The folly tower you noticed from the train
and thought of for the rest of one short journey
when you were young is where I choose to linger.
On all your birthdays I unfurl a banner
above the decorative battlements.
I do not age. I don’t forget.
Once there were people here. They went away
through tall French windows borrowed from the set
of some old-fashioned comedy
and left behind a well-found elegance.
The place is nowhere that a connoisseur
would classify as an essential structure
but stands its ground with dignity.
It would have suited you. Where have you been?
I glimpsed a pale observer. I explored
upstairs to ﬁnd his room, and here it is.
The key is stiff. I shake my head
away from cobwebs. There’s a second door
blocked off by bookcases. An old fur coat
across an armchair has begun to shed.
A plaster bust of a philosopher
on the dusty window ledge is set in place
as if to watch the garden where I stood,
the golf course and the dunes, and then the sea.
The heavy air is cooling as the day
wears on. The thought-struck face at this late hour
begins reflecting in the darkening glass
and all there is to ponder on is me.
After Dark at Lindisfarne Castle
The great commander of the Gormorants
The Geese and Ganders of these Hallowed lands.
– Captain Rugg
Here’s the upper battery. Here is your ghost.
Thy presence seems composed, dear Captain Rugg,
of moistures of this summer night.
Thou didst not merely command cormorants
but culverins and demi-culverins,
sakers and falconets, master gunners,
a master’s mate and then a score of sojers.
At this dainty fort you were a genial host
and strangers did abide. Your bottle nose
became a beacon in the dying light
of Britain’s republic. I am not afraid.
Your hauntings hereabouts are just a jest,
thou hoaxer, Sir, thou hock of the hog,
thou gammon! Or are you waiting to be paid
by King or Parliament? You have no wants
your long-due wages could provide for now
methinks. I can make out, by looking through you,
lit windows of the borowgh toune all sett
with fishers very poore that is a markett
on ye Satterday, howbeit little used,
and then the tumbling Priory
that is the store-house of the garrison.
Perhaps we might talk poetry?
Like you, your couplets linger on.
But no, your nose swings further east
your finger to your lips and as you fade
I hear from off the Farnes the seals intone
the psalms that Cuthbert taught them as the sun
at dawn walks on the sea. I am alone.
Pastoral (for Alistair Elliot)
Wherever I can find a meadow, ghosts
of mowers move in line like handwriting
across grass readied for the scythe by dew.
I’m shadowing their shadows, on their heels
and in their balance and their rhythm breathing
to stride into the cut and tug a string
tight to stop a frightened vole from running
up a trouser leg. There’s laughter here and song
exactly at the moment of its loss.
And I shall loiter among sheaves
to drink the peace they leave, the purple glow
when they go home down lanes and into graves.
I’m aftermath, foggage and bullimong,
an upstart in the poetry of fields.
9 The Place I Am
10 The Riddle
11 Miss Hood in the Nursing Home
12 Old Fashioned
14 The Unsafe Landing
15 Tales of Tesco
16 Boustrophedon Lang Syne
18 The Comfort Service
19 The Leopard
20 The Laboratory
21 La Morale de Joujou
22 A Helpmeet for Protestant Mystics
23 The Muse and the Fridge
24 The Heiress
25 Like Me
26 Three of Us
27 Listening to Bees
28 The Old Stacks
29 The Better Place
30 After Dark at Lindisfarne Castle
32 The Magic Castle
33 The Unicorn
35 LANDSCAPE WITH PSYCHE
42 The Turtle Holiday
44 Next Time
45 The Winpole Boy
46 After Pevsner
47 The Nuisances
49 The Ornithologist
50 Resting Rats
52 French Windows
53 The Philosopher
55 The Trouser Button
57 LADDEREDGE AND COTISLEA
67 The Gypsy Fiddle
68 The Columns
69 The Vapour Trail
70 An Exhibition Catalogue
71 Death and the Spinster
72 The Cormorant
74 News of a Death
75 My Mother at Erbistock
76 A Piano in Hobart