Carona

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Adieu ! Farewell Earth’s bliss
This world uncertain is.

Carona’s come, the Queen of Death
who halts a nation. with her breath.
The fearful sick must hope and wait
alone, they must self-isolate.

I am sick. I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us.

The media tells us what to do
in hopes that it will see us through.
Put on a mask and wash your hands.
Say your prayers, avoid your friends

Matt Hancock swears he will not fail,
but Covid moves at pace and scale.
In hospitals they gasp for breath
and nothing find but pain and death.

The streets are still, we hold our nerve –
Don’t touch, don’t kiss, don’t smile, don’t sing
but sanitise each single thing.

They call it flattening the curve.

This life uncertain is.
I am sick. I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us

Swans

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No-one saw them sky in –
twelve swans fresh
from nowhere.

They sail in convoy,
bow waves curl
along their flanks,
wings catch the wind,
curved necks signalling

SSSSSSSSSSSS

Later, in the afternoon
some rest so still
you see each feather
in their reflections.
Others snake below the surface
looking for small fish, frogs and weed.

They were still there at dusk –
twelve jack o’lanterns glowing among the shadows.

No-one saw them leave.

Next day the lake was still, silent,
waiting, perhaps.

But they never returned.



Walnuts

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 Plump as plums
 they hang in a green shade.
 Pick one. Peel back the husk and find
 a shell there, pocked and wrinkled
 like some distant world.
 

 You’ll need a knife. Just press 
 your blade against the lateral line
 then prise the halves apart
 and there, in a nutshell
 is a brain.
 

 Packed tight into an inch wide skull
 two waxy hemispheres
 each ridged and swollen
 into lobes and clefts
 and each the image of the other.
 

 Remove the nut and place it on your tongue.
 Dark and resinous, the taste
 stirs shadows in your own brain shell
 of something long forgotten – 
 garnered sunlight
 the slow insistent pulse of growth.

The Shepherd’s Hut

You always find surprises in a second hand bookshop. I found this the other day – and it’s a poetry anthology with a difference. “The Shepherd”s Hut” is a collection designed especially for slow, contemplative reading.

“Take time for each word

Give room to white space,

Listen for the beat,

Tune to the weather,

Rekindle memory,

Life-scape and heart-leap”

He’s talking about the kind of poetry which makes you pause for a moment.

” It is in the worth/of the words to you.”

You will find it very simple, pared down to the minimum .It is poetry where the pauses, hints, shadows or perceptions are as important as the printed page.

I don’t know if it’s still in print, but if your interested, you can track it down with ABE books

Born again

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Born again

A man botched up from sticks and bones  –

all angles, elbows pointing out,

and one leg twisted round its mate

like ivy round a tree.

As we come abreast of him, I see

the sleeveless denim jacket, skinny arms,

pale and freckle -spotted, his white face

wet with effort, clenched like a closed fist.

“You’ll walk with me,” a child’s voice

slurred around the edges,

a statement, not an invitation.

We stand still.

He finds a solid anchor for his crutch

then drags his tangled limbs to follow it.

We move forward just an inch or two.

His name is Tim and he was born again

ducked in the winter river last December.

Three crucifixes hang round his neck

like winners’ medals.

The square is transient space , where every hour

a thousand different purposes collide

and split away. A place to walk across

or cycle through, which only takes a moment.

It takes us half an hour to get across.

We pause.

“ Born again” he mutters , “I’m born again”

over and over.

A child cries out – a yelp of pain –

head-high above the flinching crowd

a flock of pigeons whirr like shrapnel.

I watch them swing a circuit round the sun.

“Born again”

When I turn back to look at Tim

he’s gone

Lost Child

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A long frost and a deep snow.

This had been the severest winter

any man alive had known in England.

Crows’ feet were frozen on their prey;

islands of ice enclosed both fish and fowl.

My dear boy fell in such a fever

naught could bring him comfort or relief.

Whilst there was still life in him

we sent to London for physicians.

The river froze; the coach broke down

ere it had gone a mile beyond our gates.

All artificial help failing, he died.

I caused his body to be lapped in lead.

We buried him next night in Deptford church

and all my joy of life with him.

Assembled from the diaries of John Evelyn 1620 – 1706

Unhappy ending

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In the books store

 between Economics 

and European History,

a woman is weeping

silently 

because bookstores,

like empty churches

and doctors’ waiting rooms

are holy places

and to be respected.

Face buried in her hands

she stands, convulsed

by  grief too real

for this warm place

humming with words.

A boy in a red shirt,

tidying shelves, looks up,

walks over. She clings to him,

staining his red shirt 

with her polite tears.

The Stone Circle

There’s a lake three minutes away from my house – a Rorschach shape of water surrounded by trees and bushes. Ashes, oaks and lots of thorn bushes, all thriving. It’s a stopping off point for migrating geese – Canadas and Greylags mainly, as well as swans in the summer ( one day there were twelve swans ghosting up and down like galleons) and a fox’s lair burrowed into the bank at the north east end.

It’s a really important place for the people who live round here. The schoolchildren walk past it as they go to and from school; old men take their old dogs for a walk round it. It’s a good place to stop and chat and ask if anyone has seen the kingfisher yet.

When the first wave of the Cover pandemic hit, people wanted to express their thanks to the doctors, nurses, hospital workers for their bravery and kindness. For ten weeks we all came out of our houses on Thursday evening just …to clap…to give applause and thought to all those people who were helping us along.

And then there were the stones. Small rocks, bits of flat concrete, stones with ….possibilities – each one with a message or a picture. At first it was just ” Thank you NHS” but then other stones were placed – with drawings – messages. Look at this-

OR THIS

Notice the broken heart.

You see that there is real talent here. Over the summer more and more painted stones were added until the lake was encircled by a necklace of colour and hope.

I spy

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I’ve noticed the warning every time I’ve logged into my WordPress site:

“Your ID is being used to sign in to a device in South Manchester”

and there’s a little map to show the area my shadowy companion inhabits.

And I’ve done nothing about it, for the moment anyway. Who do I know in the South Manchester area ? No-one, to the best of my knowledge. And what kind of creep would want to lurk in my shadows ? I’m not particularly interesting. I’m just an old bloke who writes poems from time to time – that’s all.

And yet it niggles me. I start to wonder what he looks like ( Why did I say ‘he’ I wonder..,.)

Have I been caught up by accident in some MI5 operation ? Why does he only appear when I log in to WordPress ? Or maybe he knows my computer as well as I do – and I don’t know it.

I could, of course, solve the whole problem by choosing another password – but that means changing ALL my passwords, and why should I do that ? Why should I allow him to have some small power over me ?

All I can do is politely request him to go and irritate someone else.

So listen up, slime ball, and get the hell out of Dodge.