The Rusted Millwheel

The Rusted Millwheel

Look now
how the old mill from which
the town takes its noble name
lies abandoned, boarded up
its water wheel no longer turning
stout heart and turbine of a golden age
rusting hidden behind overgrown bushes
the river rushing by unhindered
source of momentary power and potential
now lost, slipped beyond
numb fingers set free again
like failing memory, forgotten skills
of tradesmen long dead in wars
or the duller tyrannies of peace.
But some of us still recall it
as a child I watched it turn
beneath my shaking feet and marveled
at its juggling gaunt groaning
sparkling water diadems of light
and grasped in my young mind
a thing of love as well as genius.
And what since?
We’ve dug coal from the earth instead
oil from the sea floor, killed in droves
each other and the animals, the plants
everything that moved and much that didn’t
all for the miracle of motion, elixir of power
to drive our thirsty machines.
Soon all the wheels of the world will slow
come to a halt and rust as this one
until we see the error, accept the spurned gift
of the river still running by, laughing.

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Winter Moon

Each sunset now on these clear nights
bright Venus dances with the crescent moon
it’s that or Mars to choose from
Thanatos or Eros, love or war
Venus who’s too hot to stand on
and too fraught with fog to seeforest-by-ally-thompson
Mars an arid warning
of what a world of war will be
sex a mirage and hate a husk
a puff of powder or a fist of dust
let’s eschew these false idols
and choose the surer truth
that Moon who was torn once
from inside us as Eve came from a rib
is the form true love takes
a product of cosmic collision
never less than almost fatal
hard-won and ever-changing
sometimes full, sometimes null
in wax or wane yet even then
as a cryptic crescent foretells
a shape and light projected
from inside us cold and hard
as bone, timeless and eternal
beyond life and yet alive
adrift but pointing home.

(image inset is Forest oil painting by Ally Thompson, 1955-2016)

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Midwinter Vigil


I am not made of molecules
skin, sinew or bone
those are only clothes of words
layers of abstraction rather
I am made of darkness
absence, silence, memory
sadness, regret
questions without answers
How else to make myself
an eye to watch the clouds
above endlessly passing
than to become this stillness
passive, endless, bottomless pit
where I become the dark pool
of all the world has put there
that now once the clouds
have caught fire briefly
in sunset passing lights up
infinitesimally a trillion bright
fireflies of sentinel stars
reflected carnival lights
some sort of celebration this
faint constellation of atomic light
the equations of connections
inside me: I, like you, body and soul
a theorem of love chalked
across the blackboard cosmos.

(Picture inset above is “Listening To The Sounds Of The Night” by Ally Thompson, 1955-2016)

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Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson (1817-1875)

Eternally set stages awaiting the divine
their modest usher seeming still alive
to stand at our shoulder
and whisper in our ear
of light, the ancient sacrament.

To him every building a church
house or office becoming temples
consecrated by photons
raining, reigning always from above
as if travelling out of time
he who lost so much to death
his parents, siblings, his own children
entrusted in stone the only remedy
his necessary foundation.

The buildings tell his sermon yetholmwood-1_637292953
to those who’ll listen:
the God he speaks of sings
in many tongues, Etruscan
Greek, Hindu, Egyptian, pagan
effulgent foliage of fabled acanthus
wafting lotus wisdom
in the regal breeze of antiquity
eastern and ancient sophisticate
cosmopolitan magpie eye
aping urbanity.

And yet he duped them all perhapsstvincent_pulpit
albeit pleasurably, for this humble Balfron boy
was really only ever pharaoh over Glasgow
who never sailed the Nile
nor left his own Clyde to see
the ruins of Rome, Athens and Luxor
who built here instead within himself
his own Jerusalem
enshrined the mind a secular and sacred place
adorned its altar with the precious riches
of reason, geometry and order
the endless gold of light.


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ayrharbourMy “next public appearance” as they say, (apart from popping out to the shops for a pint of milk and so forth!), will be next month on Wednesday 16th November 2016 7.30pm at the Ayr Writers’ Club. I’ll be talking about my books, reading from some of them, and attempting to offer pearls of wisdom to anyone who’ll listen regarding the art of writing, particularly the art of writing short stories, since I will also be judge the Ayr Writers Club short story competition in the new year.

Sleep Corporation-160815In support of the far-fetched notion that I might be remotely qualified for this honour, I hereby offer up as evidence two recent reviews of my short story collection “The Sleep Corporation.” Reviewer Martin Rose has described the book as “a fascinating and riveting read of intelligent and deeply layered fiction…”, read in full here. And Charles Packer of the Sci Fi Online site has said of the book: “the quality is universally high and his singular voice is always crystal clear…” as you can see in full here. If you are lucky enough to live in the lovely and ancient seaside town of Ayr or its surroundings then please come along in return for which I promise to be convivial company for the evening 🙂

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In Baldernock Churchyard

From long autumnal walk
late sunlight swells my breast
hot and cold the rest at last
then half and half am I
both life and death
dark and bright-witted
poised as at the edge
guarded by wise yews
and boxed by hedge
exquisitely alone and sat astride
the bridge of stone I build
in thought and breath
to hold within my knitted fold
all those remembered gone before
belonging not to either realm
somewhat of both I take the helm
and move on forever
neither young nor old
but blowing as the wind sings
through all its shades
a million souls a-flicker
in the green grass blades.

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What is it that we seek?
This endlessly receding horizon
the cloud patterns of autumn skies
hazed, combed, teased froth:
the residue of Gaia’s wordless thoughts
etched across the cranial blue
only water vapour, only everything
artwork, emotion, sublime beyond
human hope or comprehension
each day is each day’s message
writ large in naught but
the medium of life is what
life means and commands of us
whispering: shine out
for what you are, take every taste
upon the tongue and burn, burn
until you are only blackened ashes
with which to polish, cherish
our restless, ardent star
the diamond of the sun.

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