A Rescue

I found your children where you
Buried them, deep in my dreams,
For no one would go there
Forraging except the blind
And myself, we had no choice,
Which you did not predict,
And so I found them both, I did,
Wide-eyed, innocent mannerisms
With unconditional love towards
Their inexplicable parents.

Underneath dream-bracken,
You had no time for dignity
Or wherewithal to cover
Your tracks, and so I woke
Both gently, and they held my
Hands as we searched high
And low for their mother,
To reunite you only to show
What you had succumbed to
In giving up your title.

A caravan park on a clifftop,
Seas in my dreams are different,
Infinite wildernesses in grey,
Violent expressions of emotions
Suppressed, we searched through
Excessively overstocked and
Busy campsite shops and bars,
An outdoor pool, a clamour
In chlorine and glorious swimwear,
As busy as lidos’ 1960s heydays,

They held my hands all the while
As we walked the miles we had to
Cover, until we found a white
Wooden signpost with your name
Painted in a blank font as if you’d
Become a coastal village, but
Instead of miles, the miles
Directed me in years, pointing
Towards a hidden beach, a cove,
Sands where truth exposed you

Out of sight and reach,
Or so you thought in my dream
Interrogating and sweeping
Low coasts like a disused
But incessantly-working
Self-determined lighthouse beam,
On the way to that village
As it shifted from being inland
To now lifted above the
Culmination and climax

Of my sorrows. We descended
A makeshift path between two dunes
To where you cavorted with
Dream-formed friends, balls
And assorted balloons. At last I
Returned two beautiful children
To you; your feigned joy appalled
Yet did not surprise the atoning.
I collapsed to my knees, exhausted,
Knees in sand, and woke alone.

Night Owl

Thank you for your photograph,
Passport-sized, white frame,
On the reverse side in red ink
You wrote your name and
Number. The image I received
On the spine of a silently
Howling owl in a dream
Last night I placed beneath
My pillow and in a dream
Within a dream you emerged
From the portrait large as life,
Your lipstick as red as the ink,
A deep red, deep as blood in
The whales stampeding through
The caves of my sleep searching
For their calves already hauled
Onto the harpoon-stationed
Entrail-made slippery deck
Of hail-harried vessels in
The steep Pacific breaches.

You gestured to me not to speak,
Finger over your lips and I was Transfixed. I watched you
Carefully, devotedly, as you fell
Asleep in a red dress, your blonde
Hair falling over your eyelids and
Your nostrils and I reached to
Brush those beautiful strands away
When your mouth opened and
An alarm fell out and I woke
Sweating, and drowning, as
A refuse collection vehicle
Reversed outside my apartment.

Heaven Lake

Recurring dream,
Sent in advance
On the saddles of geese
To an ancient land
Where reincarnation
Is taking place.

Repatriating me
Tentatively, years
Before the shift,
Like a preview for
Audiences to a film
In a cinema
They may never frequent.

Scenes lack chronology;
It was sold to these people
I do not know as
A route for tourists,
But the nation’s mask
Slipped and I knew then
Of poverty and deceit.

Fields beyond
The spying sedge
Divulged soils
Barren and as red
As ever a Martian rover
Beamed back by satellite link;
Yet it did not go unnoticed,
How villagers were forced
To rake and till
That seedless, empty
Former lake.

I broke away from the tour
Just before a torturing place
Disguised as security checks;
I ran uphill, a country lane,
At the summit I found two houses
Built in an odd representation
Of Western architecture.
An elderly woman departing one
Looked into my soul with
A purpose beyond divining
And said ‘we are not allowed
To converse in this space,
It is frowned upon, and you
Could be arrested, especially
Once they hear your accent
Which I recognise from Boston,
Massachusetts‘. I was nonplussed,
For am I not clearly from a small
And stateless island?

I made my way downhill, through
Living rooms filled with shifting
People and weird toys. Finally
Arriving back at the hotel
I understood these protocols,
You cannot look at the locals,
You cannot engage in dialogue
According to the ubiquitous
Signage in red and white,
They are trained to melt away
When the Western ones walk by,
Our suitcases as curious to
These servants and obedient managers
Who are sometimes shot
In secret locations, in forests,
For reasons counterfeited
And approved, rubber stamped,
As curious as we found their
Customs and their dress, their
Acquiescence to their fate.

I rushed to catch up with my group
Queuing for an airport coach,
A final check of passports,
A glimpse of army patrols,
An overwhelming sense, relief!,
Beyond the controlling sleep
To arrive back safely in mornings
Where I know of choice and loss
And love and grief. I stretched
Out of bed, showered,
Combed my post-pandemic
Longer hair, reached for my phone
Where nightly it charges, but
My phone, like all my
Karmic chances,
Had disappeared.

West Island

A misty creek,
Derelict fishing fleets,
Salt marshes.
A quay where
Lifeboatmen
Would take their leave
To make a widow
From a wife
And orphans
From children.

Main town
Slips by,
Little more than
A row of tightly
Huddled cottages
Asleep beneath a
Precipice, one street
Along the front,
A couple of boarded-up
Empty pubs, I could not

Tell too well as
Through the low-hanging
Clouds gripping
Like lobsters’ mouths
The shells of our minds
There are no lights
Discernible, no life.
We sail on, for some
Parts of these islands
Are only reachable

By waterways
And rising currents.
There is no ferry
These days from
Mainland ports;
Abandoned, an
Airstrip resigned
To weeds, brambles,
An empty map.
There are no trees here,

Nothing higher than
Shoulders of shrubs.
Routinely, unforgivingly
That renowned mist
Which tourists
Fought to see
Now blinds islanders,
Abducts their tastebuds
And tactful languages.
Waves make funnelled

Wrong-way passages,
A distant alarm
Sounds in reverse,
We observed the
Crewless lifeboat return,
Hauled by our yearning
Thoughts up ramps, into
Its empty station.
There is nothing left
But waiting.

Strawberry Moon

A cocktail dress,
A horse’s head;
Against my nape
Your touch and
Delicate feminine
Breath is a hair’s
Breadth away from
Enunciating
Bare thoughts
Like waves
In a Zen-master’s
Garden of sand.
Your sequined shoulder
Where I remained
Scintillated like stars,
Light years of movement,
Energies and efforts
Traversed the blue space
To be diffracted and
Prismed as they infiltrated
With gravity and grace,
Held by the wide eyes
Of midnight skies
In summer, for a moment
With irresistible finesse.

Venus is observed,
Bright oscillation,
We moved through stables
As two silhouettes
While horses slept
And dreamt of reverting
To equine wildernesses
Replete with carrots
And mallow-heads,
Their upper lips
Flehmened from the sense.

An orangery for dreams,
We danced beneath
Denuding beams;
Nothing in this life
Is as it seems.
I bit my tongue
And the future
Unravelled slowly,
With profound
Musicianship
Like eternal bows
Slowly over strings
On the bridges
Where lunar-illuminated
Violas and violins
Reverberate with love.
A cumberbund,
Penumbral eclipse,
Strawberry-scented
Lips kissed, knowing
The morning steals
Potential arts
Just as the night
Endeavours to
Blanche nature and would
Deny her daily craft,
Her plethora unweilding.

All will revert to
The awful normality
Where we began;
A cocktail dress,
An empty bed.
Some thoughts are better
Left unsaid.

Shoreline

Decanting on the shores of sleep,
Where dreaming estuaries will weep,
Perilous cliff-top climbs are steep,
Sounds across a border seep.

I found a strange sensation brew,
Stranger than the crossing’s crew,
A second breathing bridged the two:
Inhale once, exhaling due.

Inveigling spirit, a bellow between
What is dreamt and what is seen,
Organist pedalling lungs for a dean,
Cathedrals where I have not been.

Apparitions line the coasts
To sing in chorus for their hosts
And keep witheld communion ghosts,
My bark is tethered to their posts.

The Wishing Well

In a dream last night,
A recalcitrant dream
As well-versed and equally
Inured as unwelcome spells
Residing in my sleeping mind
Lay siege, unwarranted,
Disobedient to my intent
Which once was good,
And ever since mind’s
Potentates were themselves
Besieged by
Terracotta armies
Running riot, and
Separated from the
Periodic Table by mandate
Of the God of Chemistry,
In this dream,
All my teeth fell out.

Curious affliction,
The disease descended directly
Down a medieval well
Just beyond the village
Where Time’s bypass
Hastened the demise
Of daffodils and spinach.
The teeth were caught
By grateful elvish hands
Like wishes from a
Comet’s tail,
Those who lived
In the dark dank smells
Of that thankless well
Through so many of our songs,
No longer could they tell
Where their fingernails
Curtailed
And lunulae began.
Their galoshes squelched
Through residual pools,
Mulchy, muddy pools more
Made of weeds and the
Casual detritus of
Passers-by whose care
For Nature
Atrophied
Believing it was sufficient
To save endangered species
By recycling plastic and
Subscribing to
Magazines about wildlife.
Even dinosaurs dreamed
Of losing their teeth,
So these subterranean beings
Chiseled and whittled the
Mouldy molars into
Newfangled fangs
Which now adorn
Their necklaces,
Next to reindeer hooves
And my unending sense
Of sadness.

Back above-ground, my brother
Held a tablet device
And stylus to count my losses.
He used a spreadsheet and
An esoteric formula.
I had a stylus too but
Mine had been used as a knife
And was stained with butter.
I didn’t own a tablet
So I tapped inconsequentially,
Feigning importance
On a well-used notepad.

The well is near the woods
Of my dreams, and that is where
My brother was last seen
Before he disappeared,
Where nothing good is as it seems,
And who needs teeth
When there is nothing to eat
In my dreams, there are no
Roadhouses and the motorways
Are closed, no truck-stop cafés,
Yet still I drive with my words
Through lucid, deciduous
Anxieties of my
Sobriety.
There’s good reason
As to why I cannot find
The rainbow’s end
No matter how far I must drive,
For you cannot see the prisms
Of sunlight and rain
When your sleeping persona
Wakes down a deep well.

Charon’s Obol

At the worldly water’s edge I met
A ferryman fettered with every man’s debt;
Most men ferried were frantic and wailing,
But fretless he focused on only the sailing.

Sails unset, and a sulphurous shore-line,
He had not expected the twisting shrine
To offer me forward, unholy day,
Across the bubbling barking spray,

And twice, three times again he inspected
A register of sadnesses’ shipment selected;
On the sediment’s surface I thought it strange
To speak of no toll, no financial exchange

For embarking his dark gondola. My name
Was not listed, but it was all the same
Payment to him, to steer me on beyond all reach,
Where strange landings occur on a stranger beach.

His grim hand flaking pointed barge-wards,
Above us flew three haggard blackbirds;
Anchored not far from where I appeared,
Like a friend in a dream, the same yet weird

And disconcerting, we had not met for years,
I saw myself moored with morbid fears.
I tripped on the littoral margin, and spumes of red
Bit my bare legs. Inelegantly, I clambered instead

And sat opposite from my hanging host
As he pushed off with oars from his dockyard post.
I looked over the lip of the creaking craft;
Nothing reflected, fore and aft.

At the midway point of this bleak crossing
(The worst of the details I’m continuously glossing)
I noticed, new horror, three holes in the deck
Through where the wild waters would willingly wreck.

My chaperone slowly turned his head,
And said without moving his lips of the dead:
“I have two skulls, two holes they’ll seal,
You must choose which two are real”.

His great grim hand, the bone-blockers rolled,
Across the base to where I sat cold
In the heat of the river, a terrible choice,
I had forgotten the feathers to love and rejoice

And as I felt my last heart sinking,
And all I could see were the hollow heads thinking,
I dropped those skulls with heavy regret,
And awoke beside you, covered in sweat.

Featured image is Charon and Psyche (1883)
By John Roddam Spencer Stanhope – Private Collection Roy Miles Fine Paintings, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43610750

The Red Cat And The Blue

Last night, the cat re-entered
Through the flap of my dreams,
The one you may or may not remember
I told you all about in scenes
And named the newborn poem
‘Feathers In The Fennel’,
(Although I do not expect you
Would dismember thoughts from memories
Just because I have to);
The very same cat, only this time
By an orange-red tabby friend accompanied;
They sat on the compost box
Beyond the rosehip and the garlic,
And they talked like old accomplices,
With such great ease,
About the virtues of mice and wrens and
The current disease in their two-legged friends
Which had led to the inconvenience of them
Being home more often than usual.
The scent of ginseng wafted into the dream,
And cassia, and juniper seeds;
In his field of view that red cobby found me,
As piercing as prayers from a high priestess
Whispered straight through the locks
And domains of angels in heaven,
He sauntered over the lawn with airs
Of a munificent feudal lord,
Orgulously surveying the garden
As if he himself had managed the jasmine and verbena
Feeling their seven-fingered ways through the fence,
Then stretching as only cats can stretch,
He jumped comfortably on to my kitchen window sill
And purred as I stood transfixed
By the overflowing sink,
His penetrating feline eyes
Would battle with myths
To conquest and have convinced my latest soul,
And he quietly yawned, or it may have been a roar
And said:
“Nick, here are several collective nouns for cats”;
He paused, and thoughtfully licked a furry paw,
Then provocatively, as if it was the only thing
Which mattered right now in this world,
Which of course it was,
Continued, (I could not move,
For he had my limbs in his vice-like catnip-grip)
“Including a clowder of cats,
And a glaring of cats,
Which is my personal favourite,
A litter, of course, and some which are new,
Some which are as ancient as my mummified relatives
Back in the cat necropolises
Of Saqqara”,
He jumped from the window sill,
And in that moment I awoke, cold and sweating,
For they used to deposit dead cats
Dried in cavities within the walls
Of houses, shops and pubs,
To ward off malevolent spirits
And cultivate good fortunes;
Wrapped in herbs, the cats were scented
With the juniper and cassia
For their healing and preservative compounds;
But in the dream they had me switched,
The orange-red cat and myself,
Painted me blue, gave me some food,
And left me dried there for centuries
For other people’s purposes
In that false familiar wall
From where I would write
By the mind’s candle-light,
Morning, noon and night
Under the stairwell joists,
As the families and lovers
Through that home’s happy history
Laughed, and sang, and rejoiced.