selfportrait

I
look out
and try to find
blue and crimson skies
where birds fly from the corners of my eyes
and a copse of trees on a wilderness road
is a little piece of England in Wyoming
where the shadows breathe life into the rocks
and the wolf within me sniffs the summer air

I am
alone and I am
a traveller and I am here and now
in no other time or dimension or space
there are pieces of broken seashells in my pocket
the sharp edges a reminder of sand between my toes
my burnt shoulders a reminder of childhood
when I walked these shores without a care
doing what children ought to do in silence

I understand
the importance of being alive
although I cannot comprehend the meaning of it
the days are numbered with my personal DNA sequence
another unfathomable equation that directs me
and sends me spinning through these landscapes
like an out of control meteorite on a collision course
that urges me to bend down and pick at the desert gravel
to find the piece that fits snugly in my mind

I
of course I can
it’s as easy as buying a ticket and jumping on a plane
there’s no glue to bind me like gravity to this planet
I can come and go as I please and take my leave
wave to you from afar or hold you near
my reason is to journey and never arrive
the call of the wild lulls me to sleep
and in your arms I slumber peacefully

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our fathers

give the boy a toy soldier
some tanks and battle cries
dress him up in cowboy clothes
the only good Injuns are dead ones

bang bang you’re dead son
give us a chance dad
you gotta learn quick son
yeah but give us a chance dad

give the boy a placard
hold it in the air boy
tell the boy what to shout about
doesn’t matter he looks bemused

what do we want son?
I haven’t got a clue dad
when do we want it son?
I don’t know I’m just a boy dad

give the boy a slap dad
slap him across the thigh
tell the boy there’s more where that came from
threaten with your hand held high

want another one like that son?
what did I do wrong dad?
shut your mouth and do as you’re told son
I’m really sorry dad

give the boy a rifle
tell him how to clean it
cherish this more than your mother’s life boy
because by god you’re gonna need it

point it and pull the trigger son
but it feels so heavy dad
kill the fucking deer son
but it’s got a young one to feed dad

give the boy a uniform
make him feel like he’s a god
feed him whores to steal his childhood
take it away for good

if she doesn’t want it slap her son
is that the way it’s done dad?
you gotta tell ’em who’s the boss son
I’ll tell ’em like you said dad

give the boy some power
a gang of drooling men to lead
vote for him for he’s the one
yes he’s the one we all agree

take this power and use it well son
there’s hatred in my blood dad
remember all I taught you son
yes your will it will be done dad

 

NB: this one follows on from the last and hopefully continues a thread of thoughts on a particular theme – one which is admittedly a rather odd take on Father’s Day:

https://slideaways.wordpress.com/2018/06/17/the-good-soldier/

 

ingrained

the park, the river, the beach
dried leaves from horse chestnuts
bottle tops in squelchy mud
the driftwood of weathered huts

I circle around those memories
like a seagull searching for grub
the trees, the bridges, the horizon
my friends in the cricket club

I’m off to hunt out stag beetles
or mice under corrugated sheets
my day spent in silent solitude
with the birds and bumble bees

the chalk, the grass, the blue skies
marking white arrows on gates
rolling down steep hillsides
watching red admirals contemplate

you can’t take the boy out of the man
the landscape from out of his eyes
it’s ingrained like rings of truth
every year that flies on by

 

Lament

your voice, your voice, came whispering
through the white waving heads of the cow parsley
it echoed down the sunken lanes of this fair county
from my memory to the inside of yours
a story of imprinted landscapes laid bare

your touch, your touch, once brushed
the flushed cheeks of wild red campion petals
an innocent at dawn with caressing fingertips
easing the milk from creamy white teats
tired head rested on the beast’s beating flank

your face, your face, youthfully reflected
in the yellow sun of a still buttercup morning
held up to the chin of childhoods lost and buried
where promises once held future’s sway
and a fragile breath grasped at something better

your heart, your heart, modestly imperfect
left bleeding amongst the purple honesty day
fortune’s name carved on an unmarked grave
a beggar girl sent on a wishful errand
cast adrift on ploughed and muddied fields

your song, your song, hummed to another
that chimed with the bluebell hymn of spring
would that you could ever be his lover
and that he would taste your sweet words
on the lips of an eternal starlit night

moving

keep moving you whisper
the only safe thing to do
through dandelion fields
once yellow with promises
where a footpath crosses
barely visible
like the secret run of a badger
diagonal from edge to edge
avoiding obstacles with booted feet
and the air blistering overhead
wide brimmed tin hats casting shade
eyes on the scything swifts
squelch of mud between steps
and over we go
the rough lichen crusted timbers
the ivy bandaged broken limb
the stream that wets the flat rocks
rippled on a seabed before man
we climb and reach up our hands
but the fruit has not yet formed
and all about us
the song of our foot fall
repeating echoes in hollows

 

no

escape routes

staring at the cracks in the ceiling
he went in search of unexplored lands
lost worlds mapped in lines and stains
one-eyed cyclopes in missing plaster caves

there the route to King Solomon’s Mines
Quatermain exhausted he falls to sleep
forty leagues of adventure dreaming
he climbs Kanchenjunga in The Lakes

exploring Slater Bob’s copper mines
‘sing out if you see rocks under water, Roger’
but there are only books lying on the floor
slipped from the hand of a tired boy

now the books are aligned on shelves
classics, fiction, poetry, art, nature, travel
and the man still dreams of unexplored lands
the cracks in the ceiling his escape routes

~

the black holes he passes through
huh, the mazes that he wanders
a different form of escape sometimes beckons
one that cannot be written in words

 

‘sing out if you see rocks under water, Roger’
adapted from Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome.

Thirty-Six Views of the South Downs (after Hokusai)

1. A Great Wave at Shoreham-by-Sea

swallowing water
spume tentacles drag under
laughing children dive

2. Light Winds and Clear Skies

endless summer sun
red bicycles and ice creams
mackerel clouds lurk

3. Rainstorms

beneath the thunder
unhappy memories float
loss of a father

4. Under the New Flyover

hiding out in nooks
traffic rumbling overhead
a den of devils

5. Awakenings

after school romance
secret kisses in phonebox
homework holding hands

6. Chestnut Trees in the Park

ancient sentinels
climbing high for prize conkers
pride hung by a thread

7. The Other Side of the River

with horses watching
releasing frogs from buckets
city kids delight

8. Climbing Mill Hill

new road through cut chalk
a searing white scar dazzles
diagonal path

9. In a Field on Mill Hill

golden straw crackles
lovers lie in crop circles
distant views ignored

10. Wind in Our Faces

heads bent into gales
on the cusp of adulthood
exam notes scattered

11. Shops on the High Street

toy cars in boxes
furtively pocketing stock
crime and punishment

12. Sunset Across the Old Toll Bridge from the Bank of the River

blood on the water
light ripples beckon and sway
a swan bends its neck

13. St. Nicholas Church, Old Shoreham

cassocks and cold stone
holy communion wine
mysterious world

14. The Marlipins Public House

thick snow like beer froth
talking with fake confidence
underage drinkers

15. Kingston Buci

patchwork allotments
a lighthouse to guide sailors
old names remembered

16. Changing Perspectives 

once there were windmills
the Downs a working landscape
now there are turbines

17. Bungalow Town

railway carriage homes
artists and photographers
early cinema

18. The Harbour Shore

sea defence ‘bumholes’
concrete structures for climbing
watching turning tides

19. To the East to Southwick

long coats and swagger
larking about with the boys
caught on camera

20. Watching Ships at the Old Fort 

fishermen and gulls
basking sharks in hot summers
comings and goings

21. Graffiti on the Rail Bridge 

a daring message
Happy Birthday to Louise
famous forever

22. Racing on Raised Paths

beside the airport
pillboxes and rabbit holes
brambles and briars

23. Pebbles and Sand

skinny dipping nights
smoking foreign substances
music and moonlight

24. The Old Swiss Cottage Lake

hidden history
torn down and redeveloped
postcards from the past

25. Reflections of the South Downs

this town we call home
nestled between hills and coast
still waters run deep

26. To Brighton by Bus

condensation drips
smoke fills the crowded upstairs
reading poetry

27. The River Upstream

mud banks and quiet
the tilled valley flat and low
mist lingers till noon

28. St. Mary de Haura Church

viewed from the tower
pigeons eye the waking town
breakfast is calling

29. Childhood is an Island

places we cherish
memories we store away
future safety nets

30. Views Along the Beach

longer than it looks
divided into sections
sand in sandwiches

31. Heron over Lancing College

gothic dreaming spires
choirs of heavenly voices
wing beating shadows

32. To the West to Worthing

the boats are drawn up
freshly caught fish sold from huts
family visits

33. Passing Over the Footbridge

it’s a long way down
hug Mum’s side and hold her hand
safer in the pram

34. Blue Circle Cement Works and Quarry

toiling and blasting
the belly of the Downs gouged
echoes of steam trains

35. A View of Hills Across the River 

these once wooded hills
sheep grazed and windswept pastures
still holding back time

36. On a Houseboat 

bohemian lives
time to set sail and move on
the world awaits me

The Keeper of Thoughts

so Bill

I was just wondering

when will you be done

taking your photographs

you were never this long

in the roll of film days

when you had a couple dozen shots

but now there’s no stopping you

 

my mother had always been

just wondering

patiently sat filing her nails

flicking through glossy magazines

Harpers and Queen

Vanity Fair

the breathtaking scenery

had never interested her

 

we’d drive out each weekend

take the Oldsmobile panting up

The Skyline Drive or

Blue Ridge Highway

there were swallowtails

and black bears

if you knew just where to look

and point your toy pistols

 

mother watched

from the passenger seat

window wound down

breeze blowing her mini beehive

the ten most alluring women

in the world

she would read out loud and

how to marry a billionaire Bill

 

poor father was a delivery man

never an ambitious bone

in his weary body

the long hours delivering parcels

exacted a price on his arthritis

but you would not hear him complain

just a few more minutes honey

he would quietly say

 

all those Kodachrome slides

he never showed or looked at them

they sat boxed

gathering dust

like his simple thoughts

over time he feared he would one day lose

our sunny days wandering Big Meadows

with mother in the car wondering

 

the names of our favorite places

still sing in my ears

they echo out from overlooks

call me back each year

to Riprap Trail

Hawksbill Gap

Elkwallow and

Bacon Hollow

 

now I am the keeper of his thoughts

unlocked and free to wander

projected overhead

we watch them on the big screen

there’s me I point

pistols at the ready

and mom smiling and waving

a cripple with withered legs

 

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(apologies for posting this poem twice on the Daily Post one word prompt slot. My other blog is winding down now that I am coming to the end of my travels and I inadvertently added this to that although it does have relevance there too. Managing multiple WordPress blogs from a smartphone is not always without its glitches)