Monday, 28 November 2011

Back to fox poo, with an effervescent dog

I still harbour some regret over not photographing the vivid purple fox poo. I love photographs, although sometimes I do think that people are so busy taking pictures of things they forget to look at them with real eyes. Mindfulness makes the best shots. I'm not sure how I would have fully conveyed the excellent moment of catching the fox crimping out that amazing colour, but I did utterly appreciate the moment. Literally, some shit is brilliant. 

A wide blade of grass, glazed pale
In dots. There are multitudinous
Dimensions of dewdrops, these
Are comparatively large

Fox poo-pile seizes attention
Beads of undigested berry
Glint in the dawn sun, flaming
Shades of autumn

These plants; collective name
Blackberry; diverge, like
People, like breeds of dog, many
Different ways of growing

Feasibly able to uproot, to gallop
Across the field, over the hedge
This blackberry extends in arched
Tentacles, three arachnoid metres tall

Ground dwelling blackberry
Snakes the path with
Spiked tripwires; easily, sneakily
The path is commandeered

Effervescent dogs have no word for
Stop, in their enthusiastic lexicon
Communicating optimism
In leaps and bounds

The air is not in full bite
But the wind is showing
Its teeth. I pull my hands
Back into coat sleeves

In the far field, one pink
Campion blooms, out of
Seasonal step, attitudinal
Circlet of serrated petals

Walk in the eye of a cloud
Scatter the dew-gems, the
Scraps of web-lace with
Impulsive rubber clad toes

Clatter in an ash tree
Flailing, twig-breaking
Startling inelegance from the
Wood pigeons on landing

Friday, 25 November 2011

Human sacrifice linked to wellington boots

I am a quarter of the way into the task, and have googled the history of latex. 

Butter waits in a glass dish, slid
Behind the eclectic kerfuffle of
Stuff dropped in passing, our
Annoying kitchen table anthology

Coffee cup is tipped, to see
Depictions cast in the grounds
Ripple like low tide sand flats
In repeated waving motifs

The jewels of my jam making
Fill half a fridge shelf; here are fruits
And flowers and herbs preserved
In sugar and recycled glass

Each unique speckled soft
Tan shaded scattershot
Toast crumb on the circle
Of plate rests abstractly

The history of my boots starts
With some Pre-Columbian Mexicans
Boiling latex into heavy spheres
For bloodied games of life and death

The boot chronicle continues with
The Duke of Wellington’s demands
Comfort first for feet in battle and
Afterwards, smart enough for the party

From ritualistic sacrifice, through
Cold wet war trenches, the troubled
Historiography of the rubber boot
Brightens into iconic modern lines 

Looking so swamp chic, swinging
Legs over gate, under the skeletal
Buddleia, goggling at the fogged
Pathways of precipitous fields

Droplets trace cobweb in pinpoints
Patterned like torn off lace, like
Bonkers dressed-up dancers have
Recently fled their bacchanals 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Flip flops and jam, the rural idyll

(Nearly 6 am on Miracle hunt day. I have been wearing flip flops since I could walk and can run backwards in them.)

Inspiration is a secondary
Response. Stripped down this
Experience centres on the
Simplicity of appreciation

Before I think to tidy up I take
A survey of the house-mess
An appraisal of status, if
Not in flux, it fails

I point out the dog paw shapes
On the oven door; dogs observe
Emotion, not language, or old evidence
Dog is happy, I am not cross

A motto on my cheap flip-flops reads
You Can Never Have Too Many Shoe
It’s not logical but the fun makes it beautiful
A stamp of flippant glamour on rubber

The indoor woodlice hurry
Gather under the bath
Slug, on tiles above, wanders
Alone, equally sure of purpose

From the cooking to the brewing
Kitchen, coffee odour lingers
Mingles into damp cottage, savoury
Sour wet dog, onion, earth and spice

The stuck clock hand repeats
One tick, in the quiet house
At this undiscovered hour
Airlocks blup, snores oscillate

Cow herders finish first milking
The machines rest, the cattle are
Gated back in the field, chewing
Grass, with comfortable udders

Pie-packing does not stop
The factory is always midshift
Pastry rolling, cut, pressed
Filled, boxed, transported

Bread pushes down into toaster
By means of a lever, electric heat
Crisps each slice. Butter waits
The fridge is packed with jam

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Coffee, my bituminous friend

This batch brings my 24 hour miracle hunt to nearly 6am. This is too early to actually do the washing up, but I do manage to blearily accept the significance of it. Coffee helps. 

While coffee brews in the jug, I will
Be organised, drag the washing from
The lovely machine that undertook
Hard work for me as I slept

A whirl of wet fabric in the basket
Waits for me to locate some boots
And a mug for the coffee, and wonder
If it’s too early to wake the dog

Dog thumps her tail in a slow beat
I turn off the lamp we forgot last night
And gather up the glasses and appraise
The unfinished list of things to do

The washing up is waiting, is one of
Those little repetitions that marks out
Your life, this history in coffee rings, in
The medium of smeared food stains

Two boots located, the washing is brought
To the line, another confirmation of our
Continuing adventures, pegged item by item
Optimistic plastic fastens the corners

Occupational debris stuffs up the shed
This morning the light strikes a low
Wall of old car batteries, behind me
My shadow slopes on an old door

Close my eyes to focus on
The fusion, the notes of coffee
Dark cocoa musk, the bituminous
Coal, tar, smoke, burnt sugar

Indecipherable words in the
Calligraphy of slugs and snails
Reflect neon hot colours of sky
Across the upturned ceramic sink
In the firepit seasoned twigs will
Be lit soon, to let the bonfire hiss
Call to the sun to not forget us
Through the winter tilt

And here I stand
In a panorama of clouds
Warming my hands on a mug
Watching the steam curl up

Saturday, 19 November 2011

School For Dolphins

Designed to be read aloud, to be mildly amusing and promote independent learning because sometimes it's a relief to do something obvious instead of leaving little inky clues.

School For Dolphins

Miami Phil was solidly fat and he always wore a gaudy shirt with shorts and sandals. He wasn’t necessarily American, but because of his girth, because he was rich and flashy, everyone called him Miami Phil. He introduced himself as Miami Phil, so he must have been happy with the name. He liked his name, his food, his shirts and his money.  He also had a particular liking for islands, the tropical hot sort with white sand and palm trees, not the craggy cold sort with puffins and moss on them.
So it wasn’t really too remarkable that when he bought a tropical island, he also decided to build a luxury house there, for himself, and some villas, where people could pay him lovely money to be on holiday and look at his big house and admire it, and wish they had an island with such a luxurious house to live in.

Miami Phil was always thinking about making more money. Even if he was mainly concentrating on something else, like chewing a steak, part of his mind would be idling over ideas for maybe buying his own chain of restaurants, or marketing a brand of wine. So, while he was judging his steak as a little underdone he was also concerned that there were lots of places people could go on holiday, lots of other places they might take their money. He needed something on his island that would make it better than other places. He tapped his fingers on the table and thought about it. The cutlery jangled. He had a good idea.

His island, which he had re-named ‘Little Miami,’ was home to a natural harbour. This harbour curved in from the sea, a wide curve with an hourglass waist like a 50s girlie pin-up. The water was sapphire blue and frequented by dolphins. It was a fantastic feature. People are crazy about dolphins, they will pay excellent money to see them play so close to shore. This would make Little Miami better than other holiday islands; more than better. He waved the waiter over to order some champagne, and send back the steak. Little Miami, the dolphin paradise, that’s what the brochures could boast.

While he was taking the lift up to his hotel room, he had a further idea that was super-clever. Guaranteed dolphins are the most profitable kind. No guest would be left disappointed, kicking their feet in the white fine sand under the palm trees, because the dolphins hadn’t turned up.  He called a marine engineer right away.

Under the tropical sun, in the deep, clear water around the island, the dolphins got used to the people fidgeting about in the harbour where they liked to play. They were in full frolic, leaping and rolling, when a high net was pulled up across the harbour neck, and they were cut off from the sea.

They swam to the net at first, looking for the way out. They circled the edges of the water, then swam in agitated circles in the deeper water. Maybe they thought they would be killed, or would starve here; they can’t have thought anything good would come of being behind a net. Outside the net, the construction of a wall began. The dolphins swam up and down and around, and then huddled together. The engineer phoned Miami Phil to report the success. Ten dolphins neatly corralled and the wall in progress. No reason why the dolphin trainers couldn’t start right away, and get some crowd-pleasing tricks ready for the scheduled opening celebrations.

The trainers were allowed to stay in the first of the finished villas. That way, they could also report on any problems with the buildings, like if the pipes clanked or there was too much sand blowing into the hot tubs. That was the kind of attention to detail that got you repeat business, and good recommendations, although it would be the dolphins that gave Little Miami its main advantage. Guaranteed dolphins. It seemed like there were two main ways of training a dolphin, so Miami Phil had hired both sorts of trainer.

One school of thought said it was best to be strict with the animals, to give them a sardine if they got something right, yes, but if they got it wrong, to prod them with a stick. This works because dolphins don’t like pain, but they do like sardines and they work things out pretty quickly. The other school thought kindness was best, to give lots of rewards and make the tricks seem fun. This works because dolphins have a natural sense of fun, so they like to perform tricks, for the fun of it and for the sardines.

The trapped dolphins were wild, not used to being told what to do. They had lived together in the big open sea and jumped when they felt like jumping and nobody but themselves had ever told them what to do. It was true that they didn’t like pain, that they liked sardines and that they could work things out quickly. It was true that they had a sense of fun and performing tricks could be fun, especially when sardines were involved. Whether the trainers were nice or nasty, they all brought fish. The dolphins may have been suspicious, anxious and confused but they appeared to appreciate the food.

Of the ten dolphins, six seemed to adapt easily. They understood that if they jumped through the training hoops they would get fed. Sixty percent is a fine result for wild dolphins, the trainers assured Miami Phil, especially in the given timeframe for the scheduled opening celebrations. He agreed that six dolphins could make an acceptable show. They agreed to keep trying with the difficult four.

The difficult four stayed obstinate. They would not join in, not for kind words, not for the hurt of the stick, not for sardines. They were sectioned off by another net. Miami Phil did not want them released. Even if they couldn’t put on a show, they could still be exhibited, people would still pay to see them.

After a few days of this segregation, one of these four outcasts stopped his frantic pacing, and started to imitate the tricking dolphin routine, as though he’d changed his mind. He wanted to learn. Miami Phil was really pleased, because this was the dolphin that suddenly became his star performer, that did the most incredible leaps and tail balances. People would love this. This dolphin would be the one on the t-shirts in the gift shop, like a mascot for Little Miami, a living, leaping, good luck, money-making mascot. He would get his marketing team thinking of names for the dolphins. Maybe Team Miami and the Miami Star? Shame about the difficult three, being stubborn, or stupid, or whatever. Everything else was going to plan.

Miami Phil approved of the finish on his luxury house.  The trainers had tested out the villas; no pipes clanked and the hot tubs on verandas did not get sand-logged. The steak he ate in the restaurant was pink in the middle, not bloody, the chips were crispy and fluffy. The seats for the Open Air Oceanic Extravaganza, and the ticket booth and the gift shop had an island rustic chic, lots of smooth wood and straw. The light and sound rigging was minimal and modern. Everything was ready for opening night. Holidays and tickets sold out really quick, and lots more money went in Miami Phil’s bank accounts. He had himself a new shirt made, just for the opening night, orange dolphins and big silver stars on a pink and purple background; you couldn’t buy one of those in the gift shop.

The synchronised team of six went first, of course, and everyone loved the show right from the start. They leapt in groups of two, then three, then all six together. They kept time with the music and the lights made the splashes all rainbow coloured. They started with simple jumps then built up the tricks, the audience was making all the right appreciative noises. Then the lights dimmed, the dolphins were still. The announcer told the crowd that the star performer would now show off some amazing skills, that, unbelievably, this dolphin had been a slow learner at first but had made inspirational progress, from the bottom of the chorus line to top billing, this dolphin was a symbol of a life turned around. Miami Phil liked the announcer’s pitch, that was clever. Inspiring symbols always sold well, that’s why so many little Buddha statues decorated gardens.

From the netted sides of the pool the other dolphins watched. From the stalls the people watched. The head trainer climbed a ladder and held out a hoop that looked impossibly high. The drum roll began, the lights focussed from water to hoop. The star of the show swam in circles, faster and faster, building up speed. A circle of waves edged the focussed light. The crowd gasped as the dolphin burst out of the water, flew up in the air, like a bullet, so fast, then flipped so neatly through the hoop, so accurate, at such speed, with such power; it was an amazing skill, the announcer did not lie. The crowd cheered. Miami Phil thought of his big fat bank accounts, the trainers thought of bigger wage packets. The dolphin played to the crowd, balancing on his tail for a full pool circuit. People were standing up, clapping, thinking this was the finale, but then the drum roll started back up. The people sat down, eager to see more. The hoop was raised; surely this height was impossible? The circle of waves charged up, just the energy of the swell was incredible to see, and the lights were beautiful, the splashes of water in all different colours, and the night sky above so warm and tropical, and suddenly the amazing dolphin erupts from the spray and jumps up, past the hoop, straight over the wall and out to sea.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

220th miracle is.... weasel poo

A trug of frozen apples, hard as
Quartz pebbles, catch the light
Crystal-coated, wondrous, paled
Palm-sized apple plunder

The orchard apples drop to grass
Are gathered up by tub and carted
To the freezer, frozen up, hauled out
To defrost, squash, ferment

First light halos the demi-johns
On the dining table. Tints of
Translucent yellow, tones of
Red from rose to ruby

Another resurrection
Of an ordinary day the light
Ascending through the morning
Colour gradient

Malcontent to find myself
Awake so early, until
I draw the old velvet curtains
On this panoramic anomaly

The valley is flooded with mist
The moors appear as a series
Of Caribbean pirate islands
Not where I expected to wake

This view opens my frown, it
Nudges acknowledgement, I am
Laughing at myself, at my quick

My decision is to make coffee
And sit, watching the colours
Change, outside, the pink
Underbelly of mackerel cloud

Somewhere in the fridge is a tin
Of coffee. This week we are drinking
Vietnamese Weasel. I picture the sacks
Of beans on the quayside in a monsoon wind

Maybe this started as a practical joke
But whoever ground up the beans from
The weasel’s poo was on to a good thing
Although the flavour in my cup is synthesised

Friday, 11 November 2011

5am and I almost forgot the owl

I have been deliberately saving the bats for the other end of the day, but owl was almost overlooked because I don't see it as often. Once (stuck in traffic on the way to the Royal Cornwall Show) we saw an owl hunting in broad daylight. It had a grumpy look to it and we amused ourselves by inventing back stories for it. 

A composition of washing hangs
On the spare room airer, plastic rungs
Provide a structure for the slung
Socks and baby t-shirts

Over the landing banister
The blue striped duvet cover dries
It went camping, the wet dog had
Left a print of herself on it

In the wash-basket, a crumpled
History of last week in dank cotton
Fast-wicking technical fibres and
Odours of sweat, mud, seaweed

Surfboards lean in the shed
Crunches of sand pressed into wax
One board-bag zip jammed open, the
Aluminium corroded by salt

The sky is dark until the earth rolls
It still feels like the sun comes to us
Looks for us over the horizon, brings us light
To break the fastness of sleep

Morning dilutes night, so birds
Busy in trees, on wires, risking
Ground ventures, can consume in sips
Boosts of brightness

The ground surface is wet, is a
Crumpled, flannelled face both
Weary and fresh awake, is a
Fumbling kettle-in-hand body

Owl’s last glide, claws extended
Under opal leg-feathers, the gleaming
Wingspan beats once from catch to
Flight, the gold eyes do not blink

Dream phases haul up from
Deeper levels, not without
Friction or fight, follow the
Analogy of hooked fish

Sheep watch the owl’s swoop
And flight from this grass shore
To the next island in the sea
Of mist and morning calm

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

200: 3 stars die, 3 similes share a verse, 1 toilet break

With thanks to Boy for his scientific musings! 

Mist rises to sheep midriff
They bundle up the steep field-side
Settle under the hazel tree, survey
Perimeters of moor-land and water-vapour

Open moor-land lapses
Into mist that sidles up
Over everything but peaks
And treetops

Woken by bladder pressure 
Padding past the landing window
Sleepy eyes marvel at the
Silvering scenic sky

Point toes back towards bed
And follow them under the duvet
Where your warmth and rest are
Waiting, just slump into it

There is the boat moored waiting
At the lakeshore where I left it
This dream like a holiday destination
A revisit to a comfort zone

This enchantment of sleep puts
Me under fast, holds me fast
I will be reluctant to break the grip
The seductive comfortable mesmerisation

Hard to know at any hour if the dream
Is a distracting lie, or an alternative
Truth, either way it is experienced
It is, clearly, a personal reality

From white to black the solo
Dwarfing star has spun itself
Out, settles to a retirement phase
Of being a giant lump of carbon

Counterbalanced in a binary system
Sister-stars squabble over possession of energy
The predictable repercussion slams
Compacts internal atoms to a singularity

Like echoes in a cathedral, like bullets in
A vault, particular events vibrate, they
Ricochet, like gamma rays exploding though
Every level of your construction

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

190: Who did that to Action Man?! Also contains dust.

Beneath the sofa, dust and dog hair
Caught in a house-tide, surges
Round a mislaid dog-toy, catches
The sofa legs in its silt

More dust is drying from
Boot print patterned
Mud trail across the living room
Flaking on the laminate

Wood soot settles
On everything in range
The old DVD player broke
Choked on domestic ash

Gravity settles dust, apples and
Planets. At night we see mutually
Forcibly attracted assemblages
Of constellations

Moon-face pocked with evidence of
Meteorite slams, eaten by
Shadow, bite by bite, the
Flat familiar slice of pale reflection

It doesn’t matter that the
Moon is a bouncing point for
Sunlight. Moon-glow is a specific
Eerie friendly presence

Elvis on the fridge door is
Holding a menu list in place
Magnetically and a lobster has a
Voucher for name-brand beer

Information on the bookshelves
Include the art of the jumping
Kick, identifying seabirds and
Basic woodworking skills

On the shelves in the spare room
Books wait on the next batch of children
On the amply spaced dining room shelves
Oversized hard-backed art-plates

Over the books, Action Man sits
His hands have been inappropriately
Hilariously placed by an unknown
Person or household sprite

Not much of the crockery matches
A combination of clumsy washing
Old arguments, happy mementos,
Gifts and junk shop whimsy

A story hangs from
Every other mug hook, see these
Polka dot hot chocolate mugs
A thoughtful gift, perfect for bonfire nights

Four bowls bought identical
Identifiable now by quirks of
Chipped glaze. Bought cheap
Kept cheerful by constant use