Thursday, 21 December 2017

Widening Gyre

Whatever rough beast we had expected, it turned out
To be a shadow, as if it were our own reflection
In a sliver of glass, a chromed plastic bead or the sea
Beneath, throwing back our faces in the oily swell.

The waves, whispering, said, you did this to us.

Sunday, 17 December 2017


Words on a white page
Silence in a stifling room
Windows closed with light
Trapped in beads of dampness
Like a fresnel screen across the world
Held still by time’s shuddering to a stop
By conglomerate greens and browns
Natural form’s frozen death
Atrophied in an image
A photograph

Wednesday, 29 November 2017


I see the rulers of the world,
See their come and go, their assignations,
How they bury their secrets in the sand.

The sun never sets on their wealth.

I see them in back rooms after dark
In unlit corridors, nocturnal, demonic,
Predators who steal our best endeavours
Like thieves in the night.

Friday, 17 November 2017


Here and there, we all write the memoire.

Now, then, here, there, but on the page,
Surprising in its blankness,
Sits the emptiness of pens,
Absence of vision,
Despair and counterproductivity,
Time and echoing time.

Black ink draws night in lines,
Weaving illusion on paper;
It holds out light, excludes it.

Thus it reveals starting points and errors,
Revisions and divisions, blots on the portrait.
Stare at it here, there, and forever.

It will never grow a mirror and reflect.
© BH, 1987

Another archive fragment. About writing.

There’s me with my clip-board scrawling away. It was a self-portrait of fingers.

In the end it seemed elusive so I put it away for several decades.

Yellow Light

Drab sunsets with rain drawn through;
cold cloud in the west thickening the air;
opaque and tobacco-hazed, reluctant light.

Yellow flowers of field and heath:
buttercup, dandelion, tormentil, asphodel;
leaves, falling and fallen, birch and alder;
sedge grass at this year’s end.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Compulsion and Secrets

In the corridors of power, blindness is a ruse:
a trick to fool the wary while fingering their flesh;
deafness is a disguise, assumed to hide a sham
of probity beneath plausible excuse.

The dumb do not speak, both master and slave
fear how words condemn; in this mutual silence,
the master’s grip on power tightens and the slave
conspires in it to keep his pitiful place.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017


In the corridors of power
the deaf lead the blind
and the dumb do not speak.

The deranged and deluded,
have come to steal the throne.

In this world, rulers love no-one but themselves;
apparently oblivious, they lead us to oblivion.

Monday, 13 November 2017

A Discrete Glissando

Going the way of all flesh.

Ah, protection,
You fly to the four winds.

This thin ice we step upon
Deceptively does not give way
But throws away our balance
With hat and gloves bereft of purpose
Slipping into heedless oblivion.

No time even
For a backward glance.
© BH, 1988

Something for winter time.

A little whim from 30 years ago. Found when rooting around the archives.

Plus my little illustration.

God knows what I was thinking. Ah, but I was only 38!

Friday, 10 November 2017

Out of the Valley of Death

[Arctomecon Merriami]

I wore a white poppy
and someone asked me why.

As if I was a coward, I suppose,
or someone who didn’t care about those
who made their sacrifice in the mud of conflict.

For honour, I said, for our dead:
all our sons and daughters,
all the dead mothers and fathers
and for ruin, for the sake of ruination.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Always Looking

always looking…
…a blind man’s fingers
on rough wood grain
feel the story in its ridges

always looking…
…a woman in her mirror
searching for her soul’s becoming
finds the segments of her face

Tuesday, 24 October 2017


In the watershed
Of an afternoon,
Rolls like water drops,
On the window pane,
Changing in the light,
Moving downward
Towards evening.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Wind Song

Should yellow
Be the colour
Of the hills
And the trees’
Leaves shaking,
Their fear of falling…

…or their slender grip
On limb or branch,
Their brittle stems:
Time’s brown strand
Grown weaker?

Poetic Difference

Time was short
But my lines were long.

If there was a story to be told
I was too breathless to tell it.

Sunday, 17 September 2017


It’s a hairst o a kine, fan i meen’s at big
An here’s me in a sheddie o ma ain
Wi ma telescope scowthin heaven
For a sicht o God. Fit wye nae? I was telt
”Ben’ yer min’ tae science" so I leart its trade.


It’s a job o wark, drivin half a hunner mile
T gas wi cheils aboot i price o gear, then
Sittin on i phone files, watchin i clowds flicht
Seein i girse pirl up i roon hull abeen i craft
An nae hearin a souch. 


Apryle’s breitherin: spirls oot o cauld clart,
Risin wreaths o snaw flooers, still fite,
An betimes the showdin yalla-lily.


Drift wis oor winter’s hansel.
The grun, happit aneth, stood chisel-teuch
An its smoor pooder wis yirdet thon-hicht
Till nae fitstap wid tak ‘s the length
O barnyaird nor bothy.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Road Will Wear You Down

The highway is bleeding
Your blood’s red music.

But the road is turning
Its blacktop into you.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Of the Art

[Meeting Minute 0609]

Is this our art,
Crossed conversations,
Connection, a fluid thing,
A tenuous shifting?

Thursday, 24 August 2017


The names of our places, filched,
they sealed our lips in secrecy,
insisted on sworn oaths
and, by our obedience, bound us
to their scheme of things.

     …on both sides, clans, brother against brother,
     some say, for honour to survive, otherwise 
     in factions under orders from their betters
     five hundred miles away; the same sly lords 
     wrestled for bloodless advantage, spilling blood, 
     but not their own.

The cloth we wore, stripped away,
an offence, they said, against the king,
our distant cousin, a prisoner himself
of finery and high position; God, they told us,
was with him, not us; bow down, kneel, they said,
go home to harvest your sparse and fruitless crops.

     …home of black betrayal; for want of fealty 
     to the lords, for that token obesiance,
     deceit and death fell on the innocents 
     and those too proud to bow down.

Our tongues and the words upon them, cut out
so we would be dumb and could no more say
what was in our hearts nor read the names
our footsteps wrote in the despair of our retreating.

     …armies in a field of blood, a nation risen again,
     its subjugation, the vexatious substance of battle,
     and the line stood, for once unbroken, 
     despite the intent to hammer dissent
     into the strewn earth like a rusty pin.

Our resistance was twisted into wild intransigence,
an they defeated us with history till we were laid low
by feud and squabble like mean and vicious fools,
like savages; for all that we placed a different honour on it.
with land beneath to stand on or lay ourselves in, living or dead.

     And now the label steals the word.
     our names are secret still, 
     not to be seen or said without consent 
     and, though the red stain is no longer blood 
     but a scrawl of pen across a legal page, 
     consent is not sought - not from the land itself, 
     nor the people on it, but only from those 
     whose ownership still compels our silence.

© BH, 2017

Then there was the NTS branding controversy in which they pursued a clothing manufacturer who had been making Glencoe outdoor wear for years. But NTS own the Glencoe name …and Culloden …and Bannockburn. To name only a few.

I thought, this is still colonialism, a colonial attitude, never mind it’s in the marketing context. It’s still about putting fences round our world and daring us no longer to cross. Because theirs is the power and the glory - not ours.

You’ll note this text has changed over time. It’s something that happens with poems. They are rewritten. Rather like our history.

Here's Brandit.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Poetic Justice

Waiting in the courtroom,
The scales from my eyes,
Fall wearily to the floor,
To the patterned blue carpet
In this wood-panelled room,
Where the benches, like pews,
Are hard under the thin cushions.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017


Blue: definition of mood; a celestial hue to counterpoint clouds; something green is made from; the effect of light in air.

I lay on the mirrorless tarmac
After a long night,
And the stars gave way to morning.
I framed a hapless question:
‘Why does it do this?
Why have sky at all?
Where do all those cold points go,
Those cold places,
Those remote and nightless suns?
Why am I come so low?’


Green: grass and leaf before winter, blue contained by yellow, the eyes’ jealousy;

Somewhere the colour of heaven gave way to shades of envy,
and the sea refracted its passing over sand and shadowed shallows;
currents drew aside the mermaids’ hair in the rip tide’s rolling.

Lake of Fear

(Lacus Timoris)

Convections of disaster lift the smoke from ashen pyres;
Dust falls out of the clouds, scatters the pulverised earth.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Time Has Come…

[Meeting Minute 1207]

The time has come the old men said
To talk of many things
Of late breakfasts, and of soup de jour,
The joy that luncheon brings.

Friday, 14 July 2017


“…maybe it’s the time of man…” Joni Mitchell, Woodstock

And still, no-one called the self-made mad…

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

6th Extinction

We are fire; we are brimstone;
A thousand grains of poison;
Corrosive rain drumming.

Ah, tide is rising, the tide we made
With our grinning moon faces
And our lust for power.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Fire and Flood

Fire comes, and with it, water;
We are consumed by one while another
Carries away everything.

What is the difference? What is gone is gone.

Here, it rained and a flood swept away the road home;
Sand and rubble fanned like scree down a hillside.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

You Told Us

You told us…

…the world is a terrible place;
we showed you proof.

You told us…

…your neighbours were foreign to you;
we condemned them with your words.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017


We know what you are afraid of…

…the tide rising and the drowned world
on whose shore your life is wrecked;

…faces unrecognized in the streets at night,
callous looks, suspicion traded between you and them
the lasting knowledge of mutual ignorance;


We know what you are afraid of…

… your secrets are already revealed:
the walls an older you wrote them on,
where you hide them now.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Last Light Fading

Night-time of the soul,
they say, comes when a last light
fades in the imagination.

Dreams are no longer a comfort;
these visions behind your eyes
where lurid phantoms dress themselves;
midnight slides toward morning.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017


With hubris and a pricking swagger
The leader of the free world struts about
While the little people look on,
Innocent bystanders, gawping crowds
Whose freedom has been exchanged for license.

This leader and his kind, exalted cocks,
No better than arrogant poultry,
Straddle the pecking order, smug and fat,
Stare beady-eyed down scowling beaks
Flap their almost flightless wings.

Monday, 29 May 2017

School Rooms

I had risen to the place between dreams.

Down cramped corridors
My feet dragging on the stairs.
I stooped low under ceilings,
And felt distance compress.

And the walls my fingers touched
Were the walls of a school I left fifty years ago.

The Eyeless Storm

Long roads with no turning
Smoke, metal and dust,
And the wind of passing cars…

…heavy weather
… a hurricane
…the eyeless storm.

Sunday, 28 May 2017


I make you well
With grinding powders
Oils and solutions
Shredded herbs steeped
Till the water is green
And aromatic

I tilt your lips to the crucible
I bring you past the crisis
Make you whole

Saturday, 27 May 2017


[Meeting Minute 2604]

Two members
In conversation
At a corner table

Three or more
Gathered together
A church of a kind

Seven was the number
And the word was luncheon
And the word was with the servants
Who brought about sustenance
In exchange for coin

Friday, 26 May 2017

Fool’s Gold

The river descending cast water over stones
And the brown-rust lightness of its ripples
Moved against the flow in the sun’s light.

Down in the gravel beds the poor fools panned
Among the grains for the smallest metal,
For precious cargo in the eroded world.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Portrait of an Artist

The mirror mirrored
Time’s imprisonment
Pale green walls
One-bulb light

The sound of the decades
Counted tick bloody tock
Days already fading

Self Portrait

The walls in the mirror were pale green. He took it down and propped it on a chair, the better to see himself. A single bulb in the centre of the ceiling cast its harsh light in stark shadows across his face. He sat for a long time with the drawing board on his knee, searching his mirrored features for inspiration, looking for anything resembling soul.

Thursday, 30 March 2017


Sun rising
Gone in a morning
Noon’s short-shadow light

Mid-day waning
Whispers in the afternoon
Till twilight comes

People Rise Up

People rise up.

The tide in your affairs
Is a full sea flooding
To fortune
Or misadventure.

Cold House

Time leached through these walls, left fragments of history traced
On scarred woodwork and the brittle rags of furnishings;
Time’s passing left echoes behind the skirtings, tiny noises
Like an infestation of lost days and dismembered moments.

One hundred and sixty years have been buried
In these stones, under these planks and boards;
The rafters and beams creak beneath the weight.

Plaster cracked and crumbled; door-frames buckled;
The doors themselves warped; locks loosened and the wind
Rattled them, then swirled in eddies round the empty fireplaces.

Last Snows of Spring

In the sky, the wind is like an arrow,
Clouds cross it like fog shredding
And the blue, cracked and hard, cold,
Like the surface of ice when sun shines.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Serious Moonlight

The sky we deserved looked down on us at midnight 

In the ink-dark town, in its black basements,
Where the parting hours cowered in doorways
With their small dashed hopes like cheap stars
Glistening on the dirty ground.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Other Side of the World

Twenty-five years
Of messages in wires,
Voices on telephone lines.

I saw his face in shadow,
Shadows crossing it,
On the other side of the world,
In his lightless room.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Deid Watter

Gillie Mhor, a seadog, twa wiks deid,
Wisna mindin i skrach o gulls an the heave o the deep
Nor profit an loss.
The doundraig neth I faem
Chawed his banes clean. An he rose an fell
Past aa his ages an his growin
As he sweelt roon Corryvreckan.
Billy or Tim,
Ye aa caa the wheel an see fit wye the win blaws,
Think on the Gillie Mhor, aince braw an as streetched as thee.


Looking across a no-man’s land
In which you hesitate to dwell;
No possibility of recognition
At such a distance.

Tomorrow’s News

The pieces fell together at random. Bit by bit, the parareal jigsaw took on vestigial shape. Only the keys pieces were missing: the key pieces, always the ones which don’t appear right away.