Iona Poems Sequence (written as they occurred on the island of Iona in Spring 2013)


Passing Passengers (awaiting the ferry)


A conversation in the queue.

Purely in the moment.

Unanticipated, unremembered, without purpose.

No bond but the shared now of the lull between bumpy road bus and choppy sea ferry.

But, no less warm or pleasant for the lack of a shared past or future together.

The pure joy of the unattached moment.

A wave that is there and then gone.

A wave from the perpetual passing.


I owna Iona (first impressions)


I owna the sky. I owna the sea.

I owna the whole island, when it’s just me.

I owna the hill. I owna the shore.

I owna the welcoming hotel room door.

I owna all the waves. I owna all the multi-coloured stone.

I owna the feeling it gives me of being at home.

It all warms my heart, as does the cream tea

And so Iona is inside and owns me.


I Dun I (climbing Dun I, the highest hill on Iona)


I done done Dun I I did

In my dun duds

That I done got Dun I dung on

So did Dun I done me


Abbey Eye (on entering the abbey)


The abbey is the eye of the storm.

The still sheltered spot

Around which tides of peoples and weathers wild, ceaselessly circle.

From here the complete circumference can be surveyed

For from here it is distanced

Turning about the empty hub of years.

The hub is empty and limitless

Yet the hub holds you snug in its hug.


The Poor Wealth of Saints (within the saint’s cell)


They seek the wilderness but draw crowds of followers and pilgrims.

They hold to poverty but their foundations gather gifts and wealth.

Both of these seem to promise permanence

But they bring the undoing of a place, crowding out the spirit.

The modest point to the powers beyond the earthly.

Yet earthly powers use the saint’s bones as tokens of their power over the earth.

A handful of dust. So little to be rooted in.


Walking Meditation (in the cloister)


The regular rhythm of paces

Matches the regular rhythm of pillars.

As I look straight ahead

There is pulsing at the edge of vision;

Light, dark, light, dark, light, dark.

Hinting at the light, the space and the open sky of the heart of the cloister

Just out of view.

Here I can easily walk,

Look ahead and hold the still centre.

Being with the echoes in myself as I move.


Fern and Stone (in the nunnery)


Fern curves around curved carved stone.

Long lived stone is slowly scoured away.

Short lived fern has countless spored descendants.


Wild Unresponsible (at the Bay-at-the-back-of-the-ocean)


Far beyond cultivation and managed land

Is the wild for which I am not responsible.

I am free to be in it

With nothing to prompt action, judgement or criticism.

Thus I am at peace.

Nothing is writ upon the land by others for me to read.

The selfless complexity of nature soothes.

The wilful simpler creations of culture,

Stir, disturb or dazzle me in to unrest.

The one infinite in depth. The other finite.

The wild is unresponsible.

I respond by inaction and stillness.

And it responds to me not at all.

But that is all that I need.


Sparrow Monks and Raven Priors (on visiting Cymer Abbey and Tintern Abbey. 2013)


Brown cowled sparrows huddled

In the modest ruins in the mountains.

Cheerily singing as they sit in the sequilia.

Eager to take the crumbs offered by the occasional visitor.



Raven black priors scowl

From the high reaching arches in the valley.

Silently looking down their beaks at all the visitors crawling all over their place.

When we have gone, they descend to collect their dues in secret.

Too proud.

Whole (2013)


Coin. Head and tail.

Wall. Front and back.

Body. Left and right.

Brain. Left and right.

Opinion. Left and right.

It can’t be otherwise.


Small Worlds (the view from Crook Peak. 2013)


From here the vast world looks small.

A miniature landscape about this rock

Like the miniature landscape of lichen upon the rock.

The smug on the horizon of snowy Welsh mountains

Is eye projected inside my woolly hatted head.


Below, car capsuled worlds fly by on the motorway.

Above, birds focus on their prey, screening out the wide world.

Nearby, a ring of stones of a former small home.

Far off, isolated islands lie in the estuary.

And scattered hillforted hills float upon the levels.


Mine is not the only world on the peak today.

Small inward facing family groups in their noisy bubbles.

Small childhood worlds of the quiet child.

Small worlds of the couples holding hands.

Small worlds of the fly landing upon this page as I write.

Small worlds of the tiny caves within this hill.

Small worlds of fields patterned on the land.

Small world of the pain in my leg.


It is impossible to fit the vastness of all the views here

Through the pin window of the eye

Or into the small world of my mind.

It cannot encompass all the myriad small worlds

That make up the whole world.


Every Spring I fall in love with green (Spring 2012)


Every spring I fall in love with green.

The first shoot that flirtatious glimpse in late winter.

The first flush of green on the cheek of the hillside.

The first kiss of the bursting bud.

Until after many kisses of green

The final consummation is that first blue day in May

When the green shines from every leaf on every tree.

The lonely winter is forgiven

And the warm embrace of spring

Has me flying as high as the sun.


Every Autumn I reluctantly accept the retirement of green (2013)


Every Autumn I reluctantly accept the retirement of green.

The golden handshake of the natural world.

Retiring on the fruits of long labours.

The laurels of victory for the leaves.

But then the wrinkling, the crumpling and the fall.

The fall to lie at rest

Caught among the grass, and the evergreens of hope.

Equinox (2008)


The day length changes faster at this time, than at any other.

From this time of balance the most rapid growth can begin.

All that is in balance can move quickest.


The dancer can perform her most spectacular feats,  when in full possession of all her faculties, fully poised on the dynamic point between opposites.


From this peace, comes most action.

Peace is not the absence of action.

Peace is not the opposite of war.

Peace is the balance beyond opposites.


Mummers Night (2005)


In comes they, the Mummers bold,

They are more than the story told.


On Christmas Eve they walk by night.

Through the village, torches alight.

Slow drum, and ringing bell.

By street and lane, toward hillside well.

Betwixt the inns, where they play

Few see them pass, and little they say.

Tattered rag coats, blackened faces,

Objects they carry, from many places.


Dead pheasants, frying pan,

Horse’s skull, old stick man,

Doctor’s bag, deer’s antler,

Sweep’s brush, battered buckler,

Magpie’s tear, scratched scimitar.


Myths now walk along the streets,

The thin illusion, a powerful feat.

In wind and half light the tattered pages

Of half remembered dreams of past ages.

Shouting in whispers below the words,

But all resonate and so it is heard.

Truer than an straight tales allusion,

Deepened by the boldness and the confusion.

There is power in perplexity.

Comedy belies their complexity.

Tonight reality is thin.

Through flickering confusion they walks in.

A hurly-burly dream

Of the might have been.


If you don’t believe these words I say,

Go see the Mummers, down your way.


Echoes at Badbury Rings (1999)


The hill sits,

Gentle curve under the dome of the sky,

Both visage shifting from moment to moment,

But both within, unchanging in their essence,

Wind coiling,

Wyrm-tailed, about the hill,

It’s grasp forever slipping, as it turns the wheel,

Crest of the hill, the centre below the summit of the sky,

Axis and epicentre.

Navel of the world.

Belly, womb and birth place,

Of flower, butterfly, tree and tribe.

All gathering and dispersing at the hill.

Colours of the meadow,

Shimmering, fluttering flashes,

Transient colourful characters against the background of history,

Some rooted to the ground, bobbing in the breeze,

Others riding the currents, perilous on the wyrm’s hot breath,

Hazarding each moment against oblivion.

Here so briefly,

Yet returning each season.

A new crop for the harvest scythe.


The Grim Reaper has a brother (2010)


The Grim Reaper has a brother.

He is not famous, has no striking image,

His arrival is not heralded by a roll of thunder,

And he does not make the headlines with his subtle work.

Yet in our time he is much busier than his brother.

For want of a name, I call him the Dim Creeper.

He is a subtle stalker of the living.


I see him as a stealthy shadow that slowly grows

Eventually enveloping and blocking out all the light

But the little naked flame of a life.


The Grim Reaper’s arrival is sudden and shocking,

Horrific in the swiftness of the change he brings.

The Dim Creeper’s arrival is so soft and slow

It goes unnoticed. Drawn out over years.

His weapon is his soft breath.

He causes the flame of life to flicker,

Just a little, then a little more, a little more, a little more.

Then nearly going out. Then it returns to former brightness

Or so it seems.

For the flame of life is never quite as strong as it was before.

And thus by ever thinner slices,

He whittles away at the living.


Teasing and tormenting with the false hope of recovery.

Not releasing back to life or onward to death.


At least the Grim Reaper offers release.

It will also come with the Dim Creeper, but when?

The shadow wreaths over us all in the family

In those twilight days, months, years of the loved one.

Let her go. Let us all go.

The Grim Reaper has an hourglass, he gives an end to life’s time.

The Dim Creeper has no sense of time.

The endless agony of the moment stretch in an endless loop.

Movement without movement.

A passing over that is no passing at all.

Balanced on the edge of forever.


Until finally, finally, finally, finally

Just a touch too much of the Dim Creeper’s breath

And the flame flickers out

The ember glows calmly for a moment

And a little breath drifts away.

Without the light of life the shadow has nothing to hold on to

And it too is now gone.