Sunday, December 11, 2005

Your Reading

Your Reading

It was a clear night
With a moon in the wintry air
Visible in the crowded sky
And a stillness
About the freneticism
Of the streets –

I walked as far as Soho,
Out by Foyles and
Stretched my open palm
In the direction of your reading
Then went back
Where I’d walked
To follow my tracks
Like an old cat
In search of pizza and wine.

And for a while
You did come with me:
Your “garden” which
Fell “so slowly into the
Brown stillness of Autumn,”
The rat you saw
Boldly in front of you
In the moonlight –
And I thought just to be
With someone who listened to me
Was alright

Since you too were listening with me,
Listening to the café
Listening to the streets:
The low stories from the upper storeys
Basement stories
Floating up to the street –

And I stopped worrying
About missing your reading
And was reassured by the thought
Of your blue-covered book by our bed and
How often you wrote “blau”
And “blaue” and how the last line
Of one of your poems*
Was a metaphor that
Wrapped round my schoolboy wanderings
Perfectly tuned to my adolescent heart
Like an eerie mist from somewhere far,
And how again you are here
Still burning, Georg, your obscure star
In the blue air.

“Lass, wenn trunken von Wein das Haupt in der Gosse sinkt”
Georg Trakl 1887-1914

Sunday, November 13, 2005



When I drink from the sap of the tall evergreen
And I feel the cool Earth enter my veins
In gratitude – what can this gratefulness be?
And who for, but for the being of the tree?
The woodlands where I walk are so green,
With so many species of bird and animal
That in awe I draw back from all explanation
And drink from my five senses, as from a well.

I have no flock to care for – I am a woodlander
In five-hundred year old thickets & unfathomable glades
No congregation or pastor joins me here
And there are no young folk to go on promenades:
Then, let me give to each perfectly formed leaf my blessing
That together we make the sweetest murmuring.


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Rob at the Torriano

Rob At The Torriano

You struck me as the kind of awkward fellow
Who puts up all around himself a wall –
All through that first evening at the Torriano
You hardly spoke and wouldn’t read at all.

At first I liked you; then I wasn’t sure.
Just when I tried to speak you’d look away.
Not quite unfriendliness, it was more
The signal that cancels and will not say

What its intent is, doesn’t let you know
Its giver’s disposition nor morals neither,
Makes no declaration of being friend or foe
And just to be polite not worth the bother…

And then one Sunday night we had a drink;
I poured yours; you thanked me with a nod
And that was when I first began to think
That you were strangely noble, nobly odd:

While others jauntily made pitter patter
You were good at keeping your intelligence in check
Since all our nitter-natter really didn’t stir
The poet in you from non-verbal dialect.

You said you’d read if someone asked you to
And so I volunteered and called for “Robert!”
“Yes. Robert’s next…” and so you got the cue
And gradually became quite extrovert

Within our clique of poet-citizens:
Doers & dreamers, some with and some without a trade,
Who focused inwardly with self-inflicted lens
On Orphee-like vocations, vows secretly made.

Your sonnets were of love, a girl you’d known
Back in the eighties, still besotted by her:
You’d pushed on with technique and then grown
Out of it, swapped it out for something higher

So th’t rhymes and half rhymes alternated
Quatrains refigured, chiming back to front:
Your listeners thought the sonnet-form was dead
Until the winning couplet rich in understatement

Closed with your matter of fact enunciation
Which could’ve informed the Tannoy on a railway
And in its very flatness caught the imagination
With narrative as well as imagery.

You had a story which I liked and almost
Believed: that you, a tall homunculus,
A big and solid person, not a ghost,
Were yet an apparition living in the midst of us.

You said your home and origin had been a wall
From which you came, a fully functioning person,
And how you watched the pageant of us all
Pass by – seeming to get better, then begin to worsen.

One summer night you showed me where they stand –
The old wall letters over Kentish Town
Half faded out. They read: RTRELLISAND,
Your mortal coils, you say, the name and ground

That you can fade back into and emerge again
From. No one ever saw you do this of course
Except a gang of kids out in the rain
Who tricked you rotten with eggs and milk and source.


Monday, October 17, 2005

Double Take on a Library

Double Take on a Library

A large White-fronted house,
gravel drive and crocuses
on the lawn – no wonder
I was nervous when you said,
“Let’s go inside and have a look,”
in answer to my question
as we passed -
without a moment’s pause
you walked up to the great door,
pushed it open, led me in
through a hall where no-one
stopped us,as we traspassed -

past the readers
at the shiny tables and the high
white shelves of books, the undisturbed
uncluttered world of library books
returned and borrowed. So, deception over,

you took out a book, and still the Library
seemed a private residence – I followed
and returned again through
season’s pendulum; in Winter, in
the crisp blue air when snow
through floor-to-ceiling windows
covered the sloping garden to the Mole,
to Poetry, winter-warm in orange
grey and green, with ghosts
of the danger-driven, of war
and paranormal loves.

It was there one day alone
I borrowed Laurence Whistler’s “Yestermorrow,”
took it home to read and wonder
at this grown-up’s super-sorrow,
who found new words for love
and for that dark expectancy:
the time that was not yesterday
nor yet the unbrought
day that we must live.


Monday, August 01, 2005

Over Earl's Court 1969

Over Earl’s Court
A polluted haze
Passing for bluesky, as night
Fell and the Moon came up

Oddly small, like a tennis-
Ball in mid-lob –
Her neat bed sitting room
A chip of the old block, where

Someone has come to see
Her poems, take her for a drink.
Her man-friend’s gone
To a commune she is slow to join

Preferring her youth
Over a garden dreaming
From work’s free tiredness.

The night they landed on
The Moon she carries on
Her London night, a pub
Or two, strolling to discuss

With this self-confessed poet
Th’irrelevancy, the unMoonness
Of such a project; a man
In the pub next to them
They notice
Smiling blissfully down

Past his beer, more like
Into something deep
Inside the Earth or in them
The universe, knowing

The journey in at last.
It’s as if he’s come
From some cold place
To this warm interior.


Back in that ageless bed-sit
She took the small chair
He the bedspread low divan

Her sheaf of poems
Balanced on his lap, approving
And assessing, saying them
Good, not overpraising

Advising, “Work some more
And publish later….”
She knows her bed sitting room
Feminine, thick-carpeted, cool

Must one day come to be
A stage set, bare boards ‘n’ cobwebs
Where ghosts will dance

A last quadrille under
The architrave that disappears
To another floor – why

Doesn’t he dance her now?
Quick-step through the open window
Whisper, “Publish tonight”

And fall through space
With her to a landing no less real
Than Apollo’s? She wonders,

Sees them sprawled
In a crater in the garden
Dark foliage overhanging…

Her own slenderness
A soft reed unbroken,
Lodged in his memory …a kiss, then,

Wishing the commune well
Sensibly going some place
Down the carpeted stairs

The blue, polluted
Passing-for-night colour
As the Moon sets.

Monday, July 11, 2005

From the German of Robert Reinick


The Earth is so beautiful -
Just how beautiful
The flocks of birds know -
They lift their light feathers
And sing such Spring-like songs
In the blue heaven up there.

The Earth is so beautiful
Just how beautiful
The river and lake know
They reflect in a clear mirror
Garden, town and hills
And the people walking there

And the singer & the painter -
They know it, and many others besides.
Whoever does not paint it sings it
And whoever does not sing it
In his heart - this joy -
It sounds louder than ever.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

In Soho Square

I inhabit a world where everyone is a poet
Where trees and buildings are on equal terms
And none may inhibit either's privacy.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Adult Reading

One hot day
when the leaves were fully out
green blotting paper given
to soak up poison from the air
citrus-gathered, close
lint for pain,

I waited in the car
with a Listener, alone
and how the reviewer said
these are grown-up poems
to share things with
that know of hurt, when
the world has gone to bed...
at night: skimmed on

to light on images, quotations.
Later bought the slim, dark
volume to take with me
into days and nights
discovering your shade and light
against a white page -
a sanctuary of adult reading
or so it seemed.

Years later
after the Reading at the Voicebox
I queued up round the long table
where you sat and finally
reaching you, said,"Hello!"
saw you look up and
for a moment feared those
perspicacious, alert brown eyes

and needn't have
"Nice to see ther're some men
around." Your joke
wry and inclusive, just for me

and you
as your pen wrote your name.

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Storm?

These stays are ample
for sail or for trim

How come loose and
adrift on the high seas?

Herbs lost
and pages water-logged

th'entire fragrant garden -
the man we touched.

Monday, June 20, 2005

At A Window

He drew beauty
all together
drew in
a great puzzle

Neptunian curator
of the new

Sea sprite elevator
jocular in phonetic mimicry

wise guy
of vision, creator
of 1000 poems.