Beneath the crimson moon
brown earth ebbs
and waves of trees
and swells of grass and corn
from purple sands
To oceans wide and green
where colours fade and glow
as ebbtide turns to flow
and lunar shadows go
Night Train Home ©
station noises ... A lurch . . . And then we're off!
Away from the swarming
city, into the evening.
There's a glow in the west where the day departs.
talk an hour, then . . . drowsy . . . fall asleep.
One wakes and hears . .
The wheels click over expansion joints,
Slowed by a cross-wind as the
Or echoed hollowly by station buildings,
Or drowned by
the roar and rattle of a freight.
He who has
waked looks round.
Rushing light from empty stations flits over faces fast
Dreaming of their journeys' end.
Perhaps they live it now?
oh, for an end to the 'clickety-clack',
The restless dozing, the aching back.
On and on, and into the dawn,
Passing the grey towns, the brown hills, the
Then . . . slowing . . . and grinding on intersections,
the sleepers to half-awake actions,
Making them lean to the retardation
As platforms rise to their unfocussed eyes,
And twelve long coaches enter
Station noises . . . Scottish voices ... A lurch,
Where to die ©
wonder where I shall die
and where might my body be.
in the sounding sea?
Or shall I die at home, in bed
by my head?
Or maybe in some distant land
far from the haunts
with the cackle
of a jackal
my only requiem!
West Highland Morning ©
shiv'ring and chill
I listened to the silence.
in the silver water,
still, in the Highland morning,
of the lumpy islands. And my own
gave thanks for it all
dae ye dae when yer gran'weans say,
'Where does my daddy go all day?
Why does he never stay and play?
Jimmy's dad never goes away.'
Whit a question, my wee man!
That's hard for ye tae unnerstan'.
here, come tak yer granny's han',
an' coorie-doon at granny's knee
see if I can tell it t'ye.
It's a' tae dae wi' ships.
daddy has a job, ye ken.
That's no' like a' the ither men.
Patrick's dads' has nane.
It's a' tae dae wi' ships.
min' yer Gran'pa Duncan, son.
Remember Gran'pa Duncan's han's?
like mony anither man's . . .
'Buncled an' scaured wi' the rivettin' gun.
Buildin' braw ships was whit he done.
no' for yer dad the biler suit. He went tae the schule . . .
an' soon stepped
oot in moleskin coat wi' gowden braid
an' sailed the ships yer Gran'pa made.
He watched that the engines ran a'richt.
An' saw that the boat had the 'lectric
licht. . .
Left haun' red, an' richt haun' green,
an' power tae the captain's
An' a' things runnin' smooth th'gither
hame tae Glesga's river.
noo that the ships has sailed awa'
an' don't come back; there's mony a prood
man ta'en his fa'.
The bookie's ... an" the billiard ha' ... the whuppet
Jimmy an' Patrick's dad's like that. God help them a'.
scarce a jaicket tae their back, come rain an' snaw.
ma' lesson, son. Tak' heed.
An' stick wi' a job that buys yer breed.
Though the shipyards' days is past.. .
An' Linwood caurs, that didna' last,
There's plenty that's new.
They'll be something for you.
o' it fast!
The tank sits wheel-deep in the yellow dust
Of the shell-shattered farmstead over the town.
Stubble-chinned heroes slouch
round, swapping jokes
And rolling black strands into spindly smokes.
been sitting for weeks, with no leader, no orders,
Since their forces advanced
from the eastern borders;
Living in boredom, tormenting the town
occasional tank-shells to keep the heads down
And trap the poor townsfolk
in shivering fear.
The only reply an occasional round
From a futile Kalashnikov
to the high ground
Where the heroes in tanks shout jeers at the sound.
no-one knows how, but the word gets about
That someone's arrived. And the
tanks must dig out
And advance on the town.
So the stubble-chinned heroes
have action at last,
Old and new buildings come under their blast.
shellfire shatters a Communist tower
Of sordid flats where the people cower
A century's skills in the builders art
In a church of God are blown apart.
A hapless family's hopeless hut shivers asunder under the shot
an innocent mother's torn remains
Slump in her children's dark bloodstains!
Guts, Real Guts! ©
. . . real guts . . . don't show in a grittin' of teeth;
Or loud-mouthed boasts
. . . 'I'll do it! I'll do it!
I know I'll do it!'
And so, if one day
there's a call for you
to show your mettle,
you'll see it through,
if you don't rush to settle old scores,
or throw the gauntlet down,
challenge the whole town
on how well you'll do.
I know. You see, some
I had a nearly fatal blow!
It seemed I'd not pull through.
But, later, when I did, it was mate that said,
'It's guts . . . real guts
. . . you had!'
But, no, he's only halfway right.
The will to win in any
is there. But don't
claim all the credit, or you won't!
guts is what some day might save us,
they're something that the Good Lord
She Never Came ©
years ago, a man with this concern
and listen for the horses' hooves along the lane,
which never came;
crunching of the carriage-wheels upon the drive,
which don't arrive.
in an ordinary street in an ordinary home
awaits the ring-ring
of an ordinary phone;
an ordinary phone . . . not like the twitter
some fancy phone that goes
in upmarket houses or in bungalows.
just the same . . . she never came.
Motorway North ©
Would they believe ... in Watford, say,
The frantic road upon which they frustrate themselves
to work each day could
take them, in a few short hours,
. . . through places, to the South a joke,
Like Wigan, Stafford, Crewe, or
whose busy mills and decent folk
supplied a mighty Empire in
a civilising world
until so-called 'enlightenment'
the whole in bloody
Motorway north on a sparkling
when one-by-one the counties slip away,
away behind and out of mind.
Depart the frantic South and pray for calmer places,
open spaces and rolling
where the looping highway
lies like a noble order, proud on the shoulder of Shap
and the free winds
ruffle an ermine of late-spring snow.
Would they believe, down
there, that north along that road
a few short hours, a few long miles
that worthwhile prize ... a better England . . . lies?
The Winnipeg Goose ©
goose that swallowed Winnipeg, (as everybody knew,)
Had bitten off a great
deal more than any goose could chew.
The time had come he should migrate to
warmer climes in a distant State.
In skeins of four, and six, or eight
the other geese honked overhead
on training flights, to strengthen wings,
agree their cruising speed, and height,
and who should lead,
But Greedy Goose had problems, for his weight
with Winnipeg inside
him was too great!
Beside the Royal Mint, the longest of the lakes
just the distance that it takes, for lift-off run;
but climbing to the sun,
in Manitoba's morning, was no fun.
Though he could fly, he knew he could .
. . not ever reach
the cruising altitude of that stupendous flock;
of wonder in the eyes of all
who witnessed the migration in the fall, of
all the geese . . .
. . . aye, all the geese, bar one!
For, having eaten
Winnipeg, his weight
was far too great!
To put that right
to ... defecate?
Free Verse ©
I don't think it's for me
this free-verse thing,
For how can a painter paint
How can his landscape lie with any truth?
How can his portrait-work
a frown, or smile
or wistfulness, or beauty
if there are no rules
and any daub will do?
Is writing, like a youngster's clothes,
from Body-Shop to Next
and back? Indeed, what's next?
do we read our Shelley or our Keats?
Or do we? Who does?
A thousand years
on, who reads John Donne?
I do. Do you?
Please God, I pray
we write, or paint, or build today
will not be
towerblocks of tomorrow.
Whose Paradise? ©
Don't talk to me of Caribbean
as idyllic islands in the sun.
Sure, that's how they are in travel
with set-up photographs of empty sands
and glamour overdone.
palm-fringed islands in a sea of blue
are there, but relatively few
uninhabited. That seems
to be the defect in the dreams
For it is true
that Caribbeans have a merry name
for smiles and gaiety.
And so they do
with blue-rinsed Yanks, at ports,
who jabber off the tourist-boats
in chainstore shorts
to buy their tawdry hanks
of plaited straw and lumpen
pots of clay
and sail away.