Tom Dooley

Tom Dooley was a tramp.
He lived high on the Staffordshire moorlands
in an old ruined shepherd’s hut.
He had patched it with salvaged wood,
with stones and mud.
He tramped the roads and tracks about,
the heathery slopes,
The groughs, the peat hags.
He wore a cap, black with age,
a coat patched and worn,
boots tied with string
and a bright chequered scarf,
incongruous colour in a sepia picture.
He built his fire of deadwood,
Of dried peat and scavenged logs.
He ate of bread and cheese, strong onions,
rabbit trapped and skinned and cleaned,
roasted on a makeshift spit.
I heard it said his real name was Colin Ralphs,
a name belonging to a life unknown.
A name given him, reminiscent of family,
childhood, school and friends,
in an age before he sought this
harsh existence,
which to him was peace.
Peace he sought after the violence,
the evil, the death, the destruction,
that he had seen in the war,
that war to end all wars.
It ended, not war, but Tom Dooley’s hopes,
desires and future promise,
driving him away to this barren place.
He took from the world a meagre living.
He gave to the world his silence.
Not once did I hear him speak,
and yet, one day, as I drove past,
he stood in the red phone box
on a crossroads miles from any house,
and he held the receiver to his ear
and he was talking…….

Tidal Wasteland

Coorlie, the cry echoes bleak across the tidal flats;

late afternoon, and autumn sun reflects in wet mud,

shimmering shades of brown & mauve,

a faint line of silver grey marks the returning sea.

Cooorlie, a thin & mournful sound,

pierces the darkening sky, skims across the no-man’s land

between the tides.

Can anything live in the wasteland?

Coooorlie, and a curved bill penetrates the ooze,

emerges triumphant with some blind & squirming creature.

Ghostly shades of sanderling flutter & dart & run out on the water’s edge,

a graceful swirling dance, partner to the creeping waters.

Coooorlie, the curlews cry, as the twilight deepens into night,

a thin chill wind begins to blow.

My steps hasten towards the lighted window and the bright new flames of fresh dry wood.