From time to time: Twelve poems

From time to time

A selection of twelve poems written between 1994 and 2015

James Lewis


By the river in Slaughterford -
Nicolas de Fossard restores antique clocks;
Sounding time strikes amidst birdsong and stocks.
Timepieces live longer than those they regulate -
Theirs are lives we should investigate!

He was there when we took Michael in the snow -
To Polly’s party at Christmas - so long ago.
Before he died too, the clock belonged to John,
Now the clock has stopped - time moves on.

Would that lives too, like clocks, could be restarted -
These friends would not all be so far departed.
Then truly the “s” would be obsolete -
And we could again all ably meet
- by the river in Laughterford!


June 1998, when the "s" had been obliterated from the village sign.

Nicolas Georges ffolliott de Fossard died on 13 June 2016. His funeral service at St Nicholas Church, Slaughterford, included a reading of this poem by The Reverend Sarah Evans.

Time warp

Tropical mountains with many levels and moods
Display flora of distant latitudes.
Going to the tea of Nuwara Eliya’s peaks
I'm surprised by beetroot, potatoes, rhubarb and leeks!

The mist-shrouded bungalow with lawn and roses
And lead-light windows, it reposes
As visiting my grandparents’ when a boy
Where tropical mementoes they did deploy.

My Sri Lankan hotel room so far below
Smells the same as did their bungalow -
Summer warmed wood, brasses and enclosed sultriness;
The same now here as it was then, in warm coziness.

Many other places, and those in developing nations
Have evoked forgotten emotions and sensations.
Where yesterday’s environments are intact,
Their experience can surprise in imagery and impact.

Bangladesh guns wallop Independence Day salutes
And I am a child in air-raid suites.
Steam trains’ distant chunter transports my fast flight
Back to childhood darknesses and listening in the night.

A black cow tethered and munching on the lawn;
The hum of air-conditioner ‘til dawn;
The birdcalls at the window in the hot sun,
All serve to remind me where and when I really am.


September 1998 (edited January 2015)

Time and tide

Later in life there come the emotions
For decisions that have gone before.
When we are young we can cross the oceans,
Not knowing regrets we place in store.

Later in life there come the emotions
For what the family young do now.
Now we are the old when they cross the oceans
We feel what our forebears well did know.

Later life is more full of emotions -
They accrue of their own accord.
Regrets form only a part of all our notions
By which we're enriched - for the record.


November 2002

Time passed

Ben, now nearly five, is well able to enjoy
Remembering some good times he’s had.
Whistful recollections unusual
In a young and lively lad?

Cricket on the lawn, he reflects in winter
Of lost balls in undergrowth now cut down;
And of wheelbarrow rides with Joshua;
His signals of passing time.

There's less time now for my own reflections         
Amidst Ben’s happy conversations.             
What a mutual bond we do enjoy -
What a wonderful purposeful boy.


1994 (edited January 2015)


When Great Grandpa George had died at ninety-five,
I held the warm hand of Joshua George aged three
And walked the grass of a field called Underground,
To where the brook slips fast under the little bridge.

It seemed together we spanned two hundred years,
A moment in Nailey’s undisturbed terrain.
When Joshua goes with his grandchild,
For sure the brook and bridge will be there again.


August 1998 (edited Oct 2012)


Please come, at last, for celebration -
The last in line for commemoration.
The youngest of year fifty-five’s
Sixty-fifth has eventualized!

Though scattered friends are far and wide -
With difficulty, they could coincide?
Manchester mates are all asunder -
So others please come to swell their number!

Come by train from Belgium and France,
Never mind the foreign parlance!
We all are now the Continent
So let’s enjoy and implement.

And is Manhattan too far away
From Marshfield on this special day?
In mind, we easily conceptualize -
To come would be to synthesize.

To family, now significantly extended,
This invitation is promptly sended.
A series of parties now set in motion -
Who’s the next for a big promotion?

Long may it last, this party going -
Cause of so much to-ing and fro’ing.
Too many occasions now over and gone -
Will the last be at one-hundred-and-one ?


April 1998 (edited October 1998)

Marks of time

Pieces of paper kept in a file, recording
Transactions, agreements, an edict, referring…
With outdated graphics become archives of time -
They mark time with the marks of time.

Daphne M Bradshaw (Miss) expresses her regret:
Ride a bicycle daily! - peace would be upset
Through Kensington Gardens in nineteen-fifty-eight…
And is sorry this reply is late.

The small beetle is Stegobium paniceum (L),
See the pamphlet here from the British Museum; well
This common-name bread beetle is in my coriander…
And infested seeds can be destroyed by burning
Say the University of Bristol, place of learning…
(seeds packet plus beetles enclosed).

With my present partner (June nineteen sixty nine),
It is no longer practicable to share a line.
Exclusive lines at ten shillings a quarter more
Need some slight changes to my apparatus or
Can they find me another partner?

Values and systems are quickly ridiculous;
Their being written makes them all more dubious.
Dated graphics of an elaborate mystique
Now serve only a sense of antique.

March 2004

The original letters upon which this poem is based are preserved on file.


Not flagging

Flags on poles, one with a finial once painted in gold,
Passed by my grandfather to his son - my father.
Poked out of upstairs windows on occasions so bold,
Themselves to flag - or wave in wind if they would rather.

I remember their use on two occasions - but for what celebration?
George the Fifth's Silver Jubilee in July nineteen-thirty-five, and the other?
The Accession of George the Sixth - his son,
In December nineteen-thirty-six - no flags for Edward his brother?

Recollection of this now is what's remarkable - let's contemplate -
I was aged one for the first and two for the second!
Where are those flags now so we could celebrate?
Not kings, queens and jubilees but for memories by which to be reckoned.


June 2012

The Gateway

Brown stain wood screwed to a galvanized frame;
All restrained and discreet.
Conservation man says it has to look the same,
To “fit in” with the street -
If only when it is shut.

A five barred gate, he says, is more in keeping -
With his romantic pictures:
Though in workshop, computer, ovens for casting
For now and all our futures -
Are technologies which extend us.

Ourselves now galvanized ‘gainst dictators of taste;
We energise democracy
‘Gainst those who write “to be removed”, made waste.
To secure a gateway -
A gateway to creativity.


2006 (edited Jan 2015)

It's nothing

You asked for nothing
when I had found something
put it in, it was empty
then I looked for something
when it is gone there will be nothing again.


12 August 2008

Time and again

If floods are said to be heaven sent,
Are planners and developers too?
We are the cause of what we aim to prevent;
So, much of what is done we need to undo.

Our repeated interpretations of need -
Water, food, shelter and security -
Are overwhelmed by exploitation and greed,
Each assured as a cause of poverty.

It is said that the poor have less to loose,
But vulnerability is their medium.
With no other resources from which to choose,
They are testimony to our opprobrium.


2008July 2009

(revised October 2010, June 2012 & January 2015)


Bipolar is chaotic,
From depressive to psychotic - and back.
When modified by medicine and time,
It reverts to life’s normal track.

Thus, "bipolar” is a label:
But is bipolar the person?
Life's doubts, fears and confusions
Are known by everyone.

Behind "bipolar" a person prevails
Amongst extremes of one of life's labels.
Experience that person in between
The confusion and many Babels!





November 2014 – January 2015: Revised November 2018.