On Returning to Writing Too long, I cried. Too long! Beneath the ground I’ve left this treasure Buried Where it could not be found Or cause displeasure. In other ways I thought to please But found no ease Until Like bulbs in winter through the snow Began to grow Renewed desire in tender shoot Not dead but dormant, taking root, And drawing from its sweet supply A richness broad and deep and high God-given without measure. For child, you said, You see I give Not for destruction but to live Within you As you draw from me That what you have others might see And what you learn others might know Then feeding from it start to grow, Breaking the bonds that hold them till, Conformed in pattern to my will, Their lives take on the form and grace Of leaf and flower each in place And, each in season, bud and fruit, Seeds without number taking root. For life I give no tomb can hold But multiplies a thousandfold The storehouse of my treasure. 27/2/1992
The Smell of Love The morning air smells of things past: grass wet with yesterday’s rain, sheep’s urine, last year’s leaves limp like tissue paper, the woody scent of conifers, and from the dark shrubbery something fresh and clean like cucumbers cut open. My lover smells of sea-kissed islands: sun-warm rocks with lizards darting, aniseed, honey, vines, pistachios, resin, olives, wood fires, the cheese of goats, the soil he has sprung from, been nourished by, and will return to one day. Do I carry scents of my own roots? damp grass, shaded lanes in summer, furred mosses, lichens, mist rising from the moors, fragrant purple bells of heather, tree-bending, salt-whipping winds, mud and puddles touched by the steady patter of rain.
PLUMBING PROBLEMS (written on the Love Story Module of the Bath Spa MA) Up in my first floor flat The buzzer jolts me from my love story. Downstairs the intercom crackles. ‘Hi, it’s Mart, the plumber.’ I let you in. Those Somerset vowels And rounded rs give me palpitations. Half way upstairs You see me in the doorway And almost stop. I glimpse wild hair, bright eyes, lithe frame And something lean and hungry In the look you give me. Inside the narrow hall our eyes connect. I blurt the words: ‘My tap is stuck. The water doesn’t flow.’ You fish for something in the pocket Of your combat trousers. I watch, transfixed. You test the tap and turn to me. ‘I’ll have to get my tools.’ I smile politely. Please do. Get all of them. When you return you push Both sleeves above your elbows – Grey sweatshirt with a flash of silver Round your neck. Head tells me this is madness, Hormones argue something else. We almost touch. ‘Sorry!’ This bathroom’s much too small for two of us. Across the hall I try to write But can’t. Not love. Not now! From where I sit I hear a sudden gush of water. I draw in breath. As you appear your eyes take in My script, the pastel drawing of a halved banana and Lolita on the futon. ‘All fixed,’ you say. Your fingers hold a complicated tube Ridged with threads. ‘Sometimes they get worn out.’ Me too, I think. ‘And then you need a new one.’ Yes, well. We start to talk, the usual trivia. ‘Yes, I’ve just moved here. You?’ ‘Grew up here. Lived here all my life.’ The balance wavers – head or hormones? Head wins. I’ve got too many problems That can’t be fixed as easily As an old tap.
I’m Loved by a King I’m loved by a king! Who would believe it? A king has given his life for me. He humbled himself And suffered rejection So I could be with him eternally. He gave up his life And poured out forgiveness Took all of my sins and washed them away, Then clothed me in righteousness Pure and resplendent To save me from suffering the price I should pay. So what can I tell him? My heart’s overflowing With thankfulness, wonder, that he should love me. And what can I give him How ever repay him From just condemnation for setting me free? There’s nothing I can say And nothing I can give (No words, deeds or tributes could ever repay) Except to say, Take me, Do what you will with me In all that I am, Lord, have your own way. c.1990
If it were hate If it were hate it would be easier, This dull, dead darkness. If it were hate it would at least be an emotion, Tangible, vital, sensient. But this, this nothingness, This is a tree blasted by lightning, Left standing but lifeless. This is the deep darkness of winter Where sap has retreated and dried. This, this is emptiness, Hollow, craving to be filled – The absence of love.
Aegean Elegy Where are you now? Are you lying deep in the underworld Ferried across by Chiron? Or did you soar heavenwards With the first fireworks of the Orthodox Easter, Cleansed of all impurities Renewed With resurrection body even more beautiful If that were possible Than the one wrought of flesh and blood and sinew? Have your bones been picked clean by worms, Wrapped in a white cloth and Stored in an ossuary? Did women wail for you Mourn Tear their hair and their clothing? Or did you drop to the bottom Of the ocean To be feasted on by fish Like divers discovering treasure, Picking out your eyeballs, Growing fat on choice morsels of your flesh? More likely, knowing you, You’re out there after all Taking your post-coital nap, Someone else’s hand tracing the contours of your back, Threading her fingers through hair that twists and loops Damp with sweat As you doze with your head on her breasts. But if you’re dreaming, dream of me I dare you. Dream that we’re young again That it didn’t really happen It never came That letter saying I had another. Dream that we’re flying together Through the clouds above Athens. (Even in the Aegean there are clouds in winter Aren’t there?) As we soar out into the sunshine, The year turning irrevocably On its axis into spring, And skim across the sea and over the islands Set like jewels beneath us, Out over Egina and on towards Ydra - There the breeze drops And your heart stops - Doesn’t it? As you look down on the hillside by the cove and think That’s where we lay together under the brilliant sky Lost in our arrogance and our innocence The summer we turned Eros into Agape. I still dream of you Yearn to recapture what’s slipped From our grasp. But now I’ve found you Your silence Is worse than harsh words, Your rejection A just punishment, But colder Far colder Than death.