11th Wild Day: butterflies on Chettisham Meadow

11th Wild Day: butterflies on Chettisham Meadow

Fractured as the rainbow of meadow flowers

You veer and turn, soar and drop

Between worry, ideas, hopes

Hedges, grasses, paths

Seeking that

Warm spot:


Then off

Dizzying me

As I try to keep track

of your sky-blown career still

scented with clover against the fen sky.


Chettisham Meadow, beautiful orchids in the spring, traditional English meadow in the summer.


Day 10: Hobson’s conduit

From the amoeba warp of pools

where under chalk-ghostly leaves 20170414_122514

the springs no longer pump but only seep

out of the thirsty hill,

past the foursquare monument

to the city’s long-gone great and good,

under rusty metal where a wavering needle

charts half, a quarter of its former flow,

trickling over pondweed and drowned water flowers,

the brook negotiates the graffiti roar20170414_120038

of the thunderbridge, nods to the rivulets

of DNA on the cycle path, skirts

the flood-plain housing and the ponds

new made with warnings to the age-old birds,

before imprisoning herself between

the gault clay banks made and unmade

over the centuries by the city’s scrabblers:20170414_110845

the bricklayers, the launderers, the farmers,

the allotment waterers, the yellow machines

felling pines for a glimpse of railway sidings,

where once the cattle trucks brought flocks of geese

prize bulls, pigs, and newly scrubbed fen farmers

strolling in bowler hats past new-fangled

machines, ignoring the rustle and splash of the dogged

water rat that ploughs upstream under the pock-marked

bank, the flash of the kingfisher looping

down the water’s silver ribbon to his perch

by the crowded empty common, where Hobson’s

channel leaves the vicar’s stream, to lend her water20170414_101927

to the ingenious pipes and plastic bottles

of the communal gardeners and to sidle past

the nuclear bunkers, commuter apartments,

threadbare mansions, the city’s feathered nests, before

letting go, among the reeds and willowherb,

the weight of chalk and history, coal dust and memories

into the settling bed, three foot of silt, until

quietly and soberly dressed for city streets, she walks20170414_103329

the hidden ways under the city,

Trumpington Street,

Market Square,

St. Tibbs Row,

Corn Exchange street,

Emmanuel College and Christ’s,

Sussex and Hobson Street

Jesus Lane

Park Street

and down to the river at

Jesus Green.


Spent an hour at the Empty Common communal garden in Cambridge, telling stories for the Hobson’s Conduit Trust: here’s the poem I wrote for them

Day 9: Doing nothing outside

Day 9: Doing nothing outside


You hold my finger in one small hand

and walk me slowly around the garden to sit

in one place after another,

the sun golden on our shoulders,                                                                      

talking about nothing in particular

in words that have no meaning:

ten minutes that stay warm in memory.


Day 8: Election Day, Cambridge

Day 8: Election Day, Cambridge

Round Castle Mound, the branches toss and moan

Blown by the arguments of politics

Below them, college roofs, solid as stone:

‘We’ve weathered much and we can weather this.’

The trees reply: ‘It’s very well for you,

Down there in sheltered comfort:  but for us:

our jobs, health, food, the place we shelter too,

are all at stake: we risk our lives or worse.’

May you, newly elected, at the heart

Of our wide city, listen to them both,

The fragile ones whose lives are torn apart,

Asking your help, and hear those old ones too:

In life and politics nothing will last:

Both good and evil done will one day pass.


Commissioned for Cambridge 105 radio, 8th June 2017

7th Wild Day: Whittling Wood

7th Wild Day: Whittling Wood

I’m shaving white flakes from a piece of wood,

sitting on the pine you lugged here

in your chip-oil van, and slotted in – no nails-

into our wind-broken tree, carved in swirls

and infinite curves, returning on themselves

like the whirls of your mind respooling your wild

rants and eccentricities.  And I wonder

whether these first stumbling marks

I’ve left on the raw slice of ash will last

after I am gone, as your work

outlasts you.20170607_190753

6th act of wildness: gardening in the storm.

6th act of wildness: gardening in the storm.

20170606_185233Those sky magicians, wind and rain

are arguing once again.

One brings up the credit card bill

the other, washing up and the failure to listen.

One turns into a flashing swallow

the other a yellow-eyed goshawk.

One falls into puddles, a silver-finned minnow

the other swoops in, a skewer-beaked heron.

Branches tremble, long grasses cower,

hearing the same old arguments come around.20170606_195637

Hiding their heads, they wait

for the rainbow sign that calm may last

for a day or two.

30 Days Wild

30 Days Wild

This month’s poetry challenge is my annual challenge for June from the Wildlife Trust: to commit 30 random acts of wildness over the month of June.  And write about them.

The first week has been high on wildness but low on writing: here’s what I’ve been up to so far.

Day 1

A city is growing

in chalk on the porch floor.

A dog bowl lake and a lavender pot forest,

while we sit down

for tea in the garden


Day 2  Rain Music





tin pans

under the dripping gutter.


Day 3  First punting trip

Watching, dumbstruck

the eye-level ducks,

your stick’s drift down the stream,

ripples of light on the tunnel’s low roof,

you cried when our two boats

drifted apart.


Day 4 hands…

Sand trails

from your fingers

as you run, from sandpit

to mud kitchen: then show me

gritty hands.


Day 5 … and feet


You brush grass blades

From feet too soft for dirt

Then run across plantain, daisies:

Catch me!