When it was Autumn in Eden

When it was autumn in Eden
and chestnuts held golden leaves
against dimming light,
Eve touched her toes on the sodden
soil – ran fingers through harvest sheaves -
feeling all things were right :
the hip and haw turned red – the sloe to dusk
and swallows gathered in flocks with waitful wings.

Then an east wind blew quite sudden
leaves of the beech – the ash
withered and fell,
and beyond the branches of Eden
the grey clouds split with a gash
like a hint of hell :
and the hedgehog delved in the mould,
whilst the swallows flew south.

It was then that Eve first sensed
warmth had gone out of the air -
abruptly she felt alone
unnerved by the strange immense
vastness – was it despair ? -
bird song became subdued and changed its tone
and somehow it troubled her mind
that the trees were leafless now.

At once she went and searched
for Adam, setting her sights
on a trembling star ;
moving tight lips she beseeched
God that all heaven's lights
shine from afar ;
but she had to grope on – confused -
bemused by forebodings of pain.

At last she found him there
close by their bower – in thoughtful mood
lit by dim light ;
and at that sight all her despair
melted, her mind felt imbued
with warmth, joy, comfort, delight
that he was her master still
and she his only love.

He stroked that long cool hair
which broke in waves to her hips,
kissed tears from her eyes ;
and she, without one care,
gave him her cheeks and her lips
freely – her breasts – her thighs -
the everything of herself gave as a gift -
the perfect present to seal their love.

And that strange venomous thing
perched on the Tree of Life
looked down on the pair,
and, though aware of the poison in his sting
shortly to usher forth all hate – all strife
emptiness and despair,
viewed with reluctance his predestined part :
the fruit – the guilt – and then the banishing sword. 

A Weed is a Flower in the Wrong Place

A weed is a flower in the wrong place,
a flower is a weed in the right place,
if you were a weed in the right place
you would be a flower;
but seeing as you're a weed in the wrong place
you're only a weed -
it's high time someone pulled you out.

Danse Macabre

Death came to me in a mini skirt
As skittish as a kitten,
And said : “I am come for your final flirt”,
But added : “You don't seem smitten”.

Says I : “Well – not in my wildest whim
Did I picture you looking like this,
I'd been told that you were a reaper grim
And behold – a saucy miss”.

“Ah – many a one is like yourself
Surprised by my winning smile,
I have jokes and jests like a playful elf
And I know the way to beguile.”

“But please – just pass me by with a nod
I've poems and plays unwritten,
There are footpaths I have never trod
As you say – I'm not much smitten.”

“Oh hush my darling – and don't repine”,
And she gave a gracious prance,
Then she twined her fingers into mine
And whispered : “Shall we dance ?”

Madonna of the Rocks   ( Leonardo da Vinci – National Gallery – London )

 Is this really
the Galilean girl
who bore Jesus ? -
or some flower
growing from the stars – the sea – the sky ?
What was she doing
the moment before -
the moment after ?
But no
she had no moment before
no moment after;
she was only held by the brush
for this slow sap-beat
of the forming universe;
of the ways of purpose
and the ends of meaning.
And thus
still – silent
she and those others
hover :
angel and mother,
and tiny Stars of Bethlehem,
melded in peace
with distant basalt mountains,
in the moss-sprayed shaded grotto,
soaring through blueness
over the whirlpool of the world.


Lingering by the doorway of the woods
you hesitate
to venture in
where trees stretch up
like legs of adults in a crowded room
seen by a child;
reluctant too
to go into the fields of openness,
and thus
you always hug
that place where something ends
and something else begins:
stone wall to field;
bankside to leveling;
woodland to open ground.
And in these twilight spots,
you change from morning green
to pale sun-dying red
and thence to night -
crisp Queens of Sheba in your harvest black.
Even the timing of your ripening lies
where open summer
creeps to the painful edge
of winter woods:
ever the dusk of merging,
the point of change -
fruit of the inbetweenness of the year.

West Riding

Bright sari in a darkened street -
the lilting grey of Yorkshire sky;
rust requiems for demolished mills -
repeating grove of curlew's cry.

And did Jane once sit on this stile
to watch the moon look down on Hay,
and see the dog and hear the horse
send icy clatters through the grey ?

Then later – only you to wait
( dogs rush to greet the friends not there )
the bloodstains of the sunset sink -
the red Decembers of despair.

And worlds still pirouette their stars,
while on that stage fresh actors meet,
dim picture in a golden frame -
bright sari in a darkened street.

The House where my Loved one Lived

The house where my loved one lived
is white and lies in the valley floor,
and I could dream as I look at it now
that I see her again coming out of the door,
and walking up through the stubble fields
and coming to me once more.

But the world where my loved one lived
was far – so far from this world of mine,
for hers was a nature that full of zest
tasted each pleasure without repine,
and filled her days with frolic and jest
and drinking my love like wine.

But when she had drunk she smashed the glass,
and oh how I wish I could think no more
of that lovely girl who prints her toes
in the cool wet sands of an alien shore -
and never dreams now in her wildest dreams
of coming to me once more.

Girl at the Window

“Girl at the window
what do you see ?”

“I see a swallow
flying over the trees.”

“What does it tell you
girl at the window ?”

“That winter has passed
and summer is coming.”

“Girl at the window
what do you see ?”

“I see a seed case
blown on the wind.”

“What does it tell you
girl at the window ?”

“It tell me that nature
always is hopeful.”

“Girl at the window
what do you see ?”

“I see the postman
with my boyfriend's letter.”

“What does it tell you
girl at the window ?”

“It tells me he loves me
and that soon we'll be married.”

“Girl at the window
what do you see ?”

“I see a coffin
carried through snow.”

“What does it tell you
girl at the window ?”

“That I must drink pain
as I once drank pleasure.”

It was a Lark that Sang all Day

It was a lark that sang all day,
sang all day in the windswept sky,
that Johnny heard from the hedgerow bower,
as he touched his hand along Sally's thigh,
and kissed her lips.

It was a thrush that sang one hour,
sang for an hour in the hawthorn tree,
as Sally put baby in her cot,
and gently stroked the little knee,
and kissed her lips.

It was a rook that cawed but once,
cawed but once in the splintered oak,
as into the coffin they laid the babe,
and gave her cold cheek a farewell stroke,
and kissed her lips.

Samuel Palmer Prepares to Etch “The Lonely Tower”

I must return
to that valley of vision,
gather again to me
flocks, crescent moon and star,
God – let the last lights burn
at this down-dusking of heaven's intermission,
grant a rebirth to things I used to see
seeming so close – yet known to be so far.

Long since I knocked
at the Interpreter's door,
explained whence I came
and what I hoped to find:
with kindred spirits flocked
to him, and asked of the path that lay before -
how to win valid praise ( avoiding shame )
we who were young – vigorous – yet so blind.

Now in tired age
sharpening my needles
rubbing herbs on my forehead
to wake my brains ! -
yet – if it evokes that sage
( farcical though it be ) - if it inveigles
my failing soul to final glimpse of Godhead
it is enough – recompense for all pains.

Cut image now
wax hold my dream,
and let the acid bite
and show its power;
my hand is on the plough
which cut deep furrows to hold the harvest's sheen;
tremblingly I vision this final light,
and place it high in the lonely tower.