Secular poetry



   The soft mists of morning for night

Glowed golden and beyond cost,

Unmarred by flies yet,

Still crisp with tattered frost.

   A sun like a lion’s eye

Hunts the eastern grass,

Where the flat plain dwindles

To a purple bordered pass.

   Here a mighty baobab pillars the sky,

Feeding its pods to the cloud,

That drifts on high from the west

Like the dead night’s funeral shroud.

   All around the grasslands never rest.

They throb in a procession chewing cud -

A memory of Noah’s herding -

As vast as an ancient black flood.

   They are heavy locusts

With hooves like ploughs and teeth like scythes.

A testimony to Africa’s size and bounty,

That such a herd feeds and thrives.

   They are thunder on a rainless world -

Many thousands to the mile by mile.

In a river they cross a river

Which swells fat with carcass and crocodile.

   The day drifts by like the herd;

Never ending it noisily goes on.

But night comes and hides dark passings.

In the morning, the grass and the grazers are gone.

   And all that’s left is the baobab,

A trampled riverbank and a dusty plain;

And, confident next season will be the same,

The huge river dinosaurs also remain,

   To await a murmur in the east

And celebrate the migrating wildebeest.


Copyright Jason Horsler







   Before the tower came down there was the ceremony

For Old Ponder’s first journey to the ground;

A way cleared and the mighty pulleys set,

Thigh thick ropes and all the oxen from around.

   The villagers lent their brown callused hands

And their accent heavy songs rung out for the ringer

As along the line, pulling pallbearers lowered

From the high cross beam their oldest church singer.


   I can see him now in the dusty light then -

His cracks, his green scale, his dented interior -

Punished and flagellated by the iron clapper

Younger than the brass, yet rusted and inferior,

   To the two tonnes of warm sounding metal

So familiar to those who lowered it with care.

It watched their great grandparent’s christening

When it seemed the bell would always be there.


   Now secured to the cart and bedecked with flowers

They’ll not abandon Old Ponder as their church,

The shrinking chalk foundations of which

Have caused walls to crack and the tower to lurch.

   No, though the bell will not now sound,

It will be mounted in honour and no longer wear

The clapper, like a duty, cast aside in the grass

And the bell sits on a dais of stone in the square.


Copyright Jason Horsler







There stood a king on a far off hill,

   A place the ‘Valley of the Thousand’ named,

In a time when antelope outnumbered man

   And king George in distant England reigned.


His skin was darker than iron wood,

   His flesh was hard as that wood in kind

And sharper than his terrible spear,

   Were the battle workings of his mind.


In a leaf he saw the shape of a blade,

   In a bull’s head he saw troop formation,

And so, from a subordinate tribe, he made

   The Zulu such a mighty nation.


That others fled before his Impi

   And even the gun-armed settlers were still.

Though nations lay between the Cape and his army,

   The east wind scent was of fire and kill.


And for all his cruelty and swathe of war,

   Without him the past would thunder darker.

The great beetle of nNandi’s bellyful of shame -

   Lift ten thousand shields and cry: ‘SHAKA!’


Copyright Jason Horsler







It’s an abandoned bowl and chosen vase,

Carefully arranged in another time,

With old apples like large red walnuts

And grapes now raisins on the vine,

The healthy green of penicillin lemons

And black banana gorilla fingers;

Long lost in the corner of the artist’s attention

And over it all a fruit fly lingers,

Still seeing art,

Still live.


Copyright Jason Horsler







   My London is …

   infinite humans,

the early first light, the late dark,

a sky lined by roof tops and chimney pots

and the green trees of a distant park.


   My London is …

   to be new explored

from a window seat and handle bars,

but I’ve lost the storms that strobe the night

and I’ve lost my heritage of southern stars.


   London is …

   like a strange new mother,

a whole new choice river.

It’s sink or swim but dive right in;

any quality of life for the liver.


   My London is …

   breakfast in the vestry,

a need of Sunday within each day,

small rooms with long roads between,

small prayers with profound things to say.


   London is …

   as a big wet city does,

decorated with emerald moss and drifts

of leaves and Styrofoam and throw away people;

depositing layers on earth that never shifts.


   My London is …

   interesting in joy and  loathe;

adventure for a life time,

but I miss the gum boot and ululation

and the golden city I once called mine.


   Now London is.


Copyright Jason Horsler







They’re beautiful - the concentrated frown and effortful sigh -

     The children during the test. Are they mine?

     So  silent,  I  can  hear  the  neons  whine.

How heavenly slowly the minute’s peace passes by.


The rustle of paper and scratch of pen are as surf,

     The echoing hall and distant teacher-cry are birds,

     A class stands up below and rumble like far off herds;

But my room is the quiet of insects under turf.


Oh, they have been a jungle and will wild again.

     They have aped and tigered and even snaked.

     My walls they have climbed and my floor they shaked;

But  now  they  weather  the  test  and  I  reign.


I sit and watch them like some ape’s son king

And think the nature of assessment a beautiful thing.


Copyright Jason Horsler







I shouldn’t be here!

                         I heard the harsh alarms.

I saw yellow vans pull away with speed,

And now I wish I had followed their lead;

As I sense the storm coming after this calm.


Why am I here,

                         Near an open cast edge?

What mad need to explore has driven me,

Away from the group and beneath this lee;

This sixty foot high coal hiding ledge?


And then it begins!

                         Far along the cliff hell breaks free -

The swell, the dust spurts and then the sound;

As if monster moles were tearing the ground

And rapidly ripping towards me.


I look down -

                         My terror complete.

My only hope is that it won’t come this far,

But life depends on where you are,

And there are cordite cables between my feet!


Copyright Jason Horsler




The Putney bridge pillbox

      still guards the lazy Thames;

A monument to an aging terror

      when the sky rained heavy flame.

Its silent slits and angry mortar

      thick with moss and invading stems

Tell of counter strategy and careful planning

      in that old deadly game.




The world still reels

      in black and white unreality.

The numbness of statistics and time

      make less the nations of casualty.


What is it good for?


Clearing out old stock

      in time for the next generations,

And the pillbox remains –

      a grave for by gone nations.


Absolutely nothing.


Copyright Jason Horsler




The postcard showed beauty:

a flat, glossy, untouchable scene,

with strong desires to reach in the square

and walk the mountain dream;

to drink the mist and feast on the air,

to sleep with the trees

and wake without care.

I turned it over,

for the dream was too dear,

and wrote without thinking:


Wish you were here!


Copyright Jason Horsler







Someone rings an anger bell

When planes and buildings thrice collide.

The price of heaven - a glimpse of hell

And more than just a wounded pride.

The echo of a scattered bomb

In the roar and press of news,

Drowns out the purpose with shouts of wrong

To score a billion points and views.


While the ash settles outside

And the tears never cease within,

The fire burns for those who died,

But who will take the caveman’s skin?

With a serious smile between turban and beard -

A killer for a broken ideal in error.

    Is he to be pitied or feared,

    Who fights for a faith of love with terror?


Copyright Jason Horsler







       So alone and unused

in this corner of the wardrobe.

       Still new, still clean -

in myself I am whole.

       Without my brother

the master never calls

       and though I have two

I have lost one sole.


       I miss the joy

of the walk and run,

       of football and footfall

and the strolling way.

       Oh master! My lace is yet strong,

my tongue is willing.

       Search for my brother;

let us walk today.


       I long to see him there

beside me at your feet.

       Master have you looked?

What tidings? What news?

       Still lost? Oh woe!

Another worthless day.

       In the end throw me out,

and make me one with all shoes.


Copyright Jason Horsler







   The breakfast flock were as dust motes circling.

This high up he could see the earth was round;

a big blue eye, staring up at the sky

where in the ether Jon Gull is found.


   Poised for the plummet to test his wings,

alive and vibrant and glowing foam-white,

he begins his fall as a bolt of lightening,

neck stretched and wings folded tight.


   The solid wind could rip him to bits.

He holds his breath as he holds his course

and suddenly he sees his folly:

the flock rushes upward with unstoppable force


   and tears past in shrieking wind and feathers,

   but fate smiles oft’ on such brave endeavours.


Copyright Jason Horsler

11/01/02 - Based on Richard Bach’s inspirational book, ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’. 



   So skeletal and so mighty -

this upside down pig’s carcass

is a cool memory of ancient power,

like the beauty hidden in its starkness.

The seized heart of the older city

with rigor mortis legs walks the sky.

It’s a perfect place for a Pink Floyd cover;

a place where pigs might fly.


Is it an abandoned factory or a Roman ruin?

Was Kilroy or Ozymandias here?

Are these marble columns or smoke stacks?

Is it a hated eye-sore or a heritage dear?

   To me it’s a cathedral for an industrial town

   and I hope they never pull it down.


Copyright Jason Horsler







Windows in winter offer another view -

    the dark outside allows internal reflection -

    the flying silhouettes behind the collection

of scenes well lit and oddly see through,

    on the train.


Shy serious souls hide behind the news,

    behind eyelids of sleep carefully feigned.

    All pretend some blindness well-trained

they find interest in ad or refuse,

    on the train.


But windows in winter offer a chance

    to steal a forbidden look at the girl

    along the row with the dark glossy curl.

But she too, knows my trick and my glance,

    on the train.


Yet I’m not hunting for numbers nor rings

    but just such fast candy for my sight hungry eye.

    In another time and place I am not shy

so for now my gaze follows some fleeting dark things

    off the train.


Copyright Jason Horsler


THE RALLY - 1938.


   I am German.

We have long suffered.

I look down on them, all believing

   In that scowl of authority,

Beneath a red broken cross,

Shouting glory and deceiving.


   I raise my arm,

More to protect my blood,

Though my heart’s not behind it.

   I stand on a tier

Of this Nuremberg arena

And swear oaths that shall not bind it.


   See how excited they all are,

But how many secretly mock like me?

I am no fool for words,

   Yet in part I wish to bubble

And boil like those below,

But they are as slaughter-herds.


   How wonderful to just let go;

To swim in the Champaign

Without the weight of my logic mail

   And be pierced by the arrow

That promises a thousand years of tomorrow.

   Sig heil!  All hail!


Copyright Jason Horsler




Listen to them! Oh, what sweet sound!

They call with unmatched passion;

Chirping and warbling in their fashion,

High as creatures unlocked to the ground.


They say:  ‘I love thee! I love!

And wish the morning, ‘good morrow!’

With no edge of anger, nor taint of sorrow;

From the pitch of the lark to the low of the dove.


I wish I knew their names from their calls.

I wish I knew their exact words.

Then I down here could soar with the birds

And share the delight of blue boundless halls.


But wait, I’ll look it up in this book at hand.

Perhaps ornithology knows,

But romance is shattered by science’s blows;

                            For the birds are screaming:  

                                                                                             ‘Get off my land!!’



Copyright Jason Horsler




My coat - had I been stroked -

Would glow like smooth orange silk,

But my life has known the street’s hard caress

Since I left my mother’s milk.

This Cairo is a grindstone of cats.

It eats the flesh between my bones.

My shoulder blades are sharp to touch.

My worn paws are like four stones;


Yet I am proud and lucky though stricken,

For I live at the door of a shop selling chicken,


And beyond the streets, the Sahara is my litter.

Beaten by want if not by rod,

The two-paws revere me though I am used,

For in ancient times I was their God.


Copyright Jason Horsler







The chipped enamel bowl

Lay luke-warmed in the sunlight

And in its sullen depths

A single dog biscuit like a drowned corpse

Pale and crumbling

I've seen him drinking there

As much goes in as out

And so the water is full of spittle

And hairs and an errant leaf

It is old, hot and flat

It is disgusting


After the eagerly awaited long walk

Smelling the other hounds news and embellishing it

He seems to fall upon the bowl with joy

Showing every sign that he is relishing it.


Copyright Jason Horsler







Two mighty ancient mountain peaks

Once stood where now is desert plain,

And posed in the sun and heaven swept snow;

Their primeval flanks glistening with rain.

They boasted long and flexed their mass

And  taunted  the  sky  and  weather.

   Said the taller one to the one in lee,

“we  will  stand  together  forever.

Let us tease the stream between us

And rend the clouds so fat and grey.”

   Yet time flew by like a rushing river

Of  stone  hungry  water  until  today,

Only  the  skull  of  the  lee  mount  remains,

Of the other one, there’s naught but the plains.


Copyright Jason Horsler







   How well arranged my features are.

How wiped dry my trembling hands.

Who can inspect the castle from the bailey?

From dungeons of flesh who sees far lands?

   The door hides a danger unlooked for.

With strange detachment I see it as a shield;

A muffle on the hard honed voice beyond;

A black rectangle where I am concealed.


   I check my clothing and straighten my hair,

But now it’s too perfect and keenly contrived.

What weeks passed in complacent satisfaction;

A spit polish won’t carry this hour now arrived.

   I knock hesitantly, with unsure echoes;

My door-opening mantra sounding loud:

                                                   ‘here goes!’


Copyright Jason Horsler







What a beautiful aluminium whale,

Lies beached on the asphalt and sighs:

Its spinning baleen mouths

Hungrily awaiting to feast on clouds

                                                      in the skies.

It winks with a hundred flashing eyes;

Deep and high is its sounding.

It strains at its chocks with an eagerness

To leave this heavy unnaturally blueless


The willing Jonah approaches it with awe,

For soon I shall swim with the whales -

Breaching the overcast into the light

And blowing twin jet-streams into bright

                                                            lofty gales.

In the leviathan’s belly I am close to my Lord,

And so I pray there is no Ahab on board.


Copyright Jason Horsler







We are all of us vessels upon time’s water -

Our cradle and our metaphor:  the civilised Nile.

Between cataract and meander and now the delta,

   We float on the wavelets of the while.


And some are powered by filthy chugging motors

Rainbow-slicking the water and poisoning its life,

While others pole and paddle the currents;

   Growing thin from their effort and strife.


Be as the felucca though - the great white bird -

Find your strength in the air that sweeps the river,

Leaving only your crest and celebration wake behind,

   And when the wind seems against the liver,

   Don’t break out oars and don’t sail back;

   Though the way be longer - learn to tack.


Copyright Jason Horsler









It’s a sad sad story

One a naked soul can tell

To live life wrapped in cotton wool

And cry about your hell

To hoard a pirate’s treasure

And feed like a king

To shout up to the heavens

That you haven’t got a thing

To work a handful of hours

And do it sitting down

To spend some time in foreign lands

To turn a golden brown

And while you’re far away from home

To see all that is wrong

With your room and with the food

And the list that grows so long

And blinded by your anger

And the holiday price tag

You cannot see the pain

Of the one who takes your bag

Nor the bent straining backs

Of the picturesque fields

Nor the dusty little children

Short of way too many meals

Nor the struggle and the strife

Beyond the window as you roam

You cannot see it here

You were blind to it at home

For you deserve the best in life

This is what you say

Convinced in all your efforts

That you made this your own way

You worked so hard to climb the ranks

You did well enough in school

You claim you made your own luck

But you know you are a fool

For no one chooses life

Nor where they start to live

You were lucky for what you’re given

Perhaps now you should give.


Copyright Jason Horsler




   The dead lamp leaves a dark

And the light eyes cannot see,

So the ears spring  awake

To the roar of the night symphony.


   There’s a constant hush on the roof

And big drops slap from the gutters,

While the fridge like a fish tank hums

And  distant traffic  mutters.


   Occasional cries the miserable bird,

As oft’ as the sigh of the wind blown trees.

A far off siren  counterpoints frog

And clothy thuds my heart at ease;


   Which is found without effort or try,

   In the dark of this night lullaby.


Copyright Jason Horsler

02/08/00 - Written on a wet Spring evening when I lived in a bed-sitter in Johannesburg.






It came while I sat

With my nose buried in a book,

So sudden, so silently,

I didn’t get a look,

At its front destination plate

And no clue was spoken

Over the public address;

Out of order and broken.

The conductor too distant

And no one else around;

Where is it going?

Where is it bound?

Should I take a risk

And just climb aboard?

I am late already

And I cannot afford

To miss the right train

Or ride on the wrong one.

Little time is left to decide

And soon it will be gone.

Still I am not sure

And no one else knows …

It’s too late now;

The doors hiss close.

It moves and leaves me

Without a confirming sign -

Lonely, worried and thinking:


Was that train mine?


Copyright Jason Horsler




To have lived

in spite of the odds -

to breathe.

What worm,

what lowly thorn

I could have been.


But to think

that death consumes all -

no fear -

I might not

have lived at all.

Death is not mean.


Life’s moment

is surrounded

by the endless and forever.

Death, indeed be not proud:

I’m better late

than never.


Copyright Jason Horsler





















Copyright Jason Horsler




More than a thousand wet paving slabs

Slide beneath my dreaming unseeing eyes.

My sore feet slap the endless commute

Across spirit level land under homogenous skies.


But it doesn’t matter for I am far away

In the world of mind beside a brochure bay -


Where the water is so blue that it hurts to think

There’s not enough to go around.

The talcum beaches are bordered by waves

And shadowy palm strewn ground.

I see impossibly steep slopes

Covered in herds of mountain-goat trees,

Reflected in the sun-polished

Tinfoil-wrapped seas.

There are mountains of fire

Where steel-foundry rivers run

And the earth moves, exposing crystal caves

Blinking like the new-born in the sun.

Suddenly the air brings a feast of scents

On a fresh breeze: child of storms.

It is combed by the green-fingered cocoa-palm,

Bowing to the grey boiling horizon forms.

A flash of light and roll of sound

In a short lived shower of hot heavy drops,

That barely make it through the trees,

Then out comes the honey-thick sun as the storm stops.


How warm the light and how perfect the setting;

Enough to dry out this cold London wetting.


The dream is over as I trudge up the steps,

Too familiar to allow an unreal thought.

They keep so well, these lands of the spirit.

The time between journeys is happily short.


Copyright Jason Horsler




I see the books of satire -

a wasp’s nest of paper and sting.

I wonder that such vengeful history

could fly forth from an artful thing.


Can the hand that framed the daffodil

also give claw to the tyger bright?

But the Creator Himself made the rose and thorn

and balanced green day against red night.


For the pen in battle to earn its keep

it  must  as  a  sword  be  drawn.

Words may wound worse without blood.

They may damn the noble and trap the sworn.


The fancy quill  may stab or tickle.

Our muse is forever voracious and fickle.


Copyright Jason Horsler







Frail cobwebs haunt brown corners,

Where starving spiders could not lay

And the dusty fly-strained air

Never moves and yet they sway,

As if some eight legged spectre

Still danced in a dull hunting hope.

Perhaps it’s the room that wants life

And tugs on those thin steel ropes;

That have never known dew,

Nor bathed in the gold plating light,

But have seen this room’s odd traffic

And now, in this airing twilight,

May be moved as the room finds new lustre

And life pokes its corners with a duster.


Copyright Jason Horsler







   But there were woods here once;

Their centre, seven day’s riding from the edge.

   That wildness tamed by mattock and ox,

And bound by steel wire fences and hedge.

   Stripped of fern and sod and rock,

Now behaving to feed its oppressor.

   Converted to the faith of fallow;

That old primeval forest - the lesser.

   Although the land seems to provide,

It only makes for the church of man.

   It is taxed and milked and bled by one,

Where many once flew and burrowed and ran.


‘Pleasing fields,’ the governor blotted his brow,

   And said, ‘let’s plant houses now.’


Copyright Jason Horsler


All my poetry is copyrighted (in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988) and some of it has been published. They are here for your enjoyment and commentary. If you do wish to use them in any form of publication you will need to contact me ( I reserve the right to be recognised as the author of these works.