Silver turn


A trace of a temple, an outline
of a religion emerging
through the scraped-back layers
of brushed earth. A square courtyard
stone-walled and fountain-fed.
An alcove for a nymph.

In the latest trench, dark soil
has reached glinting metal buried
at the edge of the Forest: a silver torc,
a thousand years untouched,
an almost-loop like a thumb and a finger
of a god holding on around your wrist.

Here it is, the twisting silver
River Severn flat on the dark vale plain
below the hilltop temple. That same torc
magnified across open ground, broad
when the current’s surging strong,
or a delicate line at low tide.

If I wear this meander around my home
I know my home is safe and guarded
on the land under the eye of a spirit,
shielded by the arc of water
at turns gold and silver
at turns of Earth and tide.

First published in Reach Poetry

The wedding present

My gift for you was an acorn.
I told you to plant it
in your garden so you could always be
within reach of a forest.
So you planted it. And with time and rain,
a forest grew around your house.
Fawns graze at your door,
ferns are window frames,

and you are a neighbour
to oak. Observe the seasons
and the lessons they carry.
Collect twigs and moss
and learn to build a nest:
make it hard against the wind
but soft against the skin.
Home should be a place to return to.

Learn when it is time to let go,
and learn how to let go.
Leaves do not fall far.
Don’t be scared to let in new light.
Gather acorns, share them with your children,
and remember how small each beginning is.

Fawns do not stay, but you will find
a set of antlers each year
outside your door. Oak is a marker
for home, and marks the starting point.
Measure time in rings and anniversaries.
Always be within reach of a forest.

Harbour light

My favourite weather is now,
when the storm clouds beyond the waterfront
build and build and fill the sky
while here there is still somehow the sunlight
that strikes the brickwork on the houses
and quayside inns. Such a contrast
between the ground and the sky,
between what is here and what is coming.

Let’s stay and savour this weather a little while longer,
pretend that life is always made of light
that lingers on roof tiles and gutters.
Perhaps the argument will not storm open this evening,
and we can walk home, touch the bricks
and say this still feels warm.

First published in Finished Creatures

A map of stars

Light crosses light years to reach us and the stars
appear small and dim from here. As time expands,

the names of school friends recede when the divide
widens from the years we remember them over.

So when I look back I think of my friends
as constellations and see patterns in those distant lights,

connecting together the faint memories of youth
to create a set of stories to navigate by.


A curtain of ferns
spreads at eye height
to a child and parts
from the push of a hand

to expose
the shrinking clearing
and the treasure at its centre:
an ancient sleeper

laying like a sunken casket
and shrouded by a puzzle
of oak leaves. The specimen
ornamented with metalware:

rusted plates and bolts,
brooches carried by the dead
to the next station of life.
Close the curtains. Change the scene.

A figure stands at the end
of the platform, his face masked
by a flag. Steam
spirals around him,

a spire above rows of sleepers.
There is one line
drawn from childhood
through junctions to connections,

and the destination is close
to definition.
I feel the platform vibrate
from something about to begin.

The figure sounds his whistle.
His flag drops
and it is my face unmasked
and time to leave this dream

and I see it now. The trackbed
has lost its track and I have lost
track of time. I get up
to check my phone

but there’s no signal
and my daughter is asleep,
habitually dreaming
of a better life to travel in

and I see it now.
The ancient sleeper
is a relic, an inherited burden,
second-hand history.

I step outside
and the first engine of the day
sets out light and I see it now:
I know what to do.

First published in Elsewhere