Mindful Spring Run

I have not been writing a great deal, been very busy setting up a new project and lots of other things happening. However, out on a run the other day, I felt this clarity of being and thought which I have not felt for a while, and began to compose a poem in my head about the act of running and being, and how alive and in the moment I felt… I managed to capture it on my return from the run in the woods, and here is the result!

Mindful Spring Run

Twigs twist and crunch underfoot
in this push pull with gravity,
body borrowing oxygen, feet flying,
lungs gulping to the drum of heart
in this world of earth and trees
where sun drifts down to reflect
on a mind as still as winter water.

Legs, lungs, heart say stop, stop,
But mind nods to sun, earth, trees,
this motion, light – this urgent, precious life.

Not ready to cease this hardwon
effortlessness of being.

Not yet.

Promenade Lovers

Had this one in hiding for sometime, thought it was worth an airing…

Promenade Lovers

Tight as whelks that suck on rock,
hands locked like limpets,
they stroll in the wet dark
along the promenade.

Sides touching, flank to flank,
breaths flowing as one breath,
hearts berthing together
as their feet fall into step.

Mingling with the merely single
they sprout one umbrella not two,
a jellyfish cast on the seashore,
exotic – red, white and blue.

In the wet and dark they
twine in togetherness;
tenacious as barnacles they cling,
deep in a snug-as-seashells kiss.

Listen – by Katie G

Seeing as I am busy with lots of things at the moment, I have decided to open up my blog to some very special friends, and will be publishing some of their poems in coming months, as I think they produce some amazing work that deserves whatever little outlet I can offer. I certainly hope to publish some more of my own in due course :)

The first guest poet is Katie G, and her beautiful and stirring poem “Listen”…

Listen

Caught between the shiny glare of the morning sun
And the nip of autumn catching my hair

My steps take me through this familiar place
Countless times paths have been trod

Unseeing I make my way and back again
A perennial pattern unquestioned

Within the folds of myself there is a rustling
Seeming half smiles drop away

Messages echo into my heart and out again
Written words are the key

No shy glances or long hard stares,
No soft scents or brushing body parts

Words, Words, Words
Turn around in my brain

Short clipped texts, pithy rejoinders
Long supple sentences wafting through
250 miles of sharp thin air,

burrowing through my steely edges
into my hard won dangerous depths.

As the leaves shrivel, surrender and fall
to soften the familiar steps,

So you dry out my useless bracken coat
And hold tight to my scratchy skeleton

Unflinching you deliver kindness
Seeing in my words hidden buds.

This Town

Well, I’ve made it to my poetry blog twice in a month! I’ve started writing a novel, and meanwhile, I want to start getting through my backlog of poems, and publishing them here on the blog. I’ve no idea why I would keep them filed away now, the rainy day of a future publishing contract is as far away as ever. So, in the words of Rod McKuen, I’d rather be a poet read, than one who postures for posterity. I might even get round to writing some new poems soon! Watch this space, and please comment if you like a poem or something about it :)

This poem was written many years ago, in between jobs, one dark (in more ways than one) Friday night. I think it’s safe to say it’s one from my window period :)

This Town.

So cold, the moon wears a scarf
Of cloud, bombazeen in mourning,
Quarter of her gone as if by cancer.

The sky drips spiderthreads, not water
As such, just so much as a lover might give
Of tenderness before a quarrel.

Belisha beacons wink, not for traffic
Or children, just the night – met by silence
And a vigil of criss-crossing darkness.

And such silence, the gleams
Of wet light on pavements, the blood
Of a Friday night, in this town.

It…

‘s been a while :)

Yet again I find myself returning to my poetry blog and another year has passed without updating it. It is not that my life stagnates, it is that so much happens! The last year has been a time of constant re-awakenings, and re-negotiations with life itself. I have completed one year of my journey into becoming a person-centred counsellor, only 2 more to go, 3 if I include the Master’s :) Only recently did the idea of bringing my writing into the therapeutic arena emerge, and only recently was I able to to consider this in a pure sense – not, look at me, see how I write, but “I write rather well, how can I use this therapeutically for myself and others”. I have been on a journey. Scrub that. I have just begun a journey. Not that this post is anything to do with that – I wanted to post something, a poem, and dug through the rather sparse output of the last couple of years. Not the most noble of subjects – I was ill, and wanted to write. I had forgotten totally, that I had written this. Hopefully, I will write more, as it looks likely I may be running a therapeutic writing workshop over the summer :)

It

It grows in me,
symbiotic after a fashion,
shall I watch it,
pretend to accept its presence,
its slick motion through the gut,
its reproductive rumblings
as it appropriates my body for its ends?

It’s a life form, that’s all,
bacteria or virus, I evolved from it,
I share its cells even though I grew
to know a pain it can’t imagine
in its simple divisions and multiplications,
ignorant in its blissful simplicity.

It does not strive, it just is, then is not,
without fuss or ceremony or worry.
It has no face to lose, no memory,
it is just cells, a set of building blocks,
passing on its form, its structure.

Shall I watch it, let it use me up,
accept our symbiosis, its invasion?
It will not let me be, I heave again,
slave to its ignorant, ingenious persistence.

Funeral Poems for My Parents

Been a tough couple of years for me, losing my Dad suddenly then seeing cancer take my mum away. As the literary one of the family it fell to me to read at their funerals, and I couldn’t just pull something from a book, so I wrote my own poems. They were in some ways the hardest poems to write, because as well as expressing my own feelings, I wanted people to understand them and be touched by them as well – and not just “poetry” people, but family, etc. For some reason, as I read the last lines of each poem at these funerals space 18 months apart, I turned towards, and directly addressed the coffin. I realised later it was, in essence, because the poems were a form of last goodbye.

I was not really going to publish them on my poetry blog (which has been neglected of late) but I showed one to somebody and they said other people might appreciate them, as there appear to be stock funeral poems that people always use, and these were a little different, so maybe people might be able to use them in some way.

I don’t know if that’s true, but if you do stumble across these little poems, and feel you could use them for a memorial service, feel free to adapt and use them as you wish.

Sailor. For Dad – 1934-2007

You sailed into this world
Seventy-two years ago,
And your life unfurled
Like the sails of ships
On the seas you loved.
As you journeyed we got to know
You for a while as you slipped
Between the islands of our lives
And stayed a while to laugh and love
In the harbour of our hearts.
But now it’s time to sail again,
To say goodbye, to bid farewell.
As you sail from shore a final time
We’ll keep love warm as you journey on
Until the day we sail ourselves.
Father, husband, granddad, friend,
Sail on, you’re free, sail on.

The Laughing Girl. For Mum – 1934-2009

Where did she go, the laughing girl,
The dancing queen with her cheeky smile,
The bonny lass we loved?

Her voice is quiet, her body still,
She fell asleep and will not wake,
I’ll tell you where she went;

She’s gone to find the laughing boy,
Her flame haired sailor and his smile,
They’re happy now but far, so faraway.

And yet we do not lose them,
They leave behind some essence,
In rush of leaves or swell of sea,

Light of moon or warmth of sun,
Each splash of rain, each waking flower,
And always in our minds and hearts.

You’ll always be here inside us -
And in our hearts you’ll
Be forever dancing, in the stars.

Mum loved to dance, but for the last 2 years of her life she couldn’t even walk.

I hope you’re dancing now, Mum.

Last Post

The months, to paraphrase Sylvia Plath, have glided by like ticker tape, and this poetry blog is not the only project of mine to have been neglected what with one thing and another.

I have been writing on and off, and have given the odd public reading, but nothing much – a lot of my time has been taken up with my terminally ill mother and my ailing business – it saw the economic crisis months before anyone else, and has been struggling, but I will find something to pay the mortgage, I’m sure!

This poem is about my father’s sudden death in hospital (in August 2007) – I wrote it this April, and choked up when I took it to a writing group and started reading it. However it is now over a year since it happened, and I feel it is an appropriate time to publish it on my blog.

The references to Last Post and sailing/travel images are references to my Dad’s 13 years in the British Royal Navy (where he became a Chief Petty Officer) and his love of travel. I did write another, simpler poem for his funeral, which I publish in the local paper on his birthday as a memorial – it ends “Sail on, you’re free, sail on.”

Am not sure of the literary merit of the poem, come to think of it, but feel I need to publish it to move on.

Last Post

We went into the room and saw memories cooling already.
Such slipped-awayness in his face, tube protruding
From a mouth newly language-less. How many breaths,
Kindnesses, harsh words, did those lips let go when
Blood still gave them colour?

A brother and sister stand with father
Like the ocean between them, standing on shores
That all his journeyings could not undistance. Like gulls they
Hover over his beached body, whalebone pale and colder with each
Tick of the callous clock.

Eye to eye for just this moment,
Last stir of embers in his flaming hair,
We stand as grief knits memory in our minds.
No last handshake but a kiss and then we leave his last post
And close the door on all he was.

A brother and sister drift away
And leave behind this man who gave
The gift of loving, suffering life.
Together and alone, tears and memories
Flow behind as we leave him in the wake
Of all the journeys she, and I, must take.

Poetry Evening at Cafe Muse, Manchester, June 12th 2008

Wow, no post for a couple of months, the 2 in one day! Something must be happening!

Well, in fact a friend of mine called Aryamati (she is an ordained Buddhist!), is on a committee at the Museum, and had been asked to organise an arts event, so came up with the idea of a poetry session at the Museum Cafe, Cafe Muse on Oxford Road, Manchester.

cafe muse manchester oxford road

I have not ventured out to live poetry readings/events for some time now, for a variety of reasons, but when I was invited to read some poems at this session, I was more than happy to support it – not only by reading my poems, but also by taking some pics and doing a kind of mini review here on my poetry blog, which I thought would make a nice change from just posting my own poems!

Apologies to begin with, that I did not write down any names as I was taking the photos – so if you appear, why not comment to say who you are!! Also, although I read my poems, being the one with the camera, I do not have any photos of myself! Maybe next time!

Anyway, after Aryamati’s intro, and my set, this serious looking orator drove the nearby chap in the audience to drink!

poetry performance in manchester

The poets soon got into their stride and kept the audience on the edge of their seats with word wizardry:

live poetry manchester

Members of a poetry group read from their works:

cafe muse run by couture, live poetry event

This poet made himself – and the audience – smile!

poets reading in manchester cafe

This veteran of many performances at the Town Hall, gave another fine display of woven words!

cafe muse poetry event June 12th 2008

All in all this was a very pleasant evening of poetry and conversation which will hopefully be repeated soon. Thanks to all involved – and if you have any more to add – please leave a comment :)

Beginnings and Endings

Haven’t posted for a while – have been busy with this thing called “life” – it is incredible how the months rush by. Anyway, I am not going to say much today. Am due to give a reading at Cafe Muse at the Manchester Museum this evening, was sorting through some poems for it, and found a recent(ish) one. It has Buddhist leanings, I guess, but is also a reflection of things that have been beginning and ending in my own life of late. The title I use for want of a better one – it may certainly change or evolve in future!

Beginnings and Endings

Beginnings can be kind: A first drop of rain,
Tip of the sun rising at morning,
First green shoot that signals spring.
Awakenings of all kinds, these beginnings,
Like a newborn’s joyful snatch at breath.

Endings can also be kind: A lull in the rain,
Sunset drawing day to a close,
The scatter-art of autumn leaves.
Sleepings of all kinds, these endings,
Like a man’s last troubled snatch at breath.

We make so much of our beginnings and endings,
Clinging to wakefulness, dreading our sleeping,
Blind to the beauty of cycles as
Rain gives way to sunshine, day to night,
Spring to autumn, our first breath to our last.

Our ending too can be kind, it is not so hard,
Without endings there can be no beginnings.

Tides

I was struggling for something to post today, as recent times have not been times of any substantial creative output. So I had a dig through some older poems, and thought most of them might need some reworking before posting here!

In any case, I found this one from the mid 1990′s. It’s a love poem of sorts – but a realistic one I feel, containing the nerves and uncertainties that can prelude a relationship – is it the right person, should I take the plunge, what if it all goes wrong? If I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that nothing’s permanent – including relationships and feelings within them. Maybe the only “constants” are uncertainty and impermanence – but if that’s the nature of things, then it’s perhaps a natural thing, in balance with the weather, the seasons, the tides….

Tides

Almost close enough, your voice,
Like the stretch of sea that touches shore
To dwindle and fade to perspective.

Gulls would know in their squawking ignorance
That tide always returns to sand -
To roar and soak and take residence;

Why do I stand here, a wise man with net in hand,
Doubting the inevitable cycle of waters,
Doubting nature – if only because I must be a man,

Unaware of my hand in front of my eyes,
Unsure of the imprint you make in my mind when
Rockpool creatures in their dark would know it?

Then your voice like a bottled message
Rescues me from silence, hits shore, tells me
That tides, low or high, are planned, are perfect.

Downpour

I’ve been noticing that now this poetry blog of mine has been around for a while, it appears to be established a little in the search engines, and is getting a fair number of daily visitors. This is all I ever wanted – I struggled for about ten years sending off poems, only to (apart from the 2% of acceptances) get rude rejection slips or hints to the effect my poetry wasn’t up to any kind of standard. So I struggled, and even with the acceptances, I would probably have managed a readership in the ten’s, rather than hundreds… Now I’m into the hundreds daily, so that’s pretty edifying – I just hope most of you stick around to read the poems when you get here ;-) In any case, to receive a comment like I did the other day, appreciating the words, and indeed offering a kind of artistic exchange, was a pretty amazing thing to happen, as I think my poems speak for every man and woman – it’s all about communication and expression, so I hope people appreciate the work.

Anyway, realised I’ve been neglecting the blog lately (circumstances are hard, but that’s no excuse) – so even while I may be going through a dry period writing-wise, I do have many poems that I feel deserve to be read. So here goes with a poem from a period that was very creative for me, back in the late 90′s/early 2000′s! The weather had been very hot, and I had been drinking a good deal – when suddenly the weather broke, thunder began to rumble, and the heavens opened, and I couldn’t resist just going out in the yard to let the water flow down and experience it fully – after which I wrote Downpour.

Downpour

Furnace of rain
On roof, hoofbeats
At window, tongue
Of storm drooling:
Just glass and brick
To keep me from the thrum
Of automatic gunfire.

It is this white chaos,
Tracer of rain in night,
Makes me stand outside
And taste the flak
Of clouds, dumdum
Bullets smacking
At the heart of land.

It will not stop.
It will not stop like
My hand that spars
With words in the flurry
Of the pen and page.
It will not stop;
But my flashing hand
Assigns a state of pause:
There, words like rain
Going out to sea,
Falling away like a lover,
Bequeathing a dry silence.

Timeline

As timelines go, the last few months have been pretty shocking for me. In August my father died suddenly and unexpectedly, and a month later my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and has since been stuck in hospital, as well as having poor mobility to start with. No wonder then that I have neglected my poetry site, and indeed the only poem I have written was the one I read at my Dad’s funeral, which I may or may not post here in future, as it was largely a personal piece. There have been emotions aplenty, but little tranquility in which to allow those emotions to distill into thoughtful and considered language. It comes to us all, and we know it, but when sad events strike they still come nonetheless as a shock to the system.

In any case, I thought it was time to post a poem, and in some ways it is quite appropriate that I should “dig out” one I was toying with this spring, while out walking. I had originally envisaged it as part of a larger piece, and am not even sure if it is finished (like most of my poems!) – but I think it deserves a place here, being as it is a warning, I think, that now is all we can be sure of, and to savour the now, for living for the past or the future can be a dangerous habit when we never know where we might meet our end on the timeline…

Timeline

Shatter of stumps on the green, thwock of a golf ball,
A girl playful in her own solitary world, a coated horse,
Fields thick with insects, fading doppler of a plane, all
Stir my awareness of this moment in the timeline.

It is our moment, from breath to breath and smile to smile
And kiss to kiss, drinking deep of melting time
As seconds pass and those unaware
Are marked by knowing strangers.

Footsteps carry my senses through conundrums
Of thought as I observe each moment in the timeline
We share, each humming conversation and explosion
And the drone of flies, of cars, of fleeting sights

As swans dip and geese parade. What human
Thoughts are left in the dark as sleep comes to all
Except for the still watcher counting the precious
Moments, knowing that now, this moment

Is the only forever we can know.

Couple in Betws-y-Coed

Regular readers of the Poetry of Rob Radcliffe will be aware of my fondness for Wales – and recently I have been exploring again, this time managing to scale Snowdon (well, at least on the train as far as Clogwyn!), find Dolbadarn Castle in Llanberis, and also spend two days in Betws-y-Coed in North Wales. The second day was a damp squib where I ended up trying to find Swallow Falls with a bag full of expensive camera equipment, and instead ended up walking through a constant waterfall of rain! However the Thursday spent there was a lovely day, and I managed a great walk into the middle of nowhere with plenty of sheep! Upon my return to the village, it was an idyllic midsummer’s evening with birdsong, and that was where I discovered the Pont-y-Pair, or bridge of the cauldron, and the foaming, rushing water of the river Llugwy that passes beneath it. As I walked across the bridge – well, this poem gives a snapshot of the experience, which as well as being about “romantic” love, also encompasses the Buddhist ideas of mudita (sympathetic joy, rejoicing in the happiness of others) and metta (goodwill to others).

Couple in Betws-y-Coed

Where Llugwy churns under Pont-y-Pair
And the river’s cauldron bubbles through this
Prayer house in the woods, as I crossed the bridge
A kissing couple stopped me in my tracks
And asked if I would photograph the two of them.
So I framed their love in the viewfinder
And froze a moment of them cuddled on the stone,
Waterfall boiling like laughter and love behind them.
I walked on, and turned to see them staring
Eye to eye with hands held tight.
Where Llugwy churns under Pont-y-Pair
We waved – I shared their joy – I wish them well.

river LLugy in betws-y-coed, pont-y-pair wales

The Strangers

I have some poems up my sleeve, for now here is one about finding one lonely person amid a crowd of strangers – and how simply listening to them, acknowledging them, made them open up with their pain, their issues – and how a sense of connectedness arose despite wildy differing circumstances from my own.

The Strangers

The strangers passed her one by one
as she asked for directions
and I stopped to stare at my own tears
in her booze bleared eyes as she explained:
“just the one drink after work,
Just this one last drink”.

In a minute her lifestory unfolded -
married, with a son, a full time job
and the alcohol, the alcohol,
the hurt, the suffering it caused her
“But it hits the spot” she said,
blinking my strangerness away.

She left for her one last drink,
went to undo the demons for an hour
as i walked into sunshine and strangers,
eyes sparkling with suffering,
and no distance left between our breath
or our beating hearts, no distance at all.

Cosmic Love Poem

Well, I’ve been busy lately bustling about, doing lots of new things, and the writing seems to have taken a backseat. Either that or the words won’t come in the right place at the right time, and even then rarely in the right order. Still, I’m experiencing lots of stuff so I suppose those words are gestating and will come when they’re good and ready.

I did write this last month, it’s based on my curiosity about life elsewhere in the universe (and there must be, seems like an awful waste of space otherwise :) ) I’m also intrigued by the fact that we all came from this single point in space and time, so cannot really be all that separate – and even the other side of the universe was once right here. We often think of ourselves as separate from the rest of space time, but I feel we’re actually an integral part of it as the system seeks to achieve higher and higher levels of consciousness. There are particles which share properties, and even if they were a million light years apart, one particle will affect the other instantly, defying the laws of physics. Who knows, maybe one day that mechanism will be used to send a message in a bottle. I hope we hear back – and soon :) Anyway, enough of scientific wafflings :) I’m not even sure if this poem is finished – ah well, one day I can revise it…

Cosmic love poem

These words are formed of stardust,
Sift the atoms you will find the signature
Of a shattered star, some cobweb in the sky
We sprang from, faint yet still revolving.

Night’s planetarium opens its illusion show,
Planes and satellites glide through networks
Of stars, galaxies dwarfed by distance
Nestle on the ends of branches.

Why were we cast so far from anything
That a message in a bottle at the speed of light
Would never reach its cosmic shore
In the lifetime of the sender’s species?

The sky is silent while machines click and beep
To track the static and the footprints
Of our making that our eyes can’t see
As we trace the fragments of the cosmos.

So many stars, there must be others looking
Back, maybe there are others who know
Of love or who have come to this conclusion:
Love is the universe as it seeks to know itself.

Metaphor

Things have been, and continue to be busy lately and it’s been a fallow time for my writing, but I have written some, and spring is often a productive time for me. I will post this brief poem for now, it is quite self-explanatory and rather simple, kind of an epilogue of Zen Love Poem…

Metaphor

The fire burns and I paint snowflakes
Into the picture for her, white flames
In her twists of hair, smouldering in auburn.
Something wrong with the canvas or brush
Or my artistry leaves her eyes empty
And her skin stroked cold. I finish
With something Rubenesque, yet Dali-ish,
Staring at a palimpsest of all she never was,
And all the things we might have been.

West Beach Sunset

A short poem to kick off my 2007 poetry postings – a little late, as January is almost over! How the time does fly! Anyway, this short poem was inspired on my last trip to Llandudno (and I am hoping for brighter nights and slightly better weather so I can start my journeyings again soon). The poem is about a sunset I saw on the West shore – was quite spectacular and beautiful, and I watched the cars lined up as people sat there watching the sunset – and although I will never know them in person, I felt a remarkable bond with the people and all the other sentient creatures sprawled across that beach. I got the line “star stuff” from Carl Sagan, who inspired me when I was a kid to be interested in the Cosmos through his TV series, and now I recall, the first episode of that series was actually called “The shores of the cosmic ocean”. It’s very easy to forget that we live in a vast universe, and that the atoms we’re made of were actually forged in the early supernovae of ancient galaxies :)

west beach llandudno sunset poetry

West Beach Sunset

Lava from a distant eruption of sunset,
Light flows along flats of burning water
To my wandering feet. These elements
Have been, and are, and will be my being
As I take my form with these curious others
On this beach where we sprang from star stuff.

Gulls scratch cuneiform meanings on a coin
Of sun as it drops to let darkness
Cool and solidify among rocks.
Then gone, its photons linger until
Galaxies spiral like seashells
And we, their offspring, burn and are bright.

Zen Love Poem

Sometimes I wonder whether some of my poems are too personal, too full of recent turmoil to post – maybe I should keep them for another day, another month, another year?

I have not made a post for a while, things have been happening. It’s funny you can meet someone and you just have this feeling that something is going to happen, something at least that transcends the ordinary for a while and makes life strange. I met someone recently who turned me inside out, and woke up a lot of things in me that I had kept sleeping quietly. I wrote Zen Love Poem (although didn’t title it until later) about this person just after the second time I met her, because I felt a story was unfolding, the old story of two people getting to know each other and all that entails, the pitfalls of conversation, the disguises we wear, the mistakes we make, the gamble we take when we choose to let another person into our lives, the way the past casts its shadows on the present, the beginnings of affection and the acknowledgement of the unfolding stories of each other. Of course the story ended, all stories end, I knew it would end somehow, it is the nature of things. Thank heavens I am getting good at the Buddhist idea of letting go – and so, in releasing this series of loose haiku, I let her go…

Zen Love Poem

For Michelle

Twists in your hair, the swell of your smile,
Side-stepping reflection I puzzle over
In the half dark between us.

What is this disguise you have brought,
That you play in fancy dress
To my stumbling harlequin?

Quickly we play the game, bend rules.
To and fro we pass the dice
Of questions and half-answers.

You are not your form, nor I mine,
We shift from posture to posture,
Struggling with the act of being.

Mantras in our repitition, the habit
Of saying the the same thing over
Until there is something to say.

The breath you hold in parenthesis,
Inserting your surprise, suddenly
Remembering so many beginnings.

Let go of the past; remember that
Forgetting is sometimes
The first step on the path of truth.

Open your mind, take my hand,
Palm to palm a little of each other,
It begins and ends with hands.

This private story I tell in public
With the breath of loving kindness.
Tell me your story.