The Wind Gnawed Thorn

       Beside the church’s grey stone wall,

between old grave, perched high above the moor,

a wind gnawed thorn tree holds its limbs against the sky.

Crippled by cold and the salt tanged blast

it turns its humped back on the sea

as if to say “I shall not fail,

but will remain deep rooted here in life

amid the unsung winters of the dead.”

A lonely, lifeless thing it seems beneath the January sun

but yet its twisted limbs

like gnarled old fingers clawing life from out the sparkling air

will flower,

run with leaf

and bear a fresh green testament

to life and joy which runs within its blighted frame.

Likewise in man

a crippled, withered shell may hold a mind undaunted by its disabilities

which slipping from the shackles of this world

soars high into a realm unknown to other men

and, finding language of its own, casts off its crown of thorns

and voices dreams and thoughts to dazzle and bemuse the earthbound mind.

The wind gnawed thorn stands proud upon its hill,

its twisted form a spark to fire the mind

and lead its groping thoughts along its limbs

towards some understanding in this life.

Old Winchester Hill

Sun on my back

on the roof of the world

with the valley drowned deep in the summer’s haze.


Quiet, no noise

but the song of birds

and the insect’s buzz where the slow sheep graze.


Peace, at this point

between earth and sky

through the long, hot, hour of the noon-sun’s blaze.

Silent Movies

They huddle in grim groups

amid the wreckage of a trench half filled with mud and slime

but, as the camera pans its weary eye along the waste

they smile and wave and raise a ragged cheer

to show the folks back home the lads are well.

They’re doing fine.

But then, in muted groups

and ones and twos

the shattered bodies of the not so fortunate pass by.

The ones who can, smoke cigarettes

and grin concealing pain they feel they should not show,

the others set their faces with a mask of stone,

their blank expressions hiding all.


I watch these films and wonder how it was

they carried on amid the roar of guns,

the filth and stench of death

as if the madness that they daily faced was real life,

and peace some monstrous lie created by diseased imaginations.

Their national pride which turned its face from suffering

and, welcoming, embraced the lunacy of war

still fills me with dismay.


I watch again as silently the men are killed

like actors from some grotesque mime

and feel a sadness fill my soul

for what man’s done, is doing now and will doubtless do again.


Sunday, and the old church bells

shatter the brittle morning peace,

scattering fragments of clanging sound

like aural shrapnel through the sunshine’s fragile veil.

Three brazen voices din the air

in clamorous, ragged, unison

and so once more the old French town

is called to God and prayer.

The Old Man in the Photograph

What thoughts lay there behind those tired eyes,

set deep within a face long carved by gnawing time?

Old as the land he seems,

who’s ways had shaped his waking life,

its contours mirrored now within the rugged features of his face.

He sits at ease,

his old hands, gnarled as tree roots, in his lap,

long days of toil with spade and plough now done,

and gazes through the intervening years

into a future stranger than his wildest dreams could show.

So many years have passed since he sat there

and faced the hooded camera’s lens,

an age has gone since he was laid to rest

his hollow eyes and mouth now filled with clay

that once he worked.

But yet when someone sees this fleeting moment

captured in the paper’s silver stain

for one brief flicker of an eye

he lives once more.

The Phoenix

(for Sue)

 I placed the withered embers of my love

upon the altar of my life

and left them lying, cold and dead.

Until, by chance, you passed my way

and breathed new life upon its ash.

Then phoenix like it rose anew

and blossoms now in children and in you.


A couple of Haiku

Autumn has arrived

Swallows fly to warmer climes

Soon there will be snow


Eight legs climb the pipe

Soft clouds weeping tears of rain

The journey starts anew.

And finally one for the kids that has never been published before

Aunty Hettie

Aunty Hettie was eating spaghetti

she  got it in terrible knots,

the Bolognese sauce dribbled all down her chin

and it covered the carpet in blots.

She tried with a knife, with a fork, with a spoon

she was drove to the edge of despair.

“Oh bother!” said Hettie, “this stupid spaghetti is all tangled up in my hair!”

When aunty Hettie had finished her meal

the room was a terrible mess.

Mum looked at the sauce on the ceiling and walls,

“We’ll take hours with the clean up, I guess.”

The night it wore on as we scrubbed and we scrubbed,

it was late when we all crawled in bed.

So the next time aunt Hettie comes round for a meal she’s getting a pizza instead!