From one angle
it looked
like the head
of a man.

I climbed up.
The grit slashed
the pale skin
on my knuckles.

I held on-
to the nose-bridge,
pressed down
onto the cheekbone,

rested my hands
on the forehead,
looked at the sky
reflected in the rain-

-pool worn
into the rough pate
of the stone.
I rested there,

a temporary statue,
relishing the touch
of a dark moon,
newly inhabited.


The Last Checkout

The queue went on for miles.
Children did somersaults
over the trolleys,
or kept asking questions:
Are we nearly there yet?
Are we nearly there yet?

Young couples started
to argue with each other.
Old couples
complained about the service.
started to melt,
and drip onto the floor.

And when you finally got there,
the sign said
You start and finish
with an empty trolley.
So true.

Many people
ignored the sign. Some,
weighed down by shopping bags
full of frozen pizza,
sank without trace
into the brown, oozing lino.

Others made it to the door,
only to fall to earth
as they stepped out
onto the clouds.

A few people said so what
you can keep the lot,
and walked on
to the stars.


Traveling North

I do not buy into
the drumbeat soundtrack
that seeks to make sense
of the night as I sit
drinking black coffee
trying to stay awake
(I’ve a long way to go).
There are no dancers here
just tired bodies
strapped into the machine:
you’ll see for yourself
if you step outside
into the dark and if you
look in through the window
you’ll see a man
sat at the table there
watching the lights move
on the motorway
and trying to write it all down
before it’s too late


Invisible Journey

A flock of pigeons spends its days
sitting on the roof of the hotel.
Most of the time I can’t see them
from where I sit but I know they’re
almost certainly there,
sitting and thinking about
whatever it is pigeons think about,
because every now and then
they take flight en masse,
swooping down the alley,
round the square and back
and when they do
they fill my window
just for a moment
as with precision
they reach their apogee,
pulling out of a steep dive
towards the cobblestones
and heading up again
to disappear from view.




fill me with helium
tie me down
take me for a ride
round dublin town

there, i’ll tell you
in a squeaky voice
interesting things
about james joyce


The Big Picture

When we reach the end
there’ll be no credits rolling
as the music of the spheres
plays out: no-one to perform
the autopsy. Without
a body, so they say,
there can be no murder.

It will be as if
we never were. Time passes:
cause and effect set
the record straight, conceal
the evidence. Probes
from deep space find
nothing definite,
ascribe a name or number
and move on.


The Waves

we find ourselves

scouring the beach
over and over

lifting the pebbles
just enough

to rattle them
we say.

Wild Thing

It was here: I didn’t imagine it.
Look at the marks on the ground,
the paw-prints where it paced around.
It’s an inscrutable beast but I don’t think
even it knows what it’s looking for
until it finds it. When it does
the significance of things is made
manifest and everything seems to make sense
just for a moment. It was here.
It isn’t anymore and so
the trees/the sky/the earth/etc.
once more conceal the secret.

Fragment, 6am

Right now you’re sleeping and
I’m writing this by torchlight.
Soon it will be morning and
elsewhere in the building
people are already moving –
I can hear the dull sound
of their footsteps as they hurry out.
Then silence almost. There’s just
the sound of breathing
and the birds outside.



You had “The Birth of Venus” pinned where you could see,
Beyond the bed. A modest nude to contemplate.
A feat of balance, standing on that shell, at sea.

Poised between the Carnal and the Ultimate,
You talked about the art of painting, pointed out
How Botticelli’s composition-lines relate
To a Matisse, the things New Masters learnt about
The Old. You took a pencil-stub to demonstrate.

What deprivations of the Underworld assailed
Your mind, or bright Venusian dreams tormented you?
You’d seen so much – you thought you knew what death entailed:
“Talk about art? Why not? What else is there to do?”

An atheist, you doubted Heaven, doubted Hell.
More fitting, to be borne away upon the Shell.


It’s tempting to modify
the 3-D landscape projected
inside your head
to force it to comply
with expectations.
You can go so far like this
but no further:
sooner or later
you are forced to turn round
and retrace your steps
back to the place where,
map folded in your pocket,

you set off at a tangent
thinking it merely
a bend in the road.
But then, you may ask,
where were we going?
What’s in a destination?
True, we were looking forward
to the view across the lake
but instead we went for a walk
through the woods and
had I paid attention to the map
we’d have never seen
the bluebells.




a sign on a gate:
soon the weeds will be so high
no-one will read it

Essence Vessel

Love Story

So this is the tunnel of
, I said. No, sucker,
it’s the ghost train.

Scifi Sonnet 1

Through me, in science fiction, you could fly,
between each sub-atomic particle.
I’d be, well, most like a galaxy,
not like a single, separate article.
Once through, stars on all sides would fall away
(particles in a gas are more spread out),
people would appear as nebulae
which, being human, we’d explore, no doubt.
Seen like this the space that separates
you and I begins to lose its meaning:
we are not the distinct, solid shapes
we see ourselves to be: more like clouds drifting.
Loneliness, then, is not our true condition:
we feel alone by virtue of position.

Dark Matter

Slight move-
ments make
what seems

to be a
kind of semaphore
but I

your alphabet –

even shining
a beam
into your eyes

gets us nowhere
but at least

they implode
into full-stops,

starless places
you’re alive


He tried to imagine
heaven: he saw
a non-stop virtual reality

Someone had chained the fire exits

Pete the bouncer looked mean

He tried to imagine
the sun rising: a light
scorched his face
to cinders. He saw

nothing. A breeze

blew his mind away

He tried to imagine
a star: he saw
a race of aliens intent on conquering
the world. After that

he left the curtains open

every night

He tried to imagine
love: he found a microphone
cunningly implanted
in his torso

the aliens again

(they leave no scars)

He stopped trying to imagine

It had all been thought of before
and anyway,
it only seemed to get him into trouble.


Sweeping up the leaves
as if I can make order
out of the chaos.

Rhubarb Leaves

rivers running down
from curly mountaintops through
shiny green valleys

Three Bird Haiku


A constellation:
seven starlings flying in
the shape of the Plough.


A heron standing
very still by the river.
Is it a model?


The days get shorter.
You feel a chill in the air:
the curlew is gone.

On the Death of Edwin Morgan

This morning the birds stopped singing
and the sun decided not to rise.
But his voice could never die:
it was heard to say
this will never do.
And at these words
normal service was resumed
(a tad reluctantly).



I hardly dare go out
for fear of killing
the gramersow.

Whenever I turn over a stone
she’s there
and she starts running about
and I feel dreadful.

How would I like it
if someone lifted the lid
on me?



Scifi Sonnet 3

News from Pluto

Something’s about to happen. I’m not sure what.
I’ve watched for long enough and, yes, I get
Impatient, as the months slip by. And yet
This is important. In a way, I’m not.
Earth, erratic, crosses the ecliptic;
By day, the sun’s scarce bigger than a star:
It makes you realise just how small we are.
Will I get home? I must be realistic.
Gravity’s low. Perhaps my bones grow thin.
I jog the corridors, try to keep fit,
But face the fact (there’s no escaping it)
I have become this waiting game I’m in.
One day, it’ll happen, I’ve no doubt.
Exactly when, I don’t know. I’ll find out.

After the Rain

on the sunlit grass
like a hole
in space:

Love in the Café

Just across the way from me
sat a woman, drinking herbal tea.
Her other hand played on the screen
of a shiny new hand-held machine.
I drank up, left, felt very green:
it was the coolest phone I’d seen.

A Moment

The moment I realised,
the car stopped
without so much as a jolt
and the world began
to rush past.

I was the Pole Star –
and already I could feel
the breath of The Great Bear
prowling around me
in the dark

In A Bookshop

All you can see through the tall windows are
the rooftops of the city, and the sky
(both crinkled slightly by the imperfect glass).
This partial view serves to convey a sense
of stillness in which people linger, drawn
to contemplate the stacks, searching the spines
for words they hadn’t thought of, books that might provide
some sort of landmark on a mental map.


Do you know the feeling?
Like when you run one hand
down the other arm
and it feels like the arm
of a corpse? You still
screw up your eyes when the sun
shines through the window
but only because
your eyes demand it.
Your mind still thinks words
for much the same reason.

Sometime later you realize:
the house is coming back to life!
Lights flicker on and off
like raw nerves illuminating
pictures on the wall,
ripe apples
fall from the rafters, windows
blink, dilate.

And later still
as you lie awake
you can hear the rocks
with uncertain
tectonic movements.

Seen in a Certain Light

The sky’s blue-grey, the grass
intensely green, as after rain.

A herd of cows looks painted on
till one of them gets up and walks
to prove me wrong.

Musica Humana

The days are getting shorter
and I can feel the weight of it all
sucking at my bones
like some infernal flute-maker…

Heh. Cut it out.
Sometimes I feel
old, that’s true, but
I’m not about
to let anyone
take my skull for a maraca
lying down.

There’s a whole crazy orchestra
out there already,
hooting and clattering
and (given a choice) I think
I’ll just sit and listen
until it gets too loud
for comfort

Hawaiian Summer

I can’t help it if
I’m too sexy for my shirt.
Some people are too
polite to comment on it.
Others laugh. See if I care.

Naming of Plants

with apologies to Henry Reed

Today we have naming of plants. Yesterday,
We had weeding. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after planting. But today,
Today we have naming of plants. Though gunfire
Can be heard coming from the television,
Today we have naming of plants.

This is Galium Aparine, which is also known as Goose Grass,
The preponderance of which will become clear to you, once in the garden.
This is Epilobium Angustifolium, known as Rosebay Willowherb.
At last, on TV, the firing has stopped and sirens
Can be heard. As for what’s going on beyond the borders,
Who knows? We can but wonder.

This is Urtica Dioica, the removal of which can be
Unpleasant without gloves. And please do not let me
See anyone attempt it in a short-sleeved shirt. One can do it
Quite easily, so long as no flesh is exposed. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see them
(They are, surely, malevolent) until it’s too late.

And this is Taraxacum Officinale. Its intention
Is to conquer the earth. All we can do is our best
To rid ourselves of it: we call this pulling up the dandelions.
We do it in Spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
Men in uniforms can be seen running (on TV).
Someone said it was another kind of Spring.

And Spring is when the trouble starts: it is
Perfectly easy if you have strength in your fingers for the Goose Grass,
For the Willowherb, the Dandelions, and time to weed
(Which, in our case, we have not got). The guns
Remain silent. All will be well, perhaps, after all.
And today we have naming of plants.


I scratch my head
watching it all
gradually coalesce
around me, a roomful
of silence.

Further away,
beyond the edge,
birds are singing
the same songs
as yesterday.

Like them,
I have no plan,
other than
to let Summer
take its course.


Shandy Hall

footprints through the grass leading
to the next chapter



I’ve been here many times
and taken many photographs;
what’s become of them, I’ve no idea, although
none stand comparison to memory.
No hard drive’s yet been built to beat
the soft stuff in our heads.

Late March: it’s cool, but not too cool.
The sun is low and turns the peaks
of small waves into lights
that flicker on and off. Geese
brush them with their wing-tips – this
is an aerodrome for geese, though built
(unlike the human kind) for peace.

On the Train
I have picked the pockets
of all my fellow passengers.
They are now incommunicative
while I have a shopping bag
full of mobile phones.

I intend to plant them
on a hillside – watch them grow
into a forest of telephone trees.

In Winter they’ll
reach down with their electric roots
deep into the earth
searching for a current
to recharge their batteries.

In Spring they’ll
put on an LED display
of digital foliage.

In Summer they’ll
greet the sun
with a chorus of ringtones.

In the Autumn their leaves will fall
littering the forest floor
with unobtainable numbers.


After Ben Nicholson

A tree grows on a hill:
the green darkness of its leaves sets it apart
from the indiscretion of the grass.


On the windowsill a broken stem
leans in a vase and (for a short time)
turns its flower towards the glass.


A woman’s face, reflected there, eyes fixed
on an indistinct, unfocused place, an actuality
reduced to pigment, scoured.


A blackness so complete lets nothing out:
the surface ends, there’s nowhere (everywhere?) to go from here.
Bright colours circle it about.


Rain softly falls. Beneath a blue-grey sky
wheat stretches. Yellow, lustreless,
like low tide in an estuary.


The line persists. The pencil, turning sharply,
never leaves the paper, moves to enclose
a white space, establishing a shape.

Herbert’s Heaven

Frenzied, the moths
with their brownpaper wings
and brownfurry bodies
beat on the glass
(the brownpaper wings
are fluttering softly).

Consider the moths
with their brownpaper gods
and brownfurry angels.

Rocking Stone Flat

Reaching the edge
of the Flat, I find
I’m looking down
on a green rooftop.
There is a shape to things here
my mind makes sense of:
I’ve been here before.
And then there’s a print,
in the peat, of a running-shoe:
I used to run along this path
a long time ago
and it strikes me now
that now is then and time
no more than a list
of things to do. This is
the same wild place
where the wind grazes
the tops of the grasses
and looking down on rings
of lichen on a stone
is like looking at a picture
of clouds in the sky.

5 minute haiku

Sat in the bathroom
with a blank piece of paper.
What to write? Time’s up!

Lindisfarne Senryu

Early in the Twentieth Century, the Portugese cellist, Guilhermina Augusta Xavier de Medim Suggia Carteado Mena (1885-1950), known as Guilhermina Suggia was a frequent visitor to Lindisfarne Castle. She was briefly engaged to the then-owner, Edward Hudson. The reasons for the breaking of the engagement are unclear.

here is a cello
like a coffin full of air
the space around it


playing a Bach suite
the harebells for company
the sea, listening


Today, the fences cast no shadows
and a green flag hangs,
furled into an S,
and I watch how, as we move,
a tree moves against a hill
as if to emphasise its otherness.

Scifi Sonnet 2

Three attempts to decode the repeating signal received from deep space by The Very Large Array, New Mexico, in 2032.


welcome to talk to us denizens of the world –
we travel so far in search of these zalatsi –
I congratulate you – fear and respect –
what we want to say – what we admire –
because there are so few so far to go
for the sweet softness that we rarely find
extant and few between – we denizens
of where – and when – can take these messages –

do not ask us how we coexist –
to live and die as soon as ever touch
so we than you live longer – we so calm
and trees – while all good things – and then to die
so cool and after meals, etc. –
this appears between the time – reply


welcome to the inhabitants of the earth –
we finders of these pieces through the date
of travel in fear that the respect and greeting
we say what we want and hold in great
awe the fact there is so little – this
rarely seen due to the soft sweetness
of the trees – so far we have few people
to take us to the second step – the message?

ask us how to live in May – to talk –
you are exposed to live to die so soon –
since you with us to lead a quiet life
and all good things – and then to die so full
so peaceful and to eat – and even then
between you and I the answer – take your time


welcome to speak to us denizens of the earth –
we who travel so far in search of such morsels
greet you in trepidation and respect –
what we say with high esteem we hold
for such there are so few so far to go
for such sweet softness as we rarely find
so far and few between – we denizens
of another bring all you these messages –

we ask how symbiosis is for you –
as you live so shortly die – so touching –
you with us live so long a life so calm
and so filled up with all good things – then die
so peacefully – we eat you then and so
think it between you take your time – reply

Crossing the Field

I found myself seeing
through impossible eyes
a time when to remember
was a thing of the past

when there were only stones
– no grass – and a depression
where the stream once ran.

I can offer you no reassurance
except to say the sky
still touches everything.

For Now

At night I lie and rest
to say I sleep would be
to exaggerate, although
low voices on the radio
are just a sound
that means no more, no less
than the rise and fall
of her breath
or the birdsong
now the sun is rising

and I find myself thinking
(as if for the first time)
a time machine
would be a terrible thing


Is it

A lintelstone
waiting for the door
to be opened

A hearthstone
waiting for the fire
to be set

A millstone
waiting for the wheat
to be harvested

A boundarystone
waiting for the land
to be disputed

A milestone
waiting for the road
to go somewhere

A gravestone
waiting for the settlers
to settle down

An altar stone
waiting for something
to be given

Or just a stone,
waiting for the sun

to rise

and touch it?


I’ve never seen it
but the tree is so big
that for two whole weeks
each autumn everyone
within a one-mile radius
munches pink ladies.
Someone always brings me
a bag-full and every year
I say thank you and think
they taste so good
I must go and find it
for myself but I never do.


Today they came
to measure everything
to make sure it was long
or short enough.
They wear cheap suits,
they smile a lot and say
they’re here to help us. Then
they consult their laptops
and tell us everything
appears to be within
acceptable limits although
we might consider shaving off
a centimetre here
and there. They say
the same thing every year.
I wouldn’t mind so much
only no-one seems to care
what (in each case) lies
between the beginning
and the end.


After a painting by Piers Browne

I saw no angels:
only the sun
catching the slates
of the wet roof
after the rain.

The stream was full,
coughing its way impatiently
through a concrete pipe.
A skylark sang and,
on the opposite hill, a car
twinkled like a fallen star.

The Birds

can you hear the birds?
they’re somewhere over there

it’s so dark between the lights
they never turn them off
it sounds as if
there must be trees

we can only dream
as we walk

keep walking he said
either the wire goes on forever or
this is the place I started out

play your violin
I’ll listen I said
play a tune I know
tell me what it is

they tell me the birds
are singing the national anthem only
these days my ears
don’t work properly and it just sounds
like twittering to me

play your violin I say
anything is better
than the birds

The Fall

to my surprise
I had time
to wonder at
the light
at the end
of the tunnel
how it turned
from a sun
into a star
that got smaller
and smaller
in a night sky
I had it all
to myself
and I waited
for it to go
out altogether
as sometime it must
I thought
one way or another
rock or water
but no
it just seemed
to go on
and on
I never thought
I’d have time
to finish a

(c) Sackerson 2017, 2019

All rights reserved