Appleby December 5th
It always does.
Curling furlong brown
bloated flouting torrent,
its roar is hushed as it creeps, relentlessly
through gateways, between bricks before pressing up through the floor.
inky mass of
nightmarewater; a sadness of shops look down
at their petticoats, fallen-woman muddied and soiled,
as Christmas lights hang lank, reflected in the sliding shifts of
There nothing in those darkened woods
For a burnt up elder like me.
Time was I had the pick of feast
Time was the young ones would step back when they saw me step up
Time was I stood proud; always first to be sated.
Now, I’m lucky if I get the last gristly ear,
The last shattered bone,
The last shred of rancid gut.
So, seeing her, luscious, sweet and succulent
Red-hooded and ready for sucking
Imagining ripping into ripeness – it was too much
After days of darkened desert.
It was easy to overpower the old one.
Trembling tantalising anticipation
I spoke forked falsehood
Come closer, then I can hear ye
Come closer, then I may see ye
Come closer then I can smell ye
grunting and hunting
I know I dribbled; juices flow in my mouth
It fell out of me: I couldn’t bear
her so close, so near. I could nearly touch, skin fizzing, belly growling
It fell out of me
Come closer so I can taste you
Oh, and woodcutter – she did.
Who drops them? how are they lost?
Who casts them adrift to carve their own path
through the mist?
I wonder, as I brush my own toes through pondering grass,
and I see a grubby whitish plimsoll sitting on its own sole,
bent tongue and sodden grey laces,
when did you appear – just here?
Was it in 2020 when our world stopped, and we peered melted, through our isolating glass
or was it when the globe crackled and burnt, Arctic and Australia
when alphabet storm after storm after storm tore holes in our skies
emptying skyrivers into our postage stamp gardens
Was it when nurses sobbed at food banks
(what is a bank for food anyway?) and everyone seemed so angry
(or were they all just struggling and sad?)
was it when our heavens fell pregnant with blue
and goats traversed empty high streets,
when birds found their voices and choirs lost theirs?
Was it when only indoors was safe though for some it was unsafer
and our neighbours could be poison so we kept away to save their lives?
when income just halted as tumbleweed scrawled across our diaries
and we sat unblinking, eating biscuits and our children cried wild
when we all felt a bit broken,
like planet like people
Curled like a forgotten page,
the single shoe keeps its secrets to itself
maybe it is an adventurer
making a run for liberty, equality and friendship
snuffling through dampened leaves
searching for breathing earth and abundance of dances
I’m a 2021 shoe
things look different there
The Corner Shop
Sad bread and lonely milk,
dusty books with sideways glanced covers,
illicit sugar cigarettes,
eye level sweeties
eyed with hot shilling clutched in palm.
Aniseed twists just for you today!
even on Christmas Day,
height of convenience when all the other shops
(in the opposite direction in more ways than one)
were strictly closed –
eyebrows raised at one’s louchness
or housewifery failings
at not having bought milk or sugar at The Right Time.
The Shop on the Corner
Eight year old eye level – candles, mousetrap, stamps; exotic metallic ribbon,
paintbrush, a jug, films; bull halter, chocolates, and wishes,
See these – plugs on a chain, plug for the panto, plugs for the telly!
Don’t forget the fuse.
And over there, Policeman’s notebook (flip book cartoons),
7-inch single, wee china Whimsies (saving up sixpences)
paper tablecloth, pegs, Tom Thumb pips
and inexplicable packets behind the counter
that you don’t need to worry about just yet…
Forty years on;
fusty net curtains at the window,
silence at the cobwebbed door.
No more mint imperials after school,
only echoes of children’s running feet, storytelling
around the postbox.
Ten miles in the car to the faceless hypermarket
where no one knows your name
or your favourite.
Orchestra of hooves
curl of nostril
flare of hair
they see the world reflected in my eye
Sheets of muscle
air of calm
explosion of space
they borrow my wings to feel they can fly
Mirror of companions
warmth of scent
silence of our talk
I lend my speed to them and become their machine of war
you say you adore my child and you took him away
they say they are in awe of our power and then sit upon my baby’s back
the plains are our home and they put us in four walls
he cannot bear to be alone and they make it so
when he cries his anguish you beat him
when he signals his fear your metal rips at his mouth
when he tries to flee, your steel on his hooves clatters and slides
your language I cannot understand as you
small, weak yet furious
drag and scrape at him
You, demanding of imposition,
steely of will,
biting of anger.
Where he drank the wind
his tongue is now blue,
where he strode lightly upon our earth
he now rattles between stone,
where he danced with joy amongst friends
he now twitches, tied down, to do another’s bidding.
For a Friend on the Edge of Panic
I hear you
and this one, this spell, this task
I can do.
Recognising floodwaters rising, from toes to gorge
I recall that strangling sense
of airways closing and beating breath and heart twisting tight.
Yet come, with relief and quiet joy
knowing I have what you need, I beckon.
Here I have eagles’ flights
soaring sky-tip heights
and you can see your days, dotted forays
invisible in an instant as we see world without end –
and here, see!
I can lend you the eyes of horses,
aeons of wisdom living in the moment,
no yesterdays to hinder and no tomorrows to hurt,
just today to breathe into.
Then, let me drape this mantle of music
around your shoulders,
this will tingle every fibre
each synapse on fire
giving you a core of a concerto.
I’ll unfold your fear
by laying this map of trees around us,
their slow voices and century spun roots
will rebuild you and hold you
and knit you a cloak of oak chain –
and now the water, our water
tumbling, beyond, before and behind
the orchestra of the sea, the choirs of cloud
eternal song of stream, river and rain
carrying you afloat from drip to cascade.
Let me do this, this I can do
I give you my strength.
One September morning
I took my friend and found a cave
round as a bell, and we stepped out of our lives.
stepping stones and the drip drop
of water on its percussive journey
from sky to slick rock.
We unfolded our voices and sung
And the cave sung back
we threw away the words,
chopped up chips of complication.
They weren’t needed.
We stretched phrases and pulled at time
silver echoes, gold sound.
We let the notes climb, the cave spins
it’s own answering line
ringing mirrors of melody
like soaring swallows,
and I swear I began to see colours;
lavender, teal, burnt blue
undersea emerald and moonglow.
It begins to feel as if
our bodies have faded
and we are just voices
us two, and the cave.
We Visit the Stables Whilst the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are Elsewhere, Throwing Dice
Here is the first stable and here is Tempest
she is the wind,
her hooves small tight jewels
whistle the earth as she flies
pennant mane streaming from her neck
etched head achingly sharp,
sharp the slicing wind drops to her warm breath of air as she dips her muzzle into my hand.
Bella the beautiful is the sun
goldengaze liquidheat emanates as she stands still,
still stands, watchinglistening to the wide landscape,
her fire china eyes, John Donne eyes, world reflected,
kind sun with underness of a white crimson hot core
complete and complex, I see her and I know her.
And here is the giant of kind,
Samson the storm, the thunder, the rain, the electricity,
his steps are ground shifting
Valkyries fly around his head
Wagner accompanies his hooves
concertos shake the oak trees
the air shakes as he passes by and he gifts me his strength.
Tiny Tarianna is in the last stable – or where is she?
she is the frost the snow the mist
the creeping things,
she’s where you least expect her,
quiet, bright eyed, silent insistence,
no fence holds her in
yet she guards and gentles and gentled my children.