Why do the People…

Meditations on Messiaen
Why do the people?

1

Divide and Conquer

They divided us into houses, Spartans and Trojans,
and encouraged us to compete with each other,
single combat, and then team against team,
house against house, eternal, internal civil war.

We divided ourselves into Cavaliers and Roundheads,
Monarchists and Parliamentarians, Protestants and Catholics,
and we continued those uncivil wars that marred the monarchy,
brought down the crown, and executed the Lord’s anointed.

We fought bitterly, tribe against tribe, religion against religion,
circumcised against uncircumcised, dorm against dorm,
class against class, territorial warfare. We defended our bounds,
bonding against all outsiders to guard each chosen ground.

With it came the denigration of the other. Not our class.
Scholarship boy. Wrong end of town. Wrong accent.
We don’t talk like that here. Speak the Queen’s English, you…
and here …. we inserted the appropriate word of vilification.

Our wars never ended. We carried them from prep school
to junior school, to senior school, sometimes changing
sides as we changed schools or houses, always clinging
grimly to our best friends, protectors, and those we knew best.

After school, all those prejudices continued to hold us down,
haunted us through university, red-brick or inspired spires,
Trinity Oxford, Trinity Cambridge, or Trinity Dublin,
each gilded with the white sniff of snobbery that gelded us.

Alas, we carried them, piled in our intellectual rucksacks,
through university, into grad school, out into the wide world,
infinitely small minds based on prejudice and pride, continuing
our tribal warfare, unable to understand anything at all,
other than us or them, shoulder to shoulder, divide and conquer.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Why do the people?

Change

Meditations on Messiaen
Revelations

6

Change

The wind of change will blow and change will come,
heralded not by brazen trumpets and a roll of drums,
but overnight in stealth and silence. The valleys will lose
their coal. The seams will shrink, smaller and smaller,
until even the tiniest child will not find room the kneel
at the coal-face and sweat in adoration, shovel and pick
in hand, prying and praying in praise of the black god.

Change will come. The mines will be closed.
The miners will go on unemployment. They will move
to other areas, where mines still flourish, for a life time
spent underground is not that easy to forget and change
is never easy. Who ever said it would be easy?

The men in grey suits bring change. They walk and talk
and plan the changes they will bring about. The pit-head
baths will turn into super stores, a new trading estate will offer
work to the workless who will be changed into worthy workers
once again with course after course of education and retraining.

Yes, change will come. Some will pack up and leave,
only to return as they cannot face the face of change
as once they faced the coal-face, on their knees all day,
praying. Some will go overseas, by boat or plane.
They need never fear for Australia is near. America is a siren
singing bedrock songs of welcome and freedom. Canada calls
and many arrive there to face the white face of winter
rather than that merry, coke-black face of Old King Coal.

Yes, change will come. You will change. Your children
will be born into change and only your memories will recall
life before change, that life everlasting that came
before the fall of coal and your immortality is now
a Post-lapsarian call to constant change, secuale seculorum,
for ever and ever, until that final change. Amen.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Change

And every valley

Meditations on Messiaen
Revelations

5

And Every Valley

And every valley shall be filled with coal.
And the miners will mine, growing old
before their time, with pneumoconiosis
a constant companion, and that dark spot
on the grey slide of the sidewalk a mining
souvenir coughed up from the depths
of lungs that so seldom saw the sun
and soaked themselves in the black dust
that cluttered, clogged, bent and twisted
those beautiful young bodies into ageing,
pipe-cleaner shapes, yellowed and inked
with nicotine and sorrows buried so deep,
a thousand, two thousand feet deep down,
and often so far out to sea that loved ones
knew their loved ones would never see
the white handkerchiefs waved, never
in surrender but in a butterfly prayer,
an offering, and a blessing that their men
would survive the shift and come back
to the surface and live again amidst family
and friends and always the fear, the pinched
-face, livid, living fear that such an ending
might never be the one on offer, but rather
the grimmer end of gas, or flame, or collapse,
with the pit wheels stopped, and the sirens
blaring, and the black crowds gathering, and
no canaries, no miners, singing in their cages.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

And every valley

Ash Wednesday

Meditations on Messiaen
Revelations

3

Ash Wednesday

Each of the select will be marked with a seal,
ash on the on the chosen one’s forehead
signifying all grief and guilt consumed,
reduced to the ashes of this burnt-out sign.

Dust to dust and ashes to ashes, for of dust
are we made, and though the embers may glow
for a little while, that ash will soon grow cold.
Words are quick forgotten yet memories linger.

They wander among celestial fields of glory
where nimbuses of nebulae crab sideways
to claw-crack veiled mysteries in an effort,
often vain, to reveal them and lay them bare.

Bird song, far below, flickering fading,
luminous confusion of son et lumière,
infused with the ineffable joys of paradise
and time eternal, successive yet simultaneous.

Birds in the branches of the Tree of Life
gather its fruits with multitudinous song.

Forgotten offerings litter the hidden path,
trodden by the few wise men who in the world
did live. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh may not
be accepted. The offerings are we ourselves, for a
broken and a contrite heart will not be despised.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Ash Wednesday

Time Beyond Time

Meditations on Messiaen
Quartet for the End of Time

7

Time Beyond Time

Time beyond time and the eternal
ever-present in the quotidian.

When the Seventh Angel sounds his trumpet,
time will be no more and this earth
will be pulped, like an orange,
in an almighty hand, clenched into a fist.

Thus it is writ, and sundry have read the words.
repetitive forms cycle and recycle themselves,
diatonic chords disassociated by duration.
Laud, bless and praise always the vivid joy,
light and color lighting up the skies
in an aurora borealis seldom seen.

Indefectible light, unalterable peace,
rhythmic repetition, time’s serpent
circling around itself and devouring its tail
in assonance and dissonance, the utmost beauty
of raindrop birdsong, its liquid forever decanted.
Infinitely slow, ecstatic is the message.

“Laud, bless, and praise him all thy days
for it is seemly so to do.”
Old One Hundredth.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Time Beyond Time

Silence

A stopped clock: accurate twice a day.

Meditations on Messiaen
Quartet for the End of Time

5

Silence

Pain stops as the sounds of silence
break against the walls of the room
in which I sit.

Silence, yes, yet silence broken
by the renewed intrusion of the clock,
by the electric hum from lights
and heating, from a distant tv
suddenly breaking into my thoughts:
cheers from a tennis court,
the eternal advertisements
invading my innermost being.

What triviality now shatters
the Messiaenic mood that wrapped
me for a moment in a many colored
cloak of musical oblivion.

Now time’s teeth gnaw again
and the grandfather clock
nibbles at my soul, extracting
its essence in a surge of sound,
tick-tock, tick-tock.

Westminster Chimes now choke
life from the hour and ring
the tick-tock knell that files
my life away, second by second,
minute by minute, day by day.

Click on link below for Roger’s reading.

Silence

The End of Time

Meditations on Messiaen.
Quartet for the End of Time.

3

The End of Time

A thin violin crying
its cat-gut heart out
in tears of sound, falling,
rhythmic raindrops,
down a grey-streaked face
tight with stress and pain.

Such concentration,
such soulfulness packed
into each mindful note.

An audience of one,
I sit, head bowed,
meditating on the meaning
of meaning and nothingness,
the nothingness of being condemned
to oblivion yet oblivious
of the how and when.

Each note a hammer-blow,
then, the piano hammering nail
after nail into this coffin body
I drag through the motions
of extracting meaning
from this meaningless life.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

The End of Time

Dark Angel

Meditations on Messiaen.
Quartet for the End of Time.

2

Dark Angel

He will come, the dark angel,
and will meet me face to face.

He will take all that I own,
for it is only temporary
and all my possessions are on loan.

My house, my wife, my car,
my daughter, my grand-child,
 my garden, my trees, my flowers,
They are not mine.
I do not possess them.

I only own this aching heart,
these ageing bones,
this death that has walked beside me,
step by step, every day
since the day I was born.

That indeed is mine,
and nobody else’s.
That is my sole possession.
That is the only thing I own.

Click here for Roger’s reading.
Scroll down to appropriate episode.
Dark Angel

Teddy Bears’ Nit-Pick

Teddy Bears’ Nit-Pick
Friday Fiction
27 August 2021

           

            “So, Teddy, how did we all end up in here like this?”

“Kicked him out, she did, just like that, Freddy. Told him to sleep in the spare bedroom. She couldn’t take it any more. She couldn’t sleep. He had to go.  It was the diuretic that did it, mind, the diuretic.
            After the radiation treatment, they gave him hormone injections, told him he’d put on ten to fifteen per cent of his current body weight, but not to worry. It was quite natural. It was the hormones, see?
            He told me all about it. Told me how he used to stand on the bathroom scales without a care in his heart. Watched his weight rise, five per cent, ten per cent, fifteen per cent. When he reached twenty per cent, he started to worry. Swollen ankles. Swollen knees.
            At twenty-five per cent, he was really worried. Socks no longer fitted. Couldn’t put on his shoes. Couldn’t bend to tie his laces. Had to wear sandals and slip-ons.
            At thirty per cent, he started to cry. He told me he was ugly, so ugly. He was down to one pair of shoes and one pair of sandals that fitted. He went to the pharmacy. The pharmacist took one look at his feet and gave him a long list of Latin names. Told him he’d need a prescription, from his doctor, to get pressure socks, and medical shoes that would help him walk.
            ‘It’s the feet, see, the feet,’ the pharmacist told him. ‘Once they start to swell, you’re in big trouble. There’s nothing we can do. Go see your doctor.’
            ‘I’ve seen the doctor.’
            ‘Go see him again.’
            So he did. Told me he broke down crying when he entered the surgery.
            ‘I’m down to one pair of shoes. You’ve got to do something, doc.’
            So the doctor wrote him out a prescription for pressure socks, medical shoes, appointment with a psycho-something, attendance at a clinic, everything the doc thought he needed. Then, just as he was about to leave, the doc stopped him.
            ‘Hang on a sec,’ doc said. Sat at the desk. Checked the computer. Wrote out another prescription. ‘New tablets,’ he said. ‘Take these brown ones. Stop taking those white ones.’
            He went away happy. Stopped at the pharmacy. Got the new pills. Went home. Took them. And straight away started to pee. Told me he’d peed all day and then I watched him as he peed all night. Every 15 minutes. That’s when the missus kicked him out of bed.
            ‘Go. Sleep in the spare room,’ she said. ‘You’re peeing every fifteen minutes. I can’t sleep anymore. I can’t stand it. And take that teddy bear with you.’
            So he went. Grabbed me, his faithful Teddy Bear, tucked me under his arm, and we went to the spare room with its cold, lonely bed. Except he had me, his Ted.
            Lost four pound that first night. Twelve pound the first week. Twenty pound the first month.
            ‘Ted,’ he said to me one morning, ‘I feel good. Time for us to go back to the old bed.’
            We tried. But the missus wouldn’t let us back in.
            He’s looking pretty good now. Back down to ten per cent body weight up. Says he can live with that. Likes sleeping with all his Teddy bears he tells me. Says we don’t snore. Unlike that missus of his.
            It’s the first anniversary next week. He told me to gather all the bears, Rosie, and Blanche, and you, and Blueberry, and Basil of course. And that French bear, Pierre.
            ‘We’re going to have a midnight dormitory feast and a Teddy Bears’ Nit-Pick.’
            Sorry Fred, I don’t know what the missus is going to say about that.”

After the Floods

After the Floods
(2004 BC & 2018-2019)

as the crow flies
so the pigeon
holding straws
within its beak
time to rebuild

who now knows
the unknown
perceives the abyss
beneath egg-frail
cockle-shell hull

waters recede
islands re-emerge
bald skulls of hillocks
stripped of grass and trees
water-logged fields
old bones dug up
displayed in the ditch

mud walls fallen flat
warped wooden planks
water-swollen
so much stolen
by water wind and wave