Saturday, 18 June 2016

The day after that man killed Jo Cox

Strange how poetry comes to us sometimes. A friend posted on Facebook a poem full of happy thoughts, incidents in her day.
I wasn't going to write about Jo Cox MP, murdered in her constituency while she was doing her job. But my friend's poem started me off. At times like this, maybe we should all be writing up those happy moments, about our own little lives. It's what we have to give. We will always need poetry to tell us the truth, to give us honest reactions.

I was pleased that the wonderful webzine I am not a silent poet chose to post up my poem. I reproduce it here for the record.

Please go here to see more work by poets that has been inspired by abuse of all kinds:

The day after that man killed Jo Cox

I ate strawberries
for breakfast,
because they were fat
and red
and ready with the sweetness of joy.

I walked to the top of the hill
and saw the sea, grey and cold,
but breathing, below,
all the while
on its incoming tide over endless sands,
rolling always and forever.

I sat on a seat
in the sun
and emptied my mind,
watched the waves --
sheets of steel
rolling on.

I listened to Bach played on guitar,
massive concertos
in six stunning strings.

I spoke to a young woman,
who I had known when she was a girl,
and we talked about her glorious baby,
due soon,
on some happy day.

I bought a new novel,
to read later …
That anticipation
that it is there,
the words waiting,
for me
when I am ready,
this summer.

I picked herbs from the garden –
mint and parsley,
and watched the cat rolling
in the catnip,
quite off her face.

I saw the swallows
scything over the fat meadow,
gathering feed
for their young;

and I thought of life,
this life,
how we
have to keep breathing,
over our own endless sands.

I sent you a text,
on a pretext,
just to make sure
that you were there,
still there.

And I read a poem
on Facebook,
by a friend who said,
we have to do this,
however bad the world is
there is love
and light
and you can't take that away
from us.

And I wrote new poetry,
about love,
because that is
all there is.

Love, love, love …

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Will you bang your head on my wall?

Will you bang your head on my wall?

(in the Rothko Room, Tate Modern, London, January 2016)

Come into my prison,
be my guest,
feel what I know.
Spend time in my darkness

among the colours of my night,
here in my place of shades,
where doors are blocked,
no light comes in,
and everything fades.

Will you bang your head on my wall,
or will you see your way?
Do you think, or do you only stare?
There are bars on the window
to keep you safe, but does that mean

there must be something out there?
Do you dare to dwell in my space,
make it your own?
Why don’t you come in,
bring the horrors that you face?

Your mind can take you anywhere –
through walls, closed windows and doors,
but do stay right here,
among my soft maroons and dim lights.
This haven I made for us all
is the perfect place for those lonely nights.

Why would you want to break out of here,
what do you think you would find?
Will you bang your head on my wall?

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Don't close the doors

Libraries all over the country are under threat of closure, or downscaling.  I was fortunate lately to be asked to read poetry at one of several benefit events for Newport Library in Pembrokeshire, which is being taken over and run by a group of very enthusiastic volunteers in the local community.

This is one of the poems I wrote for the event.
Libraries are not only about books, of course, many in rural areas such as ours are true centres of community.

Don’t close the doors

They are the most important places in town
and all over the country
they are closing them down.
All our tomorrows are behind those doors.
When they close them all forever,
they steal the future that is yours.

Each book is a door to a new world
an opening to imagination.

Trip through unexpected passages,
stumble over fresh ideas,
let stories open the gates
                to places
where you can escape into
                other spaces,

to find creative reflections,
a spur to new ideas,
the spark of further visions,

that show us the paths we need
to heal our divisions,
to begin to make things change.

They are the most important places in town
and all over the country
they are closing them down.

All our tomorrows are behind those doors.
When they close them all forever,
they steal the future that is yours.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Mr President,

I wrote this poem for a reading at the start of March, just before Super Tuesday. I thought, then, that after that day the subject of ‘The Trump’ would no longer be relevant and a poem on these lines would be dead and buried. As we all know, he is still here, still winning, still scaring half the world, so, unfortunately, this poem still has a purpose

The poem was inspired, in part at least, by a portrait of George Washington, the First President of the USA, and designer of the American Constitution.

Mr President,
how proud would you be today
of your great American dream?
How proud would you be
to see your hand of power reaching out,
holding down, blowing up, seeking out,
all in the name of freedom.

Mr President,
you in your fine stockings
and shiny pointed shoes, your long black coat,
such a noble stature,
the great statesman,
let your stern eyes see what you started,
back then, in your greatest hour.

You made the constitution,
you were the first to win its power,
to embody new ideas of liberty.
You made the greatest nation.
Your hand reached out to all the world
to make a new kind of civilisation,
Mr President,

you created the freedom to kill, to torture,
to bomb and maim,
to gas, to napalm, to wage war
on all those you do not understand,
and all who do not accept your dominance,
wherever they may be in whatever foreign land.

You started with the Chicasaw and Choctaw wars.
You took your arms and soldiers to
Mexico and on to south America;
where you imposed your own new laws.
You fought the Spanish and Japanese,
you battled in China, Korea, the Congo and Cuba,
the Middle East, Lebanon, Libya,
Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan,
you fought the Taliban
and Daesh.

You back other regimes in their fight
to keep nations in subjection.
All the rest of the human race
must know its place.

So how is your dream today,
Mr President.
Now that your nation has taken its powers,
to build its great unassailable towers.

Is this what you wanted?
Is it what you imagined?
The freedom to kill, to damage
to do just what you wish?
Is your liberty not a humble dish?

How proud would you be of your vision today
when your American people dream
of giving your freedom and power away
to he whose name I dare not even say.

What would you do today,
Mr President,
with your grand ideas of the American dream?

If you could see the way your successors run wars
how they jump at the chance to thump
some other nation,
or to dump their bombs on hospitals and refugees,
how would you feel?

Would you be moved to make a new deal?