On watch –

In a long slow timeless wash

Reflux of freighted waters

Slim frigates ride –

Grey grace the warping waves bestride

And fall and rise again like Greeks

Upreared on dolphins

(The classic life still breathing

Like a soul trapped in a ribcage.)

Our Sea

Floats palaces and palm trees –

Towns sick with age, walls punched with holes,

Seized gates,

Flung windows, stone stares of greats

Long metamorphosed, and

Cool tiled courts

(Full ugly now with fat in shorts –

The Renaissance closing down.

Descent of Vandals –

Cloisters flap with fall of sandals

And a squeak of trolley wheels).


Recurring dream –

Lachrimae Christi under an olive tree

That chirrups with cicada.

Things heard and seen –

Geodesies down cobbled streets,

Domes like miracles of maths,

Bones in jewelled shrines –

Grinning saints recline

On altars overtopped with gilt.

Crossing seams –

Glassed cabinets that gleam

With faience David meets Goliath-



Bourbons-Knossos-Rome and Corinth.

Flayed Venetian skins –

Cornices of red-beard kings –

Crusaders climbing their own walls.

Golden fleece and fruit,

Leaf-gods stir and bruit

In the mildest of mild autumns.

Shepherds in oils

Syrinx sheep at tumbled walls –

Nature besting Athens.

Homes above posterns –

Fishermen dangling lanterns

Over an abyss.

Wheel-ruts cut rock

And carry down to former docks

In misknown metropolises.

Roofs fall to floors,

No-one knocks on woodless doors

Or waits for any answer.

We walk on flags –

(Tesserae of hunted stags

Always on the cusp of pulling down).

Libraries open,

Libraries burn, beacons showing

Fat backs to hungry lands,

Last reach of sands

(Empty Quarter, Ozymandias)

Before the Temperate begins.

Hooves in the night,

Alarms far out in darkness,

Simooms carry hot howling to all coasts.

Colossi raised,

Colossi razed – highways which haze

Immediately epic.

Passed things passing –

Even sibyl smokes soon thin

And pass into empyrean

Fan-vaults of blue

Propped by cypress – (and, oh, the silky shoe

Of the Bay at Posillipo.)

At sea-ends of streets

Breakwaters are ranged by cats –

Mange among detritus, harbours

Rainbowed diesel,

Fish float gut-up, their innards spill,

Contaminate our food-chain.

Our Sea no more –

Our Sea no less – because that shore

Landmarks our geography.


Cool home-ports

Manifested across miles, brought

Close by deceit of light.

Far adrift,

Proficient navies shift

And GPS themselves again.

They scan the skies

That swelled about Odysseus,

Stare the straight blue line

That falls away

To Sirte and Barbary

Seeking what they fear to find

Out there,

In the reminiscent glare

And seditious glitter of the Gulf.

“Another!” –

(Crew can’t look at each other)

Darkling marks brought Swiss-lens sharp

Wave for attention –

Hands across the sea, children

Of a Common god look up,

Are flashed –

As frantic rotors lash

The oppressive air to froth.


Code of the sea:

Hoist all misery

On davits to our decks.

Code from the shore:

Lower the launch once more

We need to be seen to have done.

And sailors do –

Unable not to –

They raise the drowning drowners as their own.

This is our Creed –

To each according to his need.

Failed states have given, and received.

What would Jesus have done?

Fished them as one.

(Stella Maris still lingers in the West!)

Familiar fable –

Green fields in play on a great blue table

(Mortgagees are drinking in the sun.)

Orbs fumbled, falling –

Spires shaking, engines stalling,

To go again just as the gears

Click sudden loud

And Ocean slaps the ship around –

The grey ghost shudders then recovers,

And makes away

Along a lighted pathway as

Winds are freed from bags to blow all strayers home.

Our watch –

In the phosphorescent wistful wash

Redux of weighted waters

Slim frigates ride

Cetaceans plunge and sport beside

As sailors spit and swill the decks,

Plough again the back and forth,

Sharp weather front declining North,

And losing its identity.



On the ice-edge of the hill

Gazing down grateful from verge of valley,

Coming in across country, a splinter of winter –

My feet hold fields.

And today, I saw the sun so wonderfully die,

The land turn black, crisp cutout trees clutching stricken stars,

My Ordnance Survey filled –

Dry moats overjumped, fallen houses seen, old stories

Stopped, pinned in place – “There is one surviving tower…”

Behind lie iron miles,

Silver-gilded soil and waiting woods, locked churches, ways

Silent and significant. The frost flakes flowers.

Now a great and universal chill –

Over unforgiving earth beasts bump their prize away,

Next year’s crops parade with glinting points, owls blink away hours.



The blossoms of bindweed

Strewn on Towton field like Meissen plates.

Delicate dirt; if I turn them,

Will there be crossed swords on their base?


Deer-prints point to the sea,

Sharp-stepped, firm-pressed, precise;

I follow, clumsy –

When I get there, they’ve been wiped.


On the road, a bumble queen knocked over –

Her hot fat fur throbs dangerous in my hand;

I enthrone her in a stateroom of red clover;

Restored, she lifts herself – and populates a land.


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