A Line Through Exmoor


A Line Through Exmoor

On Richard Long’s abstract ‘walking sculpture’

This work of his, like the wind, is invisible,
so he draws the theory in pencil – a straight line
on a compass bearing of 290 degrees –
with a ruler across the Ordnance Survey map.
It’ll be a sculpture of strides on the terrain,
north-west to south-east, from Parracombe to Exford.

It means a radical departure from his previous Line
Made by Walking, a piece of grounded pith:
see the bare thread worn in the meadow
by his tread from A to B, backwards
and forwards for a month, in this photograph
taken before the grass grew back.

But A Line through Exmoor will leave no trace
other than his memories of it, wearing thin
and thinner with each day, and what appears
on paper as a neat, hassle-free bee-shot,
like a biography of the artist in a hundred words,
translates as miles of fences, hedges, banks.

All the trundling through moors under the rain,
scrambles over styles, the slosh through fords,
the sludge in bogs, the clods loading his soles,
traipsing ice-hardened soil, thirst, breath clouding
in the frost, the steep combs, the trespassing,
wire fences, foxes’ holes, the arrow-like

line in his mind will need to rhyme in slant.
His progress will wend the corrugated verse
of a space odyssey told in rambling phrases
his heart understands but cannot speak.
He’ll pause under the sleek antiphonies of owls,
in the ruffled waves of red stags’ bellows,

the ultrasound fizz of damselflies, the drone
of easterlies harassing the uplands’ face,
breaking through the boundary of his scheme.

Third Prize at Hope Bourne Poetry Competition,
rganised by Exmoor Society

Doe at Horner Woods

Doe at Horner Woods

 The clearest path is the one I follow by the tug of musk

daubed on the bark of oaks, the fern feathers, the moss.


The breeze turns and I can see by the coded script of scents.

Day and dark, they sing their leap-bound lays: who was it,


what they were up to, how long ago. If we had names

like humans do, I’d say ‘Red Stag the Wise Strut’


grazed this grass three hours ago; ‘Sister Doe Flit’ drank

from this puddle near dawn and she was warm. She left


a downy-silver-scuttle-lichen-dewdrop-three-word-sentence

of a trace, her unique tag. And in the wake of it,


a brimming-moon-sway-sop-twelve-week-fawn-glow.

Her thin-air toe-gait stirred the sighs of rained-on earth.


My thought tunes to the slightest twitch. I read the eyelash

flick of every blade of grass, and, talking sense behind my back,


the neat calligraphy of twigs, which blurs, if they are still,

into a dunce flat mat. But what stops for long? The stars


pour to the west; the planet’s magnetic streams swish

underground; spring slides through the growing trees and


sap pumps from their roots to their bursting buds.

The anxious leaves suck air, then spit it out. I hear it all:


your breath, your heart in your mouth, the lifting of your hand.




First Prize at  Hope Bourne Poetry Competition,

organised by Exmoor Society


Artichoke, (in Bloom)


You say it’s punk; I say it’s Greek.
Its scent reminds you of something else than honey,
something from childhood in Hampshire
going down a hill, running,
or up a hill, cycling.
To me it’s absolute honey,
and the inner thoughts of bees,
besides one tangible proof
that God is a keen sculptor,
and a lover of honey,
(which adds to the recorded evidence
that he loves honey on the comb
when recently come back from death).
It’s beyond eating,
the artichoke, cut, in the vase,
having been left to itself for the length of the summer,
all the way to the end of its season and over,
and anyway it was too single for a meal.
This is better, and best,
this architectural, radiant,
valiant statement bloom,
extravagantly handsome,
extravagantly squandering
the last of its sweet strength
in these extravagantly bright violet feathers it gives for petals,
this ultimate scent of honey
that neither you or me
would have ever had the courage to imagine.

Ivanhoe Prospections

To the people of Monywa, Burma

He held her                by her left       hand the hand
he did not                         need                   to strike
and kept                an eye            over her shoulder
on the open pit         the hunch    of copper streaks
in the abused         side                           of the hills
she’d known        the way                of the river well
when the water         did not run              bright blue
before it was dragged away for these prospections
she’ll be             fine if she               but remembers
on the furtherance     of great things    there is a tab
she’ll be             safe she just                     needs to
let the other hand        heal in the cast    of this new
enormity                 keep her                    eyes down
her back           loaded her feet                      moving
away from                  the smoking                 shacks



From Cry Wolf

End of Litanies


Finally the closed opened.

Finally the sleep spent.

Finally the lock dropped.

Finally the dream touched.


Finally the cloud lets.

Finally the freeze lifts.

Finally the sides burn.

Finally the banks swell.


Finally the stick buds.

Finally the space runs.

Finally the while births.

Finally the grasp flies.


Finally the stop gave.

Finally the hands sang.

Finally the leaf tree.

Finally the fruit life.


Finally the river on.

Finally the waters breathe.

Finally the soil sane.

Finally the only much.


Finally the full more.

Finally the thoughs ands.

Finally the were will.

Finally the yes Amen.



Two wed-love poems

Love’s Prospects

Yours is the prospector’s love.
I am sluiced and raced and winnowed.
You gold-rush through my gangue.

The home-coming of the surveyor:
to rest on the cadastral map
where his metes-and-bounds are tangible.

Furlongs of dross and lode,
the prospects of your love.

From Cry Wolf


The way I was I could not share a bed or a ship.
I would not share a room. There was a curfew
and all the world was banned. This war went on.

Then you know what happened. You know,
how the invisible deals with the visible, how God
made peace and made woman, and she woke and sang.

The newly turned she. The extravagant love,
the quilt thrown back. The bed like a lifeboat
lolling with loads. Love nudging with its wedding hymns.

And us, free from wealth and caste, night in,
night out, dining on quince with a runcible spoon.


I have been here before.

The breathtaking edge,

the swifts’ swoops and sprees,

the river’s fast lane binge through the gorge.

The ravenous light.


Hundreds of years heal nothing

by plying walls of frugal stone

against this sheer drop.


Here goes the heart abseiling

down to the wolves of wanting.

There it goes full of itself,

untrained, unlearned, to the rock bottom

and the beadledom of currents


where the stunned fish neither dream nor drown.




From Cry Wolf, Templar Poetry, 2012

70 years today, Sophie Scholl was guillotined by the nazis for her resistance work wih the White Rose. She was 22.

“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”

“I will cling to the rope God has thrown me in Jesus Christ, even when my numb hands can no longer feel it.”
― Sophie Scholl

“An end in terror is preferable to terror without end.”
― Sophie Scholl

“Isn’t it a riddle . . . and awe-inspiring, that everything is so beautiful? Despite the horror. Lately I’ve noticed something grand and mysterious peering through my sheer joy in all that is beautiful, a sense of its creator . . . Only man can be truly ugly, because he has the free will to estrange himself from this song of praise.
It often seems that he’ll manage to drown out this hymn with his cannon thunder, curses and blasphemy. But during this past spring it has dawned upon me that he won’t be able to do this. And so I want to try and throw myself on the side of the victor.”
― Sophie Scholl

Testimony of guard Sophie Hansen at Stadelheim prison: “Then a woman prison guard brought in Sophie. . . . Her mother tentatively offered her some candy, which Hans had declined. “Gladly,” said Sophie, taking it. “After all, I haven’t had any lunch!” She, too, looked somehow smaller, as if drawn together, but her face was clear and her smile was fresh and unforced, with something in it that her parents read as triumph. “Sophie, Sophie,” her mother murmured, as if to herself. “To think you’ll never be coming through the door again!” Sophie’s smile was gentle. “Ah, Mother,” she said. “Those few little years. . . .” Sophie Scholl looked at her parents and was strong in her pride and certainty. “We took everything upon ourselves,” she said. “What we did will cause waves.” Her mother spoke again: “Sophie,” she said softly, “Remember Jesus.” “Yes,” replied Sophie earnestly, almost commandingly, “but you, too.”

Literal Translation


Literal Translation


Never had the.

My ungoing blistered in the burn of yet.

What-some had often this close

and the closer was the more other than,

the more not really the, the more not quite.


Each time expected having just

that if, then the. But.


Yes, some, like.

Yes, at times, a while, a certain or.


Still, how season, and inasmuch again,

less mean, less waterfall, less.

Bees, without.


Also might a variation of

another not-have.

Unrepairedness, unrepairingness,




Not whether, not whether, but how.

Who does, if at all,

if any ever.

Is it truly thus?

Thus really so like?

Is this it?

Should then no more for?


But why then still out to,

up to.


Where, when? If.


Published in Domestic Cherry 1, 2011

Rallying the Underloved

Rallying the Underloved

On behalf of the misloved, I am
making this call for us to rally up
our secluded grieves under a common tent
and have a meal together. I beseech the unheld hands
to weave or stuff a red rag into the holes
of long-unnoticed merit which would sit alone
rocking and deaf-humming to itself
under clouds that are doing relatively well,
progressing towards their predicted grades.
Let’s rather share our sad desserts
than throw our disappointment to the face
of those that cannot love us better.
There, there, I know, sister, brother,
my darling stranger, you are right,
it is a blatant shame, a stop sign
holding up the entire universe,
an earthly diversion from your early hopes,
a fine issued to the thrush that sang,
who now finds nowhere for a nest
in a hedge hacked for urban maintenance.
Come, let us reason together,
ache at least for the better end,
park anywhere the fields are lovely
regardless of the double yellow standards,
leave the corners of ill-mannered thoughts
for Tuesday’s waste collection,
buy a round of loving admonitions.
Let’s ask for our foes to be rilled on
by blessings; you too, who have been
a life-long hindrance to yourself.
Did you speak in a rush? Repent at leisure,
enjoy the luxury of reconciled seasons
in an outdoor armistice to lean
against a backdrop of climbing vines
dripping, dripping with that honeysun
translated in the lullaby of grapes
which waits expressly crushed for you,
mulled for that betrothal smile of yours,
poured for your vowing eyes, into a cup
from which we are both drinking now.
And find a home not made by hands,
and nevermore to be burgled by the night.