Short texts 1980s

Here are a few of the texts from this period – they range from relatively direct observational poems to more complex compositions in which words, phrases and conventional syntax are played with in order to bring out ambiguities of meaning and interpretation.

Marsh and estuary: an inventory

Dawn light

The feet of crows

Heron’s bony stalking shadow

Across the marsh lapwings flap and skew

broken light scrapes mud

a lost shoe lies upturned

washed and turned by searching tides


Drifting tideland

Gaunt pine

Gulls sowing diamonds

Gulls scratching deadship sky

til it bleeds white nervous clods

of light

Horizon ache

Phantom islands tasting rain

Stolen wavetops strewn on rock

Numb-boned driftwood

Skulls of crab

Scalps of weed


Charnwood Forest liturgy

Bare feet through hillocks of grass, on rock, in birchbark ash, small fire, sun through windy branches.

Last few hours of this day. No end to change, transformations, variations of leaf and light; roofs, walls, cracks in concrete only a few years old, dug up and relaid with fresh mix.

How does the broom get its yellow

            from grey rock, dusty soil?

Ghosts rise. Splintered logs. Owls nest in my ears, they gaze both ways across night spaces between tree and tree. Shrews parting blades of grass like oak churchdoors.

No rest between clouds of yellow smoke and blueless hills sweating in the dusk.

Flies with no loss of horizon’s speech.

So to the quarry’s edge, stars twinkling across its throat.

Rusty old cars, bikes, tincans, flaking comics: mass decreasing, giving themselves to the earth, which takes like it’d never eaten or been kissed before.

And ghosts of suicide rocks have no wings, lie low, spin roots into other worlds, to trip you, catch you falling nowhere, never saying anything save a leaf floating on the moon in a shallow pool.



Thursday evening,

and the rain falls into Friday


just like snow falls

into spring sunshine,

or again, as fish falls

into fishing,

so this falls,





The quiet exchange

The irony: of the seal who must surface every twenty minutes to the same hole in the ice, a hole maybe two feet in diameter in the midst of miles of pack ice and hourly blizzards, this hole being the only link the seal has with the air, a gap in the ice upon which it is totally dependent and to which it has to return three times an hour, without which it would drown as we would drown, and which is the one place in all the arctic winter where the Eskimo hunter, patient as the arctic summer, confidently waits. He need only stab the water once to carve himself a notch in this ironic and predictable ceremony.



September was too dry

All dust and shallow water

No one can sink

No one knows how to drown anymore

Parched lark perched behind a boulder

Daylong oven burrows

Cool midnight moon

Hot light splits spectrum crystal rock

Wings flap and crack

No wonder no bird can sing no man can sink

Dried-up snails

Empty shells

Every damp wet succulent thing licks itself dry

No one whistles

Stone lips can’t bend

Tongue calcified

Roots stretched taut

Throat quivers

Skin bursts


There are two thousand ears in the dust

At the dog shout, nose under a gate, tumbles and unfolds.

Dustbin cascades rubbish into open lorry.

Into delicate itself, tall green spinach turns blue.

Heat curls crinkled pagoda seed. Dry hang leaf hanging dry.

And dogs yelping the deaf persistent bells of convolvulous in a white breeze.

Sits only now the old bitch, casual tongue, hot dripping mouth.

And at the side, in a piece too, of shade, panting, the old dog hangs. His quarter intact shoulder, as if a wing torn, hangs still. The point. Body quite other.

Dead rock with breeze. Pagoda shout. Delicate yelping. Intact wing cascades. All dripping white wrinkled shade. Hour after hour each dog leaf out tumbles hovering panting. Body out. Gate bells itself. Hot barking. Only face hangs where other lies.

Soil in calm ears. Flies trampling over crushed snails.

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