Walk the city – a poem of praise for London

See the centre, feel the heartbeat
Chance encounter on the street
Quiet moment, stop and eat
Here a station on a bridge
Here a roofer on a ridge.
Jewelry shops, quiet streets
Little cafes, people meet.
A cyclist has a little dog
In a basket – just fantastic.
Bearded men, well-dressed ladies,
Electric cars and tenements.
Leafy streets and Asian grocers
Seedy dentists, Boris bikes.
Students walking through to lectures
Old facades and building sites
Just one policeman standing watch
A vaulted station roof,
A hotchpotch:
Different buildings, places, people.
This is London, Dr Johnson’s London.


He remembered autumn in the garden.
Autumn’s smell of woodsmoke.
The small boy feels valued,
of worth, in helping his father:
A much flawed man, but his father nonetheless.
His father did much in those brief days,
Showed the boy how to be.
And now whenever he smells woodsmoke
Or thinks of brown-leaved autumn
He remembers those times,
And sometimes cries in secret.

For I also am flawed.
And each time, my Father above,
Who is not flawed but perfect, without fault,
Pours pure gold into my own flaws
And polishes me up.

The heart of the fire

What is it in the heart of the fire
That calls us to stand and watch?
Why do the flames draw us nigh
To stare in the dark at the flickering light?
In the red of the glowing embers,
Something inside us is moved
Fire! From primeval past, some remembrance
Of flame and warmth, life and truth.
What truth is there, in the heart of the fire?

At lands end, the booming sea and strand
The cliff edge and the crumbled coast.
What yearning draws us there?
Why do we listen as we stand
Gazing out at ocean’s edge?
Why does the sea-sound sooth
The troubled heart?
What beauty is there, in the sound of the sea?

At the start of time we came
Out of the forest into the light,
Onto the sun-baked plain.
Out from the safety and the gloom
To where we could be seen
Where one mistake was doom.
And today the woodland scene
Remains a place of shelter.
What shelter is there, in the shade of the trees?

Who should not be charmed
By the face of the smallest child?
A baby grins in innocence, free
of art or guile, and the world smiles.
When babies laugh, the angels dance.
No-one looks askance
When a little baby gurgles.
Who would ever tire of such?
What joy is there, in the face of a baby?

The deepest peace is found
In silence. Order is rounded
And rightness renewed, in quiet.
As dreams order our troubled thoughts
So silence prepares us for the onslaught,
For the next task, for the din of daily life.
At the centre, at the hub, nothing moves,
and all is still and quiet.
What voice will we hear, in the time of quiet?


The road over this blasted heath
Across this windswept hill
at the edge of the east,
Has been a place of peace
A kind of pilgrimage for me.

Once in crisp autumnal airs,
Once in bitter cold,
Car tracks through
A dust of freshly settled snow
White across the tarmac.

Today: a rain-filled murky dusk.
Water sluicing over the road
Wind buffeting the roof of the car
The wiper’s wup-wup only adds
To the deepest sense of peace.

Here one talks with the Most High
Like he was sat in the passenger seat
Listening to what I say,
Nodding sagely, making mental note,
To fix this situation, bless that person.
I am, He says, the God who hears.

Tail lights

Red tail lights
Vanish into the night
In the mist and the rain,
They vanish from sight.
Friends move on
To life elsewhere.
Bringing much to our lives
While they were here.
They are gone:
There’s no need to fear.
We’ll bring light to others
We’ll take up the cloak
Do what we can,
Live always in hope.


Spring appears just like that
Almost like the turning of a card
Maybe there are such cards
Four suits – Winter, Spring, Summer and
Perhaps the gods themselves have such a pack.
Maybe they play for keeps
At certain times of year,
And perhaps the seasons turn
On whoever wins the game.
What would be your favourite card?
Perhaps the Jack of Spring, all mischief:
Loki, or the great god Pan.
There’d be a terrible Queen of Winter
Black Maria, or maybe
Just Tilda Swinton in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”.
The Nine of Autumn,
Brown leaves and woodsmoke.
New England Fall would be the King of that suit.
Or the Two of Spring – the first snowdrops, daffodils.
The Queen of Spring,
Surely Bluebell woods.
The Ace of Summer,
The best is yet to come.
And maybe a Joker too…
Especially for the English. Musn’t grumble:
Snow on Buxton cricket ground in June, or
February sunshine, unlooked for.

To the rescue

We try to be like You
We try to be like You
The boy scoots past and sings,
“To the rescue”
We try to be like You.

We want to learn from You
We want to learn from You
The youth climbs hills and shouts
For joy.
We want to learn from You.

We long to follow You
We long to follow You
The man lives life and whispers,
“Show me
How to follow You.”

Moral ground zero

In significant moments
At times of great growth
Life on the anvil
Is really no joke

Change swirls around us
Upending our lives
Help us to cope, Lord
And do what is right

The kids are all gone now
They have faraway beds
Out in the wide world
Earning their bread

Our elders are passing
Who shaped us in love
We walk in their shoes now,
We are those we loved

We must move on now
Press on to the goal
Run that long race, Lord
And in time, become whole

And the day is done

The sun balances
On the edge of the hillside
Falls over
And is gone
In an instant
All colour drains from the landscape.
Rich and vibrant,
Sensuous colour
Of only moments before
Turns to dust in our fingers
Glorious gold, orange and brown
Fade to Autumn gloom
And all becomes grey
Only the sky benefits when the sun goes down
All the colour that slipped through our fingers
Will soon reappear
In pink-edged clouds
And the day is done.


In the graveyard


I met a crying woman
In the graveyard
In the rain
On a humid summer evegraveyard.gif
In the graveyard
In the rain

Rejoice with me”, the farmer says
In Jesus’ parable
I found my lost sheep
But the woman’s sheep was dead
In the graveyard
In the rain

Can’t afford the vet” she said
To find out why she’s dead
Then she got all choked up
Her tears mixed with rain
In the graveyard
On a summer eve

Maybe I can help, I said
There’s a little bit of shepherd too
In each of all of us
And just those words were comfort then
In the graveyard
In the rain

That Great Shepherd of the sheep
Has led our footsteps here
To provide a moment’s grace and rest
For the crying woman
In the graveyard
In the rain

Where is the edge?

I went to the home of a tired old toiler,
A council house with huge TV,
Mother’s Day cards, and a crucifix
Prominent in the hall.

From there I went to a rich man’s house,
A mansion on the hill.
Crunchy gravel on the drive
Flowers on the sill.

I heard about a City Gent,
who had a “Proper Job”
All tailored suits and fountain pen,
And journeys up to Town.

Fountain pens and tailored suits
Are maybe not for me
My suits, and demons,
Middle class, off the peg, and tame.

Where is the edge of the stockbroker belt?
How is culture now defined?
Who shall say what’s posh or not?
Who is, and who’s not, refined?

A line ‘twixt good and evil
Goes through every human heart
Where is the edge of the stockbroker belt?
How shall it now be found?

I went to see a play
In the County School big hall.
I could see that edge right then and there
Directly through that hall.