A forest near Toulouse

The mist of mountains brings in tears of rain
Where charcoal burners sought to set up home.
The forest floor is thick with fern again
Their labours lost, their bodies buried bone.
Strong men cut trees to feed the furnance mound
The smaller boughs formed shelters where they slept.
As darkness fell their families gathered round
So far from homes in Florence, women wept.
Young men reap death on fields they did not sow
In Ypes, Verdun the slaughtered sons of France
The migrants had no choice of where to go,
But played their part where love then stood no chance.
In silent tribute to the dead we stand
Where ghosts are working still this unclaimed land.

note – charcoal burners from Italy had lived with their wives and children in make shift tents during the Great War. One of the women described her life as a ‘sea of tears’.



ride the pear blossom highway
photo-collage the Grand Canyon
feast on the season in Wetherby
mindful of memory
mark out clumps of trees
in charcoal on virgin paper
draw dark totems of death
soften your loss in Bridlington
delight in pale yellow flowers
through feathery foliage
make purple truly holy
take the bright pink path
to hypnotic woodland scenes
for music and ballet
on multiple screens.

(Exhibition at the RA)

The Pew – in memory of John Betjeman

I hope this is the pew where once the poet sat
enjoyed his breakfast of burnt toast
sitting in his morning chair looking out to the graveyard
where his great grandfather is buried
drafting a letter then leaving his acorn
papered eyrie to saunter out of Cloth Fair
in his heavy coat and wide brimmed hat.

I hope this is the pew where once the poet sat
listening to sacred music from the deep throated organ
wafting through ancient pillars up to the ornate ceiling
looking up at the famous altar painting stored in Wales
during the war and now with daylight flickering
on the angel with the chalace in Gethsemane
offering strength and courage to The Son of God

I hope this is the pew where once the poet sat
next to the Wesley window that was not his favourite
near a memorial to someone’s much loved daughter
and not far from the detailed deliberations
of Dame Anne Packington (widow) who in her will
in 1595 tried to devise ways to ensure her estate
would help the poor in perpetuity.

I hope this is the pew where once the poet sat
singing the hymns and half listening to the sermon
as thoughts of the letters he still had to write
and the women that he loved passed through his mind
having time to later wander to his favourite memorial
where it implies that it is not a man’s ornate plaque
but the good deeds he accomplished that count.

In memory of Sir John Betjeman

The Ash Tree

from an ancient wood trapped the garden of the tiny terraced house in south London was the reason I bought the house. I imagined it whispering words of comfort and even singing to me if things got tough. As the seasons passed I watched from my bedroom window, sprightly sparrows, blackbirds and occasionally a bright red woodpecker tapping for insects. The new green growth appeared in spring, giving way to leafy summer shade, the shredding of autumn leaves, the snow covered it’s bare branches in winter.
The dry earth around it’s roots became a secret den for the children, it’s weathered trunk created footholds inviting feet to climb, sturdy ropes supported a swing and a wooden tree house perched amongst its foliage. Only once did I cautiously climb up it’s twisted trunk to rescue a terrified cockatiel in a torrential storm.