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Posts Tagged ‘poetry’


Today I read that you had died.
Saw it by chance, in black and white;
After a short illness, it said,
Surrounded by loved ones, at night.

First news of you in fifty years,
No photographs nor word of yours
Had I received in all that time,
Discarded then, beloved no more.

Now I’ll never know the answers
To questions I have asked for years;
Could we have built a life together,
Endured, then blossomed through the tears?

Do you recall that dress you wore,
Long, black, sleek, shimmering and smart,
You shone a smile across the room
That burned and melted this boy’s heart?

Do you recall that Sunday lunch,
Thin pretext for our swelling love,
Before you led my hand upstairs
And laid me on your goatskin rug?

Where I first tasted a woman’s skin,
Caressed with slow and tender touch;
As your new son slept in the hall,
We basked within each other’s clutch.

Four weeks we laid in that warm bed,
Rising to feed and change your child
When passion eased and left us spent,
We lay with him and smiled, and smiled.

Do you recall the plans we made,
To leave together, your young son too,
And live in blissful poverty,
On student grant, somehow make do.

But then they said that we were wrong,
That you were ill and I too young,
That we should never meet again
Or I would pay for what I’d done.

Do you recall that still we met
Three times on my planned visits home,
When we sat on our favourite bench,
And snatched kisses from too sweet gloom?

Do you recall thinking of me,
While raising kids and making good,
At social settings with my parents
With talk of me prohibited?

Through sloping fields, by muddy river,
Along the ancient cobbled street,
Courtyards, cafes and Cathedral,
For forty years I yearned to meet.

To see once more your lovely smile,
Across unheeding crowd you’d send,
But that can never happen now,
A second and more wretched end.

Today I read that you had died.
Saw it by chance, in black and white;
After a short illness, it said,
Surrounded by loved ones, at night.

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I know I must accept that you are gone,
But I will look for you in rain and snow,
Where pilgrims trod through Black Boy Alley,
Up Castle Hill and Minor Canon Row.

I still sense your warm breath upon my cheek
In College Yard, The Vines and Blue Boar Lane;
Each whispered female voice renders me weak,
And shock of dark brown hair inflames the pain.

Thick Medway mud mocks my unavailing search
And careless castle pigeons torment me,
But La Providence provides brief release
And no shortage of shops for books and tea.

I pass where Estella taunted poor Pip,
As bat and ball collide on King’s School field,
Reminder of what I loved most till you
Bowled me over and my devotion sealed.

I turn up Boley Hill by Northgate arch
For sanctuary under cool Catalpa tree,
Spreading its graceful arms on holy ground,
I sit down and let my mind roam free.

For one perfect moment I see your face,
Hear your voice, smell your hair and taste your mouth,
But it’s all a foolish afternoon dream
In cathedral doorway in Keats’ warm South.

When I wake, to adjoining gardens I go
Where sun shines bright and birds sing oh so sweet;
Yellow roses wave in warm, gentle breeze,
But there’s no one beside me on “our” seat.

I know I must accept that you are gone,
But I will look for you in rain and snow,
Where pilgrims trod through Black Boy Alley,
Up Boley Hill and Minor Canon Row.

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When the day trippers leave

When the tattoos are covered up
And unsightly bellies are put away

When the swearing stops outside the pubs
And childrens’ squeals at the fountains
Turn to grumpy ingratitude

When the car parks empty
And the trails of traffic cease

When weary families trudge back
Up the crooked Old High Street

When I can get a seat again at Steep Street.

When I don’t stumble over
Discarded chip boxes and plastic beer glasses

When the angry squawk of the gulls
Is reduced to a plaintive mew

When Harbour Arm food stalls are locked
And music and laughter have faded into silence

When the ghosts of Hengist and Horsa
And the Orient Express caress my memory

When the sun disappears and clouds return
And waves lash against the Copt Point rocks

When the day trippers leave

That is my time

That is my Folkestone.

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This is an adaptation, and considerable shortening, of a piece I wrote a couple of years ago.

 

Mermaid Beach at Dusk

On a night like this, the Cote d’Opale
Might as well be a thousand miles away.

It is a calm, quiet, otherworldly evening
After a dank, dreary December day;
Sky and sea present an ashen canvas.
Tonight it is impossible to tell
Where one ends and the other starts.

Despite slimy conditions underfoot,
I elect to descend from
The well-lit comfort of the Leas
To the chilly Channel seashore.

Barely a whisper from the surf tonight.
I cannot even hear Matthew Arnold’s
“Grating roar of pebbles
Which the waves draw back”,
So faint is nature’s melody this evening.

Across town, an artwork springs to mind,
Above Tontine Street’s old post office
Proclaims that heaven is a place
Where nothing ever happens.

Because nothing is happening tonight
In this desolate speck of paradise.

But then, everything is happening.

To the east, the lighthouse blinks
Through the thick, enfolding gloom;
A tuneless, abandoned church bell
Hangs silently suspended above
Where once stood rotunda, swimming pool,
Boating lake and fairground rides.

A dalmatian puppy snuffles among
The seaweed encrusted pebbles
On the dark shoreline, while its
Fretful owner punctures the peace
With impassioned and fruitless pleas
To follow her back across the beach,
To the refuge of her Range Rover.

A lone fisherman sets out his stall
For what appears a long night ahead,
Reminding me of all night sessions
With my teddy boy uncle fifty years ago,
On the shingle beach at Dungeness.

I wonder now why I ever went,
I was never interested in fishing!

Pastel hued beach chalets are now
Padlocked up for the winter,
Along with the Mermaids Cafe Bar,
Welcome pit stop on the promenade
From Folkestone to its upstart neighbours,
Sandgate, Seabrook and “posh” Hythe.

I defy anyone to assert that they
Do not like to be “beside the seaside”;
And I look forward to a first full summer
Season in my coastal home next year.

However, it is at moments like this,
With the cold, dark sea alone for company,
When enjoyment is such a feeble word
To evoke the effect of this magical place;
I can only equate it to a profound love,
Both infatuation and long term comfort.

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Harbour Morning
High tide, low spirits,
Sun splits the glowering clouds,
Grave beauty unveiled.

 

(Steep Street) Coffee House
Young mothers converge,
Coffee, cakes, conversation
Drown creative talk.

 

Radnor Park Lake
Dawn birdlife clamours,
Noon anglers cast silent floats
Night, serene moon shines.

 

Sunny Sands
Gulls shriek across the sky,
Dogs bark and prance in the surf,
Stoic mermaid stares.

 

Checkpoint George (Lane)
Tourists face loafers,
Chocolate or bacon sandwich,
So close but worlds apart.

 

Old High Street Morning
Dalla Corte steams
Boot heels on sodden cobbles
Curved hill comes to life

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“Always got his head in a book, hasn’t he?”

“Doesn’t he play with other boys
Like normal children?”

“He comes out with some very long words
For someone his age”.

Common complaints from his early years,
Still spoke today by puzzled adult peers.

As dusk descends on the car-less, cobbled street,
He doesn’t heed the steadily falling rain
Driving him in from games of marbles, cricket
And flicking fag cards down the darkening lane;
He’s immersed in yarns of a boy named William,
A girl called Alice and a bear of little brain.

Intrepid tales of a Little White Bull,
A three part novel written at age eight,
Inspired by a song by Tommy Steele,
Leaves proud parents in a blissful state.

It earns a mention in the local press,
A child genius the gushing paper quips;
Before it goes the way of most success,
Wrapped up in paper folding fish and chips.

And now, through adult recklessness,
It’s lost like many of those TV shows
Twizzle, Torchy the Battery Boy,
Hoppity and Four Feather Falls,
The boy watched while eating crumpets
Toasted with fork on open fire that glows

Two years on he stands upon the platform
Of Greatstone’s railway station green,
Waiting for Typhoon or for Southern Maid
Or if he’s lucky, maybe Doctor Syn!
Bottle green cardigan knitted by Mum,
Plastic shoes and pudding basin hair,
Shorts excrutiatingly tight,
He hugs a guide book, pen and favourite bear.

So many hundreds, thousands, read since then,
Most kept, but some to charity shops have flown;
So many bookshelves creaking from the weight
Attest to how the love affair has grown.

The man remains seduced by books’ allure,
Enchanted by their feel and smell and view;
And though his taste has mellowed since,
His friends include that crazy girl and Pooh!

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Today I read that you had died.
Saw it by chance, in black and white;
After a short illness, it said,
Surrounded by loved ones, at night.

First news of you in fifty years,
No photographs nor word of yours
Had I received in all that time,
Discarded then, beloved no more.

Now I’ll never know the answers
To questions I have asked for years;
Could we have built a life together,
Endured, then blossomed through the tears?

Do you recall that dress you wore,
Long, black, sleek, shimmering and smart,
You shone a smile across the room
That burned and melted this boy’s heart?

Do you recall that Sunday lunch,
Thin pretext for our swelling love,
Before you led my hand upstairs
And laid me on your goatskin rug?

Where I first tasted a woman’s flesh,
Caressed with slow and tender touch;
As your new son slept in the hall,
We basked within each other’s clutch.

Four weeks we laid in that warm bed,
Rising to feed and change your child
When passion eased and left us spent,
We lay with him and smiled, and smiled.

Do you recall the plans we made,
To leave together, your young son too,
And live in blissful poverty,
On student grant, somehow make do.

But then they said that we were wrong,
That you were ill and I too young,
That we should never meet again
Or I would pay for what I’d done.

Do you recall that still we met
Three times on my planned visits home,
When we sat on our favourite bench,
And snatched kisses from too sweet gloom?

Do you recall thinking of me,
While raising kids and making good,
At social settings with my parents
With talk of me prohibited?

Through sloping fields, by muddy river,
Along the ancient cobbled street,
Courtyards, cafes and Cathedral,
For forty years I yearned to meet.

To see once more your lovely smile,
Across unheeding crowd you’d send,
But that can never happen now,
A second and more wretched end.

Today I read that you had died.
Saw it by chance, in black and white;
After a short illness, it said,
Surrounded by loved ones, at night.

Read Full Post »

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