Poetry: Smoke and darkness

The fire was built in

the embers of song

thrush, the tilt

of stars and

overflowing April


Smoke and darkness,

left out somehow

from the image of

fire’s mystery, its

coming and going,

killing and scaling,

of landscapes,

smoke can also

mean hurt.

A curly-headed mass

of hair reveals

pan-pipes, a swooning

tune of a young

man, brought here

to judge the pull of

the people.

I confess I bow,

mostly, to the

call of the tawny.

As with fires, as

with light, people

fade into night

and sleep, and caverns

of orange appear

between logs,

chambers of nature’s


A roe deer darkness

is one of atavistic

terror for the city-dweller,

the plodding white tush

in leaf litter.

So I stare into fire and I wonder,

which part of the wood,

will the flames kindle under.

Swifts screeching

Swifts spread across

the sky and stop,

part starfish

brought by a retreating

surf, pigeons bolting

from a setting,

behind cloud.


Always, always,

the world is a



I listen to the tits

pleading from the nest

box, one bird out

and the other bird

in, a single note

between them.


Hawthorn flowers

are a tree lit

by snow in the

middle of May,

but is spring or

winter late?

I worry that the

old tree is dying,

that a part

of my youth might

not outlive me.


Happiness is the sound

of swifts screeching,

the migrants testing

the evening,

spring’s ending


brought on

by the declining

surf of sky,

or sea?



Positano Poemas

‘Bronze-breasted women’

Bronze-breasted women
gazing at crystals,
in Positano shop windows.
And, in the vines
entwined overhead,
blue butterflies,
warming their wings
in the boiling
morning sun.

‘A swallowtail fell’

A swallowtail fell
onto the terrace,
a banknote,
slipping through the railings.

‘In the night’

In the night the forest
burned, a clutch
of smoking orange groves.

By morning
helicopters ran drills
from the sea to the sky,
pouring fish

and blue water,
into the flames.

The cuckoo goes

We won’t know
when the cuckoo goes,
we’ll never know it’s gone,

we won’t know
when the cuckoo goes,
we’ve never heard its song.

We won’t know
when the cuckoo goes,
we’ll never know it’s gone,

we won’t know
when the cuckoo goes,
they say it won’t be long.

We won’t know
when the cuckoo goes,
we’ll say that nothing’s wrong,

until the day
that the cuckoo goes,
we’ll sing the cuckoo’s song.

And if the cuckoo goes,
then the cuckoo’s gone.

The Laburnum Flowers Fade

In the street an ice cream
van sings a glistening tune,
parked on the kerb,
no children come outside.

It rolls away,
and the music sparkles
in the May sky,
and houses climbing on the hill.

The laburnum flowers fade,
seed pods hanging dry
like poisonous earrings.

I rest my head
on the tabby’s tum,
and his pulse presses
to my temple.

A magpie is huffing
in the hawthorn,
and my father –
protector of the songbird –

sends it to the cobalt,
with a clap.

My Cat is a Wild Cat

The footballer’s field is
a mown meadow,
the actress
wears a dragonfly
broach on her breast.

My cat is a wild
cat, the ancestor
of the beast
that roamed, below
the miles and miles
of Scot’s pine.

The chicken on
the plate, the flesh
of a dinosaur’s
distant daughter.

Your cricket
bat is willow,
and your mobile forged
from a mine in the Congo.

Archimides was killed
by a lammergeier,
and the Germans use an eagle
as an emblem.