Spoken by a seventeenth
Many times when I laid down
And my old limbs were granted stillness
In that instant before plunging into dead sleep,
The flitting lightness between shipboard and water,
In that timecrack before rocking
Re-dreams of days steeped in the presence of Death
When my only hope was the captain
And the captain's only hope was God
Be that God his own damned
self, or else
The science and art of his seamanship
Or even, when those hopes drowned in the last wave
The God of his mother,
I felt that ancient unworked
hope of peace
When the sea was out to kill you
When instant obedience is salvation
From having saltwater whistle in your lungs
In that hair thin moment I
People with limbs like us clad in
strange clothes and driving swift shining ships
that whip along carrying no cargo
except the cargo all but orphans
the burden of love for family and home.
Many have felt them at some time
though none of us know why they sailed.
Some say they went for sport,
To have the sea wash out their souls
Like well fed lords who hunt when there's no need,
Making their hunger as they hunt.
I'll not believe that any man
faced the wave's crack
For play. To me they're gods or angels
Come back to talk to our old souls
And maybe touch and help us.
View From Crook Peak
Below us now, the levels
where Monmouth fought, and
Jefferies sat on stinging haemorrhoids
while sending farm boys to the rope.
Down to your left
the Vale of Avalon
peppered with hills that play at dinosaurs:
that wood smoke laced with mist
is drifting on towards the Tor
the breast there raised up to the broad white sky
where Michael plays the piper once a year
This ridge was once a mountain
that's vanished now into thin air.
Its glacial run off cut a sickening groove
into the limestone slabs
the Gorge, still wild
throws rocks at alien lice
that crawl along its bed
sweeping on down
the Mendips lift the air
sweet rising air that gives the gift of flight
Back over, that was Quincey's
where he and Coleridge and their gang
would reason stonedly about their world and words
And to the north
the air path followed once when
cloud lift shrank this hill for me
down to a map.
Dizzy with height
the great wing banked
and bucked its way downwind to home
aimed for the cricket square
but landed thankfully
on soft green grass at Honey Hall.
North west, the Severn
gives a brave, dull gleam
under the mountains and the clouds of Wales.
there's Woodspring Priory
where you can feel the love
good monks gave to the ground.
It's desecrated now
home to the current cult of death
This ridge we're on
leads to the sea
to Brean Down's tip
where riptides make the waters mad
waves dance on their hind legs like circus dogs
while on the Point
there's ancient toilet blocks
where soldiers shat their youth away
waiting to bombard Boney's fleet
that never came.
over the Bay, those are the
home of the man who ruined Xanadu
under their shadow lies
the block of Hinkley
humming with power
heat for the many
slow death for the few
We brought a Slovak up here
to see the view. He wept.
- Nowhere untouched by man, he said.
I sort of like it here. It's
Leaves on the lawn
This happens every year:
coloured and sculpted to look like frogs
a leaf-plague crawls across the mossy lawn
sometimes by hop and skip, mainly by stealth
blurring the borders
blanketing mournful flower beds,
their plan is simple: cover the earth with mulch,
rot-fragrant brown leaf drifts
repeat each year
to make a fine soft nursery for seedlings
to raise their heads, spread out their arms to greet the sun
and in their turn, drop leaves.
We cannot criticise.
Within our species there are those
who'd clad the earth in concrete
without a second thought.
Between those two extremes
we have to set distinctions.
Grass here, flowers there,
and leaves in shining sacks
to wait three years,
rot down to fibre, to make soil
improvements that I may not see,
if in my turn I go to ground, the land sold on
maybe to be covered yet with
or reclaimed by the river.
but we must do this work ;
our given role
is to improve our soil and our soul.