Christmas ‘Eve’ on Spanish Hill

Yeats’ priest persists in baying at my moon
or is it me, too soon exposed to dogs,
who hears the curate and the canine in
each night sound starting black bats from the bogs?

I hug my hands together till the cold
they nursed in solitude begins to thaw.
I tell myself the quietly moving shade
that paces me cannot be what I saw

or thought I saw: Two moons split up the clouds.
The rift revealed the outline of a man
as tall as Yeats was, ragged-edged and wide
enough to be three men, and a wagon span

of oxen boxed with Borax mules for a child
who still believes in Christmas, or in life.
And he or it, or maybe they, all float
up to the here-and-now where fear runs rife.

Some other things cry carols in the mist.
I know the tunes and no one knows the words
or even what the language ought to be
when maidens sing this while the hero girds

his loins to keep them maidens. There’s a lapse
of feeling, tone gets lowered, and the breeze
is a kaleidoscope: all different songs
that I hum with trepidation till I sneeze

and draw the shade’s attention. ‘It is time.’
Its words make me believe again in life
and hope to have some years of it ahead.
The moons illuminate the shade’s Buck knife;

it swings to cut my no’s off and I’m swung
up on the spirit’s back and into space,
and we’re travelling to a linen children’s book
and though its pages, to a secret place.

A golden mountain, talking sheep, a king
and wizards wearing hobbit boots appear
and disappear as pages turn and blur
my vision, or is this mist spun from tears?

‘Behold the wonder,’ a cold voice says.
‘Remember when your world was yours and new
because you thought it so, when you believed?
What happened to it when you thought you grew?’

I see his knife grow handles like a scythe,
and other stories I had stopped believing
come tumbling from an index in my head;
but, even as I cower, the shade’s leaving

and the tome is closing. Collar follows sound
and I’m between the covers of a book
as big and dead as London after hours
and Fagin steals the light each place I look.

And then a tiny toddling chubby sprite
got up in diapers gets up from a crib
and sings the song that Cher sang on that ship
and tells me, ‘Hurry, mortal! Don this bib,’

which makes such little sense of course I do
in hopes that if it’s meaningless, I dream.
‘The hope of your existence!’ Baby says.
‘What scares you so that waking makes you scream?’

‘Why do you act the mummy while you’re living?
Why toss each chance for action on the skip?
You’re courting Death, impression that you’re giving
him, standing head down planning to jump ship.’

I rush to answer: ‘Baby, Sophocles
was write that knowledge brings us gnawed-butt grief.’
The sprite rejoins, ‘I’d like to help you (spell)
but time is up. You’re due to meet my chief.’

More through miasma than through guided flight
we jingle through a jungle of near bliss,
of random joys and broken toys and eyes
made large by Kohl or larger by smack’s kiss

and always Baby hurries onward shouting
‘Don’t you love it, Bubba honey? This is life!’
until the moon refocuses on lawns
where squads troop colours paced by drum and fife.

Tired out, I want to fall but find I’m prone
upon the ground and also to one-liners
and to iambic lines made of ten words
and to Pentecostal virgins, dragons, Shriners

and fatty foods and heavy wines and coolers
propped full with bonefish filleted on ice.
I’m warming to my own made-up religions
when Baby says, ‘We’re here.’ I hear ‘That’s nice’.

Those last two words reveal and introduce
a Voice that I always, always dream
that I will hear and fall in love with, and I do.
Hummingbirds tongue treacle from the stars
and sing it onto Dali’s roof as glue

that anchors tiger paws in Cadaqués
while all their maws meow here at the Falls
and oranges blossom, as I turn to face
this chief muse, goddess, woman who enthrals

me, turns my leaving doubts to shouts of joy
that I drink in silence, laving every part
until like heated helium I fly up
to join her in adventures of the heart.

I hope I wake before I die to write
the strange and joyous things I see tonight.
If I should wake before I die I’ll live
somewhere forever with my Christmas ‘Eve.’

Seven-Up Ages

Shakespeare’s ‘Seven Ages of Man’ monologue from AS YOU LIKE IT wrings well the rungs of lives’ ladders.

Here I attempted, birdlike, to make a deposit on each rung. Consciously choosing limerick form to lighten the Bard’s message, I ended up finding it all too sad for words. As did Shakespeare, perhaps.

Although the resulting limericks made me grin. Wryly.

To the bairn in the puked mules: You’re spraying
with no notion what your pa is saying:
You’ve no choice but Start,
so change diapers, gird heart
for the lead you’ll be ever less playing.

To the lad lusting after his teacher
while avoiding the lash of the preacher:
Your learning will swell
should you stay past the bell
and cosy up to your muse, should you reach her.

To the lover: Lad, be less remorseful!
Get a life. A cold shower. Be forceful.
Eyebrows serenaded
have been trimmed or they’ve faded.
They’re not marks of the brave or resourceful.

To the soldier: You seek reputation
in a bubble of blood that a nation
offers every so often
to winnow its soft men
and harden survivors they ration.

To the justice: You’ve just et a chicken
with a quickness that followers of Wiccan
would deplore had they store,
but they don’t, anymore.
Since you sentenced them all, they’ve been stricken.

To the old: In your dotage you’re trilling
and your edicts which we once found thrilling
are unseemly at best.
You’ve become a weak pest
with a whistle inheritors find chilling.

To the oldest: You hang there forgetting
yourself and the bed you are wetting.
Missing teeth, misting eyes,
a lost sense of surprise.
If you knew, you would find this upsetting.

© Alan Reynolds, 2016

Alive and Kicking

Alive and Kicking-1

I follow thoughts that lead me to despair.
I take their hands and turn them. We head home.
They show me homes that are no longer there
if they ever were. Despair strips comfort bare.
Be rational, I think. That makes things worse.
At the end of time clear vision is a curse.

The jackdaw lands before me, caws my name.
It enquires why I am wasting hours moping.
‘You’re alive. Why are you kicking? You’re not lame
except in chances that you let escape by hoping
for a perfect world you are proof does not exist.’

I try to think things through. The jackdaw flies
before me. Wings beat on my dismal thoughts
until they are exposed for what they are.
I laugh and chase the morning and the bird.


The hill-hung house wakes to another day.
Behind it, up the mountainside I’ve climbed,
I stand inside an early-morning cloud
that waits for the rising sun to wipe it out.
The chiggers waiting in the Queen Anne’s Lace,
the ticks in the path, the web across my face,
and the thorns in every locust tree I touch
persuade me I have not changed much coming home.
But I who have returned am other than
the molecules I was when I ran down
the mountain to the college and the sea.

The flaking house paint shows me chalky grey
foundation boards the garden snails have slimed.
Beneath the porch where once a possum cowered
and played it died each time I’d jump or shout,
I see the wagon that we used to race
and I do my very best but still can’t trace
my old acquaintances. They used to matter much,
I tell myself, and scratch names in the loam
that covers where, back then, a small brook ran
from just above the house down through the town
in search of deeper waters, just like me.


I am not sure exactly who I am
nor precisely who it is that I am not.
We meet and mingle without smoke or sham,
then separate, but share a common lot.
Not empathetic any way that counts,
we are more a blurring of the borders books
ascribe to personalities: an ounce
of human-kindness traits, a pinch of rooks’
and God knows what. In forests I am trees.
On beaches I am cloud and surf and sand.
I am the universe each time I sneeze
and it is me each morning when we stand
on the bridge to all tomorrows, and the rain
comes down like prayer, and we begin again.


The fish caught seconds earlier, not dead
but less than happy in the summer air,
lies pressed upon the bank’s long grass and reed
until his captor cuts the hook with care
and tells onlookers while a fish may bleed
it can’t feel pain. Like it, onlookers stare
until it leaps. Then, noticing it’s free,
the fish regains the stream, the lake, the sea.

We too played fishers when our world was young,
and hooked whatever bit, and profited
for many noons, and now that shadows long
themselves for cover, we call salmon squid
and quid for quo stands for our marching song.
When you asked me did I love you, then I did,
and we, proud we had legs, took evening walks
investing energy in whispered talks.

What hooked us and we looked upon as love
while reeling, each of us, the other in,
was evolution, golden treasure trove
of progress down from mindless bug to sin
and up from there to faith in an Above
elusive as it’s precious. Don’t begin.
We’ve heard each other out too many times
and know what happens when one of us climbs

beyond our station. Our red-marrow bones
lack the air fillings of the natural flier.
We sink, in spite of aspiration, home
into the river. What was our desire
gels into habit, and inside our room
we throw each other’s papers in the fire
we hope will keep the creeping cold outside
with the dark we sense approaching our blind side.

The salmon who escapes the dam, the bear,
and anglers paying through the nose to kill,
spawns far upstream, at home for its last hour.
Depleted, safe, successful for a spell,
it glories in the sunset of its power
before the scavengers eat its free will
and its predestination, and its flesh.
So little of us passes through the mesh

of the nets that are our destiny, our death.
Descended from the fish who chanced on lungs,
we each, more relative each passing breath,
say absolute good-byes. As sapient beings
we think we know that absolute’s the dearth
of love and living, a sinking pond rock’s rings
that can’t feel pain. I hurt as I break free,
and follow you in stream, and lake, and sea.

Mad Mackie’s Elevenses

‘I shall want chocolate biscuits served with hot white coffee.’
(I have been out half the morning harrowing snakes
with ‘adoring combs’. (That’s what the French maid calls them.
(The upstairs maid (‘adoring’ should be ‘Darwin’.
(I’m speaking parenthetically because
it’s Thursday up on Pluto which as a child I did adore.
Since it’s no planet now, adieu, no more.))))
‘The badger’s back. I see it in the garden.’
‘No, milord,’ the butler sighs. ‘A mole.’
I’m out of my depth. I debit depth perception.
I credit Cyril (the butler) with a win.
We are painting politicians’ faces on clay pigeons
for a garden party I have plans to give.
‘If that’s not the badger, that mole’s the badger’s twin.’