Grandad died badly, drowned
in a sucking, claggy trench at dawn,
face down, lungs burning
as they strained and failed to fill.
Grandma maybe had it worse; she
might have lived, but something
in her broke the day the village fell,
and she was raped too many times
to count. She slit her wrists, and then –
impatient, maybe – cut her throat.
Their neighbour made it through all right,
unharmed and sitting on a tidy profit
from the sale of bayonets.
Dad died badly too, I’m told: roasted
as he struggled to escape his tank,
lungs seared with smoke and superheated air.
Mum almost made it, joined a group
of refugees that straggled down a road
all overhung with willow and with
Old Man’s Beard that hid them from the
strafing planes — but they were found
by soldiers from one side or the other, all the
women raped, then shot and left to lie.
Their neighbour spent the war in Switzerland,
and ended up a millionaire:
munitions (and black-market booze).
(A version of these poems has appeared in The Poet’s Voice magazine)
“No man hath seen God at any time”
(John I 18)
The first day
(In the beginning was the word)
Void; a vacuum that involves a
certain stretching of the
to observe — in fact that leads the
senses down another path.
Are you aware of other vacuums
jostling this? separated
by a difference in
or a shift of seconds, or a
shade of colour that they don’t possess,
and perturbed by the passing of a breath.
Now, in an instant, where warmth had been
unknown, we see the surge of
long and swaying shadows
which merge to form night,
ripple to the verge of a
* * *
The second day
(I saw the spirit descending from heaven like a dove)
A wind blew up. There is
a turbulence that
drags at the
tension of the surface,that
loosens the bonds between
starts to scatter them.
In the white
water where the foam
flies and the froth forms
shapes that feel familiar, flickering
like flames (but there have been no flames yet) —
in the white waters we
see arms and legs,
and the vague features of something floating…
features that hint at a future idea, perhaps,
at a possible method of movement.
The separation of light and
fear, of the waters and the other,
the separation of the calm and the restless;
the beginning of the restless,
of the rest.
* * *
The third day
(to you it shall be for meat)
As you watch,the trunk of the oak
is split sideways,the bark’s
brown gashed and glistening;
along the stream’s horizon a log
There is a light and yet tenacious
covering that holds the soil,that
surfaces as separate strands of green,
(Scents of simples, and
the sweetness of stone-fruits,
The breast is swollen,
the children awaited.
* * *
The fourth day
(and the darkness comprehended it not)
Hatched;two halves of the shell that
it emerged from,two halves of a fallen
tear… already rotting.
Against this (but identical in
meaning), mind-borne by something fatal;
its ancient surface freshly-moulded,
moulding the silver half-shell
And the pin-pricks,
causing a yearning outward; paths
across the seas made straight —
the paths of lives confused,though,
following false patterns which are
intertwined, lead always to decay.
With the passing of the horse with
seven reins, and the presages of
loss,the sense are remote,
are less than sure.
Small and near? huge and far?
Holes or interruptions? And always
the reminder in their constant
circlings — that ‘always’ isn’t.
* * *
The fifth day
(And the fear of you and the dread of you
shall be upon every beast ofthe earth…)
A strange song haunts the sea;
not in shallow places, where the crab
scuttles and the starfish strands,
but in the dark green lightless depths of ocean.
In its rise and fall you hear a
lamentation for the passing of so many —
so many dead; so many graceful singers
dragged, slashed and bloody, from their element,
made clumsy, dumb, great lifeless hulks of
And yet the song mourns more
than just the singers’ kin;
in its theme is woven all the horror of the earth,
all the terror of the hunted, every helpless
cry of pain.
If that song grows quieter now, do not
imagine that the slaughter has diminished —
the singers have diminished.
* * *
The sixth day
(Take the wine cup of this fury at my hand,
and cause all the nations,to whom I send
thee, to drink it)
Each component named and muttered;
pain, on pinioned pads of words, is known and
In numbers we discern a metaphysical
necessity, which far outstrips our knowledge —
the numbers are accounted inconceivable,
and whether they are seeded with disease or
centred in a fungus cloud
whose spores spread parasol,
I cannot comprehend their passing.
These many petty dyings
see the now, stirred by apathy,
a self-unknowing solipsism deep inside the
users of the names
(here is, sullen, a
surviving sense that
someone else is real—
although not too important).
* * *
The seventh day
(Thus the heavens and the earth were finished,
and all the host of them)
In lapis lazuli, a bauble, gift from me to me.
See here — it glistens; moisture fills a
part of it, and where the moisture lies
the stars are mirrored
(rippled murmurs, blunted).
But there it glows, and set within the general
haze spark many small intensities,
spark beacons piercing through the
drifting yellow cloud.
There is a sick stillness,
and many silences (eight million in this
glowing speck alone that sprawls beside the
sluggish waters of the Thames);
the quiet is disturbing, but it
speaks of aims fulfilled.