night, and as harsh.


2

The last sun  glimmers on the remote walls of K'uei-chou.

Each night I find the Dipper and gaze towards the seat of power.

Its true when the gibbon shrieks thrice all men weep

But my tears are for this eight month journey to no-where.

In bed and sick I cannot smell the incense by the official portraits.

Just turrets, white against the hills, and no roll calls.

                      But look!  Moon shines on ivy

And makes flowers among the reeds on the island's shore!


3

First light: the houses of this town are terribly still.

Too many days at this time I've sat, immersed by the blue hills.

Two nights ago the fisherboats came back, and moored, bobbing

- Just as the odd swallow, though autumn grows bleak, is still flittering:

So, what am I, but a source of good advice, that was ignored,

A reformer of universities, who never made Vice Chancellor.

And yet the friends I went to school with, mostly did well,

And do as they ought to do, having swallowed the official pill.


4

Yes, Ch'ang-an has some resemblance to a chessboard,

Which is to remember the bad news of a hundred years:

New pieces to each square,  new princes and new nobles:

Gone, the old kind; a new type assumes the garb of the official.

Always the thump of gongs and drums in the northern passes.

And then, as if with wings, messengers hurtle to the Army of the West.

And the river of autumn flows cold, and fish and dragon are dormant.

My country in the time before these troubles never leaves my thoughts!


5

The gatehouse of the palace of the Immortals faces south:

The statues in the river mists have moisture on their mouths.

In the west observe - the mother of the Lord of the Gods descends

And from the eastern pass purple haze  advances,

The clouds fold back, screens with rural scenes reveal the throne

And  sun on dragon scales and robes: the vision of Heaven!.

Once I lay by the river  of time to be and observed the  years,

I who once answered the imperial summons by a patterned door.


6

From the maw of Ch'ut-tang gorges to Crooked river

Mist and a slight breeze, and autumn for ever and ever.

From Calyx Hill by walled ways imperial processions rolled,

But at Hibiscus Park news from the frontier arrived.

Blinds of pearl, well-made pillars, contained the yellow birds,

And cable and masts frightened off the white wild gulls.

                      Think of the singing land and  mourn!

This, from the first times, was the seat of emperors!


7

In the time of the Han they made K'un-ming Pool as a memorial,
                                             
And the banners of Wu are before my eyes - still imperial!

But under the moon the weaver girl no longer weaves

And the scales of the great stone whale clatter about in the breeze.

The waves toss up a seed over clouds that seem sunk in the lake

and the red lotus has dropped its pollen, and has a cold calyx.

                      The sky road is only for birds

And by each lake and river the fisher of mortality


8

By Yu-su river the road to K'un-wu wanders along

And into lake Mei-p'i the shadow of Turret Peak is falling.

Parrots peck and drop the seeds of the scented rice-stalk.

The phoenix perched when old on the wu-t'ung branch.

Lovely girls gathered kingfisher feathers in the Spring:

Immortals in a boat we departed again at evening.

                      This brush once coloured the world!

Possessed by words, peering, my head hangs in anguish!

After RONSARD


Moor and rock, and you cascades
That rush tumbling off tall crags
With measured stride;
You forest waters by wild meadows,
You trees above rural brooks
Listen to my words:
When fate or the body's decline
Determine I must die,
Though full of joy for the beauty I saw
In my brief time in the world,
Let no one ruin marble for my name,
But plant me an evergreen
And there let children hide, or lovers sit
And the world be renewed.

FROM THE WHITENESS OF HER BECOMING (Selected Poems,Salzburg U.P. 1992)

1. ELEGIES

ON A WINTER'S DAY


Such a pure blue winter's day a bit like now
     When frost makes the earth hard and glittering
Light shivers on the lichened green walls and boughs
     And the brown leaves hang down like thin foil
I so utterly tired might as well 'been dead
     England entangled in order's hydra
Too many desiring their deserved limelight
     Yet I walked by the farms and churches
The fields and bright brooks of ageless Somerset
     Aware of the old squires and their dames
If mouldering remains both their marriages and their
     Loves both those that were sane and those that
Were utterly insane those that helped their rough
     Peasants and those that made their lives dark
And I felt a thawing but so very faint
     Everything seeming too bright and stark
But when I came to the graveyard isle of a
     Small village mother goose was hidden
In the shade of its base protecting her young
     With the dark of man's death and at this
Wise ignorance of a simple bird every song
     that is not man's seemed to glimmer round.

PA AT THE SCHOOL HARVEST FESTIVAL


His voice roared in untuned majesty of faith
    The hymns of the harvest as one who
Has been into the dark and knows that it is
    Not wholly without fruit, but for these
Who desired untroubled and everlasting life
    This old man joining in with the children
In a voice so wholly of himself just spoiled
    The singing's well-ordered innocence.

WITH MY MOTHER AT BROWN'S FOLLY


They lay here fifty years ago in
The tower's shadow, on a bare moonlit ridge.
    But who can lie down as lovers forever?
Fifty years on bushes and trees have grown round
    The tower, now locked against the young.
Yet young love has lasted through war, and children
    And death (and what else?) till it lights
A single self near the final uncertain end.
                                             

2. SEDITIOUS LIBELS

METHUSELAH AND THE PARSON


He lives in a tent at the end
     of the Tamar Peninsula

beard entangled with seawrack,
     and crusted with shell fish, denying

The Deeds of Men in a sonorous Sumerian,
     much to the consternation of the new Parson,

who, not being sure whether it was
     Latin, Greek, or Russian

alerted the local social work team
     to the possibility of subversion.

'But', they assured him,
     'It's only Methuselah.

A bit tatty, but he's
     been here since the Flood.

And, if you'd been here since the Flood,
     we doubt if you'd look as good.

And the embarrassment of an enquiry
     is something we would rather avoid.'

So - like the sound of the reeds on a remembered shore -
     Methuselah can still be heard

denying the deeds of the Human
     in a most beautiful Sumerian.

FARMER HAYSEED


Hayseed blunders into the green light, glancing
   At the numinous hill of himself:
Unhinged gates tied up with red-flecked bailer twine,
   Sandstone  walls, built to last, crumbling down.
It pays for the trips to China, and all that
   Interest on the dairy's microchips.
The dairy's worth it though - keeps farmhands to the
   Least possible. Oh, for that golden age
Under the Roman Squire: theft, whippable; and you could
   Breed from slaves as desired. But now the
Squint-eyed stone head he carved in the making days
   Of childhood smiles from the wall
Of the crumbling pigsty. Darkwards he descends
   Into the dionysiac muck, to know once
Again that hope is memoried in the corn,
   And that the cow is creatured with the worm,
And Man, in the genes of creation, one more step.
   But though he is aware the Old Gods
Will take him out and crucify him on the
   Soft green hill of himself for each of
Those meaning creatures factoried to senselessness, he
   Is afraid of his wife. She wants cash
Today. She knows that Science says that all is fact.
   He consults the vet on increasing
Milk yield, the rector on flowers for next Sunday,
   Yet she fears the darkness of this place.
She senses doddering old Hayseed has it
   Away with someone she doesn't know,
And for all her own infidelities she
   Is jealous. If she had not been taught
That the spirit cannot exist, she would think
   That it was some creature from this past
She has been told never really existed,
   For she fears  the darkness of this place.

GOLIATH


Goliath after his technical knockout
   found himself short of employment
and had to send back his armour
   because he could not keep up with the payments.
And not wanting to be a burden on the state
    he got up at five in the morning
and scrubbed at the stone of a staircase. But
    he answered as one who had done the commanding
and they cast him out towards the Children of Judah,
   who knew that David had killed Goliath , so this man
must be an economic migrant,
   so they cast him out again
into the infinite desert. And it is rumoured
   that he found his vision, and returned as a grain of sand.

SIR PHILIP IN HEAVEN


Zutphen - was it '87?
that I plucked Death
                    - that peacock -
and adorned with the feathers
                             my woman
my unbedded one
               and found it
thirsty work?
             Much the same
in that golden autumn
                     that ended
what we had begun
                 when they fought outnumbered
on the day of Crecy.
                    Always a good excuse is Death
when your mistress is out of sorts
                                  or you want a new one
little considering
                 you may get to Heaven
while she is living it up
                         below.

Gloriana has made a conquest
                           of Wolfe Tone and Michael Collins
and
   bribed the guards
to allow galliards.
                  Up here
we get our daily exercise
                         but no dancing
and as for having
                 to be polite to Burleigh
and Walsingham!
               Franky
is forever hinting
                  perhaps we could grab
St Peter's mitre
                and get sent below
but it scarcely seems the action
                                of a gentleman.

Horatio is surprisingly good fun
                                but
forever moping
              after Emma Hamilton.
Someone should tell him
                       that sort of woman
is really not forever.

Winston I never know
                    whether to yield to
in silent admiration
                    or to loathe.

He's forever complaining
                         the brandy isn't up to scratch
and smoking's not allowed
                         and arguing with Wavell
over old strategy
                 (Big head Monty
got sent below.)
                Still he has
introduced me
             to that very pleasant man
John Churchill -
                so much nicer than in
Swift's lampoons -
                  and he really likes
my poetry
         (unlike that prig William
Ewart Gladstone
               or that other William
- coal black Pitt)

                  Its getting a bit crowded
these days but with
                   this new (alleged)
Gloriana down in the old country
                                no doubt
the rate of saints
                  may decrease
(We got rather worried
                     in the Sixties)

Anyway additions should stop
                            in the next hundred years
after the Bomb.

THE POET PIMP


You'll find
           no mention here
of Spenser
          reforming English Verse
and making a dream
                  to last a thousand years

nor of Satan
            cast haughty
from Heaven

           - while as to Bottom! -
who except Zukofsky
                   (whose sole feat
was to make Pound's economics
                             more boring
than Pound)
           who except Zukofsky
would speak
           of Bottom

SUCH a vulgar name!
                   And if
you want Horace
               on the Ancient Poem
well dig out the Penguin
                        or maybe Sisson

Not many
        will follow
you there

         I write what
the PEOPLE
          (God or Marx bless them)
really want

           and as such display no shame
in calling myself
                 the POET PIMP

Pimps indeed
            fulfill
a valuable function
                   in a society
where the MUSE
              grows ever more liberated
and Victorian.
              First of all
no long
       unnecessary study.

PLEASE!
       No Baudelaire
in the original.
                No true English Person
can bear the affectation
                        of poetry in a foreign tongue.
English is all
              you'll ever require.

If you must sound educated
                          quote a Roumanian
in decent English Prose
                       or perhaps a Russian.

Better be careful
                 with the Ruskies though.
Sometimes
         they translate themselves
and sound like Poetry.
                      Above all
don't bother
            with cadence or meter.
Who
   notices them?

And please
          no dreams
- certainly no Shelley -
                        and not too much Eliot.
He's a classic
              of course
and must
        be talked of well
as the one
          who introduced colloquialism
(don't mention Langland
                       or Swift.
That will only
              confuse them.)

But no suggestion
                 you've read
the Four Quartets.

                  That
would be
        academic.

The Wasteland
             perhaps.

But make clear
              your confusion.


That will make them recognise
                             you're like them.

Above all
         no mountaineering
with Pound, Bunting or Prynne:
                              THEY want coach tours.

It is your simple self
                      you must follow

Free verse
          about a cup of tea
OR
  a love lyric
that could pass
               for POP.

Ideally
       of course
mutter to a guitar
                  and they will buy it
for the tune
            and not even notice
THE WORDS

         and if
you really
          cannot get on
then remember
             there is always
REVIEWING

         OR
- failing even that -
                     you could be POET IN RESIDENCE
AT THE HOUSE
            OF COMMONS

This should
           be better paid
than the usual thing
                    in Old Folks' Homes

and God knows
             as Mr John Major
gets ever more minor
                    there's not much to choose

3. SHORTS

Discoverers


Ochre waves
     - and turquoise -

that snout the one return
     black rocks

our mark, cliffs
     individual as a wave

the light off a gull's wing
     unrepeatable

as we clambered seed-wards beast-ways
     under birds

the dimness of great waters
     our recalling

It was on a day of white frost


It was on a day of white frost like this that I pranced
       through the fields towards the river.
A robin was perched on the catkins singing.
       There I paused and listened.
I knew this was what I had come for, and not
       the river's shifty hugeness. So I
listened till the frost entered into my feet
       and my nostrils and throat grew too sore
and then returned to where we lived, which even
       now I could take you into each
room of, though it is all of thirty years since
       we left it for a place where the frost
could not craze the windows past the art of man.

Signs


The Romans to resolve
their death-grapple with Hannibal

sent a fair part of  their cabinet
half the known world

to fetch a chancy god
from Asia Minor

When I was pruning
the Reverend Goodman's apple trees

nostalgic for a love
that shall not be repeated

an apple on a twig
brushed me with new beginnings

Somewhere beyond hopelessness
the two connect

Llyn Dusk: June 17th 1991


How is it that among all this
                             grain and sheep touched
bare flatness
             through which
Leviathan pokes
               and all his brood
the light this dusk
                   concentrates its lastness
on one eyrie
            and on
the one radio mast
                  which
is half way along
                 some earthy backbone

Or
  that a bird of black
transects
         the last true light

On finding a broken eggshell while mowing grass


Let it go under
the mower

this broken
turquoise egg shell

its turn is done
its bird is out

from TOWARDS THE WEST (Salzburg U.P. 1995)

Lovesongs


1
You descend like a river
   and become the tides of the sea
and the midnights of your morning
   are the beginning of me

But you hide in strange faces
   that do not know what you mean
and you leave them to dishonour
   the something you have been

2
How should I dance
   now my love lies crumpled
in the maypole-earth

a ladder thrust up
   desperately
out of the trench

3
I am very very tired.
   My soul is on the wind.
I wander through great skies

except these are my mind.
   My soul is always lost.
My love is yet to find.

A little kindness in the dark
   and the light must sear again.
The tree roots now despair.

4
The wind gathers
   in the tree tops.

The moon
   is the snow of us

5
I - like a whale -
   - like a porpoise -
in your sea

when all your waters
   dried away
was suddenly

shivering
   on the grey beach
and dry!

6
'Will she come on the winds of the South
   or the gales of the North?'

But she has gone, my love is gone
   and all lust for life to continue.

The wind must find us and break us
   and then perhaps sun will show.

But who knows at moonless midnight
   whether the sun will come out again?

7
There were dubious islands and a singing heart
   white birds and a faking sky.

None but ill loves now
   and nothing but loneliness of self.

'Come : Singer of Heaven'.
   But the tune is forgotten.

after Du Bellay `Las, on est maintenant ce mespris de fortune.'


How is it that Fortune now always ignores me?

What's happened to the Me that stood up to all trouble,

That shameless taste for immortality,

That fire whose flame is so rare in the mortal?


Under the rays of fertility the Muses once offered me

Such  subtle pleasures in the shadows and dark

In learned dances under the glimmer of the Moon

At their green dancing place beside the brook's bank.


Now Fortune is my true lover I think

And my soul which was once its own self's master

Is slave to Trouble,and regrets cloud it over.


I have no interest in those that come after

And that divine fire is turning to clinker

And the Muses I knew grow further and stranger.