The ordinary act – dedicated to the people of Flight MH17Posted: October 21, 2014
The ordinary act
Suddenly, the everyday act of
Standing on the stairs
Stopping, to tie my shoe laces
As I catch my breath,
before rushing out,
People are falling like snowflakes.
A child’s rucksack, a stuffed toy monkey,
the body of a St Bernard, and of macaws,
Sprawled amongst the wheat sheaves that are
reaching, cathedral like, towards the sun switched summer shadows.
Silage rolls basking like petrol drums.
A bitter crop for Ukraine
and for the world, well beyond.
The tractor tracks of harvest green
slough of despond.
As I eat lunch,
tanks are scouring sandy paths
in a ravaged landscape,
savage hewn ruts of falling machinery,
rockets, surly and skywards menacing
dust plagued army vehicles,
the bloated belch of the side splitting guns,
the pylons staggering, the wires ablaze with the noise of war.
Here, as I stare out of the train window,
trees fill the skyline, and there are sunflowers
and cornfields, basking in the peace of an English summers day.
The harvest should be full and fat
the table fully laden, untroubled by despair.
Elsewhere – on the bad days,
it can feel like almost everywhere –
we reap people, homes, schools and hospitals,
the table groans, splits, splinters
destroyed by an overwhelming burden of care.
A skeleton building, a dolls house, fractured
Curtains shivering, post explosion blasted,
young lives, rich with promise, now ever disabled
and only ghosts left to sit at this harvest table.
Outside Newport, Gwent, I see a mattress hanging
drunk and halfway out of a window,
but it’s only out to air.
In Gaza it would act as an emblem for despair.
Might we replay, replace these moments, I wonder,
in some fondly imagined,
great blue yonder?
Months later, I awake early,
a storm is battering the mountain side.
I remember a morning, nearly 30 years ago,
a dustbin lid, a galvanised chariot wheel,
careering up and down Bullar Road,
awakening the citizens of Bitterne Park,
the dawn ghosted, wind maddened,
alarm clock fumbling of the semi dark.
Right now, it is wild outside, the trees are stuttering
whooshing, swishing and swirling.
Yet I am safe, cocooned, unperturbed,
secure, loved, undisturbed.
Elsewhere, the storm clouds curling,
warfare, Ebola, conflicts clattering,
the media chattering, gabbling,
politicians and generals, as ever, squabbling.
And all across this battered globe
there will be those, saddened, shattered,
bruised and betrayed, left bereft, barely intact.
Later, I will tie my shoelaces, walk the dogs,
fulfil, I trust, a host of everyday miracles,
celebrate my great fortune, and for those I love.
Privileged to work on something in which I believe.
Needing , ever, to remember the simple grace,
the joy of place, the ability to eat, sleep, breathe,
the breathtaking, gut wrenching, savage celebration
of simply being alive.
The daily, extraordinary,
A note of explanation.
I have thought, long and hard about this poem, both with regard to writing it, and now to publishing it, as it could seem both heartless and cavalier to celebrate one’s own good fortune amidst the devastation and desperation of so many people’s lives. But I do believe that there is an obligation upon those of us who are fortunate enough to enjoy good health and prosperity to recognise that, and to be thankful for it – and to utilise the opportunities that such good fortune allows us, to be of benefit to others, however we might choose to do so. Like so many people, I was shocked and appalled by both the reality and the awful imagery of the downed Flight MH17 – and so much else that has occurred since – and my heart goes out to everyone affected, left troubled or worse, as a consequence of it. My poem, for what it is worth, is dedicated to all who suffer, and to all who strive to alleviate everyday pain and despair.