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    • Equivalence
      It was recently discovered, by accident, that I may have had for some time a low grade cancer, which is now scheduled to be treated with chemotherapy.  As I have minimal symptoms it was agreed that my wife and I could still enjoy our river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest.  This poem is a postcard […]
    • As The Light Changes
      The East Anglian Daily Times ran an article entitled ’22 beautiful poems about East Anglia’ in their Saturday magazine insert on March 18th this year. I was very pleased to see this poem of mine on the same page as poems by Sir Walter Raleigh and George Szirtes. TO HEAR THIS POEM PLEASE CLICK ON […]
    • The Last Word
      By way of a change, here is a short piece of prose: In a writers’ group this morning we were challenged to write a short story in 150 words.  The story below contains exactly that number.   The light was starting to fade, and breaking soft waves seemed even quieter.  He stopped collecting pebbles and […]
    • Moving Hands
      How many things that  seemed eternal early in life, have completely vanished?                         TO HEAR THIS POEM PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW ABOVE   Sometime in the nineteen-fifties it perched on the hundred-foot workshop,  where Waitrose’s  entrance is now. It would pace the working lives of hundreds. […]
    • You know you are worth it
      I wrote this poem in mid November this year, then my e-mail inbox started to fill with ‘Pre-Black Friday’ offers, then ‘Black Friday’ offers, followed later by ‘Post Black Friday’ offers, and now I am seeing ‘Black Friday repeat offers’!  Reality has overtaken imagination.   TO HEAR THIS POEM PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW BUTTON ABOVE […]
    • Poems for a portrait
      I agreed to sit as the model again this morning for an art group producing portraits.  We had a cultural exchange as at the end of the two sessions as I recited the Haikus composed in my head during the forty minutes of the sitting.  I then exchanged a book of my poetry for the […]
    • Last Orders
      This poem won a ‘Commended’ award in the recent 2016 George Crabbe Poetry Competition.  The competition judge, Moniza Alvi, wrote of ‘Last Orders’ “Tragic and hard hitting, I found this poignant poem compelling.”  ” This is a poem with a real sense of urgency”. PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW BUTTON ABOVE TO HEAR THIS POEM […]
    • Irony
      During a few days in Liverpool we visited Crosby Beach, to see the Antony Gormley sculptures arranged as  ‘Another Place’.  Two friends had been examining the work, and turned to walk off the beach.  I took the photograph below, and the poem was written after I examined the image, using an  element of artistic license. ‘Communing’ […]
    • Illuminating Longing
      Here is a shared experience from the night of the full ‘Strawberry  Moon’ on June 20th.  A warm evening after a wet morning promised the sight of Nightjars hunting, and the moon was a bonus, PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW BUTTON ABOVE TO HEAR THIS POEM   The mist quilt  slips across the sodden heath […]
    • Soon the Longing can begin
      Two days after the referendum, and still dazed by the result. PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW BUTTON ABOVE TO HEAR THIS POEM   Soon the longing can begin, but the awareness of our loss will take longer for all to own. Already the Young feel despair for they were closer to hope than the wrinkled, […]

Equivalence

It was recently discovered, by accident, that I may have had for some time a low grade cancer, which is now scheduled to be treated with chemotherapy.  As I have minimal symptoms it was agreed that my wife and I could still enjoy our river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest.  This poem is a postcard from Bamberg, part way on that trip last month.

PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW ABOVE TO HEAR THIS POEM

The Old Town Hall (Rathaus) Bamberg

 

Here in Bamberg we are buying history

grateful that no symptoms show

the guides are lancing our ears with dates

the biopsy scab no longer itches.

 

We have come to look back in time

ignore the irony of mortality.

The Old Town Hall from 1386

me from 1944.

 

The Rathaus splits the surging  Regnitz river

I feel nothing of my rogue dividing cells

six hundred and thirty one years of division

my abnormality’s age unknown.

 

A light tap on my leg,  a flying jewel –

Cockchafer! I move it to my hand

where its stays for several minutes

a significant part of its existence.

 

Larvae of Cetonia aeruginosa live in wood-mould

high in the crowns of ancient oak trees

metamorphosing in May to its final grandeur

bringing me a gift, the sense of equivalence.

 

 

As The Light Changes

The East Anglian Daily Times ran an article entitled ’22 beautiful poems about East Anglia’ in their Saturday magazine insert on March 18th this year.

I was very pleased to see this poem of mine on the same page as poems by Sir Walter Raleigh and George Szirtes.

TO HEAR THIS POEM PLEASE CLICK ON THE START ABOVE.

 

Spring’s subtle mechanisms unwind dormancy

tipping earth’s spin towards our  blazing star

shortening division between long night and light.

Magnetic North guides migrants from the South,

 feathers aligned to the field’s guiding force,

numberless nomads, riding favoured winds

 urgently carrying their awaited gift of song,

as Robins re-tune winter belling into ballad.

 

Stark Blackthorn blooms in earthbound clouds,

 Primroses light the gloominess of ditches

drawing bumble bees from solemn hibernation.

Not to be outdone bracken  flexes green croziers,

 whilst coconut scent of Gorse jokes of the tropics

and tattered Peacock Butterflies briefly are exotic.

Revived life is boisterous;   survival is selfish:

Wood Anemones retreat from advancing Bluebells

aggressive Alexanders dominate the field’s edge

creeping Comfrey overwhelms small shy Violets,

when warming quickens the slowest will submerge.

 

Frantic actions seek to sate  primed genetic urges;

Drakes gang rape Ducks around the village pond,

polygamists  Dunnocks  gather on the ground,

 buck Hares rear to box and Snipe dive to drum.

Above forest tracks roding Woodcock  weave and croak.

Frogs writhe, legs thrust, a frenzied  annual  tango .

Then Nightingales arrive, the thicket heart’s soloists,

whilst Silver Birch resurrect with fast flowing sap.

Leaves stretch for Sun, but  the  Oaks  seem  to sulk

as if the Spring’s warmth deliberately annoys  them.

Like the Oak I am locked in my own slow Autumn,

 a  long  life,  multi-ringed by  seasons of maturing,

 time envious of beginnings stirring all around me.

 

 

 

The Last Word

By way of a change, here is a short piece of prose:

In a writers’ group this morning we were challenged to write a short story in 150 words.  The story below contains exactly that number.

The beach at dusk, photo by me.

 

The light was starting to fade, and breaking soft waves seemed even quieter.  He stopped collecting pebbles and watched everything beginning to merge, the best time of the day, when eternity was almost a presence, and we were reminded of our brevity.

He was at ease now with time, he had enjoyed its accelerating experience, seemingly ever faster with each decade, but now parts of his body were in denial of their function and the ride was very rough, even on the bystanders.

Enough stones, the E was finished, and the full stop was his wallet.

The wavelets whispered over his shoes, he paused and smiled, thinking, ‘Roger would have called this susurration’, then continued his slow walk. The cold touch at his groin ironically reminded him of the warmth of his long marriage, and strengthened his resolve.

They found his wallet, and the pebbles, spelling out his last word.

Moving Hands

How many things that  seemed eternal early in life, have completely vanished?  

clock-large

The old Boby clock in its new place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TO HEAR THIS POEM PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW ABOVE

 

Sometime in the nineteen-fifties

it perched on the hundred-foot workshop,

 where Waitrose’s  entrance is now.

It would pace the working lives of hundreds.

First as boys, learning to master metal or wood,

then as craftsmen, badged by two-foot folding rules

hung from their boiler suit’s  leg-pocket.

 

Eager eyes had watched those hands move

to signal work’s end and start the stampede.

Earnings lost by a slow morning’s start

signalled by that cruel red hand, 

already primly past the hour.

Robert Boby’s respected works

crouched in the centre of Bury St Edmunds,

 its beating heart that Ferranti clock.

It ticked through the fifties as  slick machines

were made for cleaning all sorts of seeds,

 hands circled ceaselessly during the sixties,

pacing  the build of equipment for malting,

mechanical handling and heavy engineering.

 

A sudden seizure in seventy-one!

The plug was pulled, the hands stopped,

two hundred and seventy lost their places.

The dial’s hands registered dormancy.

. 

As the site was levelled in seventy-eight

I paid a fiver for that redundant clock.

it hangs outside, on our Annex wall.

As I write, I watch the red  hand race,

sweeping away my limited time.

 

Boby's works in the 1950's

Boby’s works just before closure

bobys1953

Boby’s works in the 1950’s above. Both images from St Edmundsbury website ‘Chronicle 2000’

 

You know you are worth it

I wrote this poem in mid November this year, then my e-mail inbox started to fill with ‘Pre-Black Friday’ offers, then ‘Black Friday’ offers,

followed later by ‘Post Black Friday’ offers, and now I am seeing ‘Black Friday repeat offers’!  Reality has overtaken imagination.

 

smoking

TO HEAR THIS POEM PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW BUTTON ABOVE

 

Due to the delirium of Brexit and Triumph of Trump

it has been decided — by neo-liberal decree,

to extend the ecstatic  frenzy of ‘Black Friday’

to the nihilistic nirvana  of ‘Black December’.

But ‘Black’ will  now re-energise as ‘Smoking’

as in HOT and GUN,

to target the receptive participants.

 

So ‘Smoking December’ is about to engulf you,

those of you able to fan the flames of credit.

Don’t delay, Christmas started in October,

 in America already the Klan are singing,

listen, can’t you hear  them keening —

“I’m dreaming of a White Supremacy”.

 

Whilst here at home, the gift of choice

is Empire Cake, to eat and have forever.

Take the new approach to Christmas  lunch

make no plans , somewhere, someone will feed us.

Don’t forget to lie about the value of your gifts

who will miss truth in an avalanche of lies.

 

Ignore anyone who chokes on the smoke

only the healthy can enjoy commercial luxury

This is YOUR time, you have its measure.

Thrust  aside all seasonal supplicants

and don’t let poverty cool your ardour —

pleasure yourself  — in ‘Smoking December’

 

Poems for a portrait

I agreed to sit as the model again this morning for an art group producing portraits.  We had a cultural exchange as at the end of the two sessions as I recited the Haikus composed in my head during the forty minutes of the sitting.  I then exchanged a book of my poetry for the excellent sketch of me shown below, by Wil Harvey.      Barter in the art world!

Sketch by Will Harvey

Sketch by Wil Harvey

 

 

1st Haiku

Can that intense gaze

engage your eager fingers

with the sitter’s soul.

 

 

2nd Haiku

Nine-tenths is looking

then a decisive bold stroke

reproduces life.

Last Orders

This poem won a ‘Commended’ award in the recent 2016 George Crabbe Poetry Competition.  The competition judge, Moniza Alvi, wrote of ‘Last Orders’ “Tragic and hard hitting, I found this poignant poem compelling.”  ” This is a poem with a real sense of urgency”.

beer-pumpbeer-pumpbeer-pump

PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW BUTTON ABOVE TO HEAR THIS POEM

 

 

Every night at seven, he shed the family skin

took off the shirt he had worn one day

washed at the kitchen sink in his vest,

the clean shirt ironed and waiting.

Not once or twice a week, but every night

he took his pristine presence to the pub

to buy and sell, or swell to sycophants,

his fat wallet earning him  a throne.

 

He never knew his family’s evening life

wife and children watched his every exit,

 the woman waited his return, alone.

He was never the worse for drink, nor better.

Sometimes he cooked a lonely midnight meal,

a selfish extension to solitary pleasures,

a skill he rarely used when the sun was up,

always curt on the creed of  ‘wife’s duties’.

 

I map my childhood by the pubs he used:

first the Shepherd and Dog in Sicklesmere Road

where he left me one night in the car for hours.

The Rutland Arms, The Rushbrooke Arms,

The Coach and Horses, where he charged me

the cost of his petrol to drive my friend home.

 ‘The Moody’ at Hawstead, where I cycled

and was told never to seek him there again.

 

That was his last order, I took him at his word.

Memories are names of public houses.

 

Irony

During a few days in Liverpool we visited Crosby Beach, to see the Antony Gormley sculptures arranged as  ‘Another Place’.  Two friends had been examining the work, and turned to walk off the beach.  I took the photograph below, and the poem was written after I examined the image, using an  element of artistic license.

Communing

‘Communing’ –  photo by Ivor Murrell

 

PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW BUTTON ABOVE TO HEAR THIS POEM.

 

Ankled in a  pool  on Crosby  sands

the rough cast, sea scoured, figure

horizon gazes longingly

for all who left  or are arriving.

 

Secured around the wrist — a lock

a late addition of a lover’s token

keyless  plea for a permanence

as endless as the iron stare.

 

Two mould cast pour points

be-medal  the artist’s  chest

whilst genitals  rest at ease

buttocks mark eternal tension

 

Oblivious to this crafted longing

two men pass, heads down,

muffled, deep in  conversation

concentrating on every step.

 

'Another Place' photo by Jean Murrell

‘Another Place’ –  photo by Jean Murrell     CLICK ON THIS IMAGE  TO ENLARGE IT

 

Illuminating Longing

Here is a shared experience from the night of the full ‘Strawberry  Moon’ on June 20th.  A warm evening after a wet morning promised the sight of Nightjars hunting, and the moon was a bonus,

Full moon rising over the heath. My photo.

Full moon rising over the heath. My photo.

PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW BUTTON ABOVE TO HEAR THIS POEM

 

The mist quilt  slips across the sodden heath

thickening at waist height in the cooling air.

Crepuscular  flyers land, unseen, then chirr.

Released from trees, the pink  rimmed moon

escapes the honeysuckle’s sweet embrace

as the longest day softly turns  its face.

 

Glistening  black slugs  feast safely on the grass

gaping Nightjar mouths only hunt emerging moths

incessantly and urgently, like seekers after truth.

We stand, elated statues, in their noiseless swirl.

Mystery is the sound of wing flap and chirring

Mood is the touch of the soft Moon’s lighting.

 

Reverie is shattered by unexpected harshness

Muntjac’s  distant barking shatters our cloister,

cuts through moving wisps draping drab heather

challenging our presence in the looming  darkness.

We leave towards the Moon as chirring diminishes,

a strange sense of longing gradually eases.

 

On Dunwich Beach  yearning returned.

Selene beamed down on layered shining clouds

lighting a pathway on the sea’s rippling road

right to our feet at the whispering surf’s  edge.

Transfixed by a  longing to walk  that invitation

but blocked at the border of  endless susurration.

 

Moonlight on water can illuminate our longings

intangible reflections  with no connection to meaning.

 

Full moon over the sea, June 20th. My photo

Full moon over the sea, June 20th. My photo

 

 

Soon the Longing can begin

Two days after the referendum, and still dazed by the result.

Ballot

PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW BUTTON ABOVE TO HEAR THIS POEM

 

Soon the longing can begin,

but the awareness of our loss

will take longer for all to own.

Already the Young feel despair

for they were closer to hope

than the wrinkled, palsied hands

that signed away their future.

‘Another vote’ some already shout,

we only meant it as a protest.

Read the full post »

Deleting Footnotes

This poem recently was selected by Helen Ivory for appearance in the poetry webzine  ‘Ink, Sweat and Tears‘, it also appeared the the Suffolk Poetry Society’s magazine ‘Twelve Rivers’.

keys

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You can never prepare for this task.

It demands no passion in the wrecking,

just obliterating  all signals of existence

throughout your dead parents house.

  Read the full post »

Entrance

helmet

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He glides the Hog to the sidewalk,

blips the throttle then kills the big twin cam

but not cleanly, the rig shakes twice with pre-ignition.

Shit!  –  He hates when that happens, it spoils an entrance.

  Read the full post »

In its defence

I was asked today to write about a hat!

mantis

Please click on the arrow button above to hear this poem

 

The good thing is that it travels well.

It has little style

only patterned stitch work

marks its drab coarse surface.

Khaki cover for a nascent bald patch,

a guard against the mid-day sun.

Refuge and launch pad

for a Kalahari praying mantis,

shade for massive  locusts in Panama,

then offering minimal protection

in a Venezuelan downpour,

                               — but it travels well

                                                 and has been so far

that it always makes the case.

cricket-in-Venezuela

locusts

Voices in the Reeds

The Blythburgh Estuary, such a wonderfully calm landscape, or is it?

reeds   estuary-walk-2

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The Blyth snakes down to the brine

soothing our senses as it idly curls

grazing  past  tall murmuring reeds,

stirred to voice by a gentle breeze.

 

We mishear that chafing whisper,

since Sixteen forty it has moaned

the cursed name of Sir Robert Brooke

                   –  for this is  Bloody Marsh.

  Read the full post »

Spot the Hat

This poem started in a session of poets writing together, with Michael Laskey and Dean Parkin. Dean produced a ‘Spot the Ball’ page from an old newspaper, and we all enjoyed marking our X.    We all missed!

 

trilby

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Do you remember ‘Spot the Ball’?

Put your cross on the  photo,

 if it marks the hidden football

you win a prize.  I never won.

I am still looking for the hidden.

  Read the full post »

A Sieve with no Mesh

What madness is this, in old age — trying to rationalise your relationships as a child?

Meshless Sieves

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Skimmed  thoughts rise from lost time,

flotsam — teasing incompleteness,

fragments of fractured memories

jigsaw pieces with no mapping image,

random glimpses I sift for my father.

Read the full post »

Black Friday

Who considers this American import matches the idea of ‘Seasonal Goodwill’?

black

 

Black Friday,

the official day

to be suitably

depressed

by buyers and sellers

greed.

Not to be confused

with The Black Death,

but similar in effect.

 

 

 

 

A Young Ornithologist’s Primer

This poem was written after my wife Jean said that she would write a children’s book called ‘That Bastard Bird’

 

Percy on the terrace

Percy on the terrace

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See the big bird.

The big bird’s name is Percy.

Percy has big feet.

Percy’s big feet scratch in the garden.

See Percy’s big beak.

Percy’s big beak pecks  in the garden.

Jean’s plants grow in the garden.

Percy eats Jean’s plants.

See Percy’s big pooh!

Jean steps in Percy’s pooh.

See Jean is angry.

Hear Jean say ‘That Bastard Peacock!’

Simple Joy (for Jacqui Jones interactive artwork at The Undercroft)

This poem is itself an interactive response.  Jacqui liked the reference to ‘simple joy’ in my poem Migration Counterpoint and decided that concept would be the subject matter of the interactive installation she was to display in The Undercroft in Norwich, for the 2015 Norwich Fringe Festival.  When she told me that I wrote and sent her this poem, which she then included in her work.

 The image, taken by my son of his son, illustrates perfectly the last line.

 

image by Rupert Murrell

Photo by Rupert Murrell

 

 

Events we cannot touch enrich our lives:

The smell of Philadelphus after rain

Curlews’ cry  in the estuary’s mouth

a wisp of wood smoke after snowfall

rippled light  on wind-blown water

laughter within a lover’s eyes

and a child’s sense of wonder.

 

Cycles of the Light

aldeburgh readers

SPS Poets who read that day

National Poetry day’s theme this year was Light, and Suffolk Poetry Society invited me to join some of the other members to read poetry and celebrate the day in Aldeburgh.  We took turns to read on the circular staircase of The South Lookout on Aldeburgh beach in perfect weather, warm sun with the light shining off the sea.  I ‘restructured’ two of my poems to be fully compliant to the day’s theme, and this one, Cycles of the Light,  emerged from the recent poem Migrant Counterpoint.

Colin Whyles, for Suffolk Poetry Society, recorded this event, and his video of me reading this poem is shown below.

 

 

Sunlight draws the crozier of each fern’s new uncurling,

a poised flexing these aching aging joints can only envy.

Do birds sense time’s passage migrating above deserts,

guided in  the featureless by  North’s magnetic presence?

 

 I try to cram each day with tasks, irrelevant peripherals,

stretching time that’s left, checking for signs of senescence.

The swoop shriek of returning swifts, like circling kids on bikes,

teases me that simple joy is now in very short supply.

 

In my autumn I seek assurance in cyclic tokens of the spring:

blackthorn’s first white blossom, siskins’ restless gathering

as the Northern dark shortens, drawing Southern migrants.

These endless cycles  ease the  fear of my light’s dimming .