Target Practice: some poems


Here are a few of the poems from ‘Target Practice’ holybloke poems 2.
There are more in the book!

A nun told me

A nun told me a few years ago
that when I listen to the sound of the bell
the important thing to do is to keep listening to it
as the sound fades away and transforms into silence
and then listen even beyond that.

I love the sound of the bell
the sharp edge cutting into the moment
then the reverberations
rising and falling
spreading softening fading
creating a path into reality for me
if I will take it.

Sometimes I remember the nun’s words
and then the silence around me
is filled with the sound of hundreds of faded bells
transformed now into the twittering of swallows
and the clattering of the dustbin man’s lorry
and the voice of my beloved, singing.


Develop your insertion and pounding skills

Love and compassion will not split this log.
A cold chisel inserted in a crack
and pounded with a lump hammer
will cleave it right open.
Then the pieces will fit in the stove
and heat will be released.

Choose a tool that will do the job
and apply the necessary force.

The right words inserted with the right energy
will break open collective misunderstanding
and reveal the grain of truth.

The right practice applied to your stuck life
will split up your bundled blockages
so that their strength is diminished
and the beauty of their inner formation revealed.

The right joke inserted against the grain
will crack open the moment
with all its knots and whorls and patterns.

So develop your insertion and pounding skills.

Or leave the log to rot.
There is a slow beauty in that.


On Sundays

On Sundays I usually try to open to God.

Sometimes God nudges into me
and I faintly sense the softening of love.

Sometimes God spreads out before me
and I hesitate at the brink.

Sometimes I stay closed
tight, and stiff, and alone.


Once you’re up…

In the Lakes, once you’ve made the effort of getting high
you might as well stay up there and enjoy it:
take advantage of the views, the transcendent perspectives.
They say ridge walking is the best kind of Lakes walking.

Once you’ve done the hard work of sitting
and concentrating on your breathing, and body, and awareness
and entered into a meditative state
you may as well stay there, and enjoy it.

Your hard work and effort and training over months
have got you up the zigzag path to St Sunday Crag;
you can now look down into Deepdale on one side
and Grisedale on the other, green patchworks far below.

You can stride along the ridge, shifting the perspective;
you can look across to ridge after ridge of fells fading into the distance.
You can see the rain clouds roiling up the dale from Troutbeck
and spilling over the ridge into Grisedale Tarn beneath you.

You can stay with your breathing, riding the thoughts that come
sometimes sliding off the ridge of awareness, but swooping back.
You can feel the freshness of new perspectives wash through you
insights emerging from a place beyond the everyday.

Once you’re up, it’s not much effort to stay longer:
the ridge to Fairfield beckons, and then on to Hart Crag.
You can return home at the end of the day
and share tea and travellers’ tales with your friends.


A lamb

I walked a long way for death, early this morning
while clouds scudded above
and gusts surged in the branches.

I walked to see again the spread of decay on the track
the guts and eyes gone to scavengers
the ribs picked clean, not in a restaurant
the insects and microbes at their work
the wool dispersing along the ground
a source of nesting material.

I walked a long way this morning, alone
to see again the skeletal grimace of my future.
But when I got there, the farmer had been before me
and taken away my memento mori.

Only the wool remained, scattering to the four winds.
Only on my longest journey
is a dead body at the end guaranteed.



A figure appeared in my life and told me to stop.
Normally I send him on his way
but this time I gave him space and egged him on.
‘Tell me what to stop,’ I said, ‘go on.’

‘Stop meditating,’ he said, ‘and stop writing so-called poems.
Stop associating with people who aren’t normal.
Stop going for walks: it’s dangerous, you might fall.
Stop working on your house, and get professionals in.
Stop planting trees, there’s enough already.’

‘Tell me more.’ I said, ‘This is really good. What else?’

‘Stop trying to work things out, just accept the normal explanations.
Stop trying to think for yourself, it’s foolish.
Stop walking, cycling and running, and just get in a car.’

He went on and on rampaging through my life
identifying most everything I do and telling me to stop.

‘Anything I should carry on with?’ I asked in the end.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘you should go to work more
but only do what you are told.
And when you come home you should just watch TV.’

We had such fun together.


Ah my beloved, let me sleep

Ah my beloved, let me sleep
stop prodding me with your smile.
I am trying to hold on to unconsciousness
but your quiet ‘wake up, wake up’
is loosening the grip of my drifting comfort.

Let me sleepwalk through my day
let me sleepwalk through my life
leave me alone with my pleasant meanderings.

If you truly loved me
you would leave me be
you would respect my space
you would let me succumb to slumber if I chose.

The clarity and brightness of your eyes
hurts mine.
I refuse to look.
I close my eyes on you.

Where is your compassion that you
police and poke me so
with your insistent ‘wake up, wake up’?
Let me sleep on, let me sleep on.

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