Big step

I have boots to go walking
In rain, mud and snow;
I have black shiny numbers
To wear should I go
To a wedding or funeral
Or a big interview:
But I’ve nothing, my love,
To go dancing with you.

I have trainers for training
Bike shoes for the bike;
Flip-flops for a holiday
More boots for a hike;
All occasions are covered
Save for one, sad but true:
I have nothing to pull on
And go dancing with you.

How did I let this happen
What was my big mistake?
When did I get distracted
Which wrong path did I take?
It’s a damn poor reflection
When I can’t even choose
To take my true love dancing
Just because I’ve no shoes.

It’s a bad situation
I won’t take any more:
Going to find me some footwear
And step out on that floor.
There’s so much in this life
That leaves me feeling blue:
But tonight I’ll be happy
When I’m dancing with you.

Droighneach: Back on track

You have not changed: it’s me. I’ve been distracted
By events, become estranged from you: unlearning
All I knew and understood, my view refracted
Through dark prisms; all good things lost. But I’m returning.

I let myself be taken. Dumb and dutiful
I joined the fight. Chain yanked, cage shaken, I ignited;
Burned hot and strong awhile, but nothing beautiful
Formed in that flame; no song beguiled, no line delighted.

Please: show me all I’ve missed; the slow revolving
Of the seasons; days kissed by early snow, descending
Into winter’s night, rising to summer, dissolving
In fire and bright gold as the great wheel turns, unending.

By long ways round I stand back where my road divided.
A wrong turn? Perhaps: yet it showed my true endeavour
Is to be your voice, speak your truth. I have decided,
Made my choice. And so to work; today, and forever.

 
 

Continuing from yesterday’s post, I’m making a conscious return to the forms and themes I was exploring – and enjoying – before the events of 2016 and afterwards knocked me off course. I thought my duty as a writer was to join the war effort; but there are many, many others far better qualified who can make bigger and more meaningful contributions to those debates than I ever could. And it turns out I’m not a fighter anyway; it just makes me miserable.
One could argue (and I have told myself for years) that writing about the beauties of the world is pointless, frivolous and self-indulgent, when there is so much hard, real, dangerous stuff to deal with. But I’ve found that road, for me at least, leads nowhere good. It’s time to accept my purpose lies elsewhere and believe it has a value; somewhere, somehow.
Anyway. I felt the need to stretch my writing muscles again – and nothing stretches ’em like the droighneach. (Apart from the sestina, but that’s for another day.) I haven’t attempted this fiendish form for about five years, and now I know why: it is a refined and exquisite torment, made up of four-line stanzas (as many as you can stand) of nine to 13 syllables, with at least one cross-rhyme between the first and second line (eg long/wrong, road/showed) and third and fourth line (voice/choice) in each. Oh, and there’s the small matter of the ABAB rhyme scheme; AND that every line has to end on a three-syllable word. It was quite the tussle, and I’m still not sure who came out on top, but I feel SO much better for it! N.

Returning

For Thomas Davis

To wander is the privilege of youth;
Explore new lands, sleep under different skies,
Run lightly through the world, uncover truth
Through work, play and the counsel of the wise.
We follow diverse paths en route to find
The true course of our lives; these are the years
To test and try; make up, then change, our mind,
When all we have to lose is sleep, and tears.
Now I am old – or old enough to know
When time’s right to retire my travelling shoes
And settle to the row that’s mine to hoe:
Take up the tools I best know how to use.
How far I’ve come to find myself back here;
My strength restored, my path and purpose clear.

Baggage

Sharp tang of jet fuel
In the quick-clouding autumn air.

Redolent of adventure
And unconsidered action:

Black leafless birches and moonlit snow
Above sixty-six degrees;

Creaking saddles and boyhood dreams
Beneath the western pines;

The earth’s bones breaking through rusty dirt
On the dreaming plain.

Fragments of lost lives, long-departed versions of myself
Like the last suitcases on the carousel

Slowly circling, slowly circling
Never to be reclaimed.

 
 

At Gatwick Airport railway station, November 2019

Day 18,627

No fanfare, flags, no big parade;
A blanket ban on brouhaha

At my insistence:
Not my style.

Still, dutifully
I cast back a weary eye and jagged mind

Rewind the rusting, ever-running clock,
Review and reconsider;

And with a certain sadness
But no surprise at all

Discover things are more or less
Exactly as I left them.

 
 

Nid vide

And with that
She’s gone
Again.

The bedroom door is closed
(As usual)
But now just to contain
The silence
That lies upon the place long after
The last trace of perfume fades.

I strain
To hear her desk-chair creak
Her cell-phone buzz
A sudden burst of song
As though a window cracked in heaven.
Knowing doesn’t stop me wishing.

Not that I
Would have it any other way:
She’s in her moment
A new star in ascendency;
The leaves fall, the swifts fly south
And so the great wheel turns.

And with that
I’m back
Again.

 
 

Our daughter has returned to university today after her long weekend at home. The house suddenly seems very quiet, and we miss her terribly, but she’s in absolutely the right place, doing absolutely the right thing, which makes letting her go a lot easier. All is well. (She’s studying French, hence the title!) N.

Turning the tide

Big yellow machines
Crawl over the shingle
Like an armoured division
On a seaside day out;
A Tonka Toy D-Day
Securing the beachhead
Advancing westwards
Ten tonnes at a time.

Shifting and shaping
Loading and levelling
Leaving their track-treads
Ribbed in the stones;
Taking dominion
Imposing order
Shoving the longshore drift
Into reverse.

Yet as they labour
Grey-green waves gather
Freighted with foam
And the weight of the world;
Undertow churning
Breaking in thunder
Laughing at diesel
Hydraulics and steel.

Haul down the standard
Hand in our weapons
Know when we’re beaten
Withdraw from the field.
Or dig in deeper
Shore up our defences
Think of our loved ones
And fight to the end?

 
 

A couple of weeks ago, I took a ride to Seaford on the Sussex coast, where the local authorities are engaged in one of their periodic attempts to redistribute the beach shingle, which the sea relentlessly transports from west to east in a process known as longshore drift. Even as the phalanx of heavy machinery toiled, a powerful westerly drove huge waves against the beach, underscoring the ultimate futility of the endeavour. I was a boy once, so I enjoyed watching it all and wanted to write about it: it took me until yesterday to make the election connection. N.

Home run

There is
(Probably)
A perfect poem
For precisely this moment:
One that captures in a few short lines
The exact feeling
Of sitting up in bed
As night draws in
When long hours of rain have ceased
The fire has burned low
The ale-mug is empty
And a newly-returned beloved child
Sleeps softly in the next-door room.
What a poem
That would be;
And how blessed the man
Who gets to write it.

 
 

This weekend, we’ve been treated to a visit from our daughter, who’s halfway through her first term at university. The iPhone and FaceTime mean she’s much less ‘gone’ than we were when we made the same leap 30 years ago, but they’re no substitute for the real girl. How utterly wonderful she is. N.

Democratic deficit

How do you choose
When there’s no real choice.
How are we heard
When we have no voice.
What is fair play
When all players cheat
Who wins when all roads
Lead to defeat.
Where is the truth
In the obvious lies
The statements that shock
But no longer surprise.
How do we stand
On this soft, shifting ground
When all tongues are tied
And all hands are bound.
What hope for hope
In this swirling despair
What chance for dreams
When no one will dare.
What will remain
When everything’s lost
Who pays the price
And who counts the cost.