Phil Vernon

 

 

 

Sunday
 
I.
In shade is cold. I face the railway bank.
Each fresh wet blade of lawn is trimmed.
Birdsong, a distant plane and muffled train
Augment the silence. Topmost limbs

Of the tallest oaks and sycamores are lit.
Coffee drifts from the dew-damp table.
A robin hops and pokes the shadowed soil
Beneath the feather-leaf maple.

I name my flowers: foxglove, poppy, rose…
Dew pools like mercury, on watertight
Nasturtium leaves. In measureless time, I find
The perfect rhyme, and summer light

Begins to peel the coverlet of day,
Slips effortlessly down the bank towards me
Brightening, and creeps across the grass
To touch my feet; abruptly warms me.
 
II.
From Sunday’s topical TV,
Vox populi intrudes in drifts
Of sound, insisting lazily
On infiltrating all the gifts

Of silence, time and space I’ve nursed.
Its current casually blows
The floating phrases into verse –
Though scarcely quickening their prose.
 
‘… So why should I work hard to pay
For them to sit around all day?’
 
‘The vulnerable need our care –
I’m more than proud to pay my share.’
 
‘They take us for a bunch of fools:
‘If they live here, they follow our rules.’
 
‘Well I, for one, just don’t subscribe
To the kind of Britain you describe.’

While claiming depth, each voice defines
Itself in shallow tones as pro
Or con – as though to part from lines
Already drawn would be to throw

Away the comfort of deceit
And live in panicked fear – and swells
With self-reflection to repeat
Ideas which paraphrase themselves.
 
III.
… afraid of synthesis, we stand around
The tree which grew within the forest while
We looked away, and each in different style
Describes the contours of its bole and crown,

The spiny fruits in which its seeds are found,
Its leaves and inch-long thorns… And thus profile
The traits we see, but make no common trial
Of whether it will heal or harm our ground.

Though God, alarmed by Nimrod’s tower, to tame
Us gave each tribe a language only He
And they could speak, His trick was not to name
A multiplicity of tongues, but the
Illusion that within a single tongue,
By sharing words, we share a lexicon.

 

 

Phil Vernon lives in Kent in the UK, where he returned in 2004 after two decades in various parts of Africa. He works as an advisor on peacebuilding and international development. He mainly writes formal poetry, finding the interaction with pre-established patterns of rhythm and rhyme can lead in surprising directions. His poems have been published in numerous magazines, journals and websites, and been shortlisted in competitions. A micro-collection, This Quieter Shore, was recently published by Hedgehog Poetry Press. Some of his published work can be found on his website www.philvernon.net/category/poetry.

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Phil Vernon

 

 

 

Instructions

Select your glue with care
as most are designed for smooth
or porous surfaces – not both

brush clear of debris
then dab with alcohol
rehearse the join – and breathe

the contours
where the break occurred
must match

press firmly – tentatively rotate
till both sides fit as they did before
with a silent click

and breathe – now practise again
for you will not have a second
second chance

should you misjudge
the union will be
not as good as new

so breathe
unscrew the cap
imagine every step ahead

then pierce the seal with a pin
apply the swelling glue
and breathe

wipe clean the tip – replace the cap
and set aside the tube and pin
you should not need them again

can you feel your breathing?
spread the adhesive evenly
with an unspent match

position both parts so you’ll be
almost sure to grasp them right
can you feel your breathing now?

next you must wait
until it is almost
dry to the touch

so sit, and notice your breath’s caress
assess the glue with a fingertip
and test again

and now
while breathing quietly out
suspend your disbelief

take both in your hands – rotate
attempt the angles again – again
and breathe

in one swift movement press and hold
until your fingertips turn white
and breathe

a final check – the angle’s right?
wipe swollen beads from the join
the hairline disappears

set down the delicate whole
and breathe
and wait

and learn
while breathing
if the join will take.

 

 

 

 

Phil Vernon has lived in Kent since 2004, after twenty years living in various countries in Africa. He started writing poetry again in 2012 after a twenty-year break. Whereas in the past his poems were mostly written in free verse, he now embraces more formal forms, and finds his words and ideas thus surprise him more often. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Other Poetry, Ink Sweat & Tears, Acumen, Anima, Elbow Room, Gold Dust, Pennine Platform, Crannóg, Poetry Salzburg Review, Out of Place and The Poetry Shed, and he has been shortlisted and commended in several poetry competitions. Some of his poems are on his website: https://philvernon.net/category/poetry/

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Phil Vernon

 

 

 

The nurseryman

and then the government attacked
and fire leapt from roof to roof
and all the colours bled to black
for days the greatest rainstorm sluiced
the soot from stumps of home to stain
the soil I lost my wife to war
our girl to floods our boy to flames
I fled with only what I wore
I hid in fields in ditches nights
I named the rose I bred for each
repeatedly and hugged them tight
I walked in circles weeks then reached
this pebbled shore at Dungeness
awaiting boats to France or death

 

 

 

Phil Vernon lives in Kent. He started writing poetry again in 2012 after a twenty-year break. Whereas in the past his poems were mostly written in free verse, he now embraces more formal forms, and finds this means his words and ideas surprise him more often. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Other Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Elbow Room, Gold Dust and Pennine Platform, and he was shortlisted and commended for the 2015 Ealing and 2016 Binsted Festival Prizes, and in the Out of Place poetry and music collaboration competition in 2016. Some of his poems are on his website: https://philvernon.net/poetry/.

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Phil Vernon

 

 

 

Twenty-five years
For Tebo

I waken too early, on woodsman’s toes explore
a home that’s still, until our neighbour turns
the news up loud, and you begin to snore
to match the rhythm of the morning trains.

Again I discover as though surprised, the sounds
of dawn are sung by modern life not birds,
that we inhabit cul de sacs, not glades,
wear dressing gowns, not bark cloth capes or furs.

So coffee and toast, and a view of the low winter sky,
an hour or two at tasks brought home from work:
I read, respond, review, redraft, delay,
and listen out for when I hear you stir.

We make pastel love, and when we look outside,
a quiet snow has fallen across the town.
The sun shines on the whitened roofs and road.
We smile and put the central heating on.

Phil Vernon lives in Kent, and works in London for an overseas charity. He started writing poetry again in 2012 after a twenty-year break. Whereas in the past his poems were mostly written in free verse, he now embraces more formal forms, as he finds this means his own words and ideas surprise him more often.

Read More