Looking for Narnia

Looking for Narnia 
you stand outside the wardrobe
in gloves and blankets

but there is nothing to see;
the door is shut 
and the cupboard is filled
with things you may need some time, 
blocking the way through

Gazing into the distance
you try to see snow and light
or a messenger from the north:
maybe a lion
or an eagle
or a witch

Some other country
would suit you, as long
as its magic 
was only 
in your head

and the door 

Flood levels

(a poem written ten years ago, about a different part of the world)

Looking for dry ground,
he quarters the fields
but the flood plain here
could swallow an army
and suck birds from the sky

His unnatural boat
crawls from lane to lane
obeying speed limits
colliding with the unknown

something moving under water

It is too late for retreat:
strategies have gone down
and do not resurface:
a new landscape is being formed –
grey islands taking shape

There are rumours of different tides
new offensives
brave new worlds
cures for drowning

Looking for dry ground
he searches the old maps
the front lines

the ways home, seeking
the infinitesimal edge

Above it all

I see you there
south of Iceland:
the sky is clear 

Red and orange beyond the horizon
eat up the earth, but you
are above it all

heading home
out of the snow:
beauty, not the beast

And here we are, above it all too,
flying toward heaven
not seeing the abyss below:
flames licking at the grass…

Feeling like grass, 
I watch the wind increase, 
and something that seems like the sun 
creeps along my body

as if it is not sure where to go
among the hills and hollows

As much as time can bear

In the black well of the silent sky, drops of moisture
that may be stars. Among the crowded houses below, 
perfect and imperfect strangers jostle for sleeping space.
Warm air is drawn into uneasy lungs. Every bed full, and 
even barns and stables hold weary limbs and aching bodies, 
straw stuffed into makeshift mattresses. The smell
of animals mixes into the soup and spice of this unfamiliar night.

Groans everywhere, of every kind. Out of sight
a baby pushes down its tunnel and bursts into this
brave new world, drinking it in: 
another foreigner, changing the statistics,
changing lives, as babies always do.

Animals too on the familiar hills, where shepherds
know every inch of the dust and distances. 
Sheep take shape, then fade into obscurity. 
Like watchmen, the shepherds hanker after dawn 

Until the night breaks open like lightning, and suddenly
the world changes.
Transcendent singing from the heights,
bright like precocious morning dew thrown on the thirsty earth. 
Angels pierce heaven’s curtain and show themselves:
just enough, no more: as much as time can bear.
Leaving the shepherds with a journey, and a sudden road.

No angel this time for the unworldly mother,
who holds in her tired arms a promise and a memory
here in this unwelcome place, where the wise and foolish mingle,
where soldiers stride across the savage hills
and death comes easily, and comes again.

But when the shepherds burst into her naked room
with their garbled worship, she can only smile
at their dirty hands and clean imaginations:
told not to be afraid herself, she understands their story,
shows them the promised baby, and
<Yes, we are all together. It was God’s idea>

War zone

I live with poor people
who have nothing to say:
my guns are hidden in their rooms
underneath their beds

I set traps for visitors
and burrow beneath 
fragile buildings

I am innocent:
I want nothing but river and sea,
and death of course: that’s only natural

I attack from the mists
because that is what I do, 
and when my enemies respond,

my friends die
which is their fault, 
as everyone agrees:

one day I will kill them all, 
and that will be their fault too 


There was a hotel here:
grand it was

before the ground slipped away
from under its feet,
leaving doll’s house rooms
open to larger eyes
before reaching the tipping point,
doors sliding into dust

Now tree roots bind its remains
into packed bunches below the surface:
a kind of room service or picnic
for the dead

And above ground
camouflage in shades of green
hides the truth:
the murder, or accidental death

Grass grows on fingerprints
and covers the evidence,
taking steps too

All down the cliff 
deceitful flowers bloom

Not Phoenix

This is not Phoenix, 
though birds are born again 
from the mysterious marsh
and recycling is in evidence

There is heat too,
feet on burned ground,
suspicious vehicles surrounding
the hidden broad
and desert
out beyond the Yare:
ruins of old civilisations,
sails and wheels

A marsh harrier
disguised as a tree branch
Is resurrected: its awesome beauty
freed to fly

while the heron walks
disdainfully round the edges
and chess players hide
among the late summer reeds

waiting for the right time
to make a move
looking for a train
or a butterfly

The sands of time

Autumn comes lapping round my ankles
like an incoming tide

It is a Sunday in August
and I stand barefoot in the sands of time

An unexpected breeze touches my mind – 
flames in my brain set by an arsonist:
parts of me are untouched
but in the distance they are rewriting the passports,
trying to keep me out of Eden

Meddling with the seasons,
burning the boats
comes naturally to them, but you just laugh – 
you with your multilingual hair
and naked ideas

God smiles at you
and touches the future
as if nothing really mattered

Which of course 
is the opposite 
of the truth

Crazy golf

In the clifftop garden the flowers
are orange and yellow
but the stream is dry

She gazes into the future
I stare into the past: 
I need special glasses
but still the image is fuzzy 

We play crazy golf:
it is a close match

Out at sea 
a hazy grey horizon tries to make contact 
with reality:
the tide is turning

Steps up from the beach were steep:
halfway we met a goat,
munching like a machine
at melting grass

In the church they play
american tunes: 
black and white 
wrong and right

Outside on the country lanes
It is hard to see clearly
or follow dark directions 

A violinist passes us, 
heading north
or possibly east:
without a conductor, it’s hard to be sure


a maelstrom of roots
snakes towards the loch
tracked by rough bark
traps for the unwary
prepared to bite

dead water in between
and in the distance an island castle
echoes earlier battles
different strategies
rumours of dunsinane not easy to miss

I touch your lips
cold with ice cream in the unexpected sun
your yellow trousers
brighten the brown of
sleeping heather

caledonian pine
and broken bridges
cover our tracks
laughter in the evening
kiss and kiss and kiss