Here is a selection of my poetry for JANUARY
Clinging high in a low tree,
a robin stopped to sing for me
and all the robin world.
Despite the cold and wintry day
it stayed — it did not fly away
and showed no fear of me.
Above my head, above the storm,
fearless in the greying dawn,
it sang and sang again, "Rejoice!"
Road, chosen for convenience,
used for our journeys heading west,
is not a stimulating drive.
So trees become a talking point —
a punctuation for each ride —
a measure for the passing time.
These acres would be hard to miss :
spruce, tidy in neat graded rows,
march up a slope and out of sight.
Grown on this scale to satisfy
tradition from Victorian times,
each tree must reach a standard height.
November brought the harvesting :
trees cut and bagged and stacked by size,
were organised by lorry loads.
Today the scent of burning pine
wafts slowly over carriageways,
smoke, like a veil across the trees,
marks passing of this Christmas time.
We didn't know what she would bring in next :
our febrile cat, fresh to these fields and grass,
exulted in the creatures she could find.
Birds fluttered round our rooms until released;
we set up humane traps for voles and shrews
and twice, young rabbits, almost half her size,
sat on her bed, beside her, terrified.
Coming downstairs I sensed something amiss.
Centred, the cat prepared to pounce.
Attention focused on that small, black space
framed by the apron of the dresser's front —
a gap too small for cat or paw to pry.
And when the cat got bored — goes off to eat —
a pink snout snuffles out to test the air
but into darkness suddenly retreats
when sensing from slight movement that I'm there.
After midnight, when cat has gone to sleep,
her victim unexpectedly escapes.
Scrabbling desperately with shovel hands
on wooden floor moldyworp* finds no grip…
So I admire that special velvet coat,
release the mole on grass across the road.
* The Old English name meaning “dirt tosser.”
BEYOND THE GATE (QUELM LANE)
Beyond the gate, the lane was a green cave
with shade made by tall trees from either side.
Joining like hands, the branches hid the sky,
yet sunlight filtered through as beams of gold
to dapple ivy leaves and dusty path.
In that green calm, the air seemed clean and cool —
a respite from parched fields in July heat —
but that was then and many months ago.
Today, a New Year wind drives from the North,
shaking bare branches high above the lane;
dead leaves are cornflake-crisp beneath my feet,
frosted and frozen now despite night's rain.
Hurrying home passed finches in the hedge —
fluffed feathers can't defeat this wind's sharp edge.
“The past's a foreign country,” Hartley wrote
and so, with age, I've found this to be true.
Today, my birthday, asked to reminisce,
memories took on a sepia hue.
All things remembered alter over time:
perspectives shift, main features fade from view
and distant details take new prominence —
a colour, sound or smell to centre stage,
my narrative reduced to fire or rain.
Worst still, to find my memories don't chime
with your technicolour trophies from our past,
or find some things have gone, lost in a fog,
or disappeared completely from my life…
It makes me wonder what the future holds,
could this presage a new and frightening strife?
The past is a foreign country – The Go-Between, L.P. Hartley
Cold air and moonshine :
white light on grass and trees
transforms at daybreak —
solidifies as frost.
Horses like statues —
frozen to the fields —
watch in an icy dawn
where their green world is white.
An orange sunrise —
framed in distant trees —
silhouettes the blackthorn hedge.
Everything just gleams :
the pastures glittering,
each twig and grass blade
frosted — so complete.
Fast striding up Larks Hill,
soft ground is summer firm.
Smoky bursts of breath,
fingers tingle; in my head
a song — the words inquire :
Isn’t he the God of creation?
And I am here alone,
humbled by this glory.
All around is freedom -
larger than the blue above.
Early today, close by the border of night's dream, a thrush sang :
through thinning darkness before dawn I heard his song repeat.
Insistently he sang, scattering remnants of soft sleep,
commanding me, "Awake, awake."
The moon hung full and white above dark trees
and he had come this time, clear voiced on frosty air,
above snowdrops massed where in the snow he'd fed :
so thankful then for meagre gifts.
Now, on season's cusp, he has returned to claim domain
and share this benediction to the Spring.