July August Poems

These months have been dominated by the Dig at Polesworth but a few others have crept in, taking in Bradley Wiggin’s tour de France triumph, and a moving visit to the German War Cemetery at Cannock Chase

In A Clearing

My name is Gary Longden,
It is 4/9/12
At the Deutsche Soldatanfriedhof
Cannock Chase

Minor roads bisect the pine forests
Myriad autumnal shades swamping
Every view, the turning could be missed

A sign declares the gates close at 4pm,sharp
A time that seems premature, well before nightfall
Sometimes life is like that

The outbuildings lie low, austere, tomb-like
Signage is minimal- but you know the way
Everyone does

A glazed panel stares out from reception hall gloom
Opaque glass reflects no sunbeams
Smooth one side , mottled on the other

Multiple ridges ripple in silent dissonance
Each indent the resting place of one
Of 5000 dead souls

Low slung doorways draw you to the Hall of Honour
And the twisted bronze corpse of the fallen warrior
Frozen in perpetual torment

Above a triangular concrete tent vaulted ceiling hangs
Supported by ugly pillars, no wind billows its lifeless sails
High walls offer little natural light to a monochrome howl

Six steps rise to a terrace, where the crews of four Zeppelin crews
Are buried together, as they fell
Looking down in death as they did in life

Outside, two verdant slopes blaze, sloping as a hull
The low valley floor a keel supported by lines of rib like graves
Whose journey is done.

Beauty and silence tower over all
Whilst worldly things cower
Watched by a simple cross

Lawn lies in perfect grass corridors
Cricket wicket width
Cushioning an even pace

Purple heather laps around Belgian granite
The face flat, the edges rough and unfashioned
As though torn from the bedrock

My fingers stuttered as they grazed the headstone
Caught by an uneven surface
And then we touched

His name was Kurt Raetsch
Buried in the Deutsche Soldatanfriedhof
Died 4/9/40.

Danger Perception

Travelling at speed at night
The cat’s eyes disappear
Into the dark void

On the left they illuminate red
Evenly spaced, appearing closer
Together in the distance
Until they just vanish

Yet they are ever present

Vive Les Rosbifs

Upon the occasion of Bradley Wiggins becoming the first Englishman to win the Tour de France in its 109 year history

In a blur of whirring spokes he did it
Defeating the French on their home soil
As Henry v had done before at Agincourt
His lamb chop sideburns taunting them

But in this hundred years war
Of cycling endurance
The King and Queens’ men
Had been found wanting
Until now

It was his turn to burn
Dans le maillot jaune
Leaving the peleton,
Long gone
Gasping in his wake

Three weeks in the saddle, across a nation it straddles
From Nice to the Pyrenees
From Epernay to the Champs Elysee
To reach the final summit

No tacks could puncture his ambition
No slope could flatten his spirit
As England now adores Le Tour
La France rises to celebrate his name
With “Allez Wiggo”, and a glass of champagne


A clear light brightened the dark water
Promising warmth to frost bitten stone
Teach me to hear the mermaids sing
The flapping beat of a dragon’s wing

Innocence is closing up his eyes
As clenched hands deal the final blow
Now at the last gasp of loves’ latest breath
Her farewell lingers on the morning breeze

I have completed what you desired
The deed is done, to be judged by God and eternity

Floor Tile ,Circa 16th century, Polesworth Abbey Dig

Solitary in kiln baked symmetry
Your underside bears the wounds
Of mortar roots, roughly torn from its bed
Sunlight sparkles over fractured veins
Remnants of green glaze, defiantly glisten

A fleur- de- lis splays for those
Who have fought, worked and prayed
In service to regents, long gone and yet to be
Exhumed to daylight glare
In fragmentary reveal

Your ridged recesses betray
Uncertain colours, long lost, in matt surround
An abused, bruised corner reluctantly flakes
But precise smooth sheer edges define your purpose
Your subterranean russet clay cries

To be interred, once more
From whence you came, in place.

The Archaeologist

Ask the time- and they look somewhat shifty
It could never be simply seven fifty
With their hats, beards and boots
In search of old loot
To them it is always 1950.

Don’t Touch

The ripped surface drops in sheer sondage
Cloying clay smearing my outstretched palm

Tough and tantalisingly moist unyielding
Its secrets held absorbed congealed
A slippery residue resists exploring touch

Brittle flaking sand flickers
Disintegrating from casual brush
Escaping my flaying grasp
To rest again

Light ash cushions tennis ball bounce no more
Unnatural vertical smooth rough textures teeter
Precipitously clinging

In varying degrees of decomposition
In abandonment

Exposed to brutal light
Soft layers stripped in stripes
As cruel steel tears at healed ground

Delicate roots dangle, ripped
A torn comfort blanket, rumpled
Ruptured, crumpled

The disturbed interred
Shrinking and blinking
Glanced at in curiosity
In startled exposure

Defiled and painted in India ink
Remembered for a moment
In a catalogue, in a drawer
To be discarded ,its decay
Untroubled once more

Fragments Out of Time

The gabble from behind the Red Lion’s shut door reverberated
Stella clenched in hands rotund and stumpy
Allowing men to forget in meditations of excess
To loose the bonds of the accused , searching for soft peace
The bell tolls for all ghostly and bodily victories
Bringing light to the blind
Robbed of foolish painted things
To still survive in immortal song
Leaving echoes of Welsh hooves
Steadfast in the High Street
By his help and grace it is done

Timeless Flight

Roughly fired tiles still bake careless paw prints
Eager hands claw tense ground

From above glanced from grey heron path
Pedalling across an indifferent sky

White lily pads flutter in canvas murmur
Hinting at shadowed movement

Walls hunch hidden from Viking glare
Still crouched in silence

Enclosure breached by betrayed vows
No magnificat rises from stubby rubble

Earth which now takes no service only hears it
Absorbing fresh dead

Whilst rent ground lays bare
What we already knew once


Spoil fed giant thistles sway,
Guardian sentinels of the past

Below ,black tarpaulin frays,
Under spewed weight
Its fringe like artificial whiskers
Touching now and then

Hanging off its pink painted axle
A plastic wheel rests
Almost consumed by weeds and nettles
In fading farewell

Palm up, a glove’s fingers stretch
Its ripped fabric partially enveloped

All lie waiting to be discovered


Find or fraud
Inside or outside
Above or below
This way or that
Now or then
It all depends


Trenches radiate around
In pronounced symmetry

Ground lies punctured
By spade and trowel

The Abbey watches, hub to all
Where nuns seldom spoke

Diggers make inflated claims
For uncertain finds

Watching where they tread
Shoulders hunched and tired

Earth sand and robber rubble
Is turned once more

Whilst those who till the land
Pray for a good year.

Found in a Pit

I-phones, I – pads, I –mmac
To be cherished for a moment
For transitory gratification
Before technological stratification
Is assessed

Game Boy
ZX Spectrum

Whose exact order may be lost
Does Super Mario come before Lara Croft?

Flat screens larger than windows
Windows from which you could see
But not touch
A vision distorted
Of cracked glass
And broken discordant keys

The Roofers’ Dog
Paw prints from the past
Baked frozen by midday sun
An unwelcome feat

Pit Tip

Giant thistles sway
Wild sentinels of the past
Hover restlessly

Lost Foundation

Dormitory walls
Whispering prayers and secrets
In stony silence

Fleur de Lis Tile

Fading glazing now
Still bearing witness to those
Who worked fought and prayed

Line Call

Grey ash packed strata
Hears, no longer takes, service
Echoing above

Refectory Hearth

Stone fireplace keeps watch
Poets’ words flame and flicker
Their work not yet Donne


Lost just underfoot
Simple sandals tap softly
But now there are none

The Dig

Nights’ shadows draw in
Dancing like crazy mourners
Over opened pits

Oak Lintel at the Stables

Your shoulders still strain
Under the weight of centuries
With well seasoned wood

The River Anker

Wrenched this way and that
To suit human caprice, the
Anker meanders

Bone Fragments

Reborn to light’s glare
Exhumed from dark interment
Cruel resurrection

Shattered Pottery

Random broken shard
Irregular memento
Your sharpness cuts deep

Dress Pin

Bronze dress pin dropped lost
Cast adrift from flowing robe
Recovered in awe


Stone Baptismal font
Defaced by fragment’ry loss
Unquenched by water


Osanna lies still
Hair smoothed by pilgrim’s touch
Bible tightly clasped

Polesworth Abbey

Stones linger still
Held in forgotten walls
Amongst earthy robber rubble

Mercian king
Rested, then settled here
His divine, precious legacy
A saint

Proud devotion
Returns, a heard unheard
Whispering in lavender leaves
Once more

Still burning bright
Drayton Johnson and Donne
Whose omnipresent oration

Weathered and worn
Closed enclosure now breached
Dissolution could not dissolve
Your stones

The Dig Pt 2

Nature’s fine weave lies breached
Brutal hands scour below
In ghoulish exhumation
In ground at rest no more

Each day the pits grow
Earth’s belly spewing its guts
Half, barely digested
Splattered over tables

The Anker washes silently by
Salving, cleansing its wounds
Of the twisting distorting agonies of centuries
Its course only now restored

A holy site, visited by saints
Gouged and disfigured
For us to read its entrails
In detached curiosity

Where nuns once keened
Where oblations once soared
Now the dull thud of spade in dirt
Now the shrill trill of trowel on find

Around the borders, patient trees watch
Boughs bursting with leaves
Waiting for their moment
They will not be denied

Upon the Exhumation of a Dress Pin circa 700 AD.

A bronze dress pin appears in the ground
Two World Wars resound
Queen Victoria’s Empire gains pre-eminence
American War of Independence
Guy Fawkes fails and pays the price
Leonardo Da Vinci dies
Christopher Columbus discovers the New world
Chaucer ‘s Canterbury Tales are unfurled
Genghis Khan’s Mongols rise again
Notre Dame dominates the river Seine
The walls of the Tower of London soar
Bears in Britain are now no more
The end comes for Alfred the Great
Vikings storm Lindisfarne to pillage and take
Osanna’s nunnery kissed by the waterside
The Anker’s flow slips and slides

The Anker’s flow slips and slides
Osanna’s nunnery kissed by the waterside
The Vikings storm Lindisfarne to pillage and take
The end comes for Alfred the Great
Bears in Britain are now no more
The walls of the Tower of London soar
Notre Dame dominates the River Seine
Genghis Khan’s Mongols rise again
Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales unfurled
Christopher Columbus discovers the New World
Leonardo Da Vinci dies
Guy Fawkes fails and pays the price
American War of Independence
Queen Victoria’s Empire gains pre-eminence
Two World Wars resound
A bronze dress pin appears in the ground.

The Dig Part Three

Your face yields few clues
Except when you frown
And the wrinkles become rivulets
For sweat and tears
Which scour your skin
At once soft and hard
A pentimento exposed

Gouged, the detritus of years laid bare,
Discarded memories, cherished days
Disturbed and disjointed from where
They once laid, resting in situ

Sometimes they surface, disinterred
To be examined, dated, reassessed
Then reburied, if you are fortunate
Snug and neat

Sometimes they emerge broken
Disfigured from an uncertain time
Jagged, rough, still bleeding
Impossible to return, they just don’t fit

Others taunt, fraud or find
Their uncertain provenance
Seducing with specious allure
Wanting to be whatever you desire

And some lie rotting, barely recognisable
Half remembered only by their juxtaposition
With the rest, distorted and uncertain
Fading in decomposition

What will survive of us?
A snapped twig crushed underfoot
On a woodland walk
Displaced grains of sand
Compressed by the imprint of our sole
Bruised wood on a door shoved open
And the torn peel
From a half-eaten apple

Discovered After I Am Gone

They found bones stripped of corpulent flesh
Rubbery composite tread
Abandoned by perished leather – size nine
Molars rough tended by dentists
Zip teeth grin in death grip
Eleven sixteen
A watch of cheap inconsequential value
Which was worn on that day not for its lustre
But for the value of the giving


The Football grounds of England Wales and Scotland by Simon Inglis
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars by David Bowie
A grain of sand from Caswell beach
A Canaletto oil painting of La Canal Grande
A Pen


At 6.32 Venice is quite still
Even the morning breeze holds her breath
Lest the sunlit beauty be disturbed
Or a ripple appear on the Grand Canal
No bird dare sing
In fear, in wonder

It appeared, a giant wall of black steel
Towering, defying the largest wave
Or coldest iceberg
To challenge her riveted wonder
A benevolent behemoth calling
To cradle me in her carcass

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