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The Walking City

The Doom of the Age was approaching fast
The streets of the city were filling with sand
The skies grew ever more dark, and the last
Hours of pity would soon be at hand

Supplicants prayed to their stone-faced idols
Scheming and dreaming, they hoped to awake
From a lifetime of dust – and the lost, suicidal
And suffering people would see the storm break

But the Gods had their plans and the dark was drawn near
And the palaces shuddered in awe and in shame
For the ancient stone walls and the holy sincere
Would all soon crumble and fall both the same

But the dread of the end, and of facing the dark –
The fear of slaves and their masters –
Did not touch one who hid in the bowels of the Ark
And who bolted the doors ‘gainst disaster

For the flood was coming across their world
Ending long years of hunger and drought
As the old ones foretold, the distant winds whirled
And the lights in the high towers flared and went out

The bells rang in panic and cold ran the blood
As cries and laments tore open the night
And the land become lost in the black, and the flood
Flowed round the island of flickering lights

But deep in the tunnels, in dungeons and mines
And through the foundations and catacomb walls
There rushed a blood of some rare design
The Warrior Priest had summoned it all

This drowning city was sinking and screaming
The sea and the storm triumphant again
But beneath it all, called out of dreaming
A Colossus drew breath, woken by Men

A Golem, Homunculus, creature of mud
Born from the depths of the heaving earth
Lifting the land from the swirling flood
Thunder roared forth at his monstrous birth

The city rose high upon his spine
The mountain man was awaking
Stone flesh and bone stood strong and fine
‘Midst the bellowing and the quaking

The people, wide-eyed, looked down on the waves
As the giant stepped out across the sea
And in his heart – a jewelled cave –
The Warrior Priest held the key
That had opened the veins and opened the eyes
Of this man with his head in the clouds
With magical science from an Age so wise
It believed the Unknown – and so did the crowds
Who ran to their homes as the city walked on
Over river and road, fortress and farm
Sailing the sky with danger long gone
Carried in safety, unhindered, unharmed

The city folk slowly return to their lives
And the days turned into years
How soon they forgot, those who survived
Their once so terrible fears

But the feet of the city can never find rest
As it stamps across the world
An ancient darkness beats in its chest
Where the Warrior Priest forever lies curled
Up in a crack of the crystalline heart
That powers the walking city
He lies with his books and his keys and his art
As dead as to need no more pity

This visionary mystic, so deep underground
Gave up his spirit, and offered his life
To uncover and plunder the magic he found
A hero; a fool; a great sacrifice

So – without any map, destination, or plan
The Colossus goes forward forever
And the city grows melancholy mad
Weary of wandering, yet pulled by a tether
By a traveller chosen from journeyman stock
A lookout; to guide where his massive feet fell
A flesh-grain of sand, leading the rock
And not one amongst thousands can break the spell

For the Doom of the Age is now long since passed
While their prison is safe – both a curse and a gift –
And eternally moving through continents vast
They vanish in mystery, legend, and myth…

A part of the Fable and Folklore collection

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The Gar Tree

The Hundred of the shire took shelter in my shade
Long, long ago when the land was freshly laid
And I, already ancient, stood upon the tribal border
A maker post, a beacon, a sign of law and order

Where the people of the shires and the forests and the towns
All gathered ‘neath my branches with no axe or coin or crown
They met on level ground – those who toil upon the land
Those who sow and reap and harvest, those who work with blister’d hands

Those who preach and those who listen, those who give and those who take
The highbrow and the lowly – I hear all the noise they make
And I watch with timeless eyes as they sit upon my roots
With their bread and their ale and their ragged leather boots

And I, the ancient Gar tree, marked a place for man
To make the rule of law that would bind him to the land
And all across the Ages, and across the rolling hills
From the valleys and the villages you see me standing still

Though I am but a shadow on the concrete of the town
My leaves fill up the gutters, and my branches tangle round
The tower blocks and corner shops, my roots drink up the rain
My fingers reach out to the sun and fill the streets with shade

And I, the ancient Gar tree, with my memories of green
Will grow in English soil, eternal and unseen…
And the Hundred of the shire now sleep in dreamless night
And I shelter them in darkness and await the dawning light

And I, the ancient Gar tree, will once again grow tall
Every heart
In every leaf
I will hold them – all

A part of the Black and White collection

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The man who never was

Nothing you know of us is true

History would have us Magi, Astrologers, Philosophers
Learned counsellors of the realm
Wise men of the East
We read the message hidden deep inside the old scripture, and recognised the sign of the star when it came
We followed the light that signalled the arrival of the Christ Child, which lead us far from home, travelling the silk routes of the Middle East toward Jerusalem
Towards the prophecy fulfilled
Towards the birth of a legend
This much is true

But we were not Gaspar, Melchyor or Balthasar
Nor were we Hor, Karsudan or Basanter

We bore no gifts
And we had no belief – only hope

If we had been truly wise we would never have chosen you
We would have let you grow in peace and anonymity, free of the burden of expectation
Without our Blessing, you may have lived as a man, rather than died as a god
But we were blind, and not so wise

We followed the signs, adding our voices to those clamouring for a leader, and we set the seal on your fate
You believed you were up with the gods, and, for our sins, we helped to put you there

We set you on the path

From the mewling child we found beneath the stars, through thirty years of posturing and performing, to the stark moment at hand – long after sunset, long after your soul has slipped free of its mortal bonds, long after your mother and your brother and your lover have abandoned you – we return to see you brought safely down to earth
You are a child grown old
And we, we three kings
We are so very sorry that we could not save you

Already your Disciples run to their followers to mythologise you. You are flesh and blood transformed, a living scripture, continually reinvented and sold to the whole world
A man that never was, who will assuage our fears and sanctify our hopes…

Your flesh is cold to the touch as we lift you down from the cross; the wounds in your wrists are deep, the pain of your death is etched into the lines of your face, and the thorns of the fool’s crown have sunk deep into the tangles of your hair
We will stay with you and pray for you, even as this night becomes history
And history becomes story
And the story travels away from this moment
Away from this land
Away from this time
On and on into the future
Gathering momentum
Becoming larger than life
Larger than death…
Until we all believe we know you

Whether worshipped or reviled, you will belong to us all
And centuries from now all the peoples of the world will own you, and disown you, will believe in you, and leave you, will find joy in you, then destroy you
Your image as a potent source of peace, love and hatred will hang suspended on walls too numerous to count, forever crucified, forever deified, forever misunderstood

You will bring unity, comfort and salvation
You will bring division, death and suffering

For the Holy Peace and Holy War yet to come, we are truly sorry

We wipe away the blood from your wounds, and in the darkness the hordes that will die in your name wait to be born.
The man who falls, heavy and dead, from the wooden cross comes to rest on the stony ground of Calvary. We roll him over and wash his limbs. We place a jewel upon each eye and a pinch of spice in his open mouth. We bind his thin body in clean white cloth and wrap him tightly until his shroud is complete.
Soon he will rest in the tomb close by that lies open ready to receive the bodies of the condemned
The bodies of the purified dead
The bodies of the men who never were

He will take his place amongst the prophets, martyrs and holy men, and add his silent voice to theirs
Another corrupting layer that will roll like an obscuring fog over all that is true, sending us further from the light and even deeper into the blindness of being human
Soon we must take our leave of you, as you have taken your leave of us, and return to the East
Under the sun and under the moon, we travel over the living land, and off the page of history…

And you will not return

There will be no resurrection

But for a million lost souls in all of the far reaches of the wide world, from this quiet night in the desert, on into the unimaginable future, your name will bring solace
The needy, the sick and the desperate will glorify this perfect moment and will reach out to a man who never was

And find peace

A part of the Fable and Folklore collection

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A Night at the Theatre

One star in the darkness
A tiny window glowing
A speck of light in the endless night –
This is where we’re going…
Follow me on soundless wings
Towards this shining place
Feel yourself grow warm and real
As you enter its embrace
And shake the cold from your lazy limbs
Let life stretch out your bones
And, blinking in the sudden light
Breathe in the scent of home
Allow me, Sir and Madam
To take your hat and coat
Your scarf and gloves and muffler
And the diamonds at your throat
Your watch and chain and mobile phone
Your wallet and your keys
And now you all are ready
So follow this way, please…

The auditorium lies within, somewhere straight ahead
Come with me down corridors, soft and deep and red
The air is thick and warm as you slip in through the doors
Into a darkness flecked with gold, and, just above the stalls
The circle and the gallery, high up in the gods
In the shadows sits a figure, who looks down at you and nods
The audience is waiting – find a space, take a seat
And the lamps will slowly dim until the blackness is complete
There’s a movement from behind you, a shadow deep as death
And empty as eternity, will make you catch your breath
A moment of confusion – a fluttering in the dark
The sound of rustling paper wings, then suddenly – a spark
Small at first, but slowly growing, crackling in the gloom
Until above your heads there spins a full and sparkling moon
That fills the auditorium – a luminous balloon
Which holds a sleeping figure in its white and glowing womb
A sudden pulsing shakes the air, the body slowly stirs
And the moon folds in upon itself with tiny clicks and whirrs
Little shards of lightning they flicker and uncurl
And the figure grows and crackles as its arms and legs unfurl
And you gasp in wonder as the wings roll out from side to side
And the Aviator stands up tall with white arms open wide
Flying cap and goggles, a propellor at his throat
He stretches out his fingers and adjusts his long white coat
Sculpted out of frozen cloud he looks down from the ceiling
Towering over all of you his voice betrays no feeling
His stony lips unmoving, but his eyes shine, full of life
his words cut through the shadows like a blazing, ice-cold knife…

‘And who will be next?’ he says, he says
‘And who will be next?’ says he

(The audience shrouded in darkness, stirs, and mutters uneasily…)

‘And will it be you? Or maybe her?
Or him? Or them? Or thee?
I feel your fearful longing
As head and heart disagree
For the spirit yearns to step on the stage
And join the grand parade
But your body is weak, and you stay in your seat
Til the flickering house-lights fade…
No matter – you all have a part in the play
And the dressing room door lies open
I will wake you from your slumber
And you will come because I have spoken
And make your choice of costume from the millions on display
We have every creed and colour, for every class and age
Be ready to learn your lines, for all of you, sooner or later
Will stand upon this stage, and follow the Aviator…’

So come this way my friends
For his finger points at you
Follow the others into the wings
And join the backstage queue
Choose your costume carefully
And try it on for size
Then up to the stage in a jostling group
To hide from the audience’ eyes
Behind the deep red curtain
You line up with your props
Adjust your wig and spectacles
And hear the backdrops drop
The house-lights dim, the stage is set
In character, you pose
The drama of your life begins
So welcome to the show…

The overture is ending, the curtain slowly rises
The people all around you are safe in their disguises
The Aviator points and the spotlight falls on you
Time to act, my friend –

What are you going to do?

Return to the ‘A Night at the Theatre’ collection

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The Dark Inside

(These words kaleidoscopic fall
As puzzle pieces pour
Out from an open searching heart
…I wish they could say more)

So cut me open deep and wide
And look into the dark inside
Where love and hate and foolish pride
Cannot be hidden or denied.

With skin and bone and mouth and eyes
And hearts that are no longer wise
The tangled flesh will joyful rise
And stand in naked cold surprise

And look towards the dusk and dawn
– not complete and not reborn –
A selfish spirit in a storm
Upon a sea with no lines drawn

And many voices in the one
Are calling out to moon and sun
The silences answers from above;
‘Life can be long and lived without Love’

(These words kaleidoscopic fall
I feel them all around
Entwined within a Painted Life
– Yet on unpainted ground)

A part of the Portraits collection

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Let it go and let it fall
Let the burning liquid pour
For we are carried on the flood
And write this story in our blood

Let it fall and let it go
Fast and heavy, sick and slow
The sharpened teeth inside our head
Will peel away the layers of red
Revealing all: the dark, the deep,
And all the others fast asleep

Our skin too thin, too thin to hold
This world so big, so strange, so old,
So full of pleasure, pain and choices,
And all we hear are kindly voices
Urging Hell to drain away
And softly fade into the grey

We’re up
We’re down
We’re black
We’re white
A waking dream both day and night
We’re in and out
We’re hot and cold
We’re shouting dumb
We’re young and old

These words are hard but silence worse
And both are now a lifelong curse
So let it go and let it fall
Feel the real and lose it all

Look up high and down below
No-one’s there so now we know
We are alone, alone indeed
And only you can see us bleed

For up on high with friends we stand
Looking out on childhood’s land
We’ve had it all
We’ve filled our hearts
And now we pull our worlds apart

And where do we, from here, go on?
The Past has rolled away and gone
And we, bled dry, stand up anew
And silent, empty, look for you

A part of the Portraits collection

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In the late nineteenth century, it was rumoured that a travelling circus passed through the wastelands of Eastern Europe, offering a shelter from the winter storms – a haven of magic and mystery. It was widely reported that flocks of doves flew out of hats, spirits spoke of the future, beautiful acrobats vanished into mirrors – and audiences left bewildered and tingling, some of them quite unable to speak.

A part of the Portraits collection