The Way In
They’re still alight, those enchanted streetlamps
between Little Malvern and Great Malvern.
There are chains of them beneath British Camp
bobbing like scuts of gas at twilight.
Lamps peter up the hillside to the wells
and flicker half-visibly behind bare oaks
out-blazed by headlights of delivery trucks
shrieking through gears on drives of high hotels.
Those lamp-lanes are Christmas to my boys
at any dusk or in any season.
Winter days nod and the short light goes.
I read them stories as those low lamps glow.
Their dreams will line the lanes with Narnians.
The way in takes them running through the snow.
Bluebells for Edward and Gabriel
They are too few.
Beneath the evergreen yew
they broke through with the dew.
We’d glimpsed their hue
from the car as we flew
through Warwickshire woods, overdue.
By May they were new.
By June they are hewn.
But for you two – (I name you) –
they are for you. They are all for you.
Over the forest floor they strew
In Malvern Woods
We walk half-knowing just how long we’ve got
to compass the dark, the still-point of the car.
My sons go quiet as an owl glides low.
We tread dead leaves into the forest floor.
They hate these walks until we’re on the go
then they throng the woodland with unseen foes.
Enemies trounced, my children fall on me.
Joining in, I die or I pretend to die.
They know nothing of death except it’s dumb
so offer up a second life to me.
I falter to my feet, faking a wound
and they, now serious, ask if I’m alright.
Not all is right, but that is where it ends.
The Grace of JCBs
Spring detonates on time thanks to wood anemones.
Woodland is wan without a million of them.
JCBs squat on fly-blown, gull-flocked hills.
They are King of Rat and glory to the gulls.
Wood anemones slink through crumbs of soil,
heads bowed by darkness, darkness limned by toil.
JCBs shovel rancid rubbish over tilth.
They rule by ramming everything in sight.
Anemones explode like stars or solar flare.
They glow and glister on the forest floor.
JCBs chew up tonnage and spit out filth.
Magpies choose their JCB and stick by him.
Wood anemones shift sidelong to the sun.
Their shoots are metronomes in slow emotion.
Rooks erupt in raptures around a JCB.
Their Midas, Grail, their Holy of Holies.
Wood anemones harvest ultraviolet rays.
Early bees are drawn droning to their gaze.
Nothing saddens a JCB more than a stalled JCB.
He ploughs across the planet to hold him, steady.
The lives of wood anemones are swift. We hail
their fleet and fleetness, their golden crisis.
JCBs squat on fly-blown, bird-flocked hills.
Spring detonates on time, thanks to JCBs.
‘The infant oak-leaves swung through the sober oak’
leaf and tree try for their first flower
it has taken millennia to bring life to pass
spectra of sunlight astray seeds among grass
their white child blossoms for a single hour
leaf blames tree tree blames the mother
roots tremble in beds listening to them brawl
tree screams at leaf leaf shrieks at soil
roots cannot tell father from mother
all winter tree nursed infant leaf
last autumn’s leaves died incarnadine
come spring tree tells her you will wear my crown
tree is unfurling this lie all his life
branches wrestle for a boy’s snagged kite
roots wrangle underground in tests of length
tree drags water up a well of his strength
leaf is trying to be life yet nothing is right
tree’s canopy susurrates we may not die
that leaf makes tree that tree makes grief
that root and branch shall never know leaf
except they will for all trees lie
roots rise to their tip toes in spate as it rains
drought is white spite tree is past caring
he stabs into soil steals water swearing
you have nothing to lose but your daisy chains
two late leaves condemned to downfall
they cling conjoined they clamour for life
branch suckles seedlings scarcely in leaf
a trapdoor bangs open and that is all
behold a king’s canopy tree cries to sunset
holds high his crown drinks in all earth
behind every great tree is a great leaf stutters leaf
roots rant in the dark: the death of trees is a silhouette
tree’s mass executions erupt in autumn
leaf lifts her meek heads to the hatchet of winds
if tree truly wanted to forgive our sins
then why did not tree just forgive them
haloes of tree rings ignite under bark
veins of xylem swell with blossom and birdspring
tree awakes awakens to an ice- blast of song
leaf light flickers on wands in the dark
tree: grief makes you see things that are not there
leaf: teach me to breathe by holding to the sun
to hold to leaf
beyond the grief of autumm
Yarak is an Eastern term for when a hunting bird’s training, weight, and mental focus all comes together in the field.
a peregrine looks
like a toy bird kite;
in a glide, her shape brings
to mind a drawn bow. In a stoop,
the wings are finely folded so that the
falcon mimics a missile. In a teardrop stoop
the falcon may pump her wings to accelerate, or
the wings may be completely clasped against her body
so that the bird is shaped like a teardrop. A peregrine passes
a falling skydiver as if the skydiver were standing still. From the
view of the sky-diver the falcon is invisible. A stooping peregrine
can trick the mind – of a man, of a pigeon – into thinking the bird has
cloaked. Preying peregrine falcons plunge through the sky at more than
250 miles per hour, levelling at the last minute to strike speeding pigeons
in an explosion of feathers. The peregrine outflies her vision: diving faster than
her brain can process – the peregrine flies blind. A pigeon has evolved to home in
on the sound of the stooping cloaked falcon. Pigeons warp one wing and roll
out of the falcon’s path. From the view of a falcon, she is flying at top speed
toward the back of the pigeon, fervently fixed on its tail. White feathers
under the tail, flicked upwards on attack, flicker to disguise the start
of the evasive roll, confusing the attacker with sudden contrast
between the conspicuous white flare of feathering and a
grey-blue body. Such is the momentary loss of vision
lasting no more than 1/50th a second, the falcon
under-compensates her strike as if she
led her gun’s sight ahead of her prey.
White-tailed deer, scuts of rabbits,
sandpipers, quick-silvering fish
alternate displays of dark and
light surfaces to confuse
predators. They have
thrown falcons and
planes to test
Foaling the Breech
Five hours of slither, flank-shiver and slip.
Wisdom Smith flips the foal, tensions a birth-rope,
hauls hind-limbs hard-about, solar surfaces
of the hooves face up. Now, Wisdom delivers
snout-first—forelimbs shying air, then all four
swinging, swaying down on to bloody straw.
‘There’s my Light of Lights!’ laughs the Gypsy.
‘Lightest of hoof, lit-through with all her mother!’
‘You love them like your own’, whispers John Clare.
John kneels by the foal and by his man of air.
‘That’s them free’, gasps Wisdom. ‘All family.
Nothing cleaves you from the face you first see’.
The mare sniffs and slathers her child’s eyes.
Her foal staggers, and blinks as if surprised.