Kindling

Stir the curry pot

warming on the stove

while passing to get wood.

Torch in hand, stars are familiar.

Arms full, into the warm.

Building the fire, small bits first,

a mite crawls on kindling.

Lift one piece out.

Everything’s already aflame.

Orion

Orion hung in the skylight, empty from anywhere but this blue dot

so I lay under his broad-shouldered body, light years tall.

He stalked the plain – stronger than coincidence,

nonchalant like David – while I lay on carpet,

torso mirroring his, palms open to the night,

wondering how to honour what I seek.

 

The Moon Thief in Urthona

I’ve written a poem in response to a zen koan. The Moon Thief will be published in the forthcoming spring issue of Urthona.

‘The Moon Thief ’ came out of an encounter with the koan in the poem’s epigraph: the great Zen poet Ryokan, meditating in a mountain hermitage, offers his clothes to a thief but cannot give him a full appreciation of the moon. Mark writes: ‘I was walking home from work and suddenly thought, “there’s another side to this story.” Working in and around the silences of the koan brought many scenes and characters over time.’

This long poem relates the quest of a drifter and thief desperately seeking a treasure that will heal his inner wounds. He stumbles upon Ryokan, the Japanese hermit poet. In this version, the chance encounter changes everything for the thief – but what will he find at the summit?

Here’s the original koan that inspired the poem.

A Zen Master lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening, while he was away, a thief sneaked into the hut only to find there was nothing in it to steal. The Zen Master returned and found him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.” The thief was bewildered, but he took the clothes and ran away. The Master sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, ” I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.”

From Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbours

Subscribe to Urthona: Journal of Buddhism and the Arts to read The Moon Thief. The next issue’s theme is ‘the beauty of friendship’ and it looks great.

Concentration

Breath hisses like a burning log.
The cracked black wood burns red,
smouldering in a deep iron heart.
Too much air, it flares and flickers out.
Too little, it starves and we get cold ash.
But when the grate is open well enough
it breathes hot and constant.
Sometimes a blister, a spark, a crack.
Mostly nothing but silent, black heat
warming the room without display or cease.

 

 

Dartmoor Glamping in February

Full use was made of the firelighters. Not so much the rest of it. Matthieu Ricard’s book would have given me much happiness in the form of blessed heat but it didn’t come to that.

The burner was one of those US Boxwood stoves. They look quite iconic and can fit a lot of wood inside. You leave the tray and flue open to get the fire going and then close the tray and twist the flue handle towards closed (horizontal) to keep the heat in the chamber and warm up the iron. It seems analogous to meditation somehow.

Brr.

 

 

 

In Which the Deceased Complains to Atum, the World-Creator

Deceased:

Love is not made here. There is no air, nor bread, nor beer.
It is doubly dark, which is to say that it has no colour.
It is doubly deep, having no need of a beginning.
It is doubly quiet, because I can hear myself.

You have brought me to a place that does not exist.
This land is dark and unsearchable. There is no water.
The air is not transparent, or else everything is.
What purpose is there in bringing me to a desert
so dry, where nothing can be found?

Atum:

Live in it content!

 


Adapted from Egyptian mythology.

Live Canon 2016

Hello! Guess what? I was shortlisted for the Live Canon International Poetry Competition again. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get over to Greenwich Theatre to hear the shortlisted poems performed but am chuffed to have my poem published in their new anthology. It’s a response to Robert Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’.

§

Returning to Woods on a Snowy Evening

Developers have sought permission for
much-needed housing. Many trees are gone.
Although I’ve rarely walked in them before,
these woods belong to me, if anyone.

My new coat covers something old in me,
a looker-at-birches who journeyed on.
Ice storms silver everything here but time.
Diggers crouch: eager to do and be done.

Trees are like flagpoles beside the road,
marking the quiet border of a ceasefire.
At 1 a.m., I’ve come out here to tread
down snow and put the freeze on my desire.

Love, in any language, can’t be understood.
The call’s been made, the council has agreed.
No one can say how dark, how deep this wood.
How long before suburbs become its seed.

 

§

The competition was won by Aileen La Tourette for ‘The Diving Horse’. Congratulations to Aileen and to all of the poets who shortlisted. As a competition that believes poetry should be read aloud, the Live Canon anthology will be alive with poems that crackle and sparkle in the ear. You can buy it from Amazon.

Update: you can also buy Live Canon’s New Poems for Christmas anthology.