A White Russian Christmas

I know, when I see the white cattle egrets
tending the late December fields,
grazing like guinea fowl, gyring like gulls.

I know, when the rains drive straight across,
rinsing blood from the memories,
drenching the log where I cut back thorns
to sit and watch the birds and rains.

Behind the cattle egrets, red broad cows
stand down the horizon,
russet frames for miniatures
of empty portraits in the sky.

Portraits as troubling and graciously vague
as those of long-dead grandsons made
on future daughters by drunken soldiers
killed before next payday.

I know, but know a little rinsing
will irritate me more than cure:
the welcome of an opened door
spoiled by anxious questions.

The red cows turn their horns toward me.
Thorns fragile enough to break
on my finger’s bone, but not before,
slash back at my knife and hand.

– – + + + – – –

I let myself inside the field.
The grass, felt-pressed by sheep,
springs up around my ancient boots
mimicking marches I remember.

Marches like those being made
in Grozny on this Boxing Day
where the only wholly silence is
that of the usually vocal West.

The evil empire bombs soldiers
drunk on ‘kill the infidel,’
a draught drunk in our daughters’ blood
for so many aeons that we are glad

when an empire somewhere draws the line,
then bombs those transfixed on that line flat.
Recording both sides’ transgressions,
gods wish each side good genocide.

I walk the fields the sheep have grazed
and clean my boots in welcome rain.
I thank the gods for Gore-Tex
and pretend to hunt the cattle egrets.

Drawbridge by the Drommedaris

Haze eats the horizon as I stand my watch.
Flocked swallows settle in a second then
flit up into the one remaining swatch
of sky the storm clouds have not painted in.
A woman hangs wet watch to catch the wind.
A yellow duckling bobbles in boats’ wakes
and boys dive where the inner harbour takes
its leave of city and runs to the sea.
The grey comes down as softly as the flakes
of bridge paint that the rust and time set free.

The Drommedaris, built starting in 1540, is a historic fortress tower in Enkhuizen that is now used as a cultural centre and for special events.

What a Piece of Work is Man

(The Bunting’s Aria)

Some years ago I read, I think in Time,
a minister of India, its prime,
had mentioned he liked drinking, mornings, neat,
his urine fresh from, as it were, the teat.

‘Flibbertigibbet,’ I said. ‘It’s time Time’s sued
for passing water tales that wee bit rude.’
The minister left chambers; others fill
his shoes, inserting dry hands in the till.

When Time passed on to buying CNN,
the torch passed to the Sunday Times, wherein
a hack wrote that Mitterrand, the week he died,
enjoyed a meal where he and friends had tried

a table sports event, a biathlon
not needing skis nor skeet but a snuffed ortolan.
They plunged each bird headfirst in Armagnac
then roasted song and body until black.

Eyes watered by his self-imposed scotoma,
each diner cloaked his head to boost aroma
then bit his (the bunting’s) head off, closed his (own) mouth,
throat tight to stop the song from going south.

Each epicure, alone in his own organdie,
filled his mouth (and the ortolan’s) with burgundy
for twenty minutes till the bones were felt
as being up for downing, for heads are slow to melt.

Ducking Out

Mad mallards dabble on the Ijsselmeer.
I do not mind them doing so, for I
am on the Beach Atlantic, where the clear
wish wash of waves unites the dunes and sky.
When winter calls me (sunburn makes me old)
my soul will fly on memories sun braised
from when, together, we fought off the cold:
You, sun, and I, the zest we raised!
‘Ephemeral are us’ and leathered skin
are pittances (our taxidermist clucks!)
when set against the profit that rolled in
when we took sea and left the marsh to ducks.
A moment, Summer. One long moment, please,
till Autumn falls and glorious pleasures freeze.

Morning Glory

The blackbird sings instructions for his son
on how and when and where and why to fly.
His wife looks on and when she thinks he’s done
she shows their son the birdbath. Later, dry
enough for summer, Pa sings of frost and cats,
and Ma chants rhymes of when the berries ripen.
All three birds practise blackbird riffs and scats
as if they’re horns for music God pipes in
to underscore the beauties of this world.
The score extends and galaxies unwind
and hang half out of sight like flags unfurled
on misty moors at dawn while I, half blind
to what they sketch, smile as song fades away
for here birds sing the world alive each day.

The Duck’s Version

Wild ducks compete with children for the shade
in the shallow water underneath this tree.
Tan toddlers pelt their siblings with wet sand.
Few other places the Creator made
compare well with this shallow inland sea
for pretty pleasures. Children understand.

Here they are quiet and happy, and they play
at finding pirate treasure till they swim
into the sunshine. One beached duck eats bread
from a sandwich dropped off earlier today
by a duck-god, he says, daily feeding him.
His story grabs my heart if not my head.