Orange (NaPoWriMo18 – day 18)



Oh Ar
and then I thought
“I am writing the word
orange.” I did not choose the word

Just then
I had written
three lines on woodpeckers.
There is no orange in a wood

The sounds
they make are not
orange. Their holes are the
colour of night and are filled with

Such fruit
would not be found
in those woods or sweeten
the cold river that rolls over
the weir. 

that page and now
this came from an orange
folder, and as a whimsical

my pen
towed my right hand
round an intricate course
making out that I was writing


Vallum berm Fossa (#NaPoWriMo18 April 16th)

IMG_0016 edit

(On the Antonine wall)


Academics are climbing the hill.
Jackets, woolly bonnets

scuffed boots or unsuitable shoes
a scarf that snags a bramble

or a kissing gate
or trails a fringe in mud

Highland, lowland
italiana, español

from steel city or dreaming spire
loiterers in Pompeiian shops

measurers of lamps
economists of Nile grain

and Egyptian donkeys
hoarders of facts about hoards


And then, invisible,
entangled networks

satellite, antenna
microwave and bluetooth

counting steps
counting metres

to the nearest mocha
notes in clouds

or tapped into phones
or filmed

or swallowed by Apps
and all in disdain

of boundary, border,
frontier, fortification, or gate

while in the ground before us
a deep slash of prohibition

inhibition, terror,
carved here as an excuse

for one more boast
on imperial statuary.


And this is what we
with our unseen flows

of thought and data
rolling from this hillside

away and above
and over the angry

allotment of the world
have come to see.

April 9th: By the Inner Sound

By the Inner Sound

If the land had broken in that second,
had upended hills, slid gravel and silt
to fill each dint and cavity
that we’d carved with bare feet
into the beach, our mouths too,

And if, like a slow making up
of its mind, the land had settled
through aeons, set fast
and sent in salts and ores
to fill like arteries with wax

our softer parts, even the strings
of our kites curling upward
through the overburden

And if much later a brand new sea
hungry for sediment had run
its tongue twice a day across
the blackened rib cage
of an old continent

and undone all the density
and age and popped out
the plug of each print
of heel and toe,
deep set as we had run
leaning against the  weight
of wind in our kites

And if after the last tide
sharp eyes found us, four
arrays of crystal with tints
of copper and sulphur,
the rocky terminals of four trails

and noted the fossil jaws
gaping, heads thrown back

They could not know that it was not
for fear of that dull twang
of the earth impossibly deep
that signalled the end of days
or the uplands leaning over
one half of a round world
toppling onto the other

But for what came one
second before, when our kites
so high and small
staked out the whole sky

and into that perimeter
silent until seen
thundered a machine

a green carapace
roundels, and two rotors
ready to snag our bright lures

ready to catch and twist
and crumple into the tiny marks
of our bare feet along the beach

Hats Indoors (April 8th)


Hats Indoors

Even for one minute in the
unfocused solitude of a crowded
supermarket the hat comes off

There were no lessons at school
on the etiquette of hats

My father, a wearer of
toppers in his time
laid down his rules
in a different dispensation

My mother and such niceties
of convention? Never.

Perhaps my grandmother
who tutted at our Slough vowels
and on first sight,
each visit, marched us to the barbers.

The only lid her husband wore,
a mortarboard

And yet, it’s more an instinct
than a lesson learned
a squeezing of the eyes against the sun
a reluctance to approach a cliff

What disadvantage in our lineage
made wearers of hats indoors
less fit, less attractive to a mate,
more prone to early
and unfruitful death?

An artist carries ochre
into a cave and fails to see
behind his brim, the bear
or panther watching him

Rameses the Great suffers
spasms in his neck –
such a weight, the crowns
of the two kingdoms

Mrs Brunel says “If your hats
get any taller I’ll leave”

Far better to carry my Panama
across the threshold
and place it where it can be seen
to conjure up my father
and the view from the Pavilion

7th April – Silver Spoons

Silver Spoons (notes for a song)

Margarita is my name
From the hills of Portugal I came

My father’s ox turned the hard red soil
And from the olive press flowed the oil

My brothers they both had walked away
One to fight and the other to pray

So across the hillside I must go
With cheese for the monks of Busaco

But all day long in the dust and heat
I heard the tramp of marching feet

A soldier stood at the Convent door
In the setting sun ten thousand more

Then said Sammy with the flaming eyes
I’ll keep you safe till the sun shall rise

But late at night in my grassy bed
I told him of my brother with the shaven head

How from his waist hung a silver key
That opened the Prior’s treasury

And up from the ground my gunner rose
And away in the starless dark he goes

There’s a silver key in an ironbound door
And the silver’s gone from the Prior’s store

And I heard the bellows of the armourer’s fire
Wheeze in the night as the sparks rose higher

And in the dawn when I awoke
My gunner’s eyes were red with smoke

After the battle we make a start
And he carried me away in a powder cart

So it’s over the hills and down to the dunes
I carry a bag of silver spoons

And away from the land of olive and vine
To a cold grey river they call the Tyne

Now the spoons in their drawer they rattle and roll
And they call to me for their parole

But the ships they pass below our door
And I’ll see my native land no more

But I’ll send the spoons to the silversmith
To melt them down for a holy dish

The words in the church may be harsh and cold
To the saviour’s ears they shine like gold

Though the black dust blows from the loading quay
And the collier boats they put to sea

April 6th

suffrage colours amethyst diamond 1905

[image source: The Practical Gemologist]

Strong Women

The noise, the noise, from the bar.
Two women stand in the doorway
absorbing the banter with their backs
as we sing the length of the long room

from last week to 1812
from piracy to Peterloo
strikers and voters
and women in space

And I think of my mother
teaching her four sons
not just the way to beat
air into a cake

to iron a shirt
(Clottish Fatheads Sometimes Belch)
to knock on doors with leaflets

or knit a scarf

but above these
to seek our own happiness
as one with the happiness of all
without guilt

or concession
like her own teachers
who still dressed, each day
in purple and in green