The Gift

Stunned by the joy and terror of a new pulse surging,
hostage to your breathing in a midnight cot
or the pain waiting with childhood as an alibi.
What did we know of the prize
that would make us human and keep delivering,
insisting on throwing colour recklessly everywhere.
The street to had to learn fast that your discoveries
would ignite the tired and renew.
You must have been the earth rod
for the blue music of silence that descends
when two people are abandoned together
in a flat of gas heaters and condensation
facing north where red brick factories
clung to the echo of forgotten workers.
Where a thin garden grew rank weeds,
crowding flowers out beside the disused railway.
The old photos show you trying to be sure footed
on our shifting sands, which rips the heart
before I was visited by the old turbulence
which flung us onto the high road.
But you threw back some forgotten love
which must of overflowed
to bandage the ancient wounds
and set us all going again, laughing at ourselves
with some approaching joy.
Living life like some kind of prayer
in gratitude for the gift of ordinary existence.

John Joe's Lullaby

Where I went at weekends to forget
they all sang along with John Joe,
"I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die".
One night he held the wobbly head of a French girl
in a flooded drain as her father whispered
"je t'aime" from the rushy field
and the cow, with mild curiosity,
swivelled her huge ears forward briefly
as she watched the headlights beaming into the sky.

JJ doesn't sing much anymore but he did whisper back
on the girls behalf before closing her eyes
some broken French he learned from Mrs Geraghty
the year before he started welding in Conry's garage.

The Relic

When he parked that afternoon
in his own curious way,
how could he have known,
wading up from the meadows, fulfilled,
his wife and children around him,
driving back to the family homestead,
that it would never start again?
How could he have known
about the darkness waiting to greet him,
the minor chord that visited
after the second cup of tea,
all that remains now is the loyal Ford
disintegrating quietly beside a ruin,
facing downhill ready for the off.

Before Rain

Foreboding roamed the desolate streets
as if a wild animal had been cut loose,
country people talked of a strange storm,
a string quartet ran off the bandstand,
sixty-seven bikers turned into the square,
a woman flicked open a pink mirror.

Frightened traders gave away shirts,
a forgotten language entered mouths,
dispatches were received from upwind,
somebody sang A Whiter Shade of Pale,
Stravinsky swung a glass pickaxe in my head.
This happened one day before the sky opened.

My Village

It gave me the great afternoon vacancy
and church bells to eulogise the day.

It threw skills at me to play with
in the long grass on bonfire evening.

It gave me confetti, coffins
and tramps fighting on sheep fair days.

It presented me with the trophy of betrayal
which I accepted as initiation.

Everywhere it played for me the arrid chaconne of crude indifference.

It gave me desolate showers from the hills
tearing across blind lakes.

It robbed from me its gift of nothing.
My village gave me everything.

The Turning

Already the great chariot turns toward winter,
the horses demanding respite
but Time's tyrant lashes the whip.
The lost boy called from the beach
has heard that sound older men fear
and pursues the team in vain.

Gather your children before it's too late,
you who stand at the waters edge,
distract them with ice-cream and funfairs,
let them not smell the harness sweat
or see the flared nostrils equinox-bound
or the backward glance of the chariotee