Meeting Mikhail. Edinburgh 1993

She appeared first, in furs
elegant and regal; then

the legendary interpreter with his
distinctive moustache and bald head; then

the man himself; ‘I’ve had a lovely time in
Edinburgh and I wish you a happy life’; then

awestruck as blind Bartimaeus, I see
the Gorbachev entourage move away.

Culloden Battlefield. Early Morning.

nonchalantly drifting down like
bonfire ash from the stratosphere

silently seagulls settle, sparkling
the ploughed field, its sods and

clods and corrugated drills

the wind across the rustling grasses
orchestrating a chorus of gratitude

the parched moorland praising
for the welcome morning rains

as far-off cattle add their bawling
hallelujahs to the joyful jazz

while we rattle sword and shield
priming cannon and musket so to

beat the hell out of each other
above the whispering voice of God.


One wonders, up on the volcanic
ridge (or does one)

a sun-shower, transfiguration bright
approaching from off the sea

a smur sliding silently and delicately
across our path, enveloping, refreshing

blessing, hastening the end of
siesta, chivvying on the minute

the beautifully fragile microbot moth
in its cosmos of bog and wandering sheep

and scampering deer, neck-laced with
bare-shouldered basalt, the wind up-drafting

its lacey wings like Norma Jean’s dress,
the timeless and the transient keeping company;

one wonders, up on the volcanic
ridge (or does one)

Gooseberry Picking

All morning, crown-of-thorns
sharpness needling over-eager
hands in the gooseberry bush

red baubles bouncing into the
pot, staring up like minions
wondering what’s coming next,

a solitary long-legged harvestman
bouldering over the booty, unsure
how to extricate himself; thence

to topping and tailing, topping and
tailing, recalling Granny at the dusky
Broughmore kitchen table, jamming

and fresh pies for famished farm-hands;
for now, the former, from gloopy cauldron
to assorted oven-warmed jars.


scrambling, no, no, emerging blinking
from behind the head of one, as yet
unblossomed thistle (even thistles bloom!)

the common red soldier reappears like
apollo 11 from the darkside of the
moon (the loneliest place imaginable!)

into the light, the being-seen-again,
feelers waving in wild enthusiasm, ‘boy
do I have a story to tell (really, I do!)

Who Can Tell?

Praising or pleading, it’s so
hard to know; the one leafless
spidery tree in a community
of lush foliage, where, on

its bare arms two crows are
having a stramash, one in its
gravelly scraping, nagging the
other as it edges away higher up

disturbing a solitary pigeon
indignantly flapping off like a
table-cloth flapping on a clothes line;
praising, pleading, pissed-off?


How did this happen, these
tangled medussa branches,
then higher up, in absolutely

no rush whatsoever, flaming up
and out, on fire with life, all held
in place by a trunk thick and coarse

as an elephant’s leg, the elephant
in no rush either; how shall I
get to the root of this?

7.30am 9/7/22

The wind is up this morning, early,
blustering about like a London commuter
and on the over-grown hillside

cowparsleys are out in huge numbers
standing erect like a team of waiters,
platters held high and ready for

a banquet, waiting patiently for the
signal to advance en masse, but
already, like the Baker’s basket

in the Joseph story, being pilferred by
busy Bees and Red Soldiers gratefully
appreciating the finest of fare;

meanwhile the myriad humble grasses
here today and tomorrow under the
rotors, sing and rhythmically sway

to and fro like a gospel community choir
in full voice, in immaculate attire, for today
it’s pleasure, pure pleasure.

Book Poem: ‘The Deleted World’ – Tomas Tranströmer

no sense can I make of it,
the tiny red spider running
along the spine of Tranströmer

then doing a Joe Simpson down
the crevasse of ‘Face to Face’ before
bungee-jumping off the page, only

to clambour back up at ridiculous
speed on an invisible rope and career
across the cover without skidding,

unlike the poet in ‘Solitude’ (1);
‘My poems are about meeting places’
who are you, who am I, who are we?