Wednesday, 20 April 2016

5 Poems by Michael Bartholomew-Biggs


This morning is clear as its conscience. 

Spring-loaded lambs have much to do:
they nibble, suckle, chew an itching limb
and waste no curiosity
on random darts by phantom mice,
wind-startled in the longest grass.
The mother-sheep, attentive but unfussy,
make secret husky-toned announcements,
repeated bleats of mutual reassurance
familiar as a nursery rhyme. 

Somewhere else a shotgun kicks the air.
A low slow magpie flaps across the field
in sorrow for a promise to be broken. 


Spring bluebells over wooded slopes
celebrate retaking of the ground
with flourishes of colour and assertive song
birds declare possession of all trees. 

Look, you say, and listen, you exclaim.
This green world only shines for you
to mirror back at me with joy
and hope to strike and glimpse a glint
that answers you from underneath
the tarnish that’s attached itself
to my too-long neglected senses. 

Woodland blossoms spreading sudden fragrance
persuades you to believe the summer’s promise
is arriving with the wheeling swallows. 

Perhaps you think this year they will not leave us. 


He has to learn to handle anger
he’s been trying to deflect
with grievance-words that don’t reflect
how puppets dangled into danger
feel when cheated of the chance
to influence their own advance.
He holds no ground he can defend. 

He’s lost the freedom to pretend
the rules that put him in this place
include exceptions for his case.
He’s isolated in a crowd
and misinterprets all the signs
which others read between their lines;
and any move he tries is disallowed. 


If Jonah had been keen to visit
Nineveh in any case –
to marvel at its architecture
or to try the local spices –
he’d have had more ground for doubting
it was God Who’d sent him there. 

And then he might have been content
to fit a bit of casual preaching
on the side. Just making contact ,
I can almost hear him say,
but nothing over-obvious.
No need of scaring anyone 

least of all myself.
It’s not
enough for two to have the same
itinerary. Both must know
the other knows beforehand why
the journey’s really necessary. 


Where can we meet him?
We’ll pick out some distant point of light
and walk away from ourselves
towards an “X” that marks the spot –
assuming neither stamina nor compass
will betray us. 

We’re leaving rough shelters
and provisions by the path in case
we must fall back on ourselves.
Starting on a risky journey
is no no time to lose our common sense
of self-importance. 

We’ve grown good at folding
maps we’ve often read and cannot change.
Now we must plot for ourselves
the landscape’s lie the way we please;
there we can tell whoever lets us do so
Be god without us


Michael Bartholomew-Biggs is a retired mathematician living in London. He is poetry editor for London Grip ( ) and also co-organiser for the reading venue Poetry in the Crypt. His latest collections are Fred & Blossom (Shoestring Press, 2013) and Pictures from a Postponed Exhibition (with artwork by David Walsh) published by Lapwing Press (2014). 

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