Are you okay?

Driving home Sunday,
Oxfordshire evening sunshine 
burnishing spires and flaming
rape fields too bright to look at.
Mulling over the day and
you asking me if I’m okay
more than once
due to my uncharacteristic silence,
my brief absent-minded answers
‘Of course’.
It’s like coming up for air whilst swimming
only to dive straight back beneath
the reminiscing waves, to
warm end-of-summer stroked thoughts
of the little ones careering busily
over garden obstacles,
their parents chatting over wine
and obstacles to busy careers,
‘Are you okay’
‘Of course’.
Summer’s lease coming to a close.

*

© Graham Sherwood 09/2019

Jackals and Worms

Faceless, names long-forgotten

sour mendicants, trolls and crones

watch and wait, and

doze around the dying embers

of their camouflaged anonymity.

Sleep eludes them, and with

their crippled self-belief

flapping in the winds of battles lost,

they, cursing, spit foul bile

that sizzles briefly on hot stones.

*

© Graham Sherwood 09/2019

Bone and Ash

Always you two, 

always was 

now, always will be

you have realised

our fears of being parted

but come together once more

on this God-awful morning.

As requested

we’ll wear bright colours 

and we’ll smile

at your hilarious eulogy,

the humour a given, even

from beyond the grave.

It’s the dignity that shines

how you both left us

quietly and discreetly

slipping away

as if for an assignation

you both now share.

We’ll return 

when the earth has settled

and wrapped itself around you both,

seeing both your names

carved in stone

we’ll check the spelling carefully

and smile

as you would have done.

*

© Graham Sherwood 09/2019

Family Trees

My knackered right knee 

went west half an hour ago, 

and somewhat indecorously

I crash onto the garden bench,

an overweight sponsored skydiver,

landing too hard for comfort.

Fitbit throbs, and

gradually records a pulse, so

my recovery confirmed

I open my eyes, and regard

the generations of trees and

muse upon my family.

Matriarch, Joan

a splendid ninety-one

the stately cracked willow.

Two prodigal sons, each busy bearing fruit,

a greengauge and a damson.

But my eye rests easily

on the lively skittish braeburn, 

a five year old whippet yet,

the garden’s granddaughter.

I watch each tree move to a rhythm

the season, the year,

all marking their place, 

growing, responsible.

*

© Graham Sherwood 09/2019

Holidog

The wide pale blue, milk stirred through it

a vague moon still out, horses’ tails lash satin

it’ll be warm soon.

Bella, my holidog, weaves

under early elderberries

with her typical hoovering nose sweep

just the occasional frown back

as if to say,

‘you’re not too good at this, are you?’

I respond despondently.

All the nature fruit seems early

blacks, hips, haws, elders

even a few embarrassed sloes

line the bridle-path, like

nosey neighbours.

Truthfully, we’ve overdone it

especially following the 4am piddle call

Bella’s not mine, for a change.

So we share my water in cupped hands

then the drag home, and

as she flops on her bed

I get one last cynical glance, to say

‘it’s day one, you’re going to have to learn

to pace yourself’.

*

© Graham Sherwood 08/2019

Village Hall

The audience is very sparse tonight

thirty-odd at best, evenly spaced by choice

barring a few couples mostly widowed.

As an incomer, I sit behind

and count the turnout of tight grey heads,

locals, none under seventy.

Although the surroundings are familiar

none take off their coats, as if making ready

for a swift exit.

They ‘otch’ uncomfortably, all chewing toffees

between the cheeks of their arses

on the unforgiving metal chairs.

Warily, they are curious about

who is sitting behind, who risked coming in late 

and now has the advantage of

scanning the room, but no-one looks around

for fear of having to greet one another

before tea is served, following

‘any other business’.

*

© Graham Sherwood 08/2019