RETURN




Seasons



Here we have what they call seasons.

Each is a blanket,

a counterpane.

Summer can be too heavy,

Winter too light.

Autumn folds us safe against the night

and spring is daybreak

warming earth,

cold rain.





Turn of the year


Doctor, I felt such pressure round my head,

like a cider apple in its gloomy press,

waiting for the skin to split

and the juices flow.


That was the deep depression of decreasing light,

but you will find that it has passed.

The screw has ceased to turn.

and now the juice


makes golden bubbles in the glass.





Bedrock


January; the white month,

the misnamed one,

where none look back;

the strong one;

the bedrock.





Snowdrifts


The snow arrived.

Most were happy to see it falling

but no-one knew how long it should stay

and it left without asking.

Even the grass had failed to make up its mind

when we woke up to find

stranded snowdrifts

on surprised lawns.





Ambush


Snowdrops, because they are the first,

always remain childish

and a little bit unsophisticated.


The sort of thing they will do is to say,

‘It is our turn to hide,

count up to ten,.

Ready or not

we are coming to get you!’


They always leap out in exactly the same place

and then expect us all to dissolve

in peals of irrepressible laughter.





Making a statement


The grasses were making a statement,

the uncut grasses of summer,

the brown and white.

A strong statement,

for these were the grasses of winter

and it was late

and spring was nearly upon us.


They were a foil to the cold wind

which sometimes buffets men

or blows high in the trees,

but blows now

close to the ground.





Composition


Winter is destiny

where a tree growing through moss

and dead grass,

is a tune

waiting for summer

to clothe it in words.





Plants that rely on wind pollination should have no need for visual stimuli to attract insect vectors and there is no obvious reason why the small female flowers of the hazelnut should be brightly coloured.


Catkins


No flower is more beautiful than the two-part hazel flower,

the lambs-tail catkin,

and beneath it,

the slashed red petal

like an open secret.

But what are the colours for?


Can the dry wind see colour,

or is the early spring wind,

driven through the cold air,

refracted and distracted by the barely perceived scent?

I doubt it,

but why are the colours there?

Will the air thicken

as summer hastens towards us?

Will the wind become bees?





Blue seas over


In cold February,

when the sky was a blue sea over the earth,

we had taken our boat

and sailed and sailed

across and across

until we made landfall

on a green bank

where summer warmth

was already there,

and violets grew through moss,

while primrose leaves folded back over the grass.





From an article which stated that the reptilian heart, but not the amphibian heart, beats faster in response to emotional stress and proposed that the amphibian/reptilian boundary represented the step from non-sentient to sentient beings.



Love in a cold climate


Take me in your cold amphibian arms

and I will, frog-like, die

because my heart, cast once in stone

has never reached the place

from which it came.


I have lived too long in water

that cools the heartbeat

and makes me the same

as all that I am not.

Yet despite that

I can still seek out my mate,

hold her beneath me,

and together we will croak the night away.





Armada


The great navy of spring is assembling.

These are the small boats, the most brave,

who make all of the earliest skirmishes,

but will not survive.

They will not see the enemy's flag furled.


These are the cruisers;

when they appear he will shudder,

aware that his dominion is over.


Now come the battleships, whose guns flare.

When they flash yellow flame,

his attack will redouble.

Then come the landing craft to bring gifts

and restore the awakened land.


Everyone has gathered round at the quay-side,

laughing and shouting and waving their flags

to see them set out.






The amelanchier, a medium-sized tree, gets its name of ‘snowy mespillus’ from the fact that it is covered in beautiful white blossoms in spring, that is until the bullfinches find it, which normally takes them about 2 years. In all subsequent years they will arrive and strip buds before they open. The result is that instead of thousands of flowers, there will a few hundred at most.



Snows of yesteryear


Bullfinches give no choice

between them, and the white flowers of the amelanchier;

the snowy mespillus.


It was indeed snowy in the years before they found it.

Such easy targets.

I caught one once under a net and held it, alive.

It was like holding my heart in my hand

beating, vivid and red.





The Judas tree


Do you not feel the thrill of the spring stream,

swollen after the rain,

and daffodils cold in the grass,

but warm in an upstairs room where she waited alone,

when the Judas tree, its branches bare now,

was about to bloom?


Then he came and we saw no greeting, embrace,

as though each one, finding the blue sea again,

understood that, to set foot in the boat

and cast off from the beach,

might mean nothing at all,

starting to tire of the voyage

almost as soon as the land

passed beyond reach.


Alone on the waves,

the hills and the fields, even the clouds

fading from view

and the kiss,

given and shared,

betrayed in its passion,

the old and the new.





Hadrian’s Wall


It is hard to imagine a happier place for a wall

where the earth rears like a great wave

waiting to break


Strangers were here once, but there are no ghosts now,

save for the ghosts of the south,

when winds blow.


Winds that waft warm air where larks sing

and winds that cover stones with drifted snow.





Recent rain


......south westerly, moderate to good.

Ronaldsay;

recent rain.


Recent rain,

but not the road-washed smell,

reminding of the farrier with his hammer,

knife and hoof held bent,

or blackbird song like shafts of summer sound

between the clouds.

But there the rain and water meet;

the dancing drops spray,

above two miles of heaving deep

leaving no trace.


And other sights to stir the landlocked heart?

A whale blowing,

terns migrating,

petrels flying,

or the flapping, buzzing sound of flying fish.





Pâte de campagne


I went into the country in the summer

and in the morning had a most delicious dish

of lark's tongues,

butterfly wings

gossamer strands,

and speedwell flowers

that had just opened.





Heavenly Host


The power of coincidence is very great.

To take just one example,

I was walking alone

when I saw your name

written in flowers

and within it, my own, completely entwined.

To read either,

it was only required

to render all of the others unseen.


And,

as if that were not enough,

each one

was inscribed at the exact centre

of God's forgiveness.





Oilseed Rhapsody


Rapeseed oil

is not enough reward

to pay for pungent yellow scars,

the rape of earth.

But sunflower fields,

or flax,

the smell of cricket bats

and fields of blue

like skies brought down to earth

might justify

the rape of heaven.





Two things affect the appearance of the full moon and both are independently related to the height above the horizon. The so-called ‘Moon phenomenon’ makes the angular dimensions of everything seen at a low angle to the horizontal visual axis appear to be magnified by a factor which approaches 2-fold. Thus the apparent area of the moon may be 3-4 times greater when it is on the horizon than when it is high in the sky. Then, light reaching us from space at a low angle to the horizon is depleted of shorter wavelengths (blue) relative to that coming from high angles, due to greater scattering by atmospheric dust with the result that the cold white light of the full moon seen high in the sky becomes a warm yellow light near the horizon. Because the full moon lies in the opposite side of the sky to the sun, it remains close to the horizon in summer, but its path takes it high in the sky in winter. The consequence is that we mostly see the moon as large, close and warm in summer, but cold, small and remote in winter. This is the reverse of the appearance of the scented summer jasmine, jasminum officionale and the unscented winter jasmine, jasminum nudiflorum.



Ellipse


Summer jasmine,

remote as the winter moon

fills the short night with desire.


Winter jasmine, low on the horizon

yellow and close, makes promise surge in the breast

that the summer flowers

small, white and sweet have never fulfilled,

because, in the north,

where the earth is nearest the sun in winter,

passion is soon past.


To compensate, it sweeps every hour in its orbit,

the same area

and there is the hope,

which many have,

that a second earth,

invisible to us,

circles instead where love burns in its full slow fire.

Perhaps the moon swinging out from side to side,

is trying to see it

and report back.


There is another earth moving around the sun

where all that we yearn for goes on,

but travels in the one place we never see.





Roads south


Every city has them;

the roads south

that lead to the temperate destinations.

The exotic;

the boulevards or lanes

lined with houses that contain grandness,

built by those who

have made, or gathered together,

all that goes on in the city,

but cannot live there.

Their greatness is revealed in clematis.

Their daughters are rare blooms,

so that we say,

it is not that the roads

lead to the south,

only that these are the ways

whereby the south

has entered the city.






White snow and rose red


Somewhere, near the edge of the world, is a garden

and there it is possible to see

snow falling in summer.


Fuchsia flowers hang

in the bright air.

One falls to lie on its white bed

and, in the minds eye,

I see you kneel

to pick it up.





Mr and Mrs Dove


Pigeons find simple fulfilment

as they contemplate the twofold mystery of creation.


Two birds,

two eggs,

two notes

and all summer the same song

with the same wondering concentration.


                Two twos.

               Two twos are two.

     no,

                                                    Two twos are two,

      two more twos are two

                                and

                       two twos are two

          and


stopping suddenly when they realise

they have passed beyond all reasonable expectation.  


 



The wild hunt


The summer air lay still on the land,

making it its own,

but this is the place where the wild storms hunt

and we do not belong.





There are two legends about St Swithin’s Day (15th July) in the south west of Britain.The well-known one is that a wet St Swithin’s day is followed by 40 days of wet and unsettled weather. The second and less well-known is that  rain on St Swithin’s day christens the apples and greatly reduces the number of immature apples that fail to set. From this it would seem that apples are in a no-win situation.



Christening of the Apples


Listen!

This is important.


Those that are not christened,

fall,

but, those that are,

grow,

and, if it should rain upon St Swithin's day,

spend their youth and bloom under grey skies.


Then, when autumn brings the long peace

of yellow-gold on green

and red,

ask,


Is this once again the place where

we lived before the storm broke,

until the time when,

so we believed,

dew would pass by

and lay its finger on our cheeks.





Folds


Have you seen how distant summers

appear to lie closer together

like a pleated skirt.

To pass between them, you do not have to climb

over the hills of winter

as we do here.

As though each discarded year has been folded back

and springs and summers lie even between

escarpments of winter and autumn

like a broad valley

grooved with days.





Dawn Chorus


What is happening now is

that the Robin has started to sing.

Either that, or else the other birds have stopped.


A thin melancholy sound

descending from low trees.

A sonorous tone

suggesting a resonant instrument,

not well played.


I heard one once

singing at night in a tree lit by yellow light,

as though the new dawn had arrived.


Later, when the leaves fall,

we shall see you more clearly

and your song grow more distinct,

warming the cold land

against the pure light of winter

and the still earth of bare ploughed fields.





Bacchanalia


Always the same!

When I say that I am growing grapes in my conservatory,

"Will you be making wine?"


What must they think of me?

An old man, corpulent, bloated,

who floated up against the ceiling,

spilling from his golden goblet,

streams of crimson liquid,

intercepted in mid-air

by laughing cherubs,


or an elegant satyr who leans,

one elbow on the sideboard

talking to a lady

with explaining eye

naked and greedy,

and wants to take his goatskin trousers off,

but never can.





Everlasting light


This is the time of year

when summer creates the illusion

of lasting forever,

that the betrayal of Autumn

will not happen.

Winter will not return

and Spring has made its promise

for the last time.





Mushrooms


How does this differ from the green resurrection of spring?

They grow from the spoils of a seasons decay

as the soul returns in its muted dream

saying,


‘Here in the midst of death

we are in life.’





Hunters moon


It was either the Hunters, or the Harvest moon,

lying like a translucent ball on the hill,

dwarfing the trees and ready to roll.


That night the fox came

and scattered death like stars on the grass.


Were these things connected?


Of course they were.

Someone, watching the moon,

had failed to shut the hen-house door.





Capo del anno


November is to winter as February to spring,

like a boy wearing a tight cap

that curves over his dark hair,

then descends on the far side

to a jaunty peak

below which

shine blue eyes

and a bright  grin.





Bonfire night


Why should bonfire night remind me of a city

whose broad industrial edge touches the grass,

where men can lie in the sun,

freed from the pain of gain

for ever and ever,

and, reaching in,

draw a potato from the flame

with hard black skin;

the charcoal taste on the tongue.

The heart, leaning back on the dark

absorbing the heat of more than a million souls

kindled together.





Winter Wheat


Winter wheat,

the forerunner,

big brother of spring corn,

deceived by autumn,

finding what others do not seek,

roots probing broken frost-contorted rock

and saying,

can these bones live;

can stones

become bread?

For if they can

then we will be cast down

and,

raised again,

restore the barren wilderness

to lifeless green.





Prevailing wind


Can the wind ever prevail?

And what will we see

when the wind wins?


Trees that lean to the east.


And what can this mean?


It depends whether the wind wins in winter or spring.


In one case

the tender shoots bend.

In the other,

the wind supports the distorted frame

with invisible hands.





November


It is November

and we have fallen among the dark ways.

Fingers pull down the eyelids in sleep

and we have fallen amongst the dark days.





Indian summer


These were flowers that didn’t believe in winter.

Most likely they thought

it didn’t believe in itself.

But, they were wrong.





The Holly and the Ivy


Holly is poor,

but its love burns,

its crown, thorns.


Ivy is rich,

birds nest in its leaves,

its life ease,

its strength false.


One cold as winter in summer,

the leaves and the berries so sharply defined.


The other warm as frost in sunlight,

where summer and winter lie close, entwined.





Blue horizons


This is the place

where the blue sky

lies on the earth.


In June, when the blue

lies over misty brown

we know that the light airs

of warm space

have come down.


But now,

as cold light falls

in the afternoon

the time will soon come

when the blue

is one with the black night.





The fullness of time


Time must be full of forgetting,

waiting to strike

out of the dark,

at best

stealing the purse

and leaving the gold.


I thought

I had never forgotten delight,

but waking, under my dream,

I found

that winter had come

and I had forgotten you.



Taking the purse and leaving the gold is from the remarkable novel

‘ A voyage to Arcturus ‘ by David Lindsay.






Christmas decoration


Two pheasants, wearing Christmas plumage

in the early morning, meeting.

Male, and the weight of proof was on them.

Did they know what lay before them, greeting?


Such leaping, thunder;

such cavorting, such gyrations.

Such texture, pattern, stillness;

coloured sheen.





As the day lengthens


I said to the man

who stood at the gate of the year,


Have you got the right time?


and he said,


This is the time of year

when none of the clocks are right.


And I said,


It is very cold here,

give me a light mister.


And he said,


That is the light over there,

but things will only get worse,

as you still continue to pay

for what you have not got.





Christmas gift


The day thou gave us Lord

has not ended,

but like a cornucopia,

continues to overflow

with things we no longer need or enjoy,

except that

all over the world

bright day dawns.





The Arrival of the seasons


Spring came to us then,

moving at four miles an hour

across open ground,

(faster than man can walk)

it eased itself over hills

and flooded valleys.


Summer stretched away down the coast,

lost in the blue and white.


After a while Autumn returned.

Resting by day

and journeying only at night

it moved soundlessly

as the light in the auditorium folds in.


The curtain rose

and in one stride

winter was here.  











The fullness of time

Turn of the year

Bedrock

Snowdrifts

Ambush

Making a statement

Composition

Catkins

Blue seas over

Love in a cold climate

Armada

Snows of yesteryear

The Judas tree

Hadrian’s Wall

Recent rain

Pâte de campagne

Heavenly Host

Oilseed Rhapsody

Ellipse

Roads south

White snow and rose red

Mr and Mrs Dove

The wild hunt

Christening of the Apples

Folds

Dawn Chorus

Bacchanalia

Everlasting light

Mushrooms

Hunters moon

Capo del anno

Bonfire night

Winter Wheat

Prevailing wind

November

Indian summer

The Holly and the Ivy

Blue horizons

The fullness of time

Christmas decoration

As the day lengthens

Christmas gift

The Arrival of the seasons