Potholes and Portholes

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Potholes and Portholes

My poems are drawn from my life,
not from the lives of others.

I live my words,
drawing them wriggling
through the holes
punched by others in my flesh.

Pot-holes,
portals to the underworld,
so many cars
slithering in spring’s freshet
melt of tarmac and metal flesh.

Portholes:
so many ships,
leaving port,
sailing away
into unknown seas
well beyond my ken.

Little Boy Lost

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Little Boy Lost

I’ll never forget, years ago,
standing in the snow,
looking through a window,
seeing a friend’s family
gathered inside by the fire.

Shadows danced as the children
decorated their Christmas tree:
laughter and warmth and joy,
and me outside in the snowy street,
walking past, on my way home,
an only child destined
to be alone in my lonely room.

I also recall empty rooms,
cold corridors, stark loss,
and the sorrow of surviving
on my own.

So, I created my own family
and filled my mind with
boys and girls, siblings,
people I could see and touch,
a family to which I could belong.

Trucks

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Trucks

Flocks of colored passerines flying up
and down cracked tarmac roads, this way and that.
Spring songs fill the highway’s grey-black throat
with noise and color. Songs? Coarse the engine
growl, the grinding gears, the rattle and roar
of ten-wheeler trucks, dust and stones pinging
off the windshields and hoods of passing cars.

Noisy, smelly, dusty, yet welcome spring
visitors, predicting new building sites,
foretelling fresh human nests, promising
an end to winter’s frost, snow and ice, with
the assurance of warmer weather to come,
days longer, nights shorter, holidays at hand,
and a finish to the pothole season.

A Fragile Thread

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A Fragile Thread

The sword of Damocles
hangs above your head
supported by a fragile thread.

Scissor-tailed birds around you fly
and Fate’s sharp knife is standing by
to sever your thread and watch you die.

If you’re up to your shoulders in tragedies
whatever you do, don’t drop to your knees,
for if you do you’ll surely drown
and that sword will bring you down.

If the sword falls you mustn’t grieve:
for we’re all bound by the webs we weave.
Our lives are shaped by what we believe,
and also by what we build and leave.

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Golden Angel


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Golden Angel

He stands beneath guardian trees,
his saffron garments glossed with gold.

Hands cupped, body bent,
he softly swells as he dips
beneath sun and rain.

He speaks to me:
wild prophet from an ancestral book
that I believed in when I was a child,
but no longer read or understand.

I try to interpret the aroma of his lips,
his slow, small growth of gesture.

His winged words are traps
tripping my tongue, clipping my wings,
preventing me from flight.

Shape-shifter, she changes before my eyes
and takes on her earthly disguise.

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A Farwell to Charms

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A Farewell to Charms

Early tomorrow, my love, you’ll fly away.
Today, you’ll walk around the Beaver Pond
where red and yellow leaves abound. A thin grey

webbing garlands one dead tree. I’m not too fond
of tent worms. I hate them when they swing
from low branches. Give me a fresh green frond

caught by the morning sun in early spring
or else bright autumn leaves so soon to fall.
I love American Goldfinches when they sing

that last departing song. I love most of all
those occasional visitors: do you recall that bright
blue Indigo Bunting with his “I’m-a-lost-bird” call?

The hunting hawks give everyone a fright.
They perch on top of a garden tree
then step off into space to claw-first alight

on some poor songbird trilling away, quite free
from fear, his unfinished symphony of song.
It’s getting late, my love. You walk towards me
out of the woods. I’ll end this poem with a plea:
don’t forget me … and don’t stay away too long.

Covid-19

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Covid-19

In bed, you turn your back to me,
pushing me away, even in sleep.
I only seek warmth and comfort.

Blankets don’t touch the cold I feel,
deep in my body. I reach out to you,
but you’re locked in your dreams.

A grunt or two, a muffled snore, a half-
-whistling sound, sometimes, a cry.
Last night you shouted “Help!” out loud.

I hauled you back from some black pit
where sharp-clawed devils clutched you
and tried to snatch you away from me.

Today, it’s my turn to call for help.
I face a horizon filled with darkening clouds.
They refuse to go away and weigh me down.

Fear of the Fence

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Fear of the Fence

Our conversation this morning:
a sun-dried Roman aqueduct
no longer capable of carrying water.

I envision brown sacking
winter-lagged around leaking pipes,
and me a little Dutch boy stemming
the damage, a finger in life’s dyke.

Each sentence is a wasted
movement of lips, tongue, teeth.
Our words are motionless kites,
earthbound, too heavy to rise.

Dead soldiers, gone over the top,
my thoughts hang like washing
pegged out on the Siegfried Line
on a windless day in WWI.

I have grown afraid of this barbed-wire
fence growing daily between us.

Comment: The penultimate verse is from a WWI song that my grandfather taught me in the kitchen, back home in Wales, when I was a child. “I’m going to hang out my washing on the Siegfried Line. Have you any dirty washing, mother dear.” The words of such songs have stayed with me and recur in my poems from time to time.

Beaver Pond

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The Beaver Pond
Last October

Leaves walked tip-toe footprints,
delicate, on dark water.
Wrinkled brown tongues lapped
towards dry land. Everywhere
low light fell bright on stripped
white branches.

Open were the pond’s shiny spaces,
dry and withered were its reeds.
Clouds floated in the tarn’s spotted mirror.
Islets of seeded grass marked spots
where underwater logs rotted back to life.

We gazed on emptiness, empty nests,
and a burnt, tanned earth that waited
for what strange second coming?
The wind’s chill arm wrapped us
in the silent thought of oncoming winter.

Charles Baudelaire

A butterfly perches on Les Fleurs du Mal.

Charles Baudelaire

He walks past the Jesuit Church
where the shoe-shine boys store
polish, brushes, and chairs overnight.
He walks past the wrought-iron bench
where the gay guys sit, caressing,
asking the unsuspecting to join them.

Nobody asks Charles for a match,
for a drink, for charity, for a walk
down the alley to a cheap hotel.

The witch doctor is the one who stops
the hands on all the clocks at midnight.
He’s the one who leaves this place,
and returns to this place, all places being one.
The witch doctor sees little things
that other men don’t see. He reaches out
and flicks a fly from Charles’s nose.
“I too have lost my way,” it sighs.

Charles thinks he knows who he is,
but sometimes he wonders when he shaves,
rasping the razor across his chin’s dry husks.
The witch doctor, his lookalike, his twin,
stares back at him from the bathroom mirror.
Three witches dance on the waning soap dish.
One spins the yarn, one measures the cloth,
one wields the knife, that will one day sever
the thread of all poor creatures born to die.

Oh hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère.