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Poems

A selection of poems by Paul Archer gathered into a series of collections. Below the title of each poem you will find its opening lines.

Click on the poem's title to read the poem in full.

NATURAL CAUSES

A portfolio of poems with illustrations by the artist Geoff MacEwan.

For more information about the poems and artwork in this collection, please go to:
Natural Causes - Poems and Etchings

  Natural Causes poems

Encounter with a Blackbird poem and etching   Encounter With A Blackbird
Once - while pruning orange trees,
snipping white wood
out of lime-green leaves -
I saw a cluster of dead twigs
and stepped up the ladder,
secateurs raised,
and there: a sleek head,
yellow beak, rivet eye...
     
Snowy Morning poem and etching   Snowy Morning
Have you taken a grapefruit from the fridge,
sliced it open, segmented it with the serrated knife,
sprinkled sugar on, while stood at the kitchen window
startled by the first winter snowfall?
Staring into the chilled and crowded air
the tang of the grapefruit smacks
its truth onto your tongue and throat
as it slips down, slice by slice...
     
Summer in Mallorca poem and etching   Summer in Mallorca
The terrace stripped bare of every shadow.
A gecko basks. The sun sheers off
dimensions and desiccates
the orange tree leaves, the soil, their roots.
A dictatorship blaring senseless
propaganda through klaxon sunrays.
A herrador in a ferocious forge
hammering on the anvil of the earth...
     
Into the Interior poem and etching  

Into The Interior
Blame in the incessant voices of the rain,
praise in the birdsong after the storm.
Tramping where cascades leap and roll,
clothed in the slow wind from the shore.

Sunrise pulls back the mist and cold,
streams chatter news from the mountain.
Sunset sends out a dark insect swarm...

     
2:45 am The Wind poem and etching   2:45 am The Wind
Tugging and tearing -
backing off - tugging and tearing,
but this is not a terrier.

It's the wind punching at ghosts,
arguing with itself, railing against
the air it's forced to live in...

     
Dynamo Memory poem and etching   Dynamo Memory
My bike's lamp peers ahead
a few yards. Knees pump
under a plastic raincape.
Tyres swish over tarmac.
Flicking the Sturmey-Archer
lever to the lowest gear,
standing to push the pedals,
zig-zagging the front wheel...
     
Callers poem and etching   Callers
When he comes
hot-footing up the drive
in those army boots that go so well
with his camouflage jacket,
will there be a polite rap
or a heavy thump on the door?
Or will he just breeze in?...
     
Lemons on the Lemon Tree poem and etching   Lemons On The Lemon Trees
Lemons like lanterns in the trees,
tired green leaves, darkening sky.

Not the lemons money can buy:
not icy yellow, smooth and pristine;
these are swollen-bellied, knobby,
blotched cream, ochre, green...

     
Ars Moriendi poem and etching  

Ars Moriendi
Black out. So black
we have to make light of it,
but there's no light,
no touch, taste,
sound, scent - no-one.

How tempting
the temple's rolling song...



KEEP OFF THE GRASS

Poems exploring our interaction with nature and the way in which we try to stand intellectually aloof from it but, being ourselves part of the natural world, this stance carries consequences.

  Keep Off The Grass poems

Keep Off The Grass
Proceed through to the picture gallery
with displays of countryside scenes
to refresh the eye with long forgotten vistas...

Dried Land
We might say it's like
a cobbled road
or pack ice broken into floes...

Snail's Pace
It had climbed from the lavender
under the open window
and now creeps along the sill...

One Autumn Day in the Far North Country
'Now it's Autumn and the fire of red maples
rampages along the mountains,' so our
Japanese poet records, for a while...

After Blackberry Picking
inside the hedge's
clusters of blackberries,
bare arms grazed...

Forces of Nature
This garden has a complex geometry
but the gale-force wind crumples up its calculations.
It bends the bushes, tilts the trees...

Archer River
When dreams take you somewhere
it's never as good when you get there.
It was just sand and a sluggish red...

The Difference Between a Palm and Me
Would the palm tree prefer to scurry out of the way of the wind?
Is it irritated when the wind shakes its curving fronds?
Or is it pleasant, like a massage perhaps? If it had a mouth...

Gardener's Friend
Sweat filmed my spectacles as I forked the soil
ready for vegetables to sow from packs of seed
wiping the glasses on my shirt and replacing them, I saw...

Summer Collection
this year's summer collection
has cottage garden flowers
teetering on long legs...

Winter Fires
I've been burning winter fires -
trying to forget about you
and failing miserably...

Westcombe Beach
the sea's saliva
gushes into rocky gullets
runnelled emerald...

The Solicitude of Solitude
if this sun were smoke it would be a shawl
spread between the olive trees, if the trees were gazelles
they’d be perched on graceful legs of frosted dew...

Sunset Swim at Bens d'Avall
We only went
to the bay
at Bens d'Avall...

Mallorcan Landscape with Painter
he paints
under an olive tree,
sweat slicks his skin...

The Gardener
Rudi came unannounced "Will you let me in?"
His scooter parked in the lane, hand on the gate's latch.
He felt the curled orange tree leaves, sniffed them...

Serra de Tramuntana
Most would say the sky is constantly changing
and so it is: from soft white to gentian blue,
tones of pewter shading to granite black...

Seahorse
This blowing of the sea
on the shore
could be from a horse...

Midwinter
My breath is held
and expelled, and held...
out in the cold...

Not Swivelling Away
You can set it all against the turning of the year's cycle,
The soft shapes of twilight, the brilliance of day,
The lone corncrake in the marsh...

Voices of the Rain
The voices of the rain
like pedlars in the street,
sheltering in a doorway...

Onjuku
The bamboo thicket we cut back
to clear the garden
has now grown over the ashes...

Okinawa
Tan legs tie and untie bows
in streams of striped fish.
Gliding down veils of pinks...

Namari Spa
The waterfall mimics the noise
of brittle-winged cicadas.
The river's slurred vowels...

Rose Garden
I strain to catch the words
of the roses, however
much I draw inwards...

Cherry blossom viewing
Highkicking can-can dancers
reveal their blossom's lace.
My feet plod the pathway...

Onsen
Is there a world beyond
this cascade-cleaved
red-mapled valley...

Nairobi Conference
In the comfort of its airconditioned chamber
the conference faces up to climate change
by deploying words like 'urgent' and 'action'...

SIGNS OF LIFE

Poems about how human beings relate to each other, and how this can be stimulating or antagonistic once we step out of the silent and secretive worlds that we inhabit.

 

  Signs of Life poems

Loose-lace Shoes
Here's what happened on my way home
not half an hour ago: the laces came undone
on one of my shoes - the right one -...

Mr Raji is stopped by Customs
Mr Raji collected his bag
from the carousel
and followed the signs...

Airports
We shuffle through the security
checks, but feel even less sure
of ourselves, patting pockets...

A Little Italian Place
In our hearts we all have that little Italian place
where Luigi ushers us to our favourite corner table
with murals of grapes on the ochre walls...

Silhouette on a Staircase in Swindon
Through the windscreen's wipered half-moon,
I see tail-lights flash red up ahead.
My foot pushes down. The car halts...

High Tables
In a circle of polished shoes, skirted knees,
trousered legs, like in the ring at a circus,
voices like insects, jackals, birds...

A Weekend Break
It was what they wanted, to get away,
but was it some sort of end? Friday night,
and they worry it might sneak up on them...

Night in a 7-11
Sedate tins
of yellow tomatoes
burst into flames...

Scriptwriter
Fade in: He makes coffee,
turns on the T.V. news,
stands at the window - becomes...

Meeting Geoff in the Plaza
I don't have to sit there long
before someone I know
stops to have a coffee with me...

She Sang
She sang: like no bird has sung
higher than a snowy peak
her voice in the clear air...

The abondoned cat goes home
The abandoned cat goes home
to where all the angles seem right,
the alignment of the stars...

A woman beside a fountain
It was then that I saw by chance
a middle-aged woman
as she sat on a stone bench...

Enkidu and Shamat
He grazed on grasses with the gazelles.
He had a man's arms and the long hair of a girl.
He drank from the same water as the cows and goats...

Beachcombing
Curious, I lift it from the beach.
Water falls from the heel, it's sand-
plastered, crusty with salt and weed...

Carried on by Crowds
To be carried on by crowds
is to roll where whitewater runs,
with distress left behind in a heap...

Rollerblading Girl
She glides through the crowds
on her rollerblades
in her cropped T-shirt...

Passage
I can tell she's leaving someone she grew to know too well
and she cannot yet see her destination.
The warm breeze comes all the way from the horizon...

Making an Investigation
It's always the smallest of clues
that causes suspicion, the fuse
that sets off the fire, the two...

In his Single Room at the Hotel
After all the heated accusations
and the bitter recriminations,
he's silent now, exiled from...

Tea & Whisky
She used to stir the tea
inside the pot
while he put the...

Rhubarb Kissel
Two sets of handwriting:
One, firm, functional,
The other, cursive ornate...

Now and Then
So in love
we couldn't eat a thing
and waiters would ask...

Knee-Length Brown Leather Boots
You in your knee-length boots
Striding down outside St John's
And I, on the opposite side...

Celia
Celia kept a smart house, even when living alone,
was always carefully turned out, fastidious and
fair-skinned, make-up done, each jewel stone...

Life & Soul
Tonight there's a battle in the skies,
Through the window's scratches
From the shrapnel of the storm...

Christmas Eve, King's College
In the desert of sand and stone
The hoofprints of a camel train
That travels on to Bethlehem...

Seadrift Treasure
Two boys playing in a rock pool, their nets
scooping up secrets,
do you remember how we were?...

Snap
Do I know who he is,
this freckle-faced lad
standing with a beach...

Memories of Goring-by-Sea
The slick red coats
of strawberry mivvis
guard white ice-cream...

The First Eleven
The blue and white striped football jersey
plucked from the peg was more chilly
than our own skins as we shrugged it on.....

School Lunch Break
He lies in the sun
like a sheep in its wool,
time has trickled into a placid pool...

Maid of the Lakes
She had got off the stage in Keswick town
and, glad of a hat, walked six miles,
her skirt hitched up, her mind on each...

Isabella
Her laugh is the yellow
lightning on winter nights that floods
the valley's sides, Isabella...

Outback
I was never scared
he'd leave me so
I'll never forget...

Walking out
It might do us good to take a walk tonight,
a little further than the lights but not too far,
not being bothered by what’s out of sight...

Body World
I love you. I love your body. I love every part of you,
every cell of you. I love the world of your body so much
that I visited the Body World exhibition to find out more about you...

Not My Type
Women who put men in a velvet box
like a piece of heirloom jewellery
or a cadaver that can't get up to tricks...

Japanese Eyes
Here no winters or autumns are,
nor oceans of sapphire or jade,
only deep night without a star...

November in Okayama
November in Okayama.
It rains 'zaza' like in London.
Under your purple umbrella...

Yebisu
talking about the rock
bands we love
having their...

Softly Rocks the Heart's Cradle (haiku-inspired poems)
Waterfalls try all the ways of falling from one place to another.
An eyelash traps the summer sun's quivering butterfly wings.
Under the moonlight this falling snow seems to have no beginning.

Faded Blue Flower Pattern (haiku-inspired poems)
Thermometers stick up from graves as we take the temperature of the dead.
Having worn my path to then keep flowing gently like this mountain stream.
Wide mouths of fledglings in their nests of medieval ruffs, choirboys.

WHAT I WEAR FOR WRITING

Poems that examine our impulse to write poems to make sense of the world.

 

  What I Wear for Writing poems

What I Wear For Writing
Sometimes I write naked
as a Neanderthal.
I write about bones and fire...

Stunned By Shakespeare
I look up to these famous poets,
their books wedged tightly
into shelves that tower above me...

Advice to Poets
Don't drive a car. Dreaming up a poem
is not compatible with judging
distances and steering straight...

Reading Poems
A poem's licking its way over you,
licking your delicate bits,
the ones you show only certain people...

So You Want To Write
Let's start big, let's see...
now imagine you're the universe...
how would a nebula explosion feel to you?

Verballistics
It began with question marks going off to interrogate
the gravestone of a political philosopher in Highgate Cemetery,
then we saw the guillemets, flocks of them on telegraph poles...

Flatpack Poem
If this poem came from IKEA
it would be a flatpack poem
you'd have to assemble...

A Question of Perspective
The plume from an airplane's engines surges over
a swimming pool blue sky. Someone in a window seat
might have glanced below, seen the town's roofs smudged into one...

The Choice
Come on, you can't stay there in bed,
not when a poem's ready to climb like Dracula
out of its coffin or burst like a fluttering dove...

A Web Poem
is thousands of pixels
but you're not seeing them.
You're seeing the words and
lines that form the poem...

Deaths Of Poets
It's not true that all poets
died early from sickness
or were victims of violent deaths...

Useless
It won't get the washing done,
make the beds, pay the bills or make that call.
It won't bring back your lost love...

Jumper
This jumper looks decidedly jumpy.
Like a thug it's been following me
from house move to drawer move....

The Poems Project
The poems project will provide
a capability for the parallel or distributed
implementation of adaptive applications...

SOUND OF MIND

Poems that follow the neural pathways inside the brain as we process sensory impressions, thoughts, feelings and memories - and form connections between them.

  Sound of Mind poems

Thoughts on Consciousness
What is perceived
is conceived
in the coruscating...

The Far Reaches
Her flesh shrank
from the spars
of her shipwreck...

Twenty Four Hours
He swaggers through suburbia,
each turn of the street
a twist in a tale of adventure...

Crazy Golf
One balmy evening
by the seaside when I was nine,
we hit balls round barriers, ...

Happy Family
The man in the sunlounger
has an itch in his nose.
He scratches it, he pulls at it...

My Psychotherapist is Lying on the Couch
My psychotherapist is lying on the couch.
He has a bad back. Brought on by cancer,
brought on by having to deal with people like me...

Directions
It's like asking for directions in a foreign land
in a language you hardly understand.
Or halting in the dust of a desert road...

Comfort Zones
"The patient is comfortable," reports
the doctor. What does that mean?
That he's so drugged up...

Sóller Tunnel
For 3 kilometres
it bores through
the brain of the hill...

Can't Think What It Can Be
It nags at you as you stand
on the doorstep, it's time
to leave but you hesitate...

Teleporting
Late for a meeting and stuck in traffic,
I dream of teleporting myself so I'm right now
suddenly there - not being sorry for being late...

Red Wheelbarrow
lacking
the size
and strength...

Fragment Of Time
As if it were a diamond that someone rich
might take from a dusty shelf,
it was a tiny fragment of time which...

HUMAN TRACES

Memorial poems and poems looking at death as one of the facts of life.

  Sound of Mind poems

Dark Days
By 1.20 a.m. the firestorm
raged 2,000 metres into the sky,
even the canals blazed...

The Return: Wootton Bassett
A Globemaster plane rumbles low
over the town and rips apart
a scar in the bruised clouds...

Memorial Poem
Say if you will my name
and speak of me without a shadow
in your voice, speak of me easily...

Mourning
His life is letters of gold
carved into black marble.
The letters are his name...

Sonnet on the passing of Ellen
There is a garden with an old apple tree
And flower borders round the lawn
And ripe tomatoes in the conservatory...

Peter Tranchell
He'd halt the choir
to declare "Altos!
You're either too sharp...

The Last Haiku
The monitors are silent
beside the hospital bed.
The Haiku Club's Chairman...

It Would Be Real If I Cried
When the boots slammed into his head
my father had nowhere to hide.
The thugs left him dying or dead...

Sóller Cemetery
The stern command of gravestones
below the thin spires of cypress trees
and the long trudging ridge of the Tramuntana...

Visiting The Sick
I'd arrive shaking the rain off me
like a dog, frisky, the waterdrops
were broken pieces of cold sunshine...

Hiroshima
Out of what minds came this cruel art?
That something so small, only coffin size,
could have taken Hiroshima apart...

At This Moment
Someone turns the light on
looks down the barrel of a
gun...

A New Year Death
Crowds in the stores
on the last days
of the New Year sales...

No more questions
We don't think about any of this
when we start with the innocent
'I love you' and 'I love you too'...

Time Rewinds
The tape
rewinds:
splinters...

XYZ
All beauty can die eventually
facing glory, hate, introspection,
jesting, killing, loving...

 

 
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