A poem for Remembrance Sunday

This is an older poem, but the sentiment, for me, remains the same. I hope it is worthy…

2015-flowers-family-friends-018Remembrance Sunday.

What would you have had us remember?

As you mustered in the trenches,

Around the gun emplacements.

As you hopped into the cockpit

And flung yourself skywards,

Or plumbed the depths

Submerged and submarined?

Should we remember your bravery?

Your mockery? Your cynicism in the face of duty?

Your gut wrenching anxiety,

Your fear, your mortal pain,

As you were killed and wounded,

Again and again and again?

 

Do the flags, the parades,

The preachers, the cavalcades,

Act as sufficient homage?

Or would peace, justice, equality

Be more deserving of your patronage?

 

But whichever,

It is true.

We must continue,

To remember you.


Always Rosemary

The 21st September is World Alzheimer’s Day. This poem, written five years ago, is dedicated to my mother in law, Rosemary, who lived alongside of Alzheimer’s for a number of years.

Sleeping now.

May your blanket be woven of spring time threads,

and flamespun from the azalea outside your window,

wild garlic fattening the woodland paths,

your fields, bested by bluebells,

Welsh oak, wild cherry, the rising sound

of saplings, keening in the breeze.

The crushed camelia heads that cushion the verge

below the trees

that you loved to see

as we were Fishguard, ferry bound.

Red petals gracing too, the secret garden,

where, a few snatched weeks ago,

we picked for you

Derek’s daffodils,

lingering strong and plump,

golden on your windowsill.

Sea thrift and campion binding the two Heads,

Dinas and Morfa dipping Westwards,

unwittingly majestic and yet, now, forlorn.

No longer held in your view.

Yet you loved to look out over these landmarks,

contemplating, ruminating,

reflecting perhaps,

on kinder, gentler days,

as you stared across the Bay

sometime sea shimmered,

at others, murk misted

 and

“Can’t see Dinas Head’, you’d say.

But cliffs and headlands prevail,

rock steady,

as you well knew,

through older age and illness,

stoically surviving,

cup of tea reviving,

discomfort, trauma,

bravely borne.

Ages slipped by, unwittingly,

as such they do,

and gradually,

and I am sure,

unwillingly

you gathered your very self in,

breathed deep,

withdrew.

Harder to distinguish then

your hopes, your fears,

the altered state

the change of mind.

Some things are, it seems,

beyond the ken

of us, the ones to remain behind.

Left, bereft,

to nurse your memory,

there must be laughter,

there will be tears.

But for all that changed,

across these widowed years,

you remained

a smile,

a crossword clue determined

a flash of will.

And of this I am,

ever certain,

always Rosemary,

somewhere,

it might seem to be

adrift,

yet fixed,

blossoming still.

Resting now,

sure enough and

ready to greet us

from

behind the ethereal, floating curtain.


Heroes

Hats off to the unsung heroes

Consistently saving our lives

The cleaners

Shelf stackers

Checkout people

Delivery drivers

The post workers

Rubbish collectors

Street sweepers

Waiters

Baristas

Checkout workers

Carers

Kitchen porters

Washers up

Laundry staff

Hairdressers

Reception people

The list goes on…

Unheralded

Underpaid

Undervalued

Passing by without much sound

But now we know

They’re the ones

Who really make the world go round


Friendships and community

The Borrowed Boy. I’m really looking forward to reading this new novel by my friend and colleague, Deborah . And I’m intrigued to see how she will have woven some of our community based work into her story. Exciting! Deborah can be found here on WordPress, search for Abra K Deborah.


Sweet peas – for HC.

An inch of rain fell overnight.

And the windows, roof tiles

Chattered, clattered

In the fore gathered breeze.

On this first summer morning

You are sleeping.

The day stealthily dawning.

I creep downstairs.

On the table there are sweet peas

Their scent stains the room

Dispelling the gloom.

Two decades before

The olive trees

 Silver whistled in the Kythera air.

Dancing and sighing

Incurious mime.

Murmuring, whispering, sweeping the table tops

At Filios Taverna.

Katerina and Nikos were there,

Aiding and abetting our blossom time.  

The wind had shadow wrapped the Belvedere

In the fortnight before.

We ate fish and peas, cheese pie,

 Bought Turkish Delight

In Leavadi.

Drove away from Kapsali

Late one night.

Cut the headlights

Looking out over  the Bay

Stargazed

The Plough

North Star

The Milky Way

And somewhere, off stage

An owl screeched

Scimitar sweeping the purple shrouded sky

As we sat and watched galaxies go by.

Now I make your morning tea.

We let the day slowly unfold.

As the days pass, so too the years,

No longer so young,

but, not yet so old.  

For time has been kind

With us in mind.

Two long decades since we met.

So much to remember.

We’ve made a collage

Woven a tapestry

Painted a picture

Told ourselves a story

Rich, vibrant, alive

A collective memory.

Nothing, no nothing

That I’d choose to forget.

And now?

All I can say for sure.

All that I know.

Is that Kythera gifted me

My heart’s desire

Some twenty years ago.


A Woodland garden – by my guest poet, Richard Wheeler.

The link below will take you to a film (some 15 minutes or so in length) made by Gwyn Cole. The filming is delightful, and captures the mood of the garden, and of the Nevern estuary at Newport very atmospherically. And Richard’s words are evocative, lyrical and written with the lightest of touches.

This really is a treat’ If you like poems, gardens, and/or Pembrokeshire – feast your eyes.

My thanks to Richard and to Gwyn for sharing their creation.

https://www.stillriverfilms.com/woodlandgarden/


Veterans

In 1999 I made a trip to Alaska, spending time there with my mum, June, and our great friend Peter Bibb, sadly gone now, but who was a veteran of the D Day landings.

This poem was written for the 70th anniversary.

Today, in 2020, those remaining veterans are unable to gather as they normally would. This is for them, the living and the dead, and for those they loved and who loved them back.

Veterans

70 years before…….

Young men stumbling into the shell bound surf

Silver flying fish

Stunned

The boys, wading on and in

Falling, camouflaged no more

Booming, battling forth

Whistling bullets, the siren song of war

Deafening the ocean’s unerring roar.

Years ago

in Juneau

I watched ‘Saving Private Ryan’

With Pete Bibb

Self appointed ‘old timer’

Who left the movie house

“Cannot watch this, have to go”

he muttered

As the faux machine guns

Cinematically stuttered.

This D Day morning

The robes of priests, clustered

The coat tails of politicians

And hats of royalty

Fluttered

As the bemedalled veterans

Mustered

Attendant, attentive,

Old men now

Memories shared, perhaps, despairs

Some stood and stared

As the peace yearning prayers

Were uttered.

In the fields at home

The buttercups, the thistle heads

Were bowing in the stiffening wind

That blows across the Channel

Westward, ho!

The clouds scud seawards

A breath of memory passes

Back across to France

Where death gleaned a mighty harvest

No respect for rank, for officer classes

The flags and flowers

Half masted

The crowds lost

Perchance

In collective trance

Subdued respect, even awe

For

Our veterans

And own them all, we all surely must

Those alive

Others sand blasted,  dust

Their debt, in full, is met

Our account

Ever owed

To remember

And not forget.

Marc Mordey 6/6/14


Gentleman Jim

This is a poem for a good friend and erstwhile colleague, Jim MacDonald, who died recently. It was written on the day of his funeral, a startlingly beautiful May day.

Jim was a huge fan of Southampton FC, and he and I and a bunch of friends went, over the course of several years, to see various stages of Le Tour de France.

The poem is for Jim, for his children, Elizabeth and Daniel, the family and all his friends…, in particular, for ‘the gentlemen of Le Tour’ and other friends from ROCC days.

The May tree is snow white, pink flushed, startling

the sycamore, bobby dazzling in a sapphire stained, swallow diving sky.

As we await your presence,

For that one last trip

 I take the sun, the heat

Divine  

(fierce today, aslip over this bittersweet spring of ours

with it’s malevolent harvest darkening the way )

Daydreaming  of French roadside cafes,

Belgian bars,

Saddlebags stuffed with cheese, bread and wine.

One less now

to effortlessly charm the women in the boulangerie,

make short work of a cold beer

To sip strong coffee elegantly.

You were kindness, nonchalance,

Good humoured grace

As the Peliton flashed by,

The sibilant hiss of tyres on hot baked asphalt

A glimpse of Indurain’s tour bus.

Never one to make much fuss.

The celebrant noted that

“memories and stories

Don’t just stop…

You are but a breath away”

Yes, even as

The Saints go marching in.

The strange thing

About death

The world continues to spin

Whilst we, the grieving

Rest

Suspended

Normality, temporarily

Upended. 

Sad to say, for

“The gentlemen of Le Tour”

One set of wheels

Turn no more.

But yes,

From Orkney to Pompey

Exultant memories prevail

The road still rises

The sunset pale.

Likewise

Across French fields and roads,

The hill climbs will still be there

The stages, time trials,

Triumph

Good companion to

Despair.

Le Tour is our collective

Treasure house of joy.

Remembering him

Our gentleman Jim.

20/05/2020.



During self isolation. Guest poet, Mary Jenkins.

MAry jenkins

(The novelist Helen Carey and her cousin, poet, Mary Jenkins, plus Maisie, on Carningli mountain one summer day, in pre-virus times)

Mary sent us the two poems below and I felt that it would be good to share them.

Two poems, written by Mary Jenkins during self-isolation, March 2020.

 

Swifts.

“Run away, Mary. Escape.“

“It’s not safe here.”

Normally, if things get tricky and dangerous,

“Flee” it says to me –

But I could fly away instead.

Like the swifts?

How would that be?

“Fly where to?” I ask.

Swifts don’t fly to a place (unless it’s nest – building).

It’s Flight.

All the time, every day every night

Round and round the world.

Often breeding in China.

Feeding, drinking, sleeping

And even mating on the wing.

Lucky things I say, and brave.

We have to “stay put” now.

And we can also fly with the swifts.

 

Black.

Black is the “in – colour” this spring;

Matt Black Ash buds, opening now on stout

Twigs and trees;

Inflated, ebony nosegays

Are breaking; bursting out

of their cosy night attire

of winter past –

to pale, utopian lime – green, little bouquets.

Beyond my wilder dreams of us , me, the world.

2.

And Black iris rebels against

established grass patch

By growing here where it’s triangular and unknown

half –way down the garden –

You shoot up amongst white –striped stems to guide and lead us.

We need “Black” to enlighten us now to sunshine.

 

Thanks for sharing these Mary. 

 

 


Three poems of hope, and to celebrate Spring.

These must be the strangest, most testing and troublesome times that the vast majority of us have ever experienced. Today is the Spring Equinox, and here in West Wales we awoke to bright sunshine – a joy after many long months of rain, and greyness. There are of course, darkly invisible forces at work among us all just now and I like many, probably nearly everyone, am watching with a deal of trepidation. And my heart goes out to all people, everywhere, who are suffering, one way or another, as a consequence of this horrible virus.  And equally my thanks, invisible also, but, I trust, benign, go out to all who are striving to make things safe. To heal, to care.

These three poems are offered as small songs, tiny tokens of hope. Poetry doesn’t cure, but maybe it offers balm. The first was written just now. The second is an older refrain, after a glorious walk in the woods, with Helen, Phoebe and Maisie.

And the third is from someone recently discovered…but that’s another story.   

Thanks for reading these. Please feel free to share. And whoever you are, wherever in the world you are, I hope you and yours stay safe, stay well and that the months ahead will bring new hope, new realisations and that, as a species, we grasp the possibility that what we learn from all this might help us to make real and lasting change.

Go well friends.

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1). March 20th 2020.

Spring blew in today –

sunburst marigold,

washing line cloud scudded

the breeze blistered

a touch cold blooded.

Two siskins, freshly arrived

tanked up on niger seed.

Daffodils soared skyward,

snowdrops still unbowed,

grape hyacinths abound

and the first forget – me – nots

shyly stepping forward

gentian washed aloud.

The box hedge took no heed.

 

Our land, our world

is gripped by fever

the animal that roared.

There’s darkness, sadness, grief

and loss abroad

whilst change is in the air.

Amidst the early signs of growth,

degrees of illness and despair.

 

But, the grass will grow

the wind will blow

the moon will rise

the sun will shine

despite the rain and hail.

People come, and likewise go

but nature must prevail,

and we must help it do so.

Hera will buzz the walls and lanes

with little fuss

unaware of our travails.

And, to quote this poet

as the blackbirds, robins, finches, sparrows

throng the air

and call

and sing

maybe remonstrate.

Despite it all

let’s celebrate

the joy of spring driven things…

IMG_9066

Hera in the sunshine.

 

2). Composed some 10 or so years ago.

Spring driven thing

 

It’s a spring like day

And we are walking

Three dogs, you and I

In Pengelly woods

Marvelling at the cathedral of trees

Stepping through the quickening stems of wild garlic and of

Bluebells, pushing up promises

There’s a rough bench to rest on

And the chance to sit

Watching the stream slip by

Calling out its spring time song

Water music for the ear

Greened bark and worsened stone

Go gently on the eye

We talk, you’re writing once more

A matter of delight

Whilst spring adopts its rites alike

We recommence our Sunday hike

Kicking up a storm of last year’s leaf fall

Marshmallowed moulded woodland floor

Winter slowly shrinking back

As the new season slides through the quietly opening door.

 

And finally:

 

3). A poem from a guest poet, Natalie Harrington, my niece.

 

Our Family Tree.

 

Years ago, our roots took form

Sculpting an intriguing canopy

They matured and grew, producing life

Creating our family tree.

 

Foliage formed, beautiful and rare

Each leaf its own design

Separating, reaching far and wide

That,  in their uniqueness shine.

 

Although trees leaves bide separately

Their roots remain as one

Our family tree, our roots, our love

Can never be undone.

 

Thanks Natalie – for writing this and for sharing it.

Dogs in woods

Phoebe and Maisie – etched upon our hearts.