King’s Square York

 

 

The square is transient space
where every hour
a thousand purposes
collide and split away.

Yet some moments linger,
hover in shifting light
among the trees,
settle in the pavement cracks.

That weeping ash
taller than rooftops
grew from graves,
its slow roots stabbing down
between the tombstones,
piercing eye sockets and yellowed bones,
and sucking nourishment from
the clammy loam

Grave yards beg a church
and one stood here,
where tourists take selfies, lick ice creams
and children stamp their feet
to scare the birds.

Crammed between the slaughtering yards,
the butchers’ shops and narrow alleyways
an ungainly barn, all awkward angles,
a stumpy tower.

The church of Christ the King

a place to mark time

the saints in their proper seasons:
Advent, Christmas, Lent and Corpus Christi
each celebrated with prayer and candles
and ashes on good Friday.

And sinners had their moment too
where every day was different
and every day the same

sprinkling at the font
rings before the altar
corpses by an open grave.

All kept in proper fashion
and all this for eight hundred years.

Now jugglers mark their sacred space with rope
where blood and incense once hung in the air
and where our forbears bowed their heads in prayer
a bunch of skinny kids are smoking dope.

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King’s Square

 

 

In the empty square
A girl is playing her cello.

Each note
hangs like a bubble in the gold
flecked evening air, drifts
past chimneys, rooftops –
curls like smoke through open windows,
street doors left ajar. 

 

A man and woman  turn the corner –
middle aged- festooned with shopping bags.
They stare, put down their load, and listen.
The man begins to tap his foot then
stands tall,
sketches a little dance,a minuet –
holds out his hand.

The woman smiles.
They dance together till the music ends.

The girl puts down her bow, applauds.
The couple smile, embarrassed,
pick up their shopping,
and slowly walk away.

Excavation in Goodramgate

 

A long incision in the tarmac
two metres deep and strung with cables,
dissected sinews
draped across an open wound.

Below that, a tight packed marl
of clay and river sand
run through with rusty pipes

and dank with ancient water.
I could see bones there –
how little there is left of us –
a carious jaw, and half a skull
scoured with grit and stained with slime –

the trash of centuries, the rags of time.

Quantum Theory 

The Ghost Guide’s Tale

Outside the Minster, every eventide,
You’ll see him wait- the smiling Ghostly Guide.
Top hat on head, dressed in Victorian fashion,
He’ll tell you stories full of gore and passion.
“For just three pounds I’ll chill your blood,” he cries.
And people pay him, though they know he lies.
At half past seven by the Minster clock
He’ll gather them to him, like a dog his flock
And fleece them.Then when all have paid him money,
He’ll charm them with a voice as sweet as honey.
Dead Romans,phantoms, corpses limp and gory
Drag bloodstained footprints through each shocking story.
From Minster on to Bedern and the Shambles
He’ll lead his nightly paranormal rambles.
Then, at the end, he’ll finish with a joke-
A jolly ,cheerful, normal sort of bloke.

But take him to the pub and buy him ale-
A pint or three- he’ll tell a different tale.
“Twas late last year if I remember right-
A windy, drizzling, miserable night
In late December. Misty drifts of rain
Shrouded the city from Walmgate to Lop Lane.
I had a party booking- thirty one
Retired teachers from South Hillingdon,
All dressed in anoraks and sturdy shoes.
“Come on !” I said, “There is no time to lose.”
“Just wait a moment more- there is no hurry,”
Their leader said, “We’re still one short- where’s Murray ?”

Chubby and pert, a dapper little chap,
Round as a Christmas pudding, woollen cap
Upon his head, came trotting up and smiled.
“Sorry I”m late.It was a pint of mild
Detained me at the pub.I feel so foolish.
I’m dying to hear of ghosts and all things ghoulish.
Please start at once.” And so the tour began.

Along the Minster’s length to College Green
We trudged.I pointed out the ghastly scene
Where once a man, weighed down with murderous knowledge,
Paced up and down inside St William’s College.
And then to Bedern where the children haunt,
Lurking in shadows, wild-eyed ,pale and gaunt.

For every storyteller it makes sense
To keep a sharp eye on your audience.
To check if they are listening or no.
So as I talked my glance flicked to and fro.
I looked at Murray; terror numbed my mind-
He stood wide-eyed and smiling but behind
Him stood another, shadowy and dim.
His robes were all of black,his face was grim
And corpse-pale, but his eyes were black as coals.
I knew that he was Death, who steals mens’ souls.
I looked round at the others, wond’ring why
No-one saw the horror, only I
And then I knew- their faces blank and blind
Saw nothing of the ghoul that stood behind
them. Spreading wide the folds of his black cloak
He wrapped them round the jolly little bloke,
Who fell down to the ground and gasped for breath,
Twitched and lay still, for he had found his death.

The tour broke up; there was no more to say.
An ambulance arrived to take away
his mortal remnants.Someone phoned his wife.
“He was so happy ! Always full of life !”
The leader said,”He wanted to find out
Within this hour what phantoms were about.
And now he knows.Our souls are full of sorrow.
Just thirty of us will return tomorrow.”

For ten long years I’ve walked the alleyways
Where echoes of the past seek to amaze
and frighten the unwary.But that night
Destroyed my courage and unnerved me quite.
And now when I go out upon a tour
I keep on looking round me to make sure
There’s no-one at my shoulder. Yet I know
When my time comes to leave the world and go
into the unknown, there’ll be no ghost
With ash-white face and graveyard breath to tap
me on the shoulder. He I fear the most
Is plump, and smiles , and wears a woollen cap.

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Quantum Theory for Cats1; Launch

” Quantum Theory for Cats” was launched at York Waterstones on Friday. I was a bit apprehensive, not having been launched before, but it was great fun. I did a turn ( an intro  and then half a dozen poems,) then Jamie and I did a general chat, followed by questions. The audience. were lovely, we had a great time – and there were BISCUITS too. My son Alasdair kindly provided us with promotional biscuits – see below

If you want to buy the book – sorry, we can’t include the bickies- all eaten

You can do so here http://www.valleypressuk.com

If you really really want the bickies- you can do do here by clicking here:

http://@MotherfudgerUK

Thanks to Alasdair and Marguerite, Mutherfudger, Waterstones staff, and Valley Press

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

York

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When I am dead I shall come back
to this place
and watch
Tom’s black cat leap from the roof line in King’s Square
and curl in the baker’s doorway, purring.

I shall come back
to this place
and listen
to the trees in Dean’s Close
applauding themselves;
to the flat pavement slap of feet at noon,
to the tumbling drunks at midnight
to the Minster bell.

I shall stand
with the long dead
listening to wild geese pass
in the darkness.

We shall wait in the shadows
for the first gleam of sunrise
to tip the Minster tower.

When I am dead
I shall come back
to this place
foregoing heaven.

Ex Libris- David Hughes-review

 
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Sometimes I think poetry is a small world- there are the legends, of course- Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney – and the modern greats – Armitage,Carol Ann Duffy,James Nash and after them there’s us – the wannabes and has-beens who keep on struggling to produce something that is better than mediocre. You rarely get a poet who comes out of nowhere and blows your socks off.

David Hughes, however, is such a poet. He taught English Literature in York from 1975 to 1991 – a career ended with a climbing accident in which a friend and colleague died.PTSD put an end to his teaching career, though not his writing.

His life became intertwined with a troubled young man (also called David) who was also a writer and poet. The two of them became a writing team – Young Dave and Old Dave. In 2008 Young Dave was sent to prison for an assault and sent poems to David Hughes for comment for comment. ” Young David and I,” he wrote, “wish them to be attributed to both of us.” A lot of his later writing is part of this project.

What does he write about ? Climbing and landscape figure in the early work, and he writes with immediacy and verve.

“Ice across our faces till our breaths begin to freeze
into our hoods, snow goggles glaze, becoming masks
Of plated frost, and compass needles disappear

He writes about war, including a stunning response to Edward Thomas’s ” Adlestrop.”

His technique is unobtrusive, controlled,making the structure reflect the meaning.

Without doubt his best work comes from the collaboration with Young Dave. In one of the prison poems – ” things I miss” -Dave (Which one ? Does it matter?) writes ” the smell of traffic in a queue” and ” the touchdown hiss of settling snow on leaves.”
Look at that last line again…isn’t it perfect ?

The two most successful poems reference the Bible,and the division of souls into sheep and goats.They examine the nature of charity. If you do something good, something charitable, should you be praised for it ? If you receive charity, should you be grateful ? Or is charity something that just happens – an exchange of energy between two souls ? These are poems which leave an echo.

“Ex Libris” is the first hardback from Valley Press. It is beautifully produced, with head and tail bands, and even a ribbon marker.

There’s a man’s life here, and his thoughts, and David Hughes is a man worth listening to.
You can buy it here:

http://www.valleypressuk.com/

College Green. 6.30pm. Urban fox

Bone white stone bleeds
shadow on the grass.The air dulls.
Outside the coffee shop, a girl
is stacking chairs. A scooter putters by.
The tourists have gone back to their hotels.

A shifting of the light. A slur
of movement, and he’s there,
trotting past the sundial.

No Reynard in a red coat.

Ash grey, sandy flanks
all smudged with mud,
his eyes ink black, cautious.

Rat-back snapper, chicken slasher,
worm chewer, sparrow splitter,
knocker down of bins,
lurking in the shadows
by the pub’s back door.

He stops there in the sunlight,
eyes me over.
Resolving I am neither threat
nor promise, trots away
down College Street and into Minster Yard.

Bedern. Midnight geese

A place of alleyways
and turnings back,
each blocked
with drifts of shadow
black as soot.

Moonlight streams between
tall cliffs of brick,
paints windows slick
with silver.

Caught in the city’s underglow
a dozen greylags flicker overhead,
no higher than the housetops.
They call into the night –
a husky, booming note
like a blown reed.