Bruisyard Church, Suffolk

 

An inexplicably tapered tower, its flintwork
Saxon, probably. Bashed and bodged to suit historians:
fourteenth century tracery, bricked-up Norman door.

A fading January afternoon: leaflets, postcards
cobble points of interest, fascinate
the casual visitor. Pictures darken into walls.

A thousand years of small songs, smaller prayers.
Leaning gravestones, muddy river. Below our feet
rich Clarences keep Poor Clares in their place.

 

This poem first appeared in Clear Poetry

Your words

I dropped them for sparrows, let them squabble
over their husks, peck them from gravel.

I let the sun bleach them bonewhite,
desiccate their flesh, shrivel roots.

I turned away while brambles razorwired,
shredded and choked their promise, snared.

I’ll make good with a swinging adze, my spade,
this scythe. Next time, I’ll give you ground.

 

• This poem first appeared in Raum #3

Bartolomé de las Casas retires to Spain

I will go mad from gold. Under this metal sun
every Spaniard is a Midas, loving it.

After we burned the villages they made me
administer last rites. Now my guts riot

at every prayer. But prayer is all that’s left,
a royal warrant to guard the conscience

of conquistadors. As if I, huddled with rosaries,
could muffle muskets. I told the king it had to stop.

They spat at me, called me the loony priest,
said heat had curdled me. Look at the gold,

they said, God is with us. See how our ships
defend the faith. This troublemaker

with his bleeding heart, church privilege,
state pension, holy after the event,

what does he know of business? If he wants
to be a saint, lock him in a monastery.

Sometimes truth flaps like a trapped pigeon.
I break my wings against the glass.

 

This poem first appeared in Ground, April 2016

To Brendan

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I strain to hold what moved you in the tide’s turn,
some shifting of shingle, a weft of kelp, fire
on the horizon.

You sailed between walls of ice, caught the flow
of volcanoes. Green below, mists, elisions
of nimbus and starlight.

Hurled to the gales, the chants that chimed
your hours eddied, drowned, resurfaced:
burst to the beat of the bodhran.

In streets of brick, would you still teach
the touch of current, stability of rolling, curve
and drift of destination?

Wedged between right angles, I stretch
for that unfathomable drive, the migration
of the grey goose.

On solid ground
I am unspent,
unsalted.

 

This poem was also published in the online poetry magazine Ground.