- Vol. 02
- Chapter 09
This island self-contains
Over white cliffs and village lanes
This island leads the way
Innovating through cliché
This island has no neighbours
This island don’t vote Labour
This island is a tropical paradise
A festering cesspit of vice
This island is bordered by sea
Does it ever get lonely?
Light crashes into my head unannounced. I keep my eyes locked shut, causing orange lozenges to wheel about my brain. The surface beneath me shifts unevenly. The backs of my thighs prickle. I catch his pungent scent which has nothing whatsoever to do with after-shave. I feel him beside me, above me, like a wall radiating heat after the sun has set. His rasping hand patrols my thigh. ‘Come on, doll,’ he says. My mind does a somersault. The light goes out.
Me and our Barry are always bunking off. Our Barry loathes school. Mam bought him a Woolworth’s pencil case to encourage him, but it didn’t work. He carries humiliation with him like a parcel he can’t put down. I stay away because I’m scared someone will see what our Mam does when she whispers warily, ‘Don’t upset your dad.’. Our Barry senses something’s adrift, but I haven’t told him what.
We climb to the field behind our estate. In winter, the frost makes stubble as stiff as fountain pens that jam themselves into the soles of your shoes, but in the summer you can dive like dolphins in an uncharted sea of waving grain. And this is where make our plan. One day, as dusk foreshortens the crumpled town below, our eyes are drawn by the golden thread of glinting river, and we trace it right out to the flat-lining horizon.
‘What’s over there?’ I say.
‘Blackpool,’ says our Barry.
‘Bridlington, more like.’
‘Well, you’re the know-all.’Read more >
Again, this is indiscriminate light
angled by the earth its axis collapsing
and if these people stood still perhaps
they would be painted differently over time
as the sun closed in the distance and the bar
of light decreased slowly to a slit
marking their midriff circling their wrists
Again, this is a pattern of growth
from which crops or humans can be
repeated modified or granted power
and as the wind realigns the jointed
stalks of barley becoming darker begin
to resemble knees from which
they are only an shifted angle
an altered code of letters away
hairs stick –
fine strands on blushing peel.
11pm is baked in his boots
inhaling the hour then exhaling
minute wisps 'til 12.
I think of you often
though you are no-one in particular
like hot dust.
we made promises, that Summer
with the low, but never setting sun.
We swore we'd always live for fun
and never love another.
in amber we preserved the day
but golden ears are threshed
as Autumn draws her breath.
We let the season slip away.
Jewellery casket melody;
box opens to age-spot touch.
Refract the rays through memory
and try not to regret so much.
The sky’s not always purple
with passion, nor the fields
alfalfa-green and gold,
sometimes heaven is just
angry & the plains are on fire
And away from the place
of the buffalo, close to the
ocean swells, clouds are not
always empty, but are filled
with trust and my prayers.
You say This land is my land
but those words don’t exist
in my tongue. I am nothing
but silhouette dawning,
I am nothing but dust
by your hands.
But the sun will shine forever
as far as your life and mine
are concerned; I will transform
to better shadow in the light
of the One who must come.
I hear his one hoof slipping on the cobbled
it didn’t use to be like that it was a sandy lane
easy to walk on but inland tourism is big now
hence the uneven stones, he stops outside my
house I shiver in the heat, but then he walks on
chuckling darkly he has the comic timing of
a comedian who hates his audience, himself and
the whole fucking world.
Sleep impossible I walk barefoot into the kitchen
open the fridge a cold beer never fails to bring
coolness and a rethink, but I sense shadows around
my desk when I look up only cold air blows and
my contempt for my ghosts is total never do they have
the courage to show their faces
And though I did aggrieve her,
I was more aggrieved by all I smelled,
Thanks to my fierce hay-fever.
I drove home thankful I could run,
And managed to escape her;
My thoughts turned to the setting sun
And I put pen to paper.
I tried to write verse much like Horace (he
Of songs sweet as the Sirens'),
But it always turns out more like Morrissey,
With rhymes contrived as Byron's.
Feeling I was fully healed,
I walked along the Cam --
I saw another sunlight field,
And put it on Instagram.
But all we have here is the rain,
Endless dreary days, but we don't complain
The cool weather is a relief from the baking sun
This sight so dear,
This sight so rare,
In urban cities paved in tarmac,
In glass skyscrapers, overbearing, so cold.
Lay back and dream,
Feel the wind whip through your hair,
Stream the soil between your fingers,
Dig in bare toes and wiggle.
Scream for the beauty of a sight, unattainable.
Does the sun shine brighter in far-far away?
Or are we bewitched by tricks of lighting?
Beneath skies leaching light
Eyes on each other, wary
Mistrust shining golden
In the haze of an uncomfortable peace
A fragile harvest
Failing beneath a flood
Of bloody outrage
And outraged blood
The distance growing
With twisted words
And false promises
That breed and seep
Their way through nations
Until once more
We find ourselves
On the brink
Of humans enjoying this Earth.
Lens flare pricking-consciousness
Photos plucked from
A Haze of remembrance,
Of days gone
It was before your time,
The buzzing of the abyss,
Echoes of the tiny footprints of bees,
(Gone but not forgotten)
As we watched our wildlife falter upon the borders
Shed their outlines
Returning to the earth.
We became still life -
Silhouettes cut against the sun, ripe for harvest.
Arms cradling heads,
The End of the World.
What light there is leaks
Through a crack in the east's
night-heavy sky. Sour, surly.
He'd been in this fight
For years. Battles lost,
Battles won, a borne cross,
On the long walk into night.
That last Friday, the priest came.
The green baize card table,
Covered in lace, cradled a bible,
A tabernacle, a flickering flame.
Sacramental words were spoken.
The Lord's Prayer, a final confession,
Deliverance from evil, a profession
Of faith. A wafer of bread was broken.
Light on the tongue, a salvation
Of sorts, seemingly weightless,
Tasteless, yet, somehow, gracious.
For him, at least, a fifteenth station.
Thinking to limbo
Under the fast-vanishing
Crack in the horizon
'Ain't Them Bodies Saints'
But I never really understood
So I waited. On you.
Thinking, all the while
If only I had known it
That I was Larkin's
arrow-shower, sent out of sight.
And no-one was falling.
and please don’t worry
your pretty little head
over these dark clouds
we’ve been living under.
This harvest of wheat
may well be
with GMO chimera DNA,
but our bodies
against the corruption
of science gone mad,
and our will
is strong enough
to carry us ahead
toward a brighter future.
This chaos storm
of socially engineered decadence
may have seemed
as if it were
never going to pass,
but the Summer Solstice
has smiled upon us once more,
lifting the veil
of its fiery halo
to rise up high
Read more >
Looking back across the field I can see her little red car pulled up tight against the tumbledown gate, pretty much hidden from view. Not that we had needed to hide, I’ve not seen hide nor hair of anybody since we got here. And again, and again, and again. What a stupid thing to do, what was I thinking, and I still haven’t…. Haven’t what? But she doesn’t finish that one. Just leaves it hanging in the air between us, the pollen drifting through it.
We’ve only been seeing each other two weeks, and today had started so well, so perfectly. I can still taste her on my lips. But that taste is getting more and more bitter as her tongue lashes my ears.
I was having a go at being romantic. In my own way. Not that I really have a way with romance, or much experience for that matter. But I had genuinely been going for spontaneous and carefree, taking on board her little dropped hints that that was what she liked.
I am trying. Perhaps you can tell me off for trying a little too hard.
So, anyway, when we got here I threw her car keys across the field. I didn’t know it would take so long to find them. I also didn’t know the stupid car would lock itself automatically.
My cheeks had burned as I looked stupidly in the window of the locked door onto the back seat, where the picnic and blanket lay untouched.
Anyway, now I’m walking up and down again and there she is, right in my face, prodding me in the shoulder asking what am I going to do about it.
It’s hot, I’m bothered and that hurts.
Read more >
All through that summer holiday,
Among the stone deaf ears of corn
Where bees looked bacchanalian.
You read Coleridge in silence
As I listened to the football.
Poetry was drugs and madness;
Half-truths, head trips and psychosis.
One morning I was awoken
By your footsteps from the toilet
And found myself more excited
By a dream than dawn and daytime.
Out into the fields we drifted
As the sun bloomed and its petals
Spread across the air and shimmered.
We lifted our chins to breathe them.
Were we foolish in our stillness?
In our silence? In our touches?
In our vivid sense of being?
We were such beautiful suckers.
The brightness of my day on your face
Your pale snow skin
The light in your eyes
(From the moon, of which I stopped to show you.
And you were caught in its beauty.
But I caught you in yours)
Your long black hair
Something we have in common
“I have the same problem as you”
But I don’t think you do
It was all the muck I smoked,
You complimented my nails
I couldn’t even remember the word “nail-file” to tell you I didn’t own one
You didn’t question the band-aid
Only corrected me, calling it a plaster
Not in the way they think
Not in the way they know
They drain my brain
Maybe they drain yours too
Or maybe you don’t know
Just as maybe I don’t know
We're better in tune
Say, taking up your camera as we paddle through the stream
In front of Chatsworth House. Look at that puddle of light. I could
Dip my hands and fish it out. On the bus back to Chesterfield
Still enamoured by the glistens of millions of bullet-holes in
The foliage of the tree-leaves, your ear turns its deaf head to
Anything I have to say. Right index finger alights on the button
And clicks a smile that gently parts itself upon your face.
But standing on top of Calton Hill, When the whole city
stands upside-down underneath our soles, I see your arms
Drop down pierced by the painful ordnance tearing through
The heavy walls of upcoming storm that is your mind,
Your string of subconsciousness, your eye-strings, that is
For the moment Your everything.
He wanted to ride all the time, feel the air, driven tepid by speed. She'd cling to his back and watch scorched wheat fields pass. They'd stop, if she begged him, to sunbathe in the grass, pour melted iced water from wet plastic bottles over the other one's throat. She liked the way the liquid pooled in his jugular notch. They never stayed still for long.
The roads were slimy with heat.
She can still hear the crack and blister of tarmac, the spark of metal and snap of bone on road.
When hot weather descends, she draws the blinds, turns up the air-conditioning, and retreats from chinks of light.
It doesn't take much to pretend that she's in dead winter's grasp.
drumming the heat
On our heads, the glow
like an aura, a halo
You raise up your hands
as if trying to catch
all that illuminates the day
At the end of it
there's the sunset and
in my chest, my heart:
All the way from the horizon
Golden arms outstretched in unison
across the field the silence that says 'I love you'.
In fierce colours
Like the seasons had gone mad
And the heavens, otherwise condescending
Would gleam in joy
Saluting your worth as
The man in the world.
They lied. My father
Is crying tonight for
I am gone, and with me
All that they said was
Supposed to be done
the stories we were told as children
and the places we lived in as children
had crows in them.
Perched in one for sorrow. Two for joy.
The poem we memorised as children
had daffodils in them and we’d never
lest a field of them
on a summer’s day
and came home
to lie on a couch
to dream about them.
We live in a place today where there
are no crows but we passed a field
of daffodils on a bus.
The poems we memorised as children
had dreams in them to stand near
the daffodils and sing this to them.
The nightmares we have today
have crows in them
where one by one they flew
with our dreams with them.
he doesn't see her
Once he roused stone
to song, ran rings
around kings and monsters,
made wings, master
of high and low.
Up, up he swung,
his son in tow,
humming with glee
A curse on the sun’s
indifferent fire, razing
a boy’s blurry dreams.
stone soul crashed
into the ready sea.
Oh, to be nameless.
Now the wingbeat
of a father’s fist
opening and closing
is the only thing
that stirs the air.
It was my turn to take a swing from the bottle. As I did I remembered that not so long ago you asked me out. I suppose you were attractive, but given what we know many years later (Your constant surfer girl style and my love of musicals) it wouldn't have worked, or perhaps it would have, you were always better at toning it down.
As I gulped, I laughed. The red liquid ejected out my nose and fell on my white hoodie turning it pink. You laugh and our friend laughs, I laugh too though I'm more worried about not being able to get the stains out. As I looked down at the stain I am gripped by a sudden wave of panic. I do not want this moment to pass, I didn't want to live without this field, without the sun, without you. I don't want the feeling of acceptance and belonging that being with your friends who by some miracle became my friends too, to vanish.
We started to talk about University. I dreaded the thought. I remember when I was smaller, sitting in my classroom reading an atlas and thinking that being able to point out Bratislava on a map of Europe would get you somewhere, the other kids were out playing football. I was small, I didn't know the rules yet. I wondered if that could happen again.
immersed in golden hues
shadowed by dark clouds
awe-struck we stood there in that
in-between region of luminosity and gloomy
A mid-summer breeze, sole companion
we rushed with it but could never
outrun the scented wind in the
meadows wild and full of life;
on that vantage point met
the earth and the sky.
The magic gone
rising farmers’ suicides
rapid and ugly urbanization
cities ghettoized and variously-priced
special economic zones usurping
farms and villages green
for profits unending for some;
that sweet parcel of childhood
a daily school and community-hall
for lessons real and live by nature;
Turned into a receding memory
captured as a rarity on celluloid.
that any of us could remember...
On Rannoch Moor parched walkers
met each other coming from every direction
and wondered aloud among ourselves
where how and when we'd taken the wrong turns
that brought us from our separate airts and pairts
to this selfsame African savannah
while scorched stones on the track
cracked underfoot to conjure up
those far-off blazing mornings of the world
when they were born or brought here.
We rest, arms akimbo.
Two men, glistening lie hot,
awakening sun, burnished gold
set in antique world,
warmed in wisdom-
sweat and corn fix us with bliss-
joy of brotherly love bonded-
furnishes us in a key of trust, eternally, truthfully.
corn fence-post high it's near impossible
to tell from two fields away man from
woman from scarecrow. Though I can make out
the lack of outstretched limb on two unmoved
adult trunks, their oddly-close position –
one scares north, the other unflinching west –
betrays, as indeed they are scarecrows, an
obsessively protective farmer. Strange,
too, how today the sun sets exactly
between them. I'd like to imagine that
the farmer stood, years ago, where I stand
now, his index finger and thumb raised as
a digital sextant to calculate
the precise alignment of today's end.
on their crucified shoulders, wooden bones
looping this bottled sun in a bow tie,
silent as a daguerreotype. Their shy
straw hands conduct the carrion crows groans.
The scarecrows carry the curve of the sky,
a solstice conjuring sketches of dye
with tin horns and an incense of wheat sewn,
looping this bottled sun in a bow tie.
This wheat field Golgotha is left to dry
upon the dirt, sunrise trapped in a cone,
the scarecrows carry the curve of the sky.
If you look the pair in their button eyes
you’d see flares of God’s presence cast in stone,
looping this bottled sun in a bow tie
with much rigour. Eeny, meeny, as sly
as all crows, thieves of kernels. Miny moe,
the scarecrows carry the curve of the sky
looping this bottled sun in a bow tie.
“You’d chase me through the stalks,” I replied, my breath hot and sticky from all the beers we’d drunk. I was hoping it would call my nerves; I was hoping he couldn’t feel my legs shaking.
“I miss the corn,” he said.
That was back before the drought. Back before his Mama took off and left a note that read like a suicide letter, and maybe he would’ve thought it was, were it not for the postcard from Vegas that came a month later. "Greetings from Sin City," the postcard read.
The corn grew tall back then, before his Daddy started drinking and seeing that woman down at the trailer park; back before he started coming home later and later until sometimes he didn’t come home for days.
Back then, the corn grew so high, and he’d chase me through it, and I’d always hear him coming, because his giggles gave him away.
“I miss the corn, too,” I told him. Now it was all dried weeds, scratching against my bare legs, but I dared not squirm.
I remember him crying in this very field, tucked away deep, by the tree that looked like it had been split by the hand of God himself. I found him there as the sun set. And I didn’t say a word. I just sat there with him, and I let him cry.
I didn’t cry out when he finally pushed himself inside me. Didn’t utter a single sound. I just bit my lip and gripped his arm as he moved and the weeds crackled beneath me. And I focused on the setting sun, as it illuminated the tall weeds, and I thought about the sound of his laughter, so far off.
Afterward, he said, “I hate this fucking field.” He zipped his pants and headed back toward the house.
Among the shadows
Of light and darkness
Unpromising and unkind
Whenever your eyes
All conscious to see
Free to listen
And burdened body
All ready to rest
The wounded soul
At the sunset
The last light
Gentle and glowing
The last breaths
Of dying day
Hasten to home
She waits for hours
To close the door
On the heat and horrors
Of the furious world
Which is going to chase you
He was Ben. In certain lights, he looked like Eddie Vedder. He’d read about crop circles on the internet. I say read, he’d looked at pictures. That day, he showed up at the field with some planks of wood and a lawn roller and told me we’d be on Newsround. We’ll do, like, a giant yin-yang sign, man. He was so worldly, spiritual. And funny - he did a mean Bob Marley; sounded just like him.
There was no plan. In the end, we stamped most of it out with our feet, dancing as that field bowed before us. Until it lay there dead, flat. That’s when the police showed up. Idiots do this kind of stuff in the daytime, they said. The golden light framed Ben’s head like a halo, his face a shadow so I couldn’t tell if he was smiling or not. And what the hell is this? You don’t understand, Ben said. It’s a symbol of balance and shit.
It's not even a fricking circle, kid. They carted us off in the back of their car.
Mum was waiting on the doorstep and frogmarched me into the kitchen. If you’ve spread your legs for that bohemian sack of nonsense, you’re a bigger idiot than I thought. I cried for days. Real tears over this perfect boy with his wavy hair. He'd shared this dream with me, only me. Of endless skies wrapped up in circles of grass, wheat – whatever it was. Mum laughed through my sorrow; so much so she gave herself a hacking cough. He don't even look like that bloke from Pearl Jam. Bigger concern here is that I need to get your eyes tested. Ticks, she shouted through my bedroom door. Insects, pests, bugs - all sorts.
"Daddy. What are they doing?"
His feet padded up the rest of the hill and stopped beside her. "Should we help them?" Sharon looked up at her Dad's face and saw it loosen as his mouth parted.
"No. Let's go back to the path."
"What are they doing?"
"Nothing. Come on, why don't we go and help Mummy with the sausages?"
He led her away by the shoulder, but not before Sharon twisted her head round for a last look. The figures were starting to groan and their bodies moved in a way that reminded her of the steam train ride they had gone on the day before.
The wind moved through the grass and swayed the trees at the bottom of the hill. Suddenly, Sharon felt nauseous as the world rocked and swayed about her in inexplicable ways. Then a view of the campsite filtered through the leaves of the trees and Sharon couldn't wait to run across its grassy humps and watch sausages sizzle over charcoal.
O M Backhouse kept chickens in her back yard, sad, scraggy looking creatures who endlessly pecked in the dirt.
'Don't think she's going to eat them, they're not fat enough' I whispered to my friend.
When we did our running stuff most of our routes ran by her yard, unless we decided to run into town, pounding along in our sneakers, whilst the trams rumbled past. We always tried not to be home late in the night runs. There were no flexible 'in' times. My Dad simply pointed to the clock and the BED word was announced. Same with Carol's Mum, she had an Forces husband, who expected her to keep to a routine as he did when he was on leave.
In the summer holidays we had more time to run and play. We had our favourite places. In third place was the play park, where we met up with our mates, laughed, climbed and sucked sherbet lemons 'til our tongues were sore. Second place went to the heath, where the golfers enjoyed a round or two. Obviously we didn't want to be knocked senseless by a stray golf ball, so we hid in the gorse and ate peanut butter sandwiches.
Our first choice were the fields. Read more >
We waited to see the summer evening vanish and the stars appear,
It was a day of celebration,
We had both got the results we needed to go to college,
School had ended light years before, or so it felt,
But this was our real goodbye,
A farewell to childhood friendship that had protected us through our adolescent battles,
We had ripened into young adults,
It was time for life to harvest our rich crop of youthful hopes,
Would we ever stand together again sharing our dreams?
But the memory of the rustling wind brushed wheat, rushing clouds and our friendship, might just remain
tattooed forever in our minds.
In the far past the earth was a vast ice sheet, one large snowball. Then the tropics and then the desserts, waning and waxing like the moon. The flip side is that humans have existed at a relatively un-chaotic temperate time in the solar life cycle. We have enjoyed a cereal bowl existence, not too hot, not too cold for quite a while. We are relaxed, a tornado or lightning strike happens somewhere else to somebody else, leaving us with the preoccupation of earning money and the desire of love.
Global climatic concerns are too much for most people, with their heads down in Fifty Shades or planning their next meal, no imagination at all. To imagine is to travel beyond the scope of the ordinary, the humdrum, the banal, the suburban. The same stuff holding the sun together is the same stuff keeping our feet on the ground. Matter and energy in a concrete mixer, as our small fragile world travels through space and time.
It is fragile, astronauts know this.
I see a tall handsome figure,
Standing against the smocking heat.
Your face is hidden behind the shadows,
Painted by the fading sun.
The golden fields,
Rich and plenty,
Spread over the land
Like bitter marmalade and peach jam.
The soft breeze dances around the fields
Of corn and wheat,
Then play with your thin black hair.
The sky is warm and vast.
It burns like an open fire,
Gently and fast…
When the sun finally dives
Into the coming night,
I loose you again,
Against the sudden growing darkness.
I never had the chance to say
the shed he built which had no roof.
In chapter 2 you would hear the story
of the wrong suitcase,
know that once we laughed.
Chapters 3 and 4 could be for the wedding
when he dressed as a clown,
the atlas he left for the baby
the shame of sharing other beds.
But this is a poem so I will just tell you that
he went away.
in your palms, shredded out, pork buns in glass cabinets
today mid-day came and went
I said hello and goodbye as the wild molasses clouds pressed the dirt
even the grass grasped their dander
their moment before happening
way out there, so far out that filaments of moments become runners swathing the earth
I am outstretched
a Gumby in the cosmos, sweating under skin gently threading
pelvic inclination angle - flawless
in the easy flush of continuous
For hours we lay, but she is not here. A thought, without a memory. A memory, without one to share. Though, I speak. And I tell her that there’s nothing left but that which she is yet to have taken. And, breathlessly, I say her name. Each letter of the words I had spoken, I coloured, like a field. Like a field, coloured by the rising sun.
Rye is an unusual crop to be growing in England. Interest in artisan breads is a recent fad and mills over here rarely deal with rye on a commercial scale. Rye used to be grown for horse feed, probably still is, but the craze for every little girl to have her own little pony has passed, or rather the ponies have become even littler, plastic with pink manes and tails, with a p food consumption. These days horse rustling in the New Forest is aimed at the meat market rather than ripping off middle class parents. This is something I have learned over time.
If it had been a field of hay I could have told you about the round bails we used to have, small squat things like the bodies of ponies. I used to sit astride them and try to giddy them up but they were never inclined to move. If it d been corn, well that would be sweetcorn or maize of course, because using corn as the generic noun is something only non-farmers do, but if it had been I could tell you about my father singing ‘oh what a beautiful morning’ with the corn as high as an elephant’s eye. This is something I remember.
My father would have been cross with those people walking through the rye. Trespassing. If there’s a public footpath through a field then there’s a legal duty to walk round the edge not cavort in the middle. The land should be protected. This is something I believe.
Of all the things I write, only some are true.
reminding us there is no tomorrow –
or at least it is contingent, you can’t guarantee it,
you can’t depend upon it, no science or god
of yours or mine can give you the certainty
that you crave, that you think will banish
the fear as you climb up stairs you can
see through, kiss lips you hope you will
We could, of course, worry about all of this;
or we could embrace risk, as the capitalists
keep telling us to do – and do not think we
are far away from them in this field; this crop
that flutters between our fingers is the
original prediction, the original statement
of faith: I sow, I reap, I sell – and you can
trust me on that. Sign here now.
But then, that’s all we’re ever looking for,
isn’t it? Signs here now, so that we can stop
looking, shield our eyes, and give in to the bliss
we know must end.
A casual observer sitting at
Some distance from the scene misunderstands
The body language and thinks that a spat
Is taking place. There is a man with hands
On his hips and sun at his back, bracing
Himself, perhaps for a verbal assault.
She stands a dozen feet away, facing
Him, shielding her eyes. So, who is at fault?
In the dazzle of sunrise, a couple
Are transfixed, each regarding the other
In a new way, enjoying the subtle
Transformation from friend into lover.
They are not at odds. They are synchronised.
In conjunction. Perfectly harmonised.
"Is anybody there?"
"Can anybody tell me where I am?"
This is so weird; I mean I can't even remember how I ended up here and I definitely wasn't here before. Maybe if I shouted a bit louder, made a bit more noise, somebody might listen, might come for me.
"Is there anybody there?"
"Is there anybody who can let me know where I am and what I'm doing here?"
I don't know what it is, but I get the feeling I'm being watched; but by who? and why? And if I am right, and there is somebody watching me closely, studying my every move, then why don't they reveal themselves?
I take in my surrounding. I'm evidently in a cornfield, a glorious sunset on my left, a complete contrast to where I was a second or two ago. It was night-time and I was crossing a main road, my headphones blaring the sounds of U2 into my ears, oblivious to the world. I think the last thing I remember seeing is a bright white light speeding towards me and I felt a sharp pain in my hip; then a sensation of vertigo and giddiness. Shutting my eyes tightly, I opened them to find myself here.
Read more >
is an infinite canvas for poetry
I will only finds words
when I realize that you
aren't actually here
of a crepuscular ray,
above the oat field,
weaving the memory
of this moment
into the fabric
of the air;
when we stopped
to pull on our jackets
ahead of a summer storm
and found ourselves
between the black
and the gold.
...over there, just there - that flat line -
is the end of this country, of our land
so don't go blaming me if you go beyond
line and get yourself lost, never to return.
//// A lip's line // afar's horizon.
...I'll get lost, sure - when you do,
because we both know we're
adventurers bound for better things;
put up your hood and we'll run.
//// A wheat's field // a cow's heard.
...the sound of one hand in need
the 'yes' of the tree in creak
as we balance on its fallen trunk
as if ancient and at our best.
It was my favourite part of the day: watching the sun’s soft rays dance over the swaying millet. For a fleeting moment, I forgot the aching in my bones. Before me was the promise that soon my body would be free from the torture of the farm, my belly filled with mother’s cooking, and my ears soothed by her fantastic stories.
Farming with my father was how I spent my weekends. My friends spent theirs in carpentry and electronic workshops. They were being prepared for a changing future in our village: only the old men and married women stayed on the farm. But father would have none of that.
“This is how I feed him,” he said to his friend who wanted to teach me tailoring. “He should also contribute to it.”
I thought he was punishing me for staging a mutiny by accepting the scholarship to study at the Government college. He was a practical man. He wouldn’t stop me from getting an education, but he insisted on raising like his father raised him: with back-breaking labour.
“But, baa mi, this is the most beautiful part of the day. Can’t you see it?“
I infused as much exasperation into my voice as possible without asking for a smack on the neck. I kept my eyes on the sun, and wiped away a stray tear.
“Yes I can,” he replied. “But, that something is beautiful doesn’t make it inherently good.”
clouds of lace - as the sun shines hotter.
They close them nightly to watch it die,
and bleed its wounds across the sky.
But when dark clouds began to gather
in billowing smoke across corn and heather,
it was as though they suddenly knew
the thunder of guns was summer’s curfew.
She grins, winces, then touches her lip.
I suppose it is spectacular. I’m distracted by the purpley-blue clouds, same shade as the bruises on her face. If I mentioned it, she’d laugh, tell me the other guy’s worse. Not that I need telling, I watched her go so berserk I pitied him even though he’d been about to do the same to me.
So I say nothing.
Like those clouds, the bruises threaten to ruin the beauty on display but somehow, they intensify it.
I tell myself I don’t try to kiss her because of her sore lip.
To find a glorious sunrise
beckoning the day.
Early morning haze,
Golden chaffs of wheat
ripening in the heat
of the day.
Such is life.
Come my love,
let us greet the sunrise together
in this beautiful English countryside.
But there was nothing, nothing to announce the dissolving of the sky. Sid and I stood in an abandoned street, not completely sure how we ended up here. One minute the city was alive and thriving, the next it was desolate – a concrete desert. Dustbin lids littered the streets, some of them split in half, showcasing the wrath of unmerciful lightning.
Then a stray black and white cat crossed our path; its rich emerald eyes glimmered back. I tried calling it but as soon as I did the ground began to shake, the buildings shuddering as though they were cold.
The street seemed to contract, a brittleness flooding its foundations and local surroundings before it splintered like glass, crumbling to pieces around our feet. When we looked at the world again, a field now inhabited the space. A sea of wheat-coloured grass stalks filled our vision.
What amazed me most was the sky – serene lavender, rich with ink. I stood there gaping while Sid cavorted amongst the reeds, his lanky body far too conspicuous to go unnoticed. He laughed. The sound erupted like a whip crack in this muted place and quickly travelled across the vast field.
Behind the thickening curtain of lavender sky, the sun’s molten lozenge face dipped towards the horizon.
Soon, night would be upon us and then what would we do?
I turned to Sid.
‘Where are we going to sleep?’
Sid waved a hand.
‘We’ll just kip right here like Mother Earth intended us to.’
‘But what if it rains?’
Read more >
were a lilac haze of guilt
my gaze transfixed on a strange
mans lens my mind taken
to bristling crops in breeze
sunrise is an unanswered greeting
silence demands questions
at this ungodly hour
is anything else out here?
what do they fear to find?
no bird offers a shrieked reply
no vole scuttles along the soil
all must have fled
far from this field
far from thick woodland
far from this hideous world
Corn in the field is flecked with fools gold
as it sways towards tomorrow's market.
The farmer's neck is stiff from praying for a price rise.
His wife looks to a smoking chimney for comfort.
Soon they will sit at an empty table
talk about giving corn to the pigs.
ripening to husk
sun follows rain
congregation of vapour
sun follows rain
light waves, weaving sound
some and then some
sun follows rain
stand it still anytime
sun follows rain
Out of all my childhood memories, the summers are my favourite, for they were not just for a day or a few hours but weeks of non-stop joy and excitement. The exploration, the absolute delight of leaving school for the holidays and the relentless energy we had as children. All of it made pure magic.
I remember as a child finding the utmost joy in long summer fields of hay and wheat. A world of endless grass and heat, golden and wavy. Like an ocean of green and yellow, rolling around before me until they dissolved into the sky. All alongside the soft sound of crickets, birds and rustling leaves.
It was always felt to me that at the point of the day whereby the sun began to become a wink on the horizon, that was when it was meant to begin. That sunset should have been sunrise. Because for me as a child of eight, nine, ten or eleven, the beauty that nature had at this peculiar time affected me. Where afternoon and evening swapped shifts, the way the sky changed colours constantly, it was as if the world was at this point alive and breathing. I thought that the sun was not created to be above us, glaring down on us like a grumpy teacher or parent, but alongside us, with us. That the heat it gave off at this time settled over us, like a blanket put on a baby by a mother. It was comforting and calming, still and silent. Not harsh and glaring as it had been throughout the day.
coloured with felt tip pens - signing names on shirts
And I wonder.
I see them unsure and fearful – tears glittering and shining in
over-excited eyes - voices roaring with expectations and hopes
And I wonder.
I watch them collect their badges – symbols of honour lying
insouciantly around their necks – Olympic medals of success.
And I wonder.
I see them leap and shriek in the playground – composure
shrugged off with ties and blazers – same games always.
And I wonder.
I watch our harvest of sun-ripened children – under a sky
changing with the rapidity of their lives – and still they grow.
And I wonder.
I observe them relate to inspiring teachers – against all odds
of testing and yet more tests – their constant touchstone.
And I wonder.
I long to see if dreams and hopes will be realised – childhoods
in adult hands who shape and form – who make or break.
And I wonder.
I wait to see if they are cut down and let down – or survive and thrive in our manic world – swaying every which way with life.
And they must wonder too.
I said everyone has a memory of walking through a field of corn, and you said it wasn't corn, it was rye and you watched me pulling off a handful of grains to eat like I'd done ever since I was a child and waited until I was about to put them in my mouth before you said that rye gets a fungus called ergot and ergotism can cause both physical and mental harm, including convulsions, miscarriage, necrosis of digits, hallucinations and death. And I said, why did you have to wait until I was about to eat them before you told me and what is necrosis anyway? So after that I stopped speaking to you for a while and made a point of eating all the unwashed strawberries from the carton we'd bought in the lay-by from the people in the rusty van, as if I couldn't care less that the berries had probably been sprayed with goodness-knows-what, and you walked on in front of me, snapping off the long stalks and when we reached the common where the path was overgrown with bracken, you said I should have worn trousers, ticks love bracken. You said you'd got some waterproofs in your rucksack, I could put on – I didn't want to get Lymes Disease, did I? And I said if I'd already contracted ergotism what would it matter? You said I hadn't eaten any rye, had I, you'd stopped me – and not to be so childish, you were only trying to look after me, like you always did. And I said I don't want to be looked after, I'm a grown woman. And you said, well act like one then.
I reminded you this was the second row we'd had a field of grain. The first was when we were on that long walk and you said you could find the way home by looking at the way lichen grew on trees but when night fell we were lost and you led us on a so-called short cut through a field littered with great spools of hay. The night was humid, we'd been walking for hours and I said we had to have a rest and you were an idiot. You said you weren't an idiot and everyone should get lost once in a while, that's what made life exciting and I said it didn't have to be on a day when it looked like thunder. Read more >
Still clinging to the night
We sat there.
You and I.
Damp grass underneath us.
Smells sweet, you said.
Like childhood, I said.
Do you remember? you asked.
I'd rather not
I'd rather the dawn was the child
A smile so bright, unwavering
Like the laughter in our house,
Pitter-patter footsteps like summer rain
Once upon a time.
I can still hear her,
The Tinkerbell chimes,
Little bells of sunrise,
So you remember, then?
not down, but up
into the softness
he describes so well to me
because I cannot see,
so he calls colors things
I know by touch, like
my goose down pillow
on my bed that supports
my head at night when
I’m dreaming of flight
like the birds that we
hear singing in warm fields
where we go walking
before the sun sets.
Turn toward my voice,
he says. Feel the sun on your face.
It’s the brightest light I know.
None of this grassy field
about us would grow without
the sun’s light. He says.
select one correct answer from the possible options.
Men are more vulnerable at:
Give reasons (five words max.)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
What best describes two men in a bar:
A Just sounding off
B Sounding him out
C Just kidding
D Salt of the earth
Two men in a field at dawn:
A Male bonding
Is the drama played out:
B Theatre of the Absurd
C Alan Ayckbourn
the buoyant I need salad dressing tipped romaine
the kale to roast I dream about
as much as the hot sun on my cold hair
the dirt under my moon curved fingernail
the crunch of soil under my sneakers
It is the wind and the breeze on days the air is mustered
It is the water stream irrigating pebbled dirt
the smell of lavender the odor of green of pepper
the red strawberries and blue blueberries
the sunflower’s height and the nasturtiums orange
It is the way the sweet potato vines grow over the earth
low growing skyscrapers with orange rooms inside
It is the crow flying by in the gray dawn
the monumental sun crossing the garden in an arc
I could not draw on paper unless it was paper as large
as the circumference of the unimaginable sky
It is the coolness of trees near the garden at dusk
the blue golden dark pink red and purple of sky
the water from the rain barrel
drenched shoes soggy mud stuck on soles
bugs and earth odors
bites that’s swell like tiny mounds of earth
dirt I smear on my forehead brushing my warm hair away
Creating horizontal line like the three lines
on a holy woman’s face as she kneels in prayer.
but it never really set – just swallowed
into a sky filled with porcelain curves,
broken egg shell blues, yellows,
smashed aubergine purples,
Waking up inside a tent
toes and nose still not conquered
into warmth by sleep
in a field, waving weary,
to a landscape filled with summer snow, not sand,
this strange place that has been
The piece of paper, taped
into the inside of my
I have a parka with a furry collar, too.
I hardly understand these items,
but I carry them everywhere
in front of my body
like I’m carrying a refrigerator
or a shield.
hour; simple calico is turned
to Joseph’s coat and your
upturned face does not permit
transient light to wheel and disappear.
No furrows mark your cheeks and
I long to lengthen lines of joy
about your eyes, and dam them
high against the beat of flood. Emmaline,
our crop is heaped into flowered
fields, and our book of days is
waiting to be inscribed, one
generation at a time.
behind us only decades
always there we were but
didn't know until two years ago
now an abundance of late birthdays
close near normality
You can smoke out a scent you don't want to recall if you can live with the habit it saddles you with and you can joke over the buzz of a bone saw when you need to forget what it's cutting through.
"Christ, Phil, they look just like my kids."
Then there are moments, fleeting and nondescript at first, that no amount of smoking or joking will ever hoist you over entirely. Things that kick the hinges off half-shut doors and squat in the recesses, clinging with a parasitical tenacity to every unguarded thought, every careless moment of reflection. Things like a backlit picture of innocence at the close of a glorious day. Young souls in the pastoral perfection of an American field, patiently tracking the distant light of the world all the way down to the drop.
The cankerous legacy of our presence in the moment is still a long way off revealing itself as we take off our jackets and roll up our sleeves. It's a full year before I feel the first gnawing remembrance of the kisses blown back and forth across the long grass and the shared observation that neither kid looked down at the ground they were standing on before or after we broke it. Not once. I lose a lot of conversation threads snagging on that.
None of us hear the hinges crack folding our jackets or spitting on our hands outside the cordon. Lighting our cigarettes as one body, we shoulder our spades in the fading light and turn the earth for all these distracted young souls have hidden in this perfect field.
and it was now out of her hands.
A life of its own.
And as if
by the size and shape of it
the color and texture
rather than by any trait of his,
hers or theirs ....
that it was time to go.
She saw it one late and way too chilly afternoon:
The last straw
waving in the wind:
'dear heart it is time to go'.
This is my land,
you can't cross it.
You are blinding me.
Your hair glistens
like melted chocolate.
Don't do that with your hair!
the juicy insides oozing,
running down my throat.
The sky is darkening,
the clouds a looming spaceship.
I am small
in this strange, alien land of mine.
strays from the border, collected,
stacked, unnecessarily failing jenga rules
you wonder ceaselessly of things
that could break the links.
remember, no matter how dark the sky,
how hard the ground, the horizon splits.
the wry laugh, the right half, always
opaque even when sitting besides, bedside.
I'll forge the wrinkles into the sheets,
unmade - better any god damned day.
Swaying to and fro
Wind and rain moved with us
The dawn sun flickered against the husks
And our eyes
Our feet began to sink within the earth
And we were enveloped
Our skin turned flaxen
In the solitary field
the dance they had played out between themselves had wended a trivial and complicated path
they were ever finding each other
ever playing on looking as if they were avoiding each other
ever playing on knowing when and where each could be
everyone around them in the small town could see
the pattern the two travellers were playing out
they could see where the one ends would eventually meet
the travellers could only see the next twist in front of them
every minute each was looking for the chance to accidentally meet
or fleetingly see
each playing innocence
each focussing on casualty on intention
extending every meeting where they could
for as long as they could
before any obvious intention could be too easily seen
then one day they had really bumped into each other
the first physical contact
hard angles and soft shapes met without restraint
instinctively both grasped the other
not realising the subconscious hold on their actions
for a fleeting moment they held each other
their eyes locked
then consciousness intervened
they both released and backed off
each still savouring the pressure and contact briefly felt
each wondering about the tingling now firing adrenalin through them
both felt saliva running
Read more >
Rolls over and plays dead
Like it doesn’t know
Or doesn’t think that
I can’t see those curly wisps of hair.
Petering out to papercuts
That won’t ever hurt.
Edges of more
Cusps of puzzle pieces
Try and grab it
It is real
But it isn’t.
'There's something to see over there.'
But he was sure there had never been anything that way but scrub and pasture; a patchwork of green and brown as far as any eye could be.
He rummaged in his pocket for the dregs of the party, the bag was half full and so he ministered with care until they both had energy enough.
'Shall we follow the sun.'
It wasn't really a question though and he shook out the heavy lines of his feet until he could walk again, the bones in his legs at once springy and cement.
The first trills of birdcall came in whomps and whirrs, spiralling through the coursing blood in his ear drums. It caused a rush - a cacophony of something inside him and he reached for her hand to hold it close in his. Their fingers pressed together, melting into a warm and sticky one. The ground they walked on started to rise, a steady vertical.
He glanced down and saw geometric shapes forming in the stalks and strands under his boots. Whorls of angles and spirals that cushioned him as he walked. The first splinters of sun caused the dew drops and roused insects to explode into mirrored balls of colour.
The morning was good. As good as the night before it. A night of nonsense and faces cracked by smiles and now they were cresting the hill. A big old hill.
The significance of it all hit me in that moment. You could even see the leisure centre where she'd pulled me onto the tiled pool-side and whacked me on the back to empty my lungs.
Now she stared at me imploringly. The sun glinted on the wine bottle that lay in the hamper at her feet. I hadn't noticed it until now. I wondered what she'd do with it when I left. Would she smash it in a rage or hysteric sorrow? Would she drink it and savour the feeling of resentment that comes with drinking alone. Would she leave it here to warm in the setting sun, or smear with rain and moisture as if it were crying. I didn't know. I could no longer gauge her emotions. Her face had become unfamiliar to me, as if the words I had just spoken had already distanced us. Her eyes were the eyes of strangers now. Her face was nothing but a photograph. And as I watched her and thought this, I saw her watching me and thinking the same thing. The light itself seemed to signify the fading bond between us. There was nothing left to say.
She picked up the hamper and turned away. She made her way back down the path we had just walked up, as the grass swirled and rippled around her like rapids.
As her figure became smaller the lump in my throat grew bigger. My mouth burnt like chlorine and my lungs refused to inflate. I guess you only appreciate the air when you're drowning.