Method & Madness

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Method and Madness
(1729 & 1955-1962 AD)

his dawn chorus voice
woke the wilderness
shook bread down from heaven
to be cast on wild waters

Frocester’s old barn
scything and tithing
Gloucester a stomping ground
walking and biking
wherever he can

a dearly beloved
moved into sundry places
a town mice wandering open fields
harvesting blackberries and apples
gleaning summer seeds
storing them now a country mouse
ready for winter’s dead dreams

he collected dusty parchments
stitched old leaves together
a many-colored coat he made
amid autumn’s sheaves

words fell like rain
formed lines on each page
turned into tunes
that bolstered his heart
marched him steadily onward
mad from stage to raging age

Comment: This is the revision of my previous poem. Any comments on either version gratefully accepted.

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By Any Other Name

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By Any Other Name
hortus conclusus
(1430-1432 AD)

don’t let them know
your origins your secrets
hide who and what you are
unholy ghosts will prowl
wild dogs will howl

sister-spouse
a garden enclosed
walled behind whose house
anonymous flowers
roses in abundance
set amongst thorns

sealed-up this fountain now
its well run dry
dead leaves in the bowl
shrunken petals
echoes of children’s voices
their faces hidden
among last year’s leaves

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Orphanage

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Orphanage
(circa 1948 AD)

black crucifix
ivory figurine
white walls
cowled heads
downcast eyes

holy water
damp fingertips
genuflection
sign of the cross
in nomine …

salt tang of tears
wax-scented floors
flip flop of leather
sandals without socks

brown robes
black skirts
hair covered
white wimples
rattling of rosaries
telling of beads

musty confessionals
shaped and shamed
by shadowy sins

time without end
dustless and clean
cleaner than consciences

 

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Sometimes

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Sometimes an image comes to us, out of nowhere, and we struggle to put it into words. Or else it comes as words, and we strive to put it into color and shape. And what if it is the scent of grass, or of apples, or of fresh cut hay? Mushrooms frying are so symbolic. I think of Frodo in Lord of the Rings. Nobody can recreate for me the smell of fresh laverbread, barra lawr, Welsh caviar, according to Richard Burton. And don’t talk about the Penclawdd cockle women, ever-present with the laverbread in the Swansea market I knew as a child.

Names float through my mind: the butcher, the baker, the candle-stick maker, the man who wanted me to become a professional boxer, the man who wanted me to article with him to become an accountant, the day I wanted to leave school to article to be a lawyer. Were they just dreams? Or were they colored balloons, floated into the atmosphere, with multiple strings attached? And what does it matter now, forty, fifty, sixty years later, when life has been lived, and all those pasts have been condensed into a single tune, that recalls what I was then, what I am now, what I did, and all of it music played on a squeeze-box accordeon by a man who knew everything about me, past and present, and made his knowledge of my life his PhD thesis, dry, dusty, and so academic and biased, and yet his gateway to eternity’s Hall of Fame.

The little lady who lives above us looks on. Does she judge us or just take all that knowledge in and retain a rigid silence? Who knows? Who’ll ever know? And what about us? Are we just corporal ships sailing through a sea of silence surrounded by who knows what reefs and perils? And deep down, does it really matter, any of it? And anyway, who cares?

Today I met a former colleague. She scowled at me and lisped my name. I gave her a two-fingered flick of acknowledgement and turned away without speaking. What did I matter to her or her to me? Did the ice she used to store in her knickers actually melt when she saw me? Did she know me for who and what I am? Do I, did I, give a damn? How many fingers do you see, I wondered? Five? Three? One? And what does that one finger mean, standing out like a lighthouse on a lonely headland above a dangerous reef?

My Madonna of Grief, wrapped in her shawl of uncertainty, drifts through a cloud of unknowing and doesn’t give a damn, one way or another. My Lady of the Discalced Carmelites plods on through rain and snow, feet soaked or frozen, love and warmth in her heart, her foundations ever before her, her soul ghosting above the stupendous stupidities of this stultifying life.

Oh to fly with the angels, to float above the fog and fury of our daily lives, to rise and grasp the meaning of stars, planets, constellations, to hear the eternal music that binds the universe, to become one with the music of the spheres and their song of songs.

 

Butterflies

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Butterflies

We raise our hands: you sever them at the wrist.
We spread out our arms: you measure us for a cross.
Where do we turn? Our fingers bleed from scratching
our skulls in bewilderment. They catch on the thorns
you so thoughtfully provided. Stigmata? No, you haven’t
nailed us yet. Great barbed hooks penetrate our bellies,
inflaming our guts. Like live bait, threaded to tempt Leviathan,
we squirm. Like butterflies prepared for your chloroform jar,
we tremble. Your collector’s pin is poised: we await the final thrust
that will skewer our bodies and frame us under glass for ever.

Commentary:
Another Golden Oldie, also from Broken Ghosts (Goose Lane, 1986). I have changed the line lengths slightly, from the original. I also altered one word in the last line. I often read this poem round about Good Friday. It presents me with the threatening menace of an end to everything we know and love, eternal butterflies, framed forever, without the joy of resurrection.

Sun Worship

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Sun Worship

Worship the sun
as it rises over the hills
from whence cometh
its golden glory.

Trees and their forest,
forces older by far
than this Christian god,
walk in darkness
until touched by the sun.

Worship the sun ropes
that tie you to your daily work,
rejoice in your bondage,
for no man kills
to glorify the sun.

Sun, my father and my mother,
sunshine that floods my spirit
and enlightens my world,
here, before sunrise,
I raise my voice in a song
praising you, and your strength,
the life you give, the death
you will one day bring.

 

 

Trinity

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Kingsbrae 22.4
22 June 2017

Trinity

A coming together of cultures,
these three statues, placed
equidistant, an equilateral
triangle, all things being
equal and none more equal
than others; three brothers;
mother, father, child; father,
son, and holy ghost: no women
there; perhaps three founding
cultures: English, French, and
Indigenous,  in alphabetical
order; and there they stand,
face to face to face,
a triangulation, in profile,
silhouetted, sharing positive
and negative space; and, at the dead
center of their union, at the spot
where all is still and nothing moves,
a living space, that takes away
your breath when you breathe
in air and light and sun and
a renewed hope; then faith runs
tingling round your body with
joy and life and love reborn.