Category Archives: Poems

Laudate Si’

Laudate Si’

Hi Friend!
Why, what an unexpected joy
To see you wink audaciously
On this evocative September day.
With dusky eyes and fiery tints
Of hips and haws and teasing hints
Of russet leaves and blackberries
As autumn all abundantly

Thus evermore
You’ll make me think of summer days
Of jaunts and hikes and holidays
Of scones and cream and Devon ways,
Of sea and sand and stony tracks
And cycle rides along the shore.
Of cobbles strewn with bladder wrack
And oh a universe of bliss
To explore.

Until today
You conjured only Christmas snow,
And planting daffodils in faith
That spring will spring and gardens grow.
You pose against a wintry sky
And watch the sweep of garden spade
As from the frosty fragile earth
A loveliness for you and me
I sow.

But then I thought,
What if our children’s children know
Only a cliché on a Christmas card,
An icon of a kinder age.
And emblematic blame.
What if a more than inconvenient loss
Extinguishes your flame?
You see my wastefulness and urge you must….
And I confess, I ought.

The extra mile

Och an extra mile is easy when the sun is riding high,
As we paddle in the burn or sit and laze beside the track;
The fluffy clouds scud prettily across an azure sky,
And with purple dusk descending no-one’s anxious to get back……
Why then, we’ll go an extra mile.

Och an extra mile is easy on an undemanding trail,
With spaced-out contours telling of an easy, gentle climb;
The obligatory distance is complete and yet there’s time
For a detour to the reservoir or down the leafy dale ……
Why then, we’ll go an extra mile.

Och an extra mile is easy when we’re chatting with our friends,
As the path winds round the pastures, through the woods and then descends
Besides the tumbling river, and although it’s getting late, we’ll
Have argument and laughter to beguile us till our meal ……
Why then, we’ll go an extra mile

But when the way is difficult with scary streams and stiles;
And fearful friends need help along the paths above the lochs;
And circumventing cows requires a hand-up over rocks;
And a cheery word is needed to endure the final miles ……
That’s when we’ll go the extra mile!


In Gaza children play beneath a twenty-six foot tower;
There’s civil war in Syria while the Yemen’s on the brink;
The Afghans know the Taliban will soon be back in power,
And the Arab spring is stuttering while Egyptians double-think.
Of all the bloody mess!

In Rwanda troops are meddling in Republican unrest;
Koreans go ballistic so the NATO budgets soar;
The UN fails the Goans, as the Malians protest
That Timbuktoo is next up in the Sahel-Sufi war.
Of all the bloody mess!

With the Euro sliding southwards, the wretched PIGS default;
Though the populace is earning less, the GDP must rise!
The Brussel’s 23 demand another round of cuts
While the Footsie views the Merchel/Hollande union with surprise!
Of all the bloody mess!

And here at home since Amazon and Starbucks cheat on tax,
Austerity’s the byword for the young and old and poor;
The bosses grab their bonus as the workers face the axe,
And the country’s debt will be repaid by people spending more?
Of all the bloody mess!

In a poky little stable with an inner muddy pit,
The rats consume the manger-hay and cattle gently piss;
The cord is cut, the after-birth is dumped on donkey shit,
And God slips through eternity to enter time for this –
To share our bloody mess.

Writer’s Block

I can write of Rutter carols tritely piped by festive choirs,
Of toothless Rudolph reindeers all complete with nose and sleigh;
Of the holly and the ivy round a thousand Gothic spires,
And city streets illumined with a ceremonial switch;
But of Christmas there seems nothing more to say.

I can write of ever-presents, festal food and merry cheer,
Of a Barclaycard bonanza and the struggle to repay;
Of tax returns, statistics and the fiscal end-of year,
Of bonuses, inflation, and a quantitative hitch;
But of Christmas there seems nothing more to say.

I can write of winter walking – of the muted sallow shades
Of the cattle treading mud around the farmer’s scattered hay;
Of slithery birch and beech leaves sliding down the forest glades,
Of impenetrable windfalls, and an unexpected ditch!
But of Christmas there seems nothing more to say.

I can even write of football – of the passion and the thrills;
Of the managerial pressure of a game on boxing day;
Of the January window, squad rotation, and the skills
Of Gerard’s curving strike to team-mates half-across the pitch!
But of Christmas there seems nothing more to say.

So I shall write of genesis, the promise of new-birth;
A second chance to sing with stars along the milky way:
A lexicon of words made flesh – of just and right and worth,
And a topsy-turvey world of last and first and poor and rich:
For at Christmas there is always more to say!

The cat next door

The cat next door flops in through the cat flap,
Blinks at Richard Holloway and drops to the floor;
Nimbly negotiates the David Stow piles and
Gives a saucy wink as he stalks to the door!


The cat next door is white with ginger patches;
Cariad is black with a foreign-sounding name:
But neither seems to notice as they madly chase
Round the fresh-washed kitchen in hectic game!


The cat next door has no divine pretensions,
Never reads theology, could not be called devout;
Wouldn’t know unction from the incarnation,
Hardly ever troubled by Dawkinsian doubt!


The cat next door is a tad antisocial,
Seldom says ‘thank-you’ or sends a wee card;
Shamelessly licks his private parts in public,
Ruffles up our rugs with cheerful disregard!


But the cat next door is gentle with the old,
Honouring six-legs with a Cheshire-cat smile;
Wise with the wise in a shared understanding,
Time ticking gently as they both nod awhile.


And now he’s in our crib cooried down in the straw,
Sure of his welcome with the shepherds and kings;
Absolved and accepted by the child in a manger,
Bright eyes attentive as the angel sings;
Reaches to the baby with a hesitant paw –
What a lot we have to learn from the cat next door.

Were you up for this?

Were you up for it in Jan’ry on that blustery wind-swept day
When we slogged our way up Conic in a stormy, force-ten gale;
With our anoraks and trousers and our hats in disarray
And our toes and ears and noses turned a whiter shade of pale?
Oh the aching bones and muscles and the anguish of despair
As we staggered to The Oak Tree. Were you there?

When the sodden May-buds nodded in the car park of The Crook
And we gulped our coffee swiftly while the mugs refilled with rain;
Do you doubtfully remember the uncertain path we took
Across the rainswept hill to join the railway route again?
As we clumped around the farmer in the damp and chilly air
To learn about the lambing, were you there?

Did you disembark in August with your heavy boots and heart
As we stood on Rannoch Moor among the midges and the mire;
And clad in rain-proofed rainwear sadly saw the bus depart
And dolefully and woefully watched the elements conspire
With bog and swamp and sludge and muck and puddles everywhere
On the path to Bridge of Orchy. Were you there?

Did you stride along the pavement on that day beside the sea
With the glistening flags reflecting all the lights around the bay;
As we passed the Shutters Green where we looked forward to our tea
Did you contemplate the clamber to the Knock with grim dismay?
Did you marvel at the stunning scene with every prospect fair
Beneath the darkening shadows. Were you there?

And following a reccé when a warm and vibrant sun
Flamed out across an azure sky to make the bracken glow;
Did you turn up sharp at Muirshiel just anticipating fun
To find a thoughtful Met had organised a day of sleet and snow?
And as the rescue trucks raced up across the hillside bare
To resuscitate the stranded. Were you there?

But oh you lazy lie-ins who turn over with the clock
And snuggle down within the cosy comfort of your bed
And from your sleepy viewpoint peep out sheepishly to mock
Your comrades as they boldly go where angels fear to tread.
You will never know the passion and the pride beyond compare
As we shout with Bold King Harry – I was there!

The child in winter

One more Christmas I can really do without!
Celebrating humbug with a half-cock shout!
All that hassle over tinselled nothingness.
All the hollow happiness and hostile peace.
Well-meant gifts of consumerist trumperies;
Tied-up parcels of synthetic flummeries;
Counterfeit affection under plastic mistletoe;
Imitation robins in the ersatz snow.
Lack-lustre glitter from a fraudulent star
And angel dummies mouthing glory from afar.
Starched and ruffled choirboys insincerely sing
In sanctified museums while the taped bells ring.
Non-drop needles from an inorganic spruce,
And a hormone-fed, cooped up, taste-free goose.
Full-up, fed-up, filled with alcoholic cheer
And still remaining senseless with each new year.


But Winter is come irrefutably real.
Whipping into senses with talons of steel.
Hard the callous ground beneath relentless wind;
The burn stands frozen by the barren furrow.
Hunger in the mouth of the dog fox and hind,
The dark eyes staring in the sett and burrow.
Sharp black tree limbs puncturing the sky,
Crystallised hoarfrost pricking out the thorn.
Out in the world hear creation’s icy cry
At the gruelling pain of another dawn.
Passionless with cold, the spirit robbed of breath,
Yearning for salvation from a sterile earth;
Yet focussed fundamentally on life and death,
The cosmic universe waiting for rebirth.


Therefore was the naked God-in-Child laid low,
Not at Merry Christmas, but in Winter’s snow.

A day to remember

In the winter, I remember, the snow upon the hills,
The sunbeams glancing off a million molecules of white.
Below, the world inverted in the mirror of the loch,
And soaring high above us, Ben Vane’s majestic height.
Imprinted now, precisely, upon the inward eye,
Each tree and branch outlined by frost against an azure sky.

And in the spring, I recollect, such days of vibrant green
As would make our dormant laughter bubble up in childish glee;
Along the River Avon or across the Firth of Clyde
The shooting crops in furrowed fields aslanting to the sea.
And life alive in primroses and daffodils once more,
A snapshot of renewal to delight and reassure.

In the summer, I remember, a day of grey and black,
As rain thrashed down across the boat and turned the sea to stone.
And louring clouds beyond the bow hung heavy on Argyll,
As we made our kindly-welcomed but untimely way to Strone.
And there a home, a warmth, a drink, our misery to assuage;
Nostalgia stock-piled high to stoke the memories of age.

In the autumn, I remember, a day of bronze and gold;
A tumble of the beech and birch beneath our skipping feet;
The speckled bracken strewn beside the russet twisting paths,
As we climbed the loving hillside to a fond memorial seat.
And ever now, a bright autumnal day will bring to mind,
A group above Glen Finlas in the memory enshrined.

But now I’m growing older and with counted days ahead,
And every one more precious than a whole year left behind.
No more the time of childhood, meshed and blurred with long ago,
Nor the busyness of working, now to yesteryear consigned.
And each day lived a smaller part when taken with the sum,
And yet a larger portion of the years that are to come.

And time’s distortion magnifies those days among the hills,
Each hotter, wetter, colder than the photos verify;
Each one seems longer, lovelier, a fusion of content,
More rich, more real, more godly, as the fading years go by.
And all that’s left are booklets, the birthday dossiers,
The much-loved recollections of those oft-remembered days!


I love the end of day
When the evening falls,
And the resting sun
Skims the rim of the hill,
Sending grey shadows
To meet the gentle dusk.

The miles are ended and
The contours climbed;
Only the leaf-mould now,
Soft on the kindly path.
Ahead, beyond the turn,
Voices drift on the air.
All is contentment.

And if, at the end of day,
The distance covered and
The challenge of the climb
Discharged with honour,
I plot a gentle path
Among the psalmist’s hills,
The sunlight beckoning
Beyond the shadows,
I shall go home content.

Pause Point

And so,
We met at church at half past nine,
And then,
Said something witty which inter-wove our walk all day.
And on the way we lost two car-loads down a country lane
Who turned up over coffee while we booted up and counted legs
Dividing the result by two (or four),
Guessing who was here (or there)
We set off up a well-trod path enticing us into
A world of needled green
And cones and stones and out
On to the heathery, bouldered shoulder of the hill.
And as we climbed beside the burn
We argued eschatology
And politics and psychology
And physics and philosophy
Till Robin shouted ‘lunch’!

And then,
I stood aside the path
And saw the icon of eternity
Displayed twixt hill and heaven;
The cattle on a thousand hills,
And sun to make our faces shine,
And strength as of the eagle,
And knew that it was good.

And then,
The dogs bore down all logs and legs
And we climbed on past bogs and crags
Until we peaked and tiredly turned
With laundered minds and buoyant hearts
Alight with laughter.
And after,
We had egg and chips and fish and chips and Shepherd’s pie
And said goodbye and drove home safe and satisfied
Dead beat, alive.
And I was left outside the church
With Irene’s sock and Lily’s stick,
At half past nine.