Tag Archives: sense of life


In each of our lives
everyone else is a tourist.
I wonder do they find
what the brochure promised:
sights, decent food, cheap booze –
or even the experience of a lifetime?

Back home, are they going to
print out their pictures
and hang them on empty walls?
Will they share the experience,
send others my way?
Should I consider refurbishing?

Though – they say the locals
in the summer resorts can’t wait
for the rains, the cool weather and
the shutters coming down for winter.
Sometimes I think I can almost
feel the weather turning.

A Balance

Plagues ancient
and plagues modern.
Abuse of children, women.
Global warming. Exploitation. Genocide.
The horsemen of the Apocalypse are riding.

Gradations of blue in hill after hill at dusk.
A man, a woman, laughing in the street.
The casual kindness of a stranger.
The smell of bread baking.
A candle in a window.
A blackbird’s song.
Piano scales.

Too steep

I had no say in this matter.
At no point was there any consultation.

I was not properly briefed,
nor were the risks pointed out to me.

No mention was made of responsibilities,
commitments, complications,

and no, I did not sign
on any kind of dotted line.

I was not given an itinerary,
and I never saw a bill of fare –

and if I had, I have a pretty good notion
it would’ve been the kind without prices.

And now, out of the blue, you have the gall
to ask me to pay for the trip?

I’ll admit: it had its moments,
and I’m not saying all of it was not worth it –

but I draw the line at coughing up
for a stone and inscription, too.


this morning
I found
in my sock drawer
that missing
grey cotton

it’s my birthday

all’s well
with the world
after all

The Fierceness of Badgers

I know all about
the fierceness of badgers:

how a border terrier
will follow a fox

down  the darkest hole –
but should he disturb

a badger down there,
he will bear the marks,

and still win prizes
at dog shows

as if half his muzzle
had not been ripped off;

and this as a tribute
to the fierceness of badgers.

Secretive, nocturnal,
masked like thieves,

you only ever see them
at night or

safely dead
by the side of the road.

But today on a hill track
I came across one.

Wary, I stopped –
then inched closer

to take a snap
with my mobile;

still closer, and spoke to him
as you do to dogs.

He hissed.
I jumped back

and watched him
retreat into bushes.

He was young
and must have been lost

and afraid
as we all are.

And so we walk through life:
timid, gingerly, circumspect,

because we know all about
the risk of high places,

the danger of draughts
from an open door –

and the fierceness of badgers.

Polar explorations

Our lives are lazy polar explorations.
Our kit is safely stowed; the trade winds blow,
and so we’re swept towards our destination.

Adventure’s guaranteed. No deprivations:
warm tents, down sleeping bags; cook fires glow.
Our lives are lazy polar explorations:

we botanize, sketch, study rock formations;
swig beer, sport beards and watch the lichen grow;
and on we’re swept towards our destination.

Our routes are mapped. No room for deviation:
we’re headed north, relax, go with the flow.
Our lives are lazy polar explorations

until the compass whispers transformation,
a world of wind and ice and things below,
and down we’re swept towards our destination:

fear, disbelief, rage, hacked off limbs, starvation –
And now as white turns black at last we know…
Our lives are lazy polar explorations –
and so we’re swept towards our destination.

The bathroom Schwanen, Bernau

A welcoming bathroom, this: blond wood and glass,
the white enamel washbasin fashionably raised
above the shiny white top. And it was talking to me.

The air was alive with hissing and burbling, with ticking
and clicks, snatches of songs; and borne on this stream,
now, and again now, half-caught, the ghosts of words.

Doubtless a rational explanation applied, involving valves,
matters of pressure, bubbles of air trapped in pipes –
but still: that room had a message for me. In the dark

it was whispering secrets; in the small hours its hisses
grew desperate, offering the answers to all my questions –
and I lay listening all night, too tired to understand –


out on the beach
an old man leans into the wind

bends down
picks up a pebble

against the hiss of waves on shingle
he stands motionless

then gently puts it back
among the million others

leans into wind
bends down

seeking perfection

Footprints #2

I came across this poem called Footprints
in The Nation’s Favourite Twentieth Century Poems
by ANON. (and by God he or she knew why):

an overpowering poem  for sheer mawkishness
and one hundred per cent genuine cringe value –
and I caught myself loving its message.

It’s about this man walking the beach with the LORD
(reliving his life in a dream), and looking back he sees
only one set of prints at the most difficult times,

and he accuses the LORD of deserting him
in his hour of need; whereupon HE replies
then HE was carrying him… I blinked back a tear,

then retraced  their steps in the sand
to measure the depth of those solitary prints.
They were no deeper than when the man walked alone.

An unread book

In the middle
of his fifth decade,
all at sea and lost
in office murk,

he strikes out
for the shores
of his favourite bookshop.
Stroking faces and spines,

scanning the shelves
for the one
that will cut through
the fog,

a Companion to Life,
he has no eyes
for the shy assistant’s
sideways glances.

If he knew how to read
and what
they would speak