Polesden Lacey

The house’s bold broad front
Competes with the valley opposite,
Fails to rival its sweeping green.

Beyond the dark hedge, across the track,
Surrounded by endless emerald turf,
Sheep assemble beneath a tree,
Shielding lambs from benign spring sun.

A silver bird softly roars above,
Challenging cawing crows and raucous rooks,
Deep undertone to a robin’s trill.

The still air is moved, from time to time,
By gentle breezes that brush my hair
And caress my skin, newly warmed
On an unfamiliar cloudless day.

Oz voice
A vast rough red iron ore diamond,
Set in a southern sea, in so much space.
Yet somehow, as if afraid
Of spiders, snakes and scorpions on land
And stingrays, sharks and jellyfish
On their famous surfy sea,
They huddle together, cheek by jowl,
House on house, in cities crowding down
To the water’s edge. No room for culture.

A rasping drawl bandsaws my brain,
Scything my soft English senses
As Aussies hail each other over distant inches,
Tripthongs trumping dipthongs.
Hello-oo-er is the greeting,
Every name adds an “O”,
And my name becomes a wine.

But what do they hear
In accents that to our ears sound normal?
The evil vowels and sloppy consonants
Of Estuary English, at worst in Essex?
The drawn-out, steady, wide-mouthed North?
The broad-burred West, the sing-song Welsh?
The crusty Scots and the Geordie whale-song?
The Irish lilt with its Northern tilt?
And worst of all, the stiff upper-lipped
Immobile, tight-mouthed drawl of upper classes?
Just different ways of whingeing?

Ham House
A living, breathing monument
To Elizabeth, a woman of virtue,
A righteous royalist who risked her riches,
Her life, her love to save a king,
Whose belief in divine right and devious dealings
Lost him his life.

The Sealed Knot is now forever cut,
Our monarchs maintain their ways with our grace,
And favour the least worst way of leading us.

Full of light, precision and kingly portraits,
Gardens rich in herbs and fruit,
Vegetables in long green lines,
Geometrical wilderness not so wild
With hedges lining organised alleys
For children to run and hide.

The Thames flows quietly by,
Witness to so much blood,
And carrier of desolate queens and traitors
To the Tower, to lose their heads.

We live in suburban times.
Ham House lies, a haven of red brick,
Trapped in the river’s bend, by a new estate.

The novel
You teeter on the edge of completion.
Your plot is fixed, the draft almost there.
But the last push evades me.
I have read too much
And must distance myself.
I’ll leave you alone for the summer,
Absorb the joys of England
And distil it to poetry,
Returning to you as days shorten and
Outside options close.

Howls of demonizing anguish arose
From self-appointed guardians of the poor,
Bewailing five more years of living under
Supposed hard, ugly rule.

Yet these, so self-righteous, voted
Three times, for ugly, self-promotion,
For dishonest rule by those who
Sought just to preserve their power.

We Tories are human, but realist,
Know that helping the poor demands a larger cake,
Well-managed, not a smaller one,
Poorly baked and badly cut.

A star falls
The white box holds abandoned hopes
Of parents who now deeply mourn.
They’re thankful for his last few months,
Though now their hearts are broken, torn.

His bright, wide smile lit up the room
And everyone who saw his face
Could not resist returning it,
Despite the sadness of his case.

The long black car takes him away,
His room’s already occupied
By a girl that needs the love and care
That your donations help provide.

Summer oozes out
The milky sap at last its rise has slowed.
The apple’s tinge of red is proudly showed,
Although it still clings tightly to its tree.
Above, the oak by now is fully leaved,
Its first green acorns shed, but most remain
To brave the autumn storms, their gales and rain.

The new yew shoots that once stood out so bright
Now with last year’s conspire to fight the light.
The rose’s second flush droops in the cold
Of morning dampness that promotes the mould,
While hopeless strawberries produce a burst of flower
Whose unripe fruit will rot when it’s still sour.

We sit outside, bur really only half,
The cool breeze fended off by glass.
Some orphan leaves begin their downward flutter.
It won’t be long before they choke our gutter.
The grass will soon decide to end its growing
And liberate us from our weekly mowing.

Each day, a little faster comes the night.
We’re no more woken by the morning light.
We love the snugness of our morning snooze.
Its extra sleep will ward off colds and ‘flus.
O Autumn, please come late, stay long, this year,
And Spring, for once come early, do you hear?

Autumn sunset – welcome home
Slow sinking sun that on its way
Turns white to yellow, orange to red,
While cold east wind has swept the sky

Of any trace of haze,
So dark cloud lines are sharp-defined
Against the pale sky’s lazuli,
Black undersides turned rosé-wine,
Maturing to a Beaujolais.
The old man drags his grandson out

To leave an evening too square-eyed
To see outside the show, sky-wide.
As I pass by on my way home
We swap some words that can't describe
This boiling, heaving, world-end show.