23 December 2013

Half a dozen new poems

Listen to the heart beats

Click-clack. Click-clack. The rhythmic sound
of stays flapping against the cold bare masts
of small boats sailing the black tarmacked 
dinghy park, metallic heart beats in the wind.
Fishing boats, rescue boats, pleasure boats,
all sharing the heart beat of river and ocean.

Thud.  Boom.  Echoing like rocks revolving 
in a great steel drum, proud waves declare
their might, their heart beats fuel an ocean
and reorder the contours of land and shore.
The tide’s rhythm is ordered by the moon,
thus hearts of moon and waves beat as one. 

Above the arid heat of a fading landscape
the stuttering heart beat of thunder rises up,
like a patient shocked upon a white table that
life might return to that which once had died.
Rain falls, a soft drumroll on leaf and field,
and the heart beat of the land is revived.

The susurration of a gentle summer breeze 
in the evening forest, discrete heart beats
of a hidden place unostentatious and shy,
echoes the soft cooings of a sleepy dove.
Here is an oasis where each fragile heart
may rest in the universal heart of God.

The collective heart beat of a mob around
the stake and funerary pyre, shouts shrill 
into the blazing morning:  “Kill the witch!”
The collective heart of high righteousness
thumping its heavy beat on the white van
screams:  “Go on, hang the bloody bitch!”

The heart’s beating may follow the mob 
as lemmings run to the precipice’s edge; 
may hover like a lost feather in the wind; 
may choose as its guardian and its guide
the bright light of science and reason, or
God’s love, the heart beat of the world.

Across the Bay

I stare across the water mesmerised
by a shaft of brilliant light, like a lunar 
arrow penetrating the deep darkness 
far beyond the mysterious horizon.  
This portent my signpost to God 
my hope, my meditation, my prayer. 

Wohin is Gott?”  Nietszche’s 
Madman cried - Where is God?
And to himself replied: “Wir haben
ihn getötet,  ihr und ich” - We have
killed him, you and I.  A wise fool
the death of his God proclaimed.

God knifed in the back, abandoned
in the jungle, sentenced to oblivion,
a crumbling leaf on a dying tree,
decried, ignored, forgotten creator 
of the universe and king of kings,
a fast fading shadow over our land.

But can God who was never born, die?
Must those who discover the voice 
of the sacred in the bell’s summons
to the altar, abjure that mystery? 
Is my soul’s love to be prescribed 
by a chill logic and dry philosophy?

Deus - Θεού - God - الله - Dio - Duw,
patterns of sound, a verbal shorthand
with no profound universal meaning,
significant only to the solitary mind which, 
driven by reason or ignorance, custom 
or creed, it will repudiate or embrace. 

There is no human intellect so infinite
that it can comprehend the full meaning
of “God,” no science so definitive that it 
may safely pronounce that God is dead,
nor human design so perfect that it may
offer more than a token of the divine.

Whether or not God exists, whether
faith and practice alone absorb such 
fantasies into my fevered mind, I put 
my trust in the God my heart’s eye has
seen in the bright darkness at the end
of a path cut by a sacred silver arrow.

The horse with curved ears

Bred and born to bear a royal prince,
curved ears meeting to form a crown,
magnificent mane streaming proud
in the desert winds, the Marwari horse,
patient, sure footed and brave, carried
his soldier master through the heat
of the long day, his loyal companion,
fierce defender and lifetime friend.

A fighting horse, a dancing horse 
with coat of fine spun pale gold, eyes 
set wide, luminous, large and deep, 
harnessed with silver and glossy silks
decorated with flowers and plumes,
this was the darling of the Rajput 
warrior and the pride of Rajasthan,
the wonder horse of Old India.

My soldier ancestors who lived, 
loved and died in India, scorned 
the native horse with curved ears;
British pride chose the thoroughbred
and rode the polo pony from Europe.
Independent India cruelly consigned
the rich man’s warhorse to history,
the Marwari to the shafts of a cart.

Be glad that the saffron turban, bright
symbol today of Rajput courage is seen again, 
master and horse reunited shine
as one in civic festival, field and dance
sharing their old mystic symbiosis
whereby the protector of the equine
virtues renews those same virtues
of faithfulness and trust within himself.

But meditate today on the continuing 
fate of the luckless Marwaris who, 
through the blistering heat of summer,
still loyal, still patient in their misery, 
must haul cruel tons of wet bricks to the kiln.
Quivering limbs stumble the long miles,
eyes close against the dust and pain
and the once proud heads hang low.

Such cruelty springs from poverty,
its victims the poor sad beasts upon
whom their wretched masters depend.
Lay aside now your precious search
for eternal truths and your comfortable 
enlightenments, empty out your mind 
that you may hear the still small voice: 
‘These too are my children - love them.’

The shortest day - the longest night
Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, or, The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun    

‘Today’ said the Lord, ‘I offer you my children
a choice and I command that both 
heaven and earth shall bear witness to it.
You may freely choose the gift of Life, or you may 
choose the final sleep that comes in Death.
Life will bring you many blessings, 
but to die untimely may be a barren curse.
My children, choose life.’

A man weeps and, distraught, shouts
to the lowering slate cold sky:
‘I am become weary of this earthly life, 
of its sorrow and its deep unremitting pain,
its bleak injustice and its abject fear.
My wife is gone from me, my children lost,
my dreams vanished in the reality of a cold dawn.
I choose oblivion and Death.’

‘My nest was emptied’ softly croons a rock dove,
‘when thieving jackdaws took my nestlings,
and, like an angel banished from heaven, my mate 
plummeted to earth as lighting struck the forrest. 
But I shall live to find another mate and build
another nest, to rear another brood
and feed another lay of helpless peeping chicks.
That is why I must choose Life.’

‘Consider’ said the Lord, ‘this bright glow 
of winter aconites, more exquisite than any royal queen,
 who strive neither for wealth nor for vain glory, 
but who dying will accept the welcoming hand 
of the dark angel and give to him their seeds, 
that swelling buds may come to full term 
to make lovely the hallowed land I have given you. 
They have chosen Life renewed.’

‘I am a no-thing,’ murmurs the stream,
‘I merely move in the stony bed of His appointing.
My part is to set free my sparkling waters 
to flow for ever beneath the wide sky, 
that there may be life for small fish, a mirror 
to reflect the ravishing beauty of the kingfisher
and a safe haven for the dragonfly.
Always would I choose Life’

The man sits quiet in the silence of the cold night,
the longest and darkest of the year.
He turns his pallid face upwards to look
at the stars, a thousand gilded beacons
lit to welcome a new year, new hope, new life.
Anguish and exhaustion dropping away from eyes
once made bleak by misery, he whispers 
‘I pledge that I too will choose Life.’

Bridge in the sky

My pavement plodding feet protested
that their bones hurt; muscles seized
with the chill of the damp afternoon
cried ‘Hold, enough, now is the time
for a soft chair beside a glowing fire.’
But a rogue breeze touched my cheek
and whispered ‘Turn around, and look
at the symbol in the sky, an airy bridge
where the old double headed dragon 
who sees both before and behind, 
mediates between earth and heaven.’

I turned around towards the cold east
and saw a great arc of light, its seven 
colours springing from the headland,
spanning the bay and sinking gently
into the distant horizon’s misty edge. 
Each translucent droplet was made 
a prism by the pale sun’s emerging
rays as dark rain clouds drifted away
into the afternoon’s jealous embrace. 
Tired, foot weary and cold no longer,
I stood filled with wonder at this sign.

This was the bow Yahweh set in the 
sky to confirm his covenant with Noah 
that never again would such a flood  
threaten the world of his children; 
this was the silhouette from which 
came the myth of the Rainbow Serpent, 
creator god bringer of life and death;
these were the colours that inspired
the Rainbow Flags, symbols of hope,
of inclusion, of tolerance and reform.
But I thought on none of these things.

I heard the waves beat on the sand,
a brisk Intrada fit for welcoming a king.
Touched by the immutability of God
I felt enveloped in a new soft warmth,
which seemed to radiate from this
celestial miracle, today come glowing
into my world, and I sang a mute Jubilate.
For I saw clearly the bright ribbon of light 
in the heart of this magic arch, holding
the universe secure in an invisible web, 
and the source of my pure undiluted joy. 


December : Will the heart remember?

I look through the old album
and I remember the place
where I was a child, the elder
tree at the end of the soft lawn
where I lay cool and sheltered
from the summer blue-sky sun,
and watched the kaleidoscope
of changing patterns as the
shimmering leaves swayed 
gently in the far away calm
of those magical afternoons.

But what if the old brown photo
no longer stirs the memory?
What if I see only a pale web
of crumpled leaves cold against
a sky overcast by smoke black
clouds, heralding the coming 
of drenching rain which blots
out the innocent happiness
of that long carefree season?
Memory will be found wanting,
maybe the heart will remember.

From the cliff top I can gaze
far across the sweep of the bay
to where we had our happy
times in the modest chalet set
amongst the copper beaches
where squirrel and nuthatch
visited our veranda, and we
were young again in our love
for the place and the wonder 
of our shared passion and joy.
This is my raft of sweet recall.

But what if from that cliff top
I perceived only a misty veil,
curtain dark in the twilight?
What if all that happiness
were to fade into amorphous
shadows on an old stone wall?
How would my life be then, if
I should no longer remember
him, my lover and my friend?
Can the heart’s recollections
prevail against an empty brain?

I can only forget that which is
already done and departed.
Smoke beyond the horizon,
which I have not yet seen, is 
a chimaera of the imagination,
white on white, black writ on
black, blank in the dawning of
tomorrow’s forgotten dream.
Thus, while memory remains,
in hope and faith I will pray
that a heart nurtured by love
may cherish an abiding peace.


The Days of Birth and the Days of Death
are the only days of a life which rarely pass unnoticed. 
They remain in the consciousness as milestones 
both to sorrow and to joy.
They are in each life unique Days of New Year.
This day and every day of my New Year
God grant I will remember you.

Amen   So may it be.

22 December 2013


December : He could not stay to watch her

In that fine careless rapture 
of their first togetherness
and in the full flowering of love
he nurtured her, he cherished her,
by his love he reassured her
that he demanded nothing from her.

He hoped for nothing from her
except that she might love him
and rest easy in the sweet house 
of comfort that he made for her,
beside the gnarled apple tree and 
he pool, petal carpeted with white.

She sat amidst the fragrant blossom
and asked ‘What drives this love?’
‘Acceptance of how all things are,
of how you are and of what I am,
blessings bestowed on what has been,
arms wide to welcome what is to come.’

He took her to a southern land where
crimson dark roses bloomed amidst 
crystal fountains and stone laced
arches in the Sultan’s gardens,
and the dark twisted leaves 
of the myrtle gleamed in the sun. 

They sat on the top of a mountain
the world unfurled at their feet,
great trees tinged with autumn, 
the dancing stream a silver thread 
amongst the darkening bracken
and the mournful crying of sheep.

For them in their joy the ordinary
became the extraordinary,
old cobbles shone with spun gold,
rough grass a green velvet cushion,
while lowering clouds glittered, 
reflecting a thousand invisible stars.

In a balconied white walled room
in a Home overlooking the sea 
he lay on a crisp white sheet.
Time for the intertwining of fingers,
words of love lovingly unspoken,
and a gentle caress on the cheek.

He could not stay to watch her
grow old, he would not mourn
the final disintegration of the body 
and failing spirit once so full of joy. 
To do this for him was now her 
privilege, and of that she was glad.

‘I am only alive when you are here’
he said, faded eyes warm in the dusk
and the lamplight, smiling goodnight,
putting aside the fear and the pain.
The air was sweet as with lavender,
vibrant with the song of unheard birds.

She returned one frosted afternoon
to the sun filled white bright room,
come with a kiss to wake her prince, 
but as the world gratefully embraced 
the day, he had begun his long 
journey and slipped quietly away.