Workspace

The constant clicking of black plastic keys
Like rodents scratching, as we stiffly sit
In silence, staring at our screens; release
Four flat hours off. Sound-proofed, fluorescent-lit,
The office keeps the untamed air at bay
Where it belongs. The only wood to see
Is desks; no green thing grows; and fleeting day
Is glimpsed through glass as trees wave helplessly.
And this they call the Real World – the place
We’re all intended for, prepared from birth
To enter; this small, subjugated space
Our portion of the riches of the earth.
Connected to the planet, we’re removed
From all the ancients understood and loved.

Hunting rainbows

 

The clouds have rolled in. Warning drops in the air.
I’m miles from home, on a hilltop somewhere.
But I’m not heading in. No: it’s time to prepare
For a new task. I’ll go hunting rainbows.

Seems the weather divinities aren’t going to let
This chance to half-drown me escape them. They’ve set
Their rain-dog pack on me. Don’t mind getting wet:
It’s a small price to pay, hunting rainbows.

Though it may only last for a scant quarter-hour
There’s a magical side to this sharp April shower –
Over sunlight it has a miraculous power.
Now’s my moment to start hunting rainbows.

The clouds crack. The sun splits a curtain of rain.
I look to the eastern sky. There, once again,
Old Richard of York’s giving battle in vain:
But I’ve carried the day, hunting rainbows.

And forget the tall tales our grandmothers told
About finding the end and that big crock of gold:
There’s a treasure right here we can have and behold
Any time we go out hunting rainbows.

 

Got caught in the rain on the bike yesterday. This happens a lot, but under the right conditions it’s not without its upside. You just have to know where to look for it.

My phone camera wasn’t man enough to get a decent picture, so the image is an arc-en-ciel that appeared over the sea in Brittany a couple of summers back. N.

En attendant l’hiver

The hardest 100 days

A warmth, not unwelcome,
But strange, unsettling,
Lingers in the land
Like a swallow
Uncertain of the way to Africa.

It will be gone
Soon:

I felt it on today’s descents,
The air pooling in the dips
With a graveyard-at-midnight chill.

Then the real cold will fall
Unwelcome as the big gas bill
That surely follows it
Distant but devoted
As a stray dog.

And with it will begin
The hardest hundred days:
Of thick clay dinner-plates
Stuck to boot-soles,
Wet waxed cotton and whippet-coats
Hanging in the hallway,
Bicycles brought home
Muddied like hunters,
Old cracks and wounds in finger-ends
Split open like beech-bark.

And for all its wet and weariness
There’ll never be a minute
I’d rather sit inside and watch
Than be out living in it.

From Brittany #2

Word hunting

The words I seek
Don’t live in my town

But out here,
Wild,

Shining, sea-wet, in the sand
Flying in skeins

Resting on rocks
Or perched in trees

Half-seen out at sea
Or round sudden bends in the narrow cliff-path.

With the poacher’s patience
And fisherman’s finesse

I can catch them
Hold them for a moment

Before they wriggle free
Leaving only their warmth behind.

And a single juicy one in the bag
Is all it takes to feed me.

 

Fields of fire

Night fighters

A white beam
Sweeps the midnight fields
Like a hand searching under a bed.
Grass-blades caught beneath its bright gleam
Bristle black; a million tiny gnomons
Telling the rapid hours
Of this unwonted, sudden sun.
The woods recoil before
The engine’s heavy throb,
And poplars flare
Like burning buildings
In the tail-lights’ angry glare.

Two shots.

The echo rolls
And ricochets around the farm.
Keep your head down, Reynard;
Squeeze tight the shining eyes
That will betray you
And seek the shelter of the earth.

At half a mile, my skin grows tight
Waiting for the spent stray’s bite;

Then wonder. The hunting dog is gone
In search of rabbits on the wrong
Side of the hedge. Caught in the edge
Of that cruel light, a half-second’s untutored sight
Of that long nose and wolfish gait
Would be enough to seal his fate.
I call him, with the sickened urgency
Of frantic fathers trapped in Tripoli
When unseen hunters rip their night
With noise, and death’s unholy light.

Close encounter

To boldly go

In his overalls, bulky boots
And thick fleece hat pulled right down over his ears
He lumbers, slow, stiff-legged,
Over the sodden ground
Like a spaceman on an alien planet
Where the atmosphere’s thin and bitter cold
And the gravity’s turned right up.

The mission commander remains behind
On the quad-bike that squats like a moon-buggy
On its fat balloon tyres
And from the seat, he barks peremptory orders
At the half-dozen sheep
Gathering round the trough,
Grateful for this daily visitation
From another world.

I saw this little scene played out on a dog-walk in Wales the other week. I think the whippet (who was wearing his fleece jacket at the time) felt rather inadequate when he saw the collie standing on the quad-bike seat in the freezing wind, barking joyously, having almost certainly spent the night outdoors too. I was certainly conscious that I’m not nearly tough enough for a life like that. Then again, how many of us are?

Colours of day

Sky-writing

Grey
is the colour of getting things done;
a day
at my desk,
driving,
unbegrudged domestics.

White
could go either way

But blue –

Blue
is an invitation
to truancy,
laughing, teasing
with outstretched hands
and promises

a girl in a meadow
in her light summer dress

and she knows
I can’t resist.