Not as old as the hills

This is a poem for an unwanted birthday. I have more than I know what to do with.

 

Not as old as the hills

but old enough to know better,

old enough to do most things,

old enough not to care,

about hair, how it looks today

or ever.

 

When you are old and grey

then so will I be too,

and nodding by the fire

could be hazardous.

This old dog

will still be learning new tricks—

fire fighting may be one.

Oh, Mathusalem,

where is your handbook?

With death’s sting?

 

These woods are very old,

and the stones;

even the grass

has old roots.

 

Water wrinkles

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River water is wrinkled, the skin of an old man, a new baby, like the skin that takes us by surprise and we say, is that really mine, remembering suddenly the peach-smoothness never noticed of years before. Surfaces crack, sun-baked mud in the fields, the rippling traces of a fallen stone pushing to the bank, my face, yours, with lines and folds that never were there before. I run my finger from the wing of your nose to the dimpled corner of your mouth. You smile, and the cracks, lines, faults disappear like the years.

 

Liquid light ripples

amid turgid green tresses

breeze tastes of blue waves.

Into the leafy dark

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In the leafy dark of powdered clouds,

beneath the arc of scented sky,

we walk the night paths you and I.

Hand in hand through ankle swathes of mist,

of dry twig-crack and damp grass-swish,

beneath owl-howl and gentle brush of bat,

our footsteps, heartbeats, in-out breath,

count the marching minutes pass.

We count and sigh and try hard to forget,

that this time of parched leaf-rustle,

tranquil hours laced with frog-song,

of perfumes from the deep dark gloom,

these star-prick moments full of savage love,

our yesterdays, tomorrows, all linked arm in arm,

make a chain forged with our birthing breath,

leading from this end of dusky day,

into the long and silent night.

Change

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Flowers open and fade,

trees sigh as branches crack in the wind,

and the stripped leaves bleed red into the earth.

Waves wash blue then grey,

rain rattles cold or feather-soft.

Movement there is,

in dust motes and the clouds,

in the wind and waves

and the flight of the swan.

Change and decay,

though our feet are planted firm,

and we shout loud at the waning moon, the setting sun.

Nothing stands still,

not even the stars

that are dead and dry as dust

beyond their false glitter.

Birthday: One

Photo©Jean-Luc Ourlin

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This day, a symbol, a turning of the path,

is more, an aging, a dimming of the light.

So easy at the dark time of the year,

when nature sleeps and the stars weigh down

with such heavy, insupportable glitter,

to feel the end in the endlessness,

the slipping from warm closeness

into the cold nothingness beyond.

She gives me a card, the child, on this day,

a message of special words

that bring the sun a little closer,

the spring a little nearer.

‘We could be heroes’

and this is the day.

Purple dusks

A poem that wouldn’t let me sleep last night

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Where have they gone, the purple dusks,

The golden days of honeyed balm?

How did time tick tock so fast?

Slipped through the fingers, the small radiant joys,

In a cascade of colours, flowing like silk,

Into the vast, blue ocean no dike can hold back,

That we skimmed on snow-white feet for want of wings.

The soft nights and mornings full of love,

And the birds that sang their ancient songs

Among the spring and summer roses,

Long gone, their memory echoing sweet,

A scattering of feathers, like fallen petals.

Shadows on the flesh now,

The touch of a small, sticky hand in mine,

Sleek, warm, undemanding fur

Of placid, ephemeral companions,

And the heart overflowing, the arms overflowing,

With the glorious burden of a tired child,

All swept away, dead leaves in the wind,

The old rocking horse that gallopy-gallopied you off to bed,

Lost now beyond the bend in the road.