Why Desire Lines?
Desire Lines, my favourite metaphor for life, are the wandering paths cut through grass, sand and snow where the first walkers tread and others follow. So, this little book opens up some of my wondering, during my wandering.
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Northland – Munros Silent shapes of millennia, we just exist, basking in your awe
Born from searing magma, layered from sea born dust,
Burnt dry by spinning sun, worn by ageless ice and thaw.
Wind howled, drenched, and hollowed by water
A long, long and long way down a slow descent
To beach, to sand and sea,
We do not stare, or serve, or contemplate.
We stand for nothing, we are – we be.
Do not measure us, with your Anno Domini century thinking
We are the detritus and majesty of unnumbered eons,
Grindstoned dumb waiters by your booted tinkling,
Blasted erosions of our former selves,
Scarred observers of your ancestors’ seeing.
Know the truth that we are soulless, dumb and, until today, mute
Left Standing stones to the nothingness of being.
If you do find inspiration and little revelations as you gaze below
Or read worn down pride, or glory in our epic fragments
And climbing, you pause and suddenly know
You too will soon, too soon, be the grits of sandy remnants
Scattered on our slopes (or rotting mucus in our bogs),
Clear your tearful eyes and watch your imagination running away.
Don’t strain your ears for echoes, from our blank faces,
Of what your ancestors might now say.
Rather, turn and beg a fellow traveller to point your way.
"I devoured it on the day it arrived. I absolutely loved it. Not just the obvious ones with professional resonance like The Naming of the SATS, INSTED, and the Superhead's Conference Address, but also the intimate, and personal ones. I was thinking about which was my favourite, but it's impossible to say because there are so many. And that's probably because they show so much versatility in theme and style, and structure. It's a brilliant piece of work! It deserves the widest possible readership. I can see myself dipping into it again and again."
"It's a very naked thing writing poetry - it lets people peer into your centre.
I loved the teaching ones - Super head and OFSTED ones and Oh The Decision! I loved the story and poem about the man collecting leaves by the road and the images stayed in my mind. I envy your ability to write poems for your children as they flew from the nest. I found the notes on the poems very useful as they helped me understand the context.
Early Morning 1999
I have found the early morning again,
Sleepless, wakeful and for once not worrying.
Rising quietly, not wanting to disturb the house
Parting the landing curtain, I can feel
The day expectant but still unreal.
The clock’s uneven tock
A single birdsong from the garden
Misty night, orange light but definitely morning.
In sleepy nostalgia, I stretch and yawning
Fondly remember olden days with just this feel.
Whilst Dad is filling steamy flasks, with tea
And door step sandwiches with Old Oak Ham.
There’s whispered talk and silent tasks for me.
I get the canvas bags with rods and nets,
Creaking fishing basket, the ground-bait, reels and floats,
Then forced to gobble hot treacle on lumpy porridge oats
He smiles, “Shush don’t wake your Mam.”
Or, a hot mug of tea and a snatch of toast
Before lugging heavy cases with shivery expectations
To a grumbling taxi, or trolley bus
Grand transport laid on, just for us
To the smoky railway station for our summer vacation
Somewhere on the coast.
Smiling, cold and shivering once more,
Back to our still warm bed I creep
Knowing my memories are a fine substitute for sleep.
With such mirrors to reflect in and wells from which to draw
I can rise and build a better day, on what has gone before.
"There is the honesty and total lack of affectation with which John reveals the touchstones of his life; the quality and range of the poetry itself, giving us glimpses of his literary heritage; and the care with which he has chosen subjects with which it is so easy to identify. I caught myself smiling with recognition, my memory triggered by images and sounds and longings half forgotten. A stunning debut. You'll have guessed that I can't recommend it highly enough!"