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An ecologist Comments

Thursday, 4 August 2022 at 10:45

No Text











That original, Adam-and-Eve of a tree,
two lovers united as a single birch,
an eternal clasp of thigh and knee,
should defy the hardest cold and preserve
a perfect human state.
                                   Too far north for such degree
of bliss. Listen as frost wrinkles in the bark
and hear them, inevitably, crack apart.


I presented this in one of the workshops run by Kevin Crossley-Holland at Leeds University under the title “A Marxist Comments” and speedily changed the title before it was collected in “Four Poetry and Audience Poets” edited by Alan Ram. There’s a story, which I read as a nine-year old, by the psychic novelist, Joan Grant, purporting to be from a native North American legend of two forbidden lovers who changed into a single birch tree. I was reading a lot of Robert Graves when I wrote this poem.


Wednesday, 3 August 2022 at 17:29

John and Yoko in bed 1969











You, silhouetted
outside the window in my cell,
were so tranquil, head bent,
hands folded in your lap,
that I was calm for once
and showed a marked improvement.

“My ideal” I claimed,
so was allowed to leave
and learn from you a sight
of sun and moon I knew
only second-hand.

I was disappointed
when you did not see me
and stared inside the darkness
I had brought as if you envied
what I’d left behind.

We were discovered
in a state of total silence,
were locked away together
with curtains drawn across the window.


This was published in Universities Poetry 9 edited by Edwin Morgan and either Ted Hughes or Seamus Heaney. I managed to spread a single sentence over each stanza and make each line mean something by itself, an element of poetic craft I’m quite fanatical about.

1968 Poem

Tuesday, 2 August 2022 at 10:14

No Text



Came off mountains with memories
of woodsmoke and sharp thunder
into city smog which hurt my lungs.
You laughed, dubbing me bizarre
and kept me as a wonder.

Arrived one early morning to present
a honeycomb with bees still buzzing
in my words; imagined you would not resent
stinging with the sweetness. You asserted
I was mad and called the janitor
to throw me out.

Should realise
the city hands out nothing I could want.
But you hold the promise of fresh rain,
cool umber of the mountains in your eyes.
Expect me at eight in evening dress
bearing a box of chocolates.


Ronnie Sullivan told me it had the quality of a telegram, I suppose because of the pronoun drop characteristic of early Auden. Yes, of course, I accept that my vision of the immigrant being truer to the natural world is sentimental.

A poem for every year I've written 1

Monday, 1 August 2022 at 14:35



I am a dry wind,
conceived in the womb of the Red Sea,
blowing from burning libraries at Alexandria,
searching for knowledge lost at my birth.

Men call me arid,
but I purify my desert
drying any pools of polluted feeling.
And in that pebbled, heated land where no men live
their forgotten temples lie buried in my sands of thought.

I cannot move forever.
My impetus dies in the humid lands,
a southern end of my existence.
Instead of purifying I become defiled.
From a Mediterranean birth to an Atlantic death,
a dying breeze off the Accra shore
and I weep.


My first poem anyone thought fit to print. Ronnie Sullivan, the editor of Poetry and Audience told me he thought of it as a metaphor for history. In terms of meteorology it’s a bit of a stretch to have the wind beginning in the Red Sea and blowing across the Sahara to West Africa, but poetic licence was given to me by this poem.

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