The cat’s in the spinney and wears his white pinny
white socks on the tips of his paws,
he licks whiskers clean, rubs his ears so they sheen
and scratches the bark with his claws.

He stretches a yawn, sprawls out on the lawn
sinks down while his head lolls aside
and you think he’s asleep as he lies in a heap
but his tail jumps and flicks on his side.

Oh how nice it would be to have time like he
to lie back and slip out of this sphere
but there’s no open doors, no windows, no floors,
and you have to keep running for fear

lest the next overtakes and you’re put on the stake
for envying cats who don’t care
if the firm has gone bust or the car’s turned to rust
and you yawn without turning a hair.

How nice to have dreams so that everything seems
much nicer, much clearer than real,
with your tail twitching on, and your paw pouncing on
that delicious imaginary mouse;

for he tastes so good in this land of nod,
but oh, what a shock to awake:
for it’s only his pinny, it’s only the spinney,
and his dreams have gone floating away.



Tall Ship

Parade down the Seine estuary

She slides over still-water, sails spread like a swan
ribbons flickering, kites in the wind;
proud her prow, stroked by today’s summer breeze.
Sailors waver like swifts in the masts
as she parades down the Seine’s widening estuary
her memories locked in serene ballast.
For these aren’t the waters she once knew
when she rocked in battle against high seas
all the way from Valparaiso
belly brimming with black coals shifting
belly on fire with coals caught alight,
sailors shouting, pouring sea into her,
shadow-waves leaning in, tall over her
ripping her sails – wings in the wind,
shaking her entrails.
She, the tall ship, heaving, groaning
rounding Cape Horn.
The captain insisted his wife sail with them
she brings the storm with her
yet sews new sails as the rigging collapses,
nurses the sailors who keel sick on deck,
swears at the canons fired through the mist
from Spanish galleons shining with gold.
Wife and ship working together
sailing through centuries
maturing here into full rigged perfection:
La Dame Blanche in full wedding dress.


Polish tall ship Dar Mlodziezy on the Seine north of Rouen, 2013.
1880 Hand coloured wood engraving by Schell and Hogan. Featured in Harper’s Weekly.


The next Armada of over 50 tall ships, warships and other special sailing crafts from around the wall, will sail the 120 kilometres of the River Seine through the spectacular landscapes of Normandy in June 2019.  You’ll be able to visit the ships on the quaysides in Rouen from 6-16 June 2019 where concerts, fireworks and festivals will take place.




Hump-back in a huff and a puff you loll

bask in the waves sighing, pitching your tail

curling to hide some bad mood as you roll

over surface so still you tip, slide and sail

holding your breath

heaving your largeness away from our noisiness

while we swerve, turn and swear, just skimming the surface

unable to find you, trying to comprehend your meaning

as you shift away reeling camouflaged through the swell

your world to us fathomless while we weave over waves

precarious – unsteady our restless world

while you beneath unfazed.




In my father's garden


I live in my father’s garden
celebrate our conversations
summer lighting up the roses
pink carnations spreading scents and memory.
Crocuses – another spring –
we talk of children growing up
summer seeping through our thoughts
I hold his hand, weed out old age creeping in
sow seeds for conversations in the furrows of his palm.
I trim the roses, cut the dead heads
keep them in a pot beside my bed.
The pot is pierced with little holes
through which their fading scents escape
they help me sleep,
dream of the one I love the most
who’ll never fade.
Their scent has gone now
Autumn leaves lie lusterless
releasing damp of life expiring.
I lie down in my father’s garden
and whisper through the earth to him.


Master Mountain, Denali, Alaska

Master mountain sighs his enormity
weeps in small gullies at the weight he holds,
despairs of immensity, too big to hold himself
mountain shifts, avalanche of granite and schist
slate sliding down to a clear glacial stream.
Yet he holds his head high, shoulders snowbound,
chest draped in tundra splendour
felt-leaf willow, orange splattered with reds
autumn cranberries, creeping greys,
at your feet the yellow aspen quake
and Master Mountain shimmers in gold.
In Autumn your peaks tear up the clouds
they fall lace-like, listlessly down your chest
a shawl covering the season’s demise.
Basalt and granite faults, cracks in your sides
reveal the hidden life within
moulded in muteness
Master Mountain, locked in your hugeness
so long ago the deafening eruption
now silenced, you dream of your final explosion.

Savage River, Denali Park, Alaska