Thursday, 3 November 2016

Yesterday's Dead

Yesterday’s dead

I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau yesterday. Auschwitz is in Poland.
Its Polish name is Oświęcim. What's in a name?

Arbeit macht frei.

The gates rust. Age has aged them, us. We are the wiser. We are?
They take parties in sneakers on tours - it's the main attraction of the town,
and, God knows, it has to pay back. The guide is a Pole.
Poles were the first imprisoned,
and murdered.

The child, the mother, the father,
the Russian POW, the German dissident, the Romani,
the elderly, the sick, the handicapped, the homosexual. The insane.
Jews, by the cattle truck.


The gallows, stark, iron, rust. Railroaded.

The gas chambers - Zyklon B is the pesticide - exterminate any vermin.
Mengele’s medicine.
The Final Solution. The Death Factory.


I put my camera away. This needs the naked eye. Weep. Weep.
This is holy, made holy by evil. Naked evil made holy.

Only one punishment for all offences.
The Wall of Death. The Ramp of Death.

Der Tod

There are no words.
There are no synonyms - only silence speaks loudly enough.
Loudly enough.
No tears - it is wept dry.

No poetry.
No rhyme.
No denial.


Sunday, 3 November 2013

I heard a song today on the net about Chernobyl, which led to this:



That night the trees were glowing red,
despite the cold and silent light,
they say, with spirits of the dead.

But dead or not, the silence fed
their hearts with fear of all that might
that night. The trees were glowing red.

Instead, return a ghost, it's said,
to its last resting place at night.
They say, with spirits of the dead,

few venture out beyond their bed,
and cover all, and blanket fright.
That night the trees were glowing red

as if some fire had  also fled
the place of death where death is bright,
they say, with spirits of the dead.

Tomorrow, when today is read,
forgets the end of life's our plight.
That night the trees were glowing red,
they say with spirits, of the dead.

(c) Hugh Hodge
3 November 2013

Sunday, 26 May 2013

#2619 - #2637

a poet makes his way home
to the laity the sea
of his congregation
there the cormorant dries
crucified by the setting sun
2619.    18 April 2013 @1602

the old monk strips
kneels to kiss
old mother earth
rain falling
his eyes closed
his prayer answered
gives thanks for
gutter music
cleansed of thought and deed
2620.    21 April 2013 @0736

so dawn is late
days shorten to dusk
flat-lined night there
ghosts await such
grinding of locks
as memories are
music off key
locked down
in four chords
2621.    23 April 2013 @ 0537

the old monk unkennels himself
this glorious morning
soon the light will blunt
communion and silence
he returns to his cell
his fast broken
dogged by scriptures
2622.    29 April 2013 @ 2054

I am all that I am not
each part complete in itself
depends on the other
I am seen and invisible
mute in silence
at the last I am nothing
2623.    30 April 2013 @ 0905

the old monk draws water
at the well
it is cool and fresh
from the wooden ladle
his lip matched
ten thousand fold before
ten thousand after
quenched always
2624.    1 May 2013 @ 1713

somewhere lost in her face
the woman opposite
wears time sculpted
and cast in her earthenware
history which tells nothing
more than she was there
wherever it is
2625.    9 May 2013 @ 1310

this utter dreamless sleep
she sleeps unaccompanied
by angel or word
or man who’s mighty
appetite is his lust
and thirst to quench
drought and fall
from grace
2626.    10 May 2013 @ 1219

I found this singular bloom
naked as the fallen leaf
sullen with memories
of glorious summer dance
I plucked her
wore her to her
single once again
2627.    10 May 2013 @ 1545

rage is wilderness
rutting bullshit
roughshod puts down
righteousness and tree free
rips bark and nonsense
rises trunk alert odour
releases adores
2628.    21 May 2013 @ 1051

this evil toy
is the plot and plan
of neo-geography
gates and guts
visceral kills
gorged on greed
the thick necked vulture
feeds limitless ego
without question
2629.    21 May 2013 @ 1107

the old monk wakes
from the dark ages
before the cock crows
a third time he reads
from David hears distance
and longing in the poet
his face long forgotten
2630.    22 May 2013 @ 0547

what psalm is this
hidden in a dark curse
it is
a small light
too small to warm
my hands but my heart
is lit
and my eyes burn bright
listening to your song
2631.    22 May 2013 @ 0559

a man I know
hears distant thunder
corrugated rain drums
in his heart
he is one
with some god who cannot
be named by her children
so he weeps
in the herb garden
2632.    22 May 2013 @ 0609

how does the garden wait
for spring
beneath the skirt of winter
a poet would answer
with his own seasoning
offer his hand to till her
seedlings of thyme
2633.    22 May 2013 @ 0623

time measures impossible
arithmetic as the clock ticks
in my body’s breast
I hear your song
in a distance so near
to forgetting
it counts each rhyme
in seconds
2634.    22 May 2013 @ 0632

I write for you for me
to fill my heart’s poem
some say there’s no poetry
the song is played out
and all remaining is longing
searching for you
wherever whoever
2635.    22 May 2013 @ 0653

her untouched
him untouchable
two stanzas of the poem
they write to intersect
their times
sometimes the second hand
minute or hour
but never touches
2636.    22 May 2013 @ 0701

this poem’s eyes are dark
clearly see
night and day
without shadow of doubt
fading spectacle
dusks afternoon light
in the warm hours
that colour its end
2637.    23 May 2013 @ 0648

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


the old monk is of the opinion
that silence speaks
in the tongues
of eloquence
he is a simple man
his thoughts unwritten
except for a smile
and a prayer unspoken
2604.    2 April 2013 @ 0804

it is late
the brass bell calls
the quarter hour
to the old moon
a wax candle burns
lights the text left open
read and unread
nobody knows why
or by whom
2605.    2 April 2013 @ 2256

this morning light
warms me to your dark
eyes etched by laughter
and surprise that the world
knows so little
of music and mountain
how you and I are
2606.    4 April 2013 @ 0744

the old monk bids
each day welcome
to its journey
whether fine or stormy
his prayer is equal
to mountain and sea
place and time
vespers and starlings
his thanks
2607.    4 April 2013 @ 0943

night waits
the pond sleeps
dreams of sea monsters
Canopus points to Orion
I think of you
not all spirit
yes a fine ass
with green fingers
bares her truth
2608.    4 April 2013 @ 2236

O patria mia
I remember your blank
verse public school
Latin doggerel carp
at me daily
as I listen
to Aida this aria
later in Verona
O gentle man to
mamma mia
2609.    5 April 2013 @ 0718

the prototype woman knows
silence when she hears it
often more is said
by not saying
whole conversations are reduced
to provide a more piquant
2610.    6 April 2013 @ 2136

she gives her heart
in secret
only he knows it
in her dark eyes
those twin wells deep
stars are seen
in her smile
this day each year
the earth turns
his head
2611.    8 April 2013 @ 0729

the old monk is not bespoke by nobody
tho' he tells me his cassock is darned
in the usual places though
he seldom kneels
prayer is best done naked
in a hot tub
2612.    9 April 2013 @ 1447

a poet reads cannot
breathe the clouded words
pelting rain in this purple
forest dripping terror at last
she strips naked him
virgin wooded
leaves and apple
2613.    10 April 2013 @ 1130

the empty church fills
his thoughts with silence
peace beyond understanding
he closes his eyes listening
to his body his pulse and breath
nothing else exists
2614.    11 April 2013 @ 0818

the old monk knows prayer
is not answered
from without
it is his own voice
he hears most clearly
in the silence
within all noise
there hidden
in his own cries
2615.    14 April 2013 @ 0700

here on the edge of paradise
the sea launders kelp
to its full glitter
there the dark heads tumble
slow and sensual entwined lovers'
ecstasy of tide and time
2616.    14 April 2013 @ 0713

here the foreshore of memory
and odours of time
breathe children dogs
yet I would do it all
again the flaw remains
the cut not perfect
reveals only the divine
2617.    14 April 2013 @ 0901

the old monk peers down
at the empty egg shell
blooded in the hatching
he smiles
looks up
the nest is hidden
he hears chicks
calling for more
2618.    14 April 2013 @ 1054

Monday, 1 April 2013

#2593 - 2603

start with forgiveness
do not end with it
that road
via punishment and revenge
is long
many never leave those wastes
forget forgiveness
in that dark place
2593.    12 March 2013 @ 0655

a small fountain is sufficient
to fill the courtyard with music
as if Ashkenazi plays
ancient unnamed melodies
to the beautiful stone
these sixty suns alight
2594.    12 March 2013 @ 1225

wind falls
movement of air ignites
apple song labelled virgin
bitten tongued and
swallowed blown off
still she carries him
full term forever
and ever amen
2595.    13 March 2013 @ 1804

three score and ten
years ring the oak
as planets orbit their star
enlightened by her fire
warmed and seasoned
she speaks in tongues
pipes her melodies
this day
2596.    23 March 2013 @ 0641

the herb gardener dresses
prepares the ground
for planting this season
she is aware the monk dozes
in the shade watches her
about his thoughts
she cannot say
2597.    23 March 2013 @ 2138

words come wrung out dry
foretold on emotion's anvil
beaten and burnished by
the smithy's hammer and curse
this is his vocabulary
his scream his song
his breath
2598.    24 March 2013 @ 0712

the poet cannot touch her
her skin her eyes her lips
skin deep
only the bruised heart
heavy lungs
the kidney of failure
torn from her gut
by jagged words
2599.    24 March 2013 @ 0731

of her only image
stays the way she walks
the sway to match
the mountain path
I saw her there once
at home to crow and falcon
it quickened my step
and my heart
2600.    24 March 2013 @ 0740

this morning's aperitif
fills nothing but the void
where I saw you last
there's a city there now
I expect with all kinds
of traffic and mountains
and emptiness
2601.    24 March 2013 @ 0749

this quiet garden reflects
itself a repose among the sage
apparent and unstated
small birds chatter in tongues
a grey squirrel disputes
my presence my silence
2602.    27 March 2013 @ 0759

first he rolls silence around
in his mouth
then sucks licks clicks Africa
from its oasis
water flows from his mouth
turns thirst
to song without words
to light
2603.    1 April 2013 @ 1009

Monday, 11 March 2013

#2590 - 2592

this poem’s yours
it says so when I ask
as if it were
wearing a collar with its name
or carrying ID
or able to articulate
or cook
something useful
2590.    3 March 2013 @ 0544

mountains beyond mist
missed far
beyond is the dark eyed woman’s
laughter echoes
horn to horn
the level lakes reflects
prototype smiles
naked as African sunsets
2591.    5 March 2013 @ 0848

there is this blank page
looking for a first line
tries once upon
a time
in the beginning
how do I
love thee
it little profits that
an idle king
I imagine this
2592.    7 March 2013 @ 0757

Monday, 4 March 2013

#2572 - 2589

he imagines her merci
choosing cheese
him breaking bread
the espresso misty
moisty morning exhales
pale light boiling
icy cobbles
voice melodies
her dark eyes
2572.    12 February 2013 @ 0833

The Don
who knows space time
better than travellers
inside a world others live in
theirs caught as imagined
never caged and locked down
in the shuttered moment
2573.    17 February 2013 @ 0701

the weather today is political
misty boss befogged
there is moonshine
but not here
the lighthouse bellows mournfully
unseen by limited horizons
and poachers
2574.    18 February 2013 @ 1933

the old monk returns
prayers answered
trust rewarded
rain came that morning
washing of feet
melody of water
naked children of god
laughter unclothes
old habits
2575.    20 February 2013 @ 1115

green not luxurious
has many lives
burned cut back thrives
parched never thirsts
harbours hardiness
flora and fauna
suikerbossie and bucchu
recalls Eden
2576.    21 February 2013 @ 0834

the name
of the child links
daughter and daughter
who begat
who begat
before memory began
less understood than genes
identify her
less than her place
2577.    22 February 2013 @ 0705

the old monk and the herb gardener
seldom speak though they share love
of high mountains and deep waters
they embrace at a distance
removed by peaks and valleys
2578.    22 February 2013 @ 1600

my prototype woman
wears black trousers
and T-shirt black too
or white or grey
she shares her love
as everything
and her opinions
which are no laughing matter
2579.    22 February 2013 @ 1614

what is it I hear
the ebb returning or
your voice across far valleys
so faint it must be
wings beating
is it angels coming now
or sacred birds
to worship dawn
2580.    24 February 2013 @ 0716

I see you naked here
thunder distant and flash
you fear not
comfortable in beauty’s skin
I will map you like a planet
mostly ocean deep
where I must navigate
2581.    24 February 2013 @ 0726

the herb gardener
comes to her season
hers is high summer
she wears silk
so light she’s naked
as the deep mountain pool
she sends me a photograph
to prove it
2582.    28 February 2013 @ 0248

the prototype takes the new road
she doesn’t look back
though others follow
to comment on sanity
hers is no beaten path
hers are views to summit
high mountains
2583.    28 February 2013 @ 0730

my woman is not possessed
by anybody
she owns herself
her spirit too
she keeps safe
in her well of generosity
always clear fresh deep
more beautiful than a man
2584.    2 March 2013 @ 0628

the place of pools
dogs memories of the favouring bitch
not judges wind
this quarter that
nor navigates the narrow channel
reaching out to a north sea
2585.    3 March 2013 @  0446

I imagine this poem
at first light
its daughters flying
like spray
back to the horizons
of east west
this infant day
I touch her cheek
as if real
flesh of flesh
2586.    3 March 2013 @ 0502

this poem is angry
cannot find itself
among the night’s litter
and news columns’ erectile dysfunction
it feels a cunt
doing its business
main roading again
2587.    3 March 2013 @ 0515

dear forever
dear descendant
let’s be clear
you are you
a consequence of my lust
a quickening of pulse
body odours wetness
trivia next to poetry
and war
2588.    3 March 2013 @ 0524

this poem is a bird
minding its own business
it knows nothing
about aeronautical engineering
pure mathematics
it takes off it lands
eats shits
gets laid
2589.    3 March 2013 @ 0535

Monday, 11 February 2013

#2566 - 2571

dark eyes swim deep
few know the tears
I do
the storms
I bring
cry the beloved country
turn the other cheek
by architecture
and mountain
pass weeping
2566.    9 February 2013 @ 0557

night waits
awakes the summer day
sleeping naked
under a dream
a forget-me-not
escapes her memories
to kiss his cold cheek
as dark dawn
breathes light
2567.    9 February 2013 @ 0616

then rain came
across the valley
Sacred Ibis pass in silence
a plural quiver
below low horizons
the horticulturalist kneeds
imagination's soil
trowels words
2568.    9 February 2013 @ 0752

eventually he realises
there is only one road
to where he is
the only variable is weather
he does not ascribe purpose
to geography
nor indifference to event
2569.    9 February 2013 @ 1700

the gardener of species
remembers Eden
the naked man there
left when she left
sometimes she recounts
memories undecided
between old truths
and old myths
2570.    10 February 2013 @ 0931

a poet I know
knows every word
every syllable sound silence
every tongue living
every dead
every mark written
scratched daubed
brushed typed
pressed or noted
2571.    10 February 2013 @ 0953

Friday, 1 February 2013

#2549 - 2565

deep within you is the mountain
you climb
often when you describe it
a poem appears a winter stream
dark cold clear
it refreshes like no other
that has its music
2549.    14 December 2012

I wonder that I'm already dead
that you and I are spirits
searching for words
as the sun sets
unsure what it means
do colours tell
how I miss you
2550.    14 December 2012

the ketchup of bad manners
is the poodle slopping
its master's plate
standing on the next table
bare arsed
and him tucking
into the dish of calamari
with relish
2551.    14 December 2012

my jewel is magic
naked truth revealed
under thin skinned
words clean breasted
in the tongues of man
and of angels
each face I reflect
in small verse
so lit
2552.    16 December 2012

Venus is barely visible
above the heart of a bay
not false
this childish place
in good odour
no train out of here yet
I see a jet taking off
a young dawn's robe
2553.    18 December 2012

a woman counts her assets
the Maginot of fortification
and position
turrets facing north
poised for the assault
she lights up
her main weapons
achtung achtung
2554.    19 December 2012

the world ended unnoticed
new modern monochrome
don't much like it
faces arse about
tinsel titless here
incontinent dark
cold as wet porridge
cloud rankled
2555.    22 December 2012

poetry cannot find me here
tongue dry
eyes wet
unwelcome as rain
across the valley
no birds sing
only mournful bells toll
this parting day
shabby and littered
2556.    24 December 2012

yet this ebbed date
is fruit to another season
already soiled as advertised
with winning smile
and shallow seas
posture couched
the remote close
and pressing
2557.    24 December 2012

only evergreens don't look back
for the rest
Giacometti is gardener
soaked to the skin and oblivious
he hears crows caw
tomorrow he'll recall
nothing of this
2558.    24 December 2012

here the country cannot
hear town or traffic
the gutter drips in a dialect
that inhales years and weathers
even the stream boundering
Christ like
washes feet
2559.    24 December 2012

love's dark matter
knows the unseen unsaid
calculates old science
lost or burned like best books
the reader too dead and buried
yet ever hopeful
ever starred
2560.    24 December 2012

a low sun looks over the graveyard
of winter the west wind cold
the children wrapped like
unopened Christmas parcels
demanding sweetness and light
and warmth
2561.    30 December 2012

always the poem
looking for ways to escape
its own preoccupations
tokens of melancholy
each curve reasons
itself averting clarity
a breast held
cupped by light
2562.    11 January 2013

the old monk prayed today
how mountains move metaphors
how silent the garden is
in its bedding
even the rake is ice
held firm by nature
yet the spade shovels
2563.    16 January 2013 @ 1910

after Ted

a man I see
sees in seams
patchwork wasted cloth
rag and bone lyrics
discovered tacked to old leather
unaligned to time
the bolt is combed charred
2564.    28 January 2013 @ 1718

the road ends
in silence she alights
opens the farm gate
fynbos fragrance
the ocean near
also waits
he remembers stars
Canopus Betelgeuse
little else
but wind
2565.    30 January 2013 @ 1108

Sunday, 1 June 2008


Exercise #84

Euphemisms belch from banks
of graffiti: St Mary Axe
cocky still, William tells
another story re a shyster
boy shot by his saviour
father by mistake,
and witty as a gay
blade dancing again
for the port cullis:
god exiled, hangs, draws,
Beardesley’s oriental lady
and cat, walks naked
through the foyer
unnoticed by concert-goers
chatting about sheet music
and overtures and organ pipes.
I photograph this lot
but my camera is stolen
by the British Museum
by a metropolitan pig
by a crucifiction
illuminated by St Paul
bombed and snorting to himself,
his hand on a boy’s thigh
the other tugging in a tuft
of manhood by the grove
of oaks leaning from the weather
prevailing due north:
the melt reveals the bay
stranded by a sinister whale
and the last sturgeon’s egg
needing no urgin’
from Faberge under glass
the diamonds cutting there
and the filigreed gold
caught in the backwash
and tied by my love.
September 20, 2008

Exercise #83

The love of money is the root.

Are carrots wicked?
Or a fine spud,
King Edwards, boiled or roasted?

Rich odours lift
fields in the early mist
before the sun sweats
over condiment and preserve
and - country pleasures childishly -
gentleman’s relish unmoving
in the half-light.

There a stallion stamps
and shivers, the smell
of money calling
the hounds and dogs
to war. The ports sunk
in spittle and review,
hull down to horizons,
top-gallants manned,
ensigns flagged and pendanted
by the admirable Nelson

half-catching the eye
of the dusky maidenhead
whose price is doubled
by cat and sting, a switch
held aloft by van Tromp’s besem,

sweeping the City from the offing,
Tower and Gherkin
knee-deep in the ebbing currency.

Opposite, the eye watches
instruments of policy.
September 19, 2008

Exercise #57

The sidewalk casts a long
shadow with the light behind,
the sea on the one hand
ebbed, the mountain the other.

The sundial leans, the weather
from the indicative north,
the vane a few points west.
I overflow with ambiguities

this road edging the dark
continent, dry as whispers
or prayers, my voice hoarse
this winter morning frostless.

Spring a hint in the promiscuous
skin of her cheeks pink and gay.
17 July 2008

Exercise #56

Are cause and effect inextricable?
Is this fallacy holding me back,

keeping me worldly? Or do
effects necessarily have causes?

And causes always lead to effects?
I don’t know, but people who do

are divine, such is the definition
of gods, they are indescribable.

More: any attempt to describe
is itself heresy to the cabal who protect

truth from the mundane,
the world – axis mundi.

The Russian word for world, mir,
is also peace, far from the city.
16 July 2008

Exercise #55

The vagrant sleeps on his beachfront
bench overlooking the tide and sands.

Overlooked by millionaires always.
And this morning, as I passed, he was

up busy with his domestic chores,
diligently sweeping the pavement

around about his sleeping quarters
with the head of a discarded broom.

His blankets and cardboard are neatly
stacked for storage under a manhole.

I watch him later walk down to the water
to splash his face and clean his teeth

with a finger, and gargle loudly. Then
he took a long piss into the sea.
14 July 2008

Exercise #54

Under the eaves music nests,
balances on a child’s laughter,
a semi-tone.

Somebody is stomping down
the stairs, a child giggling,
playing blind man’s buff,

the sound naked in the light
emptying in falling airs
from Sneeukop. The river

dripping into the fields,
the melting ice, the dormant
vines, wet, cold and black.
11 July 2008

Exercise #51

There is a season to this mood and weather.
An absence of colour suggests winter.
A British mood: my phlegmatic fathers’
gloom. Often, under that low sky, I would
dream of this place, flowers and distances:
walk the dogs, take the public footpath up
Bell’s Hill from the house on the corner,
among the sheep Jock, our Jack Russell –
long in his Happy Hunting Grounds –
would pelt after rabbits while I stand
at the top among ancient chips of flint,
look across the valley under a Constable sky
to the great church at Stoke-by-Nayland
with its choir and brasses, knights
and warriors, where Steve lies
under the churchyard lawn under
a cold stone and fresh flowers, never forgotten,
nor Vivienne who he loved, his wife,
and the furrows in her valley freshly ploughed
turned open to the gulls finding
a morsel here and there beneath the sky
blowing in from the Wash where even now
a small yacht hugs the coast on passage
from Den Helder and the cold North Sea
where the wars still glow beneath
their accusations. A pillaged and raped
shore of inlets and intimacies, touched
and held by the self-same waters
banging the reef here, where I am home.
9 July 2008

Exercise #50

This is no blueprint.
There is no design.
Its coherence is in its imagination.
Its engineering is in flight.
Its body is in its birthright
and it remembers all.
It is cloned from every idea,
past and future. It is in the present
tense, where it has neither fear
nor foreboding. It can neither learn
nor judge. It is near time: is faster
and can stop. It begins and ends
at the same time. It always is,
never was and will be.
It has no intellect nor agenda.
It has wisdom and visions.
It sees in the dark.
It sees the light, itself.
It enlightens, but nothing sees it.
It is darkness.
It is paradox and enigma.
It is hope and fear.
It is the perfect curve
I remember when I next see it.
It is repetition.
It is unique.
It happens to me and I to it.
I believe in it.
It demands nothing.
It takes nothing.
I gives nothing.
It is perfect.
It is complete
when I am gone.
8 July 2008

Exercise #49

I function in the parallel universe.
Mostly it’s invisible.
I catch glimpses now and then
through a break in the clouds.
Suddenly the sea is clear to its bed
where I see fish about their business
as remote and tangible as traffic
and pedestrians from the WTC.

Or, for a bar or so, a sparrow chirps
a perfect tune that turns my ear
from a world lost in its noise.
7 July 2008

Exercise #48

I read a poem that watches the poet
examined by her gynaecologist.
The intimate appointment was not lost
on the poem nor the poet. I am disabused
by the polite tones of the doctor
as he writes his notes, “Take off
your clothes.” The poem places her feet
in the stirrups as a matter of fact,
answers his questions about ebbs and flows,
the monthly timing, its pains
while he examines her in the gloves
of protective words, as lawyers do,
couching collateral euphemisms
when he talks of cunts.
4 July 2008

Exercise #47

The stars have gone.
The sky unblinking black.
It is cold.
A quiet sea meets the shore.
No breeze ripples the ocean
viscous as a lens.
The gulls have gone.
The town is unlit, silent.
I walk across the mussel shells,
feel them cut into my bare feet,
crunch into silence.
I watch, turn.
There is nobody.
The sea has gone,
the town. All
is darkness and silence.
Nothing remains.
I am at last:
3 July 2008

Exercise #46

An old pilchard boat, converted now
the sardine is fished out to crayfish
also threatened by appetite and avarice,
passes along the coast. From the promenade
I hear her Cat thumping and I am taken
to Kalk Bay harbour’s youth
and the Listers’ wheeze and tick
and whiff of diesel, the indecent gobbing
of the exhaust. There the skip stands
propped up against the cockpit
with his pipe and right foot hooked
just so on the tiller. He is passing remarks
to his mechanic below about a white woman
in a dazzling skirt and calves on the quay.
It is as well she is seemingly unaware
of the imaginative description of her pussy.
He’d take her home with a fine yellowtail
from the catch in his dreams.
2 July 2008

Exercise #45

His fingers know each tone’s place in the throat
of the double bass. I watch them move
detached. The music follows a step
behind, forgetting the measure
of the tune. The machine plays on,
the man rides it wildly, astride it, bronco
lust, whipping it to frenzy, the passion
sweatens his forehead, his eye gleams.

The poet’s voice rises, a fearful cry
in the storm. The Titanic torn, mortal
wounded, begins to founder in the ice
black sea, the black night of tie and tuxedo,
the darkening screams in the simple void,
compelled to the ocean floor’s fear.

Still the music comes. Chariots of ice
burn, the stiffening resolve, gods weep,
bid good bye, lose grip, lose heart, lose touch.
Still the band plays.
1 July 2008

Exercise #44

The old moon hangs above the Atlantic
baubled and twisting in the morning light
as if a buoy tethered still to an old wreck.

Cormorants arrow a long thread
to the fish. A trawler too dips and nods
to the swollen sea a white foam bone fore

and aft the seam of wake. The middle watch
now sleeps as a great ship pushes aside
the ebb to the pilot’s mark and line.

The leper’s island is still in the offing,
silent as prayer, holy as memory.
30 June 2008

Exercise #43

Lines from the past come to me
musty, disused. I blow dust off
the cover, still serviceable, plain,
the title clear. I open the book.
Read the first paragraph:

hear steam engines in a distant siding,
the wheeze and sneeze and whistles.
Overhead a biplane sputters slowly
as if about to plunge to earth
at any moment. The pilot waves

cheerfully, knowing the whole world
is watching the seat of his pants.
I see myself below playing cricket
in long socks and grey flannel shorts.
It seems I’m enjoying myself.

The memory times smell of mown grass
and horses. A Cape fishmonger’s horn sounds,
my mother calls my name for supper,
a black car chugs past spewing oily smoke,
the mountain is unmoved.
28 June 2008

Exercise #42

There is so much wisdom in the world – everybody has it – I wonder at the foolishness I practice with abandon, aplomb. Or, is it that the fool is the value stamped on every coin, the head-side undetermined, dated and regal? The story goes about mistaken identity: I am not what and whom I seem. I have absences and presences. For instance, I am muddled now, moving this pen across the page matching word flows and thought independently, disconnected except by hand. Outside, the mist is heavy. The apartments reaching up into the finest lace drizzle. A kelp gull carps and screams in irritation from a balcony abandoned since the owner’s summer holiday last. I scratch my chin absently and remember I have to shave. A hundred tasks await, but this one, a small delight, is done.
27 June 2008

Exercise #41

Mother and calf close inshore,
beyond the reef capped pink
with shepherd’s warning breakers:
shipwrecks here. And me
stranding the promenade
with camera recording
a mind’s eye in binary.

How couples are a template of life –
so commonplace, so fraught. And us
walking in silence, few words,
just the steady breathing in
the self-same air as Southern Rights.
26 June 2008

Exercise #40

According to Eric Hoffer,
“There are no chaste minds.
Minds copulate wherever they meet.”
A swept statement, no doubt,
ringing crystal true, and observed.
But if we fuck so, mind fuck
mind, what progeny result?
What thought-children, or
are we infertile as mules.

And that fine gentleman there,
when we meet, do we entwine
amusingly? Well! These thoughts
spill into the coital day. But you know
I prefer the curve of your arse
and your fine proud breasts,
their softness, to the razor-lipped
mind you keep hidden
behind those big blue eyes.
25 June 2008

Exercise #39

A three quarter moon sinks toward the west.
The tide ebbs here, flows across the Atlantic.

Early morning sun bathes the breakers
frothed to laughter across the reef.

We stand watching the everlasting flood,
the tramp and I, knowing our belonging

and our place. A car passes, music blaring
within, the driver deaf to the music without,

the endless variations, the peace and ease
of it, the drama played out on the world’s

stage, and he lost in the traffic,
and me lost in time.
24 June 2008

Exercise #38

The fog wraps the coast intimately.
We walk the promenade.
I stop, turn back Whittington,
at London Road, where I lived once.

Sonja jogs on to Jonker’s bay
and the cold sea that rustles
the mussels gutted and empty
as muted applause on the strand.

Two trawlers return from the deep
as if no longer submerged,
the bay, quiet under the keel,
whispers as if sotto voce.

The skipper nurses hot tea
in the wheelhouse thinking
of his wife’s loins – you know
the way. And me thinking

this, ambling along
like an old dray at first light,
allowed blinkers off at last
in his dotage pastures.
23 June 2008

Exercise #37

Sunday. Breakfast. Mozart. Conversation. Outside
a mist heavily draped over Lion’s Head.

We shall not walk. Instead we chat. I am obsessed
by the violence of men. All the while I feel your

body, your silkiness under the sheets, your
left breast quite a bit larger. How you curve.

So, why would I want to injure you, beat you,
maim, rape, murder? What would so anger me?

Would I go there with alcohol? Drugs? Environment?
Upbringing? When I get drunk, I fall over,

enter unconsciousness, a coma almost. Why aggression?
Is it the removal of inhibitors, controls?

Does that not suggest a great evil underlining men
all the time, kept in check by civilisation,

carrots, the big stick. So there it is – original sin!
But I do not see it in the children, infant, toddler.

Is it acquired? Where? Whither? God knows.
Or somebody knows and hasn’t told me why.

Today is another day to smile at.
To look. To see. To breathe.
22 June 2008

Exercise #34

His body twists slowly as a clock runs down
to its stopping. The dead man endures as an image
brightening in its aging, etching into memories,
the noose, the trap door, the blood and faeces.

The grotesque, the gross, the pitiless, the hells.
I awaken from my dream with a painful neck,
an empathy of sorts of the man, the human,
the hughman, and scaffoldings, and rage.
18 June 2008

Exercise #31
at the Cape Town Book Fair

This is no quiet place of books.
Nearby the television plays and
replays bread and circuses and the repetitive
tugging at the foreskin of the superb shot.

I turn toward the canned crowds cheering
as they do the ever replicating virus of
indifference to everything and the game:
the game is life the final whistle shrieks.

No escape in the end, at the end, to the end,
by the end shall prevail: the democracy of
the cycle of revolutions, life-cycles, beginnings,
endings, the railway terminus of greetings.

A commentator announces, he knows the lines,
they are his catechism repeated to the chalice of
envy, its holy grail. He is the Jesuit, himself
the product of the school of hard-knocks.

Nearby a visitor from the North I know by sight
nods. We acknowledge a pleasantry as if
spies on the platform of a departing
train leaving a wicked land of make-believe.

The cartoon and clowns play on in hyperbole
as if rehearsing a great drama of
scarecrows and brick highways, tin-men
and lions. Oh Dorothy! Oh Alice?
15 June 2008

Exercise #30

A superstitious day, the last storm still
battering up the coast. A cormorant silhouettes
the line of surf, an arrow to the heart.
Out in the bay the great ships heave and sinew,
chained by a bull-ringed capstan. The sea
swells from the north-west catching
the port quarter to roll awkwardly,
twisting and plunging her head
into the backing southerly, and the crew waits
pilot and tugs to lead her
to the still waters of the basin.

This in the pen’s imagination, each word
an arrow uncertain of its meaning,
peers from the page a frightened lamb
born on a cold night in the desert air.

Barbed wire rusts in the mist,
drying in the wind.

Spider webs jewelled in dew diamonds
like photographs.

Friday then, fish and faith,
the fishermen and the fishers of men.

The sea, its fathoms and cables,
parallel rule, dividers, compass rose,
the binnacle of brass, the lifting deck.

The ease and happiness of the soul
found again in the loneliness.
13 June 2008

Exercise #28

The sea has risen to the wind
from its beds and deeps.
It rolls before the north-wester
on shoulders of rain and squall,
muscling in from the island,
crouched in its collar,
to reefs of Malmesbury shale
here these six hundred million years,
charges into the valley of death
left and right. It is a grand poem
of heroes, foolhardy but performed
each winter of its seasoning
steeped in form and remembering,
repeating lines and rhythms,
and broken men. Yet there is no fear
I do not provide in visions
of drowning kelp, reaching for air
in rain and foam, still alive,
gesturing ashore where I watch
with Ted’s dented eyeballs
and the black-backed gull bending
like an iron bar. And twa corbies
thinking theft in dark snow
where rabbits scutter
in meadows and memories. But here,
now, a Southern Right intersects
the weather and blows knowing nothing
of my dark eye and thoughts
that drive this pen.
11 June 2008

Exercise #21

Scribes and Pharisees record the divine mouth.
Thank them.

Each scribbler, in his own right, puts down
posterior whether he writes to enrich
the composts or accidentally or intent
on calligraphy or signage advertising.

The worms gather there anyway, in the humus,
to unwrap the mortal coil as it forms, reforms,
transforms and informs: cycles and recycles,
dust to dust, views and reviews.

The rich smell of rotting kelp or a corpse
reduced to its pitiful ashes on the mountain path.
Road-kill too is grist to the pied crow and
carrion flying the arc between aspect and internal,

pecking the shattered visage of king and mouse,
blood spilled each vestige of sunset and the whole
flock on the wing lost over dark waters
reflecting the peak and valley, and the half moon

rippling among old stars like wise men
with gifts of song, scents and cents: the divine
message lost on the way, the narrow of it
tolling mournful as night’s knell.

The ploughman leads the gulls across the furrowing
contemplation of worms and sods
as the earth turns on whim and blade
not knowing it’s all staged.
3 June 2008

Exercise #20

Last night the heavens opened: it rained.
And the rain fell as numbers and letters
and syllables, whole words and sentences
rained down, paragraphs were swept
into the gutters, headlong into tables of contents
and appendices. Here and there a Capital letter
struggled stiffly in the throng, toppling over
among jabbering vowels all oo-ing and ah-ing,
falling among the sibilants recoiling and hissing
venomously. I was thinking about other things
at the time, driving the wet streets of Sea Point
with the smug sea in the west, reminding itself
we are mostly water, how deliquescent,
how permeable. Absorbed in these thoughts,
as I am now, and caught in the tick-tock
whisper and swoosh of the blades sweeping
the windscreen to and fro, to and fro,
across my vision like a poem seeking
rhyme in the rhythm. Beneath, the slip-sliding
beat of the swilling road, black as the rain,
and the third little pig snugly in his Honda
just knowing the huff and the puff and the blow
your house down would never ever catch him
again. And he sitting behind the wheel
of fortune like a gambler hauling down the lever
of desire and speaking directly to God without
intercessions and the church door locked against
him, and the soup kitchen closed while the world
watches football in the passing snug and smoke
of the Old Ram on the corner where all roads lead
to slumber. But the sea waits below the cliffs
grinning down cataracts of saliva like streams
falling into the endless sea and surf and reef
where the waters wait their turn.
3 June 2008

Exercise #19

Every language has love in its syllables,
the whisper of it in each sibilant,
its touch there in the liquid length
gently tongued – the surface surfeit
exquisite depth unannounced sigh
and vision and imaginings.

So it is I fingertip desire to embed myself
in you, each curve of you, every engaging
turned eye to the laughter smile mystery
ghosts, shades, shadows, prizes and winning
smiles all teasing out my prickling
superficials pronounced and wording
in vision and imaginings.

Too soon the brass gears of the day engage,
turn, each cog spins and whirs on its axle
confined to catalystic ignorance and essence.
Traffic builds up in the diurnal rush to rank
noise and odour and limousines shiny
as lies filed and bound in reports
of visions and imaginings.

Meanwhile I write here in the ears of the cold
blue sea, the stubbled kelp unshaven in the littoral
foam and the strand as barren as my shaved lip.
Ages pass my eye as shadows after sunset.
I reflect history and the geology of weathering,
the erosion of faces, the heroism of cheeks
turning to gifts and compassions and music
and visions and imaginings.
2 June 2008

Exercise #18

Borrowed time never happens for me.
It always has to be paid up straightaway,
the straight and narrow of it,
the marrow of it. I’d like to pick a bone
with God, so to speak. I mean it’s fantasy
really: there’s no god so how could I argue
with her. It’s all conjecture isn’t it?

One could as well argue with yourself
and enjoy declaring a winner. Absurd,
the whole thing’s a laugh, a comedy,
an error. The divine! Don’t you just love
the divine? It’s like loving yourself.
It’s really just polite narcissism
isn’t it, loving the divine, loving yourself?

Much more interesting to hate yourself.
There you can really have a fruitful row,
Take action against yourself, butt your head
against a wall really hard, really-really hard,
pull your hair out, really fuck yourself up!
Oh yes, compared to namby-pamby self-love,
hate is all action, doing it.

But I digress – time, borrowing – that was it.

Well you can’t borrow it. Just try your bank.
Wander in Monday to the manager, ask
to borrow five minutes, a couple of hours,
a week, year, century – ask for the whole
fucking millennium! You’ll not find a lot
of sympathy be assured. In fact, you’ll be shown
the door no matter what balance you have,
no matter what credit you’ve got,
how insignificant your overdraft,
how seldom you ask for any fucking thing
from the bank. None of this will help you.
Banks don’t have any time for you.
1 June 2008

Exercise #17

Parsley fine-chopped, the soup heavy, hot,
ladled to a bowl as large as father bear’s
and me as large a father bear.

How do I turn from winter
when feeding’s close to the soul?
The last summer salad as distant as September
and here I am by a field
wet now with last night’s rain,
steaming like a cow’s back.

And across the field three ibis
slowly measure, mark and stud
their even paces for delicacies
tweezered from each sod.

Beyond, as measured, a land surveyor
refers himself to some trigonometry,
the trajectory of light from another mark –
where, O God, is the first mark, Cain the bearer?
There I am at the beacon: how close
an atheist may stand, not knowing,
these forty years in the wilderness.

Tramping a long road between rank huts,
shitting cairns with a view, making soup
in the last moments of light before the galaxy
switches on above my head,
better than the planetarium were it not
for this wind and cold and sack of ruby port
to keep the chill off my grave yet a while.

So, I sit with my feet to the coals,
staring into the flames of the past
where ancestors dance in the smoke
that drifts toward me wherever I sit
no matter what. It follows me
like a curse that has chosen me
among the chosen, O Ishmael,
who suffered an unkind cut, and
like me is held, breathes my name.
31 May 2008

Exercise #16

The poet pauses, looks up
from the blank page,
looks down to nothing,
the dilemma, the horns of it,
the ying, the yang, poles apart,
attract, repulse, dual control,
the simulator, the creator.

The gravity of it all. Now I see
the mountain trail. Below, the valley.
Below, the sea. A subcutaneous sea.
Always rich in odour and colour,
never emptied, blank staring.
The thin-skinned wind draws breath.

I forget where I am
in the long heel of each step.
I am lost in abundance,
forgetting the hourglass trickle,
how it wastes away, spends itself.

As if my body will last
a decade longer than its best before,
its redundancy, its obsolescence
planned, built-in, wearing out,
stiffening, calcifying, ossifying,
forgetting like stone, like teeth,
losing grip, speech, hearing

nothing of sadness, of joy, all of it
whirling to the event horizon,
that singularity,
that opposite pole, up close
and personal, and me always
putting a best foot in the door,
keeping open, bright-eyed,
‘less I miss a trick before I die.

And every hour awakening
and the dreams, and the anvil,
and the tempered steel, sharpened,
and the ice sea my bones to ache
and my dust filters down
below the summer surface tense
and a child of mine flings
a white rose of Yorkshire
from the gunwale and a tear
into the drop-full ocean

and the sun sets, takes snapshots
for remembering the wake
as I float down into the blue light
and the kelp sings
in the clear washed sea
and the reef ever near.
30 May 2008

Exercise #15

Techniques of divination written on a scrap
of paper, just so:
leconomancy is the study of oil poured on water
in a dish or basin;
haruspicy is the reading of entrails of animals;
sciomancy that of shadows, shades and ghosts;
use spodmancy to divine ashes;
but osteomancy for bones, of course;
arithmancy is the study of numbers;
and bibliomancy interprets texts randomly, often biblical.

Such is my ignorance
none of these wisdoms are known
to me. Yet I am careful with ladders
and cross my fingers.

But now I listen to Mozart
while Sonja paints
and me searching for the entrance
to enchantment with this pen and paper.
29 May 2008

Exercise #12

I move the blinds aside to see the sea.
The north-wester moves en bloc
towards the shore rolling in,
tumbling, dancing, frothed, snorting,
crashing down on the granite
teeth of the city glum under the weather.

Yet who would want a summer’s day
to thank God for? All the world looks
aside at what it is, where it falls,
the ordinary, like a spent leaf rotting
as litter on dull pavements.

I don’t know why we photograph
the special occasion when that’s the one
we won’t forget. How about the common
or garden in all its spidery magnificence
repeated in profusion to the endless
grains on the endless strands, the endless
sameness and narrowest variations
on this life’s theme?

See the rain clouds banked up over
the island there? See the light catch them,
illuminate and colour them, the grey flesh
of them as gorgeous as any glory
captured in the HST lens a million
light years distant in the farthest reaches
of imagining, a cloud forty thousand years
crossing it tip to tip, and it lit too
as any medieval manuscript loving coloured
for the creator’s eye. So it goes.

Now the mundane day lies ahead
like a lover waiting my slightest touch
to stir and smile at the wakening,
to welcome me to the tip-top
love of God, the ache and longing
and peace and ease of it:
that garden where the bloom of it is,
as you reach down to gaze

upon the banks beneath the vaulted sky.
And the sky reflecting always the possible
and the impossible – you know
the way – as my dear friend tells
in the ever-loving kiss of tombs
and stars and gods who would take me

home to the cotton-wool world
where no hurt remains. So it is
the weather comes to remind me
of my life and good fortune that visits
this door, and the peace and milk of it.
Who could ask for more?
Am I not the envy of my ego?
28 May 2008

Exercise #11

A metaphor caught in the act
by the postman, delivers mail
to an exiled poet on a far island
hidden deep within the sun’s rays,
best described as an holy moment,
virginal in its prescient innocence
waiting the time to present
itself as the clock ever ticks
and the bells toll
through each watch,
the two dogs
always barking at the heels
of the hunt, you know the way,
to quote a novelist, not coital,
no version, no virgin,
no aversion, no verge,
not at all, but a sense of humour,
a funny bone to bring the whole
circus maximus to its thumbs-down knees
and tears, as we who are about, to die
for, he slits the envelope’s throat with
a Joseph Rodgers he keeps hidden,
then the postman too and any other angel
that knells the parting day each Angelus
tolling the long road, the short cut
to Gethsemane to the garden’s cavalry
charged on Amex at Tombstone
where my grandfather lies full-fathomed
in the churchyard elmed in the arms of his wife,
my sea-salt grandmother who was a warrior,
worrier and pedant hoisted in pedantry
to a white church in a far Cornish of merry
England’s cuntry creamed brass rubbing
whip-lashed cutlassed pirated cave
of Merlin still wandering among the shells
along a sea fathered by Patrick,
a papal see fought over tanned or black
by the last humours of indifference
or whiff of grapeshot sung by a chorister
at Wells, Ancient and Modern,
pelted in the stocks of market and fair lady
of hearts without hesitation or duplication
or duplicity scrabbling for the moss-filled gutters
of her memories and prophecies
all of which have revealed the grammar
of a stone heart and the reef knotted
and slipping sliding to her throat.
Here endeth the lesson.
Praise be to God.
The Lord’s name be praised.
Amen, amen, amen etc.
27 May 2008

Exercise #10

Dawn seeps into the gutters of Sea Point.
Each littered with night’s debris. Here
and there a vagrant blankets an alley
or a bench on the promenade.

He sleeps beyond high-water, still
in his cups. He sleeps alone
this one, the woman has found warmer –
so it is with the war, the battleships
still sleeping under embers,
still glowing with cordite and amatol,
still charged to the depths,
still drowning in the infested sea,
in its turtle-necked gullet
and the cormorant drying in the winter sun
slowly as paint.

We walk here with our imaginations falling
loosely as autumn leaves in the avenues
of plenty where the gardener, oh boy the garden,
rakes to and fro the manicured lawn just so,
just so it is perfect, a perfect place
in the larger imperfection, it in turn
in the still larger perfection
and so on and so forth into chaos
and the sipping stars, the interstellar dust,
massed unknown, weighted in darkness
of the indescribable that is one more digit
than the last you thought of, world
without end amen. Men never could understand

First we count. If it cannot be counted, it is not.
This is our breath, our sucking in dinosaur air
a billion years in the making in the exhaling
woods and trees and cycads and flowers and buds
and dung that makes coal of my memories.

Still the earth turns and the summer comes
and goes, each season promising to be
the last and the tears that fall are called
rain. And the thunder is the voice of god
and he calls for his boss still giving
instructions to archangels and lesser messengers
from Murmansk or the Neva (still skating on thin ice,
Peter?). Oh Great One! Oh Venice! Oh Winter Palace
of blood! Oh Eisenstein replayed! The vivid blood
of Potemkin crashes a nine inch shell into
the promise of every tomorrow.
26 May 2008

Exercise #9

These sad lines I leave in the wake of sleeping days.
When I awoke, grace had left her marks,
my back scourged, this ancient body,
almost Cartesian, its worship of planets,
heavenly bodies, those starry nebulae,
all named now and numbered

like soundings, a coastal chart, as if all we care for
is a clear sighting and enough depth
beneath the keel to feel no rib
tickled by a Saracen’s blade or reef
so knotted and Jupiter looking down
under a waning moon
stooped over the western sea

like a forbidden prophecy recently found
in the first draft of Jeremiah.
Ah Cassandra! How I love you!
Especially that golden delicious arse
rhymed with hearse. Come now!

Let us turn again from the absurd:
no references to pink-flesh aliens,
purple eyes who still fly in
on, Friday nights.
He speaks, asides, to the audience
deaf with rage – hurling another to
a necklaced hell courtesy of Goodyear
and Lion Matches – we have our matches -

remind me, Jacob, not to whinge when we ask
where, where are you leading us, from
the hostilities and darkness,
the heart of it, and how I long
for grace in a tutu, dancing
a jig to fix it,
jig it, jog it – are you wonderful
kwa-men, kwama, uhuru, give me back

to Strijdom, take the leash off,
you boor you, warthog, hog or whats-is-name,
Georgie-Porgie, president, precedent,
disaster eye-racked, stretched to pun
after pun and figures of speech,
Gettysburg and we shall fight
on the beaches we shall never
surrender to the last drop of your blood,
know how it stains, mark the vermin, rats,
rhododendrons deflower each associate,
each idea, one leading to another without
De Bono, the musician, whats-is-name,
no, the other one, the one who fell,
all the king’s horses who lied,
but never lied in congress, no moniker
lewd about what she does in her back teeth.
Sigh – you know the way.
24 May 2008

Exercise #8

A chill breeze out of the north-west
reminds me this late autumn
is done. And winter rain is coming.

It means soup and stews
and hearths – love-making
under covers so your arse
doesn’t get cold – though mine does,
but who cares when we connect
at 37c. Your taste I love too,

the piquancy of your clit
and swell of you holding
open, eye open, closing
to hold back the approaching storm:
wind fills your sails,
the tiller takes the weight
of the course,

the rhythm of the rising-falling
ocean, its depth, how we meet it
and ride, hold on, holding each,
holding each other to its own
as close as a breast to a mother.

The squalls arrive first: how we duck
and weave. The flood begins, we plunge
in the coursing sea, our blood-lust hot
in the keeling sea when all
the world would have us
cry out. And yet the storm comes

and comes on. At last we shriek,
haul in the sheets, pull the head
into the weather, our temples
pounding, the theatre of sense
liquid now. Such fantasy, such
dreams, such metaphors
of passion where each fruit

has meaning as vivid as plum
or pear, shaping our tongues
to the grape, the tropical fruits
hang among the limbs
of the forest sea where the kelp
drifts in the half-light half-lit

moments of the anemone
swallowing its labia-lips
spectacular, the colour of an alien
woman just spaced-in
by worm-hole from a star

so distant we have never seen it,
not on the darkest night where
each and every grain of light
holds my reflection to the mirror
of the divine. And I know only
the divine, we gods
who are mortal tonight.
23 May 2008

Exercise #4

Privacy of lust turns me away
from the gods with an awful eye.

The tears of seduction, the days come
and the nights. I turn to the shore
from the steeped depths, meaning lost
in the shallows of a summer sea
welling about my ankles.
19 May 2008

Exercise #3

So the conversation – dialogue of hours,
the clock beats its rhythm and pulse.
Who would wish it otherwise?

Where is the wit and measure of the old man
still leaning over the gate at Yasnaya Polyana,
still looking for redemption in the acid sky,
and the geese heading south again with the fallen

Each association he made was laughed at,
he the lion but the fox enjoying all the ploys,
and the dissenter like a mole scribbling notes
in the dark to posterity like some newly educated
peasant with an ice pick. Who would wish it otherwise?

In the distance a wolf lifts a tenderfoot gesture
lost among the editor’s comment on some trivia of fact.
18 May 2008

Exercise #2

Soon the blush of sunset will hide
my eyes. What visions!

The old man turns to learning, the rest
known – “it little profits an idle king”.
The light remains – a far place of tombs
and the wrecks of hopes, the shoals
of metaphor and rhetoric calling always
for a newer question, ever renewed,
ever, ever, ever, to the last syllable
of time. And still the hourglass must
be turned, stiff-fingered as the corpse
in the last rattle of his time-out, gullet
and pride. Like the word “hubris”,
often seen in the wild.

Take me home, gather me in
to my loins. Turn the money over,
each coin rolling to the gutter.
The waste. The sewer.

Will you come to me, O My Love?
You hand aching, longing for the touch.
The leering, forlorn, unfounded, lost men.
The road, the roads ending at the sea.
And the lifelines?

I gaze at my palms, unbelieving
the unwitting messenger writing there.

A distant galaxy lies to the west.

I ramble, the rambler, the trees, the forest
rambles. The countryside, the cunts inside,
this milk of kindness, this encrypted message
brought by the sergeant of Angelus, this helix,
this code of desire and propagation.

So, it’s pencilled in columns and rows,
the axes, real and imaginary.
13 May 2008

Exercise #1

A line of sight makes the angle
between here
and there. Where
I am,
my being,
my self,
I think,
as if I were a kelp gull hunched

on the repetitious sand
with the silk-
foamed sea and tide
and the pencilled lines of
jetsam that litter
the litoral,
marking the ends
of paradise and the beginnings
of each tick, each

tock as if the sands would run out
and the hourglass of geology,
like the line of sight,
the shale of sands
now to every memory
and how it will play
out and turn
my cheek to the death
of time in the garden and fruits of all
the anemone and the tulip
of her loins –

yes there,
in the salt of her ecstasy
as she rolls in the surf,
and a litter of piglets
taking her nipples
like maggots and blue-bottles;
the men-o-war
that pass against the offing,
touch the horizons
of my gutted memories
the ensign hangs limp
in the doldrums
of her summer rain
and yet
the autumn comes
as she cries
out with little organisms
and gasps
for oxygen and ozone
on the gull-wrapped shore.

the fall-out of battle-stations,
the tracks and plots,
the sight and compass
of my tears,
there where
I am still forgotten
and my mother lies
in the winter
of her age freezing
her mind
on the tapestry and knots
of my livid flesh.

And still
I cannot believe
the years have fled so
and the coward
of time
who hides in the empty
bottles of tonic
and the gin rummy
and the cotton
and the mills
and the black dyke
and the stacks of

Mytholmroyd and Heptonstall
close by
where Ted lies

among the eye-
pecked crows’
still dripping
from the blood of her last stanza.
12 May 2008

Friday, 3 March 2006


The Living and the Dead – by Geoffrey Haresnape
A Review by HA Hodge
(Published in New Contrast 131 & 132 Autumn 2006)

"I believe that poems should be read aloud – not be just dry squiggles on the page." – Geoffrey Haresnape.
Perhaps because Geoff does believe that, no, practices it, his voice is true throughout these poems. I can hear the twinkle in his eye, that understated laugh, the resonance that is pure Haresnape, belongs to none other. It is infectious so, if you get the chance, take any opportunity to hear him read. Get infected.

This volume stretches a keen ear over many years. Part I, Drive of the Tide, takes us back to the seminal mid-seventies. Then, Geoff reminds us of the unfathomable in the Hindu Temple of the gods.
It seemed to me they were like the cane
while the cane itself was like them again.
and beyond us all . . . the sea.

And, by contrast yet carrying forward depth of metaphor, the slaughter of Sheep dissects sensibilities.
The cared-for blade finds its route
along the midriff, forking to the thighs:
knee joints are snapped like twigs:
part of skinning is like peeling

Or compare Geoff's prankish The Lawrentian Grasshopper with the tenderness of Small Town Poetess.

Part II, New Born Images comes to us with the reborn South Africa. Here Geoff delights with The Poet who "scorns the fig-leaf apron prose" and follows through with tributes to Gerald Manley Hopkins, Breyten Breytenbach and Jack Cope, but I most like Pet where Geoff shows us the greater vision:
He is always rediscovered with joy –
a valuable box inlaid with yellow-wood and ebony
that has, somehow, walked.

Happy and active,
he enacts the mystery
of lettuce into tortoise.

And the kindly eye so beautifully teased out in Confessions of a Veteran Bird Watcher where
You've started up
unpensionable pulses in my head.

In Part III, Mulberries in Autumn, Geoff continues poems of his middle years, and tributes to Ingrid Jonker and Douglas Livingstone, among others. Bemused is the perfect start:
For just on forty years
I've taken lessons
from a charming – yet demanding – lady.

The feast continues with reflective pieces such as Introspections, which ends with this delightful verse (of pigeons):
I'd love to perch them
on my hands, and hear haiku –
their bubbling poems.

And, of course, the tribute in Mother and Sonthose shared and vanished years. But I like best, no, I love West Coast Spring includes:
By a deserted railway track
in a field as flat as a vlei,
a populace of flowers
stared quietly back at the sun.

Part IV, The Living and the Dead, moves us to the recent present, the new millennium and tributes to Lionel Abrahams, Guy Butler, Richard Rive, Laurens van der Post and Tatumkhulu Afrika. Of the four parts of the book, I find this most rewarding.

Growing-up Daughter is poignant, I read it several times – such pleasure. But how to choose from the hilarity The Lost City of Sol Kerzner (Kubla Khan) or the Wife of Bath in Five for Fifty-Three. Or the moving Long Service, Sure Reward of the retired hangman, Egomania of poets, or sad Put Down. No, none of these, all rewarding.

Lineal is my poem of the book. A tender reminiscence of Geoff's Dad:
Rest, father! I well know your love.
I'll take your plan for me
but words – not wood – shall be the stuff
to turn out jewellery.

Read Geoff's words, weigh the gems, see the facets catch the light.