Green shoots?

A run of bladed, jetstream-jagged days
Ends in a windless dusk. Bold blackbirds sing
Down in the wood; a pale rosewater haze
Makes paper cut-outs of the hills. Now spring
Has shown herself; a hope so long suppressed
By bitter blows and wicked weathers’ sting
Glows like the trembling sun that fires the west.
But do we dare set blossom, bud or flower
When still, at any time, the wind may turn
And rake us with its icy claws; an hour
Condemn a season’s patient growth to burn?
I’ll see the greenwood burst in leaf and then
Believe that winter will not bite again.

Tailed sonnet: Confession

Too long I’ve sat in silence in this cell.
Come, guards, unlock the door: it’s way past time
To step into the searchlight beam and tell
The truth, confess the catalogue of crime
I have committed in the name of duty:
Twisted my mother tongue, made her a liar,
Robbed her at gunpoint of her strength and beauty,
Stripped her of virtue, put her up for hire.
I just did as they told me; but excuses
Rehearsed through time unmeasured will not clean
The slate, absolve me of my vile abuses;
My fingerprints still dot the dreadful scene.
Pray God, the Queen and Shakespeare may forgive:
The humble English poet has to live
          And find a way, according to his lights,
          To hold to truth, yet set aside his joy
          In craft and meaning; bend his back to plough
          A barren soil; and wonder as he writes
          What fear compels his masters to employ
          So many words to say so little now.


In the middle of a long work jag, hence not much to see here lately. I’m working on some big corporate projects, which is death by a thousand clichés, but a man has to live. And whatever torments I visit on our long-suffering language in the name of making a buck, it’s nothing to what the suits get up to if left to themselves…
As so often, I’m indebted to Tom Davis for the impetus behind this poem – my first attempt at a tailed sonnet. The sonnet itself is, of course, your basic Shakespearean (a creature of habit, I) but with a few feminine endings sneaked in by way of variety. The coda is a simple abcabc, which may not be right, but I had to start somewhere! I like the couplet ending on the Shakespearean sonnet – it has the satisfying feel of a heavy door slamming shut when you finally get it – but I found the tail gave an opportunity to keep exploring, take ideas a bit further, and finish in a more contemplative mood. It’s not perfect, but right now, I’m just happy to be writing. N.

Comfort zone

Wish I could have one of those ‘comfort zones’
They talk so much about. A place of ease,
Calm and contentment, where my faithless bones
Would never ache, my mind would never freeze
In terror of the blank page; where I’d walk
The woods, play my guitar, watch freight trains roll,
Ride bikes and horses, drink cold beer and talk
About the deep things stirring in my soul.
In all my years and miles, I’ve never found
That sacred state where I’m in full command
Of how and when, and feel there’s solid ground
Beneath my feet, and everything’s in hand.
Can’t understand why they’d have me believe
Once found, this is a place I’m meant to leave.


The irony being, of course, that this is yet another Shakespearean sonnet 🙂 Have a fine weekend, everyone. N.

Shakespearean sonnet: Love and marriage

There’s not much left now. All that stuff, brand-new,
We unwrapped, gasping, twenty years ago
Has faded, been passed on, expired, worn through
Or simply vanished. Little did we know
That toaster would explode, those shining pans
Burn black, the glasses chip, the gleaming knives
Turn dull, plates end up mismatched. Some grand plans
Got mislaid, too, somehow. But what survives
We had no need to list; came with no box
Or owner’s manual, spares or guarantee.
It’s just kept right on working, stood life’s shocks
And daily labours; quietly, constantly.
A gift we gave each other with no strings.
Still ours when we have lost all other things.


This isn’t my usual line of country, but we’ve been invited to a wedding in May, which got me thinking about wedding gifts, and then our own forthcoming 21st anniversary this summer. Love changes with life and time, but for us, at least, it keeps soldiering on somehow. I guess we’re the lucky ones. N.