S

H A U N

BEL C HER

1981 - 1989

COLLECTED POEMS
CONTENTS

The Tithe Machine

(1981 - 1984 )

The per-ch
1

The tithe machine 2

The chur-ch bell 3

Dog's dsing 4

The valley 5

Winter- quar-ter-s 6

Village gr-een 7

Rehear-sal 8

Estuary 9

A cr-unch of gear-s 10

The gr-eat exhibition 11

~hp baitcercher
12

Vesper- 13

Docker-'s dr-earns 14

(

~~e

New Country

1985

Fields of thistle 16

The owl 17

Sticks and tucf 18

The beater-'s pr-ayec 19

Wor-ds fr-om the bank 20

The badger set 21

Under- the bridge 22

If Pasternak had taken this train 23

The marsh below the lock 24

The fishermen's r-etur-n 25

The house of vanitye 26

Black leaf and seed 27

The leachings 28

New year's eve 29

The measure of brightness 30

The moon over Henley 31

The new country 36

Burial in a country churchyard 37

THE

TIT H E

198 1

MAC H I N E

1 9 8 5

CONTENTS

The Tithe Machine

(1981 - 1984 )

1

The pecch
The tithe mnchine 2

The church bell 3

Dog's cising 4

The valley 5

Wintec quactecs 6

Village green 7

Reheacsal 8

Estuary 9

A cr:unch of geacs 10

The gceat exhibition 11

ba i t, eel t- cit ef"

1 2.

Vesper: 13

Docker's dreams

14

'T'ho

The perch

20 yards from where the willow fell
Gills thrash an illegal net
Halters of a river's mane
Man and fish plunge into shadowy field
20 yards higher the new bridge is raised
First-born of drill, pick and shovel
From a hatchery of sand
The first arch is spawned of brick and metal
Next morning whilst he reins the cattle in
It stands. Bait to his motorcycle wheels
For in raising the dark nights catch he dreamed
Of catching all the silver clouds of England.

I

The tithe machine
As a boy of ten my fathe~ held his fi~st ho~se
Meekly he followed he~ plodding cou~se
My g~andfathe~ at fo~ty had held many mo~e
F~om stable to field and back to st~aw
In a dank stable memo~y kicks at the doo~
Stablelad's names f~om dead caval~y wa~s
B~idles and st~aps, g~ooms hea~ts on the floo~
The eyes bound up like fetlocks in gauze
His body t~embles whe~e once it had sweated
The steam machine~y's gone the ha~d hand is softly ~esting
On a nail the ho~se colla~s hang like stomachs spilling
The top field is bu~ning, he cannot see it
The ash falling
Soft as ~ain.

2

a~ound

us

The church bell
Rings
I look out
Your soft shivers
Green
Brush my father's hand
As he pushes the root home
Through black soil
Like black paint
Another broody evening alone
With words
And friendly thunder
Out on the hills
They have cut through the chalk
The tarmac is being laid
Rings again
Time to make my way
Lines taught
Down the trench

3

Dog' s rising

Man and dog
Sliding
Through stile and straw
A red machine
Deep in it's nest
Chokes down electric light
Man and dog
Along a path
Beneath sluiced trees
Rain squirting from a black tin roof
And ditching trees
Stubble
And tyres
They climb
Man - breaks the hedge
Dog - chasing hare
They both ride the pillion wheat
To the shed

4

The valley

Flowers are brought to the country
I stride with the servants
Hooves disappear in wet earth
Reins are made of leather
In the orchard the crop ripens
wind looses apples from branches
before the ladders are properly positioned
red and white blossom remembered
To open the window I lift the latch
and push
There is an angel on the lawn this morning
I smile

5

Winter quarters
Boots crunching grass
I arrive at the huddle of cattle
Water drips from lolling tongues
Salting the trough with spittle
Numb fingers, udder red
Tumble the bales
OVer the rattle of the steel gate
And the field's rim of brittle reeds
The weir is roaring
A water filled chest brimming
Cattle fed, I thread the bridge
Arms beating like crows
From the tall trees slapping
I scrape boot after boot
Breath tracing the panes frozen patterns
And glimpse the flame of summer wood
In a grate darkly glowing
Coot hugging bank
Pike twisting root
Each holds it's own winter quarter
This is mine
This vase of rushes
Gathering dust above the fire.

6

Village - green
A journey
A circle away
A mansion, ivy-towered
In the light
It burns
Red and green
Four windows
Facing south
Across a village green
Blue and gold
Reflections
Fledgling thoughts
Rippling west

7

Rehearsal
Knock, knock
The room I enter is wide
Of white hills
Which once upon a time
Held the sea
In it
A table and chair
Smoke in a splinter sun
Over
Bleached floorboards
And dust
In the room's grate
Ashes and sand
A feather that smoulders
Stravinsky
Geneva
Somewhere else

8

Estuary
Pull the rope tight
the boat floats
river is returning
mud slides
water spills
timbers discover weight
eyes closed
arms

spread
new water sheds

her eyes follow
the heron

across the water-cress

bed.

9

A crunch of gears
Doors gasping
Windows tight on the latch
Silence
Measured by drill smack
A tumble of bricks, askance, running down
A suburban pattern of steeple and track
Breaking the tunnels
Funnelled thunder swerves
A shudder engine
Sliding through walls
Winter hangs signals
The wireless branch
Sudden
A crunch of gears
Soft leaves
Falling hard
Two eyes swivel in two sockets
Descend but do not rest
What heaps
Rusts

The great exhibition
Two jays in tic-tac spinning
Cresting waves of lace curtain and linoleum
Two-stepping tarmacadam's invention
A century's first mast
The barge of the crystal palace
This gaping hole
Where the machinery ploughed into the past
The smell of smoke
Of ashes

11

The baitcatcher
Squelching by
A clatter of clean bucket and spade
Delving deeply
In troughs of weed
Wet wood and spray
He stoops to prise
The worm from the rake
Ploughing on
The gravel face of fenland
Gently stirring
Salt seeping
Through the chipped teeth
To parched tongue beneath
The sea stares
Fresh water inland
Starts to pour
Through chalk and flint
Above it all
The union tatters
Tired grass
Swallows shadow
So many distances
Coasts to travel

12

Vespec
I sucvey with ink the actecial coad
The houc slit
By the hum of automobile wings
Acound me
An entice nation's motion
Of spun leaf and spinning wheel
In my mind's eye
Slows to zeco
The ficst london bcick comes to hand
A flash of low octobec sun
Illuminates a dack steeple
The pecfect specimen
I ceach foc my jac and pin
My notebook and pencil

13

Docker's dreams
I live under rooks
In a city of bridge and water
Mortar guides fin to sea
Two or three hover
In breezes of sound
Like branches afloat in
A reach
Salt, cargo to peck
1983

Up north I have heard
The salmon are leaping

14

/.JjV(

11"/

Alan Cornelius, '..--'
Jill Dawson,

3 0 ,

~

~
-..:
~

......

Rupert Mallin,~.
~.
and many more ~
_.,.,.
"

plus: JETHRO

~ARK~

0:::

e

~

::t:

e.

.

.
. ,..
j~.a (Al vJ \)"~ . '

on the Bible a '.

1

\J':

;

~

e •

H

~

~

;$C\0~b~

;

tf)

I-C
tf)

~

I-C

5
C/}

<
~
U)

I-C

0:::

(5
E-4
~

SALISBURY HOUSE, BURY STREET WEST, EDMONTON, N.9

THE NEW MAGAZINE

tel; 01-360 3552

17th Jan. 1985

Dear David Bell,
thankyou very much for your contributions for
our magazine. We have read them with interest and have decided that
we would like to print: 'Winter Quarters', 'The Well', 'Valley',
'Dogs Rising'.

However,

'Canteen', and 'The Baitcatcher',

we feel are not suitable and we are therefore returning them.
Thankyou for taking an interest in us and we look forward to
reading some more of your work in the future.
A free copy of our magazine will reach you as soon as it comes
to press.

yours

sincere~y

/'\ 1<)

(-:n~)\v\ /0,,-v
'.
V'

I

;""J

tl l '­
//

t'

I

I

I
I

\ G.Woodward. B.Wilson.

[ " : ' ' ' -r

,

I

,I

THE

NEW

C 0

198 5

U N TRY

Field of thistle
thistle float

fallow to brick

and spring leafage

everywhere green uprising

May and

yellow thunder of mustard

cropping the air

rain tipping

leaves open

this tired winding valley

brought fresh to the rim

brimming wi th

stalks of wild parsley

chestnut trees foaming

a summer steamer

docking

swifts darting through

the factory wires

In gardens

gathered to rows

backs are bending

logs amongst the flaring

flowerbeds

car and motorbike sounds

are swallowed in the damp air

I open my mouth

birds fly up from bracken

perfume of lilac and lavender

pressed under lorry wheels

My language

Hard as thistles. Soft as seed.

(, thistle fallow flooded with herd of brindled cows
lea fallen to Items, pastures dew green')

The owl

The suit never worn never wears,
Dark under wraps under stairs,
The hidden things we are losing now,
Are hidden deeper than the plough,
Can turn over, spill or reveal,
with sppe or shovel dug under heel,
Can split, slice ~ unve i Ls er rexch,

In building new patrothrough the trees,

Like cloud over wood or fog on down,

The old things get covered or are thrown,

Like sheet covered furniture it remains,

To remind the blood of passing days,

Still as a small bird on branch in hail,

The simple phrase, country way remains,

Like a straw we see falling from a dark place,
£ign of greater things above us in the rain.

17

Sticks and turf
At the gate of wooden slats
( erected by the present earl)
Tourists stand and wait
before the ascent
Of this spiral mound
and leaf-shedding tower
From the hub of it's walls
under a gauze of wheeling cloud
and sheet rain
I pick out their path.
Orange and blue coats
like fishermen's floats
they duck and bob
rising to the bait of place
I've already spent
a bare hour up here
untangling branches
pushing my keen nose
into each dead space
anticipating
Their figures
in the yellow gorse
heads wet
spines arching
expectant
Explosion
A flight of arrows beats south
wreaths of metal and fume
heading toward the coast
All of us
eyes glued to their tails
Like soldiers after a battle
Counting the sticks laid
and to be laid in the turf

The beater's prayer
Like ice-crusted path or honey froze in hive
It heeds the boot striding, dawn mist will fly
The firm thought tucks under hedges of doubt
From muddied briar a pheasant thought breaks out
On dewy track it settles content that its flailing
Flight will save it from cold shovels of beaters
But no more knows what lays beneath snow
Than fist of beater or warm sun's glow
That taps the van griding up hills
'Til warm hands rest and thaw frozen kills.

19

Words from the bank
when I first wrote
I called this poem
'The perch from the flood'
thinking myself clever
well yes
the title was better
than the rest
Now, three years later
ambition stacking books
in every corner
I return to it
the words lie orderly
like crops drilled
or the threading of line
to reel
but real meaning?
like the fish it described
must have fell through the net
now I weigh what I'm saying
something about catching perch
something about being a writer
about wanting ••
what I want now
a tight line.

20

The badger set
1

John Clare swung it, not the other,

Stifling papers on Scott and Chaucer,

Or Austen, cold as snow I felt,

No nothing told like that black pelt,

Badger struck home like an arrow,

Bowling me over,set me hunting,

out of the book rattling desk lids,

Chafing, clawing like a hunk of black wood,

Bubbly Rosie, the cider of Laurie Lee,

Never quite hit the nerve for me,

But that badger did, tumbled me down,

Twenty years to go down the road.

2

Holding up the first dart to be thrown,

At a family christmas in my nan's home,

A bycycle leans against the blue gate,

Awaiting an uncle full of beer and cake,

She topped her cake year in, year out,

With a red santa, fir trees and candle wax,

The thought comes back slow as a pedal leaning,

Into a ditch where the badger is waiting.

3

A hard road
harder than it takes to throw a dart straight
Waits for the feather like nights
The badger flash of making sounds rhyme.

21

Under the bridge

Low under dark hills the late cattle stand,

Breathings loud, tar and feather of black land,

Amber lights of cold carriages roll and sweep,

Over bridge, under branch of field never reaped,

Have I here in vehicle a new plan or estate to ply?

Whilst the deep hours sleep under stile and hide,

Below these ponds on this land never drained,

Have I a new well to sink in search of old rain?

With hammer and spade I dare to spill the oak chest,

And metal the woods with silver water ill-spent,

That it may from these basins bubble free, Oxon shine,

Like the ruts of trucks and cattle water finds,

But like a quivering rod and a tightening line,

Or a stopping train pushing at the signalled time,

Will I be to late to match the cattle's stride,

For the promise of wells you need sticks divine.

Under the bridge new houses are rising,

Some like things certain, some undecided.

22

If Pasternak had taken this train

If Pasternak had taken this train

Would he have seen what we have seen?

Would he have parted the layered bloom of ancient ways,

His gaze sliced lines through the wood's autumn haze,

Or would he track east and follow the fallow,

Fallen with fruit, orchards sun-burnished,

As rails sped along under beetle-black carriage,

Would his eyes, steam, blink bridges, set sail,

Through rattled hour, streams and floating leaves,

At the side of platforms frosted, air hard, whited,

These things and no more would his eyes delight in?

His hands acknowledge the signals, key in and proceed?

Presenting ticket at station as I now do,

I without tongue of ice-packs,sleds or ink rooves,

These contacts denied I must find my own wood to steam,

To get away from banks of birches, engine dripping,

To quarry my own country baking, mist on shallow waters,

Still fires, the promise of noonday stacked clouds,

Would he have taken notes or quiet as folded papers,

The day under his hat, have dismounted , raised fires?

23

If Pasternak had taken this train

If Pasternak had taken this train

Would he have seen what we have seen?

Would he have parted the layered bloom of ancient ways,

His gaze sliced lines through the wood's autumn haze,

Or would he track east and follow the fallow,

Fallen with fruit, orchards sun-burnished,

As rails sped along under beetle-black carriage,

Would his eyes, steam, blink bridges, set sail,

Through rattled hour, streams and floating leaves,

At the side of platforms frosted, air hard, whited,

These things and no more would his eyes delight in?

His hands acknowledge the signals, key in and proceed?

Presenting ticket at station as I now do,

I without tongue of ice-packs,sleds or ink rooves,

These contacts denied I must find my own wood to steam,

To get away from banks of birches, engine dripping,

To quarry my own country baking, mist on shallow waters,

Still fires, the promise of noonday stacked clouds,

Would he have taken notes or quiet as folded papers,

The day under his hat, have dismounted , raised fires?

23

The marsh below the lock

This cold grey bridge connects the doors,
Of lock-keeper's house and village-hall,
And my chilled hand rests in woolen glove,
On a ledge above the dark and piling flood,
All the twists and swirls and spin-spill,
Of water draining from valley, field and hill,
Which presses the stained brick arch and leads,
The trundling barks and plastic reels,

And my eyes across the silvered ditches and meadows,

Spread before me under the tolling spire bells.

Here a floating branch and a bundle of reeds,

With icy grasp has checked the speeding leaves,

The new dam forming breaking the slow,

Seawards drifting current that forever flows,

Here and there forming meshes of things deep,

Packing into the glossy mud the history of weeks,

Here upon this marshland, this swollem new ground,

Greedy for objects my gaze circles and circles around,

A dead fish floats like a ship through the passageway ,

Between islands of silt built by the rains,

Lost deep in the horde below my minds eye forms now,

A fiction built on treasures waiting below,

Perhaps some lost jewel, saxon shield, sword that slipPed,

From passing traveller or lover's quarrel as moorings slipped,

A diary I see below me, a book, pages pulped from land,

Which only this summer would have broken a plough,

It may reveal secrets but not today to my eyes that sink,

My heavy tread leaving tracks where new water springs,

My cropped head and fallow mind stride back to the walls,

Under the ringing of the spire, the safe foundation that calls.

The fisherman's return

Stalling water from hills, Porlock Weir, North Devon,

Below woods of flint and bark, streams falling to sand,

Before dawn rising, reeds bound, tooled and twined,

Landrover descends at morning to house gutted by light,

I, not knowing, open-eyed, mouth filled with water,

Fell into boulders in estuary, Bristol eastwards,

Then caught fresh currents dipped south by Exmoor,

Between Avon and Exe my body was finally washed ashore,

Here finger slipping twine, drawing winds light,

The air pressing pebbled walls , pink worn to wnite,

Upon a day of last leaves from bare trees falling,

I hands tied, stalled, small craft in rough sea drowning,

I remember best the lures, the trays of orange and red,

The nets ready sown, the swinging hooks and bait in buckets,

As we left harbour I remember seeing thatch hammered to eave,

A compression to shed water or save any vessel from storm

Then came my mistake my slipping fathoms below the sea,

To join the herring, lobster, bass and mullet on the sands,

Now my eyes stare cold and my lungs are compressed of air,

These bones and flesh no longer ward off bad weather,

Now I'm just a gutted fish, a house filled with light

Bobbing on the tide waiting for hands to come

Push me out of sight.

25

The house of vanitye

I built a house of vanitye,
raising plank from spiteful leaf,
founded on envy, guilt and vice,
four posts, greedy, trenchant lie,
a frame displayed 'neath narrow skies.
Soon walls to this ambition were drawn,
and to them a roof of corruption hung,
resting on pillers where smoke of cash clung,
from the red fumes of lust's warm stove,
now I wait the cold winter snows.
Out in the forest I have cleared a space,
erected fences from tree to stake,
culled all from the dark wood of thought,
where badger, wren and weasel stalk,
Oh bring me avarice, glory, wealth.
Into this heart a falcon chanced to fly,
brown ball of feather, talon, cry,
So lifting a bright quiver
I loosed one arrow at its heart again,
Sending its tip up into the mists,
Alas the arrow fell back with the snow,
All I gained was blocked paths, frozen well,
Where locked tight the waters of love swell,
The arrow ratt~ling the ice solid laid,
Then joining the buc ket stiff with silent days.

26

Black leaf and seed

Like this tree curtains strike out
before hand turns to lamp at dusk
Like a moth skidding to and fro
leaving sad marks upon the glass
Like a mirrored cloud in polished chrome
sight of you, gravel thrown on grass
this eye then recalled a shared emotion
glimpsed once then buffeted by words
like yesterday's thunder rain let it pour
from leaf to branch to trunk to earth
down from the giddy clouds you've made me reel
to dwell in the black leaves
and the mouldering seed.

27

The leachings

Staunching the gravel flow of thames tidal fleet,
Brown water is twirling a new town in its pleat,
Weaving a brackish pyre of brick and black wheat,
Seeping south through parish and shire to the sea,
A cattle ford is mined, a farm terrace breached,
A merchant route unwound like rinsed bedsheets,
The bleedings of oxfordshire, field side slides,
Gloucester's melancholic humours run to tide,
Dropped by drifting monks a gilt cross fetches up,
Amongst bone of cold feast,arrows of failed hunt,
The memory of splashing boar chased by dog and gun,
Under the shower fall the steaming roasted venison,
Brown water is stirred, topples the carts,
Sucks at bales and seed, rudders it chokes,
The tanner's fleeces are soaked,grain floats,
The sump of industry blackens the silver mud,

A breeze sways the reeds
A houseboat spins midstream
Horses shelter under trees
A timber house flooded to the eaves

Now I stride your eel-tracks brown water
I measure your deltas
To tap you with ditches and channels
I have used plank~, bricks and girders to cross you.
I watch your final deployment
Thirty miles of flood bottoming out
This place where the five counties wash through.
Now you are at rest
But the clues are left
Leaves fringed with silt
Fields covered in mud
And fish belly skywards
, In truth sire she be so fierce we couldn't hold her'

New year's eve

And the trees are all spent except those repeating
from dark diffident rooms their tired xmas greeting
and the mist lays blank, hanging thick to the bank
of each overhung wooded track and rattling branch
seated, I with wipe of window survey twisting tarmac
from Thames Valley rising slow we hound cars ln packs
I have seen the same traffic weave up a century shrinking
from Dickens to Amis, bodies cheered by drinking
whilst laid in store the cold grain is still glinting
whilst without the dark year draws its breath in
then exhales like words upon a page, like snow building
upon rick and rail as the signal and points are freezing
the novelist is drunk, the charge under rail a warning
but his manuscript roars on over detonator and failings
his self-belief impressive his arrogance apalling

29

The measure of brightness

I cannot measure this island's cold temper
though bar and shop-front turn out facing
to eyes that gather pace, countryside erasing
twisting branches, filling ponds, fields razing
no I cannot like red sky predict morning
Oh London you windmill of tarmac roads grinding
I hear movements, trucks moving and bricks rising
I catch the breeze off mud-flats, gulls swing
From posts at low tide where fingers scratch livings
Eyes snared in passages bright as mud bedazzling
Let your brightness unmeasured shining take aim
Dark city revealing arch, piller and gothic span
Blood wood, bone slate, hair rooves and nail wharves
You come with careful tread through these yellow walls
Soft as an arche~ologist picking up splinters of skulls.

30

The moon over Henley

As I peeled the frosted sacking from my eyes

I dreamt a moon over Henley.

I saw that I had fallen at the hard edge of a field.

Hedging trailed, wooled wire above the ditch froth.

Ragwort, metal, leaf and plastic under power lines

Roots twisting around calf and thigh

A Gulliver at dawn awaiting the first cock-cry.

It is early

By twisting my head through 90 I find myself in a ploughed

field. The light is low. September perhaps.

I know it will get colder. There is ice at the corners of

my mouth, it jewels the cloth of my coat.

0

Not a sound.

Only the faint tap of crisp air curling up to the

roof of my mouth.

Then a motor running, irritating.

To see it would involve another twist.

A wagon comes to rest, it's exhaust dripping.

Fox jaw, engine warm still.

My turnip face uproots slowly, leaves and stalks part

I am breaking from dark soil, bronzed and gravelled

by the Thames that supportive soaker now draining from my eyes.

I awake to a morning with no new clouds in the sky.

It is bright, too bright.

I try to dredge a hand through the slime.

As I remove the black coat of night's falling

mud drips slow and cold down my sleeves

These arms which once broke bread and corn.

One is missing.

Ah, there it is beneath nettles.

Frozen, useless.

The weather's got into it

the rust of this cold season.

It's been building up all summer

like a new town.

Ah, centre firm, but at the edge,

nothing but sheds and ditches.

Sludge of plans and new levels.

31

I draw breath again
More deeply and sillage floods in
I draw a sluicegate eye shut
and my head fills with clanking on fresh pasture
A regimental camp
horses cantering for medals
applause, raised glasses
microphones and prize-givings
So goes the hand that feeds
the hand that holds the rein
I call from the line the plough holds to
but our lines are erased
dust to the storm
Arm
I drag you back
Push the fost off with a nail
Full revival
a different matter
in the forge a blacksmith stoops
attending the molten metal
New shodding
A chain of metal and leaves
new materials, new methods
revise, replace,revitalise
new words?
like clay the hand slips at the wheel
but the mind constantly dream plays
above the spinning heart
constancy
Like silver water
on a meadow
Or mist at dawn
after a burial
the hand moulds, the magic dissolves
the glory herons away
I

Bonny England oh where be she

in head, in heart, deep belosfeet?'

At the lock-gate dark water is pressing,

With barge to back and horses under hedges,

From the black country they come to the cities,

With bricks and coal and ash for industry

All along the river are the basket makers

with axe and saw they are gathering the rushes

Bent branches and backs, each crop a meal

Like horses working the same movement on a treadmill

This glint of september from bud to catkin

A christmas basket tied up in french lace

__

oldA spatter of sot clears the air
a rook spits from the wood, dirt from a spade
But where are my boots
I know I had them with me
Attentive but discreet, like foreigners abroad
they are generally near to me
Holding their tongues
flapping at trouble
running from storms
they usually save me
Servants of my big house
I cannot rise without you
These two miserable tramp-steamers of feet
have somehow sand-banked themselves in this flooded ditch
The briars overhead contain no nests
the light is stronger now
elbowing its way through branch and twig
Bare base of telegraph pole
centre of snaking wires
maypole of messages
country-club, farmstead, factory, races
Somewhere south bows scrape bottom
North wings crumple in heather
I sit here
In the fourth corner of my domain
Looking up but not out
Kavanagh, Kavanagh calls the wire
, parochial = elemental'
Oh say I
counting the plovers in the furrows
My expectations the rising gulls and lapwings
From my body up there and back again
the miles of ungirdled shire
They can map the larger spaces from up thre
Not I
They can see the river twist, the alluvial mining
big-houses, boat-houses, tarmaced miles
grey deposits of open-cast mines
springs pouring from the dark valley sides
Cloudsc to try to fathom and climb
This fresh steel wire, the field demarcation line
This is the limit of my mind's plan for now
That
station sinking
Clouds of steam like a liner going down
wallowing in the ice.

33

I am stuck here now
Like a heffer caught mid-stream
swimming against the flood
not touching bottom
I bellow
Perhaps they will come from the village soon
asphelt ringing to the clout of new boots
perhaps even now they're lashing ropes
swinging the ferry into the current
and firing lines into the water
guiding the ferry over
the wool of memory unravels
like garden twine set out
pulled down each rut and furrow
surveyors with staffs
posts and chalk amongst green blades
new cradles, charts and crops spring
flash of green shoots from February trains
then switches to brown
leaf to soil to burnt ground
Monet to Braque to Kiefer
Dank earth presses to my cheek
I lay back in a years rain
I spread under chalk hills
Like fruit-pickers the poplars sway
and reach like knives to heaven
Once before I heard the slap of heels in wet soil
testing the seed trays I disturbed a missle -thrush stealing
Saw its wings broken against the glass ceiling
Taught is the line that draws the animal in us to the bank
Slack is the line that plunges to the bed in search of love
I know not which to choose in the search for deeper things
I only offer up the hope of things not named
That they may call to you
In a machinery of country living hands explore
With diesel in the pores
a link is reborn
tracks, fir plantations
shorelines, gorse
all matters of an idea built or reinforced
On the ferry a face strains
to lift the submerged weight
a shield emerges
buried for years
mud, plastic, flint, straw, iron, steel
strength in simple words.

The new country
I

April is the month then
to walk under western sky lightening
past house and car
kite and rook flying
Then to pass pony and rider
always at edge of vision
( never centr e i nq

to see a storm break across a railway track
watch stream flow under roots
over gravel flooding
So begins the folding year
seed on leaf
bale on straw
II

In remembrance of the tight vista
the shrinking brick
the shallow town flowing
I wade in.
What was orchard has become barren
a new field or gravel drive
space folded into sculpted gardens
This is the way things have gone here
whilst outon the hills
distances grow larger
hedges and walls uprooted
elms toppling
things breaking
quiet as kite strings.
III

Age 13
I stood rooted to this same spot.
Watching white bones being raised
from a tannery well.
Now I gaze at the ground reclaimed
soft with thunder rain
the water, the frogs
a vivid memory.
Whilst away the stone crosses have grown
slightly smoother
and new people have come
scaling the ditch, fields and barns
to their measure.
A poet on the margin, axle sinking in clay pastures.

Burial in a country churchyard

Ten years have I lain beneath these beams,

Eyes to ceiling, nails, cladding, eaves,

Laid at brow of hill within a dark vale,

As round me ringing soft sounds have fell,

Far gates clanging, springs bubbling spray,

From under downland where chalk meets clay,

At the scarp edge where river runs with rain,

l've heard the rumble of the night's slow train,

Seen light return to each new morning's track,

Caressing crow's wing, fox's head, badger's back,

Melting the frost on the cars and motorbikes wrapped

On cold concrete forecourts where pennafs flapped,

And marking the new road where the headlights swung,

Into towns on hills where field blazes hung,

These mingle with dawn mists, like dew fade,

The sun inte{upting all but tight tangled shade,

For ten years or more I've lain near these things,

Not noting a cause, end nor beginning,

I never had to think about the clock of age,

The hard wind and rain showered in the face,

I paint scenery that will wither like these flowers,

Or disperse like these mourners attending my grandfather,

At moment of burial the stage was neatly set,

By three geese striking out his century headed west.

37

~~e

New Country

1985

Fields of thistle 16

The owl 17

Sticks and tucf 18

The beater's prayer 19

Words from the bank 20

The badger set 21

Under the bcidge 22

If Pasternak had taken this train 23

The marsh below the lock 24

The fishecmen's return 25

The house of vanitye 26

Black leaf and seed 27

The leachings 28

New yeac's eve 29

The measure of brightness 30

The moon over Henley 31

The new country 36

Burial in a country churchyard 37