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

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


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
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.


Rough plough
The furrows’ edges like ancient walls
Awaiting their final ruin.

Rooks swirl
Like tattered umbrellas blown aloft
Caught between soil and sky.

Bare trees
Beech, ash and oak in hedgerows, by headlands,
Twist in the wind’s busy fingers.

Brown stream
Bides its time, brooding, building its strength
Slyly testing its banks.

Dark clouds
Raise ramparts and towers beyond the far hills
Ready to settle everything.

Little nature poem on the day the [third in four years] general election campaign gets fully under way. It all feels hopeless, pointless and ultimately doomed; nothing will be properly ‘settled’ by this farrago, but events beyond our control will finally seal our benighted country’s fate. Trying to be optimistic, but it’s hard. N.


This the subatomic beat of unrecorded time
That accommodates infinity
And where all may be accomplished or undone:

The fraction of a fraction of an inch
Between the fugitive’s foot and the treacherous twig
The curious outstretched finger and the flame;

The millionth of a millionth of a moment
Before two fenders touch, the rope gives way
The bullet strikes, the dagger’s tip breaks skin;

The last chance of a last chance to decide
To burn the letter, cap the pen
Bite back the fateful word.

A house of cards, a coin stood on its edge.
We hold our breath, dare not move
And pray for night to end.


I wrote this piece after walking the dog the other night, following the latest round of stomach-churning, heart-in-mouth votes in the House of Commons that could have propelled us headlong out of the European Union this time next week. (It might still happen, of course, but it’s becoming increasingly pointless trying to follow events in Westminster, much less predict them.) N.