My Mother’s Day

My Mother’s Day

Nights are the worst: dark acres of time are
unfilled with anything but low noise
as cars burr along the northbound carriageway.
Mum is cold, anxious in unsettled grief.
There’s no point getting up: without him there’s
nothing to do. Days see diversions but
now, why does sitting there beat lying here?
Wide awake in darkness she heard herself
say: “Dada?” and reach out her hand. He used
to take it and warm it. This cold, Dada-less
night, as she reached for him again, he
warmed her again. The sheets softened, the noises
dissolved and she stopped thinking. She felt
him, she knew he was nearby and she slept.

Westminster People

Beth

Westminster People

Look, over there, it’s the Village people
bursting through doors of burning perceptions,
lost in the trappings of process and protest,
spinning in self-serving circles of wishes,
prowling, confusing and failing to listen
with convictions they want to believe in.

With convictions they want to believe in,
look, over there, it’s the Village people,
prowling, confusing and failing to listen,
bursting through doors of burning perceptions,
spinning in self-serving circles of wishes
lost in the trappings of process and protest.

Lost in the trappings of process and protest,
with convictions they want to believe in,
spinning in self-serving circles of wishes,
look, over there, it’s the Village people,
bursting through doors of burning perceptions,
prowling, confusing and failing to listen.

Prowling, confusing and failing to listen,
lost in the trappings of process and protest,
bursting through doors of burning perceptions,
with convictions they want to believe in,
look, over there, it’s the Village people,
spinning in self-serving circles of wishes.

Spinning in self-serving circles of wishes,
prowling, confusing and failing to listen,
look, over there, it’s the Village people,
lost in the trappings of process and protest,
with convictions they want to believe in,
bursting through doors of burning perceptions.

Bursting through doors of burning perceptions,
spinning in self-serving circles of wishes,
with convictions they want to believe in,
prowling, confusing and failing to listen,
lost in the trappings of process and protest,
Look, over there, it’s the Village people.

Listen to people in burning confusion,            
bursting, believing, protesting and trapped. 
Look at their wishes, their circles of want.

March 2019

The End of Winter

Crocus, Hilly Fields, London.

The End of Winter

All of a sudden, the bitterness is gone.

The air is still bare, the grasses grey,
the leaves sheathed,
and the blossoms’ eyelids closed

but there’s warmth in the pale afternoon
and for the first time since September
the light is surprising.

Aye, At Philippi

J A Cole (1920-2005)

“Why, I’ll see thee at Philippi,”
my Dada said to me. Me?
I dodged in alarmed bewilderment
the stag-ey words filled with sure intent.
Dada looked me straight in the eye.

I’d just joined the family crowd. “Hi,”
I’d offered and nothing else. Why
was I addressed? This satisfied lament —
all the stuff about Philippi —

ward-sick Dada gave to me. I
got it two days later but by
then he’d died. It was my moment:
to his famous last words I was meant
to reply: “Aye, at Philippi.”

He’d have been 99 today, 10 Jan 2019.

Centenary

Dartford 11nov18

Silence falls on the sunlit square of turf
outside Dartford’s library. A soldier
with a rifle, all plinth and age-stained bronze,
looks on. Poppy people stand with closed-eye stares.
November colours shuffle in the trees.

The silence is the thing: the unfilled gap
between. I think of dugout silence,
the fire step, the Woodbines whiled away;
the rat-lice trench-foot days that screwed the minds
with silent screaming shells of wasted fear.

I think of letters written to and from;
the scareful hope of waiting for the post;
the silence in the reading of the words.

I think of silence in the unlived years;
the stories that cannot be forgotten
because they did not happen. I feel cold.

I walk back up the hill to where young George
is playing Sunday morning football. There is
no silence here. Teams of boyish men
criss-cross open fields, fighting foot-to-foot,
attacking and defending, launching volleys,
and firing shots on goal. Then, as a cloud
bursts, an arch of rain-refracted light
crowns the shouts of peace and freedom.

péage

No prayers nor bells: we shoot in scuttling shells
up and down the line. We go and return,
passing Arras, Béthune and Neuve Chapelle,
the Bois de Noulette, Messines and the Marne.

From Calais, past Flesquieres and Verdun,
with only the Alps in mind, we hurtle
through demented days, dusks gilded by sun
and black rain, in skirmishing battles
of the road. Through grey-day pallor we see
the brown, wide-open acres where they fought;
and sense the eerie emptiness reploughed.

At night, headlamps flare and brake lights bleed
sudden fear of hasty death into my heart,
spearing the tensioned tedium like a dart
whose aim is true, then redirected, then gone.

All around here they died for us;
now they lie under stones etched and erected
to the left and right, at Mametz and Loos;
at Langemarck, Vendhuile, Cambrai and Lens;
on either side of this paid-for auto-route,
dotting countryside, cresting horizons.

Between Le Touret and Richebourg L’Avoue,
on land once used by field ambulances,
thirteen thousand men of no known resting
place are remembered. It’s ground holding
my great uncle Jack, too. There, inside a fence,
under mown lawns, lies John Wesley Davies,
31, of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

Further on, teams of gleaming windmills now stand
where once cold trenches were dug. In place of mud
and bloody hell, turbines mourn in silence:
generating clean warmth, dry light, hot food.
These are monuments also: testaments
to doomed youth on euro no man’s land.

In volleys to and fro, we, the fragments
of dead men’s shattered futures, pass fast and
glide, stuttering only at péage
queues. In our comfortable distress, our health
and holidays, our years, we have the breath
they did not have. In our petty rages
we drown the fading echoes of their cries,
their tender patience, their lingering goodbyes.

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet

20070825_rozwed2_1138

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
are of imagination all compact.
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold—
that is the madman. The lover, all as frantic,
sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt.
The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven.
And as imagination bodies forth
the forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
a local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
that if it would but apprehend some joy,
it comprehends some bringer of that joy.

William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Act Five Scene One. 

Peak Green

peak green

Peak Green

I see Young George in the kitchen window.
He’s playing keepie-uppie on the grass:
kicking and flicking and watching in stoccatoes
of concentration. He’s changed since last
time I saw him. Before, he was scoring
self-commentated goals and finessing
his celebration routine. Now, he’s grown
across the shoulders, in calf, chest and crown.

In June, the youthful year, warmed by soft rain
and dowsed in sunlight, comes of summer age.
The earth has nursed pale primroses, impish
bluebells and bright bloodwort; now come
dog rose pinks and bold shades of fern and sage:
confident adult greens that banish
winter browns and show no fear of autumn.

for Sarah C and John K, with many happy returns of the day

Lifejoy

Lifejoy

Surprisingly, I hear wind in the eaves,
smell freshly cut grass, and feel morning rain
dropping on the paving slabs. Quietly,
I take small pleasures: sparkling puddle nights;
friendliness; remembered anniversaries;
and white flowers sprayed on late May hedges.

Normally, I’m full of anxieties –
or if not full, full enough. Routinely,
now, the London days are easy and free,
non-threatening, reassuring and calm;
and the trains, the petrol, the rope and heights
are covered by a rising tide of balm.
The waters will, of course, fall back again.
For now? I’ll savour lifejoy’s summonses.

Dungeness, May 2018