Servus Servorum Dei

In a deserted scriptorium
amid the dusty scrolls
there works alone
a ghostly monk
moon-faced and sedulous
scratching his sempiternal script
with a dry quill
onto the pitted parchment
- senza sestertius.

Sedition with scrivener's palsy.

His shadow

may never grow less.

In midnight's fog
scullion soldiers oversee
the scrape and clank of shovels
- the gentle rattle of shackles.

At sunrise
the sharp-faced sexton
will toll the bell.

Servus servorum dei.

Crossing the Freeway

I guess that was Buk's last job
honking them over
the Harbor Freeway
crossing them over
by San Remo
his warty eyes blinking
in the blinding steel and gas
crawling all day
along the freeway
jamming up the place.

Say, you might read me a passage
from Buk's new book
The Last Night of the Earth . . .

You'd like the feel . . .
the black and red cover . . .
the acid-free paper . . .

We Sing the Body Electric

Dedicated to Ray Bradbury

What say you my reader there
under this electric air
that sings between us
and carries my immortal rhymes
over and above the songs of
trilling birds and humming bees
and through mysterious space
and time;
are you and I the one and same
in this universal game
enjambed just as those singing birds
whose words each dawning
trill the skies?
My song this day is sung for you -
you who seem to be
as much a part of me
as all those trilling birds
and humming bees.

Who Speaks?

Who speaks for the schizo phrenics -
those poor creatures in habiting
the shadow y world between reality
and un reality now roaming the gray
and cream corridors of the world
and its men tal institutions?

Who speaks for the hollow-eyed one s
in the corn ers and the grinning ones
with hives of bees in their heads
always whisper ing and twiddling
in their mad moon existences?

Who speaks for the dangerous ones
locked up in their straight jackets?

Tell me dear voices - Who speaks?

Cold Sweet Tea

Boys, who can barely write, kneel
deep down, miles out to sea beneath
the black-ribbed sands, before
the coal face and pneumoconiosis.
Stripped to the waist, mine's as thin
as a prop; a crab-shadow clawing
for coal to make a rich man richer.
From time to time he swallows
cold sweet tea from a tin,
observed by a sleepy canary
and a blind pit pony in the light
of a Davy Lamp. When the clock
strikes I prepare his sink:
water, scrubbing brush, soap.
Listen for his footfall. The house
within spitting distance of
the shaft, is going to its knees;
coming apart at its dusty seams.
Buckled and sagging, it creaks and
groans with each subsiding night.

Forlorn Point, Wexford

On Forlorn Point
slithering over seaweed
and crunching
over shells

he boot ends a coil of rope
toes over a rag of net
- a old beachcomber
under a setting sun.

A solitary cormorant
flaps purposefully
- an outgoing pterodactyl.

What the old man will take
from Forlorn Point

Is the taste of a wind with salt
on its breath
and the splash of the swell
on the rocks.

Temple Bar, Dublin

This isle has a wealth
of places and things
that do not exist.

Marino Casino
and Lustymore Island
were energy vibrations
of a past which is
not really the past. In
Ireland today
there is only the future.

Awaiting the future
we kill time
flicking the drip mats
and trying to make sense
of Finnegans Wake.

Italian Sunset

Luciano, my friend
with your smiling eyes
and unshorn beard
with Italia in your voice -
the language of opera
and amorous dalliances -
sing now of football and of gondoliers
and of the love of well-born ladies
and Tuscan wine and conversazioni -
sing to us now in the glowering light
of our fading torches and flambeaux -
perhaps of Naples and Venice
and send us your best long notes
down the sunset of your going.

In the Infinite Night of Light and Stars

Is it a solitary watchman
who sleeps within
the brazier's glow

Or is there perchance
some caring nurse
going on her rounds
with lighted candle
and reassuring word
her gentle hand
upon the ward

Or on the beat
a constable
with friendly nod
and timely counsel
to keep the evil-doer
at bay

Or heavenly squadrons
storming ever onwards
with flaming swords

Or is it only fireworks

Deus Absconditus

Sunday in Wales
and small white clouds
drift over the sheep
on the hills like prayers
on the way to heaven.

The pessimistic metaphor
R S Thomas will preach
from the black pulpit -
painted black
by his own hand.

"The supreme being will doubtless fail to joins us."

His flock has dwindled
to a faithless few.

The hymns will be softly sung
and strangled

In the wind's knot
before the lichgate.

The sermon will be short
and unmemorable.

Muttered prayers
will barely move the grim lips.

Not one voice
will reach the clouds.


In the lunatic asylum
where we live
there are no mirrors
or clocks
and it's normal to cheat
at cards.

We shuffle the pack
and palm
an ace of hearts
in cancerous clouds.

Our friend Groucho Marx
plays the violin
and spends his nights at the opera.
With Groucho
we always deal straight
from the top.

When we play God
we leave
the dealing to him.
He deals
as he will.
We always play snap.

The Guardians

With croaking frogs
and jambu trees
we share moonlight, fruit
and flies.

With bamboo flutes
we call upon
celestial lords with powers
to come.

And we fall down
on the floor

The guardians sit
on lotus thrones
and slap their arms
and thighs.

The nagas swim
in seas of milk
and never ending

Magritte on Owls

Imagination is simply zero
and nothing more
to cramped fingers
working hogshead bristles
over stretched canvas
and intellect straining syntax
into poesie al olio. Meaning
in having no meaning
and no place to go
dressed in upright bourgeois attire
with bottles of pinot noir.
An owl's face is a clock
with no hands

A Monster

A monster has appeared
in the forest.
A great mechanical bird

It pokes its greedy neck
into the canopy.
Its big beak searches for food

And crows rush to investigate
like policemen.
Flying in from all directions

Until one crow reports back
that the monster
is being rendered senseless.

A human being was observed
with the monster's controls.

Anopheles and Aedes

This Christmas
Anopheles and Aedes
Will fly once again

On charity

Loaded with presents
They will land
Where children
Sleep restless
On simple dark beds

Seasonal songs
They will steal
From bed to bed

And leave behind
Small packages
To be later

Will divide
In the blood
Cells which in turn
Will burst
Like party balloons

The parasites
By the Congo
Says the doctor
Into his microscope

How attractive
They are
And how little
They think
Of the morrow


in the bush
on red earth
wrapped in red
tartan blankets
the Masai
are at one
with nature;
with smiles
as wide as the sunrise
and many wives
and happy

Behind them
run messengers
with serious eyes
and holy books
full of advice.

The new road
now rolling out
like the extensile
tongue of a reptile
will soon thunder
with jeeps
and trucks
and growers
to a shanty town
with fast food
a bar
and a gas station.

A-Bomb Dome

Okabe's hand blurs over a surface
and an image appears on paper;
each stone leaves a unique imprint
just like your fingers.

He's fetched a row of stones to show us -
grey blocks from Old Ujina Station;
platform stones that have survived
the Dark Face of the Light.

And he also has a map to show us -
with its delta rivers drawn in red ;
it's marked with rings to indicate
the target will be 5 miles wide.

There are frottages of City Hall
and Hijiyama Hill
the Savings Bank
and Red Cross Hospital

Masao Okabe asks:
Is there a future for our past?


They'll be selling
from the bell

the market's weak as hell

across the board

he splutters


blue arthritic lips

lumbering from the cooler
vid-phone cigar and polycup
in hand

the modern custer

making his final stand


on the big picture
on the broad perspective

it was a labour of love
and damned percentages
he'll tell them later

lying on the couch

Patient in the Queue

Patient in the queue
with a bunch of grapes
and a hand of bananas
I can't help wondering
what I'm really doing here
standing in this big shop
with its bright lights
air conditioning
chiller cabinets
all humming the same tune
behind bing-bong
of special offers on dog
while six go through on the
other side.

I'm in the wrong line again
the checkout girl has a
bark of a cough
and the belt
is piled high
with plastic coated triple
hygienically sealed things.

An old man ahead of me
with a frozen baguette
sneezes as we all take one
step forwards.

One step
nearer the checkout.

In the Park

On the grass
someone is sleeping;
I think it's a woman.
I think she's asleep
under that green plastic
directly in front of that
by the drinking fountain;
supermarket bags arranged
on the seat.
But I don't want to wake
her and ask her.
No doubt they contain the
usual things;
old magazines, broken
biros, newspaper,
a curl of orange peel, two
or three cans of beer,
a scattering of bent or
broken cigarettes,
smelly clothes, tangled
you know the sort of thing.
Nearby a man and some
children play;
wrestling on a heap of
bouncy blocks.
Another man is pushing a
bike away.


We are waiting
for the thunder
it will come today
they said on the radio
but then they said
that yesterday
and also the day before

but maybe
the ants know something
for tonight they've come
out of the walls
and into the rooms
where they are
making for the windows
which are tight shut
against the torpid heat
against the heavy heat
of the night
the heat of
the heavy breathless night

the anvil cloud
full of fluffy white promise
suddenly evaporated
and the thunder didn't come

it will come tomorrow
or the next day
or the day after

so now we are waiting
for the thunder
with the ants

the ants
maybe they know something

The Border

Finding the border was easy.

Crossing it wasn't.
National flags greeted our approach.
It was where the map said it would be.
It was where the road stopped.

Radar was a timely sign that we were there;
painted olive-green to match the surroundings
scanning in the direction they came from last time
with their surprise attack.

An absence of vegetation followed;
concrete watchtowers with slits for eyes
appeared on barren hills amid curls of razor wire
barring the way to the minefields.

In the last village before the border
at a small round table outside a bar
three men sip coffee from small cups;
smoke cigarettes;
exchange sporadic remarks
concerning a lottery ticket
- you couldn't call it a conversation.

At the first hint of rain they move under cover.

It's the same on the other side.

They have their border paraphernalia too.

Here is an old mirror. This crack
from top to bottom
is no man's land.

The Brush Man

A loud knocking at the front door.

"See who it is," said mum.

He opened the cardboard suitcase
and pointed
. . . the scrubbing brushes
. . . the clothes brushes
. . . the shoe brushes

The case twitched
and the brushes shook themselves
and fell out
all over the path.

"God save the King!" shouted the man.

"Hurry up boys! Fill the ranks! Fill the ranks!" he shouted.

Mum came running
brushed flour from her apron.

Attending a Poetry Reading

Nobody understood it
what it
really all about
though some of us
had heard it
once or twice before
and one of us
had even read it
several times
but still it was the fact
that nobody
understood it
and after
when I pressed her
pinned her
to the bar
she gave forth
that it
was all a stream
of consciousness
and that
we ought to have known
what went unsaid
was meant
and was indeed
more than implied
some of you are poets
or so I've heard
she said

The Umbrella Man

Glorious glorious sunshine
and not one sign of anything else in the sky
not one sign of a fluffy white cloudlet
or even a single herring-bone
and strange to say not even one vapor trail
in this day's blank blue sunlit sky.

The weather forecast
is on the Sony Walkman
when I take some garden rubbish
to the large green compost bin
at the end of the street -
record temperatures for the time of year
warm wind from Africa
high pressure over the Alps
quicksilver climbing
to a record 21 celsius.

Coming towards me a man about his business
determined stride
confidently swinging his umbrella
carrying a large green shoulder bag.

Mysterious. An umbrella - this weather?
And a large green bag?

The stranger stops at the bottle-bank
and sets down his green bag on the pavement.

Now he starts fishing. Yes, fishing
with his umbrella. Out of the bank
come the beer bottles -
hanging delicately on the umbrella's tip. One
by one he fishes them out. A catch every almost time.

One, two, three, four, five . . .
he lines them up on the pavement.

When he's finished he transfers the catch
to the green bag
and soon it's bulging with bottles, it takes
a hefty heave to lift it. Now off he goes
with his bulging bag of bottles
rattling gently down the street,
his umbrella casually swinging
pointing the way.

An Old Man Walks Home

In the garden there grows a crippled tree
heavy with crab-apples
food for worms
and wasps.

In the garden pond
the frogs float
grim faced
they blink and croak.

On the outhouse roof
the owl rests
patient for the night
Magritte's clock with no hands.

Homeward on the wing
not contending with the problem
of where he came from
the white dove.

And below is an old man
walking home and wondering why
he was given the ability
to question it all.

In the kitchen
his wife
face to face with twilight
draws the curtains.

Eggenburg White

Detritus laid down in the shallows
of the long-dead sea makes the bed

fishy carcasses
spiky sea urchins
cracked seashells
sharks' teeth
are once more rendered workable

in layered limestone
it's the sought after stone
for the carvers of idols
and the cutters of milestones.

And yet -
the dusty clinks and taps
of the workaday chisels
and the heavy groans
of the heave-ho pushcarts
lugging the loads
to the ends of the tracks
are more than a wave away
from the world where the tide has turned

and is green.

Old blocks now rest
on beds of camomile
as cogs and handles rust
entangled and rosehipped in brambles
where heavy elders
loaded with drooping fruit
sigh and droop
over an old sea's bed.

below these wine-drenched
columns of white-eyed men
glare all ways
into the yawning skies
and the infinite tides and times.


He smiles the group around and up
the anti-clockwise steps
inside the automated light of Hook

the oldest working light around he claims

and broadly beams.

There were three cells
built inside these walls,
these walls that are ten feet thick,
for Pembroke's monks
who were the keepers of the light

yes, monks from Wales
humped countless bags of coal
up to the roof to fuel the flames

and light the point of Hook.

Out there in the graveyard
of the thousand ships
and over there by Crook

was Cromwell

not here by Hook he beams
once more and sharply sparks
his match across and
down the wall -

where it flares and leaps.

He brings the leaping light
adeptly to the bowl

descends the steps
inhales the dreams.


Gordon spoke in soft low tones
over the rapid clip-clip and snip-snip
of his flying instruments.

I went for ten minutes every month;
my gaze would meet his on silver surface
that was bruised and chipped; I'd catch
the steel gleam in his grey eyes and
note the eloquent lift of his right

The place smelled of lavender
and bay rum
over exhalations of linoleum.

He touched on important subjects;
women, football, cars, condoms,
the latest gas leak and
how every creature on earth was preyed
upon by some other creature.

He was a fount of wisdom and insight
and when he paused to catch a thought
he made half-masticated noises
with his loose teeth. There was a vein
to his chat if you followed it. Words
gushed from him.

Customers came and went
swift as swallows;
restless, shifting,
fugacious as time itself.