The Maker in her Workshop

A room beyond darkness,
where generous energy conceives
a life after clay

the kiln stands for a womb
where twisted shapes are
fired into life

I stand beside the door and watch
the elemental shaping,
the strictures of your being,

and in the northlight progress
as the spirals of your works ascend,
count down the aching hours

dwelling on the threshold,
I hang between the fiery air
and the auguries of spring

the door to summer opens,
your son and daughter
come running in.

Two smacks at Auden

i

The fever took the city in its grip.
Enemy agents safe through vaccination,
met the planes that landed at the strip
and spread abroad the news of the infection

The unseen hand that quarantines hotels
sent ambulances each day for the dead.
Softly, someone tolled the abbey bells,
but no trams ran, and all the workers fled.

His departure started from a foreign bed
when the panic of invasion made it easy;
engrossed with what the poster hoardings said,
then in the station bar with vin du pays
while through the endless landscape of the city,
a van goes packed with meaning, like a phrase

ii

No one, not even Oxford was to blame,
(blame if you like the anal penetration)
buggered in the States, his work became
a literary firm of masturbation.

Deliberately he chose the dry as dust,
kept poetry like postcards from a whore;
Chester was his public love; his private lust:
Stephen, Christopher, sundry others more.

In legal acts on ribald speculation,
he timidly reversed the life he’d led,
when poems had come from queer goings on
in the loose expanses of his double bed;
And only forty years of poor revisions
part well-hung student from crotchety don

Consultation

Please turn your head and look towards the light
and tell me what you see beyond my hand.
When you took that knock, how long were you down?
How far did you fall and how did you land?

You’re not the first I’ve seen like this for sure
fretting in the consultation chair;
others have been worse, almost beyond a cure,
but a normal life is possible with care

I’m telling you this to put you at your ease,
you are at once both delicate and tough,
and this is the same as all other disease:
curable if treated soon enough

So trust me to perform for your sake, and ours,
that delicate dance of scalpel and glove,
to cauterise the heart and kill the cause
of life’s most life-changing injury, love.

The Cure for Wounds by Sympathy

I longed to touch and heal as if I could
With one light-hearted blessing close a wound
Equivocation present in the blood
Made my clumsy tongue and touch express
In ways I never wanted to or should
And only served to cause you more distress

My presence is too much for you to bear
Whatever gift I have I cannot give
Your symptoms manifest when I appear
So making my approach to you unsure
The benefit of what I bring unclear
And love as likely curse as likely cure

Philosophie

I want your ear your tongue your touch your cunt
I want you close against me here and now
I want I want I want I want I want
And what I do not want you need not know
For knowledge is a shifting weighty thing
It cannot lie between your thighs and swear
As I and others did that there’s no song
Or prose to drape you sans pareil mon souer
I cannot give a tender to the fear
I cannot kick against the pricks who doubt 
I cannot be myself without you near
Philosophy or sophistry or cant
Will spin away like gossamer to air
And leave as much as sonnetry will dare

Snowblind at Midsummer

The bleak, unhallowed call of God
comes in the nonsense calm,
comes where the quiet pitch of wind
might barely stir an inch of grass
or rouse a head of corn from stoop

black ice on the path of words
makes language inexplicable
and there the stunning blow of God
makes landfall in a silence

But call and blow are not enough
and so the freezing mist and sleet
fall out of season everywhere

On every orchard sunset bronze
and every fleet of growing corn

The weather touching in my head
defies the sense of what is there

Renoir’s Field

Your father is buried in Renoir's field
but you will be following soon;
Shakespeare's hat lies turned in a ditch,
full of the silvery moon

The masque performed by the mummers was drab
while you sat with your tarot and loom,
weighing the sea and the sky in your hand;
and the priest in the secret room.

The soldiers are going to Marston Moor
and leave to a marching tune,
the frozen mosaic is down in the mud
and you will be following soon

Sligo and Mayo

I said it’s hard to know where to belong
Sligo or Mayo, wherever you’re from

Hard to know whether it makes sense to go
Beyond the abundance of places you know

Call to mind all of the dream-lands you yearn
The fingertip trace of the flesh as you learn

The abstract and actual, landscape and plough
Maps of mine workings uncovered below

Go back again and leave me no trace
But the hope of your image in this other place

While places unravel and make themselves wrong
And Sligo or Mayo is where we belong 

Vacancies

Each week, new souls troop in
and make it theirs,
arriving in the dark with the
flicker of a torch
looking for keys and instructions

Nothing for the first two days,
they rise, assuming form,
on the third morning
stretching out into the grounds,
the salt air, the sea itself

Unravelling like bundles of wool, or nerves,
raising voices into laughter,
a pattern so unchanging
that I took it that they must be
following orders

Except once, when I was up
repairing the fence on the cliff
with galvanised wire
and heard the phone ring
for what seemed an eternity

Within an hour they’d packed and gone,
these unseen arrivals,
abandoning their post,
advancing or retreating
to who knows where, or why.

Swindon Works Scrapyard, 1974

We got in through a break in the fence,
behind a burnt-out carriage

I stumbled over sleepers,
my redundant dad,
just out of the infirmary,
and one lung short of a pair,
pulled up and paused for breath,
let me run on ahead

Between the awesome, silent hulks,
their weary liveries fading,
with doors ajar and windows out,
all lights and power gone,

I only have two pictures from the day,
one of him, unfocused, and tipped
at almost 45 degrees,
the camera too heavy for my hands

The other, one he took
of the flank of a machine
where a nameplate had been shorn away,
and in white paint on rust
someone had daubed “Undaunted”

Epitaph or rechristening, I’m not sure;
it stood at the head of a column
of decaying locomotives
that stretched as far
as my five year old eyes could see

To a blurred and distant place where
everything will eventually come
to the end of its usefulness,
its working life,
its line.