Saturday, 3 December 2016


For my mother...with deepest compassion

"I know dementia," she says. "It is all I know.
It is your worst nightmare.
But I do not fear it. I live there.

Is it my instability that frightens you -
my unpredictability?
Or fear of contamination, that my condition is contagious?

Love is an illusion,
how it runs from the hard times!
See how it disappears like a puff of smoke

just when you need it most? Loneliness
is turning me to stone. I lash out in frustration.
I'm hurting. I want you to know how it feels.

They're slowly poisoning me, you know -
these demons who visit me.
See this pale, gaunt face in the mirror?

I have suffered the atrocities of alien abduction:
have been probed and experimented upon
by beings with huge eyes and needles for fingers.

Now I am disintegrating into odd-shaped pieces
that will never fit together again.
I am losing myself. I can't stop screaming.

The sky is darkening: it is coming for me,
the darkness. It will drag me off
to God knows where. But I will not go!

It's not real. It's not real.
It's all in my head - that's what they're saying,
these strangers in white coats who accost and hold me down.

I am deafened by shrieks.
Nightly they pierce my eardrums:
has the Banshee finally come to claim me?

I am terrified of this dark red thing
that lives inside me, just awaiting the right moment
to close down my brain. And what may come after.

Birds fly across the sky.
Are these the bearers of Souls to the next World?
Is it for their deliverance that my arms rise skyward?

Sudden sword-thrust through my head.
What is this blurring of senses, this petrifying
of body and will - some horrifying contusion?

The red thing is devouring me.
A sea of faces, weeping.
The final separation.
A clinical voice saying  Apoplexy."


Now we, the living, are left
with our legacies of guilt...

Friday, 25 November 2016


Triple portrait of Charles I,  by Sir Anthony Van Dyck

Unearthly creature! Are you for real
or some fairy-tale Being wholly surreal?
Just look at those sad and brooding eyes
that augur misfortune borne of self-lies,
and I swear that could I but hear your voice
you'd lament the error of future choice.

Still and tranquil at first glance,
and then such turmoil in your stance.
Oh see that leaden gathering cloud
draped about you like burial shroud.
So desperately your mind is reaching out
to escape a destiny forged by self-doubt.

How is that one of such mollycoddled descent -
a Dandy of glittering palaces - be sent
to govern a nation in chaotic upheaval,
one so ill-equipped to deal with evil?
Ha, did you really believe that fable
the "Divine Right of Kings" would keep things stable?

How dare they disobey your will
and so many of your troops kill
that fateful day upon Edge Hill
that the whole of England remembers still?
You could have had it made that day,
but through indecision threw victory away.

Just how many more had to die before
you realised no solution would come through war?
They demanded democracy, you turned them down flat -
you were the King, and that was that.
A King's word had always been law of the land,
until Cromwell and his ever growing band

of followers who became the "New Model Army"
pre-empted your moves and drove you barmy.
Well, along with frustration came childlike tantrum:
no longer would be tolerated this rebellious scum!
Stuttering and cursing these "Enemies of God"
you attempted to over them ride rough-shod.

But, unfortunately for you, it badly misfired:
many of your allies had defected, it transpired,
and now the country had it's King on trial!
Such a thing was unheard of, you were in deep denial.
When they read out the sentence...tyrant, traitor,
and public faced the prosecutor

and made one final attempt to speak.
But they cut you short - your fate now looked bleak.
Just three short days you were granted to prepare
to meet your maker - oh the utter despair.
Then outside Whitehall on that January day
by executioner's axe you were spirited away...

Perhaps there's good reason that the great Van Dyck
painted in triplicate this portrait so like
your tragic countenance that haunts me today:
to the Holy Trinity I'm inclined to pray
and plead for deliverance for this fractured Soul,
that three parts be forged once more into whole.

Thursday, 17 November 2016


You could just as easily knit sea-spray
into a fluffy white sweater
or capture the wind in a butterfly net
as banish exquisite recollections
from an overly nostalgic mind
that appears hell-bent
on creating it's own personal Erebus.

You need no electronic picture file
to resurrect once more the angles of his face
in life-like colour, or to preserve in time
desire's frenzied flare for intimate touch.
Emotions eject their darts, dipped in thought's poison:
no matter how you sweat to cling to hope,
disillusion still creeps in.

Now in the early hours his voice
envelopes you. Listen to his ballad of bliss:
a lover's cruel lie, preserved forever
in the archives of bitter experience
for future perusal. You struggle
to conquer gut's wrenching in the eternal now:
that final promise fossilised...haunting...taunting...crushing.

Oh how the two of you once loved!
And how the remembrance of it blows you apart,
as if to recreate from your atoms a new Universe
composed of endless frenzied yearning
to catch and tether those fleeting impressions
that nightly come in racing heartbeats' blazing wake
and within seamless vivid dreams.

But this dawn banishes the ghostly images,
and although searing lust so covets immortality,
last night's fever gradually subsides into apathy.
However fiercely you're in denial,
obsession recoils from the clarity of the rising sun
that highlights reality in stark relief, and blinds
the deluded eyes of the emotionally naive.

Saturday, 12 November 2016


On Armistice Day
cheering crowds thronged the streets
and how the bands played!
But those joyous songs the people sang
served only to heighten your sense of sadness,
for they signified for you imminent redundancy.
The last of your boys were finally moving on.

There were no long drawn-out goodbyes,
just a few half-hearted pledges to keep in touch.
You'd been there for them when they'd needed you,
it was as simple as that.
Please remind me again -
how many broken minds did you mend?

Armistice Day
symbolised the end of an era for you.
Armistice Day
secretly filled you with dread.
But, guilt-ridden,
you'd smiled and celebrated with the rest
whilst trying hard to feign euphoria.

Meanwhile, all you could do
was await orders from above,
knowing it was inevitable
that you'd soon be exiled
from your beloved Craiglockheart.
It was unthinkable - you'd invested
heart and soul in that place
that had become so much more than home to you.
How apprehensive and weary you felt -
and your nervous stammer was worsening daily.

But the British Army had no compassion
for a severely damaged psychiatrist
who had become shell shocked by his patients.
You'd served your purpose
and now you were an embarrassment to them.
So they hastily signed your discharge papers
then sent you on your way.
And it seemed to you that not a living soul cared...

But oh how wrong you were!
What of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen?
Neither of those great war poets ever forgot you -
your name crops up frequently in their memoirs
with unmistakable affection and gratitude...

And now there is me -
an unknown insignificant, I know,
but you will be none-the-less in my thoughts
on this Remembrance Sunday in twenty-sixteen.
Oh Dr. Rivers,
I have read your books and digested your papers,
and have learnt so much from you.
You were a genius of your time.
And I will remember you

William Halse Rivers Rivers

Sunday, 25 September 2016


By the fourth night of sleeping alone
at St. Nectan's Glen I'd finally cracked.
The visions had started and I couldn't handle it -
even though it was what I came here for,
was a crucial part of my training.
The fasting, the constant meditations -
all were taking their toll. I felt weak,
light-headed and shaky.

What a fool!
Naivety had fostered the expectation
of some gentle, easy transformation,
not this gruelling hardship
that seriously challenged my understanding
of life, time and being.
The biting wind and dampness of the forest
did little to help either.  I felt myself
physically and mentally fragmenting...

Bells tolling in the dead of night.
Struggling to my feet, half asleep.
Scrambling through bracken, ankle deep in mud.
Following the sound.
Up steep stone steps,
feeling my way in the darkness,
through dense blacked-out woodland.
Then, just as the ringing ceased,
I found the Hermit's Cell:
ruinous, sombre.
Much like my spirits.

Then the rain came.
Thick, penetrating drizzle
so typical of this part of the country.
Shivering, soaked to the skin and thoroughly miserable,
I'd finally had enough. Reaching
into an inside pocket for my phone,
intending to call my mentor and plead for a reprieve. signal.
Sense of total isolation and helplessness.

The rain ceased and a full moon appeared between the trees.
I stood motionless, watching the strange shadows
that seemed to flit around those crumbling walls
that were reputed to have once been home
to the tutor of Merlyn Himself.
The very stones appeared to be alive
and the unmistakable scent of incense
filled the damp air.
It was then that I noticed the figure.

Clad in hooded grey robe, it's face obscured
in shadow, I was sure
it was looking directly at me.
I froze, acutely aware of my extreme vulnerability.
But gentle words uttered in a language not my own
began to flow through me like Prana, allaying all fears.
And I understood them!
I haven't the slightest idea how.
I just did.

A kind of spiral enclosed me then
in soothing golden light - yet, simultaneously,
I seemed to be outside of it all,
observing the seasons, the planets, the suns
cycling through the aeons - and
I felt a part of this stunning spectacle,
so knew I had no end myself
and that only this body would eventually perish,
not this I who thinks, feels, and now
was just beginning to grasp the unfathomable.

And that knowledge filled my entire being
with an ecstasy like nothing I'd ever known before.
It was moving way beyond personality,
beyond thought or emotion -
even fear could no longer touch me.
So this is what it meant to be Druid -
to be part of the Old Gods' Grand Plan:
a messenger, an open channel...
with the Universe in her eyes.

Sunday, 18 September 2016


Remember how we'd spend hours together
musing on the subject of life after death?
Well, now you know much more than I.

My face, that everyone used to say
so mirrored yours,
became bathed in tears, glittering
like diamonds hardened by pain
as I tried so hard not to feel.
Skeletal hands of grief were crushing and crushing
my insides to a mush. They wrung out emotions,
while my voice still called out your name - a
disembodied, alien voice that refused to believe
it had survived you.

Day-by-day my brother moved on,
speaking of you less and less, as if
in denial that you'd ever existed.
And it stung me to the core.

Each night I just lay awake in the darkness:
a Wounded King of Arthurian myth,
my shoulders knotted to a spinal column
that had grown painfully rigid.
In sleep, when it briefly came out of total exhaustion,
I dreamed I was buried alive - cramped
into the grim coffin beside your lifeless form.
I even fancied our Spirits were bound together
with barbed wire that tore my Soul to shreds.
Still I clung to you, begging you
to take me home with you
into your Spiritual World.

Then, I was comforted by the scratchings.
Throughout the year following your passing
they grew increasingly loud and frequent.
Oh how I wanted to believe
you'd returned to haunt me -
rather than accept the simple truth
that a squirrel had gained access to the attic
from somewhere beneath the eaves
and was raising a family up there.
That squirrel, to a tortured mind,
had become your disembodied Spirit.
I heard your voice in those sounds:
in their speaking for you and their mourning for me,
they seemed to weave me into the fabric of your Being.
And I lay there in your death,
already mentally beneath the frozen earth.

And such unwillingness to let you go
did eventually bring you back to me.
When the despair finally overwhelmed me
and I contemplated ending it all,
you came and held me in your arms
and told me I must go on,
that it wasn't my time yet,
and explained that a seed you'd planted long ago
still had much maturing to do
and had yet to fulfil it's purpose.

Oh the peace those words brought,
and how cleanly they cut through such galling despair!
In that precious moment I finally understood...
you were still closer to me than hands and feet.
Then later that night when I glanced in the mirror
I saw the whole picture - my true Spiritual Heritage -
for the first time.
It was there in stark clarity:
there, in the green of my Father's eyes.

Sunday, 28 August 2016


Here, it was love at first sight: the homecoming
avidly sought throughout a lifetime. Ancient
emotionally charged walls and parapets drew me in,
and now I cannot imagine ever wanting to leave
a place so enigmatic and enchanting.
To most, it appears only atmospheric - harboring the subtle echoes
of long-forgotten triumphs and tragedies.
Our footfalls and voices intrude, but the house remains aloof:
a non-interactive observer, rooted in bygone times.

Exquisite oaken beams are edged with quatrefoils, demi-angels and pierced tracery,
lovingly crafted by expert hands using skills now practically extinct.
But this ornamentation is only a small part of Lytes' timeless allure -
past generations of occupants remain here still.
They impress themselves upon our consciousness,
infusing our minds with a powerful sense of belonging.
These days, as I walk among them, they totally inhabit me.
Then each time I leave, I am hollowed out.

These ethereal beings mingle with the visitors,
their footsteps following well-trodden familiar paths.
The two leather ladies, one either side of the fireplace,
keep watch as the centuries roll by.
Their expressions appear somewhat haughty, possibly disapproving.
It is as if they know, can see into our Souls
and interpret our life-paths and aspirations.
But these have no interest in our trivial wants -
for they are from an age before self became all-absorbing.

A spectral Lady Catherine Neville stands
examining her own portrait that adorns the Oriel chimney piece.
Casual observers walk clean through her. One remarks:
"There is a peculiar chill here. It sends shivers down my spine.
I don't like this place at all. It reminds me of a ghastly sepulchre!"
Such blasphemy shocks me.
My Lytes Cary could never be an abode of the dead.
The truth is in the company I keep - and what I shall someday also be:
an indelible shadow on the stone spiral staircase...