(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.
“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).
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 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.
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.
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.
1). March 20th 2020.
Spring blew in today –
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
Despite it all
the joy of spring driven things…
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.
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.
Phoebe and Maisie – etched upon our hearts.
I was fortunate enough, through the good offices of Alcohol Change Cymru (UK) to be able to assist with organising a second alcohol free beer festival in Fishguard and Goodwick as part of Dry January 2020. There is a formal report available via the charity
And here is the poem I wrote, as a consequence of the festival. CHEERS!
Can you find good cheer
In a pub with no beer?
Does the very thought of alcohol-free
Leave you weak at the knees?
Or do such options give choice
To an alternative voice?
Could you go Without
Try a Big Drop stout?
Would people really stop and stare
As you quaff your Drop Bear?
Or you might not reject Brooklyn’s Special Effect.
Would a Sheppy’s low alcohol cider
Truly make you an outsider?
Or a bottle of Stowford Press
Will surely impress.
Perhaps a Super Bock
Makes for a pleasant shock.
If you’ve rejected the rest
Maybe a Sussex Best
Could leave you feeling quite blessed
Or an Infinite Sessions IPA
Absolutely make your day?
Sam Brown’s, still in play
And there’s Leeds Brewery OPA
To help your along
A stumble-free way.
And if Italy’s more your thing
Well, ciao! Shout out!
Peroni and Moretti have zeroed out
And can make your heart sing.
Truth be told
Whatever’s your thing
If it’s a day without booze
That feels like good news
Or no danger of the handover
Of your set of car keys….
The liberty Of a non-drunken spree
Geared up by Tesco low alcohol G and T
Then hey! And Yay!
The pub with no beer
Can offer good cheer!
Seems there’s always room for thinking
About different ways of drinking
And so, the people have spoken
The voting’s passed.
We’ll be quitting Europe
And I am downcast.
I may well be “Remoaner”
But I’m certainly, no loner.
What will our UK look like I wonder?
How much we will we mind?
As the borders change
And nationality lies
evermore strictly defined?
Will ‘the Union’ be stronger
Or not exist for much longer?
Will the Foodbanks flourish?
Or become the norm?
Universal credit unravel?
And HS2 , transform
The pace of travel?
The flooding too?
As the climate wreaks revenge
On our green and pleasant land?
Will we see more homelessness?
More social care distress?
Deck the Halls with boughs of Holly
As another 95 year old spends
Ten hours on a trolley.
Will your pension get paid?
Your wages start to grow?
Will the wealthiest share more
Or simply bask and brag,
in the fiscal afterglow?
And I must make the best of it.
But my heart is heavy
Languishing, leaden, lethargic .
Alongside, how many?
Some half of my fellow citizens?
As we put up with the rest of it.
Wondering, what happens now?
With division, disenfranchisement,
Adrift and despairing.
Some cross, many bitter,
simply beyond caring.
So, roll the drums,
As Mr Johnson becomes
Our One Nation Tory saviour.
Victory is sweet, and doubtless to be relished
“Let’s get Brexit done”
that”ll save ya!
Me? I’ll be learning to live
With a sense of defeat
Under our nation’s new roof.
Rendering my version of truth
Sackcloth and ashes, unembellished.
written on the morning of Friday 13th December 2019.
We’ve known Roger pretty much ever since we came to live in Newport in 2005. He was a great friend, a bon viveur and raconteur.
He, Reg and myself and the two dogs, used to walk to the top of Carningli most Sunday mornings, probably for about three or four years. Roger liked to see the sun come up, so the Sunday morning starts got earlier, and earlier…! The gossip was good, the coffee even better, and the two dogs always got a biscuit. At the end of the walk Helen often provided a cooked breakfast. Those were golden mornings.
A talented artist, a lover of words, of music, of friends and family. An ally, a kindred spirit. A free spirit. We will miss him very much, as we do Betty, who died around a year or so before Roger.
His pictures hang in the bedroom.
His memories move over the mountain.
I’ve called this poem Advent, as kind of memorial to the time he marshalled us all up top to sing carols and wassails.
You urged us on to crest Carningli
As the summer sunrise split the Western skies.
And we’d huff and puff
Gossiping, musing and marvelling
As the Bay yawned below.
One time you had us carolling and wassailing
In the gathering Yuletide
swirling, steaming mists,
A hint of snow.
The mulled wine and singing
amidst the mystery of ancient stones.
Our walking trips gradually dwindled.
Stopping points became final destinations,
As knees gave way and age overtook us.
We had to say au revoir to
The gorse and heather, still painting their
Honey golden purple splash
Startling the muted grey of
mountain moulded rocks, bedazzling
Larks, sheep, cattle and ponies.
But the pub, painting, music and stories
Held up our conversations
(As did Brexit, climate change, other debate
Indeed, as you aged
your plea for a new vision
grew ever more passionate.
Your voice undiminished by the indignities of maturing.
And we’d do well
to heed your warnings)
Your friendship, intellect, never dimmed.
You were both interesting and
Now we’ve lost you to the drumbeat march of time.
Your paintings grace our wall
Lighting up this winter gloom.
The memory of you
on your West Wales mountainside.
Close to family, hearth and home.
Asleep, but not alone.
A great man for all our days.
A friendship celebrated, tried
true and tested,
To be remembered in
Oh, so many ways.
Unlikely to be bested.
We met on the Greek island of Kythera ( pictured above) in June 2000, and returned, for the first time in 14 years, this June. It was magical when we met, and it (all) still is. On the same trip we met Hera, but that’s another story, maybe another poem. But for now, this is for Helen, who has my heart.
How did two decades
All but a year,
Filio laughed and hugged us, even cried,
The bamboo drifted in the soft breezed warmth
You and I, beside.
The taverna table laid up for two
Where once I waited
And the taxi ( thankfully)
never arrived, instead,
There was you.
As the wild thyme keened the air,
The kestrel plummeted
Geese hissed in a dust bowled olive grove
and the first cicadas of the summer began to drum.
Bees, drunk hummed on myrtle sipped nectar
The blue and yellow collided
Over Kapsali mountainside.
Near Mitata, the church tower split, stricken,
We walked a new path
Crunched ancient shells underfoot
Stressed from the strains of bygone volcanoes
Tiny flowers grasped life from thin soil
A goat danced, windwarded.
How graceful you were
As we spanned the unknown
Having walked the Englishman’s Bridge
Revisited a love story
On the island where love erupted,
Bloomed, prospered, sun soaked
No longer alone.
We wrapped it tight,
Made it home.
Now, needs must
That I guard the treasure.
As there’s both a General Election, and we are still ( thankfully) part of the EU, I’m taking the liberty of resharing my poem, written in 2016. Inspired to do so by an article in the Guardian newspaper suggesting that Brexit poetry can help. I wonder.
They seek it here
They seek it there
An elusive answer
Maybe even a prayer…
Or so it seems
Who just don’t care.
A 100 years before
Europe completed a War
But some, dared to dream
(Beyond passports and borders
Project Hope and Project Fear
Leave or Remain
The results unclear)
Of a time and a passion
Where all people could fashion
A desire to end up
The same destination.
Whatever your politics
Your strength of conviction
The things that you value
Your own inclination
Let’s hope that our leaders
Can find some contrition
And guide us towards
A reunited state
An undivided, egalitarian
But despite these views
I’m afraid to say
(Judged by the news
Guesswork, bad temper
We are all headed for
The Brexit Blues.
I can only trust
That, we don’t end up
With a terminal case
Of national paralysis.
The ceiling of Ebenezer Chapel is decorated
In soft pastel creams, sea green relief
Golden sand colours abound
The soft lights, as sunshine through still water
We sit, gathered to think on you
As the choir and singers render your memory
Music lover, medicine man, historian, humourist
Think that you’d have loved the Rossini, the Puccini too
” My Little Welsh Home” rang poignant, so true
” The Girl in 14 G” blew the night shades away
Would that you’d lived to see this day.
Sleep well, sea billowed, tide caressed
Beyond music, pain, distress.
A long time ago I worked for this charity, and I still follow and admire the endeavours of all concerned with interest and affection. Recognising how, in all our lives, perilously close to the wind we sail underpins a lot of my thinking, and some of my forays into poetry. So, I thought I’d take the liberty of sharing this piece here on my ( currently, somewhat neglected) blog. It’s well worth a read.
Meantime, new poems are brewing….I’ll keep you posted!
Are we one payday away from being homeless? – The Society of St James
— Read on ssj.org.uk/are-we-one-payday-away-from-being-homeless/
I have a friend and neighbour, John, who is a sheep farmer, with a flock on Carningli. His family have lived there for many years.
From time to time I adopt my temporary guise as #theoccasionalshepherd and help him with sheep related duties. For me, it is one of the greatest pleasures of living here in Newport, Pembrokeshire.
Two or three times a year a group of local people, often graced with the presence of Anwen and Chris, help John,and his sister, Aeres , to gather the sheep off the mountainside. Until this spring we also always had Aeres’ husband, Granville, with his ever gracious smile, care and concern for all, and delight in the mountain and all it’s ways.
Sadly (an understatement if ever there was) Granville died in May this year. This poem is for him, for Aeres, Anwen, John and Chris, and for all who help out this delightful family. It comes with love.
We are walking the old ways
Bracken snatching at our heels
Stone stumbling across the narrow tracks
The sun on our backs
Feet sinking occasionally in rushwards marsh
Sticks swishing bramble, as we make the pass
Larks rising abundant, trilling
A red kite patrolling the sun split skies
Crows flap, unwilling, it’s all a bore
Quite sure, they’ve seen this all before.
Is that a rock, recumbent?
Or a ewe, two lambed
Blue hooped, bread rolled, sometimes sooty from burnt gorse
Woolly marshamallowed, on matchstick legs
Stirring grumpily from a sleepy hollow
Answering the call
Her Master’s Voice
As John whistles, shouts, limbers, long shanked
Carningli’s highways and by ways
On the back of his hand
Whilst we follow, as best we can
Shepherding by osmosis
To the sheep, his tones, distinctive
The flock moving on demand
Alive to his ever familiar command
Sweating slightly with the July heat
The Bay below,
Curtain called velvet blue,
The sky frames paper triangled sailing boats at play
Church and castle
At our feet
Maybe they hear us working?
In the graveyard, the tall trees bend to listen too.
Now we turn, the flock funneled towards homecoming fields,
Sweet grassed, comforted, steadfast and settled
A few rebels
Break for the mountain
But are black bag flapped through the 5 bar gates
Baler twined and strung in
Scurrying, heel kicking, stream leaping
To dot the meadows
An Impressionist painting for the Pembrokeshire hillside
Above beach, and town
Seeping sandy time and tide.
We leave, turn away
Even though there’s more, much more to do
(Shearing, dipping, marking, treating)
But maybe not today
For even farmers
Have to play
Leave the flock to graze
To raise the bleating clarion call
Dawn to dusk
By night, by day.
The wind, sweet heather breathed, new credential
Steeps and gusts above Stone and Castle Hill
Sighing gentle benediction
The Gathering complete
Under John’s direction
Yet we all missed one element, essential,
It leaves us, still,
Our friend, coralled, slumbering long, elsewhere
And now the feathering breeze
Whispers one name