Archive for January, 2015


See, though it is January, already
rose buds fatten, the camellia’s
are uncountable – and some of last summer’s
geraniums still bloom. A squirrel
sniffs and claws at last year’s hoards and blackbirds
gather. Forty years, this Valentine’s, this
sentient house has been our home where
paintings shift, doors stick and light falls like blessings.
Always there are so many ways to write of love.




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At the crossing of Madison Avenue
and 42nd Street, you can see, east
and west, the Hudson. On Brooklyn Bridge,
three Hispanic girls sell mineral water.
An Asian man sleeps on the A Train between
Washington Square and Columbus Circle.
Down Fifth Avenue, from Central Park East
to St Patrick’s, the black top is obscured
by constant yellow cabs. From the Empire State
the land stretches for days and days. All roads
lead here – to the template of the gridiron
cities of this imperial republic.
Who would not, in the known world, have some
notion of this Rome? It is the power
that enhances, corrupts. Its ruins are




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And here he is at the head of a line
of his Wild West Circus artistes, Native
Americans in traditional feathers,
sharpshooters and rodeo cowboys,
all ahorse, with a chap in a raincoat
and trilby standing by on the turf
as if calling out ‘Starters’ orders!’
and well dressed spectators
leaning over the parapet of the Roman walls.

The Roodee used to be a tidal pool.
It silted gradually and became
a vast Guild sponsored football pitch until
the injuries and the drunkenness forced
the city fathers to outlaw football
and create a race course, which prospers today
and populates the city each fixture with
extravagantly dressed and largely pacific
inebriates. So, here he is, slaughterer,
impresario, free mason, army scout,
a modern hustler despite his whiskers –
who rode thirty miles, when he was ten,
to warn his anti-slavery father
of a plot to kill him – measure for measure.




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After the horsemen and the slaves, before
the Stalins and the Hitlers, were the skilful
cities – cosmopolitan, pragmatic,
loud and solemn with towers, spires, domes.

There are some who would reprise a fictive past,
revert from countries of convenience
to imaginary nations, ignore
the corrupting legacy of empire,
the corrupted remittance of colonies,
oil trumping Crusades and martyrdom.

Europe could break like a slate across old
fault lines – a slate smudged with alphabets.
Europe could rub out its history.

There are swastikas in Brick Lane and Berlin,
lampooning in Paris and Soho.
When liberty is assassinated,
freedom is curbed by the rationale
of abhorrence, the politics of outrage –
Jews, Christians, Muslims, the conflicted peoples
of The Book confounded. So, whose Europe?

The cities are filled still with parks and squares.
Storks, pigeons, starlings roost above music
and commerce. After the horsemen and the slaves…




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As we leave the slip road and join the flow
north of cosmopolitan wagons,
discounted coaches, fleet cars and the rare,
pre-twenty-first-century vehicle
like ours, we see a buzzard, on a fence post,
still as a cast in the emollient
winter sun. We have travelled this road
a quarter of a century, know
the remains – a single track railway;
sparse English elms in rigor mortis –
stilled sentinels of clearance and enclosure;
ridges and furrows made by feudal
open fields; a gothic hunting tower…

Later, as always, we see Mow Cop Castle –
a Georgian folly, on a hill to the east –
lit briefly by the sunset’s splendour
and hope we are no more than an hour
from home. Turning west, there are purple skies
brimming with hail. When it falls, we slow.
As the pellets shatter on the roof,
we talk loudly of that bird on a post
in a southerly shire.




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