he reads old diaries


  • reminiscing now my father’s work,
    he reads old diaries like a clerk:
    personal archives dusted down:
    smiles, scowls, sometime-frowns.

    do his diary accounts still sing true?
    jazz songs still sing but tinted blue.
    where one-time colleagues now?
    the longing heart follows the plough.

    his life an unfinished jigsaw puzzle,
    memories now get slightly muddled,
    searching out some misssing pieces;
    creased fingers recall fondled  fleeces.

    oratorios blare, daylight grows dim,
    time has been very patient with him,
    sacred songs make old heart gladden
    heavenly choirs still poignantly sadden.

    for final pilgrimage heart preparing,
    accounts near settled, soberly unsparing,
    generous laughter, happy arms hugged
    hesitant prayer, most gaps plugged…


    image credit: Guy Hemmings

eternal pilgrim


Black bread begged, traded for prayers,

icons beseeched, plain peasant cares,

kind their cottage wayside shelters,

shade from sun, wild winter welter.


Prophetic visionary, hope-tramp,

Jerusalem bound with holy lamp,

pilgrim wanderer through birch taigas,

prayers whispered, alpha and omega.


Rugged heart warmed, eternal gaze,

dark wide skies, comet trails blaze,

candle-lit icons, Orthodox churches

bulging with believers, spirit searchers.


Sought, the heavenly homeland,

ancient route, not by map planned,

Slavic Steppes to Holy Land streets,

birchbark shoes shod his weary feet.


Tattered wayfarers, orphan-children,

you shuffled among hostel pilgrims,

foot-blistered believers, adored mystic,

weathered, his staff rapped rhythmic.


Slavic Psalms sung, Saviour adored,

incense wafted, cleansed all before,

rapturous peasant faces received

saint-spat holy water, fully believed.

  • This poem came from a true-life character featured
    in Stephen Graham’s book “With the Russian Pilgrims to Jerusalem”, published in 1915

    Painting: Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky

happiest in rubber boots

  • happiest when in rubber boots,
    stumbling over pine tree roots,
    awed by river flood awash,
    muddy water, speed and slosh;
    wading through pathway pools,
    gently touching brown toadstools.

    showers surrender to the sun,
    Jack strains leash, let him run,
    invisible quarry-scented trail,
    motor-driven happy tail:
    eyes shine bright, ears alert,
    wiry dog hair damp with dirt.

    country haven for your heart,
    suburban life plays smaller part,
    nature best, your farmer genes
    drawn to these rugged rural scenes
    – and most times I accompany you,
    even if only for an hour or two….