Ryokan – Part 3

It’s been a while, but I thought I would finish my period of reading Ryokan with my own little poem about him. This owes something to haiku of various kinds, and perhaps also to Robert Pinsky’s Impossible to Tell


leaves the summer moon at the window
to watch over the cool grass
he sits
rocking back and forth
like falling maple leaves
in the ever-changing revolving autumn
his thoughts curl and loop
as characters in his writing
the brush swooping across paper
the old fool
drunkenly dances
dreams rush like blown snow
the sound of pines
is no different in the dew-clean colours of spring
seasons change
a delicate haiku
his life has come and gone
like a dream


Day 14 – Promise

When we were very young

I made you a promise

Sketched out in the frail skeletons of leaves

In the dry autumn grass

You always said was green

As if looking at the colour

Ready to burst from within

At the first raindrop

And I promised to never leave you

In youth this seemed

A promise that could be kept

I didn’t know about the Brownian motion of people

As they collide and re-collide, break and shatter

Each other, shake pieces off until what is left

Is a smooth stone

Just like those we skimmed across the ice that same winter

And I suppose I never did leave you

As you were among those frailties of leaves

I only left something smoother,

Perhaps more perfect,

But different in the hand

As water is to earth

To that stone you once were

Editing poetry: The Occasional Child

I am pretty sure this is the only piece that is from before 2000 that I have considered putting here. I took it up and rewrote it in 2011. The ‘refrigerator buzz’ line I suppose comes from Radiohead’s Karma Police, although it really owes more to ‘Meeting People is Easy’

I regress
Back to my childhood
My bygone days
Crazy paving
Keep pace with the dreary pedestrian traffic
The refrigerator buzz chatter
Background noise
To my dream of what was then.

The dream of summers
Precarious tilt and drip of ice creams in the garden
Barefoot running – chlorophyll prickle
Sweet smell of freshly mown grass
Water fights in the romantic’s pastoral arena
Noisy laughter inflates and drifts like a
Beach football
Never a cloud in the sky

The life cycle pivots around this point
Cascade of orange from the lonely French oak
We wrapped up warm, danced in the rain
Such pleasure in simple beauty

We brace against it
Shiver as it probes the folds
Fur coats and wellies,
Crunch of fresh snow
We raced in so early
The neighbourhood held its frozen breath
it snowed every year back then
We would never catch colds
Crazy paving.

Then I drop back to reality
Some sullen pedestrian jostles me
The square paving slabs tilt and crash
Dripping grey concrete daubed across the city
Slums and cardboard houses
Rusting metal locked in
Frustrated traffic
iPhones and Blackberries trill their mating calls

Now barefoot the stones will hurt my feet
We must wrap ourselves up against the rain
The cold, the warm, the city
Scarves for the heart
Every year catch a cold
All the cracks in these square paving slabs
In summer we build nets to recapture those days
Knit together photographed memories
And silver braid
Worry and burn
Drive and yearn
Crazy paving
Our occasional childhood

Something I just started today…

as yet untitled

lean edge of summer
I watch
the heat haze dragonflies
glitch and flirt
semicolons over
this blur of water
shrink-wrap cold

my hand skips like a skimmed stone
dispels surface tension
spray silver drops advance
army tight
trickle quick
haunt momentary winter
cloud vapour trails
refract and split
infinitesimal rainbows

they like bomber spheres
stretched formation
plummet towards
red blue fighters
endless silent screech of
friction rockets

some shatter and fall
crashing smokeless
to the surface
greeted as the earth welcomes
dying metal
crushes in corrosive embrace

some collide
the red fighter twitches blink rapid
shakes off the mercury passenger
pirouettes on a thermal
vanishes like a falling ripple