24 February 2014

February Rain

February rain - 2014

I like the soft rain that gently bathes 
my tired skin with liquid silk.
I like the full blown lazy rain softly emptying
its wide spaced drops into the pool
where six humped golden orfe wheel and play, 
timid tadpoles hide amongst the reeds
and pale water lilies shimmer in the gentle shower.
I like the tough regimented squalls that beat
a brisk reveille on rusting tin roofs
of old allotment huts, summoning their owners away
to the comfort of the pub and their noon day pint.
I like the anxious hurrying rain
sweeping undeterred across the high moor, 
flattening the purple heather into a deep carpet,
replenishing warm languorous streams
who sing through the summer 
in an unique rustic chorus with the the watery trill    
of the chic white and black ring ouzel,
and the elegant grey merlin’s imperious screech.
I like the fine mizzle and the silent mists of October
that caress the Fluted White camellia, 
cloak with liquid lace the purple Autumn crocus
and weave a glistening crown around a dark red rose.

But … 

The meandering Jet Stream has plunged deep south, 
and sharply swung north again, like a great cosmic ribbon
swirling madly above the ocean, bundling together
unending storms of bitter rain and cruel gales.
Today’s icy downpour stings skin and eyes,
scythes through the sunshine gold japonica,
shatters the simple beauty of the gentle hellebore,
and pulps the last head of the blue hydrangea.
It brings flood and devastation to land and coast,
houses inundated, winter crops laid waste,
pastures six feet under water, stock drowned.
As rivers undredged burst through their crumbling banks
and old sea walls are swept away by wind and tide, 
power lines fall victims to unremitting storms,
and thousands endure long cold and cheerless days.
While politicians and public servants wrangle,
men and women count the terrible cost
of homes destroyed, livelihoods and lives 
lost to the inevitable coming of this
festival of unholy ruin.
And I begin to see how powerless 
we have become in the face of this, our world’s chaos 
which we ourselves have done so much to cause.

May God and our children forgive us.

19 February 2014

Where now is the glory?

Kent 2014 - Where now is the glory?    

There is a green place high on the cliff above 
the menacing Goodwins and the sheltering Downs,
a log cabined park, clipped and trim,
but which has still the wild touch
as pale green wild liquorice spreads around
the gardener’s stately hollyhock,
while pungent wild garlic and narrow leaves
of meadow sage line the banks
of a stream which sings softly as it meanders
relaxed through the quiet wood.

There is a copse near the wood’s edge,
which encloses a ragged circle of bright space 
where the morning sun gilds a clump
of late primroses and bathes the flowers
of the tall cow parsley with a dappled radiance.
In the centre of this oasis of light grows
a spear thistle, three feet high, elegant 
in its new budding touched with Tyrian purple 
and long leaves tipped with vicious spines,
a formidable green emperor preparing for war.

Along these same quiet coastal paths, in these same woods
 a hundred years ago through the hot summer of 1914 
came men to survey, to plan, to dig, to build.
Where now the wild liquorice grows, 
are mounds and hollows, slabs of dressed stone.
Was there here a shelter, a trench, 
an emplacement for a gun?
Did the gallant men of the 6th Cyclist Battalion
with rifles and ammunition slung across their backs
patrol these sweet green places?

Stand today beside the handsome barbed warrior, 
turn to the North and let your imagination
listen to the stuttering rattle of a rotary engine,
a limping Sopwith Camel coming into land.
Turn to the South and feel through every part of you
the unceasing shudder of the guns 
merciless bombardment of the green fields 
of France, where the bloodstained earth  turns red, 
and the land itself cries out ‘Here is no glory,
 these are the Plains of Death.’

From the corners of the world they came 
and from this village too, among them
boys too young and men too old to contend 
with the pain, the loss, the mud and the over arching fear. 
In the trenches there was courage and a bleak humour,
compassion and care for the wounded and the weak,
but in No Man’s Land men abandoned, crucified
on the wire, screamed throughout the night,
and in the grey morning dead eyes 
silently yearned for the green fields of Kent. 

Little was gained from four bitter years of battle,
seven million civilians and ten million fighting men died,
twenty million wounded took home little but their wounds.
Widows made destitute pawned their wedding rings 
while crippled soldiers begged in our city streets, 
and the sad hungry orphans of Germany
wept for fathers never returned.
What is there now to celebrate when both victim
and victor were the casualties of this war,
except perhaps its eventual ending?

Very little to glorify, but much to remember,
to respect, to regret, and to learn.