Bordeaux Bay

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

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

A FRESH START

It's easy to be pessimistic nowadays: indeed, gloom seems to be the default setting for many of us, and I am no exception. 
What a pleasure, then, to discover this long-lost villanelle tucked away in a bundle of lost poems that resurfaced recently.
Whilst it's not one of my better efforts, its theme is refreshingly upbeat.


















THE WORLD STOPS TURNING
 

The world stops turning then begins again
and suddenly, abruptly, change has come.
Blooms burst in deserts fresh with gentle rain.

Rain-forests rise, reach heavenwards, attain
full grandeur, scorn the chainsaw’s hum.
The world stops turning then begins again.


The bare ravine becomes a verdant glen.
Trees blush with fruit. Famine is overcome.
Blooms burst in deserts fresh with gentle rain.

Bright birds repopulate a blighted fen.
Fish spawn in rivers where there once were none.
The world stops turning then begins again.

Returning life reclaims its lost terrain,
a verdant place beneath an orange sun.
Blooms burst in deserts fresh with gentle rain.

Old men grow young, straight-backed, forget their pain:
they shrug off leaden years, so burdensome.
The world stops turning then begins again.
Blooms burst in deserts fresh with gentle rain.


Thursday, 15 February 2018

BEAR WITH ME

At the risk of sounding like Sir John Betjeman on a bad day, I'd like, today, to celebrate a childhood teddy-bear called Dan, who disappeared from my life nearly seventy years ago but haunts my memories still. 
Unlike most teddy bears, Dan was not a rotund, roly-poly fellow but, instead, rather a scrawny chap whose resemblance to a bear was approximate at best. 
His arms and legs were unnaturally long and his face wore a permanently worried look.
As I recall, he was clad in navy corduroy dungarees and, even in his youthful days, looked decidedly scruffy. 
I doubt he was a hand-me-down, since I was the eldest child in my family, although perhaps I inherited him from an older cousin.
Whatever his provenance, he was very dear to me.
Sadly, no images of Dan exist. The photograph below is of a rather over-weight Dan-lookalike.

   










 


 







FLAWS

That old plaid shirt with ragged sleeve,
scarred work boots like a tomcat’s nose,
the ragged blue jeans, worse for wear,
and straw-hat with its missing straws,
are dearer to me, I believe,
than wardrobes full of brand-new clothes:
the perfect-new does not compare
to things we love despite their flaws.




Sunday, 11 February 2018

WING AND A PRAYER

This rhyming poem is taken from the stock of lost verses that I recently rediscovered.
Written just over ten years ago, it already feels quite archaic for, much to my regret, rhyme in poetry is out of fashion nowadays.

















HAWK AND SPARROW

The hawk that rips the sparrow from the air
does so without conscience or care:
it kills the sparrow because it is there.

The hand that misdirects the moving pen
destroys a precious nationhood of men
yet signs the treaty time and time again.

The word that sends ten thousand men to war
debases life and chooses to ignore
the human cost that decent men abhor.

The one that wounds the thing that he holds dear
is not a hawk whose conscience is clear:
instead, guilt will consume him year by year.

A soul that seeks to rally to the light
is like an eye that opens with delight,
defying darkness, valiantly bright.

The eye that counts each sparrow as it flies;
the ear that heeds each dying sparrow’s cries;
on such as these the Universe relies.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

THE BURNING QUESTION

Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, is reputed to have remarked: Give me the child for the first seven years and I will give you the man, and it’s certainly true that early influences leave their mark for better or worse.
The writer, Philip Larkin, was more rather succinct in his much-quoted poem, This Be The Verse, when he wrote: They fuck you up, your mum and dad./ They may not mean to, but they do.  

Back in the nineteen forties and early fifties, when I was growing up in Presbyterian East Belfast, the power of the church was absolute and God-fearing parents, with the best of intentions, indoctrinated their hapless offspring into the concept of guilt and of Heaven and Hell: the latter with its unquenchable flames in which sinners would burn for eternity. 
























ORIGINAL SIN

Catechism came with porridge
on Sunday mornings, then. 
Question
and Answer. 
What is man’s chief end?
A lifetime later, adult, grown,
I have the forthright answer still:
To glorify our God, amen.

How those morning pictures linger.

With hair slicked down and parting straight,
scrubbed knees, nails free of grime, clean hands,
in Sunday Best, fresh underpants
and vest, black brogues with Bible shine,
I went with hymn-book to the church,

then into Sunday School we trooped  
like little soldiers off to war,
while parents stayed for Hell-Fire words  
and promises of Satan’s wrath
that they, in turn, would promise us.

Grey were the Sundays of my youth:  
shut shops, shut faces, shuttered hearts.
A football kicked would damn to Hell. 
A comic read, a careless laugh, 
would be recorded in God’s book.
Guilt was instilled and mortal fear.
I haven’t yet got off the hook.


Thursday, 1 February 2018

DEAD OR ALIVE?

Does some form of consciousness exist after death? If so, what form does it take? And do the dead know they’re dead? 
We ask these sort of questions when we're very young and probably ask them again when very old. 
In between these two life-stages, there are other questions, with answers that affect our daily lives, which seem infinitely more important.
This rhyming story is a bit of fun based on those first questions.


 

PSYCHIC EYE 

I read the sign and climb a stair.
The office door is smokey glass. Inside a radio plays jazz. I go in. He points to a chair. 

He’s shabby but he don’t look dumb. His voice is booze and cigarettes: a weary voice, full of regrets. A gumshoe, laid back, chewing gum.
I say: Man, you’re a Psychic Eye. I got a problem, something’s changed. It’s like the whole world’s rearranged, gone crazy but I don’t know why.
When joshing with my buddy, Pat, there was a mishap with a gun: the pistol was a loaded one. Things turned peculiar after that.
Down at the pool room, I’m ignored. Guys talk and laugh like I’m not there: goddam invisible, I swear.
I was their pal once: now they’re bored. I crack a joke. They look elsewhere.  I shout: Hey Guys! They just don’t hear. I ask for whiskey or a beer: the bar-keep gives me a blank stare.

The Psychic nods.
I tell him this. I visited my gal today: she looked right through me, turned away when I leaned forward for a kiss.
He lights a smoke, says: Some survive a bullet from a careless gun, a lucky few, but you’re not one.
Man, you’re a ghost. You ain’t alive. 

I’m psychic so I see a bit ... the gumshoe tells me ... Just a peek. For you, the future’s looking bleak.
You’re dead. You gotta live with it.

Friday, 26 January 2018

NO GOING BACK

As I grow older, a yearning to revisit the past intensifies but the sad truth is that there's no joy to be had from such adventures.
The past really is a foreign country, where history has been subtly changed.
Road-signs have been altered, doors are locked against the stranger.  














 

REUNION

Her children
and my children
now have children of their own.
The man I was, and what she was,
that spirited, flamboyant girl,
have vanished, all our passion stilled.

I hardly thought myself grown old
till, in her tearful, wary face
I saw
my own reflected: weary, drawn.
Full forty years of life’s rebuffs
have turned us into shadows.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

BIG NIGHT OUT

If you're a Guernsey resident, or even a visitor our little island, then haste thee along to Torteval Church Hall this Friday evening to enjoy the inaugural Metivier Night, which promises to be a memorable occasion, not just for poetry lovers, but for those who love to celebrate all things Guernesaise .




The brainchild of the Guernsey Language Commission, Metivier Night promises to become an annual event in Guernsey's cultural calendar and an exciting way to brighten up a dreary January evening.