Out of the corner of my eye
I watch my wakeful daughter
In my arms
Afraid to catch her infant glance
As I move
To a slow sleepmaking rhythm
which affects only me.
Her tiny fingers
Move over my face,
Feeling everything,
Nose, mouth and eyes,
with exquisite touch
And quiet squeals of joy,
Intakes of breath
And kicking feet,
So different from the
Howling child I picked up.
At last she sucks her thumb,
Covers her face with a cloth
And I know that sleep is near.
I thought it wouldn’t come tonight,
So long I’ve swayed
And sung and cooed
In the darkened room.
But her head falls back
And pale eyelids close
To shut out my face.
Her limbs hang heavy
In my aching arms.
I lay her in the cot
And like a thief
Steal from the room
And pull the door to,
with fingers crossed
And “Shush”
To my waiting wife.

July 1972


Mummy trimmed my hair today
And cut my baby curls away,
But from the pile she rescued one
Which shone pale golden like the sun.

Over the Alps

I do not pray these days.
The faith is gone
Which underpinned such rites.
Yet do I still,
In quiet moments
Of the day and night,
Commend you to the gods,
Call down upon you
Joy and health and peace
And days of grace.
Now the water flows,
As healing sun
Melts through the winter snows.

Bess was lonely and ill, in Milan (2000)


See the poet here before you
Bring to you his humble offering,
Like a shaman, spells creating,
Conjures visions with his magic.
Listen to the ancient heart beat,
Listen to the sacred legend
That our fathers told before us
Of the great millennium pow-wow.

In the days of Winter solstice
When the moon was at its brightest,
When the year its span had ended
And a thousand years were turning,
Came a great and mighty wonder
In the gentle land of Dorset.
All the tribes, their plains forsaking,
Upped their tents and packed their peace-pipes,
Packed their lap-tops and their mobiles,
Packed their Calvin Kleins and Guccis,
For the gathering of the wise ones,
For the great millenium pow-pow,
In the tee-pee of their fathers.

Over mountains, over rivers,
Over mighty, heaving oceans,
Through the air in silver eagles,
Came the braves in finest feathers,
With their squaws and wild papooses,
Wilder than the wildest horses.

In the folds of Burton Bradstock,
By the Great Sea, Shining Water,
Stood the wigwam of fair Celia,
Daughter of the Moon, fair Celia,
Celia of the clinking ice-cubes,
Celia of the clucking chickens,
Celia of the homeless hedgehogs,
Guardian of the tribal archives,
Heap big medicine for the ailing,
Generous host to weary travellers.
Through the rain and wind and torrents,
Came the tribes to Burton Bradstock,
Came the braves to Celia’s wigwam,
Came to honour family totem.

Came there too the lovely Sarah,
Scarlet Sarah, silver Sarah,
Dark-eyed beauty of the Fentons,
Worker of the precious metals,
Amulets and magic baubles,
Talismen and sacred beads.
Came she with her heartbeat Gavin,
Magic painter of the wigwams,
Gavin of the throbbing war drums,
Came they to the feast together.

Came there Jamie, youngest brother,
Loving son and thoughtful brave,
Fair of face and upright bearing,
Full of ardour and ambition,
Youthful Condor, on the up-stream
Of the city’s currents gliding.
Came he with the lovely Pippa,
Sweet of face and sweet of nature,
Came they to the feast together.

From the South, across the ocean,
With the poet came fair Judy,
Came his muse the lovely Judy,
Precious squaw and precious mother,
Green of fingers, true St Ouennais,
Guardian angel of his wigwam,
Came she with her poet husband,
Came they joyful to the meeting.

From the Islands in the Channel,
From the Land of Milk and Money,
Came the riders of St Martin,
Came the mighty Hellerbicky,
Swift of steed and firm of saddle,
Sharing both of brain and beauty,
Paddling in their red canoe,
Helier came with lovely Vicky.

From the far lands, from the heartlands
Of the gentle, rolling Midlands,
Came the great chief, heap big Richard,
Hair on face but bare of scalp,
Quick with saw and deft with hammer,
Building wigwam in the French lands,
Building with the Earth’s resources
From Prix Unic and B and Q.
Carried with him to the pow-pow,
Gracious Mo, the gentle teacher,
Gifted wielder of the needle,
Gros point Mo, the curtain maker,
Bonjour Mo, the baguette eater,
Big of heart and great of spirit,
Came she too unto the meeting.

From the wild and vast Meseta,
From the rolling, Spanish grasslands,
Like a wild goose, home returning,
Came the lovely, golden Bessy.
Came the favourite youngest daughter,
Came the ripple of her laughter,
Like the song of wind in birch trees,
Sunlight dancing on the water.

From the far lands of Down Under,
From the vast lands of Australia,
Came three Aussies, right way up,
Angela, Denise and Pat,
And from Worcester, Jo and Sophie,
All dear friends of great squaw Celia,
Welcome all to this great pow-wow.

Others, far off, could not journey,
Could not join the noble meeting.
From the Land of Long White Cloud,
Peter sent a loving greeting.
Sent a message from the Kiwis,
Furber, Thurston and Marie,
From his tee-pee sent smoke signals,
Sent the old familiar signals:
Peter Cummins, Slash, Dot, Com!

From the banks of flowing river,
From the gentle Thames near Oxford,
James, brave Norman, sends his greeting,
James and Lucy, sweetest daughter,
And their silver haired papooses,
Gentle Monty, boldest Barney,
Come in spirit to our feasting.

From the heart land of Apaches,
From Big Apple, just returning,
Lovely Carrie and her Nick
Send us, too, their fondest greeting.

Now the braves, all safely gathered,
Gathered from Earth’s farthest corner,
Light and smoke the healing peace-pipe,
Smoke the peace-pipe of affection.

In the centre of the pow-wow,
See the camp-fire brightly burning,
Flames and smoke to night sky flying,
Smoke and flames to stars ascending.
Spirits with the smoke arising,
Spirits of those gone before us,
Fathers, mothers, gentle spirits,
Great of heart, courageous, loving,
Fathers of our Fathers‘ Fathers,
Bring their presence and their blessing.

And for fear the sacred meaning
Of this great day be forgotten,
See within the burning embers
Visions of another wigwam,
Poorest of the poorest wigwams,
Visions of the mighty Magi,
Men of magic, men of wisdom,
Bearing gifts of mystic meaning,
Bow before a new-born infant,
Gentle Child of gentle Mother,
Born on Earth to be our Brother.

Great the joy and celebration
In the wigwam of their fathers,
Great the feasting, gay the dancing
To the drumming of the tom-toms,
Long the smoking of the peace-pipe,
Fast the draining of the wine-skins,
Loud the cries of jubilation
Through the great millennium pow-wow.

But see now the embers dying,
All the past consumed by fire.
All mistakes consigned to burning,
Anger with the sparks dispersing,
Envy cured and sloth dispelled
In that mighty healing time.

From the ashes, slowly rising,
Comes the Phoenix, Bird of Hope,
Graciously her tail extending,
Graciously her head uplifting,
Spirit of the Future rising,
Gathers all beneath her wings.

And across the night comes stealing,
Over valleys, over mountains,
Points of light, the dawn revealing,
Streaks of light, new life announcing,
Streams of light, the Sun proclaiming,
At the birthing of this day.

Solemnly, from mists ascending,
Slowly, from the plains dividing,
Comes the Sun, its rays extending,
Fountainhead of all life rising,
Red ball Sun, its warmth bestowing,
To the braves, all humbly kneeling,
To the braves, the future facing,
At the breaking of this day.

Over tree-tops, over house-tops,
Over gentle farm land passing,
Over sea and over river,
Comes the distant sound of church bells.
Hear the bells of Burton Bradstock,
Hear their joyful message pealing:

Peace and Hope to every nation,
And to us, along Life’s way,
Happiness, Good Health and Fortune
On this great Millennium Day!

Written by Aidan Smith and recited by Judy, Bessy and Aidan at the Millennium dinner held at Grove, Burton Bradstock on 31st December 1999.

Two becomes one

Under Takamaka trees
A baby lies sleeping,
Two becomes three becomes one.

Mummy trimmed my hair today

Mummy trimmed my hair today
And cut my baby curls away,
But from the pile she rescued one
Which shone pale golden like the sun.


Believers in spells
We hardly speak of it,
And yet we know
Within your secret self
The baby grows
And daily lays his claim
To food and space, to air,
To life itself,
And to our life
Which until now we shared
In love and work
And peaceful happiness.

For these quiet years
When we like rivers flowed
Each into each,
Our separate streams to bind,
My thanks and love,
My joy and faithfulness.

And for this change
When we from two shall grow
Into a third,
And found its infant life
On work and faith,
Be you my heart
And daily comforter,
As I’ll your strength
And constant husband be.

30 July 1969