Breaking Time



The pirate sails through swivelling seas

And gains his goal through knife and trick

He lands at dawn with craftsman’s skill

The island’s multicoloured birds

The heavy scent of hanging flowers

Hold his attention for a while

He slashes to a rounded hill

Whose summit shows signs of long-gone harm

He paces out the map’s demands

The spade hits dead on oaken chest

Whose iron clasps are rusted shut

He levers up the stubborn lid

The chest is deep, but nothing’s there

The insistent birds, the smothering flowers

The slithering waves unrecognised,

The crafted ship that goes nowhere.


The monks have prayed, the lay brothers

And hired hands have hammered and dug

The building, rising from the mind

Of all the faithful has grown strong

Ready for cooks and evensong

The kitchen’s fire’s grown out of rule

The books and bodies light and burn

The towers crumble, the great bell

Hits paving stone with one last clang

The brothers’ prayers, the brothers’ work

Dissolve in earth from which they sprang.


The forest’s broken, churning earth

Covers the stumps, the bones of deer

The bodies of those who lived in it

And those who tried to stop the roads

The straightened river swirls with mud

With oil and dying fish and with

A boat that carries one woman away

Who fought the fight and did not fall

Because she hid, and now her eyes

Are hidden from the things that die.


The wheel circles, at every turn

Defeat, and if the wheel’s hub

Is empty, as it may be, nothing

Will last of those who loved and lost

The hub glows with reflected light

Or rather with a smouldering fire.

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  1. Very picturesque poems – really love them.


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