Too close for comfort

There is no right time.
Definitely no good time.

Whenever it comes
We will look back with regret

Wish we had done things differently
And moreover, never had to.

But the moment has always been there –
Buried in the small print

Of the pact we entered into
All those years ago

Never once imagining
We’d ever have to live it.

Having had a heart murmur for a number of years, our beloved whippet is now in congestive heart failure. No longer a case of if but when we will need to make A Decision, and probably sooner rather than later. I know there are many bigger, and far worse things happening in the world now: it’s still hard. Dogs are wonderful, but they do put you through it sometimes.

Misdirection

We do not write poems about dogs –
Not, at least, if we want to be taken
In any way seriously.

Dogs are not sensible, grown-up subjects
For sensible, grown-up writers.
They are not issues or arguments

But the stuff of rhymes we write at school
Like sunsets, springtime and the sea
The root of all doggerel.

No. Instead, we stick to abstractions
Write loftily of love, fidelity, domestic intimacy,
Age, infirmity, and the bitter, plunging agony of leaving

While carefully kidding ourselves
That we’re not really writing
About dogs at all.

Sonnet #1

Another day dawns grey in Brexit-land.
The red tape piling up like rotten snow
That chokes and slows the flow of daily life;
Doors close, shelves empty, phones no longer ring.
And still the lies from those who won it all;
Insouciant, delusional and glib
They prate their nonsense to the credulous
And never own the chaos they unleashed.
We warned of this, we millions you ignored,
Denounced as traitors, told to suck it up;
We did not wish disaster on our land
And take no pleasure in our being right.
Reality is biting. Far too late
To save us from this self-inflicted fate.

Generation gaps

My father believed
Like his father before him
Hard work was its own reward:
Nothing worth doing came easy;
Nine counted less than the one you lost
And the clear, bright notes of your own trumpet
Were a form of noise pollution.

Of all the fears that flourished in that dusty soil
The deepest stares back from the mirror still;
But with your native music, romantic whimsy
And cheerful shrug at all tomorrows
You break the power of my ancient dread
And step into the world with easy, springing stride
Leaving behind the tattered banners
Of my own quiet rebellion.

For my daughter, who is all my greatest hopes and fondest dreams made real. I couldn’t be more proud of her. N.

Dream horse

Let me walk out of this dream
Into a field just touched by morning
There to find a fine horse standing
Low gold fire on his dark back.

I would approach him, hand held out
In truce. Gifts given, he would deign
To have me stroke his arching neck,
Speak softly in his all-hearing ear.

He would understand; we would be friends.
In his bulk and warmth and strength
I would lose my fears, my smallness,
Forget all other things.

He waits for me, quiet and patient
Just beyond the edge of thought.
But still the fence broods, high and solid
And I cannot find the gate.

Hope dawns

Day is not come.
Not quite yet:
Malignancy and malice linger still.

But this is now, at last,
The hour before the dawn
And somewhere in the dark

A throng of birds begins
To sing, full-throated; and soon their song
Will ring unchecked across the land.

Then light will flood the sky
And with it we’ll forget
The night we once believed would never end.


God bless America. The thoughts and hopes of the world are with you. Thank you. And Johnson? You’re next.

Equinox

A radiant rising
In readiness for a gilded mourning.

For a fraction of a fraction of a second
Night and day will stand

Precisely aligned
Perfectly opposed;

The season a bright gold penny
Balanced on its edge.

And in the fraction of a fraction that follows
We start the long drop into dark

From which we wonder
If we will ever emerge

And if we do
What kind of world we’ll find.

So I let our falling star
Copperplate my limbs and face

Breathe the newly sharpened air
Allow myself one more glance back;

The last day of a summer
That never truly was.

Droighneach: Defiance

For the first time in my life I am despairing.
Our worst fears realised: sickness, hatred, strife, corruption
Spreading through the land; our leaders gross, vile, uncaring
As we’re heading, deep in denial, for destruction.

When I was younger, stronger, I might have resisted.
But I no longer have the will to fight; defeated
By depths of greed and lies I never knew existed.
And deed by wicked deed the coup’s completed.

So to the wood, the field. In their quiet rehearsing
Of good, timeless tales, truth is revealed; no agenda.
I regain my voice and strength. The dark is dispersing.
My choice is stark but clear. I will not surrender.

The Celtic droighneach is probably the most challenging form I’ve encountered; although it looks simple enough, to my mind only the sestina comes close in terms of metrical constraints and complexity. It’s so taxing I can manage only about one a year, but it’s always fun to do (in hindsight, and following a stiff drink and a lie down in a darkened room). N.