I left the old man grumbling in the hospital
Hopped upon my bike and cycled through the town
Turned my handlebars to long-remembered paths
Crossed the river, heading to the countryside

I’m glad I came this way
A woodpecker haunting in the trees
Poppy lanterns glowing deep within the crop
Doves and waxwings clapping over ancient graves


Maybe it’s an excuse, these visits to my dad
For afternoon excursions along country lanes
Quietness and solitude have a place in life
Wistful and exquisite is the quickening day
And always there and back again
Through windows of familiar trains
The softening of the English night
That bathes the world with green-gold light



Reading Beowulf in bed last night
I dreamt of Heorot
Gales cast hard against thin glass
Thrattling the gutters, the black plastic sails

I dreamed I flew to Greenland
Inaccessible, unorganised
Someone prepared a rough questionnaire
Were whales trapped in ice floes?
And when were they scared?

I’ve had the whole flat to myself all this week
Sumptuous and silent and satisfactory
Blankets and fires are the meaning of peace
Dozing old men, imagining stories

My sea lanes are lithe with the January swells
Torques of contentment and comfort I seek
Mermaids are rising again from the deep
Strewing this cove with a garland of shells

Death of a Geordie

You built a garden here
I stood in it a week ago
The flowering of your mind’s eye
Planted here within the earth

The first day of summer, I thought -
Standing in the noon-day sun
Enveloped by these tiny flowers
Powder blue and delicate

To work with the hands is a dying art
Asbestos, soil and ironwork
Clasping strength and tender craft
The pistons of your human heart

Can we pretend it was gravity
That grabbed your legs, and brought you down?
Fetid air that crawled into your cavities
And stole your lungs?

Suddenly – too suddenly
Long shadows shorten summer plots
Too early for your memory
Amidst the blue forget-me-nots


I had such a feeling of vitality as I awoke -
The sky was filled with blossom and birdsong
The shadows in the branches gone
The triumph over winter won

A tang of manure from the rose-beds by the Chelsea Royal
Freshly dug and waiting for the flowers of Spring
Men with scarlet blossom etched upon their cheeks
Calmly contemplating fertile graves

And along the dappled street a girl in green
Pushes on her scooter, followed by her gran
Alert, yet somehow sensing
The memory that is forming
That one day she will savour
When she herself is old


This afternoon we carried dad into the house
Stuttering pale and trembling like a new born lamb
Later on we walked along the River Ouse
Tidal water pulling over flint and chalk

In the sky a pale and valiant sun
Times falls out and lives becomes undone
Triumphs over winter never won