Sunday, January 21, 2018

Or Rolling the Dice

Five types of mushrooms seem to represent
Five types of bad behaviour: all taste fine,
And all of them look good, go well with wine
Well chosen, sauté with a lovely scent
Of earth-toned flavours, and, to some extent,
All five of them can be seen to align
With sweet, umami, bitter, salt, sour: dine
On mushrooms; goodness is impermanent.

My own insistence on remaining nice
In the mean face of evil may seem stale,
But starve the substrate and the mushrooms fail,
However strong they start. There is a price
For doing right, or wrong, or rolling the dice.
Choose carefully, and thereby hangs a tale.

Monday, January 08, 2018

What Do You Know

Resentment is my middle name, disdain
Is my first cousin, and my son-in-law
Knows all about the January thaw
That unexpectedly allows the rain
To leak from cracks appearing in the drain.
A generous impulse would be a flaw:
The vermin living in the walls will gnaw
Through wires, through years, in silence, and in pain.

What do you know? Do you recall the day
Becoming evening? Summer turns to fall,
And fall to winter, quickly. You recall
The crisis of the rising water? Say,
What new catastrophes are underway,
What new disaster coming for us all?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


We love the way you intimate despair
When anything goes wrong, or almost wrong.
The group to which you and your ilk belong
Are always looking for sackcloth to wear
And ashes to roll in. Life is unfair,
Hope can be weak, and healthy fear is strong,
So when you hear this unsavoury song
Don't think we're laughing only at your hair.

We're laughing at your house, your heart, your hats,
We're laughing at the way you brush your teeth,
Your choice of prayers, your shoes, your Christmas wreath,
Your ex-wife's name, and your domestic spats.
We all agree your belfry's full of bats,
Aware of all the darkness underneath.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

New Love

They like to call it deep thrombosis,
Yet I think it's something shiny,
Found on land, and on the briny.
People scared of halitosis
And arterial stenosis
Seem to get upset and whiny.
Spinal bifida? Think spiny;
Ponder new love and necrosis.

Eat an onion and a carrot,
March down Main Street when it's raining,
Pick up Great Danes without straining,
Spend two seasons in a garret,
Talk red fibres with a parrot,
Ride the wind, and stop complaining.

Monday, November 27, 2017


I won't remember anything you said,
Last night, last week, or any time at all.
I'll try hard, but I simply won't recall
The smell of garlands, tasting wine and lead,
Feeling your heart beat slowly, seeing red,
Or hearing chimes. I'm waiting for the Fall,
But maybe it won't come this time. I'll stall,
Then I'll forget to dance. Then I'll be dead.

Just say there is one corner of my mind
Where all this will remain, unchanged, unknown:
The smell of coffee, and the telephone
Unheard among the lame, the meek, the blind,
And, yes, the innocent. Is it unkind
To question you? We'll both be all alone.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Approaching Paris

Things have unravelled — not just old dress shirts,
But new ones, also cardigans and shawls,
The special clothes you knitted for the dolls,
The hats, the heart-shaped cushions, introverts
Discussing meats and savoury desserts,
Long, dark imaginings in long, dark halls,
Objectionable asses in their stalls,
Unsavoury Beau Brummells, cads, and flirts.

So pick up needles, threads, tight skeins of yarn,
And get to work. Don't think embroidery,
Think basic, unadorned utility:
Torn seams to join, patched holes, cheap socks to darn.
Approaching Paris, on the western Marne,
We glimpse a new life, intermittently.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Crouch Together

With all the Cossacks gone, the Hussars still,
The wheels of the artillery in shards,
And battlefields abandoned to the bards,
We'll crouch together just below the hill
In holes the enemy forgot to fill,
Remembering our own brave Savoyards.
Call in the infantry, call out the guards,
Whisper our names to keep away the chill.

These deep, wet ditches will be good enough
To hide in, till we die — but not alone,
We'll crouch together, craving the unknown —
Come, Hotspur, Roland, Sohrab, Kong, Macduff,
Sit with us underneath this quiet bluff,
Remembering each friend, each exposed bone.

Monday, October 02, 2017

This Week, in Balloons

I'm coming back on Tuesday's train. Be there.
I'm bringing back a piece of London sky
That fell on me one sunny afternoon.
It came upon me, hurtling through the air
At speeds fantastic; first I heard a cry;
I heard a busker playing on a tune
That I had heard somewhere before, I think.
Be waiting for me, please. I'll need a drink.

Such strange things seem to happen on my trips.
They never seem to happen, though, to you.
My life has sprung up from the comic strips,
While yours is real. I don't know what to do.
I had the answers at my fingertips —
That is, until my fingertips turned blue.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Poor Excuse

We're not responsible for anything:
Not horses dancing, not for eating meat
Or eating only pastries, sticky sweet
And substanceless, not how the angels sing,
What lovers whisper while imagining
A world of grand responses, not the feet
That march through winter to the hapless beat
Of twelve-bar blues, not for the wicked king.

A poor excuse for running, it may be,
But that's the boldest one we have. We run,
Avoiding consequences. What we've done
And what we hoped to do were unfairly
Conflated in your mind, so what you see
Looks bad, though we did not harm anyone.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Unexpected Lift

Experience the unexpected lift
Of kisses in the sunlight by the sea,
The moment when the right hand, coming free,
Clasps something wanted, needed. It's a gift
That destiny provides with special thrift.
Note how the eyebrow quivers, tenderly,
And how the heart is warmed, a canopy
Of stars is formed, dismay is set adrift.

My luck has been extraordinary, true:
Keeping my dreams in check, my heart on ice,
Has been a lifetime's labour. No device,
No cold machine has served; I am a stew
Of bright desires, of gold, of morning dew,
Of love's touch. I have been surprised here twice.