29 July 2011

 Winter - Drab Beauty

It was as if overnight some Renaissance angel
had seized a vast pallet, monochromatic with every shade of grey,
to paint anew the great curving sweep of the bay,
until it now reappeared shimmering and mysterious,
stone carved behind a frosted curtain of fine silken gauze.

From the sheltering cliffs in the West
to the ever turning Light of the foreland in the East,
the very shore itself was grey, the sand
like roughly powdered slate abandoned on the floor
of a worked out, long forgotten mine.

There were beach huts, their sharks teeth roofs silhouetted
anthracite against ashen cliffs;
and long fingers of rock, Davy’s grey, pointing down the sand towards
a soft running, gently retreating, phantasmal sea.
Around the abandoned rock pools cast in shiny hematite
sat dark cinereous gulls, marbled grey fulmars and pallid kittiwakes
whose sad cry echoed thinly through the smokey chill on the lonely beach.

A rusty tanker rode the sea’s drab rim, chalk white now from stern to stem
made new again by the generosity of a profligate winter sun.
From the cliff path an old man, flat capped and rheumy eyed, watched
the wind farm’s etherial towers springing from the sea
like a cohort of tall charcoal guardsmen,
darkly disguised against the fading horizon of the eastern sky.

The sun slipping unseen behind the cliffs into the western ocean,
fired slivers of light, rock-dove pale, into the banks
of cumulus clouds, huge and delicate globes of dappled swansdown,
their moving across the bay almost imperceptible
in the soft platinum mist above the silvered water.

The old man gone back to his fire and his tea,
I was left alone on the grey stone path
mesmerised by this luminous marine grisaille,
humbled last Thursday afternoon by such an extraordinary
and haunting beauty - shore and sea and sky made holy.

Autumn: The Song of the Horn Poppy

Seeds wafting along the beach in the crisp air of the October morning,
we dance all day with an ebullient breeze, a seminal Morisca
jaunty and passionate, in a circle of unchanging hope.
At last I sink to the ground weary in the calm of an owl hooting evening,
and on fine shingle kelp brown, safe in my lonely solitude,
I sleep.

In the cold sandy earth, as the soft rains of May gently penetrate my meagre
covering, I awake. The nascent summer sun warms my dark home
and I stretch my roots deep beneath my stony bed.
I push pallid green shoots and fragile golden buds upwards into a
trembling June birth. I leave the sheltering womb,
I am newly born.

My home is the salty margin of the shore where kittiwake and tern orbit
and plunge, feathered arrows piercing the abundant waves.
My stem is thick clasped by succulent leaves, grey green
like the waters of the bay beneath the ever changing light. Nourished
by my stony ground, embracing wind and storm,
I reach up to the sky.

Each of my flowers opens its golden cup to the sun, each horn is pregnant
with a hundred seeds, new life rampant now within the old.
The measure of the days of my flowers is but one,
and slow showers of petals fall from glaucous stalks like
tarnished stars onto the dying surface of some long spent planet.
Soon my own short span of years will be done and
I too shall die.

My seeds, raven black, blue black, scattered by birds, plucked into the air
by importunate winds, will fall to the cold evening ground
and they also will sleep the long winter through.
So it all begins again.

In this mighty ever turning circle of life and death and resurrection, we celebrate
and dance the rituals of our ancient Trinity, thus to honour
the elements which by the grace of God sustain us,

Earth, and Air, and Rain.

 Summer - Sea Campion

A man and his dog stand poised at the edge of the soft waves,
two creatures caught up in a moment of infinity,
luminous in a sweet light of etherial beauty,
anonymous for ever in the memory
like some forgotten prehistoric creature trapped in amber.

There is an old tall ship on the silver horizon, schooner four masted
in her pride, sailing still and motionless from nowhere
to an unknown destination, a fugitive plucked
out of her time, given into the charge
of an unheeding wind, a blind navigator and a careless sun.

Beach huts across the bay, preposterous in their deckchair coats of
many colours, sleep shimmering in the high noon heat, each
an unique area of silence lost in an invisible glass bowl
abandoned on a dusty shelf in an empty shop,
while the unceasing cry of gulls echoes mournfully around the cliffs.

At the edge of the shore a ring of sea campions surrounds a mirror of dark light
reflecting the whole bay. This is the place of Yesterday unremembered,
Tomorrow ignored. It is Now where we see how all things are,
held for ever in the frail white clasp of a flower,
perpetual shadows of the reality that is the immutable mind of God.

Spring - Old Tree

I am the old tree in the corner of the forest;
Bark crumbling, I watch my dead wood fall;
I am hollow-hopeless, no squirrel enjoys my shelter;
My November-withered strength lies crushed beneath Spring’s quiet glory.
Budless branches mocked by lustrous ferns,
I am a thing empty and barren in the midst of burgeoning plenty.
I am the old tree in the corner of the forest;
Around my dried out roots new life escapes the earth,
Oak seedlings and oxslips, hazel and juniper,
Wood sorrel and the common purple mallow;
Yellow-necked mice burrow beneath my rotting leaves,
Beaks full of insects, treecreepers spiral up my fissured trunk.
I am the old tree in the corner of the forest.
Dancing children circle me, singing in the shadowed sun of evening;
They have brought scarlet berries and blue-violet daisies
To decorate my cracked and rotting woody carapace,
Strewn sweet herbs and rose petals about me;
And their song to God the Mother is a Hymn of Praise.