Michael Rothery's World of Sea Stories
Michael Rothery'sWorld of Sea Stories 

My Poems

Public City Spaces 2030

 

The Healing Ocean

I will navigate the wild triangle

and let my tortured soul untangle

upon the vast Atlantic Ocean.

To feel the motion of the moon,

to pour my pain into the waves,

to cast aside all doubts and ride

the long and lonely main, to hide

beneath the spangled stars,

to flee upon the wind;

to run before the sea.

 

~.~

 

Summer

At a bushy bank I pause to watch, close to,

a playful damsel fly, translucent blue,

ephemeral dart, alights for one brief flit,

and then is gone. My rain-washed spirits lift;

and sunlight soothes all hatred and offence

and brightens Britain’s racial innocence.

But now the River’s mood runs deep and dark

where sulks the giant hogweed above the native

shrub; thigh thick stems support the stateless stalks

on which presides a noxious death-white lace;

home-grown terrorist in this peaceful place.

~.~

 

Welcome Little Philomel  

Underneath a garden tree

a bird hopped into sight.
He cocked a timid eye at me;

curious and bright.
‘I know this bird,’ my friend I told,
‘A blackbird hen?’ thought she.
‘Too small,’ I said. ‘The tail’s too bold 
but the colour I’ll agree.”

Pale brown plumage, sparrow-sized,

I thought I knew his name.
We looked it up in Collins Guide –

Yes! It seemed the same.
He flew off high into a tree,
Chooc chooc the sound I heard.
My book confirmed that call was his:
that rare delightful bird.

 

He sang to me again today,

as in my bed I woke,
Cheery clear, without a care,

his voice lit up the world.
Complicated, cryptic, brief,
A bright and lilting tale.
He filled my soul with warm belief,
that little nightingale.

 

~.~

 

Village in Bloom

I paused on High Street to admire
A hanging basket there.
Above pale moss and rootlet hair
Red purple fire trembles down:
A coloured show of summer hale
‘midst brown-green tendrils lush below.

What is it in their heart that grooms
This fine consummate will?
What burns that spirit there to fill
The need to bloom and spill with pride,
The village attitude, and turn
The tide of covert apathy?

And if this power lies latently
In such communities,
Then why so few the mantle seize
To plant the patent frieze withal,
To volunteer, to serve; to try
The call to floral village verve?

 

~.~

 

On Avon’s Bank

From Barton Weir to Wellford Lock
I pass a flock of geese and stop.
A shower past and now to soothe,
Sunlight brightens Avon’s flow,
The River slow and oily smooth;
Its margins’ tall dark rushes show
Black withered heads, their seeds now flown.
And yellow water lilies stand
On olive palms of floating hands.
I resume my walk. The day is grand!

A flitting playful damsel fly,
Translucent blue, it comes close by,
Ephemeral with flaming poise,
Alights for one brief moment
Then is gone. Next a welcome noise:
A cuckoo call - a rare event!
Across the bank a scarlet flare;
Standing there I stare amazed;
A poppy field: a crimson blaze
Implausible against the emerald haze.

More comforting about the trail,
Delightful wildflowers here prevail,
And purple clover blossoms bloom
Through the tangled meadow sward,
And laughing heads of yellow broom.
And all above the grass a horde:
A flying, flitting, buzzing swarm
Give swooping swallows’ frenzied feast.
My heart soars too, and not the least
‘Cos journey’s end lies one mile east.

 

~.~

 

Flying in my Sleep

It starts a walk, in flip flops on the stones.

But effortless.

I step out, start to run.
My companion falls behind.
My strides grow long, exhilaration, no fatigue.
Joyously I bounce and glide, up steps,
Clearing obstacles in single bound,
I jump a boulder, leave the ground
Surely I can fly?
A leap of faith, the only way:
Fall forward, legs kicked back,
Yes! Airborne!
Momentum flies me on.
More faith, arms outstretched, rise up.
As long as I believe I stay aloft.
Look at me! No one else can do this.
But no one seems to notice,
Or else to care; are they there?
Look at me! I’m flying, that’s unique.
I leap from river bank, serenely float across,
Above the trees, I glide, I soar.
And Wake.

 

~.~

 

On Lewesdon Hill

Above Broadwindsor, rises Lewesdon Hill

- Dorset’s highest summit in the west.
This gentle stroll won’t steal one’s breath, and still,
the view will make you breathless at the crest.

From Stoke Knapp west I climb the stony lane;
where trees hold arching branches overhead.
High banks on either side are set with fern,
among which Summer’s bluebell blades lie dead.

Leaf-filtered sunlight warms the dappled green,
and foxgloves flaunt their pink and purple flutes
to lend their startling colour to the scene,
and promise life next year to withered roots.

Halfway, a dell, a woodland meeting hall;
great open space, all ringed with giant beech;
and there between a green entangled wall,
colossal roots enclothed with moss and vetch.

The track here opens out, a straight and level run.
Through vacant coppice, landmarks can be seen;  
far off, Seaborough Hill and nearby, Mosterton,
and there below, Broadwindsor Village Green.

A short respite and then I climb once more.
The leafy track grows damply soft beneath.
Now the final stretch to reach the wooded tor,
then a clearing; a panorama takes my breath!

Look there! Such undulating downs, such stippled green.
D'you see the cleavages of Dorset’s glorious shore
where Lyme Bay’s sapphire waters shine between?
What a morning! What wanderer could ask for more?

 

~.~

 

A Hypoglycaemic Attack in the Night

Slowly consciousness arrives,
A kind of numb arrest.
What unease invades nocturnal rest?
Slow intelligence, I recognise my plight,
Tingling lips and finger tips, a buzzing in my chest.
Roll out of bed, fumble for the light.
Dizzily with failing strength,
Stagger to the fridge;
Snatch up the milk, unscrew,
And gulp at length,
Next a chocolate cereal bar,
Greedily, ecstatically I chew.
More milk: in turns I eat and drink,
Spinning head: lean against the sink.
Then leaden legs: flop into a seat.
Five minutes pass, I floss my teeth,
And wander back to bed.

 

~.~

 

The Bus-pass Crowd

The eastbound 53X (flippantly called ‘SEX’),

for rubbernecks and rural folk.

For garrulous gran with badgered bloke,

the bus-ride fills the empty day,

leaving young ‘uns on the beach to play. 

 

Uncertain thrill, these downs, this rolling place.

Bus gathers pace - let brakes not fail!

Anxious knuckles whiten on the rail.

Then valley floor, momentum spent,

grinds and lumbers up the next ascent.

 

An entertaining lot, we Bus-pass Crowd,

dry humoured, proud to own our years,

one-liners swapped among our peers.

And of the young, the tedious bored?

They’re mobile-phone-obsessed, and best ignored.

 

Far past the age of lascivious lust, 

we wise adjust, to nature’s thrills;

alluring vale amid the hungry hills, 

bucolic breast and verdant thigh,

spread of wanton sea to eager sky.

 

We stop at Wool, a hippy type climbs on,

‘I’ve got a bomb!’ he tactless jokes,

shocked and outraged stares; a woman chokes.

The clown comes on with brazen smile;

deep displeasure tracks him down the aisle. 

 

Now, that ‘No Smoking’ sign seems out of date;

inadequate for modern mores,

like ‘No Spitting’ signs, remember those?

Time for new ones, like ‘No Nagging’,

‘No Phones’, ‘No Hippies’, and certainly…

‘No Shagging’.

 

~.~

 

Autumn

On the river bank at Summer’s ending,

quakes the rhododendron, quietly sending 

blushing clouds - her voyaging sons and daughters -

tinting red the shifting waters. Tranquil,

sluggish first, then rampant surge, to swirl and swill

her floral cargo; those midstream flow fast,

those near the shore, into the waiting-pool, adrift,

then swiftly rounded up - like hostage mariners

held up in Puntland, waiting for their ransom

to be paid – then, wilted, purged of guilt,

at last emerge into the tumbling falls

that speed those hapless blossoms on, to pour

next season’s bleed anew, upon some foreign shore.

~.~

 

 

To be a Farmer?

I often wish I’d been a farmer, tending to my sheep,
Or cows, or pigs and sows, or golden rape seed fields.
To turn my hand to till the land, would fill my soul with joy,
Oh how I wish that in my youth, I’d been a farmer’s boy.

I often wish I’d been a farmer, to wake each day at five,
To milk the herd, to skim the curd, to keep the honey hive,
Morning milkmaids making cheese in churns of English oak
Oh how I wish that as a lad, I’d taken up the yoke.

I often wish I’d been a farmer, at home with drill and hoe,
While all the rest give all their best, their urban seeds to sow.
Long summer days at harvest time away from city strife,
Oh how I wish as I grew up, I’d lived the rural life.

I often wish I’d been a farmer, ploughing in the stubble,
Or burning it and turning it, removing stones and rubble,
Cold winter nights at lambing time, lending ewes a hand,
Oh how I wish my childhood years I’d spent upon the land.

But when the farmer’s frame grows old, and joints begin to seize,
The body fails, lifting bales, and winter hands can freeze.
No time for wife: a childless life; or all have flown the nest,
The rural way of life is cruel when its stolen all your best.

 

~.~

 

Miscreant Vapour

Vile and wicked stench steals from our seed,

Wrecking lives to quench its wanton greed;

Vapour green and cloying wears a hood,

Mindlessly destroying all that’s good.

Thieving fingers plunder city marts,

Lighting fire under broken hearts.

 

“Why are you doing this?” one inquires,

“We’re taking the piss!”, a girl replies.

“Because we can” she has no fear,

“Who can stop us? No coppers here.”

Designer clothes, made by Jerome,

She takes her loot and wanders home.

 

Who could but despair of feral youth,

Lacking parent care were raised uncouth,

Untutored in the rules of gentle folk;

Or tutored, but in schools where it’s a joke

To value citizens of older worth,

Who had their boundaries set from birth.

 

‘Let’s fight fire with fire,’ howls the crowd,

‘Justice we require, shout it loud!’

As the bleeding sores repair and heal,

Vigilante corps from the blood congeal.

So begins a war of tit for tat,

Where folk can ill afford another spat.

 

~.~

 

Winter

River black and oily smooth;

on its chaotic bank, blackened bulrush lie,

bodies burnt alive - the fate

of non-compliant women

caught in the caliphate

 

~.~

 

The Ptarmigan

To the mountain there came a young ptarmigan

In the winter without a good cardigan.

He shivered and shook

And hid in a nook

Till the summer when he became warm again.

 

~.~

 

A Walk in the Park?

I watch a man progress at sloth-like pace

among the trees at Elgin’s Cooper Park;

each crutch-assisted step shows in his face

as something to be borne like winter bark

enduring frost and fungal blight in hope

that Spring restores its strength and failing will.

I approach the man, burying the trope

‘He has himself to blame for being ill.’

 

He pauses, rests upon his single crutch,

a sad, lopsided grin that signals much

about his pain and bravery. ‘You okay?’

I ask (not that I could help in any way).

‘A stroke, ye ken?’ he slurs at last, ‘I’m slow,

I know, but better’n thirty months ago’

 

~.~

 

Car Hypocrisy

I don’t drive! It’s quite obscene,

in this new age of all things green,

to fill the world with toxic fumes,

while knowing that disaster looms.

I’m seventy now, a test required,

or else my licence stays expired.

Perhaps I will apply for one,

when my cataracts are done.

 

~.~

 

On Losing My Boat’s Radar Head

Broken from its mounting by a diving

sperm whale’s flukes, there it lay in disarray

upon the canvas canopy, its shape

a circle in the cloth, a ripping hole

that widened with each jolt of wave and trough.

Too dangerous to recover it, too rough;

too damaging to leave it there, I fished

the bolt-croppers from out the lazarette

and cut the heavy cable that was all that

held it to the boat, reached up to where

its shiny rim poked through the tear,

and flipped the whole thing overboard.

Despite its weight, it floated: up and over

crests of breaking waves, I watched it drop astern,

now there, now gone again, now there, now gone

again, till finally it disappeared.

Oh well, I hadn’t used the thing in years.

 

~.~

 

Voices in a Lonely Mind

Although my yacht speaks not, she conjures words

from a complexity of simple sounds:

the whisper-rush of water on the hull;

the sighing sough of wind upon the sail;

the groan of straining sheet around the drum;

the clacking of a halyard on the mast.

 

Oft times she gives a chiding, scolding start,

admonishing some error on my part;

or bracing words when nerve and sinew strain

to shorten sail in storm and stinging rain.

 

Through all the raw complexity of noise

I simply hear her calm, ethereal voice;

such haunting, such tranquillity of tone;

a mate imagined, voyaging quite alone.

 

~.~

 

Labaleen and the Whaler

There she hangs aloft! Twisted devil-horns

upon a head of green, translucent skin.

See those razor teeth! With two curved fangs that,

as the maw snaps shut, clamp hard against her

hungry, drooling chin.

 

Her leering, longboat grin, aloof upon

a writhing neck of shining copper scales

that blossom splendid on her righteous breast,

while rows of sea-green thorns adorn her back,

and taper down her tail.

 

Her ever-flicking tail that quickens feline-like

to balance her in hovering flight on great

reptilian wings; flogging tireless, back and forth,

back and forth, while baleful, burning eyes gaze

down upon the mates.

 

Those cowed shipmates, now trembling

beneath her cruel, malevolent sight

that sweeps the deck, as if selecting who

among those whalers to consume to sate

her vengeful appetite.

 

At once, with spite unbound she folds her wings,

extends her claws, and drops toward

the scattering crew; men who’ve slain a thousand

whales and have until this dreadful day survived

the worst of Neptune’s Horde.

 

Then at the last she spreads those flighty limbs

and swooping over-deck, scoops high

a harpoon-man in one prehensile claw,

and steals away her prize; triumphant roar

consumes the whaler’s mournful cry.

 

~.~

 

Leaving Chartknolle

My friend is leaving Chartknolle.

Five years she’s languished here.

Now looking for a new bolt hole,

And may not shed a tear.

But what slow pace about this place

That stayed her usual wandering mood;

That kept her from life’s squalid race,

In splendid stolid solitude?

 

I’ll now explain the natural bond,

That dwells on this domain,

Enthralling heart and soul beyond

What logic may ordain.

Here grace the magical embrace,

Of sweeping vale and daunting hill,

It’s wooded copse and meadow chase,

Unruffled still by plough or drill.

 

Come, walk with me up Gerrard’s Hill,

The Ridgeway path from Town,

A strapping climb, we’ll coil our will,

And clamber to the crown.

Then slow our pace, and southwards gaze,

Where busy bustling Bridport sprawls,

And Lyme Bay glitters through the haze,

Between Jurassic coastal walls.

 

To Beaminster a final look,

Then onward we’ll repair,

Down to our left a picture book

Stoke Abbott painted there;

Among the trees, a dreamlike frieze,

Church, and cottages of Wessex stone,

Idyllic scene of genteel ease,

A rural bloom in Dorset grown.

 

On downwards step along the trail,

The Big House to our left.

Then through the gates above the dale,

Green ponds brood in the cleft.

And towering beech beseech the bank,

Where red-legged partridge often dwell,

An old brick culvert, cold and dank,

Evokes a Fairy Dingle Dell.

 

Another gate, a pasture field,

And Wadden Hill above,

Where buried relics lay concealed

Beneath the sandstone bluffs.

For excavations of the ground,

(Where once Vespasian’s legion camped)

Coins of ancient Rome have found,

On which the Caesars’s head was stamped.

 

Three fallow fields, where cattle feed,

Long climb up Meadow Bluff,

The tangled grass our boots impede,

The going slow and rough.

And here we leave this fond estate,

Ahead lies lofty Lewesdon’s view.

And she leaves too, my restless mate,

For Beaminster, and pastures new.

 

~.~

 

Spring

Broom is first to bloom, then of course the gorse.

Yellow grit-bins, redundant now but left

there just in case the Winter white returns.

Marsh marigolds explode, dandelions unfold,

while yellow stripes upon the floor mark each

two-metre space; Social Distancing we’re told.

Empty yellow barley buckets in the field;

horses wondering when they’ll next be filled.

Yellow moss clings anxiously to rocks, to

stay at home and stop the spread, unlike

the celandine whose sunny daisy blooms

erupt from ever-spreading roots. The money

banks are closed, of course, while on the River’s bank

the yellow spreads her golden threads until

in crowded brilliance, bursts the daffodil.

 

~.~

 

Nature’s Way

When broom’s gilt flower wilts and falls, and gorse

bursts forth with equal lust, who can tell

from distance which is which? The one of course

with spines defends his close companion, as well.

No social distance, for these friends, are checked

who share their place upon the riverside;

no harmful exhalations to infect

the air they share, or soil on which they bide. 

With Spring’s first heat, myriad flying creatures 

flit among their yellow blooms to spread

the virus of their seed – can they teach us

not to isolate in fear, stay home in dread?

Must come the day when humankind can say:

‘We’ve grown together - more like Nature’s way.’ 

 

~.~

 

Object of Fantasy

Delighted by her easy laugh,

Her frank and open face,

Her funny talk, her swaying walk:

Her fascinating grace.

 

Delighted by her puckish smile,

Her thoughtful impish ways

To supplement the sparkling wit

That sets my heart ablaze.

 

Delighted by her naughty glance,

When the woman comes awake,

A flick of hair, a sultry stare,

Excites a lustful ache.

 

Delighted by her female shape,

Her well-formed thigh and breast.

And at the height of my delight?

To imagine her undressed.

 

~.~

 

Beep Beep (The Lark Song)

Some folks were drinking at the bar

Discussing world events.

Natterjack was out the back

And Mark was in the gents.

When all at once a refuse truck

Came roaring down the street

And before we could say what the hell,

That truck went beep beep beep.

Beep Beep, Beep Beep,

Nat’s Dad went by: Beep Beep.

 

~.~

 

Fear not Death

The close of life some hold in dread.

“What will happen when I’m dead?

Is there a soul, immortal blaze,

Or great black hole, the end of days?”

And wakeful lie in feared unrest

For want of comfort in this quest.

 

Perhaps religion holds the key?

Belief in many, one or three?

The Astral Surf or Spirit-scape?

Or returned to Earth in different shape?

Such myths bring solace, and can reap

A crop of faith and soothing sleep.

 

But this denies all intellect,

The common nous to misdirect.

The truth to share makes greater sense,

No cause to fear, needs no defence.

Where were you before the womb?

That’s where you’ll be when in your tomb.

 

~.~

 

On My Retirement from Keynetix

Here at last we gathered are,

a fine meal, well received.

Now follow well, some thoughts to dwell:

to build on what you have achieved.

 

I leave you with three golden rules,

three golden rules to mull.

I hope you dwell on what works well,

discard what’s plainly dull.

 

But first, nostalgia, I’m afraid:

Nine-Oh, that fateful year,

I met in June, with Dave and Boon,

And Steve, their traffic engineer.

 

A meeting strange with no clear aims -

they sent me to explore

how to replace, their database

of clients, and of product core.

 

My prototype got me the job,

to create an app called KISS.

For that daft name, I bear no blame,

but colleagues no less took the piss.

 

Now here we come to my rule one:

there was no precedent

for what I knew I had to do

for office staff here resident.

 

And so I took a new approach

to change the way we worked.

I suffered long and got it wrong

so many times I vexed and irked.

 

Now, this advice may grate against

what software dons have taught:

do not depend on current trend -

how users say it ought to work.

 

Be creative; find ways to help

your customers to grow.

Try not to strive to keep alive

the only methods clients know.

 

But mark well too, the treacherous trap

Of those who praise too well.

A fawning few can judgement skew

and send creative minds to hell.

 

~.~

 

Scottish Referendum 2014

So many more Aye-votes now

than cold logic could endow.

I never thought I’d hear it -

last year you were nowhere near it.

What about old Jimmy down the pub?

And the other Caledonians we rub

shoulders with? Will they be foreigners

come September twenty third?

I’ve heard you even want to ditch

the Queen! A Scottish Dollar,

with President Alex on its face?

Really? And will you race to close

our common border? To set to tears

the family order we’ve enjoyed

three hundred years?

 

~.~

 

The Wren (Haiku)

Little frenzied Wren,

Hops about the red smoke bush,

Tzicking frantic'lly

 

~.~

 

Ocean Nights

Sometimes, on clear calm nights

a thousand miles from land

when I have the watch alone,

I lie down on the cockpit bench

and gaze up at the stars: at the dense

band of brilliant light that is the Milky Way;

stars so tightly packed they seem like a fusion

of diamonds - an encrusted jewel shining

with such intensity it can make your eyes water.

 

Even in the relatively sparse skies either side

of our galactic disc, the background of billions

of foreign galaxies is always astonishing

and frequently overwhelming. In contrast,

the planets look close and friendly,

scattered like coins spilled from a drunken pocket.

 

There's Venus, aloof but definitely one of us;

warm and cheery Mars; Jolly Jupiter,

just risen with her skittering moons

chattering brightly around her like daughters;

and silvery Saturn with just a hint of

the ovality of rings. And out here,

away from the spoiling lights of cities

and population, the shooting stars

are magnificent. One passes over

every few minutes, streaking across

the silent sky with breath-taking velocity.

Some pass so near you believe you

can hear them crackling through the ether.

 

After a while the slap of waves on the hull,

the clink of rigging, and the moan

of the wind that fills our sails,

haul me, reluctant, back to my duties.

I scan the silvery horizon for other vessels,

check our track on the chartplotter,

then swing below to make myself a cup of tea. 

 

~.~

 

Life, The Multiverse, And Everything

Alone in my personal Universe,

witnessing what happens to my

world, but projecting an image

of myself into yours, and all

other singular universes. As each

of our worlds fall into decline

from actions of those projected

into it, so our projections in

other worlds sicken an die,

signalling that our own world

has died. But others carry on

until life is no longer sustained,

and their projections into other

universes die from disease

or old age, reflecting how

their world has ended.

And so the life of infinite

universes continues, each cycle

of birth giving life to a new

universe with a history evolved

by those living beyond our reach,

and each death coinciding with

the death of the world in which

that living entity was conceived.

This is why we seem to think

that all the momentous events

of history have occurred,

and continue to occur

in our own short lifetimes,

and that as we get older,

so the world in which we live

seems also on the brink of extinction.

We imagine our dying selves

into a new universe, again

of our very own, where our

infinitely projecting atoms

coalesce into new life from

parents projected from their

own declining worlds.

 

~.~

 

 

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