FOR STEVEN

I

the true supplicant
seeks eternal balance
in a tent by the creek
forsaking most things we crave
sleeps by an open fire

embers smoke the frozen dawn
where the gums arch towards the light
a cathedral in which to dwell
a kingfisher opalizes the water

hard to be humble
when this is all you own

II

wakes at dawn naked
struts the polished floor
of the house he designed and built
imposed upon the land

wonders at the majesty
of the range folding
lustily upon itself
like a lover
hard not to be challenged
by this act of dispossession

the greed of
trying to own all this

LOSS MARKERS

in life’s calculus

the aggregation of loss is zero

the sum total of lost things is nought


get used to losing things

declares Elizabeth Bishop in One Art

for the art is in remembering

but there’s no joy in absences

nothing is lost without loss


a dead lover

haunts your dreams now

illness finally consumed him

secrets from beyond

tell nothing unknown

and not much that is

love remembered a one-way street

receding into the past


my twin perpetually grinning

in the mirror of our life

from conception face to face

until death foretold

at Drimfern Inveraray

eating gravel in his stoop

when his heart stopped

his barbour jacket with his smell

on its peg inside the door


my father face down

in the leaflitter of the gully at Maroota

the fall’s force puncturing his brain

news conveyed by phone

grief released

in that front paddock

of stripped oats at Gundaroo


revisiting David’s farm Gunnas Gunya

driving the dirt track through scrub

located by intuition rather than recollection

after this time deserted

his MG TC abandoned in the barn

that front paddock bare


not lost just misplaced

STOPPING AT ADLESTROP

I could (I suppose) have been there

but unlikely    the station was demolished

in 1966 comprehensively and insensitively

intones a history written by train buffs


I have visited the area many times

on my first the ground crunched

under my step in winter

through the fence across the hoar

on the way to a country pub for lunch


I read those Dannie Abse poems readily available

casually passing through a familiar landscape

then later in the novel I was re-reading *

a character takes his lover in hand

to that poem where nothing happens Adlestrop 

I think he’s got his Welsh poets mixed

not Edward Thomas but Abse

Not Adlestrop as I remember


then I see the linkage expressed

but not acknowledged and it all becomes clear

speeding down the Cotswold Line

from Oxfordshire to Gloucestershire


 *Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

RETURN TO CAERYDD

After Dannie Abse

 

that miscellany of lost things

a pint of Brains at Cardiff Arms Park

donkey rides at Porthcawl

tickets to the eisteddfod

Sully TB hospital Penarth

the lonely gum in Roath Park

planted in our dad’s memory

without approval

 

the pull to return

banished with the 50 foot tides

by the Cardiff Bay barrage

the stink of mud flats

speckled with boats

no more now the harbour’s neutered

gone with GKN’s steelworks at East Moors

along with most of the jobs in town

our dad’s first job post war

 

Sunday drives in the Vauxhall

windows fogged

the stench of the works and the docks

by Tiger Bay

that old family game who farted

now glass and shiny surfaces

flash boats moored in the bathtub

travellers moved on from their wasteland

 

all gone until the satellite map

closes on our Llanrumny street unvisited

and then the fence I remember running past

blurred as on my first day at school

KITE FLYING  

I

 

umbilical cocked tight

against the wind

my son earnest

with concentration

on Bluey’s Beach

fishing the sky

 

II

 

the wind shows promise

I take my youngest daughter

to the park

 

launched into the air

its tail streams

grabs her attention

the string slackens

as she marvels

and it falls reluctantly

I’m not much of a kite flyer

said with as much wisdom as she possesses

 

days later I catch her

proudly telling

I went kite flying with my dad

sometimes flying a kite

is as simple as that

 

 

 

 

PHOTOFRAME

just a family snap we framed

of no particular merit

more content than composition

 

you recognize your baby self

wailing fist clenched

wah wah wah giving voice to the scene

 

you are content

to register me holding you

daddy you have your happy face on

and I do

FORGETTING

I

 

leaving the road

to cross the hedgerow at the stile

into an avenue of oaks framing

the mansion house imposed upon the hill

a vista Lutyens would devise

long summer grasses in Herefordshire

 

heading across

to find the shaded muddy track

back to the fieldstone farmhouse

surrounded by dry stone walls

in need of repair

smells rank and rancid from the pigsty

greeted by the hunchback

family retainer from a bleak last century past

and the gift of one warm egg

still crusted and slightly repellent to the child

 

II

 

another stile I need help to cross

into the blackberry wasteland

my young parents on their Sunday walk

gloved against the cold

milky sky closed over winter in Glamorgan

 

there is the stile where it should be

now backing onto the scar

of the motorway

not as I remember it at all

MUSCULARITY

Homage to GARY SNYDER

 

words whittled to shavings

curling at my feet

thoughts like plastic wrappers

swirling in the wind

a puddle willing itself

to become an ice cube

the wave of a drowning man

in the waves

the sound of one hand clapping

in the forest

words shouted into the face

of the storm

unheard unread

 

your footprint preserved in stone

once a tentative step

in the ooze of time

much the way this began

DEAR KEN*

when Ashbery* wrote “hand me the orange”*

was he slyly referencing O’Hara’s*

“Why I am not a painter”*

was this the orange he wanted

or would another do

was he craving the cool dimpled skin

the juicy flesh

explaining what happened to Frank’s orange

all that time ago

why do we assume he means

the fruit not the colour

 

nothing is as it seems

maybe he was just hungry not ironic

at his age would he care or remember

you can continue to break language down

but eventually the music

becomes just noise

words broken into a mumbled jumble

or is that the point

 

Ken when we both wore our hair long

your studied casualness signified cool

your hip nonchalance

your deliberate insouciance

 

nothing is as it seems

 

Mies Van Der Rohe* was born

Ludwig Mies

his Barcelona pavilion

was really the German pavilion

on Montjuic* overlooking Gaudi’s* city

not in Barcelona

the pavilion built 1929*

was demolished 1930

what happened to the Barcelona chair*

is unknown

when we supplicants climb the hill

to pay homage

does it matter this structure is

the 1986 re-construction

how authentic is this

set down millimetre perfect

to site specified stone in its construction

what is more important

the plans and specification or the building

is one just language the other the thing

where does the idea manifest itself

 

if your poem is reproduced

which is the authentic version you devised

if translated what does it mean

to you if you don’t speak that language

is it still your poem

 

nothing is as it seems

is your poem the same read

as heard by you      or me

your sparse flinty words

scatter the light

 

the vast Mediterranean sky

captured by the pool the pavilion floats in

 

there is no ambiguity in structures

 

maybe that is why you are not an architect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Ken Bolton – Australian Poet 1949-
  2. John Ashbery – American Poet 1927 – 2017
  3. “hand me the orange”- final line of Ashbery’s last published poem New Yorker magazine February 2017
  4. Frank O’Hara – American Poet 1926 – 1966
  5. “Why I am not a painter”- O’Hara poem 1956
  6. Mies van der Rohe – International architect 1886 – 1969
  7. Montjuic – site of the 1992 Games of the XXV Olympiad and site of a vast above ground necropolis site of Joan Miro’s grave
  8. Antoni Gaudi – Catalan architect 1852 – 1926
  9. For the International Exposition 1929
  10. The only piece of furniture to have a building designed around it