for Sandra

A change in the weather
like salt on ice.
Eyes close and the day
ticks away like sleep
and half-remembered dreams.
Threatening rattles,
voices beneath lids,
the wind is heavy
against the walking figure.
The girl in the yellow dress
toes the water,
her face is new
and free of windows.
She takes her age seriously
but the silence is frightening
like a lost rainbow.


I'm reading the club manager's letter
inside an intimate room
overlooking a bay
where colours change at a secret pace;
he once shared a space
with Dizzy Gillespie,
a story of perfect pitch and smoke-
filled notes, informing me of how
the jazz trumpeter
once listened to him shave,
the almost-contact of his face
in the cold mirror of light
as he told him something real,
shelled a musician's ear his way,
towards the sound he'd never forget,
that the electric razor
held calmly in his right hand
was in E flat.


This is the rain my father knew.
My mother would see him to the door

as he left for work
at the tinplate plant.

A worker for all seasons,
his continental shift

sounded like a dance,
a geological movement

over a quarter of a century;
mornings, afternoons, nights,

two of each as he'd wait
for the one weekend holiday per month,

the stop-fortnight of summer
as July closed and August began.

His coil of days,
the overtime for extra pay

inside a fork-lift truck.
I still see and hear him leave,

his uncomplaining silence
I search as the tinplate shifts.


For long hours the horses have stood
in the rain,
in landscapes washed
by a stained canvas of sky,
quenched grass, a bruised green,
they occupy a torso of field
knowing the squall of the day will pass,
the focus of their stare
beyond hedges shaped by the wind;
from the Bucephalus of history
they sense ancestors at wars,
loaded carts and carriages pulled
through mud,
a focus within art,
the racing-reelers of cinema,
each eye haunted by echoes of arid plains
as the jewelled water exudes over them.


The hardened ferns and plants
join the face of my grandfather,
a worker of black seams
in the night.
His years in a field of darkness
scowl back at me,
they rock the boat
that moves on class,
he is distanced
by the burnt decades,
opportunities he never knew
behind that primary face
which understood the order of survival,
handed across the blisters of time.
He once saw an orange moon
eaten by the clouds,
blue and grey were the scars
on that face.
He breathed the polluted air and lived
to thread the veins of his children.
His strength will not decay,
he hangs his ghost on a hill
overlooking the deep-seated sea.
I keep him alive in his silent race.

i.m. John Keats 1795 – 1821

The afternoon ends,
an open bedroom window
looks down at razor-dressed Italians,
guide book tourists,
a stall ablaze with flowers.
The boat-shaped fountain by Pietro Bernini,
aground near the Spanish Steps
is broken and boarded.
The calm insides of No.26
Piazza di Spagna retain
books of poetry, portraits,
life and death masks,
a letter from a President,
the brief note signed by Thomas Hardy,
each the formal remains of another age
on display.
The fireplace is like ice
in these repaired rooms
where the furniture was taken and burnt,
the walls scraped.
I stand in a small space
where death entered at eleven o'clock,
then leave by the staircase
he painfully climbed.
A life lived for poetry echoes and says
“that which is creative must create itself.”


Hear time echo across
the width of a travelled sea.

Touch the smooth stomach of a pebble
as the river moves on like a symphony.

See the rainbow disappear
in a sky of bright promise.

Taste the season of skin
that waits on a bed of love.

Scent the reason for a flower
as an industry of words
throb and scald
the ripples of a page.


The slick would engulf
the conscious coastline into disorder,

facing a wintry sea
the estuary braced

against nature's principles,
the prescriptive balance threatened

by a stench like genocide,
the malevolence of human actions,

mute dollops
on a treasure of sands;

the praised mythology of dolphins,
the guillemots, cormorants, grey seals aground,

their character despoiled
on a torn signature of shore,

a matted warrant,
the covering tide their pall.


I walked there,
following the road
three miles or so
out of Llansteffan's reach.
That unhurried summer
the tranquil Tywi flowed
through high August country
as the abundant sun made salt,
soon the river disappeared from view,
I was alone
before a private house,
where amongst the dark
conifers and lattice of dizzy pylons
a childhood world
was one recalled.

His words of celebration and praise
brought me here,
a boyhood recreated
unaware that innocence
would end;
outside that day
a sign warned
Beware Guard Dogs
In Operation,
presented no clue
to his untethered wordscape
where a green fraction of fern
was placed on the mindful page,
an abiding calligraphy,
nature's reading
by the filigree of strong leaves.


Wes Montgomery played guitar
without a pick,
his thumb chose
the one
at the Turf bar
with a single
note that ran
fresh with a form

His solo compressed
chords moved
along future passages
with a lively melody
tight with action,
his self-taught fingers
high on natural style.


In the Raffles Hotel there are tiger
prints on the floor.

Reputation can often disappoint
in this minty atmosphere.

The sling is expensive,
at the long bar there is beer
and plenty of ice.

Cool green of bamboo chairs,
the Tiffin room and tea being served,
as a woman wearing curlers
sunbathes in the garden,
drying her hair in the noisy
Singapore heat.

Haunts of dead writers
and the readable past,
names that drop
from a case full
to the brim,
Kipling, Maughan,
Coward and Conrad
all stayed here
with personalities,
party-goers in fancy-dress,
has-beens and 'I've forgotten his name',
staring and smiling from
numberless photographs
their faces holding
the pose and turning
their minds to future keys.


The days are full of light;
in Vienna Constanze gives
birth to their sixth child
as Mozart's final summer
moves inside city walls
with medieval streets.
Tall buildings,
the Danube, fields which burn,
manuscripts, musicians,
months of carriages vibrating
on cobbled quadrangles,
where sounds soared
in the overworked mind
with notes composed
for the messenger
who like an infant
pulled at
the hem of a travelling cloak.

the first woman pilot to fly the Atlantic 1928

Inside a century of premières
a woman scans
the weighty Atlantic;
on course
for the eventual
in a Welsh harbour,
her Friendship
settled in June
like a visitant,
a celebrated debut
on the current of the Burry Port waters,
persistent wings,
her senses alert
to that urgent vision
within time's deep equation.

The Hill of the Angels

The sound of pages
from a book echo here;
the climbed hill
has the glow of an evening
with delicate light
circling the vessels of summer.
The sun illuminates
footprints and the dreams of memory
view the taut breath of shared nights.
Aware of fear and pain
hunting birds unveil
inside an infinite breeze,
shadows with history
ascending to the skies,
a massive rhythm shaped
from seasons of sensuous ice.


Into the secret silence of Manod
quarry they deposited like Hamelin's children

the National's collection of air-conditioned art,
safeguarded for posterity inside a Welsh cavern

to escape for five years
the blitz of a city's acid heart.

Impressionism in central Gwynedd,
Rembrandt next to Ffestiniog's slate,

sculpted to remember, not to be erased,
the palettes of durable colour,

an exact style entering the darkness
brightening a craggy mouth in Wales.