Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Watercolour by Tony Taylor http://www.paintingbreaksguernsey.com

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS

The Occupation of the Channel Islands by German forces during the Second World War has left its mark on the landscape and also on the psyche of islanders themselves.
A film of Mary Ann Shaffer's hugely successful novel, The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, is about to be made and I can't help but wonder what memories it will stir in the older generation of Guernseymen and women who lived through those challenging times.
For the definitive Guernsey novel however you need look no further than The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by the late G B Edwards, acclaimed by the New York Review of Books as 'a triumph of the storyteller’s art that conjures up the extraordinary voice of a living man'. 
 




















 THE HURT

Where lunchtime shoppers congregate
outside the High Street bank’s facade,
grey uniforms of marching men,
in ranks, strode purposefully past.
Historic images confirm
that Occupiers made these streets

parade grounds and our sleepy lanes
verboten after curfew hour.
The enemy has been subdued,
expelled, and yet the hurt remains:
that violation taints us all
despite prosperity and gains. 

Friday, 21 April 2017

SWINGS AND ROUNDABOUTS

My poem, The Swing, has been around for a while. I included it in my 2012 collection Strange Journey and, following a minor rewrite, here it is again, now entitled, SONG OF SPRING.






















SONG OF SPRING 

As we launch out, the air feels clean,
the wooden swing, a pendulum
divining or recording time,
as sunlight stabs, pure platinum,
through woodland chestnut, cedar, lime,
into our playground, softly green.

It takes our joint weight on taut ropes
as we, in tandem, drive it on,
gathering momentum, we rise:
you grip the seat I brace upon
with boots, knees, adolescent thighs
and boundless, adolescent hopes.

The swing is like a storm-tossed boat,
the wood’s a bold kaleidoscope
of light, leaf patterns, soaring dreams.
I shout within the cradle-ropes,
the sound extinguishing your screams.
Free from confining earth, we float.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

KISS AND TELL

It's been a while since I've published a love poem so here's one from years ago that, to my mind, still retains its freshness.


SNOWFLAKES

Kisses can be so diverse.

I never knew before
how each is like a snowflake:
quite unique.

Within your arms, I am
drab terrain made beautiful
by drifting snow.






Thursday, 13 April 2017

SPLITTING HARES

Previously, I've featured my poem, The Murchen Quartet, only in sections. Here it is, complete.





















THE MURCHEN QUARTET

1. RETURN

Midnight: a sickle moon, black trees in silhouette,
tall, jagged tops,
an electrocardiogram
scribbled on night sky.
Nearby,
a sloping meadow,
a derelict croft,
a dry-stone wall winding, like a serpent,
towards somewhere unseen.
Field-mice stir
in the emerald grasses,
a barn-owl hunts, soundlessly,
like a reaper’s blade,
back and forth over dew-moist ground.
All is absolute, glistening stillness
hushed as the world’s final breath.

He comes over the wall, rippling the darkness,
fluidly, spilling like water,
brown-booted, hooded, soft-footed,
moving with purpose and stealth,
crosses the meadow, head down-turned, hurrying,
curtained by camouflage, covert, concealed.

Kneeling, he opens a satchel,
secured by a leather-made leash,
and gently releases,
as though giving birth,
two leverets, supple and sinewy-soft,
that huddle together, immobile as boulders,
to feel the soft night on their shimmering fur,
and inhale the meadow, the moisture, the magic,
the coolness of grass, the moist sweetness of air.

Two young hares in the vastness of England,
two creatures dispatched to make Eden anew,
heed their ancestral summons and,
swallowed by darkness,
slip into the future, on cue.

2. DAWN

Each dawn,
the world, reborn, astounds:
sky, eggshell-blue,
grass greener, yet,
than far-off fields,
and mountains, a kaleidoscope
of purples.
Clear water, over polished rocks,
cascades
as wind unsettles trees.
Beside a zig-zag,
amber stream,  
a dragonfly, with rainbow wings,
flicks like a fencer’s blade.
Each dawn they view
their changed, unchanging world
fresh-made,
its energy,
its prehistoric, savage joy,
intoxicates them.
They flourish.

3. JOY

Awakened,
past erased, future
nonexistent,

their world begins afresh.

Only the extraordinary now,
a collision of senses,
exists.

Music.
Blackbird’s flute,
grasshopper’s fiddle,
drumbeat scuttle of field-mice,
accordion-wind in high meadows.

Silence.
In crystalline pools
trout glide like ghosts.
Owls, tombed in dead trees,
imitate death.

Dreamlike,
in the magical moment,

hares dance.

4. SURVIVAL

Stillness is her best defence.

So she becomes
a russet stone,
a dark tussock,
a clod of earth, upturned,

perhaps merely a shadow,
there, by a dry-stone wall
on hostile, open ground.

No shiver of wind
disturbs her tawny fur.

She sits, unbreathing,
stiff as an idol.

Only her eyes, bead bright
in a fine-boned head, travel
like planets.

With leather-gaitered boots,
mountainous shape,
tobacco reek,
and slow-departing tread,

danger passes.



Murchen is the Gaelic word for hare.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

GRAVE MATTERS

There have been enough tragic stories to emerge from the Ulster “Troubles” to fill a library, but few can be more heartbreaking than that of mother of ten, Jean McConville, who was abducted, tortured, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA, whose leadership steadfastly refused to reveal to her family the whereabouts of her grave. 
Almost thirty years passed before it was discovered by chance and the family were able to give their mother a proper burial. The guilty men are still out there and support for Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, has never been higher.

Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams.

ABDUCTION TALE

When they came for my mother
there were shouts.
They called themselves soldiers.
She called them louts.
There were eight of them there.  
Three local guys, names I knew:
Republicans, hard-men.
They yelled: You kids fuck off.
They were like flies
buzzing round our mother.
My brother, ten,
he clung on to her, tried to interfere:
got a busted face, got a bloody ear.
They dragged Mother outside.
Cut us kids short.
Said she’d been a tout.
Said she had informed.
Mother struggled, cried out:
Lord, I’m not that sort.
Sure, I’d not do that.
You’ve been misinformed.
They dragged her off, those patriotic men,
without goodbyes,
into the bitter rain.


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

REGENERATION

What rescues us from oblivion when our lives end? Only the promise of immortality through our children and the small bright torches that pass from one generation to the next.

 


SONS

On a yellowed flyleaf,
half a century ago,
my mother wrote to say
Birthday Wishes
and Mum, that name
that buries self away.

I was her firstborn,
headstrong, loving,
exuberant, willfully astray.

My childhood fears,
unbidden tears, the small, lost
battles of the day,
she dissipated in her arms.

My daughter
holds her sons that way.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

THE CRUELLEST MONTH?

Last month, whilst in Venice, I read news of the deaths of two giants of modern literature.



The Russian poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, who came to prominence in the 1960s, died in the USA, aged 84. Best-known for his epic work, Babi Yar, which commemorates one of the worst Nazi atrocities of World War Two when tens of thousands of Jews were murdered in the Ukraine, Yevushenko was one of the first foreign poets whose work I encountered. 

We also said farewell to Derek Walcott, the legendary Caribbean poet and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, whose work embraced almost every poetic form. He died at his home in St. Lucia, aged 87.
In T S Eliot's poem, The Waste Land, dedicated to former Venice resident, Ezra Pound, he referred to April as the cruellest month. For poetry lovers, this year, it was surely March.