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 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 shoulder to shoulder, us or them, conquer and divide.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Why do the people?

A Speaker Bespoken

Meditations on Messiaen
Revelations

7

A Speaker Bespoken

They asked him to speak at her funeral
but he never knew who she really was.
He only knew she loved the whisky bottle
more than she loved life. “What can I say?”
he asked. “Say that you loved her.” “I didn’t.”
“Say how much she loved you.” “She didn’t.
And she loved her bottle so much more.”

Should he say how he found her, soaked in urine,
covered in vomit, naked on the kitchen floor?
Should he describe the blend of alcohol and body
scents, her personal perfume, flooding the bedroom?
Should he repeat the four-letter words, and worse,
she used when he tried to stop her drinking?
Should he tell how she took her rings to town,
pawned them, and left the slips on the table
where he would find them? He paid her debts,
collected her rings, returned them. Should he tell
how she sold them again and again?
How she would play hunt the thimble,
round and round the house until she found
where he had hidden them, then took them,
and pawned them once more?

The chaplain shrugged. “Say what you want,
whatever you wish, but you have to speak.”
And speak he did, so choked up with emotion
that he broke down and cried and never a word
emerged from his mouth. An audience of chairs.
The few friends who attended also broke down
and hugged him, and said he had spoken volumes
and they had understood every single word.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

A Speaker Bespoken

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

Inquisitor

Remember to scroll down to get the correct audio episode on Spotify

Inquisitor

Inquisitor

He told me to read,
and plucked my left eye from its orbit.
He slashed the glowing globe of the other.
Knowledge leaked out, loose threads dangled.
He told me to speak and I squeezed dry dust
to spout a diet of Catechism and Confession.

He emptied my mind of poetry and history.
He destroyed the myths of my people.
He filled me with fantasies from a far-off land.
I live in a desert where people die of thirst,
yet he talked to me of a man who walked on water.

On all sides, as stubborn as stucco,
the prison walls listened and learned.
I counted the years with feeble scratches:
one, five, two, three.

For an hour each day the sun shone on my face,
for an hour at night the moon kept me company.
Broken worlds lay shattered inside me.
Dust gathered in my people’s ancient dictionary.

My heart was like a spring sowing
withering in my chest
It longed for the witch doctor’s magic,
for the healing slash of wind and rain.

The Inquisitor told me to write down our history:
I wrote … how his church … had come … to save us.

Inquisitor was also a requested reading last Saturday. My promise, to put it up on the blog, with a reading in my own voice is now fulfilled. I love this poem: it speaks volumes about the Catholic Church in Oaxaca and the relationship of the Dominicans with the local people, aboriginals all and inhabitants of the Valley of Oaxaca for at least 10,000 years. The numbers represent the approximate date, 1523, of the arrival of the Conquistadores in Oaxaca, about three years after the fall of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, now Mexico City. The poem, Inquisitor, can be found in Sun and Moon and also in Stars at Elbow and Foot, both available through this link.

Sacrifice

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Last night, a cataract of flame
flowed down the cathedral wall.
A wooden bull danced in the square,
sparks struck fire from his horse-hide hair.
A red speck on my shirt burned through to my skin.

Today a heart of fire burns in an iron barrel:
who will be chosen for the daily sacrifice?

A sharp blue guillotine poised between
buildings: this slice of morning sky.
Scorched circles, open mouths:
wide-open butterfly eyes burn holes
in the crowd’s dark cloud of a face.

A street musician stands in the shade
beneath the arches playing a marimba.
Sun tip-toesits danse macabre
across bamboo tubes. Sunlit bubbles
float dreams across the square.

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Spooky

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Spooky

As Halloween draws near, the people at the park, Mactaquac Park, begin to spookify the countryside. Here’s the giant spider, coming to get you. It is the first in a series of spookified spookies.

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And here’s the spookified ‘what will it be”? Might be a spookified pussy dog or a spookified puppy cat. Who knows? Right now it looks more cute than wicked. Keep it that way, I say.

 

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No, they’re not here yet, but watch out for the boogies and the boogeymen. They’re not far away. And they may just be out to get you. So, when someone says ‘Trick of treat’? Be sure to say ‘treat!” You want the dog biscuit, not the Rottweiler. And don’t forget to drool and say ‘pretty please’.

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What we do know is that when autumn leaves, strange things creep in to fill our minds and take autumn’s place. It’s that creepy-crawly time, that time of night mists and strange visions, that season of mellow mists and fruitiness when things that go bump in the night suddenly do just that.

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Autumnal

 

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Autumnal

Skeletal rattle of autumn trees their crisp,
leaves fallen beneath barren branches.
Rat-a-tat rap of dead bone music dries out
flowers, shakes seed pods. Summer’s end
yammers its ruby-sweet, rose-tinted world
where petalled hope and October carnival,
with its ghoulish goulash, mish-mash mix
far-fetched mismatched face. Gruesome
uniforms, fairy-faced, gauze-winged, facile.

Cadaverous danse macabre of death mask
clowns posing distorted in a hall of mirrors
for selfies. The drowned moon needs a kiss
of life. Last night, she peeped through my
window and nuzzled me. This morning my
head is full of mystery, poetry, and dreams.
I analyse them. None of them make sense.

Catch Up

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Catch up

The mask I wear has strings
attached. Two I have tied,
two more hang down like
pigtails, swaying as I walk.

My tongue pulses round
my mouth in search of
that tooth I cracked, yet
afraid of its sharp-edged scar.

It feels as if I have lost
a part of my life and I am
running in circles looking for it.
I guess I’ll catch up with it
someday, and when I do,
I hope it will know me
and tell me who and what I am.

Meanwhile, the mask clings
heavy to my features
and prompts me in the new
role I must play. My friends
walk past me now
and do not stop to talk.

When I look in the mirror,
I no longer recognize myself.
All my ID is fake. The success
of my disguise fills my empty head
with a sudden sense of shame
and I know the sound of sorrow.