Lavender with bees on it
before I do, landing on the purple spikes,
swaying with them.
I see them and judge they are working,
but they might be worshipping, making love or sport,
playing music, dancing petronellas.
They do not rush from one flower to the next,
they are not holding their breath
for fear they will not get things done, they do not
work to a list;
their activity seems measured,
has a grace and rhythm,
they are here and now, intent, content:
nosing forward into the flower,
a spell within,
and taking off
for the next bloom;
their presence blesses me,
blesses us all.
I grew up, the seventh child of eight, in the large unconventional family of an actor
Mrs Varney taught me how to butter bread
in my mother’s kitchen, and Tim
showed me how to chop vegetables whilst
tucking in my fingertips so as not to cut them.
Caroline instructed me in the art of conjuring
a cheese sauce in the flat at Pennington Road
with wooden spoon in hand, Joni
Mitchell on the record-player.
Miss Jane Parker stood in front of
the bookcase in the round classroom
at Ranters Oak, describing each shelf as
a row of houses with differently-coloured front doors
waiting to be knocked upon and entered.
No Plan Like Yours to Study History So Wisely
helped us remember not only the Royal Houses
of England, but also Mrs Woodhouse’s thick black
square glasses, whiskery upper lip, and gruff kindness.
What I can’t picture so clearly
is who taught me to undermine myself;
perhaps that lesson was the least memorable,
if the most constant.
I was inspired by a visit to Dubrovnik to write a number of poems
Michael in Dubrovnik
Did my brother,
with his fine fingers, his ticklish sense of humour,
his small, dark head,
step off the Chusan onto the quay at Gruz,
and with springy step
set off for the old City?
Did he walk through the brightness
like an angel, furling his feathers
to go incognito, licking an ice-cream
as he watched the swifts
race up and down Stradun
like boys out of school?
Not yet come to his darkest hour,
to the bridge where he leapt into thin air,
the bed where he lay broken,
a child curled in a dreamless sleep.
War Photo Limited, Antuninska 6
Like this summer’s forest fire, this war
and all its ancestors started, perhaps,
with a lightning strike, a careless cigarette
but how it spreads, thousands of hands
tamping its appetite, small creatures
who can’t run fast enough perishing
how what is left must be watched
the grey-dusted baby
handed out of the wreckage
by sad-faced men
a father, legs given way at the sight
of his youngest son, gone out with a friend
for an ice-cream, never came home
Have you ever observed children at play on a windy day?
The children on the top field are bending over, collecting acorns with great concentration,
proudly showing me their bulging pockets,
the wind is making them skittish,
full of mischief and tricks, wild and
cavorting, bucking like naughty ponies,
shrieking and giggling; I feel it too.