Thursday, 13 November 2014


I have sat and grown fat for a lifetime
And couldn’t comprehend
The history of war.
But my veins were full of it.

Too many old men before me
Had shuffled into the twilight
Memories unshared,
Locked in private prisons
Too shameful to reveal.

Fathers’ and grandfathers’
Slow falling into the oblivion
Of too many world wars.
Their survival was a mystery to them.


Variation on 'Duty' by Edward Leighton
Healed wounds fester in the skin, under it,
Or in the mind forever.

Duty does not exonerate how death was dealt
From a marked deck, fans of cards,
Winning or losing hands played out:
No rhyme, no reason, no game at all
But boyhood’s end
In a long walk across no-man’s land.

The dead could lie in astonished pieces
Cast adrift from life or expectation
Taken to the bosom of some God or Heaven
Or some imagined place of just reward.
To the living, scattered shapes with staring eyes
Looked back like victims, grim and full of accusation.

Monday, 10 November 2014


Prisoner in another land
Where the soul’s starvation was as bleak
As the body’s hunger.
Still you worked the land
As you had as a boy
Hardly more than that then,
A witness to battlefield
And the long march eastward
To other fields of wheat and pasture
To kye and horse like those you knew
In the parks of home.

So a pact was made
With yourself and the beasts
With the father and mother of the enemy.
Perhaps because you were kind,
Decent in your way,
Coexistence was easier to bear than anger.

What point to carry warfare in the heart?
Or spoil what ease you found
With bitterness and bile.

A little language, some of your own
And some from your captors’ lips,
Spoke of something else.

Somewhere far away, east of here,
Poland maybe or Germany
Something better,
Something human carried you.

You laboured and you wrought
Far from the struggle.
You faced, in that green prison
And your gaolers’ eyes,
What walls there were;
Came through in the end,
Came home in the end
And spoke well enough of them.
© BH 2014

One for the old man. Lots of WW1 stuff around but I thought of him and his time in WW2. I thought of the silence they all brought back, all those men who went out with derring-do and found hell. Then they had to endure it and find a way back to some sort of peace. Silence, I think, was the only cure.

BTW. This is one of a sequence, For the Falling - SilenceDutyBrave, POW. They're all here. Because they have to be.

Friday, 7 November 2014


I say a single word.

Speaking connects
Me to you,
The word, to us.

Language or chemistry throws lines
Between everything,
Tangled, unpredictable lines,
Spun yarn on heavy air.

Thursday, 6 November 2014


Blue light shifted
Out of sight
Until only echoed brightness
In our eyes
Saturated everything.

In a memory from
Time immemorial
From misplaced youth
Only dreams are now

Lint-flecks like sudden stars
Pricked the dimness
While thunder rocked and rolled.
The detergent glare of whites,
Shirts and skirts,
Were shrouds of ghosts, shimmering.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014


Our corrosive dreams,
Drops on the surface,
Burned our ambition
Into the earth.

Beneath our feet:
Chains of events.

Our footprints remain.
The sea claims and solidifies them
Until they are fossilized
And we are the dead.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014


Heavy weather, this moment,
Shapes what follows.

The wavecrest runs to shore
Its rise and fall inevitable
Just as its rise and fall
Responds to the seabed slope
It rattles over.

Cloud piles in before
The weather front
And every squall throws itself
In downpours on the upslope hills.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

How Many Eyes?

How many eyes
Have looked up
And seen the stars remain the same:
The same as ever?

How many eyes bear witness
To the season’s edge
To the cusp of day and night,
To the storm-front clearing after rain
To the blinding sun
And the dazzling moon?

Monday, 27 October 2014


people waiting
a moment’s pause in the work-day
food-lines’ uninspiring insipidness
filling the hunger-gap
tediously stretching time and sustenance
till the stopped-clock ticks again
till hands turn gainfully back
to earn their keep
earning their masters’ keep

Friday, 24 October 2014


An edge of memory
Like a mountain in the distance
Separates heaven and earth.

My eye, the one unblinking
Behind sinew, nerve and blood,
The camera eye I see the world in,
Scans the landscape.

I have a place in mind:
A rock, a seashore and an ocean
Of waves to a shore in the small distance.

The broad sea-loch is rimmed
By sand-shallows and inlets
Where tiny islands and channels
Guide the tide-run
And the swell rises in uneven lines
From open sea to sullen beach.

Thursday, 23 October 2014


Every landscape in its frame,
A moment-by-moment composition,
Textured life scratched on ground,
The green field, the birch-wood going upwards,
The tree-starved, muir-burned hills.

Light falls from another place
and runs like water from a clear sky.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014


There is only beach and sea.
Sand for miles curves before beach houses
Elevated above hurricane and flooding tides.

Breakers come ashore like waves on any coast
Here, where the foam settles, the water is murky,
Warm, invisible to the touch.

Thursday, 10 July 2014


A sound was bending in the wind
The half-music of rustling leaves
The quarter-notes of staccato rain
Hard on pavements, soft on grass,
On bare earth, drumming.

Saturday, 21 June 2014


In my back garden
A fallen stone,
At last recumbent,
Sleeps on the ground.

In the indefinite past
Stones encircled this place,
Made it separate.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Landscape with Weather

Light refracts through rain.
Split colours curve in the face of heaven.
Daylight under grey cloud remains colourless
The world, wet beneath it, glistens
Like recollected sky.

Wind sounds out the trees
And hollow places,
Fluting the last stems of winter.
Seedheads rattle with the squall
As spattered drops cut the air
Like liquid blades.

Sharp against a black horizon
Where storm edge meets the hill
A stand of woodland comes alive
In the cloudbreak gleaming.
Far on trailing rags of cloud
Comes a torn blue shred
A piece of sky where sun remains.

© BH 2014

My head's full of weather. As you might expect. I'm always taken by how light moves through the world and when, in rain, the sky lets the rain do its work in secret. Pools and surfaces keep the remains of it while cloud leans over us threatening darkness, bundling it up in the hems of cloud the latest front is carrying. Then the fabric rips and blue for a moment reminds us. How transitory.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014


In the black yards of Thomastown, where the barber-shops and pot-scrub sellers open up, there the brine of long sea-days whitens all the window-panes. Down the end-on streets, the ships are bigger than the brick wall houses, huge towers in metal liveries.

The chimneys, the house-funnels, smoke and make a cloud on the rooftops. Lower than the high stratus, lower than the steamboat haze, the shilbottle reek falls in its occlusion as near the ground as air permits.

It falls like a fog upon the people, brazen, historic people, brought out of retirement or memory for us to revitalise in what now has made of us; more like a dream where interiors hold us in, familiar interiors which we could never describe in a waking word.

The director calls ‘Cut!’


All the rooms in the world,
The spaces we occupy
Come to this.

Streets are quiet
And the frozen clouds of dawn
Cannot move.
Air resistance holds them.

The sun keeps on rising,
Throws highlights on the undersides.

The earth steams with tomorrow
As time’s momentous arrival
Reveals the instant we call now.

In the sea towns along our coast
Dawn is born in water.
Into its sleepless brightening, small craft
Push purposefully toward it,
As if silver fishes were themselves
Flakes of light,
Scales of the sun’s skin
Scattered below the wavelets
For our nets to harvest.

In the onshore lanes and alleyways
Behind fish-houses and yards
Where the hulls lie hulked,
Masts and rigs
Hatch the skyline in a mass of lines.
Halyards, hawsers and stanchions,
Posts, poles and wires
Fill the openings between sheds and walls.

In the sky, as the sun shines from the sea
Each becomes a haloed stroke.
Shadows cast themselves upwards
Into the retreating night,
Into the sky where the long clouds roll
Turned red, upon themselves,
Insubstantial in their passing
As volatile as the stars.

For every day has its distance,
And every hour, its space between:
Each second so far from the next
We cannot dare to cross.

We sail impossible ships
On an unimaginable ocean
To find what fortune has left there
For our meagre hands.
© BH2013

Another instalment in the Initialising cycle. Begun with the title, which led me into my stock of fisher-town memories. Laced with time. As memories so often are.

As before, the cycle is here: