The Nose That Interposes

from THE TWAIN, Poems of Earth and Ether (book)


Download (with covers) available




RIP Jack (#ElSpringador) July 10, 2004 - January 6, 2018


The nose that interposes
Between your plate and you
Is a nose that never dozes
Till suppertime is through,
A nose that's always curious
When scenting tasty treats,
A nose that's quite censorious
If they're eaten out of reach.

The nose that sniffs the roses
By the summerhouse at dawn
Is a nose whose paws will process
The soil before it's done,
A bit of exhumation
Aerates a flowerbed
And hoarded bones are waiting
To be rescued from the dead.

The nose that teases hoses
Sprinkling water on the lawn
Is a nose whose tail proposes
That this element is fun,
It's fine in ponds and rivers
And fills a drinking bowl
But sudsy baths cause shivers
And merely make one howl.

The nose that tracks the postie
In luminescent gear
Is a nose whose bark's not ghostly
But suggests a force of ire,
It's game for space invaders,
Will recycle all the mail,
By habit, eco-friendly,
The bin's its Holy Grail.

The nose that interposes
When the door is left ajar
Is a nose whose roving chooses
To corner cats beneath the car,
But then the dust will settle
And evening stills the paws,
The nose that's on its mettle
Sinks gently into snores.






This is how it is for them
the horizon shrinking
They seek a place to 'be'
but do not fit
The nesting instinct
frustrates at every turn
They sense a new horizon
their eye cannot behold
They feel for footholds
their heart no longer wants
The unreality of Now
is claiming them
Half of them is There
not Here
their treaty with the earth
Think not 'one foot in the grave'
for they are looking forward
They will view all
in multiple dimension
and encompass us anew
They're not subsumed in sorrow
The death, our grief, is ours
The grass is greener There
and we are Here.

This is natural
and how it is for them
Thank them, love them still
They are blazing a trail
They are making Way.



THE TWAIN, Poems of Earth and Ether

Dog Star


Image courtesy of Nigel Hemming



(After Robert Browning)



That's my last canine pictured on the wall
looking as if he were alive. I call
that piece no blunder, now.
A Canon Powershot and sleight of hand
captured his mischief and there he stands.
Do sit awhile and be amused.
I said this camera by design, for none
saw Maximilian - Max for short - composed
and would have missed him altogether,
his rump fast disappearing in the rearguard
of a hundred miles an hour tornado,
had it not been for A1 technology
and the patience of a saintly spouse.
Perhaps Di chanced to pat a seat and say
Come, sit with me on your part of the sofa
and harken while I spin tall tales of your begetting

His tail would wag; he loved a tale,
the rhythm lulling silky, pendent ears,
adjusting the helter-skelter of his heart
to gentler pace, his dark eyes bright
with immemorial knowledge
of spells woven by camp fires at twilight,
the day's work ably done, aroma of rabbit
run to earth, now sweating in a stockpot,
pheasant plucked of feathers, fit for hanging.
(His, sadly, didn't work, so why should theirs?)
Max was of noble Spanish pedigree, she'd say,
his sire and dam a coupling from the gods,
embellishing her yarn with arcane words
like 'perambulation' and 'peregrination'
that rang vague bells, and words like 'stroll'
he knew had to do with new-mown grass.
He'd listen, rapt to be the epicentre of Creation
There now, she'd croon. Keep still. Good boy! Click!
The flash would spark spontaneous momentum
and anguished squeals at apperception vanished,
nowhere the source of light found and rounded up.
But Good boy meant rusks and rawhide treats
and that magic word which, once articulated,
bound the speaker on pain of mayhem: Walkies!


from THE TWAIN, Poems of Earth and Ether

San Francisco's Reply


to Katie Burke who wrote a Valentine letter to her native city


My heart's forever
yours, Miss Burke, let me count the
ways you bridge that fault,

deep-riv'n below your
feet, with golden eulogy,
Narcissus himself

had no greater joy
in his reflection than mine
in your limpid eye

you exculpate my
treachery with a soulful
blink denied frail man

must I then believe
you'll not yield to the human
dance and play me false?


THE TWAIN, Poems of Earth and Ether


The Twain


On the east coast facing east -

On a west coast facing west -


It is not ocean that separates

where nothing can happen but

closure, transition in flight

or afloat, the bridging of gaps

by the famished and fugitive

from blighted crops and die-hard dogma,

with continents, long deluged,

forging a link in the chain

while billows from the opposite shore

recoil from teasing display,

arc high, gathering momentum

and, in a blue-green crescendo

that flares with diamond spume,

crash on the jagged Celtic

littoral of the British Isles

in unbridled exultation.


It is not ocean that cleaves...


But the seething earth which parts coast

from coast, a landlocked tempest.

Gold-seekers congregate to plot

exploitation of its wealth

and mark out territory, asserting

the right to proliferate

and consume with wanton pride,

inventing exclusive customs,

speaking in cabbalistic tongues

with a multiplicity

of idioms, cadences, inflections,

arranging an estrangement,

occasioning all manner of obstacles

which demand rites of passage

in a bid to conquer tribe and canyon

as they push 'from sea to shining sea'.


It is not ocean that cleaves...


I hear the echoes in your voice,

as in a seashell singing of its element,

of King Arthur and Tintagel,

of Patrick, Fingal and Columba

and, yes, oh yes, of Camelot!

You breathe the mellow iambs

of my ancestral past, the snapshot phrases

and close-fashioned tones of our Mendips,

Quantocks, Exmoor and Dartmoor,

where cream tastes of the world to come

and the blossom is of cider apples

rather than the cherry tree. The wooden presses

creak and leak and flow with the memorial elixir

of the Old Country,

allowing one thousand leagues of sea

to be forded in a single heartbeat.


It is not ocean that cleaves...


On the east coast facing east -

On a west coast facing west -



Title poem from The Twain, Poems of Earth and Ether


Single Character


A letter

can change

the meaning

no, not that kind

of letter





or emailed;

a single


from a



to a single


no, not that kind

of You,


For instance,

to make


out of


one must


U for I,

though, here,

You for I

is good, too;

and when


is stretched to


that's neat.


a tell-tale


can bridge continents


The Twain, Poems of Earth and Ether


Grit Under The Shell

As October, Breast Cancer Awareness month, passes , I am revisiting a post first published five years ago. I hope it will give courage to any reader going through a similar experience right now.

The turn of events this summer has caused me to reflect on the nature of fear and how it distorts perspective. The chimera takes on a palpable form, prompting actions that aren't contained in an imagined world, but have negative consequences, even fatal consequences, in the human arena when released into the ether. What is war but fear of another's capability to destroy us, or to sequester those resources we deem essential to wealth and happiness?

Fear is the first and last enemy.

Behind every fear lurks the shadow of death. Death is many things and 'death' as transition from the mortal state may be the least of them. Death is what happens when we can no longer see those we love. But death assumes other guises, always vanishing from the corner of our vision whilst remaining unnervingly present in the wings. Fear of losing power, possession and control over circumstances, when a desired and seemingly philanthropic end justifies dubious and destructive means, isn't that the real death?

On November 1 (All Saints Day) I'll be undergoing surgery for breast cancer. Yes, it's the Big C word, but I'm lucky. It's not too far advanced and is not the most dangerous form. But there are critical complications as regards the actual site. I had no symptoms, so no inkling that anything was wrong. It was picked up by a routine check which is ironic because I feel healthier than for years. Since then, a series of scans and biopsies seems to indicate that, so far, it hasn't spread. I'm hoping and praying that lab tests after surgery will confirm that. Radiotherapy and some form of chemo are likely to be on the agenda but need a careful 'balance of risks' assessment for those approaching the 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness'. I'm not at all sure I will opt for routine procedures. 

As a vegetarian, almost a vegan, dietary strategy has needed only a little tweaking. It's been interesting how I've experienced cravings for those ingredients which will best fight off the disease (this, before I knew why!) Honey, lemon, cayenne*, pak choi, parsley, turmeric, green green leaves, apricots, almonds, brazils, black pepper, olives, berries, ginger, green tea, black tea, red and black grapes, Mediterranean foods, and goats' cheese which hides no harmful bovine growth hormone. These things not only strengthen the immune system, but some contain specific substances that actively target cancer cells and the way oestrogen acts upon them. There's a lot of academic research out there about natural aromatase inhibitors which has excited and intrigued biochemists. Dramatic results have been obtained on some quite advanced cancers. I guess it won't be long before pharmaceutical companies are patenting our hedgerows and vegetable patches as Monsanto has done with broccoli! This, aside from what can be achieved through professional homoeopathic treatment for individual constitution.

But I'd be lying if I pretended this blow hasn't been a roller-coaster, especially in the early stages. We need to remember, though, that nothing is a guarantee of life or death. We naturally look for securities, but to expect a settled life on this fluctuating planet is to be prepared to live with illusion. The only thing to do is to get on with living and look over this hurdle into the wide blue yonder. I can't do as some are able to do, deny the diagnosis – though, strangely, there is evidence that it may work - but I can, through the strengthening grace of God, deny it's power to instill fear and to prejudice the future.

I am not a victim. I am not a statistic. Statistics may illustrate broad trends. What is factored in, what is left out, who construes the results, all call for penetrating analysis. I am, quite simply, in the hands of God and grateful beyond words for the kind thoughts and prayers of friends, especially as family is small. Prayer keeps us afloat and prevents us from being pulled down into the undertow, no matter that the circumstances themselves may appear unaltered.

Two things I've learnt from the past. One, that some of the most joyful and enriching experiences arrive in the midst of trauma and crisis – how is that possible? Two, that there needs to be irritating grit under the shell for the oyster to weep its precious tears of pearl.

If you happen to be facing the enemy just now, I hope that some of this, and the quotes that follow, will encourage you.

God bless!

Image courtesy of JongSung Kim


The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.

Joseph Cambell


All is well, tho' faith and form/ Be sunder'd in the night of fear.

Alfred Lord Tennyson


When we fear things I think that we wish for them... every fear hides a wish.

David Mamet


Fear is the parent of cruelty.

James Anthony Froude


No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.

Edmund Burke


I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

T S Eliot


Fear has many eyes and can see things underground.

Miguel de Cervantes


Oh, we can populate the dark with horrors, even we who think ourselves informed and sure, believing nothing we cannot measure or weigh. I know beyond all doubt that the dark things crowding in on me either did not exist or were not dangerous to me, and still I was afraid.

John Steinbeck


The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela


That's all it takes, one drop of fear to curdle love into hate.

James M Cain


A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.

J R R Tolkien


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27 


*My blog about cayenne