Archive for January, 2014


Were storks here before the Berbers descended

from the hills, creating the ochre city

on the plain and sailing to Iberia –

or did the birds come to build their immense,

intricate nests because there were towers?


Flocks of satellite dishes point eastwards.

Beyond the Atlas Mountains, snow covered

deeply now, are the Sahara Desert

and the immemorial routes south to the green

and desperate countries of West Africa.


In the nearest mosque, the muezzin

(a youthful, mellifluous tenor)

sings the afternoon prayer – so close it sounds

as if he were beside us. A stork, nesting

on the minaret, opens it wings – its beak

like a prow – and rises surely into

the indifferent sky.




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‘The spring recoils upon us like a myth…’ The Professor, Kenneth Allott


We would meet occasionally, by chance,

outside lectures or tutorials,

near the bus stop by the Philharmonic Hall,

Professor Ken Allott in from the suburbs,

me from various damp, cold flats in Toxteth.

He would always speak and would always ask

about my writing. ‘A young man’s game,’ he’d say,

smiling. He was in his fifties then,

his two volumes out of print. He was

a good teacher – and a fine poet.


Ah, if I had seen then how fine –  a craftsman,

witty, lyrical, ironic –  what time

youth would have spent with age to learn about

our art, walking together up Hope Street.


‘Heaven is full of clocks which strike all day.

It is to music we are put away.’




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I think of a freckly, fair haired lad

of fifteen, an Irish Traveller –

from that nomadic, hard grafting culture

spawned by the Great Famine. As he ran

from danger across a playing field

he tripped and was killed by two youths, fellow

Catholics with Irish surnames, one of whom

allegedly said, as he stamped with both feet

on the boy’s head, ‘He’s only a fucking

Gypsy.’ The judge did not consider the crime

racist. (Possibly the manifold

ironies had leached into his judgement

and atrophied it). Though it is no longer

legal to overtly, verbally or

otherwise, attack any Asians, Blacks,

Jews and/or Muslims per se for all Gypsies,

Travellers and/or Roma per se

it seems always to be open season.


They are tidal rivers the rivers of blood,

those prophesied, self fulfilling torrents

of violence, made to seem inevitable

as flash floods, typhoons, so unstoppable:

a metaphor that is flourished – when

political fortunes are at an ebb –

by scoundrels looking to float their boats

whatever the flotsam or the jetsam.



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Out of the rutting, summer undergrowth,

a rasping roar… Saxons considered them

the mark of kings… Celts believed they were fairy

cattle, herded and milked by goddesses…


Though hundreds of thousands are culled or die

on the roads each year, we may have two million

wild deer because of autumn planting,

mild winters, new woodland and the death

of the lynx: ruminant, secretive,

destructive by default in residual

forests, on moor land, in the green belts

that join towns to cities –  the interstices

of haphazard copses and unused fields –

and in suburbia’s gardens and parks.


Driving slowly through fallen snow south

on the M40, we passed a Roe deer,

a hind, at the top of the embankment,

the ‘wrong’ side of the fence, picking her way

through the drift towards the Forest of Arden.




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