This poem was made at sea. A year ago now, but the sentiments expressed are before, contemporary and beyond. It’s all for you. Thank you. From the heart.
My seaside Valentine
If I could choose
Moment in time
To take ahead with me
Into unfathomable eternity
Governed by uncertain deity
It would be
Bedecked by you
( and, in my mind’s eye,
two ghost dogs
On our voyage sublime
Watching the watery world slide by
The Pacific, painted by
Gelato cream confusion
Melting into the black mirrored swell
As scimitar shaped birds
Slice the crested waves
Balletic marine fencers
Weaving, careening and
The ocean’s ceaselessly hungering mouth
Restless, inscrutable, immutable
Breathing, deep water scheming
Its owners have
But scant regard
for our lumbering vessel –
Man made iron muscle –
Outflanked and bested
By shearwater and petrel
Undone by dolphin and iridescent Dorado.
It is as though we were
Tipping over the Equator
Outstripping day and date
Adventuring, ever southwards
Our ship in full spate
Speed baffling knots
Our beating hearts rate.
This would be the moment I’d choose to take.
Yours and mine
To be specific
My salt spray adored
My seaside companion
My maritime best friend
My own worlds end
My sweetwater , Columbine
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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.
This is an older poem, but the sentiment, for me, remains the same. I hope it is worthy…
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?
It is true.
We must continue,
To remember you.
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
75 years before…….
Young men stumbling into the shell bound surf
Silver flying fish
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.
I watched ‘Saving Private Ryan’
With Pete Bibb
Self appointed ‘old timer’
Who left the movie house
“Cannot watch this, have to go”
As the faux machine guns
This D Day morning
The robes of priests, clustered
The coat tails of politicians
And hats of royalty
As the bemedalled veterans
Old men now
Memories shared, perhaps, despairs
Some stood and stared
As the peace yearning prayers
In the fields at home
The buttercups, the thistle heads
Were bowing in the stiffening wind
That blows across the Channel
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
The crowds lost
In collective trance
Subdued respect, even awe
And own them all, we all surely must
Others sand blasted,dust
Their debt, in full, is met
And not forget.