Category Archives: The Green Crown

The Creature by the Sea

I saw a wonderous creature lay
a pebble on a sounding shore —
his voice flung wild in pain and joy,
as from his flesh the stone slipped free,
the mucus streaked with crimson threads,
he quickly bent and wiped away.

I saw the glitters flood his eyes,
as he stood and gazed upon the sea;
he turned his shining face on me,
then all my sorrows swam to him
and he ate them with his beard-hung teeth.

Then gathering up his staff and line,
so cautious of his ruined feet,
he crept among the rocks and shells,
while feathered bones twitched on his spine.

My heart cried out to go to him,
yet I turned and fled back up the shore,
in terror of this ancient one,
who potent as the timeless waves
and riven by such pain and grief,
still sacrificed his life and days,
to lay the pebbles by the sea.

The Piano Tuner

Echo, song and smoking wax make up the church entire,
as he gives himself to silent hands that take him
trusting to the bread and wine...
He turns over in his bed intrigued
at how his dying mind in its own way
gives him what his spirit needs.

He has a songbird in a cage,
blinded to improve her song,
who like the soul imprisoned in his skin,
made herself forget the skies
and the flowered forests of her home,
though underneath the sweetness of her song,
he hears her pine for some long lost love.

He likes to try to guess the world of sight:
the soil opening wide its many mouths
to receive the swaddled dead,
or the way the wings of his guardian angel
surely fill this room, as she sits beside his bed
watching him with eyes of stars.

In the end no angel came for him,
but a faun gripped him like a lover
and drew him out as joy leaping
self-forgotten through fields that blazed
like windows in the church of summer,
till he whirled to one who cried his name
and flew like a bird through his heart of flowers.

Fiddler’s Croft

We stood in silence in his croft,
as he swayed upon a three-legg'd stool,
in the whiskey-hues of hearth-light
and from his fiddle tore an air,
so low and wistful and so lost,
as to deepen every down-turned eye
and stir the sorrows in the rain.

And Old Nan mumbling on her bench,
who once could blow on knots and sink a ship,
or make a hermit fall in love,
cracked a vacant ruined grin,
unlocked the silver in her throat
and sang the moonlight on a river.

And we the gathered island dead,
all crammed together in the flicker
among the rafters and the drying fish,
between the sacks and well-worn tools,
did not move or moan or give a cry,
to see how song can make a world
from the trash of memory that remains.

Now with the fading of the night,
we're gone like frost-thorns from the pane
and Nan and John are left alone.

In truth there is no heaven yet above,
but hours like these are living things
that minister softly to our needs:
for we ourselves are unheard songs,
that lying out here in the dark,
await the singer who will come
and sing us on his golden tongue.


When mummy died, daddy married auntie.
She said she'd loved him from the very first
and since she'd known her sister inside out,
would make a fine new mum for us.
She'd even been there at the accident,
when mum was looking down at her new shoes
and didn't see the truck in time.

Once when auntie was cooking dinner,
she told us how pretty mum had been,
how men had always had an eye for her,
though she dressed too much in flirty stuff.
Then auntie took a package from the fridge,
and said that mum had made herself a shroud
when she was young, in preparation for her death.

Then she pulled away the white wrappings
and exposed the pale thighs and young breasts,
and filled the bird with sticky cherry.
Came in very handy that did, she said,
bending down with the roasting tin.
We put her in it for her cremation,
she really looked her best just then, she grinned,
as the oven door clicked shut.
On Hearing that the Bees are Dying Out

That last summer I helped Billy
clear out his dead gran's meagre house.
And there amid the leavings of her life,
found rows of richness on a shelf,

all glowing in their stoppered glass,
like memories of summers gone:
lavender water, otto of rose,
scents of lily and blossom of peach,

mimosa essence and daffodil,
all once garnered mote by mote,
from blooms that coloured fields and hills.
Billy said she'd hoped to meet a man,

to replace his grandpa who had died so young,
she said she'd wear this stuff for him,
as they danced as one beneath the moon;
but no man came, and she died alone.

We shouldn't throw all this away I said,
it's like a hope for distant days, for something good,
so many flowers grew that this might be——
Plenty more where that came from he said,

and broke apart the ancient seals,
then held the bottles high above the sink
and let love's sweetness run away,
into the dark among forgotten things.

The wild-wood seemed empty when we were young,
a doorstep Eden to my friend and me,
as we cycled dusty paths and rabbit tracks

through halls of mottled gold and whispering green.
Our stones torpedoed the old mill pond, where dragonflies
were mother-ships to wasps and water-boatmen.

Or we'd creep through ruined houses thick with black webs:
the warm remains of recent fires in the hearths,
bottles strewn by soiled blankets on the floor.

While the woods conjured fungus or primrose,
ghosts arrived in the sudden silences of birds
and in the goose-flesh touch of unseen eyes

that watched from mote-filled prisons of the sun.
But one afternoon, as teatime neared
and we pushed our bikes homeward up a hill,

a man stepped out of the trees and said:
I'll let you into the greatest secret: and out sprang
a thing with a neck like a forearm,

ghost-white from having been kept in the dark,
as he zipped apart his groin's black fruit.
Then he walked along beside us murmuring

how he'd seen us breaking windows with stones
and holding hands, but would never tell.
And all the while that living length nodded closer

and its hooded eye regarded us:
You can touch it if you want.
Then he stood and watched us walk away,

and gravely Peter turned to me and said:
I don't want to play here any more,
and I agreed; there were other places we could go.

But later I returned,
cycling urgently for miles down the summer dusk,
to be folded into that astounding dark.

The Child

We fell in love when we were eight,
our child was born when we were nine:
a tiny thing with gnarled black teeth,
a rough grey beard and rosy cheeks.

It grew up to keep a hive of imps,
behind the shack where it lived alone;
it said their honey made for healthy skin
and bottled it in jars from bins,
and stacked it up in racks of gold.

Then it heard about the gorgons
who, shunned and ugly, cry for love
with every mouth of their writhing heads
and never know its gentle touch,
as they ever-spin in loneliness.

And every night it combed its beard
and carefully washed its lovely skin
and brushed its tar-black teeth, and felt
ashamed to know such suffering
and turn away like any coward,
while it piled up facial honey.

One market day it sold it all
and even tried to sell the imps.
It bought a rose in a purple pot,
a box of chocolates called Romance
and a wedding ring of real gold,
then headed for the station.

We used to laugh that if the gorgon
ever got to see it coming,
with its hopeless smile, its rose bush and its chocs,
she’d hide until it went away.
We’d imagine it asking for directions
and shake our heads in mock despair.

But that was many years ago
and now a silence stands here all the time,
like something died and the fault was ours,
and every day we have to pass
that awful shack and the burned-out hive.

What use is a stinking gorgon anyway?
It is us our baby loves, not some thing.
Please tell us, do you have some news?
We’re frightened and we want it home;
but only if it comes alone.

A Plate of Holes

It’s nothing, just a plate of holes,
standing on a disc of lace,
their yellows, greens and russet reds,
their scents of breezes and the sun:
they wait there quiet as unborn souls,
unheard music, tears unshed.

And I sit still before the plate
and think of how I miss you love:
those times before I laid you down,
before the world was full of holes.

Remember all the plans we had,
the promises I made to you:
those pearls still lie below the sea
and dream forever in their shells.
The Shadow Garden

The tink and hoo of the singing birds
draws you to a park of shining glass domes.
There between the ancient lawns
and the distant archipelagos of cloud,

is a pouring upward of the trees
that hides the secret summonings of birds.
And when their songs cut loose your sight
and light the silver candles in your head,

you’ll tiptoe down a shadow path
to the garden beneath an old tin lid,
where in a haven of murmuring green,
where no rivers flow or oceans swell,

a pale queen suckles a milk-white lamb,
her nipple like a rose in its hairy mouth,
while seething back and forth in a bobbing tide,
choirs of robins scream like drops of blood.
The Spinner

Among the bony limbs of shrubs,
with their cowled and wrinkled blooms,
between the heavy hips
and the fevered faces of the haws,
above the ribs of an old machine
flaking into rust,
a spinner hovered in his mist-fine home,
gently sucking juices from a cradled form.
As I bent, he looked at me and said:

I made the charm of rainbows
and the distant stars,
I cast my nets in Galilee and drew forth men
whose souls were winged like angels
and the soft-fleshed flies.
Such were my companions for a while,
until I went to Death’s concealing house,
so strangely shaped,
and found I liked it there.
Today, I will climb that tree a little to your right,
to a nest of fledglings on the topmost branch
and permit myself to be devoured
by innocence, so vicious and so pure.

When he’d gone,
I saw that the little habitation he had made,
spun perfect as a snowflake in his mind,
was deformed by the things that it depended on,
so that the marvel of its design
became wayward and unbalanced.
And I thought of him reaching the nest up there,
to discover that the baby birds
had lost their innocence long ago
and flown into summer and its concerns.
And I wondered if he would return,
or disappointed go elsewhere,
to a world where love still has its wings,
the innocents he seems to need,
and the soft-souled ones he dies for.