sunlit comets and stars


Often the tranquil beauty of this
riverbank house comes upon one
with abrupt sharp blast of shock –
and never more than time’s chimed
close for us to depart

Turquoise green in late afternoon
the river has turned and hosts
myriad sunlit comets and stars –
accentuation, punctuation within
memoirs of the heart

October with four pairs of French
windows and the house door open
wide to supper preparation and
reading in the slight breeze upon
which pine needles dart

A small passing watercraft leaves
familiar lapping sounds in its wake
holding one’s attention light but
keen much as one might felicitate
upon unsurpassed fine art



Le cimetière de bâteaux du Bono

For years we’ve
come remembering
your voyaging here
long before us and
we hear the gulls
laughing and admire
the industry of
oystercatchers and
the youth of shiny
new acorns as we
note that the comings
and goings of the
tides across your
venerable oak boughs
are quietly returning
you to the ground of
your origins just as
year by year they are
returning us too and
the serenity here
though poignant
holds us in peace


Trinité sur Mer

Burnished gold dawned through
morning mist as soft still curtain
of deep sleep opened to hopes
for Sunday –

spectacularly spun cobwebs
and autumnal dew in intimate
relationship within and without
the river

the sea a rolling green-blue
with wide yellow stretch of
clean sand hosting hundreds of
oyster shells

and us too replete with simple
picnic lunch and the stretched
delight of cyclists set out to
breathe deep

and contemplate the hours
slow before evening celebration
avec bombarde et orgue

orchard dwelling


Let me tell of a scented French apple orchard
set before a house of stone still warmed and
painted gold by setting sun

Better perhaps to tell of it in French? –
but then again right now the language of the
telling really does not matter

For already the picture’s painted clear in you
behind your eyes and in your heart and you
sense without a further word

that you are here



The oystercatcher furtling about in the
mudbanks is silent and focused and the
butterfly and the lizard make no sound
that can be heard above the clank of mast
cables and the gentle river flow beside
which we’re absorbed in Ouest France
and our books into which pine needles
twirl – until the urgent tap-tap-tapping
of the woodpecker we’d forgotten we
met last year raises two smiling pairs of

monday market

Despite my best annual efforts, my somewhat shy awkwardness and male Englishness cannot be disguised at the Monday morning marché – and not just by way of my poor linguistic grasp – no matter how much I long to blend, fluent and unnoticed, into the throng. It’s a native, culture thing, I think, with the French. The absolute confidence of being at home in oneself and in one’s own country. An easy knowing one’s way around. Ready expression of preference and the opposite. The street café as extension to one’s own home. The ability to smoke a cigarette, langorously, as though it were possessed of a thousand positive health-giving properties. The exquisite minuscule goût de café that chides the waxed cardboard pails that pale in comparison. The authenticity of the faded pink (1940s?) shorts and deep-tanned legs. No socks with sandals – without discomfort.

So Monday market here is both celebration of the all-things-French that I love, and mildly painful distraction, a yearning perhaps, like the bewilderment of my first days at primary school long ago. Everything moves so fast. I’ve just worked out how to get into the saddle of the huge rocking horse and it’s time for warm milk (ugh) again. Just made friends with pretty Jayne Matthews and a harsh voice tells me I’m not concentrating – though I’m sure I was. And someone in a hurry pushes me over. Just got the globe spinning with a satisfactory hum and I’m told it’s supposed to be stationary while I look at a bit of it called China or something or other. It’s another world. And I want time to linger, invisible, quite uninterested in being ‘top of the class’ or top of anything. Just wanting to rester ici au le marché. To hear and smell and touch and taste and see. Être. To be.

watching the hours


The Nunnery, Iona

It is our plainchant
watching of the monastic
hours that is our lifeline
here Sister Columba –
for the time they afford for
praise and recall blesses
us with our glad
remembrances of past
present and abiding future

For it was not that we
were running away in
our coming and in our being
here but rather that we
have been possessed of an
absolute holding and an
inbuilt need to be reminded
of the mothering grace
from whence we all came

Ah I recall now when we
made our wedding vows
Sister Columba and caught
true and willing in our
cantor’s prayer we were
pink and young and new and
true and you loveliest of
the brides I had ever seen
or have seen since

And we were clothed in new
habits clean and girded about
with perfumed leather for our
lifetimes and so we have watched
and chanted and panted the hours
and this familiar plainchant
chants plainly the birth of
our coming and of our being
and of our returning

It is our plainchant
watching of the monastic
hours that is our lifeline
here Sister Columba –
Yes: and now the leather
cracked and broken
wedding habits patched and
mended over and over between
countless Magnificats

we have remembered