Chartwell, Kent – with Jay

Unusual heat boiled the tar out of sleepers
As turquoise dragonflies left cross-stiched streams
Over a pond that resembled 1940s Britain
Dirty, murky green
Perhaps a large puddle of displaced Thames
Heaved to Kent by a missile

The Sexagenarians held us up
Looking for lost years in the bushes
In pastel shirts and high waisted pants
They retired on the watered greens
Wiping their chins with their 3wood socks

Waiting, our deftly rolled cigarettes of shag and rice burnt a thin trail of smoke
Wafting through Churchill’s England, his Garden of Eden

Not the smoke of fires and smouldering terraces
That burned the eyes of crying children in hot, packed underground platforms
Tinned, swaddled masses, tripping down stairs and crushing one another

Think of them as victory fires, or traces from a hero’s pyre
Snaking souls of ash bound for some kind of blessed heaven
Where courage and selflessness are rewarded one thousand fold

Underneath the very same sky
If you strained, you could almost hear a rattling battle cry
And we swung our rifles, whipping tiny incendiaries past bunkers into holes
Roused with wit and humour
Buoyed by an unattainable wisdom

Afterwards we’d try and count the books on the shelves
Sealed by the lacquer of time
Thinking on what they fought for
Albion’s rolling hills and deep valleys,
The rose and apple, rhubarb patch and bumblebee
The chestnut and cider, and weeping willow tree

Summer, London 2003

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Your little lip falls away on the left
But it’s cute, you’re not sulking
You laugh easily in the morning, and you cry less than ever
Plus you’ve taken to blowing air in our faces and scrunching up your nose
Never happier than when left on the rug with your toys, sometimes we just want to wake you up to play with you yourself
Your poo still stinks though

On Saskia, written in early January 2017

Her right foot isn’t quite right. Not left, just not right enough.

The midwife told us she’s seen some feet come out backwards though, which made us feel better.

She also has twin constellations, crimson-coloured. One on her crown and the other on nape of her neck, just above the hairline. Apparently they fix themselves too. Which is neat.

Her umbilical cord, having pulsed its last, was clamped with a little plastic thing that reminded me of putting out the washing. The weird stubby, well, stub (which I remember from the kittens born in the hot-water cupboard) healed quicker than my last google search said it might. Which, again, was worrisome (for some reason).

Now the baby bullet hole is weeping a little and I’m too scared to touch it. Not even with a wet cotton ball. And actually the midwife said to me on our last visit “Oh, you’re the dad who couldn’t look while I opened it up!” Yes that was me.

We are more or less resolved to an outie — but it could still go either way.

What can I say, it’s as new to us as it is to Saskia — only we have stretchier, more exercised imaginations at this point so can more readily envision the infinite ways for fate to fuck us up. She can see shadows too of course, but only ones about 10cm from her face.

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Her name is Little Running River
And she bubbles by the bushes
Falling over stones she sucks in air
Feeding fish, fronds, and fennel
Time flows slowly for her
Through muddy dams and wide-leaved lillies
Does she dream of the sea, where her journey ends?
Or maybe of the spring that also birthed her siblings
Little Running River, laughing

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Puck’s Eden With Kipling

Birdcall floats from tree to tree
While hanging leaves spin windily
They’re nicking fruit where it sprouts
On branches growing down and out

Thrush thrash branches between their beaks
And dance up dirt with taloned feet
While Minors signal, in piercing notes
In sharp alarm from echoed throats

Fantail bounce among the berries
The bramble-crown of ring-bound faeries
Who speak the tongue of birdish runes
And sing along, their fluting tunes
Warnings not for feathered wings
“Beware, you humans” — that’s what they sing

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The Boys Like Playing In The Creek

The boys like playing in the creek

They look for crawlies under the smooth stones and spiders in the hollow logs
Tadpoles swim between their legs, growing their own

Then someone slips and laughter fills the air
Cold water fills the pockets of their shorts

Every tree trunk is a target, and every arm a hero
As birds whiz past their heads like darts

They also like climbing the neighbour’s fence and pinching fruit
Then batting blowflies and bees with old tennis rackets

Though they aren’t too keen on kissing girls yet
Or when their parents call them home for dinner

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January 9, 2016 (& 2002 & 1980)

In 2012, I paddled out before the sun came up in Manly, surfing as it rose. Today—on the same wild ocean but kilometres away—I wade into the water again, watching the waves crest and crumble through palm fronds jammed into the sand. The dew had made the top layer dark; and hopefully it had also run the dog piss off the car tyres. The foaming pacific felt warm and light as a cappuccino but the bared teeth of the mottled mongrels were chilling as they chased me off the beach. I can still hear their barking. The shore-break was detonating in rumbling, rolling white-outs while I remembered that half a lifetime ago (1998) I got my first guitar — as today (2016) I was getting another one.



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Our Skin Was the Colour of Caramel

The sky is blue, mixed with milk
And the bird is as red as a race car

The flowers are pink like a sweet sixteen
And soft as its chiffon dress

The house is an ancient flaking grey
And its wooden shutters are loaves of bread painted with honey

The hammock is a rolled-up banner of equality
And the sand is like brown sugar on a bowl of porridge

The sun, meanwhile, coats everything in egg-wash
And bakes all of the colour into my memory

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