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39. Winter

Softening the crust of frost,
a cover of down lies across.
Step on it, snap and crack.
Ditches cut the brittle land.

A carefully curved swan
balances on her white.
A stork stands vigil,
on a single red stalk.

In the distance foots fall,
high voices haul a sleigh,
muffled in duffels, and carry
in triumph their joy on the slide.

A veil of thaw on the pale
face of mist and drizzle.
Snow trickles into ice, and
long in tooth icicles drip.

In the park, squatting ducks cluster,
in reeds, barely a foot to stand on.
Heads tucked into their breast pocket,
listening to their hearts.  


38. On a camping one night
Awake before dawn, on a camping, one night,
in the shelter of trees,

on a patch of marsh, clasped between lakes,
in st. Fargeau.

The clang of a rope on a mast carries far,
a chapel’s chime.

A low green rustle, a shiver of wind.
Echo of ancient tribes,

huddled safe in communal squat, they sniff the musk
of rotting leaves.

Stare ahead to apprehend what they cannot grasp,
whether to fear or not.

Grasp at a flighty thought, which ever may dawn,
sink back in their dimness.

How much more than the cow, with its soft, stolid stare,
as it churns its cud?

How much less than us dullards with our dream
of brilliance and wit?
37. Colours of death
She may be dead but her grave is alive,
not kicking, but
hosting the growth,
of the flowers you tend.

Memory is not storage, nor simple retrieval,
but tending a garden
to cull and collect,
to keep the flowering.

Colours you collected from the length of her life,
planted in so many gardens,
that took in her light
to root in the dark.

Invisible the lies that dream of the truth
to come out in the end,
in all that was said,
becoming undone.


36. Hat trick on the canal
A streak of wind tore off my hat and flung it far, in the canal, to drift,
to the ducks, who ducked, to avoid the thing,
but then they chuckled and took to it to play.

They tossed it from left to right and around. I took a stick to retrieve
the loved cover of my balding spot,
and poked among the gaggle of ducks.

But then a barge full of British guys came barrelling down from under the bridge,
spread out the ducks in frantic flurry,
and sank my hat.

But when it moved past, with the Brits all in beers and cheers,
the hat had emerged,
and I caught it with a flick of my stick.
35. Far ahead
She is far ahead of you, the doctor said.

Not a shadow of a chance
to keep up.

All her lineaments stretched, and ready to snap.

Don’t hold her back, she is ready to leave you for dead.

Wills you to be still, to receive what departs.

The final gasp resounds for ever. You hold the line,

for want of reply, length of a different wave.

You will tend her grave, scratch out the weeds.

Plant flowers, in winter bulbs

to blossom a memory forever.
34. Look, daddy, look
In Serajevo, long before the insanity broke, 
we stood leaning on a bridge, each other, and you spoke look, daddy, look, and you pointed at I know not what,
I had eyes only for you. A minaret, perhaps, now reduced to ruin.

A bit later we rolled, overwhelmed by lust, in a patch of garden, next to a gate, barely covered by roses, unlatched,
where later a sniper took aim. I still taste in your hair
the dust we kicked up, feel a pebble that pricked in my back.

You sought in me what I could not offer, a shoulder of tweed, scent of a pipe, the father
you lost. And I was the young lad of love, who
worshipped you, reaching but never reaching, nor reached.

Do you recall, or has it all gone, disappeared, the moments that still the ticking, the pricking pebbles
of time, the taste of dust, now settled, and gone. Or is it not 
all undone, osmosis in the midden of your mind?


33. Winter train in Thüringen First posted in a Dutch version, December 2018

In its decline, the sun rolls along the rim of the hill.
Strokes her shoulder and side
down into the thigh
of the valley, where
in the rounding of the rill
she draws her glistening.

Shabby, decrepit, crippled remains of factories, beaten,
slink along the track,
incongruous doggerel.
Broken timber frame, cracked ribs,
the fill spills out. Cadavers
overwhelmed by graffiti.

The grid of the forest stutters the light.
Vertically, a red wall, a bony birch, empty, deserted, a church.
Horizontally, a dark sweep of earth, decked
by white that no longer melts,
hardens in the fall of  frost.
Light ripened to orange,
burning to purple.

The sun topples over the ridge.
A slight of light that lingers, glitters still, high
above the dark below, reflected
on lines of jet exhaust.
Pipe the sleeves of sky,
illuminated, pink, converge
on the horizon, point to the fall.