An artefact
of ten fingers;

an accident
of dark age monks'
calendar lore;

a bonanza
for marketing
and preachers on

Numbers beguile --
they turn in quite
another way from
sun, moon, planets
and wheeling stars.

Year digit rolls
from one to two
while Jews sit in
keeping Shabat
and the Muslims
mark Ramadan.

The gyres of sun
and moon spin on
quite unconcerned
approaching their
conjunction with
all the planets,
the fifth of May.

On forest floors,
oak leaves moulder,
nourish fungi,
refresh the soil
for the next turn
of the round world,
the flowering
of primroses.

Small animals,
under hedges
or in burrows
will wake again,
scuttle away
at my approach
along footpaths
built by Romans.

Swans, long necks bent
and heads tucked in
like figure twos
will build their nests
of straggly sticks
above spring floods
and lay their eggs
in the season
smooth and round like
trails of zeros.


Cypress trees, like flames,
lick the hills of ancient stone
circled with olives.

Before the heat haze
the mountains are blue curtains
behind the pine trees.

Etruscan colours:
wheat straw, olive leaves, red tiles,
dark tree silhouettes.

Pine forest

With the first sunbeam
I broke through to clarity
in the pine forest.


So late and rushed, the daffodils in spate
Allow a false poetic sign of spring,
At best, a little golden solace bring
To creatures bruised and buffeted by fate;
The cold and gusty wind at headlong rate
Sends cloud's torn wrack and struggling seabird's wing
O'erhead, and drives the bitter dusts that sting,
The litter whirling over rain-bright slate;
The lulls when, claws withdrawn, the skies dilate,
As evening lustre glosses every thing,
The meadow's contours glow, the grasses sing:
Sham peace, mock comfort, see us take the bait!
And yet, cocooned, a brighter spring curled round
Within my very self, my love sleeps sound.

On the Sonnet

Wordsworth refers to it as hermit's cell,
nun's convent room, or prison strait and damp,
small lute or pipe to sing, or glow-worm lamp,
or like a murm'ring bee in foxglove bell.
Rosetti calls it "moment's monument",
Misers of sound employ it, so says Keats;
and even Shakespeare filled a hundred sheets,
to paint a broader canvas his intent.

But to such sentiments I can't respond.
The emptiness of fourteen lines, the fog
in which I grope, deny such words as these.
My temper leans towards the Japanese,
for whom each syllable falls like a frog
breaking the silence of an ancient pond.


Late August, walking home on aching feet,
I watched the variegated cloud display
above where far spires rent the fading day.
As leaves hung dark and tired in summer's heat,
I passed a yet-unharvested field of wheat,
with wild oats raising high their lacy spray,
few faded poppies, smell of seasoned hay,
behind a hedge, a whole world from the street.

Two tyre-tracks led out into the field,
to where a car, bright orange in the dusk,
seemed to invade the rustic ripened corn.
The empty windows gaped where glass had gone,
the colour was the brutal sheen of rust,
the seats removed, the axles without wheels.

Here and now

I saw the rain-swept vista of the park,
under a sky so uniform and grey,
where leafless trees flung anguished branches high
in vain attempt to rip, to scratch, to mark;
it made me think, not for the first time, what
if I could pull aside the veil, or tear
the screen, to see reality appear,
blaze out behind illusion, would that not
be something? And reality may be
above the clouds, where sun-struck angels fly,
or further, world beyond world, where might ply
through perilous geometry of space
the gods - but no, for here, before my face
this one leaf, leaf itself, is all! Just see!


Earth has not anything to show more fair!
Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair,
Keen fitful gusts are whispering here and there,
The azured vault, the crystal circles bright.
O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
What has this bugbear Death that's worth our care?

Beauty, sweet Love, is like the morning dew.
There is a silence where hath been no sound;
It is the season of the sweet wild rose.
Lord, With what care has thou begirt us round!
When I consider every thing that grows,
I seek but one thing - to make sure of You.

The other

Two hares leap in a cornfield. High,
A hawk controls the buffeting sky
With flick of feather, holds his place
In effortless, unmoving grace.

Through undulating waterweed,
Casting no shadow, past the reeds,
A fish swims. Ripples, diamond-bright,
Frolic in the sun's clear light.

Above the shine of plough and fallow
A ridge rears up, crowned by a barrow.
The men who in that tumulus
Lie, those brothers, kin to us,

Three thousand times the seasons round
Have turned about their grassy mound.
They're like us but, it teases me,
A very different world they see.

These people of the darkness forge
Tenacious legends: thus, Saint George,
The dragon slain, the Turkish Knight,
His brother, he is bound to fight.

Tales of the robin and the wren,
Of gods who died and lived again,
Of journeys to the other side
To bring back secrets, act as guide

To wandering souls, or sacrifice
For warmth of sun to melt the ice
Of darkest days, restore to life
The earth, take mystic queen to wife.

He walked this valley, saw the hare,
The hawk, the fish. And everywhere
He looked, behind each drop of dew,
The other world was shining through.

So, with this alien way to see,
How can I say he's just like me?
Could I see through appearances,
Would my world then be just as his?

The hawk stoops. In the afternoon,
The sky holds just a waxing moon,
A singing sun, a vapour trail.
A train vibrates the shining rail.

Rough Villanelle

What is there of my words is worth preserving?
They just indulge my moods, my love, my pain.
Can I inflict them on the undeserving?

I see a flaming sunset o'er the plain,
And paint with gold, or copper, stock refrain.
What is there of my words is worth preserving?

In seventeen syllables, I might complain,
Or quicken phantoms in a weathervane;
Can I inflict them on the undeserving?

The hack effects, the landscape from the train,
The suns and rainbows, moons that wax and wane;
What is there of my words is worth preserving?

I turn from grey day's drudge of loss or gain,
And write of fogs and smokes that numb the brain.
Can I inflict them on the undeserving?

Renaissance poets, men of Henry's reign,
How my commuter's lifestyle would disdain!
What is there of my words is worth preserving?
Can I inflict them on the undeserving?


By the light of the blazing owls,
As the tree sinks under the hill,
And lengthening howls of waterfowl
Speed from the crumpet mill,
I rely on the fluffy oak
And whistle the cosmic rust,
Bringing the croak of a headless joke
To the softly glowing dust.


Millennium: 31 December 1999 (when the Western world celebrated the end of the second millennium) occurred on a Friday in the month of Ramadan. The year 2000 is not the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus; the system arose from an incorrect assumption on the part of the 6th century European monk Dionysius Exiguus. On 5 May 2000, there was a planetary conjunction, with all the planets on the same side of the sun.

The poem Wordsworth is titled, not for the poet, but for Wordsworth Book of Sonnets (ed. Linda Marsh), Wordsworth 1995, from whose Index of First Lines the words are taken. The lines are by Wordsworth, Tennyson, Longfellow, Coleridge, Keats, King James I, Keats, Walsh, Daniel, Hood, Meredith, Herbert, Shakespeare, and Mary Queen of Scots. This book also provided inspiration for On the Sonnet.

Peter J. Cameron