Outside the door of the cottage a tin bath
is settled roundly on grass.
At one
with the sides of the bath and the water a child
is at home in the sun.
The light pours down on Pill Cottage.
A shack by a lake at the end of the War,
in which, from the dark of babyhood, I came to.

A humming-top, rag animals, jigsaws on trays …
a long walk to the butcher’s alone, tossing up pennies
into the air … a first discovery
of the ferns of words on a page …
I took my breath from the sea
in the village of Coverack, one of its plants and animals,
till the hands of a clock swept round, and we left Cornwall.

My first whole memory
is of the bath and my father washing me.


Out of step as a child,
a scrap of night, behind a family door
that had slammed without a sound –
still I had kin. A chance
had landed me in the loveliest garden,
a wood of wildness.
Safe outside
I had a space to be, to occupy,
a leaf of Nature.
I would sit
in a tree all day to the end of a book.
I watched
two yellow spiders once dance up and down
a web for hours.
In the long garden wall
I knew where all the nests were.
Hill House School
lent me an arm at the back of the family silence,
and whispered a word to me.
This was my time as a boy of Buckinghamshire.


Merely a jumble of roads, and paths by streams,
was my own web. Oxford
a dozen years you let my grimy soul
hang on.
The choking byways
of secondary school at first entangled me:
but I could breathe.
A white bridge on the water
opened into a greenness.
Magdalen Tower
gazed down at the school field.
Christ Church Meadows
heard an undergraduate’s faltering step.

The past was my support. The friendly clock
at Carfax clicked me simply into Now.

Words emboldened me. Poetry’s note
breathed from a young tree in the Botanic Garden.

The future was all bells.


Still unready for light I lurked
in a filthy tenement room.

My shoes tapped up and down Byres Road.

Anonymous as the flagstones
that rang the hollowness of St George’s Square,
I had set sail from an enchanted island,
to meet a city’s rock head-on.
the ship of my past foundered at your gates.
I ran back South.
But always
in later days, on a loud way in London,
I turned towards a tall town in my heart:
Lady of Scotland, mother of work and warmth,
who sent me packing.
Still she nurtures me,
now as then, beside the Kelvin stream.


A classroom floor
in Islington taught me to stand up.
An age
of London streets with all their history
marshalled me, deep into my own time,
to work and back.
Both sides of the Thames
gave me free going.
In Acton, Streatham Common,
and in South Wimbledon, where my family grew,
I felt the light and dark of England.
of London children drove a bull-head way,
in blind requirement of the growing force,
clean through my being.
is more refreshing.
the eddying storm-dust there’s a way to find
the sanest weather.


Off out
into where into what? Tired of unseeing
round the edge of the globe, I took a guess
and followed a hunch.
rustled a canvas of the old and new
of endless depth. Light dark
and a great sound crashed down about.
a dozen years you taught a Western soul.
The idle sun glanced down
at where a writer-teacher, on no errand,
paused a moment by the river Ganga
merely to be, and see.
And all
my days in a charged city came to this:
that I was seen.


There is another place
to be.
Over in one direction
a stand of trees.
Out of sight but near
the pulsing of the sea.

Somewhere in rare-dear Britain
(to borrow a word-shape of a brother poet),
there is another home. To an old island
I turn my face, to teach and learn. And the wind
of countless life, and light of the stars of time,
shall take me on.
Pebbles of my words
lie here and there.
I am reminded
home is itself a journey.

The hands of a clock sweep round.

I am at one
with the frame of the world.

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