You small in the distance

It seems so slight a thing
that you waved and smiled
as if departure were less finale
more seaside pantomime
you a painted backdrop
exeunt all except 
the windscreen glass
obtuse and thick
as a dead cathode tv
the angular distortion
in that rough, jabbed elbow way
of laughing sundrowned rivers
bent and glistering 
as the fading edges of a dream
don’t you wish
you were never born
you said
then you could stay, then you could stay
all that blood
and living
costs too much
no deal you can make 
the road dust licking
at tightrope martyred wrists
in devils as the wheels
groan turning on the sand
a sound like the sea, and you
in this dry rememberance
not yet done with drowning

heliconias & a winter sea

we squall

in the intimacy

of suddenly thrown rain

the fricate quieting, our humdrum metronome

where you watch (turned aside) an august ocean

spills in folly, the rampart swallowing seawall

thinking, perambulations, of the fools, deluged

silhouettes a regnant weight

calving waves with palsied lips

pared in the slingshot grin

between teeth girt, a swollen silence

past the nodding arcs

of grandiose reverberations

where you cast them

to the stone

in petulant pantomime

through a wild sea

the heliconias are flying

Rain & Fury

When you deafen
rain becomes
the walls of orchestra
tumbling in that
uncanny way
of bamboo and deforestation
brass and woodwind with
a thousand plectrum eyes
in the octopoid tangle
reaching for prayers with sparred
and upthrust arms
as if
in a lightning season
boats shed unwanted petal skins
bared, swayed sank or mired
between the secrets
of an eyelid’s flicker stillness
– an inadvertent claw
a few inviolate tears
exactly seeing

Friday’s Resurgent Exhalation

Dead awhile
I wake, a windmill
rust bittered creak
interminable, bright
spilled between
cloud shred
dinosaur frond fingers
wrack side to side
half morning gone
the air too thin
for summer’s
leaf bent sighing

I Dismay The Reuleaux Of Your Chagrin

a nagging ache
kind of acetylene blue
that epoxy euphoria
paint dissolved, and dirt
ingrained like the dunes and calumnies
of someone else’s skin

I thought, cellophane and roses
a wolf-wind howling through steepled hands
afterwards, we eat the dead
fish eyes watchful
skin the shape
of wind scaled sand
in the minor recompense 
of oft repeated phrases
do they eat us

Traffic shuffles on
in its dog-end fury
red almost to green
a monoxide exhalation
doorway reverbations
the standard scat mirage
that wormed, ouroboros need
I tell you
I am far below the hour of the sea

No, you say – just no
before you completely leave
the Venn of coffee rings describe
in vestiges of peace
the fragments of reflection
all that’s left to bind
the remnants of vacated conversations

The Anachronistic Physician

Or, The Brief But Convoluted Remedies Of Dr Arbuthnott, Esquire.

Arbuthnot is more curio than curiosity. A collection of notes, missals, commiserations and travelogues addressed to the good doctor’s patients, they were purportedly re-assembled by poet C S Hughes from the time and mouse eaten fragments found in an old, brass-cornered traveller’s trunk.

The Anachronistic Physician, (sometimes also called Arbuthnot’s Cure-All Or Patented Panacea) is a slim but dense volume, with a texture like fine old leather. The notes from the doctor are – as it says in the subtitle – convoluted. Sometimes sense must be extracted from them, like a bad tooth, with a sharp jerk on a tightly knotted string. Arbuthnot dangles meaning like so many dancing puppets. That they sometimes tangle is no surprise. That in tangling they are eminently more profound than one might give them credit for, definitely is.

We can conclude a few things about the Doctor himself – from details garnered from the poems – he appears to have lived from around 1880 to the early 20th century, an exceptionally long life. He claims to have been a member of The Royal Society – exactly which one is not so clear. He seems to have travelled as far as the Australian outback, and to the Pyramids under Napoleon, and to have been primarily based around London, or possibly Greenwich.

He seems at once frugal and generous, retiring but pompous, possessed of a mercurial wit, and yet also, contrarily, plain spoken. From the photographic evidence – which may indeed be deceptive, we can see that the Doctor has a penchant for hats, and for the habit of lead paint favoured by society in the late 18th century. He signs himself, in various locations, as both Arbuthnot and Arbuthnott. An act of whimsy, or does this duality, both a denial and a conundrum, signify a deeper psychological divide?

We had hoped to closely examine the paper and ink used by Arbuthnot, to garner deeper revelations – unfortunately – as Mr Hughes reports – the surviving fragments were themselves lost.

One thing of which we can be certain, despite their intractable convolutions, the poems themselves have a certain indelible charm; part Carroll, part Swift, part Leer, but with an insistent cadence that is wholly original.

We can only concur with what other poets have said of Arbuthnott. James Walton calls him an “Everyman” –

“In Arbuthnot exists a fantastical collection of observations set with language encompassing a lyric and rhyme designed to transport, where the script is the cure. At times dark ‘the heart a tree of sparrows…/less a beast and more a wasteland’, yet underpinned by a quiet joy of redemption where ‘Alexander’s phalanx once/Doggedly ate half the world’. Ultimately the researched protagonist prescribes his own fate and that of his patients to a place of enlightenment, there is a ‘maladjustment of the soul, but how it shone.’ There are hard truths in the common plight of the living, the collapse of hierarchy ‘The plague has taken Kings’, the collapse of empire to individuals and democracy, and the pragmatics of survival. The physician is out of place and time, as is the cruel condition of those who survive the witness of life about them. Arbuthnot is a wondrous creation spinning in wordplay which leaps beyond its period setting simply because the rich texture of the realized character is an everyman, a journey without end.”

Or as Rob Schackne says, “It’s a cracker. More sublime than ridiculous. Dr Arbuthnot(t) is an unforgettable figure who is both funny and compassionate. His science is spot-on. He writes to his patients. His poetic prescriptions address the soul. He is the literate doctor many of us wish we had. Do we dare ask where to find him? He is here with us now.

One publisher – well known for publishing just about anything – refused it outright – finding Arbuthnott, “extremely challenging” – personally, amongst the glut of the unexceptional that marks the contemporary scene, we find there can be few higher compliments. However, we will leave the last word to another poet, Robin Dale, who declared, most aptly,

“This is mad, wild, exceedingly improper stuff. It’s bound to cure you of dropsy, the ague, and spots before the ankles before you’re halfway through. Arbuthnot manages to transfer the reader into a bizarre and crazy world where the proper is very proper and the improper rules the precarious nodules of the brain. Read it if you can! Thoroughly entertaining work which had me in needlework!”

The Anachronistic Physician is available now from Amazon and all the usual suspects.


I cleat the soil

A soft black earth

Strewn with flecks

The frozen skin of mica

Long since gone to dust

Leave a mark like a cross

A promised, graven treasure

We span a gentling curve

The distant water blinding 

There is a stone like a ship

Defiantly sinking

I think

No one I know is buried here

Sylvia’s Washing Line

The hills hoist tilts
In windmill indecision 
Hung by its own petard
Which always sounded 
Quite uncomfortable to me
As if the rust stained bag of pegs
Slung like a smile below the crank
Were some brash sporran 
Not just a place to keep your keys
As Dr Freud would have said 
A tangling cat’s cradle
Trailing kelp ends
The wire hung
In slack loops
For cockatoos to swing
In the asbestos afternoon
The rain a loudening drum
A cry, the bird is gone
Shoulders wet
The leaves and blades
In eye twitch shuddering
Turn the other way
The trapeze as empty
As Sylvia’s dead trees

Almost Human

I check to make sure
You have knees and ankles
Not like people on TV
Who almost always don’t have either
Not sure
How they locomote 
Perhaps on wheels
Perhaps they float
But at least their waists
Sometimes appear
And their smiles are full of hope

Categorized as Poems Tagged ,