Philip Dunkerley

 Water
 
Rain dripping on the roof, quietly
tapping out irregular rhythms,
insinuating itself into his thoughts,
slowly invading his consciousness.
 
He becomes aware of his surroundings,
of the room in which he is sitting
and of dawn edging out the darkness,
bringing on the start of a new day.
 
His body feels the earth’s mass
drawing the rain to itself,
unraveling the grey clouds 
that come carrying in from the west.
 
He senses the planet holding its own
against the relentless pull of the sun
that steals water away
from the sea, the soil and needy life.
 
He’s thinking of the long struggle
waged between the earth and its star,
inexorable dynamic of time,
rain dripping on the roof of his mind.
 
Road Home
i.m. José Francisco Leopoldino
 
Waiting for them to come from the house
I wander out from the garden into the quiet road,
turn idly, look toward the shops and passage beyond.
Then I see him, as real in my mind’s eye 
as the kerbstones, patched asphalt and arching trees.
 
He comes slowly at the end of another day’s work,
never to retire, helped home in his brown and beige uniform
by the gentle slope and dappled shade,
anticipating the coolness of the Eternit roof,
the plate, ladle and half-full pans that are always waiting.
 
Anyone else here at this moment
wouldn’t see him approaching, step by step.
But he’s as real in me as my years of being and doing.
Where is this reality? Since he last came home
every cell of my body has changed and changed again.
 
I can't answer that question, but I have him now,
and as long as the road is quiet and they are still not ready
to come from the house, I can keep him.
He was a good man and I enjoy watching him approach,
passing the kerbstones, treading the road home. 

The Jaguar
(Pantera onça)
 
Six men, I had, who manned the boat,
the river banks were thick with trees,
the outboard whined a steady note,
a hot sun and a cooling breeze.
 
The river banks were thick with trees
descending to the water side,
a hot sun and a cooling breeze,
the clear pure water running wide.
 
Descending to the water side
the thirsty onça made its way,
the clear pure water running wide,
a little move, a fateful day.
 
The thirsty onça made its way,
a shout went up, the boat half turned,
a little move, a fateful day,
the onça looked on unconcerned.
 
A shout went up, the boat half turned,
the prow-man grabbed the ready gun,
the onça looked on unconcerned,
my mind, in anguish, shouted Run!
 
The prow-man grabbed the ready gun,
the boat rushed on, a shot rang out,
my mind, in anguish, shouted Run!;
the onça flinched then turned about.
 
The boat rushed on, a shot rang out,
the prow drove hard against the shore,
the onça flinched then turned about,
I heard the second barrel roar.
 
The prow drove hard against the shore,
two men leapt out to give the chase;
I heard the second barrel roar
among the trees, the killing place.
 
Two men leapt out to give the chase,
they brought the stricken creature in;
among the trees the killing place
they stripped it of its precious skin.
 
They brought the stricken creature in,
a happy crew, a lucky day,
they stripped it of its precious skin;
we travelled on without delay.
 
A happy crew, a lucky day,
the outboard whined a steady note,
we travelled on without delay,
six men and I who manned the boat.
 

 
The Hardest Thing
(i.m. Irene Dunkerley, née Tuson: 1916-2005)
 
Finally, it happened,
her, achieving what she had so much wanted.
 
Sitting there, with my breath almost suspended,
holding her hand in mine, gently,
waiting with a heightened sense of anticipation
as something changed.
 
It was the hardest thing, stopping breathing,
try it – you can’t do it,
it starts to hurt in your diaphragm, you gulp in air
and your body surges.
 
But my mother stopped breathing and there was no pain,
just peacefulness relaxing her face,
and her eyelids softening into slackness,
her body going limp.
 
I watched bewildered, wondering, empty.
And she was gone.
 
Place Names
 
Stakes in the landscape,
ancient, unknowable origins,
each a genetic trace
of the first to utter it.
 
A calling forth of events,
memories, myths, knowledge
held dear by someone,
the culture of all.
 
Fixed assets – but chattels too,
tokens of the past, of ancestry,
hammered into new substrates,
the psyche of home.
 
Mention where I was happy,
say the name, it’s a present;
now give me space to savour
all it evokes – lore and longing.

Philip Dunkerley is an active member of open mic communities in Peterborough and Stamford. He is the Poetry Society representative for the Stamford Stanza and runs a U3A Poetry Group in Bourne, where he lives. His poems have been published in Magma, OrbisDream CatcherThe Fenland ReedInk Sweat and Tears,Obsessed With Pipework, The Blue Nib, and elsewhere. His translations from Portuguese and Spanish, and poetry reviews, have been published in Orbis. His work has appeared in several anthologies, including Poems for Peace with a forward by Benjamin Zephaniah.

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