I Went For A Walk Outside Our Hotel And This Is What I Discovered

I found a secret pond
Hidden behind our hotel,
Undisturbed by human touch
As far as I could tell.

Cow parsley abounded,
Poppies and wild orchids
As high as an ox’s haunches,
As quiet as a glade where

Kine chewed their cuds;
Harbingers of summer rain,
They survived for years
Near this pond in a spell

Without knowing.
I later researched the spot
And read in a local newspaper
(On a whirring microfilm reader

In a library which burnt down
To appease an arsonist’s wishes;
It was not rebuilt but
That’s another plot)

About a boy found nearby,
Murdered thirty years ago,
Face down in a muddy brook
Which filtered through that pond;

His body turned to browns
Then younger dust, as does
Memory, as does Love.
The ox transformed before

My eyes to become a great
Black swan with a neck as long
As a distant sun, like beams
Which slipped through our blinds

In the hotel room we shared
As I kissed your back, and
Inhaled, and found a mole
Beside your spine I had not

Observed until that afternoon,
Just like the pond and
The boy and the swan;
They all took flight.

I kissed you there as you slept,
Grateful for your affirmations,
Your vivacity, your life,
And I thought about a community

Seeking a child through
The scrub and the reeds
And the sum of all strife
They would not find alive.

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.

Amazonia

Californian seraph,
Amazonian wraith,
Stalking through forests,
Turning those graves
Where quarriers
Profits had gold
Coffins laid
Alongside cousins,
Flemish Margraves and
Iberian Dukes,
Escudos in pockets
Left by their brains.

With ivy and apples
You’d rise and reclaim;
Brazil-nut trees high
Over canopies rein
While moss runs amok
In their orbital cups;
Epiphytal orchids
Climbing kapoks.

Institutionless,
Nature’s state;
No surgeons here,
No interest rates;
The only needles
Are pines which bore
A broth, a braid.
No wills feeding
Outbreaks in swine,
No dates, no petrol,
No courts and no crime;
Just miles and miles
In greens and whites.

And so they raped you
With tractors and bulls;
Cattle for steak,
Dipped mint and a port;
Wines from their grapes,
A knife and a sword.
They lamented your loss
As they burnt you twice
On cruciform wood;
We can still hear today
The faraway hums
Where they
Buried you under
Highways and slums.
Dismantled to fatten
The lenders for life,
They will no more
Sustain us
Than unwatered rice.

Fourth Plinth

I don’t know where I stand
On plinths. The unabashed
Alabaster-eyelashed
Anti-abolitonists may be
Rightly pulled off by their
Victorian marble cleats,
Yanked into prostrate
Positions in the street,
Through the arches
Celebrating ancient
Atrocities, hauled on
Rattling oaken logs
Like dismantled henges
And pyramid schemes, to be
Tossed with appropriate
Ceremonies in to acidities
Within the English Channel
Or from Outer Hebridean rifts.
The sea-bed will be their
Stateless graveyard, no loaded
Roses for them or confetti,
Just blind crustaceans
Tapping the cracked wizardry
Of stonemasonry; bridge of
A nose, a furrowed brow;
Dichoptic sights gouged out
Amid the thaws somehow,
Great geological ages,
Finding their way
These days with eyes
In their claws and their
Claws in their mouths.

I’m finding my stride, my feet.
I’ll never see a statue carved
To memorialise my achievements
Lacking, or phrased
Substantively,
My beautiful failures,
Unless statues in future
Are chiseled (as carefully
As Rodin’s amanuenses
Incisioned with the diligence
Of gastrointestinal surgery)
For honouring cleaning chores
And actions self-defeating.
I for one am glad and pleased,
As judging by societal
Algorithms there would be
Crowds burning books
A hundred years beyond me,
Their pages filled with
Wondrous stories and twists
And prophesies and myths,
All on a pyre
For politics.

But while we lead the
World in protests without
Achieving change, unless by
Change I am writing accounts
About the people I can see
Being worse off,
Parents with less wages,
Children with less
Developmental learning stages
And universities mastering
Navel-gazing, will they also
Demolish or recycle,
(I don’t mind, either),
Statues in bronze and
Verdigris which pepper
Parks and colleges, (some are
Busts, let’s not forget),
Of long-dead men who
Exemplified jingoism, or
The rapists of indigenous
Lands and speech,
The million bigots
Who suppressed an entire
Gender no less for centuries,
Or justifiers of war,
Their bellies made fat
From bellicosity and
Concentration camps.

Then at last, perhaps,
The Lions of Trafalgar
Will collapse and sink,
For those discontented animals
Chased and ate helpless
Gazelles and the elusive
Blue duikers of Botswanan fables,
While the gazelles and gnus
Expressed their gratitude
From within the depths of
Their oppressors’ stomachs,
Their horns on dining tables.

The King In The Tree

Blonde was the sovereign
Who scrambled and climbed
Up his own private Yggdrasil
Tree of life.
Preserved like treasures
In stomachs of saints
And livers of knights,
Fecundities of countryside
Forestalled and ended
An early bath
Where the blonde becomes bald
In formaldehyde.

To make his escape
From Roundheads redoubled
He dressed as a lumberjack
Redundant of axe,
He dressed as a servant
Redundant of ass,
He spied on his rivals less ribald troubles
As they scythed through
Woodland rabbit-paths;
Between secrets of acorns he listened,
Foresaw how Roundhead
Helmets would glisten
Beneath a Shropshire basking
In puritanical sunlight.

To this day he pays annuities
For usage of the oak
And farmer’s hay.
From Shrewsbury to Durham
It’s all the same;
Courtiers remunerated more
Than officers and nurses
For keeping weary
Electorates guessing,
And the saints as well
For all their blessings,
Safer then is wealth man-made

To fund partisan coffers
Maintaining the wounds
Of truth while bandages
Are sold on special offer
In sanitisation aisles
Beside the bleach and barbeques.
He has no use for woodland now,
No gain from roots;
Canopies and verdant boughs
Bring neither shade nor profit;
So with ironies of cavaliers

And all the seers sacked,
He summoned several Ministers
To dig up every Oak and Ash,
Alders and Horse Chestnuts,
Every tree that ever lived
In fact, and unplugged
Subscriptions for petitions
And forgiveness.
So never again could
Excellencies be compelled
To hide in silence, betrayed
By leaves and acorn shells.

Libertas / Columbia

There is verdigris
Where copper plates
And audiences

With top hats
And massive moustaches
Used to be,

The great weights
Welded pre-Dreyfus
Excommunications

Shielded your aorta
And encased liberty
Before the disease.

Now ferry-fetched
Tourists who delight
In the Bedloe Island

Greenery tag you
On Instagram veneries
Whilst unknowing

Of your origins
In the patisseries
Of sculptors

In Paris and
Amsterdam, and your
Expedition in bonds

On barges, in parts;
Locals flocked
To riverside paths

To cheer you off;
Ceremonies, champagne
Bottle shards bobbled,

Magnums, Jeroboams,
Signifying nothing
In the frothy water.

They did not endure
Your journey over
The Atlantic blight,

Now tourists flock
Like a mazurka
Of seagulls;

New frock,
Statuesque,
In that capital

Men use coins
For the crossings
Which also turn to green.

In time, perhaps their
Souls do too,
As they stand and salute

In front of a diluted
Version of you,
On an island

Of the self,
On a sheet of green,
By a European shop window.

7G

Where are you now, Gao Rongrong,
And those who felt appalled;
When did they alter long war songs,
Their sympathies dissolved?
I want the men who tortured you
To tell me what was wrong;
And would they use the same on me
To praise their giblet-gods.
I see a heaven where you study,
Surrounded by loved ones;
Back down here there’s 7G,
They’re burning telephones.
There is an army, terracotta,
Of millions just like you;
We march with our stigmata
Into one more meeting room.

Arena

The Goddesses of Poetry just decreed
To appoint us as War Poets;
That is the others, and you and me,
Who knew we would be so heroic?
We were the ones they placed in the dark,
Suffering beheld there unfolding,
They turned our pens to willow bark
To keep our problems holding.
I interpret my national anthem
Whether for the well or the unhealthy
As saying that heaven’s certain expansion
Is prioritised for the wealthy.
I divine that War’s mechanics
Were for times much less enlightened,
Yet frigates are flung to a further Atlantic
And the politicians are frightened
By people and places of difference.
Generals battle-bottled in their bellies
As Darius did with belligerence,
Elephants fed with timber and cherries.
There is a better way to win,
I’ve seen it in the mountains,
Including none I will now spin;
In the city square they moved the fountains,
Triestinos could see the deadly dictate;
Their camps killed children in Bloemfontein
And called it the orange state;
Then from Ross’s Landing through to Spain,
The place-names all irrelevant;
Argent, Chile, back again
In time for the weekly celebrant.
They claimed the land, they claimed the skies,
They’d claim our deaths for a profit;
They claimed the mint and foundry-wise
And sent us home atrophic.
It begins in the minds of men and softens
Those conscripted for their cause,
Informed grandparents grieving over coffins
To spontaneously applause.
So you and me, and them and us
Have these words for ordnance;
Publish your works, impound the guns,
We have a new theatre’s performance.

Valedictorian

How we suffer now from adventures
Both fantastic and more frivolous
Of our Nokken-locked forebearers;
Their revelling days of fortune and fray
Without thoughts for future seafarers;
Their consanguineous prayers all spared
For the vainglory of giant squid battles.
The Pompeiian partisan audience bayed
For gory blood-letting stages, and rattles
Through cattle wagons reverberating;
Woodstock, hemlock, sixty-eight,
All as if just yesterday;
Cavaliers hounding Roundhead saddles
Built bridges to last on sweetcorn
And apples. I looked in the cupboards
For a jar of Spanish marmalade
But every cupboard is stripped
And how they stare back, a ghastly stare
Like a stray dog’s dead eye socket
Devoid of its optic organ.
The entertainment of war endured
And the wars of lasting distractions;
Blessed were you to feel the blue sea,
But you left no more for her or for me.
Rest well within your heavenly shelter,
In bed your daughter, the Future, swelters;
This is your valedictory speech now failing
It trails from Paris to the pier at Grayling,
I wish her brave sailors would scatter and seek
The land where no more mothers are wailing.