Saturday, 21 December 2013

WINTER SOLSTICE - 21st DECEMBER 2013



Winter Solstice - 21st December 2013

The eyelids of the elder year have drooped and closed
as it slowly sank into inexorable and welcome slumber.
Now there’s a calming softness in the half-light of the new day.
On the surface of the lane the frostiness of dawn
reflects the shyly-peeping sun,
like tarnished silver fused in a mackerel-skin sky
where still lurks the shadow
of the half-spent moon.
The sycamore by the farmhouse is oblivious to errant rooks
discussing weighty matters,
and from which a loud triumvirate departs
to issue stern decrees.
On an ancient oak, noted for its breadth of years,
orange leaves still cling tenaciously to sapless branches
before they join the sour cowl that shelters seeds of life,
fully-filled, like the whole earth,
with the promise of rebirth.
 
 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

AUTUMN - EARLY MORNING




Autumn – Early Morning

The watchman rook awakes his kin,
slumbering in the nearby communal copse,
eager to debate the doings of the day.
From the hedgerow’s cover,
a silly harlequin-clad pheasant,
oblivious to the coming guns,
shrieks like a rusty wheelbarrow
to mock the hungry fox, now gone to ground.
The curving edge of earth’s horizon
is haloed by a ghostly glow
before the shy sun slowly shows itself,
reflecting in the covering of cloud
only a dim replica of dawning day;
but we who have known darkness
will welcome, once again,
even the shadow-semblance of light.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

THE VOICE OF TREES.


This is something a bit experimental.



The Voice of Trees



be still

and hear

be still

and hear

be still

and hear

be still

and hear

be still

and hear

be still

and hear

be still

and hear

be still

and hear

be still

and hear

be still

and hear

be still

and hear

be still

and hear





understand

the essence

understand

the essence

understand

the essence

understand

the essence

understand

the essence

understand

the essence



look on

and fear

look on

and fear

look on

and fear

look on

and fear

look on

and fear

look on

and fear




listen and

remember

listen and

remember

listen and

remember

listen and

remember

listen and

remember

 listen and

remember

listen and

remember





The forest speaks

with the voice of trees

which we,

with partial or oblivious minds

struggle but imperfectly

to hear,

while in the gentle flickering

of sun through leaves

a shadow dances

in time to the primordial tune.

O, lovely dancer,

moving with the grace of years,

you can hear

the singing of the trees.

You learned your steps

with that sound ringing in your ears;

you moved in sempiturnal harmony

with the spirit of the woods,

when stag-headed Cernunnos

sat and watched from the shadows

and lusted after your innocence,

as raven-feathered Morrigan

looked on in jealous rage

and plotted her revenge.


Here, time and space conspire

to create a sonorous enormity:

all encompassing;

a vital essence that contains

the whole tonality of life itself.

But we see none of this.

We struggle to hear anything…

…except, perhaps, an echo

that might come to us

in quiet contemplation

when we try to empty our dull minds

in order to complete the link.


Then, in the softening moontime

a different dancer comes,

her visage pale as death,

her dance grotesque

with gestures of demise.

The forest dwellers revere her -

she holds no fear for them -

but we who live inside the pale

are frozen with temerity

as we give up our spirits

and fall like empty husks,

unconscious to the ground.


But now there is another dancer,

stepping from the shadows

to bring the simple message of the trees

that was always there,

singing with the wind in treetops

and buried under years of fallen leaves -  

there for all

who were empowered to listen

to their ever-changing chant.

This gentle dance is easy to understand:

learn the lesson, now,

that nothing exists for its own sake,

but as a total harmony

that is greater than itself.



 

Friday, 27 September 2013

THE TIME OF PARTING



The time of parting.

Now is the time to leave the hills
and the summer shades of woodland
where we have lived by shadows,
searching for rare gods
on paths of our own making.
We are no longer bound there
to the earth that holds our dead.
Now is the time of parting
from that half-imagined land
where the very act of speaking
places us apart –
we, the outsiders,
looking in upon a world
where we do not belong

Returning to the garden,
a place of our creation,
we join with Nature
in a solemn contract,
feeling, perhaps,
that for a moment only,
she will accede to our control.
Here there is ground to dig –
sweet soil to feel
that’s fresh and full of life,
whose pure and rich potential
we crumble in our hands.
See! Here there will be beans,
here lettuces and chard,
here garlic,
pungent and lavish-tasting
to mix with fragrant herbs.
In a garden Nature’s vastness is condensed:
feckless roses climb,
but grasped by honeysuckle’s pointing fingers,
and only with our blessing will the foxgloves
exceed their given space.
In this domain the wind is gentler
than when it shakes the beeches
or blows the sea to waves,
and bees and birds and dragonflies
find pleasure in the calm. 

But we make a garden only where we dwell
and, in dwelling, must relinquish
the very freedom that we crave.
Still we hear the echo of the forest,
bringing memories of stranger things
that live in other worlds,
and though the garden’s sanctuary
is made for blessed rest,
still we long for woodlands and for hills.

 

 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

THE RIVER.

Finally, after working on a long walking/writing project all summer (watch this space), here's a new poem for the blog. The river here is, in fact, not one river, but four - where the Derwent and the Ouse combine with the Trent and become the Humber. This area has recently become known as The Humberhead Levels and has attracted a big lottery grant for its conservation. It has an atmosphere that is totally unique.


The River

Full moon;
no clouds or wind.
Odours from the river;
sea-mingled smells
carried on the tide,
thirty miles inland from the coast.
Seaweed, the smell,
and river weed,
between the beds of reed;
banks of mud,
submerged when the tide is high,
where sea and river weed
are left when tides recede. 

Now in the moonlight,
(the fullness of the moon),
the surface of the water shines,
still as ice
until a heron stirs.
While, thirty miles downstream,
the beaches are washed clean
and curious stones are rounded
with every salty surge
and gentle lapping;
slow, insistent slapping,
persistent motion
reducing stones to sand
with which
the sea renews the land.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

TWO ROBINS

 

Two Robins

There’s ragged robin flowering in the orchard
And a sleek, fat robin singing overhead;
At his strident instigation
But more by my own inclination,
I spare the flowers from the mower’s blade.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

SUNDAY MORNING - 7TH JULY

 

Sunday Morning – 7th July

Not a single breath of wind
disturbs the slumbering grasses,
standing ramrod straight
or drooping with heads bowed,
along the bristling verge;
no movement wafts the drowsy scent
of creamy meadowsweet and honeysuckle
across the shining lane.

In the over-washed blue sky,
a single misplaced wisp of cloud
is fading from embarrassment,
finding itself alone and open
to the disapproving frown
of the domineering sun. 

Scarcely a sound is heard across the fields,
as if the warming day
has formed a deadening blanket
that creates a depth of silence
broken only by a chaffinch
chattering in a nearby oak
and, in rebuke,
a dolorous rook in reverent black
croaks back a single call. 

It seems as if the whole world holds its breath,
waiting patiently for what?
The hour when the distant peal of minster bells
slips over trees and hedges,
or just in rapt anticipation
of the sultry heat of noon?
 


Monday, 1 July 2013

WHARRAM PERCY (a deserted village).

 
 

WHARRAM PERCY (a deserted village).
 

Roofless,
but more accessible to heaven
than when the pious previously prayed,
a saved-from-crumbling church shell
and weathered letters carved in stone,
are what remains above the ground.
Below, the countless generations
cry out from mouldered mouths
to ask why ancestors do not remember.
 
There are two ways to get here:
 

On a good day,
when the clouds are high
and moved by gentle winds,
from the west you’d come by Thixendale,
up through Cow Wold,
where earthworks tempt the gaze
before the hard-drawn gasps of sea-blown air,
and burning calves and heart at Vessey Hill
bring you to the chalk-strewn ridge.
The way is gentle, then.
Below, the head of Deep Dale
sinks and broadens to a flattened floor;
a spring creates a cloud-strewn pond
and this, in turn, tumbles to a crystal beck.
Here, the solitary church
seems quite incongruous,
for nowhere within sight
is any dwelling left
from which a congregation could be drawn. 
 

The way is easier from the east.
A path made hollow
by the trudging feet of years
and flanked by hawthorn,
still white in June,
and cow parsley and buttercup,
slopes gently down before White Hill,
whose open folds stir
curious, deep-seated memories
that emanate the age of earth.
Here four springs converge
and must be crossed,
for better or for worse,
before the lost, once-welcoming haven
meets the wondering gaze. 
 

How many soles have walked this path?
How many souls have passed
on their last journey to the grave?
Many more than there remain memorials
to mark the dreadful truth
that once men’s lives
were valued less than sheep.
 



 


Thursday, 30 May 2013

SALTMARSHE DELPH

 
 
 
Saltmarshe Delph

Sometimes, deep in hidden corners
We discover whole new worlds.
Like here, where the horseshoe river-course
Bends its oozing flow from south to east,
And in its curving grasp the land is flat and wet.
This place exists in quiet insignificance
To all except the myriad of life
That thrives within its few small acres.
But what a life! Nestled here,
Between the railway
And the sprawling, golden fields,
Is a colony that makes its own sufficiency;
On the edge, and yet a world away,
From the cruder works of men
Who pass it, scarcely noticing,
(Except, perhaps, to wryly smile
At the family of swans that walks,
With proprietorial disdain,
Along the centre of the road),
And in quiet co-existence
Maintains a natural diversity
Whose model we could never recreate. 

And yet, by curious paradox, it was born
Where once men tore the earth with brutal might.
Then subtle nature softly healed the scars,
Creating, over time, her own cathedral
From arching willows, bent
To make a glorious vaulted roof,
And, for a floor, the shining mirror-levels
Where miraculous pond striders
Can walk upon the water.

Here blackbirds, dragonflies and warblers
Delight in curling ferns and wild geraniums,
Whilst grebes and cormorants find rest
And food amongst the bordering reeds.
With their very lives they praise
The deity that we have long denied,
For, today, our gods no longer live in trees
Or call us to the stillness of the glades,
But occupy, instead, the sterile spaces
Deep within the gloom of our own minds.

Here’s proof (if proof were needed)
That even the most restless spirit
Doesn’t always have to yearn
For wilder vistas on a grander scale,
But can sometimes be content
With nature in a gentler guise;
A modest Utopia, perhaps, but nonetheless,
Once we have the luck to find them,
It’s these small worlds that often form
The greatest landmarks of our lives.