30 November 2014

Just another day

Six sparrows sit atop a thick leaved bush,
like beige feathery candles on a Christmas  tree.  
Frozen to the spot I look at them 
as heads on one side they stare at me, 
neither haughty nor curious.
Until as if summoned by a soft far off bell 
they rise up over black iron spiked railings,
and wheel into the haze of a pallid noonday sun.

Up on the green along the edge of the cliff
a herring gull dances, stamping his feet
in ever turning circles, a winged Dervish
not whirling but tottering in the wet grass.
Greedy eyes gleaming, his beak stabs down
as the worms bore up towards the surface,
desperate to escape the mimetic flood
orchestrated by this plump Machiavellian bird.

At shoulder height a flock of pigeons flies
along the Promenade, an avian battering ram
of close laid feathers, dun and biscuit,
smoke grey,  bronze and iridescent blue.
Strong men blanche and leap for safety,
small children run screaming for mother,
while marooned in my wheel chair 
I swear at today’s inexorable pinioned progress.

The air is full of the shrill agonised screams 
of green parakeets hanging down side up 
from swaying wires and sharp edged guttering, 
and the hysterical barking of dogs 
ever eager to join the hilarious melée.
Only the black disdainful Promenade Cat,
whiskers quivering and anxious bushy tail twitching, 
abandons the affray for a quiet cushion and a piscine tea.

Just another ordinary December day 
in the long life of our genteel old seaside town


15 November 2014

A Perilous Path

A perilous pathway

Look into the blue waters of the Med where sharks
and poisonous fishes swim, where black sea urchins
lurk and jellyfish sting the unwary travellers on their
perilous path south from Maghreb to Mezzogiorno.
There you will find a monstrous human graveyard,
for the sea gives not up its dead to the living, 
and already countless thousand souls are lost 
to the T ocean,  prey of avarice which fed
on the fears of terror stricken refugees who had
nowhere else to hide and no place else to go.

‘Rescue them?’ our leaders cried, ‘Even more 
will come, and of those who come, even more 
will die; we must not facilitate yet more deaths.’
But can we ever trust the sweet voiced serpent,
whose sharp fangs administer a deadly venom?
These are our brothers and our sisters who rest
deep beneath the smiling waves, supine on biers 
of rock and sand, where many more will gather
destroyed by the smug complacent righteousness 
of those now committed to abandon them.

There can be no resolution, no peace, until we
ourselves identify with fugitives and outcasts,
with children who are hungry, and mothers 
persecuted for their faith.  For are we not all
children beloved of the loving creator God?
Jesus said make the stranger welcome in your
home, and show love, not hate, to your enemies.
Thus our hope is founded upon the love of God 
made manifest in the life of Jesus, and in the love
we have for one another.    Amen,  so may it be.

02 November 2014

Paul Nash : 4 Dark landscapes

“The Caterpillar Crater” 1917

South east of Ypres, the Caterpillar Ridge,
blown up by thirty tons of ammatol,
a thousand Germans dead but disappeared,
only a massive crater to mark their passing.
Green fields turned ochre by blood and mud,
every tree a broken trunk, every branch
a stunted limb, like a human body 
torn apart by unceasing heavy guns; 
trunks in serried rows, like crucifixes
souvenirs of an army dissolved away.

“Passchendaele Shell bursting” 1918

A man-tree leans back away from the blast, 
its hand with shattered fingers lifted high
against the blitz of brick and piercing shell
flung arching wide, a macabre fountain
sprung from a deep penetration of the earth,
an unholy union of Füllpuver and steel
The sky blotted out, the land is covered
with dirt and debris, trees wasted and bare,
a dark landscape broken and desolate,
reveal the artist’s unending despair.

“The Wire”  1918

Beneath a sky wide pall of noxious fumes 
stands erect a lonely bridegroom, a tree
castrated, splintered phallus wrapped 
in a deadly mantle woven from thick 
strands of entangled wire, barbs hungry 
for blood, symbols of pain and of despair.
Roots spread dry, like a beached octopus
trapped by broken boulders and foul waters,
the tree is captive to this killing ground,
left god-forsaken in its Stygian gloom. 

“We are Making a New World”  1918

Above the brick red, blood red horizon
the sun rises, enervated and white,
into a sky grey with shame, but its rays
touch the edges of the brightly dark hills
and highlight the forest of wasted trees.
Grass is tinged anew with a nascent light,
from the soft water of a crater pool
field mice drink again, children one day may 
play here, small birds sing again, but for now
nothing but an unresponsive emptiness.

"The Wire" 

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 Paul Nash  1918