A compact black Zen priest,
he sits in the exact centre
of a perfectly green field.
In the early morning mist,
in the blistering noon heat,
in the fading colours of dusk.
Master of alert meditation.
His body is humming with
the mantra of swift death.
Such innocence. Such faith.
They are long gone.
Long gone from the now tame valley of the Saane.
In olden times
they were abroad here, fleeing from storms
and sheer starvation:
the wild blond-bearded men dragging baggage
of tattered womenfolk
and meagre, filthy pigs and children; desperate
for shelter and a home
in our inhospitable, narrow mountain valleys.
They’re just a rumour now,
lost in a legend. Only some autumn nights,
when storms rage
all around the comfortable farmhouse
and the sturdy stable,
we keep the lantern burning in the kitchen
and huddle close, hearing
the harsh barbaric voices, hammering fists
on double-bolted doors,
dogs whimpering, the desperate lowing
of the cattle as
the seven thousand Friesians stare at us
from empty sockets
on their endless aimless journey in the dark.
A few millennia hence
(fresh from inventing
the shovel and the spade)
those who came after us
will be chancing upon
an ancient sign bearing
an opaque message from
a more illuminated time:
a smiling Death’s-head
on fluorescent yellow,
radiating magic rays.
they will start digging.
Where will the tide of ancient oaks spend itself?
Swell upon swell it runs towards the horizon,
the rasp of a thousand cicadas a second tide
in the almost night air. Three stars are out.
In the middle distance, the lights of a village
hover between waking and sleep;
beyond, in that glow between earth and sky
faint inklings of Siena or Florence.
the rimless pool
last vessel of spirituality
mildly chlorinated transcendence
as if you could simply
swim out there
Tide of birdsong washing over the pillow,
morning light zebrastriping the wall.
I surface to bubbles of drowsy excitement
drifting from under the bed.
The old dog is dreamhunting again.
Fug of ancient canine wafts up
like a comfortable, friendly embrace.
The world is at peace.
of a Persian blue pond
leaked out of time;
of leaves turning and
snow on the world;
of the infrasonic boom
of the planet’s lonely flight;
of the missing entries
in the log of the Marie Celeste;
of these unfolding stalks of light
(sea anemones of the soul);
out of confusion, as the way is,
and the chaos –