by Dominic Rivron

The Last Checkout

The queue went on for miles.
Children did somersaults
over the trolleys,
or kept asking questions:
Are we nearly there yet?
Are we nearly there yet?

Young couples started
to argue with each other.
Old couples
complained about the service.
started to melt,
and drip onto the floor.

And when you finally got there,
the sign said
You start and finish
with an empty trolley.
So true.

Many people
ignored the sign. Some,
weighed down by shopping bags
full of frozen pizza,
sank without trace
into the brown, oozing lino.

Others made it to the door,
only to fall to earth
as they stepped out
onto the clouds.

A few people said so what
you can keep the lot,
and walked on
to the stars.


From one angle
it looked
like the head
of a man.

I climbed up.
The grit slashed
the pale skin
on my knuckles.

I held on-
to the nose-bridge,
pressed down
onto the cheekbone,

rested my hands
on the forehead,
looked at the sky
reflected in the rain-

-pool worn
into the rough pate
of the stone.
I rested there,

a temporary statue,
relishing the touch
of a dark moon,
newly inhabited.

Naming of Plants

with apologies to Henry Reed

Today we have naming of plants. Yesterday,
We had weeding. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after planting. But today,
Today we have naming of plants. Though gunfire
Can be heard coming from the television,
Today we have naming of plants.

This is Galium Aparine, which is also known as Goose Grass,
The preponderance of which will become clear to you, once in the garden.
This is Epilobium Angustifolium, known as Rosebay Willowherb.
At last, on TV, the firing has stopped and sirens
Can be heard. As for what's going on beyond the borders,
Who knows? We can but wonder.

This is Urtica Dioica, the removal of which can be
Unpleasant without gloves. And please do not let me
See anyone attempt it in a short-sleeved shirt. One can do it
Quite easily, so long as no flesh is exposed. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see them
(They are, surely, malevolent) until it's too late.

And this is Taraxacum Officinale. Its intention
Is to conquer the earth. All we can do is our best
To rid ourselves of it: we call this pulling up the dandelions.
We do it in Spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
Men in uniforms can be seen running (on TV).
Someone said it was another kind of Spring.

And Spring is when the trouble starts: it is
Perfectly easy if you have strength in your fingers for the Goose Grass,
For the Willowherb, the Dandelions, and time to weed
(Which, in our case, we have not got). The guns
Remain silent. All will be well, perhaps, after all.
And today we have naming of plants.

The Get-Out

The god of excuses
could get away with anything.
"Look", he said, (his hand in the robe
of the headman's daughter),
"what goes in Heaven
goes on Earth."

He was a god
of many faces.

As War and Fertility
he straddled the world

As Death, he shrugged,
driven at last into a corner -
"what else could I do?"
he said.


we find ourselves

scouring the beach
over and over

lifting the pebbles
just enough

to rattle them
we say

In Our Town

In our town
when it rains
young girls
text in shop doorways
the light they hold
in their hands
shines on their faces while inside
shopkeepers stand plastic buckets
between the aisles

In our town
when it rains
the pessimists climb trees
the lonely people
balance broken cups
on dry-stone walls
and the policemen
run for cover

In our town
when it rains
the statues weep clichés
and the flowers grow

On the Train

I have picked the pockets
of all my fellow passengers.
They are now incommunicative
while I have a shopping bag
full of mobile phones.

I intend to plant them
on a hillside – watch them grow
into a forest of telephone trees.

In Winter they'll
reach down with their electric roots
deep into the earth
searching for a current
to recharge their batteries.

In Spring they'll
put on an LED display
of digital foliage.

In Summer they'll
greet the sun
with a chorus of ringtones.

In the Autumn their leaves will fall
littering the forest floor
with unobtainable numbers.



I remember my making -
a growing shadow in a ring of stones.

Since then, a stone
here and there, a rotting beam, the slate
that slips by inches every year:
the light creeps in. It seems to be
a universal principle.

Stone is my mantra.
Solid ground my only reassurance
that I'm part of something bigger.

One day I'll be full of light:
a field of stones
for people to pick over
in search of artefacts.


a sign on a gate:
soon the weeds will be so high
no-one will read it

Essence Vessel


After a painting by Piers Browne

I saw no angels:
only the sun
catching the slates
of the wet roof
after the rain.

The stream was full,
coughing its way impatiently
through a concrete pipe.
A skylark sang and,
on the opposite hill, a car
twinkled like a fallen star.

Love Story

So this is the tunnel of love, I said. No, sucker, it's the ghost train.

Scifi Sonnet 1

Through me, in science fiction, you could fly,
between each sub-atomic particle.
I'd be, well, most like a galaxy,
not like a single, separate article.
Once through, stars on all sides would fall away
(particles in a gas are more spread out),
others would appear as nebulae
which, being human, we'd explore, no doubt.
Seen like this the space that separates
you and I begins to lose its meaning:
we are not the distinct, solid shapes
we see ourselves to be: more like clouds drifting.
Loneliness, then, is not our true condition:
we feel alone by virtue of position.

The Promenade

after Chagall

Hold onto my hand
or I might fly away
over the dark rooftops
leaving you alone with the birds
a bottle of wine
and a peal of bells

And what would become of you then,
the bells reduced to scrap, the wine
to vinegar, the birds
to predatory dinosaurs?
What would you find to fill
the empty sky?

The Fall

to my surprise
I had time
to wonder at
the light
at the end
of the tunnel
how it turned
from a sun
into a star
that got smaller
and smaller
in a night sky
I had all
to myself
and I waited
for it to go
out altogether
as sometime it must
I thought
one way or another
rock or water
but no
it just seemed
to go on
and on
I never thought
I'd have time
to finish a

Elegy for Patrick

OK, so the Irish songs you taught me
were sentimental, to say the least,
but once in your bones you could never get them out:
a vendetta of words, almost a eucharist.

Outside Aunt Mary's house the liturgy
is written on the wall. We take a walk
around the city, searching for a place
we'll never find. Perhaps it's blown away.

Paddy's been away so long, he says,
he can't be sure. We'll ask. (Meantime,
we'll do the sights: see how the cannon
that originally pointed out to sea

now point at the bank. The irony's not lost).
When asked, Aunt Mary says:
Oh that! It was the boys on the corner did it.
They made such a clean job of it as well.

In a way, his loss of memory began
there, in Derry, as we walked around.
The first to go, the trivial monuments.
From thereon in, the semtex took a hold.

Red Car

Madder hat
leaden sky
black jacket
purple tie

brown cow
blue stone
green grass
orange phone

ginger cat
crimson stain
ochre joker
yellow grain

white shirt
silver star
pink carnation
red car

Dark Matter

Slight move-
ments make
what seems

to be a
kind of semaphore
but I

your alphabet -

even shining
a beam
into your eyes

gets us nowhere
but at least

they implode
into full-stops,

starless places
you're alive

Prophet (2)

He tried to imagine
heaven: he saw
a non-stop virtual reality

Someone had chained the fire exits

Pete the bouncer looked mean

He tried to imagine
the sun rising: a light
scorched his face
to cinders. He saw

nothing. A breeze

blew his mind away

He tried to imagine
a star: he saw
a race of aliens intent on conquering
the world. After that

he left the curtains open

every night

He tried to imagine
love: he found a microphone
cunningly implanted
in his torso

the aliens again

(they leave no scars)

He stopped trying to imagine

It had all been thought of before
and anyway,
it only seemed to get him into trouble.

Ave Atque Vale
after Catullus 

I've travelled half way round the world
with this last gift, a gift of words.

Your ashes are lost for a reply:
Fate has stolen you away from me.

O brother, who suffered this indignity,
receive (it was our parent's way:
no other way will do)
this gift, sad offering to the dead,
soaked in my tears. For all eternity,
my brother: Hail and Adieu.

On the Death of Edwin Morgan

This morning the birds stopped singing
and the sun decided not to rise.
But his voice could never die:
it was heard to say
this will never do.
And at these words
normal service was resumed
(a tad reluctantly).


fill me with helium
tie me down
take me for a ride
round dublin town

there, i'll tell you
in a squeaky voice
interesting things
about james joyce


I hardly dare go out
for fear of killing
the gramersow.

Whenever I turn over a stone
she's there
and she starts running about
and I feel dreadful.

How would I like it
if someone lifted the lid
on me?


it would be wrong to say
nothing's where it should be
I couldn't organise disorder
as effectively as that
no - what you see
reflects a state of mind
some things (not necessarily
the right things) make it
to the top of the pile
others are subsumed
their discovery coming
as a pleasant surprise
seen from the window
by one travelling on
quite a different train of thought

sometimes I think
so much work has gone in
to putting it all together
if (as they say) time is money
and (as I said) what you see
reflects a state of mind
then I have paid a price
for all that I am
don't be fooled
originality here
as everywhere
is merely a matter
of rearrangement

I found a Beethoven Sonata
I still can't play
(proudly inscribed in '76)
underneath an advertisement
for over 50s life insurance
I never followed up
(see what you're looking at
and you'll read my mind
sometimes you'll get it wrong
but rest assured
the evidence is there
you may even get to know me
better than I know myself)

Scifi Sonnet 3

News from Pluto

Something's about to happen. I'm not sure what.
I've watched for long enough and, yes, I get
Impatient, as the months slip by. And yet
This is important. In a way, I'm not.
Earth, erratic, crosses the ecliptic;
By day, the sun's scarce bigger than a star:
It makes you realise just how small we are.
Will I get home? I must be realistic.
Gravity's low. Perhaps my bones grow thin.
I jog the corridors, try to keep fit,
But face the fact (there's no escaping it)
I have become this waiting game I'm in.
One day, it'll happen, I've no doubt.
Exactly when, I don't know. I'll find out.

After the Rain

on the sunlit grass
like a hole
in space:

Love in the Café

Just across the way from me
sat a woman, drinking herbal tea.
Her other hand played on the screen
of a shiny new hand-held machine.
I drank up, left, felt very green:
it was the coolest phone I'd seen.

An Answer

An odd question: obviously not
if you mean by it what I think you mean.

Crows calling through the morning fog.
Yesterday, walking in the rain, soaked through.

Last night I slept very little,
thinking of the wretched beasties,

honing my mental arithmetic
on the rings of Saturn,

craving a spoonful of honey.
What more can I say?

Odd? More like damnfool
the more I think about it.


After Ben Nicholson

A tree grows on a hill:
the green darkness of its leaves sets it apart
from the indiscretion of the grass.

On the windowsill a broken stem
leans in a vase and (for a short time)
turns its flower towards the glass.

A woman's face, reflected there, eyes fixed
on an indistinct, unfocused place, an actuality
reduced to pigment, scoured.

A blackness so complete lets nothing out:
the surface ends, there's nowhere (everywhere?) to go from here.
Bright colours circle it about.

Rain softly falls. Beneath a blue-grey sky
wheat stretches. Yellow, lustreless,
like low tide in an estuary.

The line persists. The pencil, turning sharply,
never leaves the paper, moves to enclose
a white space, establishing a shape.

Herbert's Heaven

Frenzied, the moths
with their brownpaper wings
and brownfurry bodies
beat on the glass
(the brownpaper wings
are fluttering softly).

Consider the moths
with their brownpaper gods
and brownfurry angels.

Moebius Love Poem

Take a strip of paper:
twist it once and then
glue the ends together
so that when
you run your finger
along one side, it turns
into the other side.

This is extraordinary,
you think. A one-sided
piece of paper,
proclaiming the reality
of strangeness
in a world full of
two-sided pieces of paper.

Somehow we got twisted up
like this, so that
when I run my finger
along your side,
I'm no longer sure
where you end
and I begin.


You had "The Birth of Venus" pinned where you could see,
Beyond the bed. A modest nude to contemplate.
A feat of balance, standing on that shell, at sea.

Poised between the Carnal and the Ultimate,
You talked about the art of painting, pointed out
How Botticelli's composition-lines relate
To a Matisse, the things New Masters learnt about
The Old. You took a pencil-stub to demonstrate.

What deprivations of the Underworld assailed
Your mind, or bright Venusian dreams tormented you?
You'd seen so much - you thought you knew what death entailed:
"Talk about art? Why not? What else is there to do?"

An atheist, you doubted Heaven, doubted Hell.
More fitting, to be borne away upon the Shell.

Rocking Stone Flat

Reaching the edge
of the Flat, I find
I'm looking down
on a green rooftop.
There is a shape to things here
my mind makes sense of:
I've been here before.
And then there's a print,
in the peat, of a running-shoe:
I used to run along this path
a long time ago
and it strikes me now
that now is then and time
no more than a list
of things to do. This is
the same wild place
where the wind grazes
the tops of the grasses
and looking down on rings
of lichen on a stone
is like looking at a picture
of clouds in the sky.

5 minute haiku

Sat in the bathroom
with a blank piece of paper.
What to write? Time's up!


Today, the fences cast no shadows
and a green flag hangs,
furled into an S,
and I watch how, as we move,
a tree moves against a hill
as if to emphasise its otherness.


at night
time passes far

fast and
all too soon

sun rises
again and we

on where
we left off

it's the almost

makes it
all worth it


So you tell me your name
but what do I know? I will
stick it to your face and,
just as I learn the map
of creases written there,
I might learn something of
the way your thoughts connect
and, given time, this too
becomes the word that's you.

But would you recognise
this one I know? A part,
perhaps, but not the whole.
(Same for me: I write,
you read. Proves nothing, but
it satisfies a need).

Seen in a Certain Light

The sky's blue-grey, the grass
intensely green, as after rain.

A herd of cows looks painted on
till one of them gets up and walks
to prove me wrong.

Scifi Sonnet 2

Three attempts to decode the repeating signal received from deep space by The Very Large Array, New Mexico, in 2032.


welcome to talk to us denizens of the world -
we travel so far in search of these zalatsi -
I congratulate you - fear and respect -
what we want to say - what we admire -
because there are so few so far to go
for the sweet softness that we rarely find
extant and few between - we denizens
of where - and when - can take these messages -

do not ask us how we coexist -
to live and die as soon as ever touch
so we than you live longer - we so calm
and trees - while all good things - and then to die
so cool and after meals, etc. -
this appears between the time - reply


welcome to the inhabitants of the earth -
we finders of these pieces through the date
of travel in fear that the respect and greeting
we say what we want and hold in great
awe the fact there is so little - this
rarely seen due to the soft sweetness
of the trees - so far we have few people
to take us to the second step - the message?

ask us how to live in May - to talk -
you are exposed to live to die so soon -
since you with us to lead a quiet life
and all good things - and then to die so full
so peaceful and to eat - and even then
between you and I the answer - take your time


welcome to speak to us denizens of the earth -
we who travel so far in search of such morsels
greet you in trepidation and respect -
what we say with high esteem we hold
for such there are so few so far to go
for such sweet softness as we rarely find
so far and few between - we denizens
of another bring all you these messages -

we ask how symbiosis is for you -
as you live so shortly die - so touching -
you with us live so long a life so calm
and so filled up with all good things - then die
so peacefully - we eat you then and so
think it between you take your time - reply

A Moment

The moment I realised,
the car stopped
without so much as a jolt
and the world began
to rush past.

I was the Pole Star -
and already I could feel
the breath of The Great Bear
prowling around me
in the dark

In A Bookshop

All you can see through the tall windows are
the rooftops of the city, and the sky
(both crinkled slightly by the imperfect glass).
This partial view serves to convey a sense
of stillness in which people linger, drawn
to contemplate the stacks, searching the spines
for words they hadn't thought of, books that might provide
some sort of landmark on a mental map.


Do you know the feeling?
Like when you run one hand
down the other arm
and it feels like the arm
of a corpse? You still
screw up your eyes when the sun
shines through the window
but only because
your eyes demand it.
Your mind still thinks words
for much the same reason.

Sometime later you realize:
the house is coming back to life!
Lights flicker on and off
like raw nerves illuminating
pictures on the wall,
ripe apples
fall from the rafters, windows
blink, dilate.

And later still
as you lie awake
you can hear the stones
with uncertain
tectonic movements.

Musica Humana

The days are getting shorter
and I can feel the weight of it all
sucking at my bones
like some infernal flute-maker...

Heh. Cut it out.
Sometimes I feel
old, that's true, but
I'm not about
to let anyone
take my skull for a maraca
lying down.

There's a whole crazy orchestra
out there already,
hooting and clattering
and (given a choice) I think
I'll just sit and listen
until it gets too loud
for comfort

Hawaiian Summer

I can't help it if
I'm too sexy for my shirt.
Some people are too
polite to comment on it.
Others laugh. See if I care.

Prophet (1)

One morning he awoke
and he saw in the eyes of his beloved
something he'd not seen before.
And he stood naked at the window,
stretched out his arms
and cried to the world:

Was it a cry of pain or pleasure?
Nobody could understand at first, though
Something certainly made you stop
and listen. Gradually, words began
to take shape in the minds
of the growing crowd.

Some felt moved to make love there and then
in the street. Others,
to give away everything they had,
which wasn't much.
They began by emptying their pockets
into the hands of passing beggars.

A few found what they heard
highly unsuitable for public consumption.
Somebody from the crowd called the police, who,
when they saw he was standing that way,
and when they heard what he had to say,
shot him dead:

To save his beloved, they said.

Crossing the Field

I found myself seeing
through impossible eyes
a time when to remember
was a thing of the past
when there were only stones
- no grass - and a depression
where the stream once ran.

I can offer you no reassurance
except to say the sky
still touches everything.

For Now

At night I lie and rest
to say I sleep would be
to exaggerate, although
low voices on the radio
are just a sound
that means no more, no less
than the rise and fall
of her breath
or the birdsong
now the sun is rising

and I find myself thinking
(as if for the first time)
a time machine
would be a terrible thing


Is it

A lintelstone
waiting for the door
to be opened

A hearthstone
waiting for the fire
to be set

A millstone
waiting for the wheat
to be harvested

A boundarystone
waiting for the land
to be disputed

A milestone
waiting for the road
to go somewhere

A gravestone
waiting for the settlers
to settle down

An altar stone
waiting for something
to be given

Or just a stone,
waiting for the sun

to rise

and touch it?

The Birds

can you hear the birds?
they're somewhere over there

it's so dark between the lights
they never turn them off
it sounds as if
there must be trees

we can only dream
as we walk

keep walking he said
either the wire goes on forever or
this is the place I started out

play your violin
I'll listen I said
play a tune I know
tell me what it is

they tell me the birds
are singing the national anthem only
these days my ears
don't work properly and it just sounds
like twittering to me

play your violin I say
anything is better
than the birds

The End

on this day, the last of all,
the sun beats down and there you sit
underneath the washing line
that curves away to the opposite wall,
reading a magazine and drinking lemonade.

on the windowsill unwatered plants
droop silently. beyond the wall
parents push their children, laughing pendula,
on swings. the trees that yesterday revealed
so much have nothing more to say.