I lift you up gently –
look, this is how we do it –
into the cradle of my arms.
I feel your solid weight,
breathe in your smell
of old dog asleep.
I carry you down
into the garden and
set you down softly
as I used to
for so many days
when you were alive
and let you go.
Should I feel lost these days
I will unfold my trusty Ordnance Survey map –
brittle from many a soaking, sunshine, sweat;
and though it is coming apart at the creases,
and yellowish areas of terra incognita
are spreading out from frayed edges,
when I take off my glasses to peer
at the whorls, dots, cabbalistic symbols,
I think I can make out where I’m at – look:
miles north of this place called Despondency,
and – except for a ravine and some ridges –
not far, not so far south of Contentment at all.
so somewhere in China
a new kind of virus breeds
they say bats are involved
and open markets and now
it spreads and breeds
new verbs so now we’re
with the best of them
and all out of face masks
and the shelves empty of bog rolls
surely someone somewhere
must be sitting on millions of them
taking a gleeful crap
in the lap of luxury
the selfish asshole
and in the twilight
you walk the dog
the blinds are down and
the shutters closed
provoking medieval visions
how they’re all lying dead
behind those blind windows but
the day was absurdly clear and bright
and there’s a golden moon in the sky
and one golden star
he just stands there.
milky eyes unfocused.
sans teeth –
Whether he’s lost,
wondering where he’s at;
he’s following a fox
into the undergrowth
while you, helpless,
call his name
until he bursts from bushes
that he cannot tell you.
That is for you to decide.
Time to take the dog out
into pale sun.
Pleasant enough walking,
until we reach
the dark curtain of fir trees
where the path,
rising, turns to ice.
As if on cue the noon bell rings:
time to turn back.
After all, we’re no spring chickens;
we’ve been to that top before,
know that view;
why bother? After all, it’s only
the first day of a whole new year.
So we go on.
The wagtails anyway looked lively
and the freshly shorn sheep were bleating.
The place was deserted. The monks long gone;
the car park empty; the hotel closed.
Only a very old couple were limping
in the skeleton of Llanthony Priory:
the walking wounded…
I put a spring in my step; felt a twinge
in my back, a cold wind on my neck.
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near?
but wasn’t it lovely –
Across the fields to Llangattock.
At the top of the hill
the latch clangs back on the metal gate.
The canal sleeps on.
Two boats, barely moving
on still brown water.
A hiker; exchange of a nod.
Perfect reflections of foliage.
Unseen flutter of wings;
the call of a wood pigeon.
Fat stone bridges.
The sound of my footsteps.
I too would have liked
to write about fog but
the Big Boys intervened,
told me to shut up:
they’d been there,
done the poems,
had the T-shirts printed.
So here I sit
a pale sun melt
what could’ve been
my poem – all fourteen
glorious fucking lines of it.
Oh but don’t touch him. This you may do:
let the auricle trap the ghostly filaments
of his dreams; let malleus, incus and stapes
deliver them into the cochlea’s sanctum.
Don’t speak to him. But this you may do:
Let the intangible particles of his slumber
be warmed by keen turbinates, let them
drop anchor in the olfactory epithelium.
Stay! Do not move. Though this you may do:
wave by invisible sine wave, let the heave
of his night hunt pierce the cornea, traverse
the bulbus oculi, and enter the retina.
Do not presume further. This must suffice –
there are lines which shall not be crossed,
lands which uninitiated feet may not tread.
Time itself will stop for an old dog asleep.
a cotton wool tide laps
drops to reveal
the green valley, grey
then billows up
to smother window, view
and the house.
Amid the creak of
the rafters, the chimney’s
Now you see it –
now you don’t.