Two White Horses

without tv or news or clocks
time is measured in white horses
in the field below

the morning brings a new alignment
they are enacting all the prepositions 
in front of, behind, next to
and some that only horses know

the stations of the horse

two entangled particles play out
a stately ballet on the clockface field
clouds attracted by a strong force
and repelled by a weak one

cumulusly billowing, melding, reforming
waves from two distant shores 
breaking, each, one upon the other

on the next day they do adverbs of time
before, after, a long time ago
a very very long time ago

and on the last day 
they're performing verbs
galloping, slowing, resting, lying down

leaving the house for the last time
I turn tail, to see a waft of white smoke
that turns into a tail, then two of them

twirling, tick-tocking the seconds
or is it the years


The Pond
by the pond in always falling daylight
misted moon-smitten blue
I waited
all the animals came and went
all the ghosts too
and glanced through curves
through bent branches of night-heavy alder
things that were neither
everything went to that watering place
so I waited
there were false alarms, many of them
a flock of birds on the in breath
a lost decade on the out
bats hunted moths
moths haunted butterflies back into larval cases
dipping down to sip
the last end-of-summer swallow
just skimming the surface
of a stillborn dawn
then at last a song thrush sang
"it's day, its day"
the thrush from my grandfather's dream
all those years ago
and because this time I sang along
it was day ----------------------------
Dream Thrush
I was a dream-thrush and creation knew me
back then there were only wild words
mostly wordless, free of meaning
grounded air, a ripple's seeing-through-to
first dreamt by Daniel in the 1930's
I was an omen-thrush, a new dawn-thrush
winter's tale breast, yarn of flank
I was a story-thrush, an idea of feathers
more of them with each telling
till I was a full-thrush
I am a song-thrush now,
silhouette bird shape of the farthest branches
spoke them once, sang them twice
these words
I gave his grandson to sing
"while I was here I heard a song
a snatch of a happy song
while I was falling
I knew just a snatch
was all I'd get
So for a moment I sang along" ---------------------------------
to know what it's like
I threw myself to the wind
to see what it was like
scooped up autumn leaves
imagining they were ashes
arms flung wide, prising open the air
to take the offering
of a me I'd cremated
to know what it was like
threw them into the embrace of falling
threw them to a corner of empty
like a self's sky burial
but didn't feel anything
didn't feel any different, so I
gave up
and watched a jackdaw tumbling instead
not trying but juggling gravity
playing cards with up and down
friendly with sky in all directions
making a balloon of itself
tapping the bottom into buoyancy
I watched it and knew what it was like -------------------------
when the sky was friendly in all directions
there was no part that couldn't be feathers
I headed the bottom and heeled the top
spun the world while I stayed where I was
why? I didn't do it because of why
down on the ground I saw something
that wasn't a jackdaw
not even any kind of bird
some creature stuck in two dimensions
no discernable power of flight
it was funny to watch
working so hard just
to be
something you already are

at the thigh-high of grass

at the thigh-high of grass
and the willow herb of waist

I'm found

found by a deer-narrow path
I'm leaving litter behind as I go
a trail of me - the parts I don't need

I shed some things with small sigh of breeze
peeling off rind - off from the mind

the thinking and the thoughts
they're thrown away in handfuls
cast as if I'm sowing doubt

a rain-quick rinse washes off more
some pith, some regrets and worries

at the prickle of thistle
and the catch of bramble-snare


delusions get torn off
and at the caw of crow
where there's cuckoo-spit-wet

I'm lost

and now I'm not walking
because nature walks me
this is a recording of the poem

Here There Should be Wood

here there should be wood but there's me instead
standing up in a lightning struck hollow
I am Jonah, the oak tree is a whale

and then I am part-whale

cavity walls, skin of lizard, fire-crack black
algal green overlay on crosshatch-fractures

looking is ushered upwards, sight shot out
skyward, straight though a peephole

the tree, now Cyclops by dint of my eyes
human senses added to those old oaken ones
making eleven in all

seeing itself for the first time

branches jacknifed to injured chevrons
boughs, whole chunks of tree, strewn dead and dying
like fallen comrades on a battlefield

damage surveyed, I hatch out of the tree
there's nothing it didn't already know

The Mist

the mist came down last night, came in softly
a drowned world between here and Winter Hill

just spires and tree tops jutting out above;
archipelago in Pacific fog

grey but lustrous - has eroded edges
all the gaps are filled with mother of pearl

the middle-willow distance gone over,
lightly stippled with a softening brush

so watercolours run, bleeding into
tump-grassy nearby and all that's behind

words are becoming detached corner first
shaking free, the children are leaving home

what used to be a branch is shedding nouns
twig, leaf, acorn and bark have now all gone

borders dissolved and separation smudged
all of it replaced with a sea of this

the sun comes at last pooling rosy mist
white whips tilt and float up, slow and steady

a flock of birds drops down reattaching
returning to things, the birds are words

The Midwife

the old ash tree midwifes a dawn
limbs reach down and
find a waiting sun
in the womb dark hill behind hills

pulls it up with wood-tong-twigs
and onto a turn of the trunk 
where it flares with lighthouse flash
a halo of radials in starshot traces

the sun's held tight for while 
embraced in a cleft
a hug and off the nightime shrug
light gathering bright on brighter
passed from branch to branch 
up higher and higher 

bark-framed shapes of background
lit with stained glass window glows

then right at the top's tree-tip
with a final hand of balloon-lift 
the sun is given, skyborne 
to the day

I can give you these

the tail-bob on a skulk of bird,
that tells you it's a chiffchaff

the tiny fringe of whiskers right
round a lichen edge, I can give you those

I can't give you much but I can give you
this day's end sun-settled down in colours

bark hieroglyphs on the age-slanted hornbeam
the ones it etched upon itself

I can show you those

every note that the song thrush knows
and knowing how 
the wood knows them

that Trough of Bowland stream and its
certain angle sparkle

I can't give you much but I can give these

the nature-dog

wind licks my face
the only part exposed under wollen hat
and above my layers of rebuttal

like a dog
that wants to taste animal
not man-made fibre
wants to mix salts with something alive

a lower case letter of geese
written on the lined paper horizon
calls giving voice to grey sky
smash through the glass of my thoughts
bypassing them to speak to blood

nature is saying hello

I'm brought to a halt in
a tangle of bramble attrition
a Gulliver needled
by a hundred small thorn pricks
that scratch-card off my complacency
my human skins

nature is saying hello

the nature-dog
bright eyed, glad to see us
always jumping up to greet us
forgiving every rebuff

always seeking out the
exposed part
to say hello

so that's where I was

I rounded the crest
skirting the top
sitting windward on a slope
I made a cairn of myself

and that's where I was

I picked a way through brambles
deerstepping over thorns
legs souvenired in blood

I stopped
and found myself there

through the spring-frothed wood
green, so green it's yellow
ivy scaffold on hornbeam
beech and brother beech

I was there
so that's where I was

A Step

a column of ground rises up to my thigh
leg baked through with earth
I move by soil

I am flesh to statue and blinkwise back again

toes clench the land as I turn the world round
by the width of a distant field

my stride sends an infinity of perspectives 
into flux

I step clouding hills into travel companions
hitching them to me

walk rows of oaks onto concentric carousels
and put hawthorns in slow orbits

I step a birchbank accordion into splay
open and singing

tread yarrow and dock to ground-skim flocks 
that approach with
withered wings and seedhead eyes

I step a shoesole of clod, grasswards ingrown
and headlong a clover sprung carpet

as a second ago recedes into melted past
I plant my foot like a flag on the moon
to claim a yard of time

and I step a new moment

The News

the news broke around six o'clock
robins heard it first

plucked colours from their breasts
then sang it to the dark

that coloured the tiny parts exposed
by dawn's needle

clouds chinese-whispered the light
held on to it for a while
then passed it on

leaking ochre rumours
bleeding into flame

the hills heard the word 

lifted the veil
but slowly 

a star burst the horizon
flooded a piece of it

fireworked the fields
crackerjacked through trees

fireflied the mist
even glow wormed webs

the news broke around six o'clock
everyone knew by seven

Between The Start of The Pipit's Peep

between the start of the pipit's peep
and the ending three months later 

in flea time

In that moment
I've moved along the path
by two fronds of bracken yard

a million pixels have flitted
settling like soft snowflakes 
to new places where they'll be
for all of an instant-long

last year's grass lattice
a coarsely woven weave of
willow herb stems that
tessellate afresh

a jigsaw jumbled and then rejigged

I've felt a small mountain range 
beneath the feet
peaks jutting just enough to be cogs
that mesh with flesh
and earth me to the moment

flapping wings of breezeborne birds 
have sent runs of cool air
whirling, draughting wafts
for me to feel, only

between the ending of the pipit's peep
and the start of the bullfinch's pipe

A Crack Must Have Opened

a crack must have opened 
to let the barn owl in

white side down
ghost side up

mothborne from another world

flashes like bonfire night
in very slow motion
unleaded the clouds

tiny nativities put
day-fragments in glow

scattered at first then melding
to an alleluia of skylight

the owl made a vortex 
of itself

spiral tightened down by the pull
of the volewise-grass

then as it dipped back
it changed shape

to air-snipping scissoring shears

maybe it passed on
a baton of morning

to the kestrel

A Roe Deer Leaps

soon as it sees me
the deer makes of itself
a ball of molten roe

hind, hide, head and hoof
are all in there now

pours itself into
an old mould it knows

has ample time to set
as time has also slowed

the new shape has the jump
of a curve
takes the springs from
a bound and bends them
to an arch

in mid air though
as with a different gravity
that pushes not pulls

the leapness spreads
not just the deer now
but all around

a rump ups
lift of back behind
white now coming through

it wasn't there before
but time has also stopped

sitting under wings

back in my wheelchair days
I'd sit under wings

at dawn's first garden light
under the path of migration
picking out dots of southbound bird

pipits, swallows, wagtails, thrushes, geese
long journeys over a lumpen watcher
my gravity lessened by a lightness of feathers
and friction smoothed off too

brief intersection of grounded man
and flying bird

a moment's liberation
a fractional part-share in a pair of wings

the birds made their own wind

a slight movement of my hair
then more,
then off!
I was blown upwards
 and with them

Woodcock Rising

leaning into the gale
that sabres rain as a weapon
each up tilt of the head is met with
punishing wind-slap spite

so I look down, not ahead
settle for a view - a framed picture
of leaves signed by autumn
ready to give to the winter

I chance a glance in front
just a few snipe's bills along
where a small tornado of leaves
rises up as if the ground itself
has been raptured

foliage resolves into bird
leaves revolve into woodcock
a long twig threads forward
in a form become beak

a maple red rump at the rear
is redder by far than it is

bracken stitched
tawny woven through fawn
and all the fallen leaves
that ever could be
on the back and wings

with an unplotted path jinked out
of bends and kinks as it
weaves through a barn dance
of willow arms

the woodcock clatters

quickly out of view
its second has scooped up the autumn
leaving behind a spring in the mind

Birds Knit my Ribs Together

birds knit my ribs together
wrapped the corpse in feathers
song-embalming; mummifying

wrens sipped cuckoo spit
spat it to a thimble

stirred in berry and honeydew
dripped the tincture drip by drop

a woodpecker bored my skull
in trepanation

drummed a hole and wasps flew out
goldcrests’ needle calls put punctures
all along the kidney’s line

swallows’ flightlines skywrote my ill
when thrushes sang it out loud

a woodpigeon listened while
I told it secrets
laughed when I lied

when everything changed

in the days before change
a fully formed field,
solid with unending same
- that was all that there was

not finescale like it is now
not variable nor variegated

no one knew they were larvae
caterpillars were never seen

yes, there were butterfly wisps
blue clouding buff on blue
but these ones were flies 
that had always butter-been

fluxation only just forming
flexing, extending from all the 
bundled stuff of similar
breaking bonds of likewise

after the change set in 
everything that was, or could be thought up
had a bright russian dollness 
from crystals of chrysalis

each a fragment of a bigger whole
as if you could pick out a pizzicato 
of pissaro points

arising was twinned with passing away
and so the reverse got visa-versared

in this the new norm, of this the new now
pupae were mutable, 
chemistry alchemical

in this the new norm, of this the new now
people knew they were pupae,
knew they'd pupate

A Hazel in January

rounding winter's grey corner
I'm sprayed in the face with paint
yellow points splatter my retinas

and then drip

drops trailing vertical paths
like a thousand speckled wagtails
singing, bursting out of the sun

so impossibly bright tassels
rind of lime as tinsel
a burning hazel bush that
sears everything around it

its catkins strung
between earthed dull gravity
and a skyfull of living things

wanting to live


  1. Absolutely wonderful poems! I really enjoy how you 'dig in' to nature and your love of the natural world shines through - poems here to come back to again and again. Can't wait to read the forth-coming collection! Maggie.


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