Song for Pieve di Caminino

At Caminino they make merry
Among the ghekkos and the fairies
In amongst the olive groves 
Where the prosecco fountain flows,
Where the wine forever flows 
In amongst the olive groves.

And there is a fig tree there
Competing with the prickly pears
For the devotions of the guests
Who come to eat and drink and rest
Who come to find eternal rest
Among the spirits of the blessed.

An ancient chapel stands out back
And those who venture up the track
Beyond the figs and prickly pears 
Can see the ghosts of monks at prayer
A thousand years and still at prayer
Beyond the figs and prickly pears.

And here they give you caponata
And the veal is tonnato
And the boar is freshly slaughtered
For the baptism of the daughter 
For the baptism of a daughter
A cinghiale freshly slaughtered.

And the children shout and run
And the men discuss their guns 
As the smoke of their tobaccos
Charm the fairies and the ghekkos
The merry fairies on their ghekkos 
Inhale the perfume of tobacco.

And as you drive back to your place
Hot tears will flow upon your face
For you to mourn all that is pretty 
As you cry tears for the city.
Yes, you cry tears for the city
That taught you everything you know
About the ugly and the pretty.

At Caminino as the night turns dark
The guests have played their final parts
And exit as the curtains close 
In amongst the olive groves
In amongst the olive groves 
Where that magic fountain flows.


- o -


dedicated to that very magical place, Pieve di Caminino, its hosts and their new daughter Maria Giovanna.

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Sagra at Campagnatico

The crowd ate snails in umido
And some of it, tortelli maremmani 
with generous dollops of meaty ragu, 
and ravioli with butter and sage
and grilled chicken and salamella,
and soaked it all in draught beer 
and carafes of inexpensive local wine.
Volunteers in matching tee-shirts 
hustled tickets and orders and fries 
and tiny plastic cups of vin santo 
surrounded by cantucci carefully
laid in the shape of suns.

Above the queues and rows
of eating and anticipating humans,
a tumult of smells and oil smoke 
rose and rushed through humid air
to join the darkening clouds 
above the nearing horizon,
where an angry yellow haze
was already consuming the hills
and threatening the valley.

The crowd was still eating 
as the first drops of rain 
splashed the warm concrete.

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Wedding at Campagnatico

She married at the old church
at the end of the hilltop village,
wearing white so she stood out
from all the coloured short dresses
and tanned legs taught over heels.

The young men sported beards
and recent haircuts and blazers,
creased trousers, casual shoes,
and dispersed energetically
as the old men and women waited.
Across the road on a raised wall
cheerful onlookers from the village
looked on and chatted.

She must have worn her mother’s
old wedding dress. The groom
was not obvious, if he mattered.
She married because that dress
could still be worn one more time
and she needed to stand out once
from the heels and coloured dresses,
because the oldies waited patiently
for something other than a funeral,
and the dry cleaner needed business,
and the guests needed something
to discuss until the next headline,
and the village onlookers needed
somewhere to look.

I was up on that wall with them
waiting for the pizzeria to open,
it opened when the crowd dispersed.

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Buried far far beneath the evening sky.
Where the trees have lost their shadows,
where lonely lights hunt through the depths
and the last of the supermarket shoppers
shoot cigarette smoke with the guards
before they hang their heads home.

Want to be up there, upon that mountain,
among crystal air and pink gold clouds.

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40,000 reasons why I am not having a crisis

Sorry, please come back later, I’m in the middle of a crisis.



Daddy, you know, this floor,
it’s a puzzle of a whirlpool,
he said, crouching down in his pyjamas
squinting at the parquet floorboards
as I was trying to wake up.

And as I did I saw that he was right:
the grain and eddies of the wood
were jigsawed and reassembled
into a thousand discontinuities,
stitched together randomly
until it was safe to walk,
so we could live and love
without falling through and drowning,
or always thinking of the ever present
danger beneath our feet.

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I have a stone in the centre of my chest
Where the heart once was
It feels heavy.

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9 May

Who was it
Who walked out
Into the burnt wheat
And reaped smoke?
Who slept on the charred dirt
And ate raw horse
And stripped bark,
Lost teeth and friends
And saw everybody die
And kept on running
As the bullets stitched his legs?
Was told that he was dead
But lived again, again?
Who ran across the field
Bellowing “for Stalin!”?
Who was it
Who won it back for you
But gained nothing?
You do not know
because you do not know
or you do not remember.
Run now, to the hills
Or go out in the garden
Look up and close your eyes
And be silent
And you might taste the bitter drops
Of ashes scattered
High above the spring breeze.

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Secret garden

You always do this, she says,
as he smiles victoriously
with the teaspoon between his teeth,
knowing well that it tastes sweeter
stolen from her cup.

He watches her undress
from behind his fingers. She knows it
but she knows he cannot reach.
He knows he could
but the forbidden polaroids are sweeter.

We never do this, she says,
eyes closed as he strokes her hair and face.
They know it is a stolen glimpse
through the keyhole
into the secret garden.

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Sometimes all it needs
Is a walk through the snow
And a stroll up a hill
And a shuffle through the leaves
And a hush at the waterfall
And a rush to get in from the cold
To drink and to eat
And to drive through the dark
With the little ones asleep in the back
Back home.

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What a wonderful war

I am your enemy now.

You will come for me tomorrow night,
gathering noisily with the others
outside my shuttered windows.
You will come to kill me, tomorrow night,
With a gun or a machete or a stick
or whatever it is you’re given.
You will watch afterwards
as they smother my wife in her screams,
and then you will rape my daughter,
you know, the younger one, the one
your son used to read out loud to
on the porch.

You will do it
because you are afraid.
Because you are afraid
that I will do the same.
That’s what he warned us all about,
the butcher, as he sipped his tea,
that big belly napping on his knees,
and he looked us straight in the eye
and wagged his finger.

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Just words

He would write down the lines
If his fingers were not already buried
In the hardened bitter earth.

He would write the lines down
But you go see how much you write
With honest bloodied stumps.

The soil is bitter hard, the bones too brittle.
I’d not pull too earnestly but keep the fingers
And wait ’til summer comes.

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Stop motion from my bed

Afterwards, he lay in bed writing a poem.
Outside, a wind played on the roof tiles.
The first snow had come today but it had cleared
And now the wind came blundering out like a drunkard
Slipping about on the icy roads and falling into bushes,
Waking all the neighbours.

She asked him to turn off the light, she couldn’t sleep.
He lay in the dark with his hands behind his head,
Watching the leafy shadows dancing on the ceiling.
She slept and slowly the night went quiet and still
And the angled strips of street-lit moonlight
Crept steadily along the walls.

They had promised the comet of the century
But after all the noise nobody ever got to see it.
They said its course took it too close to the sun.
He knew the risks of getting too close to the sun.
But he would glance out the window when it was clear
Just in case there was a miracle.

He spent most of Christmas in bed with a fever,
Mountain peaks and fleeing suns spinning incessantly
As he cocooned himself in sweat inside the sheets.
Then on New Year’s Day he was woken by the boys
Jumping on the bed, and she was tugging at the duvet,
“Good morning, wake up,” they said.

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Christmas is coming

There was an irritating guy on the television, who was singing and looking smug, glancing glibly out of the corners of his mouth, and I had a merry time drinking wine and bitching happily at the screen, while she sat on the sofa next to me catching little snippets of silence to write.

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Morning glory

Outside there is a mist.
I’m hiding inside the duvet,
watching the little gauze curtain
swaying in the rising heat of the radiator.
I curl and uncurl my feet pleasurably.
You forget what a luxury a duvet is.
I know I need to get up and go out
into the mist to the hills which I can see now
only just through the bedroom window.
The light is coming up fast now
and soon it will be late.  So I must go
to where the worlds of night and day
collide and love and part in vapour.
With this small feat
I will begin my conquest.

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As you fall asleep

As you fall asleep
I watch and see
how the day’s troubles
traced in thick lines
through the accumulated dirt
crack and break
and peel off and scatter
in myriad brown butterflies
leaving bare and delicate
the skin of your face

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Last breath

What would you do
If this was your final breath
And you had seconds left
And you knew?

Would you protest
Eyes wide with fear and regret?
Would you clutch salvation
With your calloused prayers?

Or would you remember 
The breath of a kiss against your ear
And your child’s trusting hand
Gripping yours?

Me, I would hold my breath
So I could throw down these lines
And give you this scrap of paper
To carry in your pocket.

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Four songs

I wrote a song of love.
We’ve seen it all before,
the idle lovers said,
demanding more.

I wrote a song of strife.
The soldier on his crutch
said, what do you know?
And I confessed, not much.

And then I wrote the horrors.
But the dying said:
such thoughts you twisted into words!
Yet there are bigger horrors
in our beds.

I wrote a song for you.
And we all stood agape
as raindrops wet our tongues
and filled the cracks in our skin.

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Let go

I have a window
But the frame is thick
And lets in little light.

Outside the window
I have concrete wall
And incongruous barbed wire.

And if I crane my neck
I can see a strip of sky
That has been grey too long

But on a good day it is blue
And later on makes orange love
To the tree beyond the wall.

I am chained and locked away
And watch the daily shadows
Speed across the concrete

Until I can escape up to the hills
Where along the concrete skies
It is my shadow’s turn.

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On the way home

I spent all day chasing the impossible.

And then, on the way back home, there were two guys on the radio playing acoustic guitar and singing.  I parked the car and switched off the lights and sat back in the seat.  And they set me floating across the water rocking on waves gently rolling to the persistent slacking of the halyard against the mast in the summer evening breeze, and I sat like that for a while listening.

And they told me, in different words that meant something else, that you can chase the impossible and you won’t catch it because it’s what it is. But if you chase it, precious things will keep happening on the way.

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Little dirty

The night has cleansed you
Washed off thirty years of dirt
And you are beautiful.

The night has cleansed me
Washed out thirty days of hurt
And you are beautiful.

Today we’ll get a little hurt and dirty
But then there is the night.



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Death’s breath sweats through me
in wisps of frozen broken needles
that linger in amongst the bed sheets
pulled damp against my throat
like morning cemeteries.

But  I have seen her calculations
writ on the tombs of widowed pillows
and I shall ask her what her name is
and she will wring her hands in mourning
in empty cemeteries.


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I am already written

I do not write, not anymore.
I am already written,
in somebody’s untidy hand
tight and illegible,
the upslants struggling
but never managing to join
with odd flourishes in places
in scratchy purple ballpoint
on the reverse of some old manuscript.

I have a friend, still,
who’s written by a blogger,
his roguish mishaps columned up
in neat Verdana rows
and template paragraphs
with catchy headings.
He’s got a couple dozen followers
and ladies faint at his adventures
with likes and questionable grammar.

You think you’re any different?
I’ve seen the stories set in type
and all your perfect living
is the inevitable distribution
of printing ink along the page,
and all those precious moments
were mail merged on letterhead
so everyone can have the same
framed up in walnut on their walls.

If I have written you,
You must forgive me.
You’ll find my ghost
along the 87th bench, end of the hall,
among the other former hopefuls
tracing the outlines of ancient print.
But you will find your answers
inside the dusty margins
among my scrawled remains.

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Song for a woman

How can I talk when my tongue is swollen?
How can I shout when we’re so far apart?
How can I touch with my frozen fingers?
How can I feel with my concrete heart?

And the angel says: just listen in silence
Whisper their names when you are apart
Cool her forehead with your frozen fingers
And we’ll all hold on to your concrete heart.

- o -

For the women in my life, on the 8th March 2013


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Sometimes it goes wrong

My guardian, my angel
Did you abandon me?
Where are you now, my angel
Why did you set me free?

Pray, was I too unfaithful?
Or was I so unkind?
Did I forget to listen?
Did I not read the signs?

Are the wheels drifting
Or steering me from harm?
My guardian, my angel
I need you in my arms.

And my angel answers:
You are not alone.
I will send you wandering
I will bring you home.

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Winter night

Place your hand on top of mine
Like the snow has calmed the trees
I will shake it free again
In the summer breeze.

The sheets are light and heavy
Like the blanket mist outside
Come find my restless footprints
And bring me back inside.

Soon your summer kisses
Will smooth the creases on my face
And replace this sleepless night
With your cool embrace.

winter night

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Where to

Where do the starlings fly,
When summer storms retreat to amber falls
And fields swelling in the salty breeze
Now harden into smokey stubble
Rough and familiar against your cheek?

Now that we’ve kissed our last goodbyes
Beneath a sky evaporating into grey
Beneath the final wishes of a feeble sun
When all the pretty days are gone,
Where do the starlings fly?

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Lines written on Francesca’s birthday (2)

I watched the sun rise from the dunes
And sink beneath the yellow plains
Then home I came
And there I saw
Right there
A girl with sunkissed hair.

I looked but did not dare to touch,
You better touch while I’m still there
Thats what she said
And that was fair
So fair
The girl with sunkissed hair.

We said our vows and took our chances
Exchanging glances and whatever else we dared
And perfect gifts
Of boyish laughter
Just there
With sunshine in their hair.

Sometimes when I recall the dunes
Or sink beneath the yellow plains
I open up my eyes again
And see her there
Still there
My girl with the sunkissed hair.

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Lines written on Francesca’s birthday (1)

The voices seem so quiet now
Quietly in wait for us to fall
To fall forgetful into their forgiving arms
To fall apart
And to forget our passion’s vows
Our precious vows.

Yes, there are some who’ll put their finger to their lips
In case our voices stir their everlasting peace
And as those others close their lids to sleep
Among the sleeping
We’re dancing still upon our coffins
With our bare feet

Yes, I do believe the sun it also rises
But I am not surprised some think it’s getting cold
And if there are no more surprises to behold
I do believe
The scribbled notes along the margins
Is where the tales of the brave are told.

- o -

25 July 2012


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