The Pillars of the Earth

Purbeck Marble


The Pillars of the Earth

What is this power
That holds up cathedrals ?
That bring in the pilgrims,
And keeps out the gales ?
It isn’t lord Jesus,
Nor bishops and beadles,
It isn’t the faithful,
Nor relics and grails.
Forget all the masons
With stone tetrahedrals,
Forget all their chisels,
And braces and nails –
The answer is columns !
Those load-bearing needles,
Those orderly uprights,
Those masts without sails.
And the finest of columns,
So stately and regal,
Use marble from Purbeck
In multiple scales.

Now, wildlife in Purbeck,
From roe-deer to seagulls,
From rabbits to lizards,
From fishes to whales,
Are nothing compared
To her beasts without equal –
But who are these heroes ?
Well, there hang some tales…
For hidden in hedgerows,
There lurk her great people:
Like bees in her fields,
And yeasts in her ales –
But her mightiest creatures
Have built ev’ry steeple:
The lime in the limestone
That polish unveils –
For marble from Purbeck
That holds up cathedrals,
Is held up in turn
By the shells of her snails.

Paley Ontology

time clock silver stone
Photo by Pixabay on


Paley Ontology

William Paley,
(Still quoted daily)
Chanced upon a timepiece while out walking on the dale.
Pondering its presence,
Mulling on its essence,
He saw it was a Made Thing, and all that must entail:
Here there were no surplus parts, no way to make it less dense;
If this must have a Maker – why, then Man must likewise hail !

Grand Mr Paley,
Postulating gaily,
Never knew the fossils that were lurking in the shale.
So too have the watches
Seen their share of botches:
Dodgy trains and axles who have never found a sale.
Cruel is such selection as inflicts their cogs with notches,
And calling time on any found irregular or frail.

Poor Mr Paley,
Breaches in his bailey,
Holes in his hypothesis, all bigger than a whale.
Thermal compensation
And grand complication
Have grown in watches gradu’ly, and clearly leave their trail.
So tick evolves to tock with ev’ry not-quite-iteration,
In the coiling of the spring as in the spiral of the snail.



Holy Smoke





Holy Smoke

“New Pope Francis I was a chemist before joining the priesthood.”
                                                                                                        Daily Standard, 13th March 2013

Black smoke rises,
No bells chime –
No-one gets to reign this time.
Too much ash
And unburned carbon –
No-one gets to put the garb on.
No red shoes
And no election
When the soot absorbs the spectrum.

Of course you knew,
Though could not see,
Locked-in within your conclave walls –
But did you muse
On chemistry,
With thoughts beyond the Sistine halls ?
Your former calling, calling still,
Electron shells that need to fill,
Covalent bonds that still attract,
Reagent spirits interact –
Until, born up on thermal wings,
The particles of life shall dance –
And crowds shall watch these benzene rings,
And trade their schooling for romance.
Francis, Francis, what get’s passed on ?
Less Assisi, more of Aston.

White smoke rises,
Bells are ringing –
It is you, this new beginning.
Within the salts
Have brought fresh air beneath the vaults.
Watch out, though,
For excess flack,
For white smoke stains as much as black.

Of course you know,
Though will you see ?
Locked-in, within your papal robe ?
Please don’t forget
Your chemistry –
It’s not in Genesis or Job.
So will you be the iron fist,
Or will you be the scientist,
And stress how best our souls are driven
Through the brains that we’ve been given ?
Till, born up on hungry wings,
We seek for ever greater knowing.
Who knows what tomorrow brings,
But will you join us where we’re going ?
Francis, Francis, reawaken !
Less Assisi, more of Bacon !




close up of human eye
Photo by Pixabay on



To see my parents, chocolate for eyes;
To see my siblings, thoroughly brunette.
To see myself is seeing dusky ties:
Too dark for mousy, yet too light for jet.

To see my siblings, there you see my eyes;
To see my parents, there you see my debt.
To see myself is seeing fates devise:
So brown is passed to brown, and brown we get.

But see our children, golden in their flush,
So pasty-blanched of face and pale as day.
So bright in hair and eye, so fair in blush,
So flax and dandelion in the hay.
Our children lurked within us all the while –
We show, not in their eyes, but in their smile.




family tree



Just think, there once was a couple like us,
Some ten or twelve thousand-odd years ago,
Who looked on their children and started to suss
How far might their progeny grow –
From out of their children would flow ev’ry nation,
All wandering further with each generation,
Till ev’ry damn human alive in creation
Is each one a cousin – we’re kinfolk, you know.

From Kenya and Fiji and Rome and Nepal,
Through love, rape and conquest, each fam’ly propels –
They’re mother to each and they’re father to all,
They’re filling our veins and our cells.
Their dynasty, you and me, thoroughly blended –
They’re either to ev’ry- or no-one descended.
And could it be, thousands of years on, portended
That we shall be flowing through ev’ryone else ?



A concestor is the last common ancestor.



The Ballad of Miss Pickle



The Ballad of Miss Pickle

She skipped to the balls
In her crinoline gown,
With verdurous falls
In the drapes of her crown.
She rustled and twirled
As she danced with their gaze,
And pleatings unfurled
In a deep-lustred prase.
Hers was no ruby or aquamarine:
The glorious girl in the emerald green.

All season she danced
In her favourite hue;
Her eyes were enhanced,
And her blossoming grew.
Her costume was styled
To flicker the room;
The beaux she beguiled,
Her shamrock in bloom.
Hers was no palette of altering scene:
The glorious girl in the emerald green.

The following year
As the bucks met to fool,
They longed she’d appear:
Their taffeta jewel.
But salon and do
Were all lacking her shade;
They felt far too blue
And in want of her jade.
Hers was no presence, but absentee queen:
The glorious girl in the emerald green.

Then shocking they heard
Of her sudden demise:
The poison transferred
From the arsenite dyes.
She wilted last winter,
She couldn’t have known
How deadly the tints were
In which she was sewn.
Hers was no longer, a tragic eighteen:
The glorious girl in the emerald green.

A young woman dies
In much retching and bile
To set off her eyes
And to brighten her smile.
Her end was a blur
With her lights in distress,
But do not blame her
For the tinge of her dress.
Hers was no moral to vanity’s preen,
The glorious girl in the emerald green.

She skips to the balls
In her crinoline gown,
And her glowing enthrals
With a growing renown.
Remember her this way
From bodice to hem:
A verdant display
From a radiant gem.
A shimmer and sparkle, a ripening sheen:
The glorious girl in the emerald green.


More commonly referred to as Paris Green, but the rhythm of ’emerald’ suited me better.



Coming Distractions

dust motes


Coming Distractions

From the edges of your vision to the edges of the room,
From the sweeping of cognition to the sweeping of the broom,
From the buzz of distant chatter to your neighbours through the floor,
To the thousand tiny matters that are breeding by the score –
So many things to notice that were always there to notice,
But were never worth the noticing before.

So ev’ry thought that seeds your day,
And finds such rich and fecund soils,
Will parasite your bark –
And ev’ry thought that runs astray,
And wanders through your mental toils,
Will leave its tiny mark.

From the edges of your reason to the edges of yours scars,
From the sweeping of the season to the sweeping of the stars,
From the altogether trivial that scatters anyhow,
To the random and equivocal that sleet against your brow –
So many things to worry that were always there to worry,
But were never worth the worrying till now.

So ev’ry thought that tries to sway
Is often sly as it embroils
Its subtle, plaful lark.
But ev’ry thought that comes to play
Shall leave behind its share of spoils
In particle and quark.

From the edges of a bare trace to the edges of awake,
From the sweeping of the staircase to the sweeping of your stake,
From the incidental incidents and glorious mundane,
To the vaguest feeling since it went from overcast to rain –
So many things to wonder that were always there to wonder,
But are never worth the wondering again.

For ev’ry thought that seeps your clay
Will ooze its crude and viscous oils
That faintly glow the dark.
And ev’ry thought that blows your way
Will drive your turbines, spin your coils,
And generate your spark.