Thwarted

No torment so sweet
As a brand-new bicycle
Confined to the house
As the rain falls.

The spotless silver chain,
Those glossy black tyres
That smooth, gleaming paint:
I cannot do it –

Something within me rebels
At the very thought
Of knowingly exposing her
To what’s out there:

Bleak roads all awash
Seeded with needle-tipped flints
Slathered with churned filth
Potholes like bomb craters.

Fear not, my lovely.
The moment will come
When, under blue skies,
We finally get acquainted.

 
 

The calendar says it’s spring. The daffodils, primroses, snowdrops, celandines, windflowers and assorted amorous birdlife all concur. The weather, however, is refusing to get with the programme. Profoundly bored of the endless wind and rain now; longing for dry roads and warm, sunny days. N.

Rain

Like I’ve not seen
In many a year;
The riding-through-a-carwash kind
That makes paper bags of clothes
And sieves of shoes.
Blinding, drenching, driving warmth
From face and fingers
Streaming from chin and elbows
Arcing in graceful rooster tails
From sibilant wheels.
Rain that would keep
Anyone slightly sensible
Safe and snug indoors.

Not me.

Bring it. For in that roaring, stinging madness
There is a will
To strive and conquer
A strength undaunted
An iron grip
A laugh that echoes from the woods
And a peace I all too rarely find
When I look for it inside.

Shadorma: A wet Monday

Rain returns
Drowning a week’s dust.
The woods weep
Roads glisten
The down-pipes chuckle, pleased to
Be busy again.

Sit and gaze,
Glad I’m not going
Hauling hay
To dumb sheep
Fixing fence, chasing loose cows,
Forking steaming muck,

Or dragging
Some reluctant nag
From a warm
Dry stable
To plod fetlock-deep, and return
Stiff with mud and cold.

Done all that:
In no real hurry
To go back.
But a bit
Of me still thinks of it as
Real work. Not like this:

Stuck inside
In front of a screen,
Making words
Stand in line,
And only sweating when the
Internet goes down.

Just as well
I have a dog here
Looking up
Eagerly.
Grab coat, hat and boots, head out
To find my old self.

Out there

On such a day
Want
Is not enough; only
Need
Will get you
Out there
In this.

It takes a deep and eager
Hunger
To ride roads emptied by cold’s curfew;
Roll alone
Through dank tunnels of dripping trees,
Sumbit, mute,
To the steaming lorries’ lash
Of fume and filth,
Ignore the creeping chill of water
Closing in on skin,
Jealous of its warmth.

Give me this shot
Of wild weathers:
Let them
Wrack me as they may.
For all their force
They’ll never break
My habit.

Midsummer? (again!)

No drowsy dusk, no scent of elderflower
Or honeysuckle, dog-rose, eglantine
And all the garlands of Titania’s bower
As we poor, foolish mortals now incline
Our closest to the sun. Come solstice night,
I should walk, knee-deep, on the feathered edge
Of moth-soft fields suffused in amber light
While Oberon, enthroned beneath the hedge,
Holds court and toasts the world in golden ale.
Instead, I shiver in the house as rain
Smacks on the glass like grape-shot, and a gale
Roars in from the Atlantic once again.
The weathermen despair: all hope depends
On honest Puck, who shall restore amends.

 

I posted this sonnet on 21 June last year: as you’ll gather, honest Puck has been falling down on the job, and it’s distinctly un-Midsummer-ish here in Sussex this year, too! And to think the nights start drawing in again tomorrow…have a splendid weekend, one and all. N.

Snow joke

The smiling, suited seers had long foretold
Its coming. Now the bitter wind is thick
With it, and whole lands disappear; the cold
Magician works his well-worn conjuring trick
And we are in an older Age once more;
When wolfish winter stalked us and we stood
At bay for months, dependent on our store
Of fodder, and the warmth of wool and wood.
And now it seems that Progress counts for naught.
Our wheels will not avail us; no device
Can liberate our captive country, caught
And held by one hand’s-breadth of hard-packed ice.
For all our cleverness, we’ve been undone.
We’ll go afoot, and so await the sun.

 

Once again, our sceptred isle has been paralysed by a modest, and long-expected, fall of snow: a couple of inches of the blessed stuff and we’re back in the Middle Ages. It’s wearisome, frankly. Stay safe and warm, everybody. N.

A round of rondelets

In rides the rain;
All day the crow-black clouds have grown.
In rides the rain
To lash the sodden land again –
Soak wind-bent thorn, time-scattered stone
And high-hedged lanes I walk alone.
In rides the rain.

Up comes the gale
With teeth and fists and dark intent.
Up comes the gale
As power-lines and barbed wire wail
With twisted trees in shrill lament;
The world the wild wind’s instrument.
Up comes the gale.

Now falls the night;
A lean wolf stalking round the hill.
Now comes the night;
The twilight yields without a fight.
I turn my collar to the chill
But long miles lie before me still.
Now falls the night.

Approach the door:
Old oak, black iron, bolted fast.
Approach the door
Where my road ends; I’ll march no more.
Cast coat and hat aside at last,
Find rest until the storm has passed.
Approach the door.

Beside the fire
With four thick walls enfolding me;
Beside the fire
All journeymen like me desire
Is here: with wine and company,
The hard road’s just a memory
Beside the fire.

The sun appears –
And with it, hope for better things.
The sun appears
To banish night and all its fears,
Strike copper fire on kite’s broad wings
And warm me on my wanderings.
The sun appears.

 

More from our festive sojourn in west Wales, and another form I’d not tried before – the rondelet. Like the triolet, it has a refrain line (A), which in this case appears three times and is written in iambic dimeter; the rest is in iambic tetrameter. The rhyme scheme is AbAabbA.

Having played around with it a bit, I must say I like its straightforwardness and economy. It has a rather ‘naïve art’ feel to it, so I chose simple subjects, which ended up telling an equally uncomplicated story, partly inspired by some memorably weather-beaten walks in the country around my mother-in-law’s house.

As well as the red kite, the wolf, extinct in this islands for almost three centuries, emerged unlooked-for as a recurring theme (can’t quite bring myself to use the term ‘motif’) while we were away. It may have something to do with my reading over the last few weeks, which has consisted largely of the Norse legends and Icelandic sagas! He’ll be back again soon, I’m sure. N.

A trio of triolets

1.

To ride a bike today, a man must be
A hero or a fool. So which am I?
One thing that I can say with certainty:
To ride a bike today, a man must be
Gripped by great need – or why else willingly
Leave warmth behind for hard roads, hostile sky?
To ride a bike today, a man must be
A hero or a fool. So which am I?

2.

The mistletoe hangs in the empty hall
And somebody is knocking at the door.
A year’s passed since you promised me you’d call.
The mistletoe hangs in the empty hall:
To let my hopes rise is to risk a fall;
And yet, what else have I been wishing for?
The mistletoe hangs in the empty hall
And somebody is knocking at the door.

3.

He haunts the hedge; longdogs pad, patient, behind.
No intention of heading home hungry tonight.
With his eyes on the field and a kill on his mind,
He haunts the hedge; longdogs pad, patient, behind.
Wary, quick as the rabbits he’s hoping to find,
Checks the lamp, whets his knife in the fast-failing light.
He haunts the hedge; longdogs pad, patient, behind.
No intention of heading home hungry tonight.

 

For my final post before Christmas, I thought I’d experiment with a form I’ve never tried before. The triolet is rather haughtily dismissed in one of my books as ‘slight’, which I think is a little unfair. Originally, it was used for quite weighty subjects, but for reasons unclear it came to be a ‘light verse’ form, reserved for the frothy and the fanciful. I thought I’d try to redeem it, at least a little, and quickly discovered that it’s both more complex and more versatile than it first appears. The rhyme scheme is an interesting one – ABaAabAB – with the first two lines (AB) repeated at the end, the first line (A) popping up again as line 4, and only two rhymes for the whole thing. Having written one it seemed inevitable that I should write a trio of triolets, just to explore the possibilities. Since there’s no set metre for the triolet, the first two are in iambic pentameter, because I can’t help myself these days, while the third uses stressed syllables by way of a change. I shall definitely be writing in this form again.
I shall be off the grid for the next few days, so let me take this opportunity to wish every one of you a very happy Christmas, and a peaceful and joyous New Year. My heartfelt thanks, as always, for your encouragement and fellowship – God bless us, WordPress poets, every one. N.

Un jour sans

Washed out once more: confined, kept off the bike
By work and weather. Pros will talk about
Le jour sans. Says it all – the ‘day without’ –
And though I’ve no conception what it’s like
To ride for cash and glory, I can share
That gnawing emptiness; curse as the day
Goes down the road without me, with no way
To reel it in; that delicate despair.
And so tomorrow, I’ll get in a break,
Go off the front à bloc and leave the pack
Behind, make my escape and not look back.
A bold move, but the one I have to make.
No maillot jaune – my sole prize is the ride.
Without it, I am not myself inside.

No Eldorado

 

The streets here are not paved with gold. Their shine
Is not the gleam of ingots, but the glare
Of sunlight on wet tarmac. And they’re mine
For now; it seems no-one’s inclined to share
A stormy Sunday afternoon with me
Out on the road. No, they’re all snug inside
With post-lunch television, cups of tea
And slumber. It’s left up to me to ride
These plated lanes alone. The bike, hand-made
From steel and aluminium, tipped with chrome,
Cuts through this metalled landscape like a blade;
Quicksilver flashing down the hill for home.
I have no gold or silver to my name.
But there are riches here that I may claim.

 

Even though I detest sport, I love major sporting occasions, because if everyone’s inside watching the TV, it means the roads are quiet. As you can imagine, during yesterday’s Wimbledon tennis final, featuring the first Brit for 76 years, I had Sussex pretty much to myself. The weather wasn’t great, but the solitude was wonderful. N.