My head feels like a sack full
of brown beer bottles and horseshoes
in the back of a truck on a bumpy road,
there’s just too much movement
and clatter to take aim properly.
There’s nothing I can do about it,
I’m the passenger, not the driver,
the driver is out of his mind on drugs,
foot to the floor and eyes popping with terror
as if driving away from it all will make any difference,
hasn’t anybody told him the world is round?
He’ll just end up back where it began
and we’ll both have to start over again.
But the sun’s going to get us all in the end
and after the vultures have finished with us
our bones will bleach in the desert,
you, me, the driver and everyone else,
what’s left of us will turn to dust and
our children’s children will walk over us
not even knowing that we ever existed.
By that time we will have become
one with the wind, moving through the air,
whipping the oceans into a frenzy
or feeling the clip of an eagle’s wing,
tearing down the old and the sick
to make space for what is to be,
we’ll sing in harmony, with one voice,
a symphony played on telephone wires,
a low moan over the heath, whistling in the eaves,
or howling down the valleys and through the trees,
we’ll play like the organ pipes of the gods
and at last, we’ll know why we came.
What would it be like
to have known the scent
of roses your whole life long
without ever having seen one?
Then how would it be if
one dewy summer morning
towards the end of your years
you found the key to a secret garden,
unlocked the door and there, for the first time,
you saw the blooms, would they come as a shock?
would you be curious or maybe disappointed?
Or would you lean forward, inhale the perfume,
then step back and think to yourself,
I was looking through some
old photographs when I came across
the most perfect picture I have ever taken,
if the truth be known it probably took me,
as I looked at it the memories swam back
like a great tanker emerging from the sea mist,
the picture was of a sunset reflected on a wet beach,
deep blues, orange and gold, dark sand and black kelp,
captured on holiday during what was, without a doubt,
the most dreadful and painful period of my life
but as I looked down at it I felt no pain, no regret,
I saw only beauty and all I felt was gratitude.
When I opened
my computer this morning
the screensaver showed a photograph
of American Buffalo grazing in the snow,
at one time they were almost wiped out
by white men with guns, men who knew
nothing of the ways of the people.
When they’d finished with
the Buffalo they started on the native people,
who now live as half-bloods and quarter-bloods
in apartments and graze in the snow themselves.
I am a white man and unless we change our ways pretty soon
I think my brother will be coming for me.
All my life
I’ve lived with failure
and the feeling that I’m not enough,
I have spent hours and hours
with therapists who have told me
that it’s to do with my mother,
my childhood, my family
or growing up
in post war Britain
and I have agreed with them all.
But now I think that they
aren’t enough either,
all tooled up with viable theories
but talking about things
they don’t really understand
any better than I do.
I feel like a failure
because the world is broken and I am part of it,
because people will do anything for money,
because we’ll shoot first and ask questions later,
because we are clever and greedy and ugly,
because drugs are cheaper than education,
because the TV is full of mayhem and violence,
and we are treating this beautiful world
like a landfill site.
I feel like a failure
because I came here to help
and I am at a loss to know how to.
As I was reading
the work of another poet
I thought, ‘I could have written that.’
But I couldn’t,
it was hers, not mine,
it was she who burgled my house
not I who burgled hers,
it was she who left her prints
on the light switch,
her feet light on the stairs,
her hand on the door
entering the room where
I was quietly reading,
it was her voice whispering in my ear
and her tears in the words she wrote
mingling with mine as I read them.
Why is nothing working anymore?
Maybe it’s because the Gods
want something different from us now,
something new, something fresh,
something we haven’t thought of before
or once knew but have forgotten.
But nobody is asking what it might be,
just applying the same old same old,
things that set one against the other,
seek security and certainty where none exists,
things that place wisdom in the hands of others
and not in our hearts, our beautiful human hearts.
Where are the prophets,
the visionaries and the peacemakers?
Not the leaders of men but the leaders of light?
So death is out
walking our streets again,
don’t follow him to see where he goes,
don’t catch his eye or touch his clothes,
just look away and let him by
and pay your respect with a silent sigh.
Know that in time your heart will soften,
you’ll recall the person, not the coffin,
and in their place new hope will rise,
it’s always the way when a loved one dies.
The night bus
dropped me off here
nearly seventy years ago,
I watched it go, it’s warmth,
the smell of diesel
and it’s golden windows
disappearing into the night.
It wasn’t long before
the dawn came and I could
see where I was, but it
took me much longer
to work out why I was here.
I’m not complaining,
by and large I have
risen to the challenge,
it wasn’t always easy
but I’ve had a lot of help,
now when I sit in the evenings
I sometimes think I can hear
the old bus coming to pick me up,
growling over the distant hills.
It’s got a way to come yet
but still I find myself
checking my pockets
to make sure I haven’t
lost my ticket.
At first he was delighted,
delighted at all the things he could do.
But as time passed
he found that much of what he did
caused distress to others
so he did less and less.
It took a while
but eventually he ended up
like the rest of us here in the woodland,
sitting with his back to a tree
just watching the autumn leaves
falling gently to the ground.