Two herons fly north tonight, over a moonlit high tide. Gemini in a western sky guides celestially the first plane in to the airport to land. Wavelets lap and swoosh as seaweeds are drift up. Oberon takes me out for this, for a rainbow around the moon, thin cloud, dewy cars and damp grass. So to sit on the harbour slip, crocs idle in dry sand, tempts me to make the first footprints on land, on a Sunday morning, wet after the turned tide.
Flapping in the wind,
For quarter of a hour between 8 and 9,
Clouds flow east across the evening sun.
Hammock silk tugs and stretches,
As tree mallow flower spikes sway,
Awaiting her return.
Noodle nests boiled for supper
Seasoned by butter and goats cheese
With Miso, provided for what I need.
Low clouds zip east.
Eyelids closed for an inner volcanic rouge
From solar bound shut eye.
Wind hammock billows
cooling shivers motive to go in.
Bluer above, catching the evening air
Heading out to the Irish Sea.
Cooler chilled back and coughs,
signal a last swing,
Before I unfurl my hammock,
And let my day out end.
Rewarmed in still air inside,
Hisses the drafts of unsteady wind,
Beaufort five and falling,
As mallow lilac flowers wobble,
In the last of the day’s sun.
The dog looks over me, waiting for me to wake up. A whimper to see if I am emerging from unconsciousness, and then a few more insistent barks when he sees he is getting a result. Clasping palms, I roll towards the edge of the bed, my elbow righting myself for the day ahead.
His single woof, at his nemesis Bran, chambered next door, is his acknowledgement that he is on his way up and out for his morning walks. Out the door, down the steps, to the lawn for a quick pee, and the pressure is off. He runs dollop, bear-like, a black and white Manx panda dog, tailless, with ferocious teeth, sometimes.
We go around the old lifeboat house to the beach. The sand is wind blown this morning, scalloped, like something fresh from the Sahara, dry, footprint free.
He has woken me before for astronomical highlights. The red-eyed full moon during the tail end of a lunar eclipse over the bay in the winter, the moonlight reflected in a damp beach with the southwest Dublin sodium lamp glow. Another nocturnal walk around and across to the Chevrons in the spring, rocks at the edge of the bay, Venus light, on a moon free night, from the east reflected as spots on a gentle lapping sea.
His track across the sand is distinctive, a three pawed cluster with his peg leg leaving the mark of a pirate’s stump. The sand blows and a few grains reach my lips and I rub my eyes. I have always dreamt of seeing full moonrise at sea in the Pacific Ocean, but that would take planning.
This morning’s view is of a crescent moonrise east through the orange pre-dawn stripe of the horizon, over the Irish Sea. Rockabill lighthouse is to the northeast, a twelve second red blink, with an open sea horizon southeast to Lambay and on to the green second light on the navigation marker south in Loughshinny Harbour.
Returning for the camera, I capture seven views of the crescent moon to illustrate it. Johnny still slumbers in the mobile home, with his dog Blackie, who had hid under his mobile home for a few days unfed, and Wiry, carried under his arm past our window last night, past the risk of an encounter with one of our pair.
Oberon has been out before dawn, and Bran tumbles back into his canine reverie, while Oberon supervising the door, he lies, exhales nasally, and lies horizontal like a door draft excluder, ensuring that any ingress or egress cannot possibly be missed.
Seagulls, Greater Black Backs pick for lugworms, along the stripe of the freshwater spring across the beach to the west, their breast feathers catching the early morning sunrise with a glossy white to prawn pink hue.
I sit looking west, curious to know if the crescent moon is visible now, when I have finished writing this, the long shadows have more contrast, and the sunlight has more strength, now that the day is here.
2 June 2016
Distilling the vocabulary of genera,
detailing their morphological senses,
applying nuances to an under-explored forest.
A creative pamphlet for Honduras,
hurriedly assembled to guide, from afar,
Irish people walking by trees.
Knowledge for communication and
an incentive to tarry, turn and see
botanical detail, that bypasses me.
My table shared, in a request for family seating for a meal,
withdrawn in a botany manuscript, booklet editing,
overheard conversation, cues for discourse,
as I emerge, courteously, from my own world.
Accented English hints at exotic linguistic prowess,
Language, French, German, no, Lithuanian, Russian, yes, Irish, cupla focal.
explaining with my best roundaboutly told story of how to practice Irish,
of caint ar an madra ag rith go tapaidh, tar eis an anibhdhe ag rith go tapaidh freisin …
21 March 2016
Relax, take it easy, calm your mind, not so fast.
Time is a healer, on your day off.
Isolation is unneccessary, censure is intolerable.
Talk in friendliness about anything,
compose something, talk it out loud,
for your sanity demands it,
connect with other souls, talk about modernity.
Listless in the heat, brain fry complete
deep breath, take it easy,
calm down, not so fast.
Take a walk to a tree,
use your eyes for an exercise
to see what is a twig,
develop the vocabulary to communicate
about an entity external to me,
keep going, screening with your eyes
until you have seen something you did
not know exists, now
take your time, really take it easy,
look at nature, calm, with your mind.
Recreation in nature is an inquisitive enqiry,
what is it like ?
Use your mind to describe this entity,
maybe do a dissection, or a drawing, or a painting,
or a photo, if you are impatient.
Make an image in your mind to communicate with the future
so that we can speak of the same entity,
in the same language, in the same words,
to some other soul, for we are all kindred.
Minister some spiritual kinship, by mentoring
this exercise in clarity, calm from the anxieties
of a distressed mind, a bit of visual yoga.
All you need is a tree, standing nose to a low branch,
short-sighteness helps, and tropical sunlight, to give good acuity,
for to see what is this entity, before me.
I am not the first to need something external,
to drive my tortured concerns away, but perhaps
with the spark of curiosity, looking is something my eyes can do
mindlessly, contribute kinship with that entity,
that needs a bit of dew, and respect too.
Calm the mind from its anxieties
is the exercise here, a diversion perhaps
if it works perhaps, perhaps, perhaps
the scales on the eyes of your perception,
will need a gentle rub, why torture your mind,
with intolerable situations, take a deep breath
and let it all go, keep your eyes open, and
release yourself from the tyrrany of why.
Why, for you have now delved
into the torture of what !
(c) Howard Fox, June 2013
Stopping by trees
focussed on individuals
thalli of colour and form
units of biology
living on bark
in community patterns
related to the conditions
that surface offers for life;
here where the thallus lives.
Grouped through the ages
into genera, the observer
sees, into species that
require a chemist’s senses
What are the intrinsic,
and what are the extrinsic?
the factors that make life here.
A spore grows ontogenetically in
a place suitable for juveniles once
a place where the thallus can fruit
complete the life cycle as the
substrate changes over the years.
Habitats in the forest
are not the easiest
for a tourist to imagine
Night, rain, heat,
sun-flecks, trunk axil
seeps. What can
the resident islander see?
Host trees each
one, watching the
as the extrinsic is
thought to differ,
wetter, western, trunk
age, all to genus
as grouped by the observer
all to species if thalli numbered
and patiently seen.
Choices of vegetative reproduction
geometrically tangential to the
surface of the tree, rain
drips and seeps apply chemistry
what bacterifuge is necessary
for life at the surface
of this thallus here. Taxonomic
identity comparison one against one
one has observed before.
Taxonomic insight takes patience
in the forest to see
In the dark shade, the
warm sweats drip and blur
the optical aids vision
of the intrinsic, minds
free for the extrinsic
wondering about the daily
routine, here at this
How does it manage a
shower, how does it manage
at dawn, noon and sunset?
When does a vector interact?
Is the surface alive with
an ant? How sour is
the rain that passes
over? Where do those
tree mists flow in
the valley, where
does the night dew fall?
Does the tree canopy
harvest occultly the
clouds here or
what is this surface
like, leached or
When to move
on to another thallus
to start the routine
again. How slow
do we move in the
forest to see
that thallus taxonomically
Give the pin a number
and write all the answers
methodically of a mindful of
questions organised scientifically
So what is your method
as you are wandering about,
for the method controls the
enlightenment your mind
can perceive. Focus on the
intrinsic, answer the
Start a new thallus
then on, methodically,
until the day is
done. Stand still if you can see
a thallus is front of
you. Move over
barren ground, those
quadrats need scrutiny,
several a day if you are
able, until a week is
done. They say seven
weeks is enough to get
you to the front line.
Look at bark, imagine
the chemistry. Add weather
and dendritic geometry
for then you will see
like a forest master.
One plant whose flower
has never been seen
by mankind, then
you will see the once
insight watching for
the raw edge between
hypothesis and reality.
The anomalies need recording
as they are scientifically,
new, new to science.
Walk, observe, stop, observe,
patiently repeat your litany.
There are hundreds of forms
on the trees of the islands.
How can you see them all
and challenge them for their
reality. Imagine the
muriform, imagine the simple
and where they would start life
on this surface, where do we
look on a tree, to see you.
Once the taxon emerges, then
the botanical use starts, a
predictor of environment on
the surface of a tree
united by physiology
a tolerance of life
nearby, one thallus to
the next, what differences
and can be put down
to extrinsic causality.
Seeing in the forest
with the patience of
a forest master enough
to create a mythology
for an island’s culture
one thallus, one kind
and communicated internationally
in lingua latin
The name of species is such.
It is here, pantropically
If you can imagine
the chemistry of
bark in the tropics –
Plant host family
at a glance –
lines of an obsessive
The insights that emerge in
free verse, summarise the
methods we can use to
in the forest. Why not
climb a tree, spend
time in the photophilous zone
with varieties of me, zip-lining
is too quick, a mental blur
hanging about the like a sloth
optically observing, remembering
the geography of where on the
island you saw a thallus like that.
This matching mismatching
mentally such names
as we have to handle the
forest, like a forest master,
and create a biological
mythology all carefully
attested in reality.
Deconstruction to unity
reassembly to botany.
Let us see these patterns
as vegetation, patterns
in the forest, visual memes
to stop your walk, so that
you see, the
note your reactions
in your mind
Howard Fox, 16 iii 2013
Tags: botany, consiousness, discipline, of, poetry, stream, taxonomy
Parataxonomy and Optical ambition
Microscopy of mountain land
ascospore sizes of all fertile crusts
slides and cover slips
ascus photomicrographs neatly
measured by graticule
each volcanic island, measured and compared
Vincent versus Lucia, unequal effort provides history for each hypothesis
a species concept for insularity
in the tropical heat, Soufriere’s whiff in a cauldron of lichenological creativity
Dominica’s thelotremes versus Guadeloupe’s, Martinique versus Grenada
An Atlas for a young intellectual’s eyesight.
Attached to a tree
Crustose blade attacks
Sovereignty transferred to a museum sector
types and standards measured immaculately
the taxonomic exploration for an island,
one genus and family at a time,
foretold in forests.
[On the scientific ambition of many years work]
The Dunsany’s Ending
Charon rowed his Pirogue mirthlessly across the Styx
The dull pains in his athletic arms ached and
his face grimaced at each passanger like they both had
for thousands of years of time.
The routine of fifty souls from the island a day had increased for a month
to thousands and then declined to almost none.
In a week without calls for crossings, his time weary aches eased and he thought
‘The ways of the gods of this time on the island were strange’
At the end of the journey across, one shadowy soul whispered
‘I am the last’. Charon concentrated on the final strokes ashore,
and with a withering swish of his oars, Charon smiled at him.
SUNDOWN AT MARIGOT
In the evening sun
sipping a glass of rum
bringing a bit of heat to my cheek
the left ear hot and sizzled
the right lobe breezy in shade
looking out on the deck to the bay
elbows comfortable in my chair
a poet’s clipboard above my knee
sharpened pencil galloping across
line after line of words
imagining being at Marigot Bay
Pencil grip firm in the heat
now with a sun burned cheek
Pour me some more rum
Sundown at Marigot (continued)
Heat that warms your bones
Incandescent backbone aches melt away,
earlobe breezes startle irregularly,
your shadow shades the grass, denies them some evening pleasure
as a cloud crosses to melt the shadows away
Grass blade quivers, waiting until the fall of day
Look back at grey clouds, absorbing the sunlight like a sponge
fluffy and hey, I need to get back to Marigot some day
Pacing around, pencils clipboard bound
with a luminous brightness the clouds will release thee soon
while I wait, a few drops hiss on the hair on the back of my knuckle,
and others miss in their entireity
Mew heat to keep the spirit flowing
and calm, warm and glowing
would the clouds ever part
and give me a new blast from Icarus’ Inferno
to melt the waxes on skin
that a few moments ago I was sunbathing in.
Pacing works, movement allows
the reassignment of sun to your back
exercise and territorial tresspass
allow your shadow to shade the road
greenery released to double one’s pleasure.
May the tarmac boils subside while I am outside
getting a penetrating fourth verse
of a submission to Saint Somewhere
as a cloud whimsys away across
a blue azule backdrop.
For eventually I will get to Marigot
On one fine evening
The bone heats and ear sweats dribble,
while the draught of the tipple burns away at the gullet
as there is a verse to do.
May the sunshine in Marigot this evening
as I imagine it to.
[First verse posted on CLS, September 2012]
This is not a Mosquito
In Bed with Byron, writing in pencil
children are safe and the wit is instead.
Hail fair mirror where is dost cobweb
above your head saliently moved above the head board
preserved but moved acting with coughs similarly
tucked up in bedlam
the fly makes it across
Rain on the roof, a squib of a shower, the pencil chop sticks
alternate points keeping the writer hewn close to the sharpener
Oh – where is this going, this errant verse
mattress sprung knuckles bouncing pencils crossed above
sprung in cotton, comfortable in bed
exhale what cotton what crisp comfort against the skin
a parable of a poet watching a fly traverse towards the cobweb
and exit stage left.
banded abdomen of a nematoceran fly with haltomeres
a dipteran cigar now rests on the sloping ceiling
in for the night as far from the light as is safe
knuckles spring thud in between the beat of the lines
writing is all in the head
what emerges on paper is just that, if it is let flow,
short words selected by texting
the little ways of saying shortly instead. Not a Mossie.
Longwinded maybe but longworded no
it is the style of the composition
that what you are used to allows
why don’t you write in Patois
and let us hear that voice
subsumed with explosive friccatives rupturing through your lips
It is hard to imagine the sound in a sweet carib voice
without the shortened syntax to go with the reading out loud.
The voice is so distinctive
it must have a metrical metre
to turn those ears around.
hark, listen to the phone conversation in the far room
drawing to an end in agreement over earlier daily rows
why does a fan of verse
worry how it will turn out
when all that matters is getting it written
and let others figure what it is about
writing a poem, some say,
this will do, hey
Number the page in the beginning
crosssed pencil slip in an extra s
excessm this metrical metre has
a caribbean-ness, composed for a salon of salubriousness
where comment is stiffled by literary politeness
while a few rauckous members scribble away, posting notices of their output.
The reader counter is addictive
maybe you have to read it twice
we are all inveterate readers no matter what it is about !
Oh what whimsical fantasy is going to emerge
from this session of scribing
I must post my Dunsany
a place in the county of Meath
a poem with a chilling ending of a civilisation
Where is the draft I have written
dropped carefully on the floor by the bed
pencils write vertically while biros are disastrous in bed
What do you do when you run out of paper,
to put the composition in the writers atellier
a quick raid from the printer, keeps us going ahead
The rhythm of the writing to keep everything going smoothly along
rushing down the page in a different way,
puts the ache in the arm rather than on the hand grip.
The sound of the paper is thinner,
now that I have reached the last page
There are opposite sides to be covered
if one needs to go on.
The sound of scribing is a tonic to the soul before sleep
let us type it in in the morning and let us see where we get
encouragement is unnecessary for one with a voice
but welcome when it is not given in jest
for what a poet needs is just some acknowledgement
a few readers smiles as you struggle along digesting this
[Vikram Seth’s novel ‘Golden Gate’ is masterclass in prose poetry]