Ode to joy

The oboe’s strident note is far too loud
For my small house; it needs a grander space.
The trumpet, too, and bombarde are endowed
With voices that would overwhelm this place.
I’ve no time for the bagpipes or spinet
The ocarina, cor anglais or lyre,
The tuba, tabor, fife or clarinet
(Recorders are fit only for the fire).
My heart belongs to that sweet silver sound
That rises like the larks’ song over all;
One moment high and shrill, then rich and round
As Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I am in thrall
To one alone, so offer this salute
To woodwind’s side-on miracle: the flute.

Another iambic pentameter sonnet, I’m afraid – please forgive me. My fault for coming home last night from an excellent community orchestra rehearsal and then watching Kenneth Branagh in Henry V.



High flyers

All morning
in that huge space
hushed as a church
They showed me how they take
metal, wood, leather, paint
long patient hours
and with them make
four-wheeled palaces for princes
players, plutocrats:
The stuff we’re meant to dream of.

Only later, when I watched
four swans
unfurl themselves like magnolia flowers
then run
heavy, ponderous as bombers
grey feet slapping
wide wings whistling,
willing them
off the gripping water
and away
towards the island

Did I see something
that stopped me still
held my eyes
made my heart hammer

and all that manufactured art
was whirled away
like fallen feathers
by things no hand created.


After a visit to the Rolls-Royce factory. It was a work thing. Don’t think I’ll be buying one any time soon.

Rock ‘n’ roll dreams

Guitar zero

I cannot play guitar although I tried so very hard to,
Like Eric Clapton, David Gilmour or The Edge from U2
Heard Slash from Guns ‘N Roses and I yearned to make an axe sing
Like him, but found his power chords and riffs were much too taxing.
Two decades after Bryan Adams got his first real six-string
I’d played it till my fingers bled but soon discovered mixing
Rock-and-roll with working wasn’t good for my career, so
I cast away my youthful dream to be a guitar hero.
And now I’m nearly forty-three, aware I’ll never master
The magic and the mystery of the Fender Stratocaster.
Keith Richards, Satriani and the rest need never fear me:
I’ll stick to what I know (three chords). Be grateful you can’t hear me.

Sonnet: Green field site

They broke me in the morning of the world.
With iron axes, oxen, fire and toil
They stripped me of my trees. A dark smoke curled
Into the sudden sky. My restless soil
Awakened by those ancients has not slept
These thousand years. Each autumn I’ve been torn
By plough and harrow; every winter kept
The new seed safe; in summer felt the corn
Stir with the wind, but never will again.
The concrete pours, the excavators bite:
My acres, seamed with sewer, duct and drain,
Will yield two hundred houses, packed in tight.
They’re breaking me again, and in a year
You’ll see no sign that I was ever here.

End of season

All that remains

The campsite is empty now:
The caravans and motorhomes are gone,
The tents and awnings are packed away.
All that remains is the sea.

The caravans and motorhomes are gone,
Across the Breton border, the Channel and the Rhine
Full of sand, baguette crumbs, and memories.

The tents and awnings are packed away,
Those magic spaces, homes that vanish so completely
We wonder they were ever there.

All that remains is the sea.
Indifferent to our human tide that flows in May
And, with October and summer’s end, quietly ebbs away.


My first attempt at a trimeric: thank you to Ina for inspiring me.

Breaking new ground

My own furrow

The man with the five-furrow
Reversible rig ploughs twenty acres
Of bristling, thistling stubble
Motley with pigeon, rook and gull,
Releasing soil-scents
Sharp as horse-sweat, apple-fresh.

At the gate, watching,
I must beware,
Not wish myself behind the wheel
Watching the clay pour over silver mouldboards
Behind me, burying a summer
That died before its time:

The jolly ploughman never lived
Except in songs
That few can now recall,

And were I confined
To that big New Holland
Four wheels would soon a prison make.
I must settle to my allotted labour
Till my own ground
Raise my own dust
With such implements as I have,
And hope, one day,
To bring a harvest home.