An inch of rain fell overnight.
And the windows, roof tiles
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
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
Drove away from Kapsali
Late one night.
Cut the headlights
Looking out over the Bay
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.
All I can say for sure.
All that I know.
Is that Kythera gifted me
My heart’s desire
Some twenty years ago.
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.
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.
70 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.
Marc Mordey 6/6/14
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
(fierce today, aslip over this bittersweet spring of ours
with it’s malevolent harvest darkening the way )
Daydreaming of French roadside cafes,
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
The world continues to spin
Whilst we, the grieving
Sad to say, for
“The gentlemen of Le Tour”
One set of wheels
Turn no more.
From Orkney to Pompey
Exultant memories prevail
The road still rises
The sunset pale.
Across French fields and roads,
The hill climbs will still be there
The stages, time trials,
Good companion to
Le Tour is our collective
Treasure house of joy.
Our gentleman Jim.
(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.