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Portrait of the Artist as a Lone Tree

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Contemporary poetry written from 2003 to 2007 by Dave Knight - 212 pages.



From the joy of love to the depths of marital breakup, from the humour of children to the mysticism of a visionary, Dave Knight's first collection of poetry contains something for everyone who appreciates rhythm and rhyme.

About the book

'Portrait of the Artist as a Lone Tree' is a title inspired by James Joyce's 'Portrait of the Artist as a young man', as was Dylan Thomas' 'Portrait of the Artist as a young dog'. The title is all my book has in common with the works of those very different authors. The condition of the author as 'lone tree' can be inferred from the cover picture.

Yet the true portrait is not the cover, but the content. The book contains poems organised by subject - Love, Humour, Family, Literature, Fairyland, Nature, Stories and Visions, Haiku and Tanka, Assonant Animals, Faith - and in a section of its own, 'Simplicity', a poetic drama about the condition of the church.

Here are some samples I hope you will enjoy.

The lawyer

Click to hear (.mp3)


"Oh thank you! Oh thank you!" the client enthused
as she rose from the dock and embraced with relief
her solicitor, who with the help of the law,
had prevented her being regarded a thief.
As the judge and the jury departed the court,
she was found without stain in the sight of all men;
"My pleasure," he frowned, then his final retort,
"but please, for God's sake, just don't do it again!"

Comment

Plutonic planets

Click to hear (.mp3)


Since Herschel, the finder, gave name to Uranus,
the fate of the planets has simply been heinous;
for next of all Neptune was nearly called Janus!
Still later, when Pluto was found on the boundary,
all names were still struck from a classical foundry.
But when desperation gave meaning to Xena,
(for U-b-three-ONE-three is harsher and meaner),
why not then have Charon as Sharon or Sheena?
It seems that in future all spheres made of granite
will answer to names no more noble than Janet;
today, they made Pluto a Mickey-Mouse planet.

Written 16th August, 2006. According to Wikipedia, on 24th August 2006 the IAU officially recategorised Pluto (whose principal moon is Charon) as a 'dwarf planet'. Mickey Mouse remains unaffected at this time.

Comment

Belle Dame of 2006

Click to hear (.mp3)


Oh knight-at-arms, what saw you there,
beside the lake where no bird sings?
A wistful misty wanderer,
in fairy rings?

She seemed so low and woebegone
beside the shore you found afar,
and love was mixed with pity in
her fading star.

In dreams, we saw a Fairy sleep -
and yet, La Belle Dame sans Merci
is just another dreamer dressed
for eyes to see.

In summer questing far, I found
an artist selling prints he made;
for there ’twas said the sleeping sprite
in paint was laid -

but sadly he had sold her like,
and thinking not to waste my time,
I bought instead that same Belle Dame
Keats wrote in rhyme.

But then the Fairy left me lone,
still shiv'ring coldly by your side;
the door beneath the hill had closed,
and her light had died.

My knightly friend, we saw the same;
a woman daubed in dreams we made,
and so, La Belle Dame sans Merci
went dressed in shade.

Thus you and I are lying here,
as winter comes to chill the heart;
we look each other in the eye,
as dreams depart;

for both of us saw what we sought,
and Fairies will be what they will,
until the door is shut once more,
beneath their hill.

With thanks to the genius of John Keats (1795-1821), whose ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’ first inspired me to read and write poetry.

This poem is an allegory of my own life, whose events tragically mimicked Keats' poem in 2006. I went looking for a picture of a sleeping fairy to represent ‘Aurorielle’, but since the artist had sold out that print, I bought his rendition of ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’ instead.

It turned out to be a portent, as the beloved Fairy was sadly not what she had at first appeared; I had bought the right picture, after all.

Comment

From Dante's 'Vita nuova' part VII -

O voi che par la via

Translated by S. McEvoy, versified by Dave Knight

Click to hear (.mp3)


O you who walk love’s ways, behold my plight,
for I have suffered more than other men.
Hear, and advise me if I have the right
to say to fate, "don't torture me again!"
Love, though I never did deserve such care,
chose to make plain to me his nature, pure;
gave me a life of joy beyond compare,
through which I paced each day with footsteps sure.
And so they said of me "That lucky man -
who never knew the pangs of bitter pain!"
But then my fall was utter, swift, and deep.
In shame I put upon my tongue a ban,
and now my voice is silent in the main;
though outwardly I jest, inside I weep.

Comment

In memory of a goldfish

Click to hear (.mp3)


Bubbles, a fish much loved, departs this shore
for rivers that will never fail, nor dry
beneath the light of blue, yet sunless sky,
lit by the Lamb that shines for evermore.
If lamb and lion lie beside the tree
from which comes life unlimited and sweet,
and all that tasted flesh have grass to eat,
a place is saved for every bird and bee.
If man was sent to care for all the world,
does God reject what man was sent to rule?
And though the Fall has made all nature cruel,
around the feet of God there will be curled
many a creature that has served him well;
and in his love forever they will dwell.

Comment

Blue moon

Click to hear (.mp3)


My love is like a blue, blue rose
that blossomed lost amongst the weeds,
and few have sought her where she grows,
to find this beauty no-one heeds.
But I would make my garden there,
where first her blooms began to wave
in winds that stroked with tender care
the loveliness her maker gave.
I’d pave the path to fantasy,
and make all tracks, from corners four,
lead to the central ecstasy
of knowing her whom I adore;
and gaze alone, for no one knows
the moonlight where Fiona grows.

(‘Blue Moon’ is a variety of rose, beloved of ‘Fiona’.)

Comment

Allesley Old Road

Click to hear (.mp3)


Your voice was filled with tears that day you called
to say you could no longer play your part;
but earlier my heart had been enthralled,
so how to heal your hurts was all my heart.
Next day, I set out lone, with maps and guile,
to ride the miles in hope, all forty-four;
though lacking A to Z or compass dial,
I somehow found my way towards your door.
So parking pedalled wheels, I knocked and rang,
but found that there was no-one home to hear;
then sadly on the fence I sat for hours.
The bells of hell could not have made a clang
as loud my heart would shout to reach your ear,
if anything could give it other powers.

I gave you time to tarry in the town,
for Christmas causes many errands there.
I’d planned surprise, you did not let me down;
no welcome had I asked you to prepare.
At last, I saw that waiting was in vain,
and sadly pedalled lonely back to start.
In youth, those many miles caused little strain,
but night fell fast, and with it went my heart.
My sadness went unmixed with hate or fears,
and not a scrap of love had gone away,
nor one unkindly word escaped my breath;
but later came the truth that claimed my tears,
for you were in another’s arms that day,
and inwardly, I died a dreadful death.

Comment

The last lady

Click to hear (.mp3)


I should have burned my bridges while I could,
and lost my politics to serve myself,
pursuing freedom’s last unleftward elf,
who didn’t think as others said she should.
A day-girl lady, not by birth, self-made,
and though the wealthy labelled her for low,
she went where none of them would ever go,
a Lady from the heart, no painted jade.
You were the last, the brightest and the best,
the girl who fought to be as she was forged;
in summer ‘83 I should have gorged
on you, not academia’s pale quest.
Gone in a minute, nev’r again the chance
to capture you in love’s romantic dance.

Your alabaster skin, your endless legs,
your slenderness, the force of female mind -
determinedly the last of womankind -
the last, but not the least; the draught, not dregs.
Yet after all this time, the cause you fought
is once again accepted as the norm -
no longer causing all the forceful storm
from those who only spoke as they were taught.
You kept alive the courtliness of queens,
insisting through your dress, your sex, your aims,
to set yourself aside from futile games
played all the age in sad fanatic scenes.
Last of the ladies, many thought; and yet
your foes, Dame Time has chosen to forget.

(day-girl; a girl who attends a residential school without residing there, living locally.)

Comment

Selenium trees

Click to hear (.mp3)


The feigning moon is out,
she throws her shadows through the trees;
witnesses to kissing,
leafy lies that no-one sees.
Oh moon, oh trees, what things you see;
your rustling in the night
will never make it right;
in listless rhythms silver-shine,
embarrassed by the sight.
Then tell me, do you know,
from endless scenes like these -
which girls are false, and which are true,
beneath selenium trees?

(Selenium is an element whose name is derived from an ancient name of the moon, ‘Selene’; it is grey, and perhaps best known for its use in copying.)

Comment

The butterfly that would not land

Click to hear (.mp3)


A moment there I saw you on the leaf;
wings touching, touch, then fluttering away.
Departure caught me muttering my grief,
and then I ran to catch you all the day.
You often looked to land, but then would miss
the flowers fair that offered you their dew;
since you were made for drinking deep in bliss,
I wondered why no landing came for you.
You seemed to feel you could not rest your wings
a moment, lest you know the love I bore;
remembering instead the many things
that called you to be weary ever more.
Thus all my hopes were built on sinking sand;
I loved the butterfly that would not land.

Comment

Proverbs

Click to hear (.mp3)


Nature calls but once a year,
and milk is spilt where angels fear
to tread, but stitches nine in time
for punishment, will fit the crime.

Two early worms can bush the birds,
and all good things are louder than words.
In for a penny, out for a pound,
yet all that glitters makes no sound.

The workman blames his smart new broom,
which sweeps the rolling moss to doom.
But if to blow your trumpet’s clever,
think - it’s better safe than never!

Glass houses throw no stones or sticks;
let beggars choose to count the chicks.
No plaice like home, where’er you wander;
abstinence makes the heart grow fonder!

Behold! Skin deep the beauteous eye,
So make your bed, but never lie.
And if it's on a star you wish,
this is the day to seize the fish!

Comment

Daniel

Click to hear (.mp3)


You asked, “How many men were in the fire?”
Beneath the counterpane my fingers flick,
and proudly I announce, as if a trick,
that three young men had caused the king his ire.
You smiled and said, there were not three but four;
and like the ancient king, I stared in shock.
You chose belief whilst others chose to mock,
and so, the word went blazing to the core.
The handmade rug you laboured at so long
was special, in a way no words could tell;
and when I went to sleep, I knew full well
that daddy cared to teach me right from wrong.
You read the bible laid upon your knee,
and then, there were not two inside, but three.

Comment

The dandelion dream

Click to hear (.mp3)


Furious flailing of the rainbow windmill;
an empty bench that waited patiently.
Moss in the cracks where little feet once ran;
the lawn becomes a dandelion dream.
The weeping willow weeps, unloved, unseen -
beneath, the graves of pets forgotten long.
The bright toy horde is grimed with rain and age,
and sentinel, the pine looks ever on.
The missing children still define the scene;
and now time's shabby fencing shall surround
the dandelion dream.

Comment

Helen the Pelican


Photo by Joanne Cornelio Doucette
Click to hear (.mp3)


Helen the elegant pelican’s belly can
swallow up fish from all shores South American.
When she’s afloat with her flock she can frolic on
minnows and carp, or the produce of Oregon;
scoop, strain and swallow the fish from the waters there,
rudd, roach or loach? Helen hasn’t a thought or care.
Ten merry tench, or a school of swift sticklebacks!
Walking the park, she eats pigeons with quick attacks!
Flying migrations with flocks of her feathered friends,
all the world’s fish will know terror that never ends.
Webs on her feet that will walk on the wettest sands,
Helen’s the best of the elegant pelicans.

Comment

This is love

Click to hear (.mp3)


--- and this is love, that knows no place to rest,
lies homeless in the shelter those provide
that honour God, and call his service best,
drawn to the man of sorrow’s gaping side;
and this is love, that cares not for his needs,
but trusts unseen the God that he proclaims -
only concerned to do his Father’s deeds,
and letting others choose between the names
that prophecy has given those to come.
Is this Elijah? Prophet, coming King,
Lion of Judah, healer of deaf and dumb?
Is this the one of whom the angels sing?
But this is love, that chose to take our woe,
and rose, forgiving those that laughed, below.

Comment

Site, poetry, prose and images © 2003-2017 Dave Knight. All rights reserved. The right of Dave Knight to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988