Michael Tolkien

REFUGE suggests there are many kinds of search for sanctuary. In Part 1 characters or objects reveal this in their unique identity. Part 2 (Cloister and Promenade) is more comic, even satirical about how dubious kinds of stability or identity are achieved.  Part 3 looks at specific refuges. Part 4 explores attempts to find security by identifying with surroundings and those who are close to us.

The author would like to thank a recently-formed local Rutland Poets group with whom several problematic poems have been ‘workshopped’ and ’rescued’. Thanks are due also to Gordon Braddy, whose patient and perceptive reading and listening have guaranteed that many poems were profitably reworked. And for the last six years the personal and professional support of Darin Jewell (Inspira Group Literary Agency) has provided indispensable encouragement in face of many odds.

Cover illustration                                   
Rutland Landscape by Rosemary Tolkien

…salted was my food and my repose
Salted and sobered, too, by the bird’s voice
Speaking for all who lay under the stars,
Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.
Edward Thomas: from The Owl (1916)



Triangular park railed between
converging lanes of heavy traffic.

Endless families alight on green
benches and parched grass, munch
picnics with far-away looks, wrangle
over ice cream or where to go next,
sidle off in loose gaggles,
while old mum and dad sit and sip
from thermos tops, doze, puzzle
over dried-up flower beds,
wait to be collected.

Crisp leaves rattle in circles,
a long summer’s dust tangos
over gravel. Not so distant
cloud has whipped itself up
into a host of cobras.

Three women identically smart
dodge cars, vans, topless double-deckers
and take a break to show off the flimsy
contents of their logo bags.

Designer-clad covens and fully-padded
bikers glitter past, being seen together.

Sparrows have even more in common:
spasmodic chatter, pranks for ever
fizzling out to start again.

Then rain
hesitant and clumsy
after months of drought.

Which hardly matters to
that played-out busker
squatting on a playground log
or a frumpy pigeon that preens
and shuffles in a flattened sandpit.


A leaf spins down
and scrapes his shoulder.

Such soft percussion after
insistent crash of boulevards
wave upon wave…
then in Rodin’s sanctuary
footfalls and angry sighs jostling,
nudging him on through modest rooms
stuffed with writhing sculptures, tight-lipped
daguerreotype families hung in brass,
carefully labelled stumps and blocks
that chronicle a clouding vision…

He who became a lunatic with no asylum
now stands still
on a path that tilts and dips
under balding trees, breathes his fill
of clammy decay, begins to feel
he’ll measure up
to being mad again…

turned imbecile by hard facts and faces,
chased by volleys of wheels and lights
to take cover among falling leaves,
platinum ponds ruffled by smug ducks,
distant mothers behind prams, toddlers
in limbo, safely running circles…

Who can retrace such circles?

Will he always be heading straight
from A to B, or back,
only to check
his hell-bent intercity pace
in some unexpected garden
that hides from a wide confinement?

This book can  be obtained from Forest Books,  from New Generation Publishing on-line, from Amazon , or direct from the author (use Contact page)