Author: David Robinson

Elementor #1385

News from the Forest #1 March 2021

There have been recent reports of sightings of small herds of haiku grazing in the New Forest.

Like sika and muntjac, they are not a native species but the Verderers believe that they will not pose a threat to other animals in the forest ecosystem such as the sonnet and the elusive vilanelle.

Whilst sika and muntjac became established in our woods after having escaped from private collections, it is believed that the haiku, known for their cunning, may have absconded from writers’ notebooks left open on desks overnight.

Haiku live in family groups of seventeen individuals. They are generally shy and retiring, but members of the public are warned not to try to feed or pet them as they can become quite argumentative, and even sarcastic, when cornered.

Naturalists say that there is a possibility that haiku may occasionally mate with the somewhat larger tanka, though these are still quite rare in the forest. The offspring of these unions are small, short-lived, creatures, having only fifteen and a half syllables. They are believed to be infertile, much like the mule.

After the Storm

Some thoughts about the aftermath of the two fierce storms to hit us so far this year. The photograph is of Highcliffe beach, looking west towards Hengistbury Head.


After the Storm


Nothing will be forgotten.

The storm is over, but the sea remembers.

Beneath the hammered silver surface,

within the roaring of the undertow,

nothing is ever left to chance. The waves

swallow the seething anger of the wind,

drowning in deep green memory.

And all may be recalled again one day,

as broken jetsam washed up on the shore,

abandoned by the cold relentless tide.

Nothing will be forgotten.

The cold relentless tide abandoned

as broken jetsam washed up on the shore

may be recalled again one day.

Drowning in deep green memory,

swallowing the seething anger of the wind,

the waves are never left to chance.

Within the roaring of the undertow,

beneath the hammered silver surface,

the sea remembers, but the storm is over.

Nothing will be forgotten.

Elementor #976

A few days ago, I went to see the Da Vinci exhibition at The Southampton City Art Gallery. There was also an exhibition of drawings by artist/musician/poet Greg Gilbert. I found this extremely affecting, intriguing and inspiring. For some reason, images of paper aeroplanes from some of his drawings reverberated in my head and this poem appeared:

Paper Aeroplane



Take this blank white sheet,

mark it with black characters

coded in straight lines.


Each in its right place

signifies something: some loss,

some celebration,

some deep connection,

or helpless disconnection,

some need unspoken.


Fold this printed sheet,

flattening each careful crease,

the shape emerging.


And where would you aim

this new, childlike artifact

with its rash message?


Into the silence

and the mercy of the moon;

the cold, ruthless sea;

the terrible sun;

the white noise of the deaf world;

Into empty air?


Somewhere there must be

reckless hands outstretched to catch,

Fearless eyes to see.

In Grovely Wood

In Grovely Wood

The avenue of tall winter beeches takes your eye on to a vanishing point. The stony track runs straight and empty through the tired russet and moss colours of the February wood. On either side, the trees step back into gloom beneath close-planted conifers.

The sky is low and grey. There is no wind. The trees stand motionless and silent, patient, waiting. You can feel a veil of quietness hanging from sky to tree to muddy ground. Scatters of birdsong tumble from high branches, twitching the veil.

This track remembers footfalls, cart wheels, the clump of hooves, the tread of legions. This a long memory. Before the work-gangs of the legions broke stone for foundations, raised the camber, this track was already ancient beyond the count of men. The distant ancestors of these trees would have watched impassively as bands of hunters with their flint-tipped spears moved warily along the ridgeway, looking for food, for shelter.

Just inside the treeline are three old, spreading beech trees, their limbs winter-dark and bare. The largest one has offerings hanging from its branches and wedged into cracks in the bark of its thick trunk. There are coloured ribbons, Brighid’s crosses, mobiles made of woven twigs, pieces of jewellery. These may be from recent celebrations of Imbolc, or memories of a darker story.

Almost 300 years ago, it is said, four Danish sisters came to live in Wilton, in the river valley below the eastern end of the ridge. Shortly after, an outbreak of smallpox devastated the town. The sisters, being foreign, were blamed, accused of witchcraft and murdered in the woods by the old track. They were buried separately, so that they could no longer conspire together, and trees grew from their graves. One has since fallen.

We stand on the trackway in the tangible hush of the wood, talking quietly, taking photographs. There is a sudden noise, a sharp, almost metallic, bang. It seems to come from high in the trees, not more than a hundred feet away; not the flat bang of a shotgun, nor the sharp crack of a rifle. Too loud, too brief to be a woodpecker. We turn towards the noise, peer into the denser woods beyond the old beeches. Nothing. Silence.

We turn away. Then, a burst of muffled speech, like a snatch of conversation heard in passing through a crowd. It seems both nearby and distant, none of the words distinct. It appears so close to me that I instinctively turn and step back towards the edge of the track, thinking that it must be cyclists moving fast towards us as no walkers could have approached without being seen. There is no-one. The track is empty, the woods are still and silent.

A Modest Proposal

A Modest Proposal for the Improvement of the Chain Ferry at Poole Harbour.

* That the noisome Internal Combustion Engine, so injurious to the Environment, be replaced forthwith with a superior Method of Propulsion, viz: 3 banks of Oars to either Side of the Vessel.

* That there should also be provided several Pedalo-like Machines connected, via Drive Shafts through the Bulwarks, to small Paddle Wheels. This for the use of Passengers of diminished Stature, or Children.

* That the Chains, whose clanking does greatly disturb the Fishes, be replaced with silken Ropes, running over well-greased pulleys.

*That the current System of Fares be revised as follows:

– Firstly, those Passengers able and willing to ply the Oars or work the Pedalos should be permitted to travel Gratis.

– Secondly, those precluded from the above by Reason of advanced Age, Ill Health, or Terminal Laziness, should be charged an appropriate Fare for the Crossing.

– Thirdly, those desirous of acting as Oar-Captains or Overseers should be required to pay a Fee for the Privilege, supply their own Cat O’Nine Tails, and undergo a brief Period of Health and Safety Training.

The Benefits of this Proposal are clear and obvious, viz:

* There would soon be apparent a marked Increase in Profits, due to the Removal of the Need for expensive and polluting Diesel Fuel.

* Passengers would soon recognise the multifarious Benefits to their Well-Being, viz: increased Physical Fitness and Blooming Health for regular Participants.

* Such a Scheme would self-evidently lead to marked Improvements in the Gaiety of Nations.

I propose, therefore, the immediate Creation of a Limited Liability Company to be called “The Sandbanks Trireme Company” with an Issue of Stock at Ten Guineas per Share.

I trust that I may count upon your enthusiastic Support.

The Winter King

The Winter King

I am currently making a visual, mixed media art piece with the working title “The Winter King”. It includes the photograph above, which I took in Broadley Inclosure in the New Forest a few years ago. Thinking about the piece, and trying to make it, brought this poem to the surface. 

This seems to happen quite often. I write a poem and it leads me to make a 2D or 3D art piece, or I make an image which then leads on to a poem. In both cases, I’m still trying to make windows into the world, for myself and for others who might wish to look through.

The Winter King

The old Winter King

beckons you

and you must follow

between these

brittle waiting trees

into the dark.


Step hesitantly

beneath bone-

bare branches bladed,

sharp white cold

and pale gold haloed,

into the dark.


The fugitive sun

falling in

to sanctuary,

the silent

forest drawing you

into the dark.


Your nervous footsteps


Do not look behind.

At your back

the whole world falling

into the dark.

It’s that time of year again.

Samhaine Song

We sit here tonight

At one more year’s turning,

We hold our friends close

In the darkness returning.


Samhaine is here

And the great wheel is turning.

The apples are gathered,

The leaves are all scattered,

The bonfires are burning.

Samhaine is here again,

Samhaine is here.

Inside there’s laughter

And firelight and candle-glow.

Outside is the night

And the rain on the window.

(Repeat refrain)

The grain’s in the barns

But the Wild Hunt is running.

The apples are sweet

But the sharp frost is coming.

(Repeat refrain)

The Lord of the wood

In the Shadowlands, waiting,

Like seeds in the earth

For the new light’s awaking.

(Repeat refrain)

The Lady, the Crone,

By her cauldron is spinning

The thread of our lives

Through all ends and beginnings.

(Repeat refrain)

So set a spare place

For the old ones returning,

As we sit here tonight

At one more year’s turning.

As we sing here tonight

In the darkness returning.

(Repeat refrain)

Recurring Dream

Yesterday, I spent several hours in Lewes. It is the town I lived in between the ages of 6 and 16. I wandered about, exploring places I hadn’t visited for, in some cases, over 50 years. I walked up Chapel Hill onto the downs (my favourite boyhood playground) for the view over the town. Strong memories of many years of adventures up here with friends, with my dog, on my own.

This is an account of one particular memory, a recurring dream that I remember vividly from my childhood.

This was the origin of the dream: once, or perhaps a few times, when I was about 8 years old, I think, I crawled with a couple of friends under the fence that was supposed to keep you away from the edge of the chalk pit whose sheer face hangs over South Street. We dared each other to edge as close as possible to the drop to look over into the abyss. The photo below was taken from about the same spot on Cliffe Hill. I didn’t crawl under the fence this time though.

Recurring Dream

After the panic, after the sick sweat, after the feet-first frantic slide towards the edge with heels that would not grip, fingers useless in the grass, the wide air opens.

And there you are. Against all hope, against all expectation. Not falling, but floating.

Looking down, all fear dissolves. In the sudden, silent calm you drift out, away from the white cliff, cushioned on an eiderdown of air.

In your eyes there is a hawk’s vision.

Here is the river between its muddy banks. The tide is ebbing past the rotting hulk at the old cement works quay, past water meadows hemmed with irises, past the whale-back downs beyond.

There, across the river, the town climbs its hill – a map of roofs and gardens. There is the humped bridge, the streets and twittens, the castle keep. And you are gliding, descending slowly, over all these rooftops to where, in the railway yard, steam rises straight up in silent, boiling pillars.

Waking suddenly, you rise from bed and stand in pyjamas at the tall window at the top of the house. Beyond the garden wall, shunting engines clank and hiss.

Far off, in moonlight, you see the chalk pit’s white wall and the sheep-cropped downland dark above.