All poems are © David Robinson

Pictures at an Exhibition


Don’t be shy, step in,

cross the threshold, leave this world.

These unlocked doorways,


these open windows,

unspoken invitations

to another place.


Do you know this sky

with its looping skein of birds,

its upswept cloudscape?


This woman dancing

barefoot on a rocky shore

beneath a round moon?


This twisted pathway

under dark, unfriendly trees,

eyes in the shadows?


This couple, naked

on the edge of winter, sad,

leaving the garden?


Having once stepped in,

will you return unaltered,

having seen such things?


Having crossed over,

will you recognise your world?

Will you be the same?



At Waterloo

This train is composed of ten coaches

this is due to leaves on the line

mind the gap

between the platform and the train

mind the gap

This train is the 19.05 for Weymouth

this is due to the wrong kind of snow

mind the gap

between the heartbeat and the brain

mind the gap

This train don’t carry no gamblers

this is due to staff shortages

mind the gap

between the needle and the vein

mind the gap

This is the night mail crossing the Rubicon

this is due to signal failure at Clapham Junction

mind the gap

between the puddle and the rain

mind the gap

This is the runaway train coming over the hill

this is due to timetabling problems

mind the gap

between the flail and the grain

mind the gap

This is the gospel train bound for glory

this is due to short platforms

mind the gap

between the padlock and the chain

mind the gap

between the platform and the train

The Magpie

One day the magpie stole my words.
One for sorrow, she said,
unfolding her iridescent wings.

Up she flew, the words
struggling and panting in her beak,
to the creaking topmost of the wood.

There, where fretful branches scratch
their crooked runes against the sky,
she laid them in a mess of twigs and mud.

She left me standing here,
tongue-frozen, still as roadkill,
in this frantic place.

I could not talk to you,
could not speak this shy world into being.
I could not even say my name.

Meanwhile, in that untidy nest,
my words lie jumbled
with other useless, shiny baubles.

She preens her glossy coat, opens
a dark, sarcastic eye, looks down.
Two for joy, she says.


After the magpie stole my words,
(Three for a girl, four for a boy, she said)
I understood that everything had changed.

In the wood, the trees refused
to speak to me. They looked away
whispering amongst themselves.

In the house, piano music
unpicked itself to random notes
creeping beneath two closed doors.

At the beach, the hiss of tide on shingle
forgot its rhythm, made no sense.

In the sky, the moon, uncertain,
lost its way, wandered aimlessly.

Deprived of words, I am reduced.
I have become negative space.
I can connect nothing.

So, here I am once more, mining
deep beneath a tangled web of roots,
hacking words out of a two-foot seam.

Old magpie will be watching still,
for she and her kin have always known
that five is for silver and six for gold.

She opens a dark, vindictive eye.
Seven is for a secret never to be told, she says.


I shall consider these baubles,
pilfered from the greed of men,
as I perch here in my domain of air
preening my perfect feathers.

Eight is for a wish, I say.

And why would they wish for such trinkets?
Pointless, shiny things; vacuous words.
Yet, they scrabble for them viciously,
each locked down in that mundane dirt.

I see them.
They cannot even fly.

I sift them with my covetous beak,
my kidnapped treasures,
open my dark, anarchic eye, count them.

Nine for the devil, his old self, I say.


Words are devious, words are cruel,

words deny the golden rule.


Words are generous, words are kind,

words will pollinate your mind.


Words will grab you by the throat,

words as dark as creosote.


Words are strong and words are sweet,

words forbid your soul’s defeat.


Words are envious, words are snide,

words will twist your will aside.


Words are magical, words are strange,

words create and rearrange.


Words will talk behind your back,

words will run you off the track.


Words are the flower in the bud,

words draw diamonds from the blood.

An Exchange of Gifts

She gave him a kiss.

It went off like a grenade,

rearranged his world.

He lived with flash-backs for years.


He gave her a hug.

His touch scorched her skin like flame,

made it new again.


Unable to sing in tune,

he gave her poems.

She became a library

where he would browse for hours.


She gave him her hand.

He found he could not let go,

even when they were apart.


Each time they lay together,

he gave her a wild flower.

Her heart became a garden,

he, a gardener.


One day they gave each other rings.

Two links from a chain

that would set them free.

Brighid Rising

O Great Mother, hear our prayer

That after darkness, light may come.

From a thousand ages, still our prayer

That after winter, spring may come.


These weary weeks since Samhaine past,

The Holly King in his hollow hall

Has kept these northern lands in thrall,

His iron gauntlet grips us fast.

Gentle Mother, this we pray

That out of night shall come the day.


Through dreary dark and clinging cold

The Oak King sleeps in his silent glade,

Dreaming of birdsong in the shade

Where he his Beltaine love will hold.

Gentle Mother, this we sing

Bring us safe into the Spring.


As white as lace, as light as air,

Through tangled press of root and clay,

Brighid rises up into the day,

Crowned with snowdrops in her hair.

Gentle Mother, from the night,

Lead us safe into the light.


Flower of hope, white Queen of Spring,

One falling snowflake from the storm

The Angel’s gentle breath transformed,

Your beauty shakes the Winter King.

This in earnest, Eve, to thee,

That sun and summer soon shall be.


Gentle Mother, this our prayer,

Deliver us from cold and care.

Gentle Mother set us free

That sun and summer soon shall be.


O Great Mother, hear our prayer

That after darkness, light may come.

From a thousand ages, still our prayer

That after winter, spring shall come.