Poems by Michael Elwick

The Spring  |  Time in the midst of nothing  |  On life in coronavirus  |   Autumn  |   Little boy kneels  |   Christmas   |   I care   |   St Valentine’s Day  |   Looking down to Foreland Point  |    Meeting Henry


The Spring

I first saw light of day on the high moor

I came into the air

After being trapped in the earth below,

I bubbled forth and trickled away.


I was lucky, I did not turn into a bog,

With red tinged grasses, to warn unwary riders

of my presence, to be aware

Of the soft ground and wet land that lay ahead.


I trickled and bubbled down a narrow trench

Over rocks and boulders, still on the moor.

The sea below, a thin blue line on the horizon,

But I could not even see it yet.


Down into what now became a combe,

Now I became a stream, rushing and frothing along.

Without a thought of an obstruction

Only obedient to the forces of nature.


Now, I widened and slowed some

Still bounding over rocks and frothing,

But slower and still a stream

I kept on my way to the river and the sea.


Now I was a river and reached the lowlands.

Rushes grew on my banks

Herons fished in my waters

And duck  took off quacking from their feeding.


I slowed still more

And meandered through farmland and pasture

On the lush and level plain

My reeds grew high and my water turgid.


Now the sea was in sight

And the muddy delta beckoned

I moved  slowly to the sea,

And the sun, a ball of fire, dropped into it.


                                                                      [ME 2021]

Time in the midst of nothing

Time in the midst of nothing

Beneath the now eternal moon,

Our schizophrenic minds revolve

In past, present and conjective of future


Time present.

In the mind ruled by

Time’s past.

That we only half remember.


What has remained

Of what we really knew.

What will be reaped

And if so, why?


Were we really there

Or are we not here now.

When will it be fulfilled

And we can live in peace.


When will the memory

Become reality and end.

Will it end in death

Or can it be fulfilled?


This time we must find peace

Now we are free

And in a different world

Now we can love in peace.


                                             [ME Edinburgh January 1964]

On life in coronavirus

My wife of over fifty years is dying
In the room next door.
One minute she is still with me
And the next she is gone.

Oh, the arrangements, never ending,
The weeks before the funeral
seem to take for ever,
And then, over in a flash.

The length of a single thought
It can last for seconds
Or all day, all night, for ever,
Never to leave you again.

One shuts one’s self away,
Not able to face the world,
Express the grief that surrounds us,
Engulfs us in a seeming eternity.

And then after a year or so,
We feel ready to rejoin
The human race that we have left behind,
Rejoin society and face our fears.

Tentatively we take the first steps.
Something local and known to be involved with,
Then branching out to other activities,
A sort of normality comes upon you.

And then: coronavirus-covid 19.
We are locked down, shielding, alone.
Just me and the dog, that I take
For a walk daily, on the permitted exercise.

Only the girl who does my shopping
Comes once a week, and we talk.
A neighbour comes to bring me goodies
Once a week.  On Thursday, we applaud the NHS.

I sit with my thoughts,
Alone with the dog in isolation.
Go on walks.
Do the cooking.

Then we discover Zoom
A different kind of normality returns.
We learn to keep in touch
The ‘phone, email, Zoom.

Now I can shop again
Once a week with the elderly and vulnerable,
Oh, and we must wear a mask for safety.
I do not feel particularly old or vulnerable.

And yet it never leaves you.
Now you have still more time
To sit and think, relive our past,
Reflect on things that happened long ago.



Autumn, the wind blows and the rain pours.

In the hedgerow, nature’s harvest grows,

Hips and haws bright red,

Blackberries ripen in the autumn sun.


Birds have reared their young and fly in pairs

Seemingly unwilling to break their family ties.

All the beasts of the field prepare

For the winter, and all that lies ahead.


And yet the sun still glows with autumn rays

Promising the year will turn

And we might hope for spring and summer,

A return to some sort of normality some day.


But now we must make do with shorter days

And the cold of winter snows.

The bright light and definition we may see

And the ploughing, tilling and drilling yet to be.


Little boy kneels

Little boy kneels at the foot of the bed.

What an idea he has in his head;

It may be a mouse or a tiger or two,

There’s trouble for someone afore the night’s through.


Little boy wondering how many stairs

How did he climb them? They seem like chairs

One foot on one and one on another

He’d like to sit or be carried by mother.


Little boy’s small and cannot wander

So it’s to bed he’ll go to ponder

Make it a ship or a boat

Oh, if  only he could make it float


Little boy stands on the end of his bed.

“What are you doing Sir?” I said,

“I’m an Admiral — bold and brave

And I’ll defy the watery wave!”


But then the door swings open wide

Mother reviews her joy and pride

“Time for bed, to be tucked up tight

And mind the sails are set just right.”


“For it might snow, or rain, or hail,

Or out  at sea it might just gale

And if the rigging’s not in trim

Oh, what will then become of him?”


So from his cockpit snug and sound

The Captain docks and runs aground

No trips around the bay

For he has gone to bed to stay.



Once again around it comes

Time once more to do my sums

I’ve seen so many come and go

Yet back they come, as fresh as snow


Every time the church bells ring

Glory to the new-born king

And so it tolls again today

As once it did, so many years ago.


In Bethl’em there was a child

Still lying in a stable, cows beside,

And Ma and Pa were there as well

As though a little crowd had come.


The shepherds came, to be in awe

And give their lambs to Agnus Dei,

And now the Magi from afar to worship

And, ‘fear’d of Herod, left by another way


A very traditional view of Christmas

And not one, alas, we have today  

‘Tis sad, and yet it may not last

There may be yet a way to find the past.


I care

I shout because I care,

I cry because I care

I try to do right because I care

I do too much because I care

I doubt because I care

I do all these things but only worry you because I care

I  care because I care

I care.


  • St Valentine’s Day

Wouldst thou be mine, my love

And never more to part?

The sky doth change from day to day

And clouds do mar the sun:

Our love will overcome all this

And will not change with years

But grow, my love, and then become

The sweet perfection of desires,

That we could ever wish, or want,

Or ever dream, or realise.


Wouldst thou be mine my love

And never more to part?

Our love can grow and wax  with time

And I will give my heart.


Looking down to Foreland Point

Looking down to Foreland Point

I am reminded of times past

Conger eels the size of a man

Caught in the wreck off the coast there.


Lobsters and mackerel fresh from the sea

The mackerel caught on the tide line

Cooked, fried in butter for breakfast,

Their colour still on them


Lobster salad for lunch

The lobster caught in the bay, or down the coast

By Lobster Paul who lives now on a boat

In the harbour at the weir


Old Tom in the corner with his bottomless tankard of Guinness

Shove ha’penny in the bar

The Post Office van that went to Culbone

before the path fell into the sea


A’a’a’Arthur with his stammer

His love of the red deer

They’re be’be’belling up the combe

We go searching in the car


Jack a lamb under each arm

On his pony that he broke when he was 76

In the bar, Jack and Fred drink Bass for lunch

The pony tied under the archway waits to take Jack home


Now nature is overtaking us

The paths and the hedge grow wild

Fallow deer run along the track no longer used

Banks go untrimmed, untouched, untamed


Meeting Henry

Now  Henry is a long dog

A strong dog

A spotty dog

A black white and brown dog

With long floppy ears.


Now Henry is a Bassett Hound

A whatit hound?

A Bassett Hound

A big strong Bassett Hound

With big brown eyes.


But Henry had a stringy tail

A piggy tail

A silly tail

A tie-yourself-in-knots tail

With a little white tip.


Now Henry went a-wandering

On his short stubby legs

His silly legs

His pudded legs

With great big paws.


Now down the stairs went Henry

And through the big front door

And out the gate

Along the street

What had the world in store?


He came upon a little dog

A furry dog

A wurry dog

A run around and scurry dog

With not much tail.


Now Henry is a proud dog

Not a loud dog

A proud dog

Not a run-around-and-howl dog

that chased its own tail.


“Good morning, little silly dog

Oh willy dog

Oh silly dog

Oh must you run around and round

And chase your own tail?”


So Henry took a look at him

And passed that doggy by

That  silly dog

That wurry dog

That chased his short tail.


Now Henry went along the road

And saw  a big oak tree

He sniffed at it

He whiffed at it

But none had been there but he.


So on he walked and padded

A bus stop for to find

As bold as Bassett

A bus to Richmond Town.


The bus at length it came

The number bold and clear

And when it stopped

Yes, then it stopped

To Henry the way was clear.


One stubby paw was  just about

To place itself aboard

When “ring-ding

Ring-a-ding.”  “Hold tight

No dogs aboard this fight.”


So Henry stood as doggies do

And wondered how his scrape

Would end itself

Or lend itself

To further his escape.


Along the road I walked that day

And I saw Henry there

A puzzled dog

A wuzzled dog

That could only sit and stare.


“Good afternoon,” I said to him

But he did not reply

“Oh come,” I said

“And we will walk

Alone, just you and I”


And so along the road we walked

And he came home to tea,

Of little cakes

And biscuit crumbs,

That’s how we filled our little tums.


Alas, poor Henry was not mine

For he had run away.

At eight o’clock

His mistress came

And took him safe away.


Now Henry, he will come to stay

Just for a summer day

Have cakes and crumbs

And wag his tail

Just like that other sunny day. 


**********   Michael Elwick,  Barnes 1964