Retirement and Beyond
Tenacity of the tiger,
ferocious in your calling,
constantly seeking a better way,
how to live a fuller life;
sometimes fierce in your cajoling,
always kind for kindness sake.
You've danced your way
though working days
without tiring, never stalling,
to build a world where all are equal,
where justice triumphs over greed.
We sometimes feel, in that,
we never will succeed,
but each act links to every other,
every sister, every brother,
everyone that you have known
who cared enough to struggle on.
For us, we will continue,
partners, lovers, friends,
so many sparkling days
and moon drenched nights
lie stretching out before us,
these hours transfixed with light.
And for all of our remaining years
we'll write a simple syllabus of love,
a plan of dreams and aspiration,
hand in hand, heart in heart.
We've marched so many times against it's excesses;
for miners, their futures' black as coal dust;
for printers removed from their pungent presses;
for the pickers of fruit, the decaying must
of strawberries, sweet as nostalgia.
We broke our innocence on picket lines,
those working class machineries of hope,
and played the game of seeing better times.
But in the bramble patch of Capital,
it's anarchistic growth a tangled path
of easily commissioned cruelties,
we foundered. Yet still we feel, like Chartists
and the Communards, we fought for love.
Listen. Over the horizon. Hear our songs.
Each New Day
What do I bring to each new day?
A trail of notes and books
I keep for comfort;
a rarely played guitar
filled with unsung songs;
an angry sadness
at each cruelty
so easily committed
but, most of all,
the love I have for you,
your bright laughter
filling each day with light.
For St. Patrick's Day and my ancestors who made the long trip from Ireland to New Zealand in the 19th century.
However tall your ships were, how long
they took to reach your chosen shores,
could they contain intact your beating hearts,
swollen with leaving, aching with imminent
arrival; the slow salt haul on following seas?
Were prayers said daily, attempting to appease
those catholic saints, their shapes reminiscent
of wet lands you left in colder parts
particularising rain? Did you pack your laws,
clutch them closely, like an Irish song?
How do we feel the sorrow leaving brings
but by a return in our imaginings.
A contribution to Ronovan's Decima Challenge #48 with Fortune being the prompt word on the B rhyme line.
The Fortune Teller
A brisk wind rifled through the tent,
chilling the teller of fortunes.
She was rummaging through the runes,
deciphering if what they meant
would pay her heating bill and rent.
Business was slow, a winter's day
unlikely to produce the pay
she needed to survive the storm
of lockdown's irritating norm.
What she foresaw, she would not say.
It's fourteen years since we stopped smoking in the pub;
ripping out a Rizla, folding in Old Holborn,
liquorice papers the favourite, with a fibrous roach,
the air grey as a smoker's lung, like a descending fog,
bar lights filtering through this self-imposed fug.
Yet the wonderousness of rolling a perfect, cylindrical fag,
with the correct compaction for a satisfying drag,
whilst caressing a pint of cider, an Ambrosian delight,
a draught between each toke of carbon monoxide death,
is a smoky reminiscence of a joyous freedom from
an engine conditioner's workshop, where trichloroethylene
induced psycho-dramas and a high-stepping gait
were hazards to avoid; a far more noxious environment
than the public bar of The Ferryman's smoke smothered walls.
So every night at ten o'clock, the five of us would meet,
Darren, Ady, Roger, Mark and me in that bar,
a raucous drunken reprisal of the night before;
Strongbow, Stella Artois, Irish Stout, combustible
conversation, rollies flying off the fingers
for the final hour and on into the lock-in;
years before the lock-down, smiles our only masks.
It's fourteen years since then and I've cast off the coughing,
revivified the lungs, moved Up North, the air
a pristine Pennine flavour now the mills are gone,
a butchered working class wandering the estates
and the soot blackened pubs, but smoking now outside
of the freshly painted tap rooms, in the dog-end littered street.
My hands are free of grease, my lungs purged of tar;
perhaps a pint of light mild slips down better for that.
But now the hazard to be rid of are the neo-liberal thugs
who blight we workers lives with their oligarchic cant;
that is, until the red flag flies from all town halls.
For Arthur Wesney 1915-1941
If I could, I'd come to visit you,
where your bones have lain these eighty years.
In Libya's dangerous soil you are interred
beneath the ground you died on as a youth,
so many dreams unfulfilled and gone.
My father, who fought with you, is now gone too,
but died an old man, lying in his bed
still thinking of the way you died in battle,
your sacrificial blood drained in the sand.
What would be gained by coming to your grave
is indefinable. I cannot tell
you of the millions subsequently slain
and feel your sorrow heave beneath the earth,
but only kneel to give you back your name.
A Happy Life
I've grown bewildered, loving life
as much and often as I do;
pleasures, such as I have known,
seeded, watered, carefully grown
have nurtured love, the love of you,
my happy, caring, loving wife.
Bewilderment's a happy way,
a moist condition lightly borne,
defining not a fuddled mind
but clearly knowing to be kind,
despite those things we find forlorn,
cherishing that which makes us stay.
So we grow older, as we must;
we settle in each others skin,
sampling all the pleasures we
have cultivated in the tree
of life; and know that, deep within,
is rooted care and love and trust.
beating, reaching, running
into the southerly
mains'l and jib
sucked into the wind
spray like white fire
scalding our skin
as we tack
(mind the boom)
onto a broad reach
astride the gunwale
raising the genoa
relaxing the sheets
like flying fish
ecstatic in speed
a force five
flushing us easterly
it's as if the wind dies
as we run with it
blocking the sun
we relax back
into the cockpit
seemingly at standstill
but doubling our knots
beer in hand
heading for home
...and there was.
"The mind, once enlightened, cannot again become dark"
The journey started many years ago,
as Hesse had, heading to the East,
his mind a fragile butterfly of hope.
And once he settled there he realised
there was no returning, no way back.
Yet still he yearned for the warm comforts of sin,
an ignorance of unknowing dreams.
He dreamt only of stillness and respite.
Knowledge is like a sparkler in the night,
thirty seconds trying to catch the light,
the marks of it left inside your eyes
as firefly sparks crackle and quickly die.
But somehow, these images remain;
illusions of light that guide us through the dark.