Out past the end of the trees…
Out past the end of the trees
is white ground neither snow nor mist
with more trees flecked onto
the middle distance
to make small hills
and a wood where a collared dove
looks after the silence
staring at all of that
walking a way towards it
I can be what I am
I can be nothing or something or more
I can be say a quiver of air
behind a comfort-store
at a service station
off a roundabout
where a road cuts through the country
I can blow briefly
about a short meadow
whose lie of grass is filled
with whispers of a blue-smoke town nearby
whose birds find twigs
that can barely allow them
and face away
to their pick of unearthly roads
one breath later
they break the low haze
which doesn’t feel them
and wouldn’t say if it did.
The Blue House
(Locquirec Harbour, Brittany)
The light beneath the door
is the only noise she makes
as she draws the curtains
right over left
cancelling the sinister
so she will not make a slovenly death.
She had a brother once
loud upon the mornings
who for a season
was mistook for a sailor
found himself on recurrent watches
with only the frets of Archangel to eat.
When he was home
he would terrify their father’s books
rearrange them by maybe breadth of spine
or double-vowels in titles
bless the shelves thus discomfited
then hitch to his lady in Morlaix.
Sometimes brother and sister
would walk the harbour wall
out and back as the day wore through gull-crow
delivery vans early shell-hunts
ice-cream altercations hometime brushdowns
evening canopies jigging the sun.
The summer before their mother died
he painted the shutters blue –
a bout of intent and skilfulness that shocked even him
and took in also the tresses of the yard
the gate that ever after
denied the wind the pleasure of a screech.
She misses him
she has nothing
he had nothing but could at least
rub his hands at his boisterousness
whenever the world
opened him the odd nook or two.
As evening finds its first sleep
before she is left curtain under right
she stands out front
looking up at the house
feeling the blue like a hug
a prayer that fights for an answer.
Locals blow goodnights about her
now and then she replies
so one corner of the harbour-way
is a thrill of small sound
patient enough for the moment
when it must give back the night.
July 1969. For Mike Evans, 1953-2014
We stood smack in the middle of summer,
felt the minutes, hours, days flow down our skin.
A crazy bunch of miles above, some man
was set to trampoline about the moon
and get himself misheard by history.
The sun was our manor. We swung our bikes
along its beams, its paths and cut-throughs, out
across the molten ways of housing schemes,
where peace begged for a chance from open doors
and windows sang of pinball wizardry.
No freedom for the man up on the moon,
no change of gear or bush-grassed gulley. He
was parked before the world, a black-white moth
netted with one wing twitching. We roared on.
He jumped stiff-legged, a toddler testing beds.
We slicked our tyres with ancient oil. He coped
as best he could with ice-white silence, left
a flag to be unloved by July breeze.
Did we feel autumn in our bones as we
rode home, hear time complaining at the snow?
Course not: we’d been bowling over fire,
chasing sun-spots like rooks. Our transmissions
were simple as a breath, joy to muscle
to speed to joy to muscle—the right stuff.
Meanwhile, beyond the day, the moon man tried
to get back up a ladder as unsound
as those our dads ascended, bulb in hand,
mithering of expense and foreign tat,
while far below our mothers gripped the rungs
and tuned their minds’ dial elsewhere, to their times
of joy, of speed and fire, endless sun.
Michael W. Thomas
Michael W. Thomas’s novels include The Mercury Annual and Pilgrims at the White Horizon. His poetry collections include Port Winston Mulberry (Littlejohn and Bray, 2009), Batman’s Hill, South Staffs (Flipped Eye, 2013), The Girl From Midfoxfields (Black Pear, 2014) and Come to Pass (Oversteps, 2015). He has recorded two CDs of poetry and music, Seventeen Poems and a Bit of A Song and Angels in the Telegraph Room. His work has appeared in The Antioch Review, Critical Survey, The Explicator, Irish Studies Review, The London Magazine, Magazine Six (US), Pennine Platform and Stand Magazine; and he reviews regularly for the Times Literary Supplement.
In 2015, his novella, ‘Esp’, was shortlisted for the UK Novella Award. He is currently working on Nowherian, the memoir of a Grenadian traveller. His latest poetry collection, Early and Late, is appearing in 2018, together with The Portswick Imp: Collected Stories, 2001-2016 .
Bikes won the Cheltenham Buzzwords competition in 2015.
Banner image: Morning mist over snow-covered fields, Pauline Eccles.