Night charm

And so it is and so it goes and so
The day goes down and down now goes the day.
And when the day goes down where does it go
To watch and wait, and will I find the way?
And this is this and that is that and there
The night comes in and in now comes the night;
And who is who and what is what and where
Are we in all of this? No sound, no sight.
But step by step and by and by it brings
A dream of then and now and yet to be;
And in that moment, suddenly all things
Are seen and comprehended perfectly.
And thus it ends and ends now thus my rhyme
Upon the brink of sleep, and edge of time.

Dog dreams

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He sprawls
On a deep white sheepskin.
The black stove’s heat
Draws him back
To summer days, spread like a blanket
On the sun-warmed sand.

Feet flick in sudden spasm,
Galvanised by phantom rabbits:
In this new universe
He wears cat’s claws
And in the treetops
The squirrels have stopped laughing.

One eye upturned
Haw-hooded, a frozen pool.
Deep in his wordless mysteries
He runs alone, unowned, unmastered
On private paths and secret ways
I cannot know or follow.

One last doha

Sometimes in sleep I walk the forest, wrapped in bear-skins,
Giving voice to tree and river, sky and stone.

Or ride a clean-limbed horse across the high dun prairie
Tuned in to the silent song of wind-washed grass.

Of nights my restless mind runs frantic through lampless streets,
A blade in every shadow, I will not speak;

Nor of sheet-twisting hours caught on some lightning-laced cliff,
My eyes and soul drawn ever towards the drop.

Today I wake to sun, empty roads, the west wind’s kiss.
What dream could conjure such a world, or promise?

 

 

Loving the doha, so just one more before I move on to something else! The first two lines were given to me by my friend, mentor and inspiration Thomas Davis, for whom no praise is too high, or expression of gratitude sufficient. N.

Union Pacific

Wish I could buy me a ticket
For the Union Pacific:

I might go to Idaho, lie low in New Mexico,
Hear that lonesome whistle moan across the sage in Arizona
Or the roaring of the motor on the road to Minnesota.
Wander far in Iowa, spend days roaming in Wyoming;
Watch a mile-long line of freight wind across the Sunshine State,
Armor Yellow and Old Glory flying proudly through Missouri.

Texarkana to Topeka, San Francisco to Chicago
Arkansas and Colorado, Texas, Utah, Tennessee:
Oklahoma and Nevada, Illinois, Louisiana
Manifests from east to west. But there ain’t no ride for me.

Long ago I could have planned to take the fabled Overland
Hopped the City of Salina or the westbound Columbine.
Now intermodal double-stacks and bulk coalporters own the tracks;
For the drifters and the dreamers it’s the end of the line.

Still, I can take a journey just by reading down the list
Of the states and mighty cities spread through Uncle Pete’s domain.
And perhaps some day I’ll stand beside the line and raise my hand
To the shade of Casey Jones – but I’ll get there on a plane.

 
 

If, like me, you love railways, living in Britain is like being a vegetarian in Texas. Our railways are under-funded, overcrowded, and have the most expensive fares in Europe, if not the world. As the journalist Matthew Engel says in his witty and erudite book Eleven Minutes Late, they’re regarded as a national joke, when in fact they’re a national disaster.
Post-privatisation, we have a plethora of different companies running our trains, and not one of them has a name so resonant as the Union Pacific, which operates across more than 20 US states from Washington to Wisconsin. These days, it’s freight-only: passenger traffic ceased in 1971.
For my generation in particular, much about America remains impossibly romantic. To my US readers, names like Topeka, Wichita, Kansas City and Chicago probably sound as enticingly exotic as, say, Doncaster, Swindon or Crewe might to us here in the UK. Yet to me, they read like an incantation, summoning visions of empty lands and wide horizons. I’m sure the reality is nothing like my dreams. But for now, dreams is all I got.

Night light

We sit and watch the candle burning down,
Its fleeting flame unsteady as the white
Wax turns to water, lapping at the light.

How long before we see it gasp and drown,
Abandoning us to the circling night?
We sit and watch the candle burning down.

And slowly, too, our dreams are overthrown;
Consumed by all that made them burn so bright.
Long miles from sleep, and yet too tired to fight,
We sit and watch the candle burning down.

 

Another Chaucerian rondel. My daughter (unwittingly) gave me the refrain line a few evenings ago, but it’s taken me until now to find the time to do something with it. N.

Ruba’i: If wishes were horses

There is a horse for me to ride
Out there, my brand burned on his hide
His bay coat shining in the sun
With all the country open wide

Before us, and we’re free to run:
We’ve paid our dues, the work’s all done.
And so we’ll roam the smiling land
Our minds in tune, our wills as one.

This horse of mine’s a real hand;
He knows his stuff, and has the sand
To go all day, then go some more.
We need no words: we understand

Each other perfectly. I’m sure
He reads my thoughts: even before
I’ve asked, he’ll speed up, turn or slow
Then bring me safely to my door.

He is not real, of course. I know
He’s just a crazy dream, and so
I guess I should just let him go.
But it’s so hard to let him go.

Back to life

 

So now the dream is passing once again
Into the shadows, and my soul is still.
I dodged the bullet: no rash moves, no pain
Or harm done – this time – by my fickle will.
I guess I’m grateful all is now serene
And ordered, as it was a week ago
Before thoughts of what-if and might-have-been
Burst through, disrupting life’s safe, simple flow.
It may be weeks, months – years – till they return
But I must be prepared in heart and mind:
Count blessings, look around me, breathe, and learn
To live the here-and-now, not look behind.
For all is well, and I have many ways
Of finding space and daring in my days.

Dream state

Dreams. Boy, they’re trouble we can do without:
They shake our certainties, disturb the day
And introduce an element of doubt
That makes us wonder where we lost our way.
And so we tell ourselves we must get real –
Abandon thoughts of living lives unknown
But somehow stirring us inside – and feel
We’ve saved ourselves from things best left alone.
But there are people in this world whose dreams
Refuse to do the decent thing and die.
They are called Men. I’m one of them, it seems:
I cannot let mine go; Lord knows I try.
This vision has sustained me through long years.
It comes and goes. But never disappears.

 

This sonnet was inspired by (and incorporates much of) a very uplifting comment I received on my previous post from David. Thank you, my friend, as always.

Fenced in

I have no endless prairie, no great plain;
No mesas rising from a sagebrush sea
Or mountains walling up my western sky.
No buckskin horse, a partner on the trail
With cutting witchcraft bred in blood and bone
And courage that comes out in mad glissades
Of canyon sides, a fall of flesh and stone.
No hide-warmed leather’s creak, no old rimfire
Or saddle-horn to take my dallies round.
No riding drag with only dust to eat;
No rock-ringed fire, no coffee brewed so strong
A horseshoe floats upon it. No corral
Red barn or pick-up truck, no gravel road
To some snug cabin hidden in the pines.
The open range I thought I had is fenced
Subdued and settled, parcelled up and sold
To strangers. There’s no room to spread a loop
Without a fencepost catching it. And so
Afoot in all these acres I once rode
I watch the clouds, and listen to the wind
That hisses, mocking, in the gleaming wire.