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 –
No hermit now at Patrishow
above the valley of the Grwyne Fawr.
The gifts left at the Holy Well
forlorn; the grey church silent.
Snail shells lie scattered on a stone.
The thrush who guards this place
has found a use for an old grave.
He hops from stone to branch, serene.
He knows we are just passing.
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.
The asylum is vast and state-of-the-art
and you have to admire
the single-mindedness of the inmates
they spend every waking hour
computing arcane calculations
assembling monstrous machines
long after the sun has sunk and
the sane seek sleep
as the cold marble rolls
slowly across the sky
their restlessness increases
imagine their fierce dedication
only sometimes a yelp can be heard
or low keening or fully-fledged howl
imagine the terrible itching
of their coarse grey hide
when the sphere has grown full
it is true that abandoned children
cry for food and
fighting has started outside the walls
but you have to admire
the ruthlessness of their religion
and appreciate it is only thus
they can ever hope to succeed
in putting one of us
on the moon
July 20, 1969 – first man on the moon
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.
A hubbub of sparrows
in the bald black boughs of a beech tree
swap stories of spring.
boot prints and paw marks
notes on invisible staves
mute song of winter