Changing Rooms

i  remember

(in aleppo once

back in our early oh-what-a-wonderful-world days

when nothing was too much trouble)

having been given

in this our first hotel

a room with a view

overlooking the car park

and sensing your disquiet

daring to ask  the manager

(a large man with little english

and a fierce moustache)

for a room 

(if that was at all possible

and not too much trouble)

with a view out to sea

(if there was such a room)

and i remember exactly how he leant back

in his black leather armchair

and looked at us

from one to the other

and twiddled his thumbs

then closed his eyes

and nodded

and oh the triumph of  it all

the relief

the joy


as i discovered much  much later

you simply wanted

a room nearer the lift).


 if you want my advice
(for what it’s worth)

take your girlfriend down to the sea
and watch her swim
the breast stroke the crawl  the butterfly
how she swims should tell you
all you need to know about her
in the destructive element immerse
and later much later
when to your surprise
she swims out of your life
step once more  into the sea
stare into the water
stare and wonder
what  went wrong
where did you do the wrong thing
not do the required thing
but don’t torment yourself
with what you may have missed
just go through it all again
fail again
fail better


                                  the relentless incoming morning tide

the sea is wild tonight
splintering against rocks
tossing arcs of white spray
high into the air
high into the pale light of the troubled moon

if you have problems
now is the time
throw them overboard
flotsam them
jetsam them
watch the merciless waves carry them away
shaking their fierce fists

then watch them  return
on the relentless  incoming  morning tide
steepled hands pressed flat together
on pallid lips



early one morning

 I saw this horse

standing like horses do

because lying down would entail  getting up –

all those long slender legs to organize

to raise its  heavy   barrel of a body

(not to mention the long neck

…..and that big head)

against the fearsome force of gravity.

Meanwhile the sun was lighting up the autumn leaves,

whitening and brightening the pale and acrid smoke,

casting long, long shadows

across the yellowing grass.

and later on I saw this hare

couched in the grass

(no, I didn’t mean ‘crouched’,

though ‘crouched’ would have done  just as well)

huddled in the long green grass,

thinking either it was invisible

or I was blind

or both

so I was able to sneak up quite close.


The whirr of the shutter

and it was off like a shot.


then in the sunny afternoon,

strange for our northern autumn,

two families wandered barefoot

onto the sunlit beach,

doing what people on beaches do:

drawing with  heel and toe,

geometric shapes in the sand


using  inadequate   buckets

and bendy  plastic spades

to build Canute castles and moats

against the incoming tide


rescuing odd things –

dolls’ heads, old ropes, tyres;

sea-sculpted pebbles

so good to handle;

sea-smoothed driftwood

sculpted by Giacometti;

ancient bottles with messages  for help

signed by Robinson Crusoe….

stuff like that…..


just gazing,

gazing out to sea

but not really looking at or for anything,

letting the mind  free-wheel

like a bicycle

on a gentle downhill slope,


like Sisyphus,

standing, hands on hips,

watching his  great lump of a stone

go rumpetytumpetytumpetytump

all the way


to the bottom




Then out of  Tay’s curacao-blue

I saw this weathered mooring stick

rise from its own reflection and –

Excaliber  minus holding hand –

impressively priapic



And now

when on my couch I lie

in vacant or in pensive mood

and  find

only these pictures

flashing  through my mind,

and  sip my drink and  reminisce……

while I grant that this,

remembered images, the stuff

of poetry, the bliss

of solitude,

may be for some reward enough

it’s  not for me

so, like the man from Porlock,

please  intrude.



a bucket and spade

and the the sea, the sea,

is all she needs

to be, to be…..                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

I do like to be beside the sea……..


Bliss! Bliss!

Oh the  happiness!

To be able to do

young things like this!


The people along the sand

all turn and look one way.

They turn their back on the land.

They look at the sea all day.

They cannot look out far,

they cannot look in deep

but when was that ever a bar

to any watch they keep?