Monday, 26 October 2009

Climbing the Blockhaus

Climbing slowly through a horsefly cloud,
swatting away settlers on my sweat.
Weaving for shadows in the August heat;
the sweet relief of a southside tree.
I glance at my own sunshot image
photographed upon the sizzling road:
me and a swarm of irritants like
demons from my own desire.

Further, and the olive groves concede
to wild scrub and wood.
A sparrowhawk flips over and drops
where the Apennines rise
-as I hairpin back and up, up, again.
Pretoro lies below me now - the shade
of its cliff face alleys a memory.
The road is scribbled with chalk-
Forza Di Luca! Di Luca, the local boy.
I reach Passo Lanciano where I could rest
by the sleeping ski-lifts.

But further revolutions call me,
to turn and grind, creaking to the top.
Beech trees overhang for a mile or so
until I graft through their coolness
to the scree covered slopes
and the last open climb to the summit.
This is Merckx's battleground,
up here on a white track in the baking sun,
on the peak of Italy's spine.

I rest my bike beside the sign,
re-hydrate and through the sparse
air gulp the cascading view,
then turn for the downhill run.
Relishing the divine synergy, I wind,
lean and slide through the hairpins.
I feel the air thicken and the temperature rise
and "vai, vai, vai!"
- this time I'm far too fast for the flies!

Published in "Italian Cycling Journal"
c. Marc Woodward

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Cnut Raises His Hand

Henry of Huntingdon, the 12th-century chronicler, tells how Cnut set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes; but the tide failed to stop. Cnut leapt backwards and said "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws." He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again.

There at the blowing edge of land
pushed forward in hope, they brought me
enthroned in gold on trickling sand.
The broad sky decreasing; the infinite sea.
Wind whinnying over the Marram dunes
its cold, striating, whiplash tunes.

I raise my hand to the thoughtless sea
where grey waves curl, collapse, build;
come back voracious, oblivious to me.
My throng at last stand quiet and still.
I lift my head, my eyes, I drop my hand:
No sea has stopped at my command.

A wooden cross will wear my golden crown,
while I before a truer King kneel down.

c. Marc Woodward


The old woman picked "Pomegrenades"
carefully holding the handle, securing the pin,
she placed them in her basket.
Gingerly avoiding the land mines,
she moved down to the salad garden. The rocket
launchers were growing tall: higher than last year's bazookas.
She heard a blackbird sing from somewhere within
the camouflage netting cast over the fruit cage.
The vine was heavy with bullets: ("Grapes Of Rage");
she must return with her trug and a magazine.
The nail bombs looked like artichokes -"Jerusalem"
it said on the tag: she placed one into a bag.
Looking at the sky she felt the dusk
cosseting in. She should pop to the shop
before it got dark. Light the fire, think about tea.
Leave the garden locked up securely.

c. Marc Woodward

Editors Pick at '' 12/2009
Published in 'Making Contact' poetry anthology, Ravenshead Press, 12/2012

Media Romance

It was really quite romantic
just like a hair spray ad.
He offered her a scarlet rose,
the last the florist had.
She thought the flower beautiful
'though only still a bud,
she had no way of knowing
this rose had roots in mud.

He asked her for a drink right then,
she considered for a while
(not wishing to appear too keen),
before agreeing with a smile.
They went into a little bar
a short way up the street.
He ordered her a glass of wine,
himself a whisky, neat.

He told her that his name was Mike,
a 'Key Man' in P.R.
He had a 'spread' near Swindon
and a large teutonic car.
He was needed in the city
so he kept a pad in town
he'd be pleased to "have her over"
whenever she was down.

He reached across the tabletop
and placed his hand on hers.
Just then there was a blinding light:
a flash, a click, a whirr.
"Damn that bloody man!" he said,
"I'll sort him out this time
-and he was gone just like a shot,
or a sprinter from the line.

So on her homeward train that night
she gave it all some thought.
She looked again upon the rose
the creepy git had bought.
But now the bud was opening
it was easy to perceive,
this rose was not perfection
it was eaten with disease.

She cursed herself for getting caught,
the things she should have seen.
On his hand the untanned band
where a wedding ring had been.
She realised that the camera man
must be his wife's detective;
she threw away the bloody rose
by any name defective.

c. Marc Woodward


at low tide

there is a wide sandbank

in the river.

a flat island

where gulls peck for lugworms

and the oystercatcher's shrill call

skims the water.

on summer days

you can canoe to this island

and on the hard wave-slapped sand, stay

until the rising, turning tide

washes you away.

there in the night

when land splits the surface

it cracks a moving, shining mirror,

breaking the moon's quivering face

into light stippled and

silver rippled, lace

like sand puddles.

lost and reclaimed, midnight to noon.

this lonely seagiven land,

this land in the call of the moon.

c. Marc Woodward