We built our castles on the sand.
The tide came in, and there an end.

We built our castles out of fear.
Trust began to disappear.

We built our castles stone by stone.
Their shadow chilled us to the bone.

We built our castles far apart.
Twin halves of a broken heart.

We built our castles thoughtlessly.
No chance for you, no luck for me.

We built our castles in the air.
Nothing we hoped to find was there.

We built our castles. Let them fall.
Time disposes. Love is all.

by John Mole

‘Castles’ is copyright © John Mole, 2011. It is reprinted from The Point of Loss by permission of Enitharmon Press.

Notes from Enitharmon:

Born in 1941 in Taunton, Somerset, John Mole has lived for most of his life in Hertfordshire, teaching English and running The Mandeville Press with Peter Scupham. An extensive and diverse writing career has seen him publish, alongside many poetry books, the selection of essays Passing Judgements and a libretto for Alban, a community opera which premiered in St. Albans Abbey in the spring of 2009. Recipient of the Gregory and Cholmondeley Awards for poetry, and the Signal Award for his writing for children, he is currently poet-in-residence with the charity Poet in the City.

In his most recent book, The Point of Loss, from which ‘Castles’ is taken, personal memories are explored with a sharpness which avoids sentimentality while the seriousness of many of his subjects is addressed with a blend of affection, sardonic humour and a characteristic lightness of touch. Political, intimate and exceptionally readable, The Point of Loss engages with its subjects in a variety of verse styles, ensuring that every poem is memorable in its own right despite the range of Mole’s interests. As John Clare, Herod and Billie Holiday rub shoulders with figures from the writer’s own life, it is the significance we have to one another which is fleshed out here without pretension.

You can hear John Mole read from a selection of his work at the Poetry Archive here, and read a poem he wrote as part of his work with Poet in the City here.

Enitharmon Press takes its name from a William Blake character who represents spiritual beauty and poetic inspiration. Founded in 1967 with an emphasis on independence and quality, Enitharmon has been associated with such figures as Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Kathleen Raine. Enitharmon also commissions internationally renowned collaborations between artists, including Gilbert & George, and poets, including Seamus Heaney, under the Enitharmon Editions imprint. You can sign up to the publisher’s mailing list here to receive a newsletter with special offers, details of readings & events and new titles and Enitharmon’s Poem of the Month.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.

On a Photograph of Air Raid Wardens, taken after All-Night Bombing of the West End: 1940

It could almost be a detail from Vermeer
as could the catch-light of their helmets
domed and gleaming, pictured here
among the ravaged London streets:

two wardens, one with a decorated china jug
and pouring tea out for the other
who warms rough hands around his mug
as if either might have asked Shall I be mother?

At any moment anything may happen –
somebody’s world become a heap of stone
or something precious be forever broken,
an orphaned child found wandering alone –

as it still happens, as we check the TV screen
for daily close-ups and a body count
rather more Goya than Vermeer, obscene
in every detail he’d record in paint.

This is what we witness, surrogate wardens
of remote streets, far enough removed
to keep watch from our homes and gardens,
feeling our tender consciences reproved

by unknown victims of a different war,
of ideologies beyond the reach
or comprehension of this decent pair
who stand here in the street together, each

intent on what they celebrate, those small
residual habits, tender domesticity
incongruous and brief, a welcome interval
allowed for kindness, pouring a mug of tea.

by John Mole

John Mole writes for both children and adults. “On a Photograph of Air Raid Wardens after All-Night bombing of the West End: 1940” comes from his latest collection for adults The Other Day (Peterloo, 2007), his first volume since the warmly-received Counting the Chimes: New and Selected Poems 1975-2003 (Peterloo, 2004) which includes the poet’s own selection from nine previous collections plus 30 new poems.  Writing in the T.L.S., Bernard O’Donoghue praised John Mole for having written “some of the most engaging poems of the past quarter-century.”  John Mole is a jazz clarinettist and is currently the City of London’s Poet-in-Residence.

Peterloo Poets was founded by Harry Chambers, still the Publishing Director, in 1976. Its masthead is “poetry of quality by new or neglected poets”. Peterloo publishes between 8 and 10 volumes of poetry a year, runs an annual poetry competition – the 2008 competition will be the 24th – and, since 1999, an annual International Poetry Festival.

“From time to time it has seemed to me that the Peterloo Poets series is a haven of poetic sanity in a world of modish obfuscation.”
Michael Glover, British Book News