Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Coast Story

I wrote this early in 2013, but I read it this week at an open mic event - Poems & Pints in Carmarthen. Always pleased when someone asks for a copy, so here it is.

Coast story 
Remembrances tremble in circling currents,
crowds are gathered here in this solitary place.
Stories live in the cool air, that no words will tell,
as centuries of memories fill wide open space.

A photograph she gave me,
a monochrome of the lonely church,
where people make romantic trysts;
and later there are weddings and
brides’ veils blow in the everlasting mists,
making sea horses on distant oceans.

Bunches of marguerites wave in the breeze
on banks beside the road,
shining white around the lichen-stuck walls
of this famous little place.

This ancient hill that we used to climb
on Christmas mornings;
dog leading, wagging her joy;
kids trailing, complaining, ‘do we have to?’
Yes, we do!
We shivered in icy winds on the highest ridge
until numb fingers turned to stone.
And other times we stood dripping in thin rain.

Where the fishermen died,
down there by the rocks,
always remember them when we are here.
The giant slipping cliffs,
a monument to two brothers.
They were husbands too, and fathers;
and the sea whispers their names as the tide crashes.

Unreadable gravestones keep secrets
in the churchyard, but still
they sound the chord of remembrance.

Go further back and feel the tremor of
the earliest blacksmith’s forge
as it echoes from the grassy ridge;
and rumbles like tumbling rocks in the gorge.

Come closer, feel the piety of the pilgrims
who journeyed to this ageless place of saints,
their strength lives here.

And remember on Red Sunday,
the Flanders men who were flayed on the sand,
the invasion force bleeding into the tide;
and the dancing victors shaking every hand.

This too, is where sailors took their ease,
resting from the labour of heavy seas.
Feel their power in this air,
their vigorous salty spirit everywhere.

And remember too, this summertime,
when the space is filled with voices
as children splash and run in waves
from the square beach.
See the dolphins leap, 
trailing drops of  sunshine.

Monday, 10 November 2014

8,000 hands

Have to say something about this, so moved by that bulletin where the kids raised their hands. I wrote this a few days ago, and the numbers are already much higher.

8,000 hands

Black shadows under trees,
the bodies lay by the road for days.
A team in white space suits
zip up the body bags, but
there is nowhere for them to go.

A dead man’s nine children gather
with others across the street,
a strip of mud between them and disease.
Thirty stand in the shade there, ‘to be safe’.
There is nowhere for them to go.

These children have touched the virus;
there are no foster families,
no reception centres, no welcoming arms,
there is nowhere for them to go.
Aid workers can only offer soap.

Asked if they have lost a parent to ebola,
each child puts both hands in the air
and stands in the silence, to stare.
4,000  will raise both hands today
to make black shadows across paths of mud.
No one will touch them.

There is nowhere for them to go.

*If you like poetry that connects with current affairs, you will find plenty more here:

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Every picture

 Occasionally I write a poem that comes almost entirely from imagination, a poem that makes a story. The inspiration for this one came while I was reading Donna Tartt's fabulous novel, The Goldfinch. The connections may not be too obvious, but that is where it began.
I have found through sharing this poem with others that people either like it a lot, or don't like it at all.
See what you think. Comments are welcome below.

Every Picture

Eyes that smile at their edges
observe her
as she moves around the room.
She feels his look on her,
tracking her,
yet she must know,
somewhere in herself,
that he cannot really see.

She touches objects,
a paperweight, a vase, a photo,
fingertips feeling the cold smoothness,
as memories float.
A few flowers, a rose,
a gift to her,
a drop of blood welling from a pinprick.

The photo on the desk,
that trip,
the lake, a young man sitting on a rock,
looking away,
ripples on the surface,
the breeze through the trees behind.
She shivers, her hand trembles.

The paperweight – glass,
some bright jewel in the centre.
She weighs it,
her tiredness pressing on her;
she recalls the letter it held in place,
the words he chose,
her disbelief.

She picks up the glass,
sips oak-aged wine,
a little bitter,
places it back on the desk,
notes the darkening street outside;
and catches her reflection,
trapped in the window frame.

She sees only her age,
dark circles under eyes too wide,
too large;
startled, like a bird,
caught in the moment,
but she cannot fly,
or even cry.

The light in the painting,
a shaft from the side,
across the cracked background,
the florid features of the face,
the crinkles of the eyes
in the dinginess of the dusty room,
the brightest thing there.

This old man and his attentive gaze,
the great observer,
can he see her fear,
heart beating too hard,
sweat breaking,
dampness on her back,
the goosebumps?

She feels the scrutiny and turns away.
Can he see her invisible self?
He is just as he saw himself that day.
Now her,
hundreds of years later,
disturbed by his surveillance
and her sense of him.