Picking pears

 

Like people, pears will ripen
from inside.
Picked too early you will find them
hard, unyielding.
Leave it late
and there’ll be nothing left
but wasp-drilled carcasses and mush.

Choose the moment.
A cool September evening feels right –
slanting sunlight and the pears
jade green and flecked with raindrops.

Cup one in your hand
and twist – you’ll hear a click,
the branch flicks back –
you feel the full weight
in your palm.

Like people, pears bruise easily.
Don’t crowd them. Half a dozen
in each bowl is company enough.

Leave them for a day or two
to ripen in the sun.

Then bite one.
Taste the sudden  gush of scented juice
upon your tongue,
that flesh as sweet as summer,
white as snow.

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Old love

 

Street light slanted through the half pulled curtain.

She took my hand and put it to her breast.

“It’s you I want..” she smiled, ” As for the rest..”

 

That she should need me then…to be so certain..

 

Yes. I have memories which sting me yet

even as they console – the way she purred

against my neck when we were done…no word seems apt..

so long ago…I can’t forget..

Plums

We have four fruit trees in our front garden – gooseberry, apple, pear and plum. The gooseberry is never quite reliable – some years you get tons of the things, and others just a few wrinkled relics, like tiny deflated footballs; the apple tree is more of a bush really, or maybe a squat collection of branches. We had two apples from it once, and they both tasted acid on the tongue – even the birds refused them.  The pear tree is an Old Reliable – every year it produces green ,Conference-type pears. There are far too many for us, so we usually divide the hoard into plastic bags – ten per bag- and sneak round the immediate neighbourhood, putting a bag on our neighbours’ front doors.

It is the plum tree which has surprised us. For the first time ever, we have had a good crop. The trouble is that plum trees have very dense foliage, so you have to peer through the leaves to find the. They are lovely things – blushing pink, or a hint of purple – and the taste is rich and sweet, and luxurious. Now I’ve eaten fresh plums bought from the market- and they were fine – but to eat plums from your own tree is a wonderful thing. The American poet William Carlos Williams wrote a lovely poem about eating plums, and I’ve written a poem which answers it- in a way.

For WCW

Those plums you picked
this morning from the tree –
which you were going to make into a tart –
I’ve eaten them –

how sweet they were and soft
like congealed sunlight.

 

Born again

 

A man botched up from sticks and bone –
all angles, elbows pointing out,
and one leg twisted round its mate
like ivy round a tree.

As we come abreast of him, I see
the sleeveless denim jacket, skinny arms
pale and freckle -spotted, his white face
wet with effort, clenched like a closed fist.

“You’ll walk with me,” a child’s voice
slurred around the edges,
a statement, not an invitation.

We stand still.

He finds a solid anchor for his crutch
then drags his tangled limbs to follow it.
We move forward just an inch or two.

His name is Tim and he was born again
ducked in the winter river last December.
Three crucifixes hang round his neck
like winners’ medals.

The square is transient space , where every hour
a thousand different purposes collide
and split away. A place to walk across
or cycle through, which only takes a moment.

It takes us half an hour to get across.

We pause.

“ Born again” he mutters , “I’m born again”
over and over.

A child cries out – a yelp of pain –
head -high above the flinching crowd
pigeons whirr like shrapnel.
I watch them swing a circuit round the sun.
“Born again …” Continue reading

The sound of sadness

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I was thirteen when I first heard the blues. It was in a rehearsal room – one autumn evening – and we ‘d just finished a run through of the play. I was getting my things together when another cast member started playing “ Basin Street Blues” on the old piano. I was hooked straight away – that slow, bitter-sweet tune coming out of the shadows went straight to my heart.

It stayed there over the years . I got to know them all – Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Muddy Waters – but two of them became my special heroes – John Lee Hooker and BB King. John Lee was very courtly, polite, controlled. He played a blues which was minimalist, oriental and intriguing.

BB, on the other hand, was expansive ( in every sense of the word). He came up the hard way, starting life as a farm hand and tractor driver, got his first guitar when he was 15 and learned to play by playing, and listening to his mentor Bukka White. He worked for local, then national radio, got a band together and played non-stop for the rest of his career. In one year he took only five days off.

His music is rich and smooth- think velvet smoking jacket, log fires, tumbler of whisky – and yet there’s a lot more to him than that. He’s got depth. Just look at tracks like “ The Thrill is Gone”, where he sounds like a soul in torment.

But one track stands above all the others – “ The Blues Come Over Me “ – it tells the whole story. Just look at the lyric :

“My baby gives me love
I just leave her crying”

He’s talking about an overwhelming sadness which comes unsought. There may be no reason for it – it just appears. He is inconsolable. We know this. We’ve been there.

“Some go to sleep and wake up
Tangled in the blues “

Isn’t that a brilliant choice of words ?

You get the blues and it’s as though a cloud is covering the sun, and while it’s there

“All the clocks say midnight
when the blues come over me.”

That’s what it feels like, and the only thing you can do is remember that it has happened before, that it will go away in time, like a cloud across the sun.

Don’t think that BB was a blues Mr Misery. He played some solid, upbeat rockers like “ Ridin‘ with the King “ and “ Hold On” He loved,eye popping waistcoats, and tuna sandwiches. He was fun.

But he was best at giving a sound to sadness, reminding us that every song, however sad,
comes to silence in the end.

Thanks BB.

 

How to eat cherries

Depressed penguins make recovery

 

 

Tides

Spray stings our eyes.
Crouched by the sea wall
we watch the waves break,
creamy, hissing, as they
rake back pebbles with a sound
like thousands clapping.

Later, fought to a finish,
the undertow retreats,
the sea smooths out its folds,
finds equilbrium
like wine poured in a glass.

Baked in sunlight
the harbour stinks of weed,
dead fish, marine oil.
Gulls strut the mud
like greedy pillagers after battle.

The beach is blank
scraped clean
blanching at each step.
Later it will be a palimpsest of stories –
a dog’s paws printed shallower
and wider as it runs;
a sandcastle, untenanted
and fallen into disrepair –
and gulls’ webs pressed like leaves
into the sand.

Try another poem here

Side effects

 

 

Pooil Vash

For twenty years I lived on the Isle of Man, an island thirty miles long and about fifteen wide, set in the Irish Sea. The sheep outnumbered its human inhabitants, or it seemed that way. It is a place of big skies, storms that shake the houses, and summer days when the island basks in the sunlight like a cat.

This poem is about  the no-mans land which lies between the land and the sea – the caves and rocks which still contain remnants of the past.

Pooil Vash

Where the waves have worn
a ragged gash into the cliff.

You can get there at low tide,
feel the sand sink
under your feet, climb rocks
slimed with weed.

Inside, gravel rasps under each step,
sunlight, ambered by the cracked sky,
dribbles down broken strata
to glimmer on the pool beneath.

They find bones here, sometimes, skulls
split like broken eggs
and chipped flints, light as leaves,
sharp enough to slice a vein
or scrape a fleece.

The half dark smells of wrack
and sulphur, seep and rot –
the slow stink of creation.

 

Try another poem here  Side effects

 

Side effects

Side effects

Danger ! This course of action
may seriously damage your health !

There are reports of dizziness,
a spinning sensation in the early stages.

You may become restless and irritable.
Weight loss may occur in many cases.
You may experience difficulty in breathing.
Light headedness and confusion are common –
giddy euphoria, sudden inexplicable despair.

Many people experience long term heart problems.

But that’s always the way of it
with love.