Tuesday, 12 May 2020

The Whole of Spring

Not long after first light today,
I fell in love with the trees
at the top of my garden.
They did not ask it of me,
but when I looked up at their canopy
and noticed that the green of their leaves
had outdone the blue of the sky,
I couldn’t help myself.

And, a little later, when I sat outside with a book –
allowing myself a moment to gaze upon my beloved trees
before I set about the task of reading –
I fell in love with the butterfly
who landed on the gravel in between
two slabs of paving stone just by my feet.
The colours on its fragile wings
seemed like a rebuke to the grey clouds of yesterday.
‘I couldn’t agree more,’ I said to the blues and the reds,
the oranges and the browns.

A lively passage of birdsong interrupted
my reading of a poem about the madding wind,
and I fell in love with these wild melodies,
as I caught them travelling through the air
in unison with the conversation of the trees.
‘But listen,’ said the trees, ‘you have it wrong.
It isn’t us trees, or that butterfly,
or the untamed birdsong which you are in love with,
but the whole of spring.’

I looked about and saw it all – the whole of spring –
here in this small suburban garden
in the south of Brum,
and allowed myself a little peace of mind.

(This poem was a commission from Poetry On Loan. You can watch me recite it here: The Whole of Spring)

Monday, 11 May 2020

Put the Stone Down

The Buddhists have a great saying:
‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone’,
although, now that I come to think of it,
perhaps it was the Muslims.
Or was it the Hindus?

Anyway, what does it matter who said it?
The point is that somebody did.

It’s never really occurred to me to throw stones at people,
coming, as I do, from a culture which prefers
the launching of missiles
over the throwing of stones
as a more effective way to cure people of their existence.

It self-identifies as a Christian culture,
which is, of course, hilariously absurd,
unless by Christian you mean
one who spectacularly misses the point.

If only our moral interpretations
were as accurate as our weapons systems,
we could go back to telling people to put the stone down.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Avant Avant-Garde

The distinctness of shapes fools us often
into believing what we are seeing.
Have eidetic faith in clouds
and embrace heavenly paper
as you would a warm day in December.

I once painted a psychedelic nightmare wave
about to crash onto a horse and its rider
and which ended up on the cover of a book.
It hangs out with other unframed efforts,
propped up against the side of a wardrobe in my bedroom.

Hokusai was my kind of artist.
Summoned by an Emperor,
who wanted him to paint at court,
he took two chickens with him.
How does he paint? With two chickens, apparently.

Having submerged the first chicken’s feet in paint,
he dragged the feet
along the unscrolled length of a piece of rice paper,
then covered the second chicken’s feet in paint
and let the bird walk wherever she wanted.

When the chicken was finished –
How did he know the chicken was finished? –
he performed his bow and presented
Autumn Leaves Falling in the Yangtze River
to his imperial patron.

(This story is mentioned in ‘Tao: The Watercourse Way’ by Alan Watts)

Departing Backwards with a Star

Whispering in time for tea, we wallowed
in the semaphore of trees. A dazzling intermission
squandered on walls and ceilings; gathered up
in bathmats, leaning sideways through a door frame.
Mystical banality believes itself
a God, departing backwards with a star.


This inevitable life is a disappointment thing,
moving unembarrassed in the middle of the dancefloor,
flailing its arms to What Difference Does It Make?
as if it were only yesterday.
Having taken a toke on top of a few drinks,
the drive back home was with a fully wound down window,
the airstream a mask of semi-sobriety.
‘What are we doing in this little word temple
thirty-five years later?’
Did anyone else remember that forgettable evening?
Nothing happened, as far as my memory would have it,
apart from the dance floor clearing
while I made my way onto it,
and failed to dance,
but failed to dance like no one was looking.
Why would such a memory sustain?
Maybe it was the first one of those very rare occasions
when I danced in public to The Smiths, intoxicated,
while everyone else took part in the dance floor exodus.
Thank God for Morrissey,
or I wouldn’t have known how to move;
how to make myself look like a desperate one,
accepting my magnificently miserable awkwardness.
How easy it was not to care about anything at all.