We walk above the mist
which hugs the Welland’s wide flood plain.
As mist turns to haze
the sun awakens colour
autumn hues emerge from early grey.
A goods train slinks across the viaduct.
Two steeples add verticals and perspective.
Is that a windmill on the skyline?
Trees tinged with orange mark fields
or hide the river in the folded land.
Below us lies the route we’ll take today.
4 October 2011
Florence, famous for good taste and fortune,
now acts like a whore past her best.
She daren’t trust the plebs with her treasures
and demands cash up front as a test.
Her dresses are tatty and fading,
her bridges were crossed far too much
She may not have quite lost her marbles
but she’s kicking a few into touch.
She could do with some trees and some water
where the weary observer may pause,
without paying big bucks for coffee
or for gawping at fine marble floors.
She hasn’t changed her knickers
since the glory days. She’s locked her finery
away in display cabinets,
but her everyday wear is shabby and worn.
Her make up artist hasn’t changed since the '70s
and the cracks are showing.
Old habits live on.
Her grubby palm stretches out for pennies
and snaps them tight into her fist.
Yet as night falls and she is backlit by a softer glow
her old magic returns to draw the crowds.
two short weeks away
skimmed milk of blackthorn blossom
turns full cream of may
08 May 2008
piove anche in Italia
The guidebook shows
sunlit postcard views -
the campo from the tower
Twelve horses career around the sloping square
for glory and honour.
Flags blaze black on gold and red
sharp as shadow.
clatter and clank
us up to steep streets,
to hold the sun at bay
reflects the palace tower
in hints of light and shade.
the clinging drizzle.
They wait in lines
or play a game of dodge
along the streets.
Washing hangs at high windows
above the tourist throngs
The duomo's marble is fresh washed,
its glorious gilded frontage,
backed by a crane.
They are everywhere
in Tuscany this April.
A covered market building,
Kids run and throw food,
or wait for a bus.
Below a sign
via dei malcontenti
I stop and pull a face.
29th April 2008
grows, feeds, inspires
meditation through hard work
Nov 15 2007
New England’s hillsides
Flare bright with autumn’s glory
October 2007, in New England, after reading about forest fires in Southern California
View from Manhattan Bridge
The tugboat pushes the barge down the River
Below the Brooklyn Bridge.
Its weighty pillars, built on the blood
Of divers and engineers
Rise in solid elegance.
The miles of steel cables
Support the road and walkway
Joining two mighty boroughs
Across the water
Silken in the early evening light.
Behind the bridge, the great statue,
Symbol of America the free
Lifts her right arm in salute
Or despair to the sky.
Five heavy cranes like multiple mirrors
Five steel arms reflecting hers
On the New Jersey shoreline.
What do they salute?
An ambulance barks and yelps its way along the street,
A fire-truck quacks and fusses, a manic giant goose.
A yellow bus growls like a deep-voiced bear.
An impatient driver honks as red lights change to green.
A truck engine roars to leave the starting block.
A backhoe digs and thumps its way through concrete.
One man sifts through trash cans for bottles to return,
another grabs a broken umbrella as his treasure.
On the sidewalk at the junction pedestrians are standing
a mother with a stroller waits for the walking man
someone in a hurry defies the “stop” red hand.
From a rolled down car window pounds insistent reggae beat.
I hear the shouting of a woman on a cell-phone.
In Ozzie’s on Fifth Avenue, I stop and sit alone,
with a latte, a lap-top and a copy of the Onion,
observing solitary readers, essay writers
internet surfers, coffee sippers and other loungers.
May 22nd 2006
Thoughts on a place-name
Hardly a hamlet
A name on the map,
A junction in the road,
Two or three houses
Near a thousand feet up
On the main road
From Chesterfield to Matlock.
There, surviving in spite of winter,
Harsh, windswept, snowbound.
Houses to spite the winter,
Keep it at bay,
Huddle warm and shelter.
The spite of winter's claws,
Frozen rigid, sharp,
Seeking prey, booty, a sacrifice.
View wide open
Spiting winter claustrophobia.
You can see seven counties,
Pillar-top lights of the Humber Bridge
On a haze-free, cloudless, winter-sharp day
That pushes the horizon
To the limit of the earth's curve.
Nets hang down from cottages
in narrow streets steep to the shore.
they catch tourists now.
Weights hold memories
and set imagination free
to warm evenings
when fireflies danced
glowing in bushes
behind the beach.
filled with the presence
of the past.
Two holidays are telescoped here - one in the sixties, when I stayed with a French family at a holiday home in Carolles, near Avranches in Normandy, where we spent the days at the beach, and watched the fireflies ( or maybe glow-worms) as we walked back in the evenings.
The second, where the atmosphere triggered the memories of the first, was in Brittany in 2004 - colder weather, older company.
Frosted grass soft white in the tree-shadows,
sun-warmed patches glisten wet and green.
Distant outlined housetops rise in whale backs
receding plane on plane into the grey
like cut-out scenery in an unstaged play.
From dawn’s pink palette, charcoal traces
fade as morning light grows stronger.
The sun erases early morning winter,
spotlights the actors, humans and some dogs.
The park last night was host to some indulgence -
drinks cans, food trays, bottles and the rest.
Partners for a moment, much desired,
substance sucked, discarded – no regrets.
A woman walks her dog, collects the rejects.
Unpaid removes the garbage from the ground,
scrapes clean the crusted edges of this jewel.
She’s a caretaker for the common, man.
Lunch at a pub near Hardwick Hall
Oak beams and rich carpets
Mid-week and it's not too full
I order drink and grub at the bar.
Turn and lazily survey the room.
A woman sitting with some friends
Adjusts the band in her hair
Beaded white in her dark hair
Striking, an unusual look
I turn back to the bar
Then I turn again - something's odd
She's wearing Tudor clothes
She catches my eye and smiles
"Just popped in from the Hall," she says
"It's really boring some days"
I must have looked as if
I really thought she had
"We're doing a play," she adds.
I smile, but she's broken her spell.
Feb 11th 2005.
On the mean old waterfront
a contender could have been
part of the union.
This hard mouthed tough survivor,
fought for money and for work
survived and played the rackets
handled cargo from afar
day by day.
Other actors in films noirs
sailors on shore leave
shag silver seaside mer-wives
in a fantasy of virgin siren-sex
in every port
in a storm
in a teacup or a barrel of rum.
Splice the main-brace.
All hands off deck
and into the tavern,
arm-in-arm-in-arm across the town.
Dockside labour, dockside crimes,
jump ship in warmer climes
or stow in a packet for the south.
Pubs with sawdust on the floor
and a residential whore
serving mild and bitter beer
by the jug,
letting rooms out by the hour:
get moving number nine
your time is up.
Some fifty years have passed
and life on shore has changed
even more than life before the mast.
Shiny tables line the quay
and each high-class eatery
serves cuisine internationale
to a clientele more rational
than those who roamed the streets
not long ago.
They sip wine and caffe latte
and although they're very chatty
their knuckles need no dusting
no fist fights here for busting
for they’ve turned the waterfront
into a theme park for the city
fresh of air and mighty pretty
a tourist trap for doing lunch in style.
Bristol June 2007