Somerset Poems


Clevedon Uphill

Under a rare bright white September sun
the grey path climbs through wind combed trees
to a machine gun post, second world war.
It rakes a view of Sand Point, Quantock
Minehead, Steepholm, Chepstow, Wales.

Coleridge loved this broad light place
but that was when the Severn gave
so many salmon that servants
sickened of their taste.

The estuary now 's a brown conveyor belt
full of good Gloucester topsoil
bound for the latest seabed silt
and - in good time - for rock.

North west, inland
towards the smooth fresh wind
a bridge is etched
in seagull white
against the sloe skin colour of the Chepstow hills

even on this bright day
the water's brown
there's no denying it
a rasping rusty tongue
dividing Cymru from Loegri.

There is a legend - possibly untrue -
an ancient dragon,
tiring of the wars between those lands,
laid down to buy a thousand years of peace,
and that his blood still stains the Severn red.

Over the back, towards the sunny side
the dull dun tiles
of houses crawl across the moor
echo the colour of the Estuary

white gables point like white tipped waves
the village Coleridge knew
spreads like a steady tide
across the onetime mud flats
salt marsh, pastures, roofs

still in this gentle sun
until the long slow ocean tide comes back

(c)Richard Lawson Sept 01

View From Crook Peak

Below us now, the levels
where Monmouth fought, and
Jefferies sat on stinging haemorrhoids
while sending farm boys to the rope.

Down to your left
the Vale of Avalon
peppered with hills that play at dinosaurs:
that wood smoke laced with mist
is drifting on towards the Tor
the breast there raised up to the broad white sky
where Michael plays the piper once a year

This ridge was once a mountain range
that's vanished now into thin air.
Its glacial run off cut a sickening groove
into the limestone slabs
the Gorge, still wild
throws rocks at alien lice
that crawl along its bed

sweeping on down
the Mendips lift the air
sweet rising air that gives the gift of flight

Back over, that was Quincey's place
where he and Coleridge and their gang
would reason stonedly about their world and words

And to the north
the air path followed once when
cloud lift shrank this hill for me
down to a map.
Dizzy with height
the great wing banked
and bucked its way downwind to home
aimed for the cricket square
but landed thankfully
on soft green grass at Honey Hall.

North west, the Severn
gives a brave, dull gleam
under the mountains and the clouds of Wales.

there's Woodspring Priory
where you can feel the love
good monks gave to the ground.
It's desecrated now
home to the current cult of death

This ridge we're on
leads to the sea
to Brean Down's tip
where riptides make the waters mad
waves dance on their hind legs like circus dogs

while on the Point
there's ancient toilet blocks
where soldiers shat their youth away
waiting to bombard Boney's fleet
that never came.

over the Bay, those are the Quantock hills
home of the man who ruined Xanadu
under their shadow lies
the block of Hinkley
humming with power
heat for the many
slow death for the few

We brought a Slovak up here once
to see the view. He wept.
- Nowhere untouched by man, he said.

I sort of like it here. It's home.

© Richard Lawson
March 2001

A Wood in Somerset, Iraq

Stone still in opalescent air
trees wait supportively.

Light splinters on new leaves.

Sun for the seventh day
blesses an English spring.

Two thousand lives away
this anticyclone fires up a storm
that drowns a nightmare world
in ochre light.

The peace I feel
leaning against the powerful fist
that grips the earth, cushioned with moss,
back shaped, kind as an elephant,

finds its reflection in a furious world
of men who sleep walk,
fall on their mother's skin,
give screaming fire,
act and react,
but cannot take it in.

While birdsong fills my head,
sharp as the sunlight
sparking on those tiny points of green.

One hammer headed woodpecker,
knowing no better and no worse,
fires off his rounds.

I should be suffering,
but the world is folded at my side,
its front page images of death
have left off stirring
in this gentle air.

© Richard Lawson

Middle Hope, Woodspring

Beach black with oil and wrack
brown waves, stained with a wasted earth
their fall the only breath.
Horizon blurred. Rain coming in.
Monks won a simple living on this hill.
Now walkers gaze, and soldiers find new ways to kill.

Richard Lawson

11 Aug 2002


I see this land, salt marsh and beach
stretch level to the sigh of distant waves.

Our marks are everywhere.
lines drawn around our holdings.
The sweet, green grass
just tinged with weakness.

Huddled against the wooded hill
across the bay, our houses wait.

I see faint lines traced by an upper wind
marking the lit sky
five streaks of colour
cradling a bright half moon.

Behind, the ragged wood
climbs up towards the monks' old fields,
to where the ancients made their stand
against the red-tinged waves.

Closed down inside my body
marching to the drumbeat of mortality,
I lose the sky, the sea
although they are within me, I within them

flaps like the wings of a captured dove.

What if consciousness were Being
and as my vision holds this bay,
another vision holds the world and sky?

Sees in those rocks, the seas that were before?
Sees in those houses sparking on their lights,
each inner human world
each feeling, numbness,
this teeming, dumb, transparent, hollow land
within ourselves?

(c) Richard Lawson

© 2001 R. Lawson This page was last updated on 22.4.05