Posted by: John Looker | 7 April, 2021

One tree and six or seven crows


The old apple tree,
bent over, struggling into bud

and two crows plundering for sticks,
scattering debris and flapping home
unhurriedly with their building bricks:

like Vandals at a Roman villa
just lost in wonder.


© John Looker 2021

I’ve tried to catch them in a photo but they are too wild, too quick.

Posted by: John Looker | 5 February, 2021

Snowdrops are breaking cover


Snowdrops are breaking cover.

They are reconnoitering,

filing their reports.


©John Looker 2021

Posted by: John Looker | 25 November, 2020

Conversation with a Sea Lion

Hey, how you doing? Don’t worry 
I’ll sit over here – like you, where the sand is dry. 
I’ll help you watch the tide. 

I’m good thanks. Yes, 
I like to come by after work when I can. I guess 
I’m putting off getting back home. 
You’ve a nice place here, with the dunes 
and the stream from the hills behind. 

No, I haven’t forgotten the sea. 
Nor the rip that carries you out at your ease …
I’ve noticed you always swim on your own 
and withdraw up here to shelter alone in the lap of the cliffs.  

I do have the family, true, and love them with all my heart  
but sometimes here on the shore 
watching the ocean stirring and arching its back 
and the clouds pacing the sky 
I begin to sense a thread of kinship with you. 
This sound absurd? 

It’s more to do with the sense of being, underneath it all, alone. 
Beneath the bustle of work and the ceaseless interaction of family life 
there’s a certain stillness, 
there’s a layer of deep undisturbable quiet: 
a solitude like your own. 

Or perhaps it’s a feeling … pervasive, imprecise … 
of being at one with the elemental world:
air and water; or atoms … then the timeless aeons … 

But you’ve lowered your head to the slope of the sand 
and look as though you’ll doze; perhaps I’ll do the same. 
We can lie beached like waka 
and listen to the riddles of the sea;
there is no hurry to go. 

©John Looker 2020

This was Highly Commended in New Zealand’s Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize 2020. For all the winning poems, please go to:


The actor Peter Hayden reading ‘Conversation with a sea lion’, Dunedin university bookshop, Nov 2020.

Posted by: John Looker | 24 October, 2020

Autumn possesses its own spring

Autumn possesses
its own spring 

which, when sprung, 

from their tight 

chestnuts, fungi, 

© John Looker 2020

Posted by: John Looker | 10 September, 2020

Autumn under coronavirus


We’re like medieval countryfolk
Confined to their fields and lanes.

Above us the swifts swoop and wheel
Refuelling for their long-haul flights.


© John Looker 2020

Posted by: John Looker | 31 August, 2020

Summer rain



There are certain summer mornings when the rain drifts

sideways, almost a mist, and all is doused

in a wash of silvers and greys: colours from a palette

of pebble and lichen, herring gull and trout.


Sun hats are thrown aside

in favour of anoraks. Plans

are revised. Do we miss the sun?

The primary blue, the glare?


Well, yes. But the air is fresh and sweet and raindrops cling

to wires and glistening leaves. Snails will inch

out from the hedges shining, while we just drift

idly: from breakfast … to morning coffee … to lunch.



(A poem from 2010. But I reproduce it here at the end of a remarkably wet August in England!)


Posted by: John Looker | 10 May, 2020

A haiku for Spring (2)



The bluebells are back.

Their caravan pauses here;

they know this place.



© John Looker 2020

Posted by: John Looker | 3 May, 2020

Remember when we could fly?

“Even an airport dreams at night …”

Looking back to before Covid-19, and looking ahead: this poem was published in the last issue of Poetry Salzburg Review – in other words, before virtually all flights were banned.



  Even an airport dreams at night. 
There was an unfamiliar hush, the lighting was low, 
a handful of late arrivals, stranded, stretched out 
on chairs amid the columns and dense interior planting. 
Time was sleeping. But he himself could not, alert 
to the finest shifts of shapes in the half-lit hall  
or indecipherable sounds. 
  His eyes picked out the night workers, slowly
and silently moving among the shadows: 
the cleaners, security, the fillers of shelves. 
And he must have dozed because, on looking again, 
he saw that the scene had altered. 
  The strings of a lute – no, surely a guitar – 
were gently humming and figures, glimpsed
in an unexpected beam of golden light, 
were gathered around, sitting maybe on a bench
or standing about. And there she stood. Graceful.
Poised. Dressed in the colours of remembered woods. 

Her silhouette! It was this that he noticed first 
and then her face looking his way – and her eyes 
returning his look seemed suddenly familiar 
as though he had known them somewhere, some day,
before. He moved, and for a moment believed
that she might approach. But she turned away 

  back to the circle that held her. 


© John Looker 2019

This is the second poem in a draft sequence entitled The Galahad Call. I posted the opening poem (The Point of Departure) here in November. I am grateful to Poetry Salzburg Review for publishing these two poems.


Posted by: John Looker | 12 April, 2020

While we cannot travel …


“Doors to manual”
and the flight finally
We burst from the plane
like a can of cola
unzipped. At last! 

All night long
in that shaken tube, 
that intimate kaleidoscope
of strangers – but now
it’s Passports, Baggage
and escape. 

There’s barely time
to drop the cases
before a child
has flown like a bird
to perch in your arms
by your cheek.


© John Looker 2015

This was first published (under the title ‘The Arrival‘) by the Austin International Poetry Festival in their 25th anniversary anthology ‘When Time and Space Conspire’, 2017. It was reproduced in my second book ‘Poems for my Family’ (Bennison Books, 2018). Both are available through Amazon. 

More important: it was first written for my granddaughter Evie.

Posted by: John Looker | 25 March, 2020

Working from home? A poem

Already with this coronavirus pandemic, many of us are holding meetings by video conference, telephone, email – and I even know of one meeting held through the open window of a car. This poem catches that spirit:




This conference – by videophones –
would stop Marco Polo in his tracks,
take the wind out of Columbus’ sails,
and has messed up meal times
in five separate time zones.           

Dinner in Shanghai
but breakfast on Wall Street.
Luncheon in London’s City
and in Frankfurt am Main. 
Tea in Mumbai.

Listen! … so what do you think?
There it is again:
the delicate sound of a glass
on a glass – a clink,
a disembodied clink!



© John Looker 2015.

This poem was published in The Human Hive (Bennison Books, 2015). You can read a selection of poems from the book on a dedicated page of my blog at


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