The Wind Gnawed Thorn
Beside the church’s grey stone wall,
between old grave, perched high above the moor,
a wind gnawed thorn tree holds its limbs against the sky.
Crippled by cold and the salt tanged blast
it turns its humped back on the sea
as if to say “I shall not fail,
but will remain deep rooted here in life
amid the unsung winters of the dead.”
A lonely, lifeless thing it seems beneath the January sun
but yet its twisted limbs
like gnarled old fingers clawing life from out the sparkling air
run with leaf
and bear a fresh green testament
to life and joy which runs within its blighted frame.
Likewise in man
a crippled, withered shell may hold a mind undaunted by its disabilities
which slipping from the shackles of this world
soars high into a realm unknown to other men
and, finding language of its own, casts off its crown of thorns
and voices dreams and thoughts to dazzle and bemuse the earthbound mind.
The wind gnawed thorn stands proud upon its hill,
its twisted form a spark to fire the mind
and lead its groping thoughts along its limbs
towards some understanding in this life.
Old Winchester Hill
Sun on my back
on the roof of the world
with the valley drowned deep in the summer’s haze.
Quiet, no noise
but the song of birds
and the insect’s buzz where the slow sheep graze.
Peace, at this point
between earth and sky
through the long, hot, hour of the noon-sun’s blaze.
They huddle in grim groups
amid the wreckage of a trench half filled with mud and slime
but, as the camera pans its weary eye along the waste
they smile and wave and raise a ragged cheer
to show the folks back home the lads are well.
They’re doing fine.
But then, in muted groups
and ones and twos
the shattered bodies of the not so fortunate pass by.
The ones who can, smoke cigarettes
and grin concealing pain they feel they should not show,
the others set their faces with a mask of stone,
their blank expressions hiding all.
I watch these films and wonder how it was
they carried on amid the roar of guns,
the filth and stench of death
as if the madness that they daily faced was real life,
and peace some monstrous lie created by diseased imaginations.
Their national pride which turned its face from suffering
and, welcoming, embraced the lunacy of war
still fills me with dismay.
I watch again as silently the men are killed
like actors from some grotesque mime
and feel a sadness fill my soul
for what man’s done, is doing now and will doubtless do again.
Sunday, and the old church bells
shatter the brittle morning peace,
scattering fragments of clanging sound
like aural shrapnel through the sunshine’s fragile veil.
Three brazen voices din the air
in clamorous, ragged, unison
and so once more the old French town
is called to God and prayer.
The Old Man in the Photograph
What thoughts lay there behind those tired eyes,
set deep within a face long carved by gnawing time?
Old as the land he seems,
who’s ways had shaped his waking life,
its contours mirrored now within the rugged features of his face.
He sits at ease,
his old hands, gnarled as tree roots, in his lap,
long days of toil with spade and plough now done,
and gazes through the intervening years
into a future stranger than his wildest dreams could show.
So many years have passed since he sat there
and faced the hooded camera’s lens,
an age has gone since he was laid to rest
his hollow eyes and mouth now filled with clay
that once he worked.
But yet when someone sees this fleeting moment
captured in the paper’s silver stain
for one brief flicker of an eye
he lives once more.
I placed the withered embers of my love
upon the altar of my life
and left them lying, cold and dead.
Until, by chance, you passed my way
and breathed new life upon its ash.
Then phoenix like it rose anew
and blossoms now in children and in you.
A couple of Haiku
Autumn has arrived
Swallows fly to warmer climes
Soon there will be snow
Eight legs climb the pipe
Soft clouds weeping tears of rain
The journey starts anew.
And finally one for the kids that has never been published before
Aunty Hettie was eating spaghetti
she got it in terrible knots,
the Bolognese sauce dribbled all down her chin
and it covered the carpet in blots.
She tried with a knife, with a fork, with a spoon
she was drove to the edge of despair.
“Oh bother!” said Hettie, “this stupid spaghetti is all tangled up in my hair!”
When aunty Hettie had finished her meal
the room was a terrible mess.
Mum looked at the sauce on the ceiling and walls,
“We’ll take hours with the clean up, I guess.”
The night it wore on as we scrubbed and we scrubbed,
it was late when we all crawled in bed.
So the next time aunt Hettie comes round for a meal she’s getting a pizza instead!