(all poems copyright Kevan Manwaring 2014, please ask for permission to reproduce in any format)
The Disappearing Shore
Sometimes the opposing shore
can be clearly seen –
an undulating band of brown and green and grey
across the blue bay.
The houses of Lonemore,
in their isolated togetherness,
where civilisation seems to peter out,
coughs a single croft,
then hacks up the hairball of Big Sands.
The dour mountains watch on, an inscrutable glint in the eye.
Above, cloud upon cloud is stacked expectantly
like jumbo jets in their steady spirals of descent.
The black arrow of a cormorant draws the eye
one way, the white isosceles of a yacht, the other.
Then, the rain rolls in, tottering pillars
supporting the bloated Jove on his cloud,
casting his messy dictums down upon us
like a fat MP in Westminster.
The thin line of life
is smudged, erased.
We know in our bones another way is there.
Sometimes, glimpses remind us
of other choices we might have made,
might still make.
A vision of how things could be
plays on the inner eye when the light is faintest,
all we have to go on
to cross that gulf of longing.
(written at Tom’s croft, August 2014)
The Mountains of Skye
Beyond each peak, another.
That hard-won summit
a stepping stone
to the next –
although you do not know it
until it is reached.
Epiphanies are not handed out at the drive-thru.
They must be earnt.
Ask the fellow with the scallop-hat,
the blisters and the smile.
The reveal is the reward
for the traveller’s travail.
The peaks rise in ever-increasing
majesty, as though trying to
outdo one another,
be closer to the light.
In their rough glory
hungering for the grace
of feathers and stars.
That vertiginous shift in scale
at each shrug of the glen
pushing your consciousness
There are no boxes here
to think outside of.
would not last long.
The mountains smash open the sky.
(written at Tom’s croft, August 2014)
Fifty Miles Further North
The moment of grace comes
not on the summit,
but on the descent.
Stopping at a stone chair
and sitting – surrendering –
to the view. And then I
finally know the mountain
The armour has fallen away –
somewhere on the flanks
of Schiehallion, palace of the Sidhe,
I lost a shin-guard.
The inessential is stripped away
the higher you climb.
Road becomes track
becomes path becomes
the merest hint in the terrain –
a slight concentration of displaced stone.
The way ahead, guess-work.
Trust your feet. Place your mind in your sole.
The truth is finally revealed.
It was there all along.
The mountain waits for us to truly see it.
Not just another Munro-bagged, but
honouring it for itself. Seen in its own
glory. A father and daughter struggle up
holding hands – effa son gambolling ahead,
then impatiently waiting. She, I realise, has special needs
(who does not?). I comment that ‘it’s a nice day
for a walk’. The father replies, ‘It would be better
fifty miles further north.’ Yet there is beauty
right here. I look into the girl’s eyes
as I pass,
she smiles and waves,
a soul, brimming with life, shines back.
Two slim trunks entwine like lovers.
Words, ripe as rowan berries
hang poised for the plucking
from the quickening air.
Here, at the Rhymer’s Stone
and poetry is born.
The sun shines its benedictions down,
a fey breeze stirs the trees.
A nameless bird sings,
is replied to.
Stillness after the city,
meeting the Muse for a coffee,
hoarse from the Fringe,
heartsore from love’s disappointments,
she points me the way on the battered road atlas –
three roads to choose from:
cairn or kirk or loch.
Roots snake deep into the peat,
draw up the sap of inspiration
conjured from the alchemy of
sunlight, rain, wind and night.
I lay like Thomas of Ercildoune on Huntlie Bank,
and the Queen of Elfland rides into view –
a woman cyclist in her lycra and helmet,
exchanging a bit of banter with two old characters
about the secrets of the gates
known only to them.
They had been sitting behind the hedge
putting the world to rights.
Had I overheard?
Beneath the Eildons’ three peaks,
split it is said by a demon that
wizard Michael Scot confounded,
still to this day failing to make rope
from the sands of the Tweed,
the magical and the mundane rub shoulders.
The upper and lower get acquainted.
The unfathomable realms of man and woman,
the eternal mystery of their dance
come alive in timeless tableau.
Climb up behind the Queen,
let her guide you to her hidden kingdom.
The jingle of her rein sends you into a trance.
Long hair coiling, blood lips enticing,
the tendrils of her song
piercing your heart.
Follow her siren call
to the end of all that you know.
Be prepared to not be
the same upon your return.
Corra Linn, you continue to fall for us
despite rapacious man
stealing your glory –
mill-owners creaming off the profits
from the sweat of his workers.
Power-stations, forcing you through his turbines
to drive the PCs, fridges, hot water, round-the-clock consumerism.
Quarry companies, wanting to plunder your maidenhead upsteam.
Yet still your silvery locks jumble over the jagged rocks.
Still, peace can be gleaned in your glades.
Still your verdant banks shelter
nature’s apothecary, a balm to industrial ills.
SMOORING THE HEARTH
Resisting night’s gravity
I rise to the Heavens,
clay on boots,
lonely grove on the brow,
where a year ago,
Now I stand alone
in silent vigil.
Aurora of the day
to mark this annual valediction – leave
the vandals to their
trilithon abuse and stoned selfies.
I have no need of the Am-dram
of dodgy rituals,
the posturing of ill-cast hierophants.
My gaze is for the sun alone.
Quietly, I say goodbye.
Copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring 2014
The old year
is an empty grate,
solstice-black and cold
as a spurned lover’s heart.
or the celebrity tittle-tattle
that passes for it
fat splinters of shattered tree,
black bile of angry mines,
the simmering earth
blaze into headlines of fire,
snagging our gaze.
Copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring 2014
Smooring the Hearth
The clock ticks towards
the midnight chimes.
The sands of the year drain away.
Sip your anaesthetic,
reflect upon all that has gone,
the deeds un/done, the words un/said.
Bank the fire down, my friend,
before going to bed.
The memories glow and fade
like the coal, slow time
locked in its fossil heart.
Each a dream, once cherished,
come morn, a pail of dust
to be scattered on the dormant earth.
The day a squall of rain,
the nights come as fast.
The solsticed sun instructs us
to hiatus, to put down our tools.
Endless struggle, surrender arms,
as the Christmas ceasefire commences.
For a while we no longer
have to be anything.
Merely drop down into our being.
It is okay, friend, we can stop buying.
We can stop pretending to be nice,
so desperate to be loved back,
to be popular. For surely,
this is the measure of success.
That, and how much you own.
What you can show off to visitors,
the guests guessing your soul
from what’s on your shelves.
Shallow the depths of society’s
criteria. As though our lives
are no more than a lifestyle magazine,
a trending meme.
The fire dies down,
and what is discarded
slips through the bars of the grate.
Leaving the sine qua non of embers –
the truth only found
at the eleventh hour,
say, on the eve of execution,
when we face the cold, naked fact
of our mortality, our swift sparrow-flight
the length of a mead-hall.
Yet still, we bank the fire down –
thanking the warmth and light it has
bestowed, its borrowed grace –
in the hope that come dawn,
the last star can rekindle
our wintering king,
before it winks out
vanishing with the night.
31 December 2013
Copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring 2014
Bard on the Box
Poems on Youtube…
The Wheel of the Rose
Song of Wandering Aengus
Song of Taliesin
by Kevan Manwaring – filmed in Scotland – view here
And written while a guest at the Castle of the Muses…
* * *
House of the Moon
by Kevan Manwaring
For Thomas & the Muses (and all guests & residents of The Castle of the Muses)
Mnemosune (Greek); Mnemosyne (English) was the Goddess of Memory and Mother of the Muses.
Her name means the ‘House of the Moon’.
Hail to the Daughters of Memory,
to the Daughters of the Back of the North Wind –
here in their northern temple,
the Castle of the Muses.
High in the Lowlands,
along a deep and winding lane,
beyond Rest and Be Thankful,
the white noise of the city,
the psychic threshold of Erskine Bridge,
the flanks of Loch Lomond.
A long road north-by-north-west,
into the wild
trusting in Fate –
three to be precise –
The sacred trinity
of Eve’s tree.
Before there were nine, there were three.
Before there were three, there was one.
From Belas Knapp to Long Meg,
the Three Sisters to Kali’s Ness –
following the Serpent Paths of the Goddess.
To the unlikely lanes
of Loch Goil, where
normality runs out.
Here, the castle appears,
caught in a late sunbeam –
the last station of the Celtic twilight.
Angle of incident, the isoceles of
the imagination – where another paradigm intercepts
our own modality. A crack in the door,
too narrow for most to discern.
A druid’s portal. The Door of the Derwydd.
You kill the engine,
after a long day’s ride,
and the effect is euphoric,
a pilgrim’s sacred high,
hard won from the road
– the first Goddess you must love
to reach here,
invoking Elen of the Ways,
to guide you safely to your destination.
To this destiny’s nation.
The grandeur of the loch,
the soaring mountainside,
the space and peace,
embraces you like a
long lost relative.
for you to arrive.
Prodigal, prodigious, progeny
journey’s son; waydaughter;
You have been travelling here
all of your life.
And when you finally get here,
you have all the time in the world.
At the top of a steep gravel lane –
a question mark seeking an answer –
a warm welcome awaits.
Bards and druids; mystics and warriors,
await – old/new friends.
a Fellowship of Peace.
Here, you will find what you bring;
discover what you already know;
release, to receive;
give, to let go.
A maze of wisdom,
a hall of broken mirrors
- the Grail lies hidden in plain sight.
Amid the many cups. Take your pick.
The gates of horn and ivory entice,
the doorways to many worlds,
the hearth of the heart.
Home of the Muses. Conceived
in a flash of inspiration –
a bolt of Olympic lightning
released by Zeus in a paroxysm of pleasure –
a nine-night stand with Mnemosyne,
Goddess of Memory.
She doesn’t forget.
A blink in the eye of eternity.
A gleam in the eye of God.
The father of a pantheon doesn’t fire blanks.
From that union comes the three,
then the nine.
The triple aspect goddess
does the splits –
each daughter three
a fractal conception.
Hail, Goddesses of Inspiration,
who inspire mankind
to greatness in all the arts
You who warmed the Cauldron of Arthur
with your breath,
deep in the caer of Annwn.
Daughters of the Wind
– the sacred breath, spiritus,
possessing the poet, the priest, the prophet –
blow upon me,
fill me with your awen.
Lift my quill, and let it fly,
across the page in your praise.
Let me worship at your temple,
a mundane shrine to each.
In your mind’s eye,
visit the Palace of Memory –
to each room a muse.
To whom do you call upon?
Listen, and then choose…
First of all Muses
(but don’t tell the others I said so)
is Erato – for does not everything come down to love,
the fundamental principle – the God(dess) Particle,
binding Creation together?
What is the manifest universe but the
ultimate act of love?
Let us woo Her flowers and words,
with wine and chocolate
dark and seductive.
Priestess of the Sensual –
love in all its forms
and names – from a grope to agape.
The love a craftsman has for his tools;
an artist for his medium;
the marriage of a maker with his Muse.
A relationship no one can come between.
Let us call to Her
to help us in all matters of the heart –
to navigate the subtle web of relationships,
to see with the eyes of the heart,
to love kindness, gentleness, sensitivity.
As well as wild passion, crazy abandon,
reckless acts of amorous intoxication.
To Her we bring heady bouquets of orchids,
a swoon of intoxication scents and colours.
Let us win Her with our sweetest words,
with the lyric sublime, soaring songs.
Let Her open our heart like an oyster shell
- give Her the pearl of your deepest desire.
She will break you open.
You will fall for Her; be a fool for Her.
And when she is finished with you
perhaps you shall know wisdom.
Hail to Urania, Goddess-Muse of Astronomy
and all the natural sciences –
here, in this temple of work, of industry.
The office-space of the institute.
The captain’s chair,
ladder leading to the meditation chamber,
and upwards to the stars.
The turret of vision.
But first, let us be down to Earth –
let us brew strong coffee,
and get down to business!
The hour is late,
and there is much to be done.
The filing and compiling,
refining and finishing,
the connections and communications.
If there was a Muse, of the World Wide Web,
the ghost in Tim Berners-Lee’ machine,
this woud be Her –
reaching across the planet
at light speed,
a billion alignments,
Constellations of classical consequence,
let the scientists and astronomers
the far-seers near and far,
be guided by you with humility.
If they glimpse to the heart of Your Mystery,
let them be filled with awe.
Let them see the star inside themselves –
the cosmos inside the man,
As Above, So Below.
Hail to Calliope,
goddess of Epic Poetry
the grand narratives of Homer and Ovid,
the master storytellers of every land –
here, amid the stacks of books and papers
on economics and politics,
shelves sagging with the weight
of history, of great minds,
and deep themes.
No triviality here – whimsy is exiled.
This is a place for profundity,
for thinking big.
And bigger, outside of the box.
Take a reality detox.
It doesn’t have to be the way it is.
Other worlds are possible,
with the active ingredient of imagination.
Leaven it with vision.
Let it rise in the oven of love.
Design your new system.
Change the world. Rearrange. Reboot.
Begin again. Take it’s mad song,
make it better.
But don’t forget the past.
Learn from history, from tragedy,
that must never be repeated.
Fight for what is right,
until evil is defeated.
Let the People be the Victor,
not the Dictator.
Let myths be the virus,
to bring down the tyrants.
Calliope, grant us your grace.
To complete our own Hero’s Journey.
To return with the Elixir
that will Heal the World.
Melpomene, Muse of Tragedy.
We come to greet you,
clad in dark attire,
wearing widow’s weeds,
faces covered in ashes,
the mask of sorrow,
weeping for the world.
The vast tragedy of it all.
Yet seeing the beauty
in every small miracle,
the heaven in the disaster zone.
O, Melpomene, let us sing your goat-song,
so we do not forget.
So, we remember and honour.
Work through our grief,
dance our sorrow,
and let go when we’re done.
Move on, move on.
Let not our grief become our identity.
It is only a mask, a costume,
for the dans macabre.
The sun still shines, the birds still sing.
The world still turns, saying begin! Begin!
Aid us to heal conflict,
to bring peace
through understanding, through empathy.
Time to stop playing soldiers,
time to put down our guns.
Time to dismantle the warheads,
time to defuse the bombs.
Melpomene from your deep heart
bring peace, end suffering.
You know the depths of humanity’s sorrow,
listen and release it. So.
O, Polyhymnia – sing your hymns abundant!
To all religions, all faiths, all paths and ways.
Open your heart to all true seekers.
Your songs carry the pilgrims
up all sides of the mountain.
Raise us to higher lands.
Help us to be closer to the Great Creator.
Through prayer and poem,
incantation and chant,
liturgy and mantra.
Through all sacred words.
that exalt the praises
Let us resurrect the Perpetual Choirs.
Strike the tuning fork that will
bring harmony to all
corners of the world.
Let us commune in silence
to hear your song.
Light the candle
and sound the gong.
Speak from the heart
prayers of beautiful truth.
Thanking you for this day
and every day.
Guided by the world’s mythologies;
by the saints and sages;
let us create Heaven on Earth –
peace everlasting throughout the ages.
Let all heartfelt prayers be heard
Let the Sword of Peace,
the Circled Cross of Truth,
be carried by your Warriors of Love.
O, Clio – Muse of History
of Time’s chronicle –
a scroll unscrolling back through the centuries.
Let us study your pages,
learn from the past’s folly and wisdom,
the triumphs and the tragedies,
of Man – nature’s child, run amok,
playing at being King of the World.
Here, in your temple
let us learn the lessons from the chroniclers.
A place of study and reflection.
A lofty mountain summit
from where one can get a perspective.
Eagle-like, the far view.
A gaze that penetrates the wall of time.
Here, the volumes of vision
are catalogued, the undying efforts
of those who carry the Flame of Peace.
A tray of tea things,
a desk of curved wood,
a lamp spotlighting
the scholar’s work.
Dictionaries, biographies, encyclopaedias,
compass the world’s knowledge.
A small red paperback sits, waiting,
to be noticed. Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
This is a room Che Guevera would have
been comfortable in – sitting with his army boots up,
smoking a large Cuban stogie,
planning his next campaign.
The ongoing liberation
Viva la Revolution!
O, Euterpe, Muse of Music,
soothe us with your sweet tunes.
Soften our hearts,
make them soar.
Lighten our souls,
play the Three Chords
of Joy, Sorrow and Sleep.
Paint your colours of sound
in hues of harmony
Vibrations of the spectrum,
the wave of the rainbow.
Seduce us with the ear and the eye,
connosieurs of the world’s beauty.
And the arts which celebrate it –
sketches, paintings and engravings,
sculptures and frescoes,
prints and photographs.
Let the senses drink in,
the deep spirit.
We are beings of colour –
a paintwheel of pure pigment,
that we dip the brush of the day in.
We are what we shine.
The ultimate works of art,
the ongoing masterpiece
Reality, the canvas
upon which we compose ourselves.
O, Muse guide our hands –
make each day a work of art.
Ah, Thalia – your shrine feels like home.
Muse of the Word – spoken, written, heard.
You wear the comic mask, yet are far more.
Here, you are patroness of all literature,
of the mercurial element of language.
Here, all poetry is praise,
and the play’s the thing
to pique a monarch’s conscience.
Yet there is lightness too.
Dolls and clowns, line your windowsill.
Reminding us of the serious business
of living lightly,
with humour, and grace.
Sink into the armchair
and pick your book
from the teetering stacks –
a Glen Coe of collected dreamings –
towering over you.
Don’t take one from the bottom
unless you want to start an avalanche!
Buried in words. Where to start?
Trust in serendipity.
Your hand will alight on the right book for the
This is a library to while away a
Steep yourself in ink;
soak in verse, in novels and plays.
And let inspiration well up.
A place to hatch a masterpiece.
To dream up a magnum opus
or the collected works of anonymous.
And discover the true meaning of life,
the simple art of happiness.
O, Terpsichore, Muse of the Beautiful Movement
of the swinging and swaying hips,
the toss of the hair,
the line of an arm and a leg,
graceful and fierce,
Here, your spirit is honoured
with the dance of flames
in a merry hearth.
With the the sublimity of candlelight,
the peace flame burning perpetual
and the frivolity of fairy light.
Let your presence be invoked
with many instruments –
with harp and guitar,
didg and djembe,
bodhran and harmonica.
Let the fingers dance over the strings,
and over the keys of night and day.
Here, let the peace pilgrims gather
to share their heart-felt words and songs.
Flags of the worlds
adorn the walls, inviting all nations
to gather in the dance of peace.
Hats of witches and warlocks,
are perched on the bannisters
awaiting the players for the Midnight Masque.
Dirk, hard at work,
cooking up a banquet in the kitchen.
David, on the knight-shift,
cutting the logs, gathering kindling,
creating an ambience fit for a goddess.
And every guest offers their blessing.
Tipsily, we wassail you, Terpsichore –
with a hiccup and a stolen kiss.
Let us raise the Farewell Cup,
and toast the fellowship, enduring,
the winding road calls us
– may we meet further along the Way.
Shining in the centre, the Lord of Light,
Apollo – strum your lyre
high on your rocky crag,
communing with the eagle
on your Scottish Parnassus.
The Muses’ lover and conductor,
pupil and instructor.
Around him they dance,
like the Nine Ladies to the Fiddler.
What is a Muse without an admirer?
Without someone to inspire?
He is the Rhymer to the Queen of Elfland;
Orpheus to Eurydice; dancing the ancient dance –
his melody holding open the Gates of Death,
staving off oblivion – so something survives of us.
His Art the ultimate Act of Love.
It was said Apollo journeyed north for the winter,
to a temple on the Isles of the Blessed – there to dance
the dark months away, to the rhythm of the moon.
Here, in its house,
where peace is forged; and pilgrims
Heart on a hair-
trigger – wild-eyed, twitching.
Dashing here, there.
Caught between the
carrot and the stick.
Which to choose, which to lose?
projection versus reality.
life’s thousand and one temptations
and ten thousand distractions.
A modern soul suffering
from priority anxiety.
Spoilt by choice. Information
overload. Channel surfing
with unconscious motor action.
Conditioned lab rabbits.
Nibbling, nibbling – what
was it I was looking for?
Cursed with the awareness
that there is always more.
Never still long enough
to realise that there
is always enough.
Racing the Dark
Riding home on New Year’s Day
in the remaining light
– chasing the dusk –
after a fiery sunset,
an orange band
sandwiched against bars of deepening blue.
Trees, ink blots
stark against the winter sky.
Frozen spectres of shadow
straight out of Rackham,
a Northern European folk tale.
on the road, the line of a bend –
scanning for ice, for gravel,
the fata morgana of a diesel slick.
The grit spreaders are out,
leaving a chancy seasoning
on the macadam.
The cold hits you like an icy fist,
encroaching through the layers.
The outriders of frostbite
creeping up the fingertips,
inveigling themselves into toes.
Use of controls –
difficult; reactions –
sluggish. Can survive only
so long – before the
witnessing the austere beauty
of it all.
Life, stripped to its essence,
its core truth.
Day One of a new decade,
The road unribbons before me,
full of possibility.
To be riding into the future
on New Year’s Day –
steering my destiny.
Turning the wheel
The darker it gets,
the brighter we become –
shining in the night.
We race against the dark –
Death always at our heels,
but he won’t win the race
From The Immanent Moment, Awen 2012
and the thunder comes.
The dragon wakes,
flexes chrome muscles,
snorts hot breath.
A sneer on its lips,
a glint in its eyes.
A flick of its tail
and it’s off.
Trace pattern on retina.
The past a ghost of dust.
A roaring blur –
nothing but wind, vibration, a visor view.
The road unravels,
Finding peace in motion,
fully present –
now, now, now.
Never more alive
than on the cusp of death.
A knife’s edge –
riding the blade.
Into the unseen.
The road unmade
until you ride it into
From The Immanent Moment, by Kevan Manwaring, Awen 2011