1st September 1939-2019

1st September 1939-2019

You can see what Auden meant,
Sitting in one of his dives
Eighty years from here,
Supping the depth of his pain
To the bottom of his glass;
He felt Enlightenment's loss
Like a tumour in his brain,
The darkness closing in,
Conspiracies of hate
Calculating the lives
They can forfeit to the cause.

The darkness was allayed
By millions sacrificed;
These men and women died
On the walls of Stalingrad,
The beaches of Normandy,
In parched El-Alamein,
Building a better world
From the ruins of ancient sites;
The remnants of the maimed
The Enlightenment reclaimed
On the bones of the betrayed.

So a fairer world was built,
At least, the industrial West,
The proceeds of capital
Shared more evenly
As espoused by Keynes;
Investment, nationalisation
Of all the utilities,
Collective bargaining
For wages and conditions,
Comprehensive education,
Public health for all.

Meanwhile, the nagging guilt
Of colonialism
Was to be assuaged
By countries taken back
By to whom they had belonged
Before their exploitation;
Hundreds of millions wronged
By thievery, rendition
Of their mineral wealth
To imperial banks
And oligarchic frauds.

For forty years it seemed
As if the Enlightenment
Was slowly creeping back;
Community on the rise,
Public policy aimed
At homes and jobs for all;
Equality was the prize,
Ordinary folk in thrall
To the prospect of a life
Free from poverty;
Then Thatcher stuck in the knife.

She twisted it to the core,
Clawed back the progress made,
Stole the hard wrought goods
We'd moulded from the ashes
Of our predecessors' bones:
For another forty years,
Destroyed our hopeless dream
Of a world-wide social state
Where workers are not abused;
Instead, we've ended up
With homeless paving the streets.

What little wealth we had
Has been stolen by the rich,
The bloated oligarchs
In their shining, slippery towers,
Lauding themselves, their acts
Leading to our planet
Destroying itself at last;
They feast upon the bones
Of the poorest of the poor,
Squashed beneath the heels
Of these cannibalistic powers.

Bemused, bewildered, betrayed,
The ghosts of those who fought
To build that world of light,
Defeat the fascist fiends
Of whom Auden despaired,
Weep into their graves
Their sacrifice as naught;
The avarice unfurled,
We mourn it was not stayed;
Yet love is what they taught;
The struggle never ends.

The Penguin Book of English Verse: 1970 Edition

The Penguin Book of English Verse: 1970 Edition

I hold here in my hands
a book of English verse
collected over years
from English speaking lands.
The centuries traverse
this plenitude of peers.

All speak of love or death,
those two commanding states,
urgency of desire,
the quickening of breath
to which desire relates;
the all consuming fire

which all pervades our living
with the knowledge of our fate,
inevitable decline;
compassion and forgiving,
the struggle against hate
are subjects they define.

In one small volume here
the power of poetry
enraptures and enrages.
Contained is sage and seer;
our frail humanity
is written in these pages.

All speak of love and death,
the aching void of parting,
that rapture of desire
which overtakes the breath;
and of love departing
to the waiting funeral pyre.

Published
Categorized as Poems

Scriptural

Scriptural

She hardly could conceptualise
without the evidence of her eyes,
the touted, much praised, paradise

that haunted all her childhood dreams,
had taken up so many reams,
so many books that burst their seams

with images; an imagined place
the faithful wanted to embrace
before it vanished without trace.

How could it vanish? Some might say,
'surely it is here to stay,
our place assured, although the way's

so potholed with each vice and sin
you wonder how you can begin
to recognise the door marked In.'

So she decided to forget her
wonderings of the Begetter;
further musing might upset her.

Respecting, though, the people who,
through faith, believed it all was true,
whose happiness was like a glue

that bound together broken hearts,
the sum much greater than the parts;
unlike the knave who stole the tarts

she left them basking in their bliss,
feeling it would be remiss
to share with them her deep abyss.
Published
Categorized as Poems

The Drop

The Drop

They'd lose the toss and invariably take the field,
eleven in white on a Sunday afternoon,
a midsummer day, the sun at it's hottest height,
surrounding trees like ancient supporters applauding.
The umpires signal for the match to begin,
the fast bowlers on before they turn to spin,
and progresses through the long bee-hummed day.
He's fielding at mid-off, his gaze often drawn
to the varied greens against the spectating sky.
The batter plays to mid-wicket off his legs
but mistimes the stroke, ball catching the leading edge,
arcing steeply through the air, looping his way.
He's taken so many catches like this before
and cups his hands like a heart to receive the ball.
He's set and steady, it's descending at speed,
he hears it humming like bees as the seam rotates,
catching the air like a comet crashing through
a planet's atmosphere, till it slaps his palms,
the centrifugal force twisting it away
and down to the grass before he can react,
a misjudgment later ridiculed in the bar.
A dropped catch seems important at the time
and the match is lost but not just through his mistake.
The evening sun is lowering in the sky
as the aging trees still sway indifferently.
Published
Categorized as Poems

My Old Guitar

My Old Guitar

The battered old guitar I've played for fifty years
sits dustily in the corner, its harmonics muted,
no doubt still awaiting the arrival of a player
adept enough to release it from the monotony
of the same old three chord trick to which it's been subjected,
having drawn the short straw of being sold to me,
a mediocre musician with a semi-discordant ear,
who struggles to sound a note, often losing the key.

It's longing for a Django or, classically, a Williams
to release it from its torpor, condemned to the occasional strum;
to feel some finger picking, to take off on a flight
of rapacious arpeggios, an all consuming riff;
to find, at last, its voice, to feel, at last, its potential,
free from all constraint, to drift into its dream
of Hendrix, Page, Santana, who all have passed it by,
this Yamaha FG One Eighty, Red Label Nippon Gakki.

Strangely, it's become a collectors item I'm told,
sought after by the folk who think things can be owned.
Yet, despite my ineptitude, I couldn't let it go,
because it has become a symbol of something more
than just an instrument longing to be tuned.
It's something symbiotic I couldn't do without,
nor, I think, could it do without my love
of its mellow tone, the timbre of its veneer.

I have recently had it re-fretted and restored,
returned to the beauty of its former days.
The action has been lowered, effortlessly it plays
all those three chord tunes I struggle to recall.
And I have been inspired to honour its stoicism
by tending to its needs each ensuing day,
forgoing that neglect which I previously offered,
seeing it for itself; the core of my beating heart.
Published
Categorized as Poems

Bridges

Bridges

To get across a life, it's bridges we build,
span the light of our waking days
with alliances, compromises,
negotiate our walking routes,
cut avenues through the undergrowth.
These hours are lush like vegetation,
alive and drinking the succulent rains
that swell the raging rapids of desire,
the swirl and boil of racing, constant hearts.
These bridges can be made of ancient stone,
a huge suspension wrought of iron and steel
or merely a plank placed across a stream.
All have two purposes; to set us free,
so we can feel the joy of coming home.
Published
Categorized as Poems

Making Time

Making Time

It started with just night and day,
hunting, sex and sleeping,
keeping wolves at bay
and, when the sun came up, relief.

Then someone noticed how
moons repeat their wax and wane,
put things into sets, accounting,
and after things, came time.

And after time, more time,
finer and diffuse, better able to
regulate our lives,
even pinpoint God,

till we could tell how long
it takes an atom to comb it's hair,
grow paunchy, gruff, and die.
How time thins the more we manufacture it.
Published
Categorized as Poems

Abashed

A contribution to Ronovan’s decima challenge 38, with Bash as the prompt word on rhyme line D.

Abashed

We often find ourselves ashamed
knowing we're members of a race
that barely shows a human face,
our consciousness twisted and maimed.

Uneulogised, unknown, unnamed,
the heroes of our human kin
retain this knowledge in their skin;
the reddening of cheeks abashed,
confounded dreams and ideals dashed,
condemned to darkness held within.

A Christmas message for my wife.

For Christmas I would give you all the earth,
the planets shining jointly in the West,
the low sun crouching in the clouds
behind the cleansing rain beating 
gently on our window pane.

But most of all, and all that's best,
I give you treasure for your warm heart,
my ancient love to lie there, repeating
again and again
that never, in this life, will it depart.
Published
Categorized as Poems

An Old Friend Passing

I have on an old tee shirt that I've worn
these many years; it's threadbare, stained and torn.
The dye has faded, it used to be coal black
but it's lost it's rigour and the neckline's going slack.

When I take it off tonight it's for the bin
or cut up into rags for polishing.
And I'll feel like giving thanks to this thing
I spent those many years being in.
Published
Categorized as Poems