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…

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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.

 

 

 

 


A pub with no beer

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

Hangover-free

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


Marc Mordey’s Election Blues.

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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?

Heathrow expand?

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,

Awash, delighting

in the fiscal afterglow?

Democracy gives

Democracy takes

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,

And others,

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.

 

 


Advent. A poem for Roger Hill.

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

Interested.

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

Suspended

Sublime.

 

Sleep well.

Rest safe,

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.

 

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The church in winter. a 60th birthday gift for me from Roger. May 2019.

 

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Penrallt Farm, as portrayed by Roger, December 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


In Kythera 2019. For Helen Carey.

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,

Slip by?

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

Seawards spiralled

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

Writ large.

On the island where love erupted,

Bloomed, prospered, sun soaked

No longer alone.

Mediterranean delight,

Grecian pleasure.

We wrapped it tight,

Flew north,

Made it home.

Now, needs must

That I guard the treasure.


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.


Brexit blues, November 18

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…

For some

Salvation

For others

Despair

And

Or so it seems

There’s them

Apparently

Who just don’t care.

A 100 years before

Europe completed a War

But some, dared to dream

Dreams

(Beyond passports and borders

Economics, migration

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

At

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

Non sectarian

Nation

Oh my!

A Nation….

But despite these views

I’m afraid to say

(Judged by the news

Speculation, analysis

Guesswork, bad temper

Reasoned debate

Irrational hate)

Day

after day

after day

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.