The Parliament of Birds

Caw, caw—I hear you,
Clawing through the frosty sky,
pale blue above this eastern suburb.

Rooks and crows mark the migrations
and the cold first tinkerings
of their welcomed Winter.

The rivers here will not freeze
nor will we grow too cold in our homes,
cocooned in central heating, battened in duvets:

But the gospel oak is riven and the birds
chant requiems over the city in which
we sought to shut out fear.

They fly eastwards to Essex,
old witch country, commutered now,
but still too dark at night.

On the wing over Epping, circling
the storied Parliament of Birds,
they lobby coldly, exchanging iniquities.

If you walk too near there in session
Black Rod, white lie, magpie appears
to test you on your knowledge or your fears:

“Shoo, shoo, I’m not scared of you” you say,
or with more care than courage
“Hello, Sir, where’s Madam?”

About you, there are no passwords,
only jeers.

Shod, not Shoddy

Wordsmith, shoe my poem–

solder thoughts to the

point of my pen;

rivet words

row by row until they’re

watertight;

melt emotions and

anneal them into

something new and less

brittle;

Wordsmith,

shoe my poem fit to

strike sparks off

long hard roads.

A Question of Sport

When did love become a game?

Of two halves? Four quarters?

Five sets? Five days like a

Test Match? Is there a

referee, and is that person

impartial? Do I have to

suck an orange at half-time?

Are there training-camps? With

sit-ups and rabbit-jumps and

biometric measurements? Is it

something the unsporty are

excluded from? Can I be

penalized, sin-binned, cited?

Is there video-evidence, replays? Is

punishment retroactive? Might I be

banned? Permanently

prevented from playing?

Hang on, have I ever been

shown the rules? And

wasn’t I supposed to just enjoy

taking part?

Dead Air

I love the absolute silence of a Sound Stage

before 7 when I have to

stumble to find the working lights,

open my script and see pictures,

people moving in space, stories

unrolling like Sinbad’s carpet,

thoughts popping, feeding on the

dead air and the faint smell of

old movies.

Summer, Almost

Soft insistent rain summons smells of

tarmac and roses

dampened dust and delphinium

to the court of

shortlived Summer

uncomfortably compressed between

three cavorting cousins

hope decline and death

determined to deceive them

just once with an

intimation of eternity.

Tank

Tiredness is a driverless tank

careering across nomansland

firing at random,

reloaded by the ghosts of the

shocked-dead crew, their aim

better than when they were

alive, their targets sadly

not always combatants.

Care

Care is a pantechnicon

packed so tight its

axles creak, bulging with

big deeds and tiny kindnesses, the

cracks stuffed with sacrifices,

burying the boxes at the bottom,

tight-taped,  unlabelled, wherein

impatience, irritation,

exhaustion, fear, despair are

close hidden, not

wanted on the voyage.

The Great When

When will it be, the

great When? In which

month, which season,

which year?

Will the body be

fit for purpose when

when arrives? Will it

welcome when with the

pleasure of a glass well-filled,

liking the lack of

who, or will it

slap when’s face with why

now?

Incoming/Outgoing

“And….” brings background into motion

“…action” cues actors into a busy,

hopefully realistic street-scene, the

boom-swinger alert to the

shadows cast by late-afternoon sun, the

grips alive to the stuttery pace of

people through a crowd, the crew

taut, patrolling their beats, the

clock, like the sun, running down, then the

sardonic eyes of the sound man meet mine,

inviting my ears to savour the

sonics of an imcoming plane.

I call “Cut” and the curses begin,

black looks cast up at the

slender tube glinting in the sun now setting:

actors sigh, background resets, we

begin again, while all I can think of is

couples holding hands that bit tighter,

children awed breaching cloud,

business to be done, sunset deferred, whilst
I find I cannot curse something I

wish I were aboard.

The Shared Stars

The shared stars all shine on this

moonless night, their patterns

old friends from hours spent in the

handkerchief garden of  boyhood, the

cold metal rim of

primitive binoculars still

imprinted round my eyes.