We climbed trees

and you'd always reach for that furthest branch;


a crack of wood, a crack of bone

was adventure to you. A broken arm would mend,

smashed National Health glasses 

could be taped at the sides. No problem.


And rope swings were best, flying us

into a spin as ground dropped away - a freebie 

fairground ride on a heath that had a windmill.


You told me you were gonna be a human cannonball

or a Hells Angel

as you picked at scabs on your knees.


Stunts were getting dangerous, scrapes cut deeper

into your skin

and I didn't have the stomach for it.


You wanted to ride a motorbike 

through ring of flame without a crash helmet.


I believed you would do it.








Tree Conference


They're whispering about me,

I hear their rustle above, their exchange

of gossip through leaves.


Debates curl around wooden serpents, 

conversations clash in scratchy fingers;


they each have a perspective.


Yew speaks his mind like a boardroom tough,

his opinion will not be swayed,

he knows of damaged roots, defences

layered in toxic bark.


No woodland creatures gnaw him,

no conflicts interest him

or timber fists will bang down, quake ground

to show who's boss.


Oak has secure phrases; he cradled me

in lonely years as I watched cloud patterns

roll and morph. He was easy to hang a school bag from,

my desk, my chair, my solid base.


Some securities age deep within oak.

He's a grandfather, an easy listener with outstretched arms,

always on my side

offering acorns of wisdom like sweets.


Beech sings her view in a lullaby

and I'm captured under her ethereal crown.

Everything sparkles yellow and gold

and secret doorways hide in her trunk,

like those in bedtime stories.


Her fantasy worlds excited me

and I take the spiral starcase down 

below ground, inside imagination.

She is all things creative, has inspired

and encouraging words for me.


Maple doesn't like me. She twists conversation 

for pleasure, changes mood like leaf colours 

though seasons;


her outfits are glamorous, narcissistic,

sometimes spikier than horse chestnut, sometimes demure

and sweet. She could destroy a forest

or poison birds with her sour fruit.


Birch trees talk over my wounds 

like hospital staff, their silver hands guide me 

over soggy terrain, their medicine is advised

in tiny spoonfuls.


I could make a boat from their skins,

canoe down river

then steer away from weeping willow's drape

of self pity and sorrow.

No comfort can be found there now.


I end at pine woods, which shower me

with tickly needles. They see a positive side

like girly relatives, silliness is okay 

and I can run underneath their linking arms.


Everything is a celebration for them,

a reason to get together.

Their message is light hearted; they chuckle:

'Trees shouldn't be all that serious.'







Autumn Mum


Spelling tests on the walk to school,

Monday mornings 

with chill wind at our ears. A time

for scarf and gloves.


You kept tight hold of our hands,

kept it all together.


Your hair was red of the season, shoulder length

through the seventies for that Charlie's Angels look.

Heated rollers and hairspray.


Your sewing machine stitched hems for us,

and curtains for your living room, always the fashion,


polished and gleaming.


When Elvis died you were peeling potatoes

at kitchen sink, I remember your tears.









Kate Bush Haunting


Icy vocals pitched story of jealousy.

She seemed possessed, all crimped hair

and shocking eyes

cast out of Wuthering Heights

to lonely moors of record promotion.


Her exorcism played on stage, in spells

of octaves. She reached through mist to grab


a number one hit, could be a bride

with shotgun or a human bat

evoking chills of the Hammer Horror.

And violins could send her into a fiddle.


She danced with double bass

then stabbed at his strings, she camouflaged face

for army dreamers; Kate Bush, the entity


composed songs for a night gallery of vinyl.







Havasupai Indian, Grand Canyon West Rim

Eagle Point


This gorge carves earth to fossil,

dry and cracked

each pinnacle spears an idea of the west.


Its tribes have eroded,


their slaughter shames through canyon walls

with shadows that forced an American dream on horseback.


Poison arrow did not protect those women and children

whose settlements scorched,

now stories of cowboys and Indians stain

deep indside monumental wounds.


The Havasupai wear peaceful feathers.

Chief performs a rain dance

on sacred plateau, he sees past and future

layered in limestone, a wisdom 

washing down generations

into river's muddy snake.


They summon strength from jagged sun,

heal with eagle spirit;


some trade buckskin, others guide tourists

to the edge of glassy skywalk.






Nephews, Nieces


I still see them spinning in waltzers,

bumping around in dodgem cars

doing their thing


wide eyed at the stir of candyfloss.


That phase was all roller coasters

and loop the loops, holding onto the bar.


Skill won them a teddy.

Luck bagged them a goldfish.

Fun house made them giggle.

Ghost train made them shiver.







Beach Art


One hundred iron men, spaced

through wave and tide, a union

of stills drilled to bedrock.


Some are craggy 

others glow bronze on wet sand

where ripples sink in pools.


Perspectives change;

are they frozen aliens or a suicide army


sculpted to wear sea.


They're exhibits at sunset, ghosts at dawn

with silt foamed fingers, salt grey scarfs







Finding Feet


From the highchair to the crawl

to the first steps on Crosby beach,


growth comes in waves

that tumble and roll, smooth out

to reach him.


He digs with baby spade,

takes scoops of joy

and piles them into bucket.

Soon he will build a castle

with a flag on top, discover shells

and buried treasure


our new cherub

ready to splash in the shallows,

ready to spot pirate ships on the horizon.









Mosaic Rio


Pavement waves at Copacabana, fragments

spray sea on baking sand; a market place

for cangas where mini Redeemers

hold hands out for a sale.


Patterns are everywhere,


at distance

tiny squares built into hillsides, poor housing

painted with guns and hope.


Ceramic steps display masterpiece

that grouts each country's history.

Some have been shattered, split; 

fixed back in place for a kaleidoscope 

that cost artist a lifetime of patience.

His walls are red, shiny, with Brazilian flags


and messages

that shout out from the street.


There's humility in these tiles, social justice in these tiles.