Tuesday 11 November 2014


Oncoming Winter's journey must be taken
By foot, horse, carriage, ox-pulled cart
To stand before dawn at the thing-stead
Earth home of the old boney-man;
Cross of Knightlow, weathered holy stone,
Way marker of miles & years fast-fading.

Wind & rain, sleet & snow,
Fast frosts fall sharp towards the end of night
To make the journey out of the warm inn,
Farm kitchen, lodge house, stable yard;
A cold & weary way
That you must take to meet your obligation.

Down the Fosse from Hopsford
Up the Fosse from Princethorpe & Stretton
& Harbury with their legendary 2 shillings & 3 pence ha'penny
Armies marched here, time long ago
& even before, when it was green-way on a stoney ridge
The cattle drover sought his ancient North.

Down Stretton Lane from Wolston
Up London Road from Toft & Woolscott
Up the old Cov road from Ladbroke & Long Itchington
All the way over from Arley & Astley, Bramscote & Churchover
Bubbenhall, Birdingbury & Weston under Wetherley
A wild road, for company, staff & sword.

A wild road, a dark way
A passage herdsmen follow
Seeking pasture or market-days in squares;
So you must follow too, marking signs
To pay your wroth, your troth, your worth
White-silver protection money to land-earls.

The wild ox shuns company;
She'll charge the noble lord; blood!
A single minded fighter, she'll redden herself if she can
Veins roar the tune, hard to lead,
Head-tosser, earth-stamper
Voice wind heard over centuries.

& now we come,
Out of villages, suburbs & cities
By shiny car, shiny hood pulled up
Fortified by coffee, toast, porridge, milky tea,
To stand where they stood
Fulfill a different kind of duty.

Down the A45 before Dawn

Why do we come?
To this once central, now almost forgotten field
To stand in rain around a stone; cross long gone?
We owe no dues to any landed lord
Come & go as we please
Unafraid of any wild-forest denizen;

Our wroth & troth & worth held by the bosses & banks
Our cattle shipped by red-lit lorries
Modern roarers, dodged by the side of the A45
As we filter past the abandoned garage,
Ruined Goji, somnolent driveways,
Converted cottages.

We come in part to honour those who came before
To stand where they stood & remember them
We're an ancient people standing the test of time;
They are our forebears:
Village elders, farmers, drovers
People of the land who walked this road before us.

For some of us it's in the blood
We're Knightlow Hundred born & bred
We came here with our Mum & Dad
When we were little; a special day
Taste of hot rum & milk when you're ten,
Adventure; story to tell other children.

Many of us are drawn by gravity
The heavy weight of years of folk
Our own lives drawn into the loom
Of local culture, the spirit of the place,
The gathered gloom of season;
Tradition locates us in a wider, deeper world.

So we take the Winter journey
Across the land to the gathering place
Stand before dawn to hear ancient names called out
While in the shadows of oncoming day
We join a greater company
& we ourselves become the ancestors of tomorrow.

Gill & Anne Count the Wroth Money.

This year I am honoured to have been commissioned to write & perform my work at the Wroth Silver Ceremony. It is recorded in the Domesday Book as an ongoing English feudal obligation & is probably the longest running continuous ceremony in England if not Britain. It ceased to be obligatory in 1800 & has been kept alive by local people ever since. I read my poem to 82 people gathered in a local pub for the Wroth Silver Breakfast. Apparently we have raised a twinkle in the eye of the Queen! I also read my Letter to the Unknown Soldier, which you can find below.

Monday 10 November 2014

To the Unknown Soldier

We who walk upon the Island of the Mighty’s stony bed
Who enjoy lark song, green vale, river bank, mountain side, call to you; nameless, fallen warrior.
We do not know which paths you knew well or loved nor by which streams nor upon which hillsides you courted;
Neither which landmarks, ancient or young were the axes of your oh, so cruelly shortened lifetime.

We do not know from which town you arose nor upon which street your mother bore you into a world of care.
We do not know which dialect you spoke, team you followed, lanes you ran down as a lad, nor the factory or field in which you laboured,
But in our hearts & minds we are reaching out to you, lonely warrior.
We can only imagine the trials that you faced; the joy, the fear, the anger, the pain;
The pain that war makes in the soul, the ritual scarification of our dreams. 
Father, brother, cousin, we who climb green & pleasant hills, listen to birdsong in the mornings of our lives,
Walk in the rain, swim in the sea, drive home to see our parents, cannot know what delighted you;
But dear one, now we have adopted you & will imagine the embraces, challenges & diversions which you enjoyed;
The songs that your heart sang, not so different from our own.
All this makes your despair, struggle, injury & death a personal thing,
Even if we can never know your name nor what you left behind;
What you may have longed for, fought for or held sweet in your mind when you knew that death would come to take you.

That was your courage, your challenge, your ending.
This is our courage, our challenge; to consider what you did & what they did to you as we look at ourselves in the mirror's eye in memory of it.
We thank you, praise you & will remember you as best we can.

I wrote this as a druid & a folklorist. Let us honour the fallen as men & women of the land. We come from the land. We are its expression, it's voice. So much of our heritage is lost when people go to war. So much of our folk heritage was held, historically, by men & when they were tragically lost to us as fathers, husbands, brothers & friends they were also lost to us as storytellers, singers, dancers, musicians & guardians of ancient lore & practise. War & plague; yes, let us name them side by side for they are kin; blight our history & our knowledge of our origins. 

It may also be found here:


Wednesday 1 October 2014

Old Brock Should Not Stand Alone.

On the hill at Oridge, old ridge, slow rolling field land ploughed, harrowed, century tended; bean-fallowed blackened stalks, through a dusk darkened gap-in-the-hedge.

Sight lines for the hunter of the hunters; bring light to darkness’ edge, to scope the scopers, let them see good people take the high ground;  drive back the disease of aggression,  final solution, close-down the operation.

Killer Tory cant plays to the old ways but we’re a vermin you cannot chase, put that in reverse! We’re a moral nation, it’s you hide from us because you know that what you are doing is wrong.

Haunters of empty roads, eyes in lay-byes for the long night’s song; we are the family of the earth watchers, starlight people; standing by the gate, the orchard, the woods’ edge; web-watchful guardians of the boundary zone.

This is why we come! That old Brock should not stand alone. Bank-digger, Wood-walker, Bear-of-the-hole. Hedge-dog, Hole-noser, Old Wasp-nest-eater. Stripe-marten, Path-waddler, Worm-biter. Honey-lover, Claw foot, Old Bum-scratcher.

We talk, we walk. We will banish the badger catcher! Heavy blankets of purple & gold lower over the gathering; blue remembered Malvern fades from the hawthorn frame where the  robin sings;  each is assigned a station, a route, a watch-way into the country’s darkened heart.

Grinnells is where we start, at Okle Green leading to Golden Valley; shaded bungalow; horses moving in the dark close by in heavy breaths; a travellers’ cart; St. Mary’s steeple a splinter of alien light against the sky.

Bright wish-light meteors flit by, hard to see; night pulls away her blanket, shows us Milky Ways, Summer stars;  a roaring car plays brinkmanship: “Ba-ad-dg-ge-er-rs!” he shouts as he takes the bend at full speed.

No red light or need-men with guns, we patrol the lane-mazes of the night-land where traffic lights keep changing but no-one ever sees or stops; we find Red Marley Woods; sad-sweet smell of clear cut birches, her braids bleached pale by death & torch-light.

We drink earl-grey from a flask, talk through the night, keep warm, sleep in the car. We don’t see any badgers, but nor do we see the contract killers or their spies.  Dawn comes. Somewhere some badgers died perhaps, but

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Freed from Distance

Lost airs may not be breathed again;
Prehistoric wind screams from the sand grain
A voice unheard save only by imagination's ear
That is to say, the physical moment is long gone
But there is a light which shone, which shines
Upon every surface, knows & was known
By every moment of movement, every memory,
Morning woke, translucent, always primal
But reflected innocent everywhere
And not an atom-instant of awareness
Does not beam forth save it is known by this;
Nothing is ever lost, the unique scent
Of the infinite present illuminates us all.
& you & I my dear seem small
So far apart in our respective worlds
But together our suns' volatiles will feed new earth-crusts
Where the storm wheel of life will turn again
Tides will revolve, seasons expand & contract
Hearts & thought gestures turn towards the inexpressible
Journey from mind to mind; shared nature's
Desert crossing, accomplished in an instant,
The strange attractor way-star's gravity
Draws us together, freed from distance.
A kiss across an abyss cannot be, but an abyss
Understood becomes a kiss.

Thursday 17 July 2014

Liopleurodon ferox

 rankopedia.com: “the most awesome animal of all time”

At the edge of the wood we hear the call
Of the dreaming land, the world-well
Felt weight of untold turnings
Of the season-wheel which bedecks all in green
But shall death-pluck it all in time to tell
Of unknown stories, measured in a meter of years.

& here we fare, swim bird-song summer air
Make our way between trees that seem
As if they were always so, but something calls;
Quiet, lying hidden beneath our paths
& sun & moonlit glades of pollen-rain
Where we make track & home & sleep again.

So we sink now into dark coils of land-memory
That carry us all; the waves of history
Rolling over secret depths unseen,
We sink now, dreaming of green strength;
The secret power of land-life, lost heat
Far beneath the surface of the Earth.

So we sink now & as we sink we’re turning
We’re turning North toward Holy Lindisfarne,
We’re turning East toward the great North Sea,
We’re turning South toward the rolling chalk downs,
We’re turning West toward Welsh volcanoes,
& down we trace the path of return:

So we sink now & as we sink we’re turning
We’re turning North toward mill-moor peaks of dark & light,
We’re turning East toward fens of secrets,
We’re turning South toward Rollright circle,
We’re turning West toward steep Malvern side,
Into the cavern of Earth’s millions of years.

We sink now, where root life seeks the treasure of earth-force
Where rain finds its way, water finds its level
Where mineral veins shine with atomic light
& the stone leans in its arch, slabbed & broken,
Hidden from the eyes of those who dwell above,
Mud-bed of ancient sea; wind, cloud & wave.

We swim in that sunlit sea; bird-like forms flit over
& She appears from gloom & She sings to us & She says:
“Come, come, come & swim with me!
Swim with me in the day-bright ocean of song!”
She has a voice like no voice you have heard,
& we dive & we sing & we follow Her beyond shallows.

Shoals of big-eyed strangers in their hundreds
Spiral about us, cloud about us, storm about us;
Flash in the light of the day of long ago
While all the colours of reef-life beneath
Spin & turn, waving strings & curled shells,
Long stalked eyes; bodies of gleaming coil.

We rise to the surface, breath ancient atmosphere,
Prehistoric wind whips waves at us
& far above our heads beyond the sky, in the future,
There is a wooded hill of juice, joy & wonder
Which calls to us & we’re drawn back up, forward
To the age of owls & insects, blue tits & badgers.

We walk together to sit at the forest’s edge; look out
Over the rich & peaceful land that is our home
Fields & hedges, woods & hills,
Rivers & pools, bogs & craggy steeps,
Towns & cities filled with dreaming people:
Beneath its surface, our land is filled with forgotten song.

Monday 5 May 2014

Memories through Windows

Then it becomes mere memory
Even the glance back over your shoulder
As you leave
Seems more real,
& the net
Of umpteen million pixels on the screen
Cannot be fine enough to capture
That moment.

When did it become memory?
Mind woven
By the brain & body loom?
When did the chemical strings
Their fields of force
Diagrammed in image & emotion
Blend their essences
Upon your senses for this?

Moment upon moment
Tipping, tipping, falling, walking
Like shale sheets
Up the cliff face;
Like waves, now gone, now come back;
You lack nothing
But your backward glances
Are remembrance.

It was a bittersweet pain
To look back
Over your shoulder
Through the rainy car window
At the receding stones,
The tree,
The wall around the pond,
The village houses & the lane
Knowing that you might never return.

Every time, usually a Sunday
You did it
Breathed it;
“I love you.”
Then on the day that it was true,
The last day of all,
You looked back as ever, but life was kind;
You did not know that it was true.

Today you glance up at a wooded ridge
That looks over the sea to the east
& you feel the same love & longing
But now you understand
The pain of parting
Is greater than the pain of never returning;
& this hiraeth, this heart pulse
Is more than memory,
Wilder & deeper, stronger & stranger.

It is your heritage,
It is your destiny
& the circle is complete
‘twas never open to be closed
Closed to be opened
Because it has no end
Nor beginning
A sense,
A sensation
In skin, bone, nerve, gut
In muscles at work on the hill;
Not a last, backward glance
But the first
Of a million glances
& no more memories through window glass.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

The Secret Valley's Starlit Road.

Coiled, the self swallower, starlight
Made this path
Between the boulders;
You know the dark stone's secret
That it is the bed
Of the sunlit, foaming sea whence rises Aphrodite.

Now we walk here, dark
Where the water ousel
Shouts his claim
Where the life force
Flood falls
Its way toward his base;
Here waits the King of the Mountain
With all his feather clad

His dancing daughters,
Wrapped in folds of wind
Come forth, root stepping
In a low sway
Across his green & purple banded pubis,
Lightly graced
To bridge fern-home;
The secret valley's starlit road
Of ancestral serpentine light.

The dancing birch-tree daughters
In limb graceful gesture thus:

She will raise her right hand
To stir or calm
Forest roarers.

She will lightly
Pace outward
With her left foot.

All manner of
Small, usually unseen
People attend her.

She will sweetly turn
Her right hand out
With the palm upwards.

Foam of the river
Upon it.

She will leap
Over evening airs.

To land lightly on her
Right foot,
Clouds will part to reveal the sky.

She will sway her hips
All manner of buds
Will break green; birds will shout.

With every whisper
Of her startling display
Which so moves & awakens all who witness it,

Her face will change
Her smile; pursed lips
Brows raised; her eyes shining.

The King's endearment
Thunders tumult
Makes cloud rays to arch over her;
Old deep rooted
Remembers all;
Another dance
To music stepping
Out over ages of deep
& he sees her display
A mere
Flicker of light & shade
Passing fast & sweet
His mineral mind.

It pleases him
Like sunlight on the sea
During that long, long day
When the ancestral serpent
First wormed out
Onto strand sand;
Breathed air
Looked around (their eyes met)
Barked with joy.

So now
We must
Dance this dance
Of fern secret
Of bird-wing water plummet
Of valley voices;
Intangible starlight
The heavy
We unwind ourselves
& fall to Earth;
He holds us.

Thursday 20 February 2014

The Murmur, the Murmuration.

In search of murmur, murmuration,                            
Winter fever of the starling nation;
The shade-shadow flutter,
The crepuscular corpuscle.

We follow the marsh light luck track then
Further into the feathered fen;
Sight lines to familiar woods
Lost in time & dim distances.

Lost in Winter’s silences
& saw rasp of the leaf edge hiss;
The wind writes cursive script upon the pool
Where the hooded heron is stalking eels.

The mass of voice wave rushes over,
A softly roaring dark frost flower;
A thousand eye-wings in the wave,
Knitting threads of many voices.

Nested parabolas of flight,
Flutter vector star winged light;
The wild host, the number storm;
Whip lash accumulation of life force.

You feel their presence as they turn
& gloaming skies begin to burn
As Winter’s ravaged sun descends,
So do the birds, into the reed-refuge.

Some day we will be dead & gone
But let us pray that this will go on;
The great gathering of the starling swirl,
The murmur, the murmuration.