Birdwords

There is beauty in birdsong

a chaos of thrilling notes

such a pleasing cacophony

of unchivalrous voices

each overplaying the other.

This is no angelic choral

it is a conversation, where

each voice must be heard

from the unseen clicking wren

to the squabbling jealous magpie

that heckles the tuneful blackbird.

In this jollity there is meaning,

messages, demands and truths

there is beauty in birdsong

so listen to the words.

*

© Graham R Sherwood 06/22

Laugharne

We arrived early, Laugharne was still asleep.

Having not had breakfast, with both of us famished

we found a café with no proper menu and

I ordered a plate of rarebit, the real stuff,

to impress my Welsh son-in-law

and sent him photographic proof.

After food, sated, we skirted the castle ruins

and strolled the tide path to the boathouse

foolishly taking the vertiginous steps

and not the scenic village route

which would have been much easier.

With a sweep of superlative syllables

the Tâf estuary deftly carried our breath away

on a broadly curved brushstroke of an ebb tide.

I mistook a sea otter for a seal, but

Anna put me right with better eyes

as transfixed, we watched it flail

a broken kelp stalk like a cudgel, 

making elaborate dives and swirls, 

breaking cover like a large black button,

its brief flourishes an unexpected treat.

The morning heat had already roasted

the timbers of Dylan’s writing shed,

I peered through its pane like an urchin

sent in search of an errant father

down the pub, finding nothing

more than his discarded jacket 

haphazardly robing an empty chair.

Before leaving I bought a well-carved owl 

and a tiny wooden mouse,

hoping it would go down well with Bea

as our gift for stealing away for a few days.

Over iced cream, we listened

to the opening stanzas of Under Milk Wood

from a talking book in the car,

Burton’s sonorous tone spreading rich as honey.

*

© Graham R Sherwood 06/22

Pembroke

Scanning hulls, I notice the 

boats all have evocative names,

they’re all someone’s babies

after all, many painted blue to grace

the bathwater waves.

They nestle, neatly berthed,

tightly tucked as orphans 

in a dormitory, some

seem to wait in vain

for their owners’ return, 

doze cheek by jowl, as

the harbour’s gentle swell

jostles them comfortably 

awake.

 Dawn unveils a new day 

with the musical clinks

and taps of ropes on rigging,

a lively uplifting overture

and perhaps, once again 

the anticipation of new voyages.

*

© Graham R Sherwood 06/22

Majesty

Now there’s nothing left to do,

flags are furled

bunting neatly folded

boxed and put away.

Streets lie empty 

barriers stacked roads swept 

and vehicles claim 

closed roads once more.

 An eerie quietude

falls across the land

breath is held, fingers tap

bets are laid, choices cast.

Somewhere an old lady sits alone 

with thoughts of duty, loyalty

devotion, service, 

wondering where did all this begin

the whys, the whens

and how if ever will it end.

*

© Graham R Sherwood 06/22

First Collection

I used to say never change a word

but it’s done, pored over within 

an inch of being thrown on the fire.

It lives, has a name and now needs 

the nourishment of publication,

to go out in the world to breathe.

I know forever forward, 

like the concern for a child

I will worry about this fragile thing

*

© Graham R Sherwood 06/22

Station to Station

These days I travel rarely,

even less by rail, I’m not a herd animal

ergo I am permanently unfamiliar

with station chaos.

On departing, the train glides forward 

effortlessly, a low electric hum 

raising its pitch to a softened wheeze, 

that never seems to reach

its desired zenith.

Sitting cheek by jowl

amongst myriad instructions

and information signs

that no-one reads.

I am minded to notice the  

great number of passengers

who use the tiny cabined toilet

and how brief their visits are,

as if taking the eucharist.

I glance outside, to gauge progress

but the sleekly narrow windows

and impressive speed

conspire to blur the countryside 

to a green smear.

Sitting opposite a copious lady

is wearing a tee shirt, printed

to show a life-sized face stretched

tautly across her ample bosom.

I am disconcerted 

as a pair of eyes stare me out

one from each breast,

I then realise the face belongs

to Maya Angelou

and poetic justice is duly served

I look away chastened

toward the tiny cabined toilet

still doing a roaring trade.

On peoples’ faces, I see

anguish, melancholy, enquiry

concern, dismay, urgency

but none look happy.

Thirty minutes pass,

outside the blur changes

from sage green to graffiti grey 

as we begin to slow

the wheeze returns to a hum

passengers stir, the tiny cabin

uncharacteristically vacant

*

© Graham R Sherwood 05/22

A Taste of Thursday

a four o’clock grey dawn,

early to bed means

early doors,

I stand out the back

to taste the day

a cross between 

licking an old penny

and opening a new book,

only a new parent robin stirs

trampolining over the lawn 

worming breakfast,

my god it’s beautiful now but

not much is promised later on,

our Thursday trip to Joan

a threadbare ninety-three

let’s hope she wakes up

albeit each week

she says she doesn’t want to,

over my first coffee

I ponder whether Karolina

and her four-year old

from Ukraine will arrive today

on next door’s doorstep

as planned, 

new lives for old

*

© Graham R Sherwood 05/22

On the Spot

Ten feet up in the wings

perched on a scaffold tower

best seat in the house.

Hoisted clumsily to a three-plank seat 

with only a right-hand glove 

as the lamp gets very hot.

Twelve years old it’s 

a big responsibility, 

a lot to remember 

working the stage right spotlight.

Always yellow for chorus, blue for night

pink for fairy, green for the baddie.

I was never afraid of the demon

played by my friend’s dad Eric

By the end of the week

I was word perfect with the show tunes 

from Carousel, South Pacific, Oklahoma 

and West Side Story.

I got all the jokes, even the grown-up ones,

unscripted mustard sandwich pranks

the prompts, the local hecklers too.

Every evening for one whole week

bookended by two shows each Saturday

I shone my purest pink beam

and sent my undying schoolboy love 

to the good fairy, a teenage goddess

a beauty five years my senior

with never any chance of a smile.

*

© Graham R Sherwood 05/22

Septuazenarian

 my life has spanned seven decades, 

there is little that I need,

simple mantras now signpost my days

my worldly irrelevance lies lightly

on my contentment

I have become sanguine and wise

*

© Graham R Sherwood 05/22

Love Song

the girl in the playground

who first held my heart

ran like an antelope

sang chords like a harp,

the smell of burnt toast

clung deep on her clothes

and Quink ink tattoo stains 

blotted her nose,

it’s her green flashing eyes

I can never forget

when, too young for such feelings

we finally met

I had to run hard to catch

this most beautiful fawn

leaving her suitors

bereft and forlorn

but my whole world crumbled

I half-expected it would

as no boy could move her

like singing songs could

and a lifetime later

I can still hear her voice

now the playground stands empty

I wasn’t her choice.

*

Graham R Sherwood 04/22