POEMS OFTEN BREW WITHIN ME FOR DAYS, SOMETIMES WEEKS, AND ESPECIALLY WHEN I AM WALKING ON CARNINGLI.
THEN, SOMETIMES, THEY COME TO THE BOIL.
THIS ONE IS MADE TODAY, FOLLOWING THE NEWS OF THE DEATH OF AN AUNT.
COVID 19 HAS, THUS FAR, TAKEN THE LIVES OF WELL OVER 2.5 MILLION PEOPLE.
STALIN IS OFTEN QUOTED AS HAVING SAID ” 1 DEATH IS A TRAGEDY. A MILLION DEATHS IS A STATISTIC.”
THIS POEM IS FOR EVERYONE WHO HAS SUFFERED LOSS – DIRECTLY OR OTHERWISE – TO THE RAVAGES OF THE PANDEMIC… MOTHERS, FATHERS, BROTHERS, SISTERS, CHILDREN, GRANDPARENTS, UNCLES, AUNTS, FRIENDS.
please remember them
Across the world,
A silhouette no longer framed on the Savannah
In Wyoming, a horse remains unsaddled
Red dirt unbroken in a Senegalese plot
A Russian doll that won’t be dissembled
A Spanish hacienda deserted
An Italian meal untasted
In Japan a temple flag is unobserved
An ice hole, unfished
A desert tent, entrance unused
A rice field abandoned
A new crop not to be harvested
A quilt unfinished
The favoured seat in the pub abandoned now.
A classic car, unfired.
A paddle board beached.
A tractor untended.
A camera shuttered.
A guitar untuned.
A song unsung.
A bed unmade.
A bycicle rusting.
A dog forlorn.
A doll abandoned.
A spinning wheel, not turning.
A pen no longer picked up.
A spade, rusting in a cobwebbed greenhouse.
A boat, sails stowed, bobs alone on the estuary.
Clothes are folded away, no longer needed.
Books, never to be read
Puzzles that no longer perplex
Letters never sent
An empty seat in a synagogue
An empty pew in the Chapel
A prayer mat in the mosque stays folded
The graveyards fat with memories.
Grass grows untended
A tweed jacket hangs forlorn
Broken items that would have been mended
A driving lesson not given
A telephone call no longer to be expected
Loved ones lost
“I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.” (Brideshead Revisited)
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.
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.
We had a holiday in Crete a little while back. The sea and sky were as blue as can be. The greens were equally intense. The kingfisher combined all these colours. The sunsets bled into the sea.
Helen and I met on a Greek Island, Kythira, when she was teaching creative writing. I was one of her students…I came home with the First Prize.
Helen Carey, this one’s for you.
(Oh! And hats off to Homer too! And a muted apology to the writer of ‘Grease’)
IN CRETE WE DREAMED IN BLUE
But in Crete the leaves are not yet falling
And I’m bursting with life
Olive grove glad
In the land of the Iliad
We are here
Our 18th year
Greece, the landscape
Soaked in ancient Sage
Washed with Thyme
History beyond belief
And the nearly new
That’s me and you.
In our spring
Kythera was King
Oleander lit the way
Winding down dusted tracks to
The azure blue, Kapsali bay,
Hora above, gleaming alabaster white
In our autumnal , peacocked Crete
Kingfishers dripping jewels in flight
Across the Lake at Agir
Turtles stroke the tranquil waters at Koumas
Now, in the dream dented, honeyed night
My Cretan Queen whispers
“Greece is the word”
And I heard
And I heard
(PHOTOS by Marc Mordey – the Penrallt Eagle, created by the blacksmiths
at Dinas, Pembrokeshire)
(The music, like the bird itself
Above the Dyfi Estuary,
and over the mangroves
fumbling their way to the
Isle de Palétuviere
as the pirogues drift down glassy water
and a pelican dominates the jetty)
a red kite
eddying the cloudless sky
imperious above our crop dusted fields
siskin, finch, wood pigeon
a thrush, jack hammering a snail
between two stone dogs
keeping their green mossed vigil
A young jackdaw
striking a cormorant pose
bewitched by the chimney
beating time on the ridge tiles
(It’s hot, this year)
There are swallows skimming
and Amazons at sail in the bay
muted blue below
(and the harp still swoons
and the kora
flying fingered fishing line
rocks a gentle rhythm
whilst I am at sea
in a pyjama striped hammock)
Blue tits, dipping for water
in the stone bird bath
that celebrates a golden grand-parented wedding
of 50 years ago
There are lilies blooming
amidst the dying embers of foxglove
and jasmine perfume teasing
romping in a green gaged balloon of bush
St John’s Wort in full throttle
And pink flushed, sunset resplendent
oliander, a whisper of Greece
and the road to Milapotamos
that we took
so long ago
(and the opsrey, Dinas, fledges
takes fleeting, freewheeling flight
and feels Wales on its wings
instinct, deep chested and hidden
fat flowing river
sea hawk’s delight)
The honeysuckle is draped
whilst the weather vane is stilled
the umbrella stifled with gaffer tape mends
blowing the wind southerly
to lighten the atmosphere.
(but, no fear
for the music still plays,
swaying, stirring, evoking
and the Land of Song beyond
I see you, in my mind’s eye,
as the rail skimming miles slide by.
You are peeling apples
in our kitchen,
two ageing, worsted cook books,
flour dusted, unflustered
by your side.
Chunking, slicing, chutney dicing.
Slooshing, whooshing, liquid reducing.
And that, which cannot be denied?
You’re the jam, the jelly roll, adoration preserved.
The unadulterated, unreserved,
honeyed, sugar coated,
The core – I’m sure,
and yet, by me : surely undeserved?
The bowl of cherries and more.
Dedicated to Jules and Bea (Beazley) for their wedding, 6th December, 2014. May all your wishes come true.
How I wish
You were with me now,
On this west bound train.
Your head nestled on my scarf shrouded shoulder,
As hills, estuary and city-scapes slide by.
Seeing occasional bouldered tops, and
Winter scarred fields, with
Cows and sheep reddened in December, shadow sharpened sunlight.
The train roars by, and
Crows scatter, shocked but unruffled.
And the tinnyness of maddening music
Moleing in someone’s headphones
Is suddenly stifled.
How I wish I was with you
In Oxford Circus sunshine.
Salvation Army songed,
Peacock motif light strung
And subdued Swiss shopped.
Walking wok wards
Or sipping our piping hot coffee
In the Photographers Gallery.
After viewing wind chilled,
Snowbound and desolate Finnished landscapes.
The portraiture of Martina Lindqvist,
Startling and sublime;
Living and loving, on
best borrowed, London time.
How I wish I was with you in an Uber car,
Being teased and cosseted all in one go.
The South Circular,
Wedding party bound and perilous slow.
The paper lights
Small globes in a sun boundaried marquee.
The confetti, floating ghost petalled toward the uneven floor.
The rusted statues gaping at a glitter of guests,
Speeches, stumbles, extracts and jests,
Celebrating this days marriage –
And other such states of union.
Past, present, the family bond,
Wherein New Zealand Eritrea, South Africa
Wales and well beyond,
Played their part,
In sumptuously stated affairs of the heart.
I’m here, and the glass raised is in genuine spirit, but
In my mind I’m on a Lizard Mountain
Canadian roof topped once more.
My word is forged, feather breathed,
To cherish, to adore.
How I wish I could be with you,
lovely photos and a nice piece from Diana – we had a brilliant evening, a richness and diversity of poets , wonderful music from Lowri Evans and Lee Mason, delicious crepes provided by Beatrice of Ffwrn (and served – with great aplomb – by Helen Carey) ….think we will return!!
I was very pleased to be invited to join the Writer’s Blog Tour recently by my Twitter friends at Mirren Jones – please see www.mirrenjones.wordpress.com
The introduction on their blog tells you how this works ….”Welcome to the Diary of Mirren Jones – a new stop on the Writers’ Blog Tour. We hope you’ll enjoy your visit, and will go on to sample the blogs of other writers, highlighted below. We are part of a growing international community of writers, working to introduce each other’s blog to a wider audience. Christine Findlay, Chair of Bookmark Blair, (Blairgowrie Rattray and The Glens Book Festival) in Perthshire, Scotland invited us to take part. (see www.cfindlay.blogspot.com) We in turn have invited the writers Angela Jeffs (Scotland), Heidi Garrett (USA) and Marc Mordey (Wales).”
So, now it’s my turn and there are 4 questions for me to answer :
1. What am I working on? Well, if I ‘m truthful, not a lot just now! I have a new poem prepared for Mayday and am working on notes from a recent trip to Sussex and Kent , which provided lots of visual and mental stimulation. I have a small collection of poetry that my father produced and have some ideas for incorporating these into my next collection of poetry (but that’s going to be a while in the making I think.)
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? I think it is terribly hard to answer this question as it demands a degree of objectivity about one’s own poetic voice which I at least am unable to achieve! But I think it is fair for me to say that what I try to produce is poetry that documents my own day to day experience of life – and the many moods and nuances that entails – and that I like my poetry to be accessible.
3. Why do I write what I do? As a record for myself. As something to share with friends and family.Because I find it enjoyable, cathartic and stimulating. And because I can.
4. How does my writing process work? I seem to have 2 ways of producing a poem – either it just ‘pops out’ of my mind (and I find walks and train journeys to be particularly valuable in this respect) or sometimes they take months, even years to find their way out onto the page. I probably write more of the spontaneous variety than the latter. I try and keep a pocket size notebook about my person for the purpose of jottings, and occasionally (mostly on a walk) I use the voice memo function on the I phone to record a line or two, or a stray thought.
And finally, I want to introduce you to 3 friends whose work is wonderful – please visit their blogs to find out more. These talented folks will be offering their answers to the same 4 questions on Monday 12th May. And anything you can do to help us all share our words and ideas through your own networks would be much appreciated. Thank you.
Stewart Bartlam Having worked as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language for a number of years, followed by twenty years in the civil service, I took early retirement a couple of years ago. My time now is happily occupied by reading, listening to music, following sport, the pleasures of food and drink, and writing. I’ve tried my hand at novels, essays and short stories, but it’s poetry that has become my pivotal passion; one that I hope to share by means of this blog. BLOG : http://stewartstanzas.wordpress.com
Helen Carey Having spent time in various different parts of the world, Helen Carey now lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, in a beautiful location overlooking the Irish Sea. She has had a number of jobs and her varied experiences of working as a chalet girl, a waitress, a travel agent, an oil trader, a management consultant and in the British Army have all featured in one form or another in her books. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Wales and is a Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. Her aim is to entertain, and her sense of character, story structure, pace and humour all combine to create compelling, page-turning novels which attract fans from all over the world. BLOG : http://helencareybooks.wordpress.com
Gillian Mawsom Gillian has interviewed 450 Second World War evacuees. She has worked with the BBC on documentaries and develops workshops for schools and museums. Her first book ‘Guernsey Evacuees: The Forgotten Evacuees of the Second World War’ describes the evacuation of 17,000 civilians to England just before the German occupation of Guernsey. Her new book ‘Evacuees: Children’s Lives on the WW2 Home Front’ contains interviews with 100 evacuees who spent the war years in Britain. BLOG : http://whaleybridgewriter.blogspot.co.uk/