christopher james

Poems and prattle

Month: March, 2014

Polly’s Tune

What can a dad give to his daughter – apart from money, books, clothes, iPads, love and attention? In this case, I can give her a tune of her own, which I composed this morning on the guitar in the open tuning BGDGAD.

Polly's Tune


Starling Wonder

I wrote a poem about a long lost Beatles album and had to think of names for the songs; there were things like The Party At The Centre Of the Earth and Carnaby Streetlights. There was also one called Starling Wonder which might have sounded like this. The tuning is BGDGAD with a capo on the fifth fret.

starling murmurations taken at RSPB Minsmere nature reserve in Suffolk. @RSPB


The Hunter

I’ve been listening to lots of Andy McKee, the American acoustic guitar genius and particularly his new song, The Reason. Check him out, as well as Thomas Leeb’s inspiring acoustic version of Comfortably Numb. And once you’ve done that, you can listen to my new acoustic composition: The Hunter, inspired by Artemis, the Hellenic goddess of the hunt and the wild. The legend goes that she shot her lover Orion with an arrow by accident. No health and safety officers in those days you see, folks.

The Hunter image

The Sultans of Spring

We made a discovery of some unusually flamboyant scarecrows in an allotment in Corpusty, North Norfolk. All are dressed in rather nice old suits, with shiny buttons and bottle-top badges. Every so often a new character appears, in this case a guitar-playing gentleman.

Scarecrow guitar


The scarecrow
with the chicken-wire guitar
sing the greens.
In an old suit
by allotment gates,
he plays Leadbelly
to the parsnips;
Blind Lemon Jefferson
to the peas.
A briar pipe at his lips
he sounds root notes
and juicy sevenths,
grass bursting
from his shoes.
An iron bolt for a nose;
pearl-button eyes,
the sparrows hang
on his every word.
He does string bends
for string beans;
vibratos for potatoes.
Behind him,
the wild garlic swoons
as he does his thing,
while the cabbages sway
to his songs of spring.

Out On The Fells

Each year my friend Winston and I go backpacking  and disappear into the hills with an OS map, supplies of crisps and cola bottles, a tent and lots of old stories. A couple of years ago, we were in the Peak District, and crossed a moor like the surface of the moon. An old tractor tyre was the only man-made thing we saw, as if it had dropped from space. When we arrived in Buxton it was like splash landing back on Earth. Another year we were up near Ullswater and climbed high above the lake feeling like we were the only people left on the planet. This is a new composition in the open tuning DAGDCE inspired by those open landscapes.


If you liked this one, you might also like the other three originals I’ve posted: Martha’s Song, Billy’s Jig and Far Away Friend. Enjoy!

The Hart

Last year I had the misfortune of hitting a deer on the road. Anyone who has had a similar experience will know that the memory lives with you for a long time. I was driving back through Epping Forest after dark, near High Beech, where the forest is at its most dense when the deer stepped out in front of me. It was three metres ahead and I had no time to swerve or even slow down. I remember its eyes, like white squares staring straight at me. In that instant I knew it would die, and had time to consider how bad it would be for me. I remember wondering whether it would go under the car, over it or even through the windscreen. In the event, it rebounded and sprung both forwards and upwards, its legs limp and came to rest by the side of the road. My engine cut automatically and I ran back to check the animal. It was perfectly still and seemed, in the dark, almost miraculously unblemished.


In the moment
before I hit the deer,
a red hart, that has
slipped from the dark
of a royal forest
I find myself looking back.
Blinded by headlights
I feel the blood
freeze in my legs,
and know in a moment
I am dead; I see my
body flung high
my legs swinging
limp in pairs,
my head coming
to rest on a verge.
Shallow breaths,
and now I remember
running through
a stream, the hot sun
on my fur, my mother,
the smell of grass
an ecstatic cry and
everywhere the
thousands songs
of a morning sky.