Thursday, 11 August 2022

Babble

'Babel' by Cildo Meireles. Tate Modern, London
This poem is a response triggered by the installation 'Babel' by Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles, which can be seen and heard at Tate Modern in London. In simple terms, it's a stack of radios, all tuned to different stations. It's eight metres high... There are links below for more info about 'Babel'. And here's my 'Babble' ...

Babble

Everyone is talking at once and

a babble spreads out across all the

universe.  Voices and songs from the whole

world echo from one room on the Earth,

random snippets telling how it was,

but there’s no conversation to speak of.

No-one listens to anyone

in this great tower of language

where words pour out and

no one understands anything of

what is said and no-one

ever really hears anyone else’s speech.

 

No-one really hears anyone else’s speech

whatever is said, and no-one,

no-one, understands anything of

what words pour out and

in this great tower of language

no one listens to anyone

and there’s no conversation to speak of,

just random snippets telling how it was

echo from one room on Earth,

just voices and songs, bits and pieces from the whole

and a babble spreads out across all the

world and everyone is talking at once,

           and no-one really ever hears anyone else.

 

The poem is actually a 'Golden Shovel', which uses the words in the following quotation from Genesis (referenced by Meireles in his talks about this artwork) at the end of each line. It's also a specular poem, the second half is a repeat of the first half, repeated backwards... !

 ‘And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech’  Genesis 11:1

More info on this artwork here:

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/meireles-babel-t14041

And there's a video description, with the all-important sound of the installation, here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYlRn64Cj4I

 

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Turning points

When I wrote this poem it was a response to the fires raging in Greece and Turkey, in particular. This was just before COP26, so I made it an appeal to Governments (why should they listen to me? They sure need to listen to Us, and now). I added lines about our vulnerable areas of Wales where I live, the Preselis and Brecon Beacons. There have since been fires there. I didn't mention London and Yorkshire, where fires are burning today. Maybe now our world is again on fire our governments will act? Haha! We really do need governments that will help us survive climate crisis.  We don't need the ones that argue among themselves about tax cuts for the rich. Thanks to editor Mike Jenkins and Culture Matters for including my poem in this anthology, the whole thing is well worth a read. Link at bottom of page.

Turning points

 See the poor man’s cow burn

hear scorching sheep scream.

Watch news films of the world on fire

from behind our various screens.

 

Trees crackling, bark burning, lumber falling

heat coursing across hills

that could be our Preselis or our Brecons,

our Cambrian mountains blackened.

 

We will him on, that man with the cow.

Turn around, turn to home

grab your kids, your mama and grandma

leave your photos, all the pictures on the walls

see them burn, see them burn

run to the sea, run  run  run.

 

Smoke chokes your lungs, sears your throat

inferno follows you

an avalanche of fire down the mountain

closer and closer  rolling and rolling

Turn and turn again, watch your life burn.

 

Your neighbour’s cow is on a rein, her bulging eyes askance

his father has the dog, dead lizards scatter the path.

A small child carries a tortoise.

See people on the shore –

friends, cousins, brothers and sisters and all their children

soot smudged across faces, eyes vacant

yet full of fear.

 

Turn, look back.

 

A wall of orange rages closer and closer

rolling smoke wreaths around

blackens your trees,  kills your bees

swallows your village.

 

Ash falls like snowflakes, shifting footprints on sand

where sea is grey mud.

Turn to the boats, the only way

to escape from heat and smoke.

 

Now turn again, turn again.

 

Look to your governments,

those who would let all our futures burn.

Let them see your dark staring eyes

your lost and angry faces

your fear and despair.

Hold their gaze.

Make them turn to you.

Do not let them turn away.

 

To find out more about Culture Matters and the Uprising anthology....

https://www.culturematters.org.uk/index.php/arts/poetry/item/3969-gwrthryfel-uprising-an-anthology-of-radical-poetry-from-contemporary-wales


 

Monday, 11 April 2022

Mr Wobblyman

It’s World Parkinson’s Day, which is all about raising awareness about the condition, the fastest growing neurological disease in the world. There is no cure, but medication can help to control/alleviate symptoms, which can be many and varied, both motor and cognitive. I know a number of people who have been living with Parkinson’s for some years, and I know it is not easy. Last year my partner was diagnosed with the condition. This poem gives an idea about just one of the many motor symptoms he had. Thankfully, at the moment, this one seems to be well controlled by the drugs.

 

Mr Wobblyman

for World Parkinson’s Day

His feet stick to the ground, he can’t move them at all

however much he wants to, however hard he tries

he is fixed to the floor, his shoes superglued to the tiles.

He tips forward, so far that I think he’ll hit his nose on the step,

but then he comes back up, tilts back, surely falling over now...

and up again, upright, and suddenly he staggers

in reverse, across the kitchen, not slowly, quite quickly,

in fact so fast I think he won’t stop and will continue out

through the back door, across the garden,

over the back fence into the donkey paddock.

But no, he does stop, he always does.

Just like the weeble-wobble tipple-topple man

who lived in my toybox when I was a toddler

he always comes upright, just like magic. So far.

 

https://www.parkinsons.org.uk/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roly-poly_toy 

#worldparkinson'sday

                                    


 

Sunday, 6 March 2022

All the world watches


One and a half million refugees,

so far

have said their farewells

to men who have to stay,

as women hold bewildered children

and grandmothers weep.

 

A man sees his wife and kids 

onto a crammed carriage,

his tears stream as

he watches them leave.

You can feel the connection

between them pulling, stretching.

He will fight for his country

and for them.

 

And the man in the Kremlin says this is not war.

 

Sirens sound across cities,

families trail to underground stations

camp on platforms

sleep in stationery trains

keep each other warm.

 

Blocks of flats

crumble like the twin towers

burn like Grenfell

and no-one can put out the fires.

After the bombings

there are bodies in the streets.

 

And the man in the Kremlin says this is not war.

 

Hospitals, nurseries, schools

pummelled from the air

cluster munitions smash a kindergarten

ballistic missiles wreck a health centre.

There’s no water, no food,

no power.

 

People race to a city centre

where 50 buses wait

to take them across borders

but the ceasefire is a lie

and they are shelled in the streets

where they gather

like prisoners in a ghetto.

 

And the man in the Kremlin says this is not war.

 

His military shell nuclear power stations,

cut off the internet

block mobile signals.

Yet the words get out ... people meet...

And thousands of demonstrators

are detained at anti-war protests

across Russia

as the sound of dissent

is stifled.

 

And the man in the Kremlin still says this is not a war.