‘…No obstacle at all, this gate of grass.’

Murasaki: 'The Tale of Genji’

California Pines

California Pines
William Keith (Scotland, Old Meldrum, active United States, 1839-1911) - LACMA Collections

Authored by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2012 All Rights Reserved.

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Going back to the simple

and the light.

Spring on low hills,

leafy corners,

gateway places

where the wayfarer’s

languid in sunlight,

the silence deeper,

and not even self

in the grasses,

no reflection in the water,


the drifting heart.

All history gone,

here is the creature;

the swallows flicker

over the river

over fields,

and mind is freer,

tender as a new shoot,

inwardly singing,

the old world melted,

a new begun,

and the laws

of being

just what’s in the heart.

Going home, to where

is always home,

all nature;

no deeper in the great

than in the small,

not better

and not gentler;

here is truth,

a loyalty to being,

a response,

and warmth,

in the bowed fir,

in the runnel.

Walking over dead branches,

in the green

of the wood,

quieter now

than the child’s mind,


than the years done,


than past and future,


moment to moment,

drinking from the stream

in the breeze.

Going through,

past the stillness,


at the end

of the ride,

going past

every muteness

the solidity

of trees,

slight as the feather

on the ground,


as the cloud in the sky.


through the brambles

and the fern,



through remembered


gone from every

thing that binds,

gone from every

other presence,

back to the knowledge

of the heart.


The parting was fire,

that separation ice,

but friendship

is new warmth

deep as the woodland.

Nothing else

will ever save us.

Nothing more

will flow

from the universe.

And no years pass in the heart,

no moments

of meaning vanish;

none and all,

unique, belong to all.

The parting was flame,

that absence void,

but new friendship

sends swallows

through the night.

Even from far

beyond the Lethe,

even there,


recalls a day.

The air was sweetly cold,

the green river

the immense distance


two near places.

The parting was ice,

this space is fire



interwoven minds.

A Dream Of The Sea

It was a dream of the sea

in the dark of night,

of white breakers,

emerald light

a rocky shore

its stone

split like Inca boulders,

a pure

salt Atlantic wall.

There were no boats,

but the grey seals

were swimming darkly


flickering shapes

under the water

it was a dream of the sea,

and the sea-gods,

all the true transformed.

Headland grasses blew,

spray sang,

and nothing more

comes from eternity,

our world, life

has nothing else

to offer,

than that one,

enduring dream.

Not outward

don’t turn there,

turn within,

push the gate

into the silence,

into the hush

called memory,

into the hollow

above the sea.

And be still.

It is a virtue.

Whatever the planets

out there bring us

can they bring us

the power

of the dream

of the moment,

fixed forever,

in some strange region

of process

in the spirit,

altered to the cellular

tremor and the net

of whatever was

laid down,

that beauty

beyond conceiving?

It was a vision of the sea

in its green singing,

of a harmony

which is the flavour

of the being self;




in each,

it was the breaker

falling white

in thunder,

and the twilight


it was the meaning

ever the meaning

always born

of the dream within.


Very old, this rose

that winds its way

to explode

in light

from the curving briar,

then dives

to the grey water,



in its whiteness,

a rose

like those that sang,


almost wild,

over dark earth.

Birds flicker in mist,

drift among trees,

swish over grasses,


rise above cloud,

then dive

to the grey water,


and mysterious

in their darkness,

in their lives,

beyond ours,

on outspread wings,

with secret cries,

the wildness.

Trees gather,

knots of stillness,

on which

you set a hand

to feel existence,

hold tight

to quivering earth;

trees gathered

by forces

in the seed,

on which you can’t

set your hand.

From the briar,

to the branch,

flies the bird.

The Perfect Hour

Now I am speaking

out of my deepest self,

out of the dark core,

and the light mind,

out of the essence

of the tao, the lines

of flight, the soft

dust on the way.

I am not speaking for you,

nor for those I love,

nor for the world

you imagine you

are part of, now I

speak instead for all

of nature moving,

out of my very self.

I speak for the evening,

for the leaves, the quiet,

for the sky, one grey,

for the woods, silent,

and not for the human

or the creature

but for the beauty

of inanimate music.

Now I am speaking

not for the sake of being,

not to be known

by the listening,

but out of an inner

freedom, out of the hour

before farewell,

the perfect hour.


Here, the rain falls,

a quiet beginning,

leaves drip grey light,

sky colours darken,

the line of the woods

marks a limit

on the distance,

not under the air,

etched on it.

The spirit drinks

at the fountain

of the rain

exactly as the earth

drinks, soaks up water,

absorbs being,


in an absence of the sun

as fine as presence.

The rain is the void

beyond the sun,

that makes the sun

light in fire

in the imagination.

It is a gasp of time

below the hidden stars,

within it are the voices,

the millennia of rain.

Navigation Beyond

An old trail,

scented with broom,

and bitter wormwood

grey ashy plant crumbling

to fragrance in the hand,

track that rims the quarry

where the wildflowers

overtake the human,

and launch themselves

more star-like

at the stars.

Here tangled branches

make parted ways,

choose your silence.

Either path’s sweet.

They lead

into the heart

into the memory,

into the spirit, deep mind.

A broken kiln is here,

a small copse there,

but either path is sweet.

You will find yourself,

and no returning;

explore your thought

without meaning;

quench your eye

on un-designed form,

your ear on formless music.

The place has no location,

no time, no coordinates,

you need no map

to lose it, or find it, again.

In Which We Shine

I could sing to you;

that’s what poetry is, the singing;

sing to you

of the eternity we inhabit,

the dark infinity

in which

we shine,

perhaps the only lovers.

The poet wishes to be river,

or wind blowing,

or light over stones,



or the long threads

of willow leaves moving

in green river breeze.

I could rest under the yews

here, above the water,

beyond the dark eyes

of the caves,

the rock-pale towers,

and watch this bird,

dance in the light

forage in the shade.

I could be one

with the hundred million


with the un-meaning

of the vagrant process,

wait for stars

or slow cloud wreathing


The true poet

would not be human,

but leaf, rain,

or a single feeling

coiling in the spirit,

some aspect

of existence

unfit for life.

It is a calling

outside the world,

if you wish

to understand it right,

dedicated to a truth

beyond all


a kindness to what is.

The true poet would be gentle;

how can one kill the world?


it is all we have,

all we will have had.

And aware;

perception is all,

knowing is all.

I could take you

to the track

beside the river

every river,

through the wood

every wood,

take you

into yourself;

Which is not thing,

nor even process,


but a presence,

a being here

a having been,

a ghost of light

in shadow.

The unknown

and tiny

is as great

as the immense,

that is

the first truth

to comprehend,

and the last.

This patch of grass

no one

may notice again

for an age,

this pebble

white in the depths,

or these plants

in mist.

No one is here,

no one is ever

truly here,

and no one passes through,

and nothing sees

we are alone.

Be careful

of one another.

How Near

How long it takes

to reach here,

reach the lanes,

white and silent,

winding hedges,


on horizons,

to be where the sea

echoes in the hollows,

and the windhover


the wayfarer.

You must lay aside time.

You must dream,

but the dream

of memory,

which is the substance

of how we transmute

the world

to make it glimmer,

glow, a tower

built on a hill

towards galaxies,

built in the heart,

which is mind,

heart is mind,

whole feeling

of the body


How long it takes

to reach here,

quiet enough

to follow the thought

be led by

the message

of the thought.

And the message is subtle,

not what you


not a revelation

of something

outside you, or inside,

but an unfurling

of something

neither outside

nor within,

a stillness


like a sweetness,

a tenderness

void of all desire,

in the end a giving

not a taking,

or at least

a realisation

of the possibility

of gift

on a different earth

in another universe,

in a sought communion.

How long it takes to reach here,

how hard to stay,

touching a white stone

cradled in warm heath, bracken,

calmed by the sun,

at one with the fatal sea

that swirls and troubles

the mind,

how hard to transform

samsara in the spirit,

how far this place,

how near.

New Muse

If one made a poetry

quieter than twilight,

with all birds hushed,

and the breeze fallen,

a poetry slenderer

slighter than air

or water or cloud

or tender leaf-shoot,

a poetry of feeling,

but not interaction,

of emotion but not

passion, or sadness,

a poetry balanced

like that tiny stone,

or the tree, on the hill,

under all weathers.

If one made that,

made it such

it seemed to echo

the silent past

history of place,

present stillness,

beauty of the done,

truth of the lost,

a poetry delicate

sensitive, kind,

a patch of emerging

blue in the white,

a ruffling of surface,

a trembling of branch

in an imperceptible

stirring of world.

If one could do that,

and enter the eye

of the mouse,

or the insect’s ear,

then the new muse

might exist,

naturally sacred,

not from beyond,

but a reflection

of what subsists

at the core of being

the assertion of life,

we can never deny,

the miraculous process

of no creation,

spontaneous being,

a muse of the instant,

dark, and anonymous,

and a muse of the place,

the remembered, the twilight.

Being Not Metaphor

Don’t fashion the mountain,

be the mountain, be leaf,

as near as mind can get

to the un-minded,

not strident self

asserting, denying

it all,

but the not-selves,

all of equal being;

and not the world

you wish not to be part of,

but the world you are,

despite your thinking.

Don’t seek to impose order,

like this, accept the order

that has being

outside you,

outside irreal self

inside the real,

accept a wind that blows

the bowing of the trees,

the sheets of rain,

the ice, the air,

avoid the myths,

evade the metaphors,

be free.

With mind intact,

and there’s the tension.

Mind is the water,

you must be the fall,


by rock,

nurturing rowans,

foaming in clefts,

singing deep under stone,

and namelessly.

Here is the tree

at the far edge of space;

here are we.

Without Raging

Breath in the air

like smoke,

the roads are ice,

the slope is deep snow

sinking down

to the depths

of valley,

the birds are still,

or thunderous

in the trees,

for a white moment.

Everything you are

is a silence,

more silent

than when you sleep,

less self

less world,

than dream,


not creating,

though both

here and in dream

self is powerless.

The light is grey

and calm,

the stone is pale,

the river black

with weirs of white

and glassy green,

your thought is light,

it plays on twigs

above the river,

on walls along the heights,

it is the thought of time

becoming past

in memory,

of space becoming

space-like metaphor,

of how far out we are

on the limb of mind,

how distant

from our origins,

how far from the universe,

how far from home,

believing only

in what we see and feel.

No, the purpose

of communication

is not to be oblique

and baffle

for the sake of order,

but to say clearly

where mind ends

and being begins,

as I am not the water

but the flow is in me,

and outside me,

and I both see

and am the seeing,

content and form,

process and outer object,


but not as the bird sees,


nor the next mind seeing,

to which its past is brought,

and assumed future,

their interplay,

in ringing present,

in a world without deities

but not without value,

the values

those we inherit and refine,


gifts to the galaxy,

gifts to the universe,

gifts to ourselves above all,

gifts like the bird’s tenderness,

the insect’s endurance,

the trickle of generations

through an empty landscape,

our perception of beauty,

our concept of love,

truth, freedom, sensitivity,

those kinds of gifts.

And no use raging,

though the heart rages,

a calmness

must suffice,

this river-run,

a bare embrace of trees,

heron’s bowed presence.


Why the dislike

of human perfection,

the very buildings,

while nature

always soothes?

Why the deep troubling,

as though the mind

was not created

for such a place

or such a world?

Our incomplete spirits

seek naked earth,

the natural fires,

the air and water,

to make us whole.

Though everything falls

everything rises again

without us,

lovers and loved,

moon and stars.

To stand, to feel,

these things are

not obvious,

half-learnt by

the uncomfortable heart.

There is this dislike

of human perfection,

the too smooth statues,

the too tall walls,

the sun-drenched setting.

The River-Bend

The river is dark,

it was here

as the

history of place,

it flowed

and was not us,



not mind or body,

but something other,

matter moving

energy sighing,

knowing neither,

a river

without a boatman,

dark in its name

and nature.

The river voices

a language,

speaks a music,

fills emptiness

when no eye’s here

fills emptiness

though non-existent

in any human space,

other than memory,

and that was another river,

flowing through us,

as the heron in flight

we disturbed

was a grey heron of light

in the mind

flying through us.

Everything’s altered

by mind.

The river knows neither.

It exists in many ways,

in a world outside

which is non-world for us,

inside too, where it is no more river

than every flowing process

thought of;

exists between us part-shared,

exists in each, specific,

exists in general,

exists as place and moment,

as name and map,

as, in the end, the data

of the eye, out of the eye.

The river was dark,

and the trees were gleaming

against the ground

and the pinnacles of rock

along the river

were brilliant, silent,

tremor of water beneath,

now the river

is in us,

now it flows in us,

and will flow there too perhaps

still; we believe

it will if we go there,

yet how will

that matter?

It flows.


It is not my poetry you want,

nor I,

it is the true speaking,

the true seeing.

Other mind

is not deceived,

it wants no heroes.

It is not my cunning

you desire,

my knowledge,

my skill,

but the essence of my commitment,

the strength of my faith

in being.

And the book turned down

on the table,

has no need

of my fire and ice,

waits there indifferent

to us all,

to all the tradition,

it merely wants speech,

the speakers, the voices;

quits the discarded husk,

for eternal essence;

has never a feeling,

for the dead ghost,

whose silvery light lies here.

It is not a question of form,

or a matter of content.

What you want from me,

is the key to our being,

the key to life eternal,

the keys of recognition,

empathy, kindness,

and not the mind

raging forever

at its own non-answers,

not my eccentric music,

not the fixed lake

through which

a river flows,

darkly rhythmic,

dark in its flowing;

not the same water,

clearer, deeper,

blacker, lighter,

yet the same river

forever moving

under black branches,

under black stars.

What you want from me

is not this,

thought seething

body breathing

troubled sighing,

but the wind’s meaning,

the eye’s meaning,

how solitude burns,

why departure glistens,

the being of mountain,

the bowing of pine,

the crows’ sense of flight

the sun’s wild ringing,

is what you wish from me,

and not poetry,

not what the mind-muse leaves

when it, shuddering,


with no goodbye.

The Mind-Muse

Say this to the mind-muse

we understand

how hard truth is,

how form may lie,

and be part of the lack

of humility in us,


Say this to the dark form,

in the grey mantle,

under the tree,

beside the stone,

at the junction

of river and light,

the infinite river,

say we have tried,

say how we have lied,

say we need

the voice from the dark,

the voice from the silence

to glitter within us,

say we have seen the place

in the wood,

seen the white flower dying,

the cloud ahead

the water flowing,

seen it all,

say this to the metaphor,

this to the symbol,

and tongue of fire,

to the meaningless

except in the mind,

say to the mind-muse,

how we will it, will truth

to exist,

out of black space

in the heart,

of darkness by water,

the lacquer of tao

the thing that twists

in the night

between stars,

say to the mind-muse, we are

and what we are

is afraid, is formless,

is broken by ice

of truth, in the spirit,

and our defence

is eternal illusion.

Not Performance

This is a different kind

of poetry.

It’s the performance I don’t accept,

the fundamental lie

of the performance.

Nature – in clouds, stones, trees –

no, is never a performance,

is always and only ever the thing that is.

And the mind and heart

in deep feeling

are never performance;

the stage is a metaphor

but this is no stage,

this is the passion itself,

not tragedy, not ironic comedy;

this is sole being,

and another way

of saying to you,

that the rest is literature.

That every performance

here is an attempt

at non-performance,

at saying nothing,

and pointing everywhere.

The In-Itself Outside Itself

The world glistens in stillness here,

there are willows

and leaves on the water,

a hiss of grasses;

it is not for us:

this world shines, but not for us,


without creature


Let it be there

without ulterior being,

naked to universe,

part of that universe,

let it not be

a metaphor to humanity,

nor any kind of mirror

or echo,

but freedom, whole and complete.

Let it not be in me,

nor in you, myth,

material or challenge,

let it drift slowly

in its deep darkness

which manifests as light,

let it be the untouchable


of the other we cannot be.


To create it all

and then anonymous

and still,

leave it lie unpublished.

To create it all

then like those makers

of gleaming Buddhas

and dancing Shivas wait, unknown.

To be an undiscovered master

who for self-completion

painted the bamboos

and the snowy waters.

To be the musician

forming songs

in the mind,

as melodies for a people,

for love of such,

and with no expectation

of their survival;

for tenderness not greatness,

seems beyond us now.

There’s a myth

of the unknown immortals,

who keep the world alive,

walking among us,

unrecognised, intrinsically


passing us by in the street.

Long After

Is there a quieter,

not the volcanic anger

of green life

bursting the everglades,

blue of a sea,

or concatenation of stars

when galaxies collide

in some telescope’s eye?

Is there a smaller,

not mountain or river,

forest or field,

but less than the single nettle,

or the drop of rainbow water,

or a flicker of light

from the least gleam

in the dark?

Is there a truer,

not the maker of rhetoric, not the actor,

not the mover or shaker,

but slight as the stream

from under the shale,

those whispers of loss

long after ending,

those irretrievable flames.

Nowhere To Flee

Values, they are our future.

Forget the technologies,

Ignore the science,

the dead demons

of fantastic religions,

the politics of failure,

the economics of prisons,

none of those will save us.

Values, they are our future,

Ethics, the study of humanity.

Science leads nowhere,

religion is nowhere,

politics are power

and power is empty,

economics despoils us.

Values – our future.

And values sing of the future

beyond the constraints

of races and nations,

of one humanity, on this planet,

which already contains every other,

and the universe ends here;

there is nowhere to flee,

value is future.

Substance And The Void

Watching the grass sway,

stem and stem,

watching the process,

I exist

between the mind

and world,

in the irreal,

both and neither.


the grass.

Or considering wave,

a green drum,

in endless

motion of the seas,

of which there is no termination;

hearing the tao,

hearing the noise

of the waterfall, also,

the ice-grey flow,

cascading downwards,

there is a place to exist,

between the outer

and the inner,

which is in both,

and beyond both,

such is nirvana,

wholly here

and nowhere,

as you are substance

and the void.

One Long Ridge

One long ridge below the mountain.

Walking through cut wood,

after logging,

witnessing crest after crest

rise, subside,

following the dance of the trees,

their obliquities,

their parallax of object

in the moving eye,

denying metaphor,

listening to the sound

of grass,

the noise of leaves,

the miles

of granite, air,

cloud, beauty.

A mind of light.

Sinking through soft ground

down the valley,

following wall,

this is wayfaring,

through ancient world

still dedicated

to the matter,

still frozen

and on fire.

The glittering tree,

half green, half flame,

that’s nature,

as we are half the burning

of the body,

half dark verdancy of mind.

Right emotion saves us.

Feeling is where

values are embodied.

Why science,

though dispelling demons,

cannot save us.

since facts are not values,

nor is process,

though truth

itself may be a value.

Values are choices

of the free mind,


for the wayfarer, or rather


like sensitivity and kindness.

Sliding on a half-made trail,

considering values,

through woods of malachite

and verdigris,

I try to understand

why nature

itself seems a value,

something to do

with what has no intentions on us,

yet satisfies the need for beauty,

freedom, honesty;

in the creatures,

unassuming endurance;

in the trees, grace;

in the waters, purity.

Emerging on a shelf of stone

above a thousand feet of light,

with, far below, a rock-choked valley.

Why a little watershed

is etched in memory,

the fall opposite,

a white thread of silence,

the mind working,

on values

and how we balance them; achieve

the middle way

towards creation

not destruction;

creation which is itself

a value,

a way, and a destination.

Poetry Can Do Didactic Too

Why is navigating life so hard?

Why is moral discourse

two thirds of the language

(you doubt it: go and see the thesaurus)

if you ignore the technical terms?

Because ethics is us,

is the core of what we will be,

and not the rest;

not the technologies,

or the distractions;

morality is why

history has not ended,

why it will always be

difficult to live,

even if we’re on a billion planets,

even when we possess

the true description of mind.

Morality is choice.

And its difficulty

is down to ambivalence;

that reality that values conflict,

interact, and overlap,

that there is always

a balancing act to achieve,

the dance on the wire,

because so many qualities

work both ways,

for creation or destruction,

as: curiosity, passion, pride,

intelligence, skill,

competitiveness, belief;

because the list of truly

destructive values

is quite brief.

As: cunning, deception,

control, power-seeking,

exclusion, discrimination,

though the list

of their associated behaviours,

is rather long, starting with

violence, cowardice, greed,

cruelty and selfishness.

But it’s the ambivalence

of so much that makes life

a constant process of decision,

a battle against time,

which is why remorse

is a deepest feeling;

our inability to alter the done

undoes us,

to change the path we chose.

In the Valley

I fell asleep in the grass and heath,

by the holly tree,

on the slope above the stream;

woke and watched the crows flying

bright birds, large-brained,

a buzzard, pigeons, all

in a long arc under a domed sky

filled with trains of cloud

to every horizon,

slow floaters moving west,

covering, and uncovering,

the sun.

Here you need a mind of summer,

life is the dance

of light on water,

and a honeyed silence,

through which a cool wind moves

when the sun is masked,

the grass is deep, dry,

the heath is twisted complex

subtle colours, scents;

I think of our wars and conflicts,

our strange misery

that we are alone

that the demons we dreamed

of the last four thousand years

were fantasies,

and what exists

is this brilliant flow

which allows us to take part.

Hard to describe

the simplicity

and the depth

of beauty here,

in a place not special

but a gift of the natural

as fine as all

its billion spaces

on this planet,

not untouched

but left by humanity,

momentarily un-despoiled.

Winter too has its warmth

in the spirit.

It is only our fear

of freedom,

that makes our misery,

fear of the void,

through which we fall,

on every side,

earth resting on nothing

in every direction,

held like a blue-white mottled bead

on space-time’s

whirling string;

and fall in the mind

through non-intention,

the utter dependence

of all our purposes

on ourselves,

we, out of nature’s sieve,

though there is no hand

behind the winnowing.

You need to know freedom

to consider the light and the leaves

of the holly echoing the sun;

be still a while

to feel the birches tremble in air,

see the pine-trees’ green in the far glimmer

of April ending;

to hear the land sounding beneath your back,

the warm breeze rustling

in last autumn’s veils of leaf;

before the void

inside you and beyond

fills with the endless forms

of nothingness,

the seething panoply,

which is samsara and nirvana.

Everything comes of nothing,

that is the secret,

the nothing that being is,

what it engenders.

Why Be Lonely?

Why be lonely

in this loneliest of auras,

these still and twilight woods

through which the stars

out of Keats’ poem, glitter

among dark leaves?

Is it purpose you look for?

Don’t search for it in science.

Nature apart from the creature

is process not purpose.

Science can’t invent intent

if there is none;

and don’t say

the purpose of the rose

is to make more roses.

Nature without creature

simply does what it does,

what it is, not what it’s for.

Why be lonely

to the sighing of the sea,

to the golden traffic

of innumerable murmurs?

Sea of the universe,

where the galaxies

like great ships sail

from nowhere to no end.

Black Flowers

I walked through myself

and found, on the other side,

the deeper strangeness,

like walking in silence

over every kind of land;

heath and by streams in the valley,

over wooded heights, to lakes

beyond cool forest, all there

in the circuit of a few square miles.

Nothing coming from self alone,

or world alone,

but a constant interaction of both,

to form the irreal.

Futile idealism, realism,

meaningless self,

useless identity,

when all that matters here

is drifting forwards and being.

Nothing to brood over:

let the wood-pigeon crack

the stillness, shatter the emerald

muteness of leaves,

rather than murmur

over the windless world;

let beauty, delight, love

for this, shimmer in mind,

the only place they can.

Let imagination sing

in the hostile spaces,

they the surprisingly benign,

beyond any cause or reason;

let the black flowers of stars

shine in the negative deeps,

magnificence quell our tears;

let mind be the matrix of meaning,

the galaxies shine in their fields.

Diamond Eye

All night under Perseus and the Plough,

dreaming, so young once,

about personal destiny,

when we have no destiny,

only flexibility,

spontaneity maybe,

the skill to take

advantage of chance,

which is the movement

of intertwined process,

and nothing about us.

The stars in their cold dresses

not even hanging there;

nothing hangs in space,

there is nowhere to hang from,

nothing to hang towards,

everywhere universe centres

from every side,

and is everywhere centred.

Now too careful of cold;

out to breathe night breath,

to seize the diamond eye.

Maybe listen to a fox moving,

an owl testing the darkness,

a mouse in the shrubs,

a dog puzzled by wildness.

Knowing chance concatenation

slow-changed constellation,

everything solid shifting,

a life in a cry in the night,

and a flurry of darkness.

Too sensible now to let the lances

Of light transfix my brow.

They See Through and Past You

Here is the child

wayfaring always

in deep imagination;

and now having been

and returned,

so hard to get back

to that haunted place,

filled with the possible

and not the impossible-known.

Yes the trees limit this path,

but why be subservient to trees?

or suffer because of doves,

or be slaves of the briars

curling down

out of pasts not ours

to snare every stumble?

Why be anything less than that

Vast tremor of mind?

Don’t disown the children.

You may be less.

Disown power

and the emptiness.

The child sees your nakedness


how you fumble

at any explanation,

carve out the rooms of despair.


Yes, it eases me to think of her,

as Arnaut said,

and she increases love,

like the tiny insects

the dancers in the grass.

Inextinguishable beauty,

is in the mind, real:

thought against tyranny,

dearth of violence,

slow, slow civilisation,

longer than we would like,

to reach

respect for the creatures,

for each other,

for the planet,

Earth without prejudice,

but in the end the heart


and the yew tree

splitting stone

on those cliffs remembered,

lovely, winter-patterned.

Out of it all,

the love, the form,

and within,

all the process;

the flow

that no one strays from.

Love in the mind,

against all forms of power,

and the sight of her

the seed of delight,

and all pain gone,

a light of kindness.

The flame of living vision,

that might redeem

in some way

the shuffling pain

of being,

and inner agony.

Yes, it eases me to think of her:

against all tyranny,

all exploitation.

Oh, what is luminous

is freely given,

is liberation.

Walk free now through the gate of intellect.

The Wall

Is history fallen:

shattered ruins,


Pound tried to gather together,

the shining lights,

good for love and beauty,

if short on truth.

Telling us at least

how to be,

and nothing new.

Go to the poets

who lived among barbarians,

to understand your century.

Is nature moving:

slow as the rain

to down a dead tree-trunk,

or ice to split the rock,

or mind to make creation,

is the green fern,

and the moss and lichen.

Yes the music is beautiful,

and the slender archways,

but not the idea

behind them,

which was power,

and human error.

Is a stony metaphor:

not simply a broken boundary,

a failure to make order

of our kind

in a world more deeply ordered,

a chaos

that make us fearful,

only passing by, we transients,

where world more permanent

exists beyond forever,

we here, then gone, it stays

and shines

to no intent.

Is a gleaming gesture:

from a deeper landscape

the memory,

that comes to me

to light the troubled hours,

cure against time, fate, boredom;

and a ledge in a dark ravine

in a pool of fire

from a dying sun;

and a silvered frieze

in an emerald well,

where moon is glass

and every breeze is fragrance.

Is our shattered realm of poetry,

this fallen age,

our small affairs

which is where we end,

now part of the great affair,

that never required us;

this return to the first dawns

and the first world;

this return to sanity,

to the love and beauty,

formed of the greater truth,

free of the lies of four thousand years,

this naked universe.

Gift Of The Ring-Makers

Westward, where long ago

some race or other

excavated stone to make the ring,

and left behind

something more beautiful,

a silent quarry,

the bracken and the fern,

the green coolness,

the purple stems,

the thin grassy smoke

of showering pollen.

You’ll get here on a lost trail,

not by mountains,

but on a mountain’s back,

up by the long valley

of trees and flowers.

A place like the places

that are not

the ones we picture,

in those bright materials

meant for persuasion,

those spectaculars:

here there is almost nothing


except you can step

straight into the universe

and sing with the galaxies

if you so choose,

though you can do that

with a single pebble, frond, star.

This is the place called: rest your spirit,

free your mind.

Heath is warm and gentle,

or cool and tender,

depending on whether

it’s noon or evening.

If blood has ever been shed

here, the stain has vanished,

the chemical transformations

are complete, the dead

are dead, and no,

not sleeping,

but remaindered,

old atoms of universe

gone back to be

its fresh materials.

Heath is the furry pelt,

the hot tongue, the ice-cool lick.

Here they dug in the earth,

to go worship a deity,

and even their deity in the mind

passed them by.

But what they left,

was treasure,

marvellous thistles, nettles,

blue wild flowers,

tormentil and

white bed-straw stars,

nothing whatsoever

here of power,

a sanity wholly

beyond the human,

that is still here now,

and they are gone.

The Error

It was all an error;

We have to start again,

though with what we know,

which is difficult.

It was all a long mistake,

a self-deception,

through which remarkably

the values passed,

the secular breath

from the far grasslands,

the forests and the lakes

before the deserts.

It was all our fault,

but somehow the values

survived the journey,

with the knowledge,

of what really is.

So we still have dangerous love,

dangerous truth,

dangerous beauty.

It was all a diversion

on the way,

a many thousand year

long diversion,

To understand rights,

and affection,

form and meaning

and relationship.

It was all an error,

all those costumes,

all those stones,

all that anguish,

simply to reach

this space of landscape

and look again

at where we began.

The Happy Traveller

The way is beautiful,

though the wayfarer less so;

the traveller at the gate

is still here,

gazing at the meadow

bright with yellows,

with a river at its end

green as ice.

The dust of the journey

can’t mask the sweetness,

that sinks

through the deeps of the mind,

and the eye is coolest

in the trees,

the body

most at ease in the silence.

The moon and the bird rise,

the rose,

and our slow liberties,

while the blue wind ruffles

shining leaves,

the traveller

listens to the universe,

the voiceless sound.

This is the happy traveller

who goes

through a space

that can’t be grasped,

gently parts the gate of grass,

a moment gone,


never a trace of self behind.


It must be desperate enough

for us, is it so?

To make the voice, I mean,

lift above the silence,

the silence of the many speakers,

the dumbness of the endless talking.

We must be desperate enough to utter

with the voice of leaves

and creatures,

the voice of the continental winds,

against the dark unyielding river,

the black river of dissuasion.

The time must be desperate enough,

beneath the surface –

when is it not so? –

to hear the weeping of the moment,

as, without recourse, it alters forever;

the tremor of something departing.

The mind, the heart, the spirit,

no matter what you call this,

must be desperate enough

to write in blood,

to open the black vein if Nero

demands we show what ‘human’ means.

Fragments of Crystal

The dark hills, beyond metaphor waited

for our hour of resolution.

Metamorphosis is life’s

last mystery, the stir

of rapid light in the trees;

so colour becomes something other

than nature of object,

a premonition of orbit,

a well of unknown seed.

The echo of thunder

embraced the vibrant green

pallid against black volumes

that rolled over the silvered skyline.

I was broken down to the cell,

to the fibre of flint in the vein,

to the shattered bole

that waved its wreath

of entangled foliage.

You and I were neither here nor there

in the unforeseen scheme;

appalled by memory,

haunted by vision,

suffocated by dream;

and on the white sand of the river’s

forgetful waters

fragments of crystal shone

among half-buried leaves.

Dark slopes hovered beyond metaphor

suspended themselves over bays of light,

over granite appearance,

the rock of the self

molten in sunbeams,

where the drunken butterfly

sways from the hot afternoon

to the stone. Psyche alighted,

devastated mind quivered.

Here then the heartland,

we might never have left,

a child-eye roaming the shadow

crossing the atlas of eyelids,

transmuting twice-resonant places,

so much the greater

than any spaces we see,

and raised over pure time,

bright pillars standing on time.

I altered. I flowed through myself, I returned

among years, and was nothing except what I was,

and am nothing now that I am,

a transmutation of walls,

a change like that sudden disturbance

deep in the glassy water,

a mindless quivering there

of whatever becomes

of the done and gone.

Into creatures, or streams,

or branches seeping gold resin,

into objects, or others, we move

without myths, naked of shade;

like soft smoke flowing, or water,

our script scrolled in the air,

our intertwined voices,

our exchanges on tongue, in the tongue,

of impossible form.

White Air

You think the stones, the power, make truth?

See the insect climb the grass,

or the beauty it represents

kindle luminescence in the mind.

You think the names, the panoply

the trappings, the massive darkness,

outshine the simple light

of a single act of friendship?

You think civilisation worth a jot,

that pretends to anything but values,

I mean the values of the mind,

not the gold, the glitter and the toys.

A hundred thousand years

before T’ang,

more than you and I know shone

under Perseus and the Pole,

travelling under other guise,

indifferent to later names.

Our myths are without strength,

All our texts will be palimpsests.

All that effort

to grasp the moment,

the white air,

gone, through the trees.


Within this light is the bliss,

this patch of sun

on the wheat-field,

this corner of eternity:

there’s Blake passing,

and Neruda.

Purify the mind

in the stream.

Cool your feet

in the flow.

We are what is passing by

these other things passing slowly.

Fresh fronds, plants,

herbs maybe, tender green

anyway, at water’s edge –

a snail too, as a witness –

grace, mercy and kindness,

these the leaves that we need.

Out of us strangely

the love flows,

to us strangely

it returns,

made it seems by the winnowing,

but no less magical for that.

Paradise is light on the fields,

the meaning of the beloved,

the heart’s affections

and the silence,

in which this passing

is expressed.


Sister, my sister,

the wasp on the leaf,

yellow and black

the colours of being,

sing of the night

sister, my sister,

and sing of the sun.

Flame in the mind,

sister, my sister,

the new age begun

will it be your time,

stinging and bitter,

sister, my sister

of charcoal and fire?

Sister, my sister,

wasp on the breeze,

ochre and ebony,

colours of being,

sing of the darkness,

sister, my sister,

then sing of the light.

Est-il Paradis?

This bright meadow,

lacking all deceit,

the insects like innumerable

sparks, flying through the light,

these purer spirits.

Behind here are mountains,

uncut forest,

endless patterns

of cloud and stone.

Silent now,

no exploiters,

this silent place

of my affection.

And the gate always open

which is hidden,

which is holy,

where the mice, moths,

and butterflies play.

This bright meadow,

sweet nature.

There is order

in the process,

not design.

The only place

we can build

our dream is in

the human mind.

Oh, that first fatal error,

that first wrong inference:

yes, there is order

in the process,

but no, there is no design.

And grace, and courage,

out of the creatures,

all their virtues

we inherit.

Bright meadow,

I inherit your shining,

delicacy, mystery,

not a mystery of structure

but a mystery of being,

the quiddity

of this paradise,

that we contemplate

in the mind.

Be Free

Forget the religion,

and the history,

the tyrants who saw

lovely things created

were tyrants;

we are free

relatively speaking.

Forget all empty power,

its corruption,

as Adams said, always there,

go back

to ancient ignorance


the beauty of the trees.

Those who built the great city,

in the mind,

the great dream,

simply falsified the world,

now we have

to get back behind,

back to the wayfarer’s stream.

So much to jettison,

yet much to keep,

the art, that is our living cry;

the science, our knowledge now,

and our values,

hard won

through forty centuries.

All those fragments,

but don’t be sad,

the meadow is still sacred,

the gate of grass

is hidden here, and holy.

Understand the endless flow,

forget the falsities, be free.

After The Climb

You have to climb a long way

to reach the starting-point again.

You have to fall off the mountain,

to see it clear.

Forget the philosophy, the religion,

the science, the art, the long living,

to ground yourself in beauty, truth, love.

Out of them all other values flow,

to them the emotions gather,

with affection, sincerity, courage,

with honesty, and sensitivity.

You have to demolish centuries

to be able

to live in your own.

And return to idling by the stream,

cleansing head and feet in the river,

watching the blue smoke rise,

looking at the flowers

among the trees,

letting go of all this life,

passing through what will never die.

Mist In The Meadow

No, Nature’s not for sale;

Wu szu hsieh, and

No crooked thoughts.

We’ve been winnowed,

and here we are,

lost deep in the grass.

Dancing spirits,

beauty in the wind,

all those trees.

Love, creator of radiance,

white ghosts of butterflies,

a whole

‘civilisation’ there.


light in the mind;

this dancing floor

of moon and stars.

A white mist in the meadow,

pale dew on the leaves;

we go after knowledge,

but here’s the house of the heart.

Ours To Do

Fragmentation is no problem.

eternity in a blink of the eye;

water, in the hollow tree,

spilling down grey bark

cools the mind.

Underneath it, make a unity,

not from masks and forms,

but out of the human vision

that dreamed beauty

for three thousand years,

and trickles bright light

through the grass,

ripples under stalks,

and stems,

makes those little waves of being.

Gold burns in the gloom,

sunlight sings on the leaf,

civilisation is a flow,


only on the spirit.

Slope By The River

The gate is holy,

Kuan, the gate is open.

Not enough concentration

on the living spirit,

the seethe of voices,

too much attention

to the deathly in the process;

I mean, in what we celebrate,

and how we celebrate it.

Flame of light in the meadow.

The white horse canters.

The butterflies

move in ghostly dance,

the breeze

stirs the grass pollen.

And here is the river,

still, green, flow,

the river that never changes.

Light In The Air

Light in the air,

and there’s the wayfarer

letting go

of the way.

On high ramparts

smoke of sunset,

the gold and red

contest the stars.

At home in the galaxy,

the galaxy home in the void,

I know where I’ll return,

Letting go, light in air.

Grass Is An Institution

Death masks of dead religions,

vain concepts, useless forms,

but grass is an institution,

its gate is radiance.

No gods to harm,

no rituals,

just the waving stalks,

the emerald stems.

Form’s a function of the intellect,

true, but the seeing eye

is part of mind,

all beauty driven by delight,

The barb of fire.

Sun-fire filtered through

the pastoral shade,

to the insects’ fine domain.

Thunder of meaning gone

from the universe,

intentionless silence

moves in freedom;

it takes some getting used to;

the field of butterflies,

the presence of flowers,

the mountain peak fallen,

and here we are,

in what seems like bathos,

until the heart shines,

intellect, the graces.

Not enough time,

not enough mind

for all this


but the grass soothes,

the trickle of light,


the loss of the dream.

And we can’t always

be thinking elegy,

in the grass

that thinks nothing.


One voice alone can’t make it,

sustain the beauty,

the milk-weed,

the sunlit mountain rain,

One delicate mind, picking

its way through silences

asking silence

muteness of ritual, absence of voice.

One mind over a snowfield,

or under sequoias,

or damming the waterfall

with ice-cold pebbles.

One mind can’t be the intent

a universe lacks,

except on behalf of that mind itself,

and love needs eyes.

But one mind in the sleeping grass,

one dormant mind,

not daring to wake

might sustain the dream.

Spider’s necklet on dawn furze,

frost white on the pine,

flicker of sun-fire through branches,

swifts in the fields.

One mind can sustain perhaps

the friendship

to call back paradise


in the human mind,

whether communion

of spirit,

or solo rapture.

A wing-feather in the grass,

a snail-shell on the stone,

dust, moss, twigs,

green fern.

Drawing the mind back

through light

to wide skies,

to possibility.

The Burning Man

Yes, I have

avoided the darkness,

turned back

from the places that ruin,

having been there

having lived through

the somnolent world

and its nightmares.

Is it us there,

or only

a trick of the mind?

Our shadow in mirrors,

endlessly echoing green.

A dumb sense

like the return

to dark childhood memories,

or the ghosts on the moor

of a heart that tears

at its veins

and rails at reality,

for not believing

in us, for not seeing us

in its blind eyes

of in-appetency

and continuance.

The moon tonight

is a tremor

of fire and sweetness,

against the blank chill,

the lake of meandering silence,

It’s not a question of truth

but of marvellous meaning

of the strength for intent,

of the child’s eye


the eye of the heron,

the eye of the red kite circling,

or of the windhover,

the eye of the clinging marsh

an indifferent wood,

full of its being.

I fail again to make do

with what is, and not the desired,

the fire and the sweetness,

become the burning man

on the snowbound earth,

whose flames

are unhidden, even by stone;

here, and once more, is their light.

And the moon makes a tremor in darkest water,

conjures with shadow its candour on grass,

offers its symbol of

fire and sweetness, the fury

of time in the veins

and no immortality

for mind.

And all this is you, my sister,

all this too is your motion

your intricate bright multiple barb in the heart,

your compassion of roots,

like the moonlight

under the feet of the alders,

and a heron’s stride deep.

All this is the memory of cicadas

sawing the night by the vast river,

as if those leaves blew

through the night in their pain,

in metallic howling

the pain of birth death in a night’s space,

of waters black flow,

of unstoppable fall.

I hold back, I burn,

I scorch to the movement of hours,

the accumulation of days,

I hold the bones of the world

only ash in your sight

and I show you them living,

I show you all that is left,

the green pyre of our loves.

Signs in the Stone

It is simply not poetry’s task to explain

the world,

it is poetry’s task to scream.

If you hear the screaming,

like the utterance

deep in the whorls of the conch,

or the sap of the branch in the fire

(an image from Dante)

a whisper from over Styx,

or the pain

that emanates from the steel

of the night-bound cicadas,

you will know

it is not a human scream,

it is more white noise,

or the murmur

out of the universe

of what is not sound

but would be sound

in our air,

say the tempests on Mars,

or the green stem’s dying.

Sometimes it’s a howling

of joy, like the pigeon’s bubbling

in the heights of the tree,

or the blind wave’s cascade

into whiteness,

then you must listen,

it is our calling,

more than the other,

more than the muse

or the white caryatid, the moon on the arch

of the cut stone cry of the hand,

more than the dark

blood pooling the sand,

a tremor of fire of delight

like the birth of a star

a mindless shining in silence,

an intentionless beam a ray of the night

that picks out our frail barque

our blue orb

in its globule of blackness,

where it floats within,

look no hands,

look no feet.

It is not poetry’s task

to describe in equations

the pulse of your motions of thought

of the networks that flare,

it may linger an hour or two

with the moonlight on crystal salvers

that tile the dark,

or drift with the grass,

dance with the seed-heads,

blow over wastelands,

root in the unseen, unknown

anonymous corners

of whatever is.

It has the right,

it has offered its blood

to the broken demons,

and melted all gods,

it has followed the way,

and made sacred,

it has blessed

the wayfarer, its friend.

Nothing Else Will

Precisely we

(I mean the creatures,

with a little help from the process)

made the meaning and made grace.

We, yes we, made love and kindness,

made affection,

beauty out of sensitivity,

in truth-delight, in greater equity.

We were the makers,

we could make it still,

given sufficient reverence,

enough plain silence;

though most likely the one alone,

following a path

through the grass,


Most likely the one alone,

in the roadside grass,

watching what passes,

stepping to the other side,

or in the stillness,

in the concentration,

in the deep field,

hand, eye, ear, making.

If we ceased destruction,

precisely we

might build it all again.

The gate is holy.

Green Ways

Down green tracks the singing grasses.

If we lose those we lose everything.

Over the winding tracks the thorn trees

on the walls, voiceless their dark message.

Along soft ways the silent wildflowers.

If we lose these we lose everything.

Listening to the Movement

Bringing a little intellect to the process,

a little empathy,

with the sweetness,

a little chivalry,

grace, mercy, kindness,

a little warmth always

in our affections.

Keeping a little sanity in the process,

a measure of regard,

with equity,

a little depth,

slow, peaceful now, profound,

a little joy at all times

in our making.

Maintaining a little caution in the process,

a little silence,

with the splendour

of nature a little beneficence,

stillness, attention, meaning always,

listening to the movement

of the breeze.

The Long Soft Sighing of the Tide

Over these slopes of brown furze, broken stone,

the dolerite outcrops on the clouded hills,

the long horizon,

the glitter of western sea,

you feel the phantoms moving,

as the Amerindians moved,

and the San, almost silent

a part of the land,

one with the body’s liquids,

bound in blood,

in a world we cannot reach

or comprehend

the world below the dust

sifted on hills,

the hundred thousand generations

gone down sighing,

the wind and stars

their guides.

On the far green slopes where the stones rise,

pointing to star perhaps or moon or sun,

in the white air,

the gleam of shining crystal,

you feel the phantoms move

as aboriginal ghosts, as forest peoples,

the sea and lakeshore dwellers moved,

a part of this earth,

electric with existence

temperate in blood,

making a world we cannot

recreate or gather,

the lives below the dust,

in the sand of the seasons,

the generations trusting in time

space, rites of passage,

the long soft sighing,

of the tide.

The Lark in Eternity, the Hawk in Time

Lark and hawk in the air,

the one hangs against cloud

joy in its wings,

holds still in eternal moment

pouring song

the raw trills

the pure cascade

sends down a cone of sound

to the slope of hill

concealing grass

the reservoir of the ear;

the other sweeps through time,

fire in its wings

plots destruction,

but equally natura,

the flare of process

running wild

down past present future,

beyond the pain

and our morality.

The river of peace

and the gyre of predation.

The one hangs crystal

in the midday heat

its fine performance

cold water over pebbles

delight in mind,

invisible source

of a-temporal beauty;

the other the glide

of life over the fall,

the tremor of blood

beating through skies

blind with lightning

the presage of winds;

both poised above us,

one over shallow grass,

one on the distant summit,

poles of our being,

in time and out of time.

Strange Self

Once more intentionless process,

hard by the bridge along the stream

bright down over boulders,

glassy slides and crystal foam,

mesmerising thought, stilling the eye

nearly solid water framed, eternal flow;

rapid passing on, endless remaining;

mind fast on presence and becoming.

Eyes fixed on no flow, unutterable

tardiness, all stands still, time ends,

then eye goes rushing down-slope

with the green dragon’s tail, flailing.

Frozen eye, flicker of the serpent.

Still motion, swift speeding life.

River and stone, mind is both.

Strange self, and all things vague.

Almost a Clue

Here then is the silent corner I make.

I have created my place in the grass,

not one perhaps you will envy,

but between those two trees

and not far from the edge of the stream,

it’s a place of light.

It’s almost as if there’s a clue

here to the imponderable earth,

a thread, perhaps, or a fragment of sky

that uncurls leading thought

into the quiet and eternal

like a secret in the secret.

Take stock: there are no wars here,

only the memory of battles,

no anger, no pain, only the ache

of remorse and irretrievable dawn.

Truth is here, and whatever of past

illusion clings to the native heart,

and then there is love, tangle of flesh

and spirit, sap of seasons, fire

of the lightning flash in azure, again,

again, and the downpour of days,

the slow roll of thunder over the bay,

the green of the soul-rending sea.

And there is beauty. These fields,

these trees that hang in the air,

these volumes of ice-cold darkness

that flow here from aquiline hills,

drenching the grass and flowers

into an orb of perfumed silence.

Here is the angle beyond despair,

but not unknowing, sealed with the real,

as bodies are sealed with understanding,

the blessings of closer perception,

than which there is nothing greater,

nothing deeper, nothing closer to air,

or the constant candescence of waters,

or the sun’s flashing arc slicing pure green,

or this earth, dark under foot and hand,

this growth bursting in presence, live

by the crook of the arm, the eye’s dark,

intimate understanding of self and other.

Tell me what you will carry

to the last breath of life, but friendship,

but memory, but grace of the line

the sound the landscape the resonance of space,

in which we endure the resonance of being,

the endless echo of this vast strangeness,

piercing the flesh like a briar, but balm

to the mind; tell me what else you will

hear when you die but the body’s song

reverberating all ways through the intellect,

the song that ends in love and begins there,

the massive sweetness; it’s all here,

all here in this place,

in this secret corner and lair of meaning.

Wind in the Poplar

The wind in the poplar, your poplar,

is sighing and hissing, sibilant evening

falls slowly over the field and river.

I listen inside me to your discrete song.

The clouds turn in the umber air,

unravelling, forming, life coheres

only in memory and in the making.

I fashion inside me your ancient song.

The waves tumble in flailing foam,

creating, destroying, meaning arises,

out of our effort, out of our loving.

I hear inside us the tide of your song.

Naming the Names

Some of us end so intoxicated we can only

keep naming names, so declaring things,

the endless the marvellous constructs

the worlds that owe nothing at all to us;

are the lovers of beetles, trees, scarlet

and emerald birds, pebbles and shells,

drunk on the headiest natural richness.

Some end with star words, flower words,

Arcturus and Deneb, Centaury, Burnet,

concentrated hubs and nodes of emotion,

we passers-through cling to furiously:

since what else can we do but cling tight

to this arc, this void, this chasm sliding

so sweetly so dumbly swiftly beneath us?

Some of us fall in love with the silence;

have you ever been there, plunged into

that aqueous crystal where turtles swim

and the flickering fish, or into that pond

the child once stirred, with its horse-kicks

of tadpoles, black lashes of stringiest life,

more tenacious than us, more enduring?

Some can survive only there, not among

humans, in that place where we go

for release, for freedom from pain,

for the intricate gathering of detail,

an essence of meaning, for the light

that crosses the subtle grey evening sky,

to be simply reflection in watery echo.

For answer, deeper question, who knows

or cares? In the end the pursuit is all,

what fills time, aching time, and eases

the sadness, surrounds with pale folds

and tissues the whole intense operation,

with delicate curlicues, layers of truth,

which may in turn be only diverse illusion.

Some have to speak how it feels, call out,

we insecure ones, who long for response,

from a self or the earth, from the worlds

that seem sleeping, or endlessly hostile,

yet surprise us with warmth and with joy.

It’s as though we might touch that mute

being, that solemn dumb sense in the air,

it’s as though we might wake the sleeper

there among thorns, or unravel the rose,

or something behind the rose, still hidden;

as if, beyond all our doubts and beliefs,

we might name some impossible presence,

that might make meaning for us, who are

charged forever it seems with the making.


Lighter, lighter,

the red wind stirs in the poplars,

the lightning strikes fire,

a gust of the endless and infinite

picks up the world

and tosses it over its shoulder,

the ozone of light,

the acetylene burn of being.

The deutzia stirs, a pale

enduring presence,

she must be you,

and the poplar I,

forever improvising a life

amongst those

who cannot understand,

or only in moments,

while for us,

for us it’s all time,

all space,

and every succession of days

a new voyage

into the ache of the failure to comprehend.

The blue Californian ceanothus too,

and the crimson may-thorn,

they watch us, they gaze,

they are distilled colour of form,

they sing

with a different hum, buzz

shrilling of tone

in the moments of brilliance,

the zig-zag flow among trees

of this wind from the west,

these volumes of dark

these clouds of unknowing,

black night of the soul

which is yes

an aspect of mind,

but due no divinity,

godless and sweet,

singing the flowers

inside us,

singing the skies

the storms of existence

lighter, lighter.


You must use the language born in you,

not the tongues of another existence,

though you translate

the scorching of lips

the lightning flash and the cool

sweep of swallows over the lake,

do they sip there?

You must accustom yourself (lifelong)

to the rhythms of something native

a level of heart

its tendrils and arteries veins

the tremor of air in the tops

of the leaves and over the dark embankment,

the thrum of the rails.

This is the beauty, these the feelings

an essential life that endures,

though you may interpret

other worlds to the ear;

the dark eel’s leap in the ditch, the leavened sand

where a patch of blood seeped

into your consciousness.

Only emotion remains, only pain

and the joy, nothing else,

after galaxies collide, after we merge

with Andromeda (call it death, or the machine)

only then will we know

the final, the ultimate truth,

of the flame in the mouth.

You must speak with the music of whatever

truth was founded inside you,

your country, your hills, your furlongs

of long heath and gorse,

the black-water falls, the white

hedges of may, the flowers blue,

yellow and red lining the trails.

You must countenance seasons of fall,

and the white resurrection that bursts

from pear branches,

clothes of the angels of mind,

(they do not exist) you are doomed to re-echo

all the bright thesaurus of meaning and time,

in the recess of light.

The Changelings

We touch many places, and people,

and they unequally touch on us.

And none of this is ever the same.

We pass on, travellers, and are not

the child in that garden imagining,

or the lover, or worker, or whatever

the blind mind thought it was,

and the places are subtly altered,

the wind that rises from marsh,

and the shores redolent of salt,

and the clouds, and the stream,

they are, but not as they were.

And you too are not as I dreamed,

moon of light, singing in silences,

under the narrow weft of my days,

though you are forever the unknown

sweetness that knocks at the heart,

demands its entry, makes me other,

creates my alien life, my truer life,

you too change with the breeze,

are transformed into plant or stone,

into tree or pool of refracted dawn.

You and I the strange mutated forms

of that flicker of transience, identity.

Months Of Grace

April and September the months of pure skies,

when the angle of sun brings the whitest cloud

over the blue, and there is that ice in the air,

gone or presaged.

And the hours when night is done and the moon

flows aqueous through light to set among trees;

April and September the months of possibilities,

being or destruction.

The turning points, in which certainty dissolves,

the altitudes of hill and tree, the bright disclosures,

beginnings where pale or transcendent suns glide

breaking the solid grey.

And the mind split open, and the life exposed, bare,

to the considerations of the dark ruthless intellect.

Months of a season crying mutation, you shall not

be what you are.

April and September, mercy, peace, kindness, affection,

also live there among harsh roots, in the derelict spaces.

To touch them the mind must climb sky-clear mountains,

in the months of grace.


‘...par l’espace, l’univers me comprend et m’engloutit comme un point;
par la pensée, je le comprends.’

Pascal : 'Pensées :113.’

Nothing else for us but the mind,

it’s our science, our arts,

deeper still it’s the breath of our morality,

the enlivening fire.

The body passes, but never the mind,

that breaks or fades, yes,

but leaves the forms, the bright remains

in the house of shadow.

And the mind will migrate to the machine,

or the machine be redefined as tissue,

either way immortality beckons

the finite flesh.

Nothing else is left for us but mind,

beginning and end of space,

there, as us, when we decode from the journey,

from every transport.

Everything else is replaceable but mind

in its intimate process,

which carries inside – its own heritage,

the lives, the millennia.

To express them as mercy, pity, peace

and love, as ultimate grace,

beyond the reach of illusory religions,

the getting and spending, power.

Mind is the essence, mind our strangest future,

intellect, ethics, beauty, truth,

conjured by nature out of the nothingness,

as the universe self-conjured.

But never nothing. O, I am in love with form,

the shaping mind singing,

the wayfarer’s dream of time and eternity,

marvellous resonance.

What Is Solid

Though the world is all substance (hear

the wind in the chestnut trees, above

the scarlet trumpets of the azaleas)

what is without purpose is also void.

Though we engage through bodies

and not simply minds (mind a process

of body therefore no thing, rather

a wisp of time transcended there)

the body is emptiness unless thought

redeems it. The houses, the rocks,

the hills disappear, I walk in the void,

which is the wild purposeless universe.

Substance vanishes into deeper form,

and form is a dance of process called

time, time the unfurling of process

in the core of the everlasting moment.

You and I are not solid matter enduring,

we are the ghosts and phantoms of light,

caught in the whirlwinds of thought

and feeling, granting meaning to life.

What crushes us is also light as a feather,

what we drift through, a weight of gravity

that we resist. Everything gathers round

in the gloom, the masses of buildings, trees,

but evening sizzles, the yellow lamps flare,

the reluctant heart beats again, lightning

entrances once more, without power to kill

the delight that flies in the watery darkness.

Bright, You Rise

Bright, you rise from the darkness, nameless stream,

carving your white flow over a lip of silent granite,

vague as the past ever is, a matter of ideas, feeling

not vision, in the eyes, which are not eyes, of mind.

I recall you, in memory’s half-formed, fragile web

of grasping, like water flashing between the fingers,

but what registers is your uncompromising truth,

the flame of a moth-wing beating against life’s glass.

Like me, a wanderer, and baffled by all this Earth,

your nervous flight pure as the wood-pigeon’s arc,

from under the hawk of daylight, pain and denial,

a flash of grey gone sweet through the silent trees.

Evening Hour

Shake off the planet, all its exhaustions,

go down to the small green bay, the slow waves,

shivers of evening light on polished stones,

a hint of transcendence in the band of cloud.

Be kind to your self, and the thoughts of self,

the web of curious memories you drag with you,

of which the searching mind would like to make

a whole, but cannot, endlessly lifting its own purpose

high over its head and launching itself towards future,

in the hope that from it the meaning, the assurance

might emerge – or is it a benediction from something

it seeks, an exoneration, a sign of commendation

it asks of the horizon where a single vessel appears,

dark shell against the light, spreading its silent wake,

in interminable distance, over the surfaces of green,

each anxious wrinkle delicate as the moth’s antenna?

Let go of the planet, hug yourself. Pure night is near,

when the clouds are rolled away and the galaxy flares,

and we can be one with the pure all-powerful stillness,

of multi-coloured stars, and the gaseous swirling veils.

Let go and be kind to your heart, that slight voyager,

that counts your steps, the hours, the life, the losses.

Consider the laughter that didn’t make it here, mild

behind the mind’s grinding down of pebble to sand.

However you make your purpose and your meaning,

know that no one before you or after will do better.

It’s enough if they fail, the far depths, to dismay you

utterly, if you can still hide in the flower, insect, star.


The deep well of time, the black alleyway

I wandered through,

its small lighted windows, quiet workshops,

soft laughter, happiness –

no walking there at the edge of pain and light

no following the cracks in ice

where hope founders.

And at the corner a pomegranate tree,

a bush, the pure exotic

with hanging fruit, Persephone’s fruit,

in a bright angle, glowing slowly

at a cafe’s side-entrance,

its mottled ripeness a six-month promise,

the seeded pledge of the over-world.

Self Aside

Putting self aside and the world,

ambling down-valley,

the mind arranges woods, hills, streams

into patterns of understanding,

ceases to compare itself to others,

or its creations to life’s alternatives.

One foot in front of the other,

a further hundred steps, then a mile,

and landscape mutates,

there are other rivers, mountains, trees,

a new caress of the breeze,

and the heart is freed,

for its own making,

which is the only creation

worth the effort,

to be unique

in a world of non-uniqueness.

Putting self aside, which is difficult,

climbing, descending,

the mind constructs histories of fields,

builds patterns of light into forms of meaning,

ceases to interpret itself through others,

or its feelings through another’s sense.

One foot after another, mile on mile,

and the natural beauty,

without demand, intent, authority,

the slow inflow of the given

not made, sinks deep,

to reassure us,

of the only perception

worth our effort;

to see beyond self

in the world of conflicting selves.

Thoughts In The Shade

The process is indestructible.

No way to leave the way.

No way to oppose it.

Relax, and float with the white seeds,

the thick cloud of crazed parachutes

coating the spider-webs

and the yellow gorse; gain hands of air.

It’s the values inside us

that make answer to the world,

not the wild forces for good or ill,

harsh stresses that create a society.

Watching the moth dark in daylight,

and the thin file of ants climb

the hill of light to dissect a leaf.

Whatever is given and shared increases,

Whatever is owned is forever fixed.

It’s the infinite against the finite thing.

Nature is not a consciousness, that participates

in our thought, foresight, conscience,

eyes or heart. Azure sky

eases the need for purpose, brings meaning.

Pale veins of the grass-blade, ruffled layers

of cloud, all this pure being is burgeoning.

Distinctions here so poorly understood:

there is an order even without design,

there is a meaning even without intent.

See it, and the centuries drop away,

leaving you simply naked in the sunlight.

Watch the great sieve, the vast cascade,

hear the showering sounds in the grass.

All the illusions of Maya, the shadows

of the void, but these are also the real,

in our irreality. The transient is the way.

The flow eternal. Nature asserts no values:

those we confer, with our hands of air.


Meadow flatlands  these

are the ends of the earth

the soft grass swaying

old stones placed on end

perhaps by hands

mark  the hidden universe

white perfect cloud

  billows or is still

the sigh the sway of the grass like

  speech  the message

flows  what we loved and love

sweeps up life, holds life there

an instant  gleaming

Meadow flatlands

these the sacred spaces

kill the idling engines  forbear

Crossing The City

Architecture too has a secret.

Uncomfortable with what we make

that shows only power,

I like the buildings

that reveal a mind.

Concrete and steel are mindless.

‘Statements’ are shallow;

stone and wood are of earth

and reveal its beauty;

ruins are ours.

Here the massive domes, the facades,

great steps to belittle us,

blank spaces to fill voids with void,

no seats, vast squares;

the universe, the planet, bears down

Grass waves in my mind

I wander through

no longer finding anything within

that still endorses all this weight

for what it brings us

Wrong step a whole civilisation

founders, the arrow fired

aimlessly falls in the stream:

I search for the un-made

in this cold place

the un-designed, the richness

we were born to. Grass

waves in my mind;

I wait for night’s

chance glimpse of galaxies.

We Are Buried Deep

No, there’s nothing you have I want.

Give and share

that I’ll understand.

Those who owned it all,

dust underfoot in the air

(Alexander’s Caesar’s Napoleon’s Hitler’s

Stalin’s, Mao’s breath still going round,

those molecules, the protons in free fall forever)

own nothing.

Power is empty.

Snow covers the dreaming land,

the wind is still,

and here is every peace.

Where are we going

in this universe,

(with Pascal I can grasp it, but it’s nothing,

infinite void seething with all potentials,

what he looked for was non-existent purpose)

and why?

First set Earth free.

All the sad stones of empire down there.

Who knows what’s

underground, glowing

unseen in the darkness?

Snow is light,

(Conceal with a veil what we have done,

what we have been, except for the gleams

of humanity, still emerging, celebrate those)

snow hides our past.

We are buried deep.

Distant Friend

Wandering again in grass

the butterflies fluttering

their wisps of wings in air

go covering the meadows,

and the mind a moth follows

lighter than moon and star,

towards the distant hills.

Friendship a wild flicker

of a far-off lamp in silence,

a warmth in the midnight air,

soothes, energises,

and friendship too has wings,

sings in the darkness,

free mind to mind.

The moonlit slopes are white

a dim sheen veiled glowing,

the deep black undergrowth

creates the planet over again,

and friendship too, its maps

are new, it shines in stillness,

even though you are not here.

Mountain Truth

On shattered rim-rock and shale,

broken edge of the wild uplands.

Rising sun in fog, the firs in light

glow greener than greenest seas.

All thing ease down, all working

becomes the maturation of moths,

the infinitesimal moves of seeds,

the mutating angles of the mind.

Birds and a few mice, in the grass,

at the fringe of the bands of stone.

Skies are incandescent, ferns grace

black shards of cliff, streams flow.

Here we lose the illusions that bind.

Loosed and flowing, frozen time.

The ball of light, mountain truth.

Falling slower, sinking deeper.

Thoughts For A Rainy Day

Action or inaction, what’s your choice?

Toss a pebble into the silent pool

and hope for minimum destruction,

or drift with the light, the grass,

the wandering stream, savaged

by conscience.

Ways of life are no help: one is all

action; if not of the body, of mind

and emotions; it’s forever for others:

submerging the self in selflessness,

become society, brother/sisterhood,

die of species.

Another dissolves the self in void,

embraces an ultimate non-action,

transcends the self in states of self,

becomes the one alone, or the one

is all, vanishes into the non-distance,

seeks non-self.

Often the same creed will embrace

both action and non-action, a deep

inner tension in all forms of spirit,

between the worlds inside and out,

our penalty for existing in the irreal,

not fish or fowl.

Many forms of action are forms

of power, and all power is empty.

Many forms of inaction are equally

manifestations of greed, fear, desire,

anxiety, opposition, competition,

neutral power.

Giving up power without relinquishing

humanity is hard, embracing it without

losing humanity in action is impossible.

Those forms of action devoid of power

are personal, creative: love, art, for example,

both difficult.

The source of all ethics and morality,

is the choice between action and inaction,

where every form of action has unforeseen

consequences, many are not benign,

where even non-action is a form of action

by default.

To interfere, to intervene in helpful ways,

to detach oneself from selfish power,

to find a road between action and inaction,

exhibiting compassion, but refraining from

driving the world in ways not understood,

is hard.

Pity the species. Pity the naked self.


You write because the world disturbs you

in the deepest way. Because time is short

and eternity is long, and the spirit

would find its place. Because nature

is now no longer enough if it ever was,

and our artifice not only disappoints,

it troubles in subtle or not so subtle ways.

You write because there is beauty buried

in matter and form and it seems to emerge

just beneath your fingers or under your

eyelids, in the deep communion – days

pass like minutes. Because you feel you

don’t exist unless you shout, cry, scream

in the infinite silence forever surrounds.

You write because it’s a form of love,

a way of comprehending the beloved.

You write because you wish to be river,

stone, tree, flower, insect, cloud, light.

Because it’s the sweetest way to pass

the hours, woven dew-wet spider-webs

over the impenetrable thickets of gorse.

You write to free what is otherwise

imprisoned, in a narrow concrete cell;

to try to communicate with the other

that never responds, or not in the way

desired. You write because it is action

and not inaction, but non-action devoid

of power. Because it makes you weep.

You write for ever, for every generation,

what is encapsulated in just this one

time and place, because humankind is

itself a story, and its dreams, hopes, acts,

desires; and all of us seek a story. Because

we are lost in the immensity of the void,

and the spirit would somehow find its place.


Down the green road along the hedgerow,

a buried ditch, two goats feeding.

Over a stile, and up through abandoned quarries

to reach the hill-fort’s piles of shattered stone.

Finding a way even over a mapped landscape

frees the spirit. It’s a path back into nature,

into the world we long ago abandoned,

and it sweetens our exile here in modernity.

White clouds from the sea shadow the moor.

Has the stone you grasp rolled from the past,

or yesterday’s outfall? New or old, still cast

from million-year deep shelves of gone seas.

There’s the drop into secret folds of a dark hill,

and the climb, in scent of the sea, towards fields

deep in the waves of imminent harvest. There’s

a lane, a wall, a gully drenched in wild-flowers.

Then there’s a place to stand, in alien country,

which is always the heart’s renewal, freedom

from habits of eye and ear. The lark’s up high,

unseen in the blue. Its wings still fold in joy.

The Mouths Of Time

It’s a question of feeling

the quality of your own mind,

I see that.

Invention and description

are not enough

for the burning heart.

Perhaps you’re the glow itself

of the midnight moon


the poplar and the ploughshare,

the broken wall

its deeper shadows.

Perhaps you’re the night,

deep night,

where the galaxy arches,

and the eye

makes everything vast

everything tiny.

Perhaps you are other,

mirror shattered crazed in the other,

all that is not reflection,


all that is the world itself

breaking in from outside

to declare you absent,

shredding your spirit as you shred

the wisps of dried leaf and flower

in the field,

by the river in early light

where you’d sleep forever.

It’s about grasping the feel

of a movement elusive,

in hours, I see that.

Perhaps you’re the shape

on the fiery scent of a hill,

the ice of its thorn-tree

that renews,

the crackle of lightening,

the vicious veil

of misted rain blasting the slope.

Perhaps you’re the dance

of the bitter leaves,

of sombre cloud

the green blades of dawn and dusk.

Perhaps you’re the nebula,

whorl of silver,

the concentration of mass.

Perhaps, not the field,

or the soil below,

you’re the silence buried,

where no one cries,

at the mute heart of the earth.

Perhaps you’re the air,

that sighs and showers seed softly

the detritus of days

of the heavy sun,

a darkness of cedars,

of nightshade,

the purple mouths

of time.


Returning always to the way,

which is nowhere,

and nothing.

A play of light on water,

an ongoing

movement of leaves,

we are always part of.

Even the solitudes

are imaginary.

Air is no vacuum,

thought is time.

And meaning

is in nature,

out of mind,

always singing.

Always the singing dying

resurrecting land,

and the marks of

our passing.

Returning always to the way.

Index Of First Lines