Poppies with pride : a poem for 11th November 2020

In Flanders fields the poppies grow, except where vast farms there today have forced the wild flowers to the edges or driven them away.

The war poets tried to make us think of countless deaths and needless agony but novels and films despite their well meant words often exalt what’s merely seen as glory.

Men in and out of armed forces reminisced:  my husband’s father – military police; my grandfather in the British merchant navy; my husband’s uncle in Hitler’s death march east.

My curate father fought fires every night after conducting funerals throughout the day. None of them recalled unusual acts of heroism  or if they did, they did not say.

Three friends have brought up daughters who (sweet children in their early years) are now tank commander, weapons officer, SAS nurse. It seems that as we reaped so shall we plough.

I like to think I am a pacifist but if someone attacked my family I would fight. I know I would not turn the other cheek or go gentle into any vicious night.

And so I honour those who fought and fell. In normal years I wear my poppy with pride, but this time, faced with an unseen enemy I remain poppyless, inside.

Actually, I have bought some poppy earrings from the British Legion online shop. I have them on today and will wear them when I am ‘legally allowed out’ to go to see the optician on Friday.

Covid Dreams (a poem for today)

As the pandemic passes it would seem
Each night and every morning
Before dawn
I step into a vivid world of dream.

Lurid landscapes beckon
With skies bluer than before con trails disappeared.
Vast disasters threaten
With casts of everyone
I’ve ever known.

I cannot call
These nightmares; I am unscathed,
Barely concerned for my own safety through it all.
I watch events unfold,
Never able to warn or aid,
Just seeing the world around me fall apart
In brilliant pieces as if the jeweller’s art
Applied itself to our humanity
Creating necklaces of catastrophe.

Like a horseman of the apocalypse
I assist
At death.
Disease, destruction,
Revolve before my gaze
And those affected
Are my parents (long gone)
Or others from my past,
From days
Before I ever heard of a pandemic,
Before our world
Was suddenly undone,
Before figures of mortality or cases
Filled our news,
Assaulted us with dread,
Never knowing who would, next, be dead.

Try as I might,
Avoiding cheese, coffee, alcohol or blue screens
Late at night,
Reading uplifting books,
Watching heartwarming films,
Still,
Even while my family remains untouched it seems
I am fated to live, each time I sleep,
In Covid dreams.

(Like others, I’ve been having long strange dreams since the pandemic took hold here. So I wrote about them, wondering how many people’s sleep is similarly disrupted.)

A fantasy writer’s lament

(shutterstock – public domain – fractal art/poly dragon – photoshopped)

There’ s a dragon sitting in my head,
not breathing fire unless I refuse
to give him a role in my latest work
or choose
to pretend he’s not in my head at all but just
a figment, imaginèd.

In shadow behind the dragon
a silvery unicorn prances,
slipping in and out of mist,
taking his chances
I’ll add him to the story,
wild and moon-kissed

Hunting (both dragon and unicorn),
seeking friendship, not conquest,
fae creatures try
to convince me they’re wonderful and strange,
not just like every other sentient being
under the sky.

(Magical families and travels
or fantasy love and crime
don’t differ from the mundane kind;
they’re merely more exotic
to observe,
and in my mind.)

They make incessant noise in my head,
these uninvited guests of mine,
chattering day and night.
Sometimes I’d like some peace and quiet,
all for myself, and so…
I write.

A Goblin Sweetheart – poem.

 

One of my online gaming characters was a young goblin who had just left home to seek his fortune – and maybe love. I wrote the poem in response to a call from a fellow player for poems related to our games. He printed it in his newsletter. The goblin’s name is pronounced Vu-ru-zu-vul. (Goblins don’t see the purpose of vowels.) The Cannis Sea was in our gaming world, sadly defunct but still a source of inspiration from time to time. Vrzvl also scribbled a picture of what he thought his sweetheart might look like…

 

Vrzvl’s haiku dream

 

Hair as green as leaves

Tangled like curling spring ferns

Round a grinning face.

 

Eyes as big as moons,

Deep as the dark Cannis Sea,

Full of wild mischief.

 

Teeth as sharp as rocks

In a mouth wide as the sky;

Lips open for me.

 

Arms, thin, taut as wire

And hands like soft twig brushes

Caressing my face.

 

In my dreams you walk.

Where shall I find you in life,

My goblin sweetheart?

 

I have vague intentions, some day, of writing a novel or novella with Vrzvl as one of the characters.

April Thoughts

With apologies to Browning who probably wouldn’t recognise our current weather patterns. I wrote this last week and thought I’d better post it before the forecast weather improvements make nonsense of it!

Cherry trees made an altogether glorious parade
And a magnolia cast a huge upside-down-umbrella shade.
Forsythia was golden.
The violets were out
But the taller trees determined
That Spring was not about.

There were daffodils in the breeze, dancing
While the glossy bluebell leaves were thrusting.
A lilac sprouted leaf buds.
A willow wept yellow-green.
Still the taller trees determined
That Spring had not been seen.

The sycamore was one that made a start
Wearing tight furled leaves to look the part
Though the other woodland giants
Were resolutely bare.
For the taller trees determined
That Spring truly wasn’t there.

The elm-tree boles that might have wished to please
Were all just memories through Dutch disease.
The chaffinches were nesting
(Though not on any orchard bow)
And the taller trees determined
It was too cold for Spring right now.

Magpies chased off last year’s offspring.
Aconites were this month’s bling.
Some ducks were building nests
And the geese honked, full of cheer,
While the taller trees determined
That Spring might just be near.

The branches raised to greet the driving rain
Were uniformly black without a stain
Of green. Beneath them flowers
And birds (and lambs) told all of England how
Despite the taller trees’ determination
It was April now.

The Visitor

Here – have a poem. A cat lives a few doors away from us but visits us frequently. Recently, it snowed. And yes, that’s my house but the photo was taken last time it snowed heavily, not this.

The first day
of heavy snow
there were no prints and the cat
had clearly voted with his paws to stay
at home, warm.
The second day
I heard a tap at the door,
faint, as though gloved,
but I was doing something important
and did not respond.
There might have been more
taps but as I say,
I was busy that day.
The third day the garden was still full
of lumps of white,
car-shaped, pot-shaped, shrub-shaped.
A cat
might have ended as a cat-shaped lump
if he had sat on the doormat or a stump,
but I let him in.
He shook drops of snow
(probably caught from a gate or rail)
around
like a liquid cat-herine wheel
then pushed a damp determined
forehead against my hand
for stroking
or kneading.
When I looked
outside there was a line
of paw prints, from his house
to mine.

March

It didn’t come in like a lamb or a lion.

More like a skittish goat, or a March hare

ready to box for domination.

Or perhaps a polar bear

exploring tentatively

south of the ice cap

but prowling,

not roaring,

quiet to lull

the unsuspecting population.

…………………………………….

Strong gusts

came without warning,

amid snow, frost, hot sun.

Not so much

global warming

as severe change

and a dizzying sense

of doom.

…………………………………..

Spring leapt into action:

cherry blossom, daffodils,

crocus, forsythia

and even, on the south coast

rumours of magnolia

and then

it snowed again.

…………………………………….

It wasn’t friendly snow.

It didn’t fall softly overnight.

The children never got

to build a snowman or sledge

down a slope of white.

It snarled the traffic

(and the flower buds)

then crept away

before anyone could play.

………………………………….

If the lion and the lamb

are absent,

unaccountably diverted or delayed

will the month depart

soft with Easter chicks and rabbit kits

or will

high winds from the north pole

shatter the world apart?

Whatever looms I think

most will be glad when this March

is spent.

………………………………………

Can anyone tell me how to get WordPress to accept line breaks between verses? I have edited and edited until I’m blue in the face and eventually settled for lines of dots. It only behaves like this when it senses poetry!!

On hyacinths opening

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‘Red’

it said

on the plastic label

and I wondered as I set

the basket on the table

what kind of red?

And so I pondered.

 

The red of sunsets,

of robins’ breasts,

of anger

or traffic lights,

of jelly tongue twisters

or sunrises that, warning

shepherds or sailors,

in the morning

are simply red.

 

Scarlet,

hue of pomp and circumstance,

or flagrant

adultery,

of shame

or fame;

a colour with a dual nature,

Is scarlet.

 

Blood

speaks for itself

of injury or death;

of class (though maybe then it’s blue)

of ancestry,

(it may

be used in heraldry),

of diverse things like

fox hunting and the final brush

(though not the coats)

and geraniums,

does blood.

 

Crimson:

royal, yet

colour of shame.

Cheeks, stained,

may be aristocratic

but derided.

It can be literary

contrasted with white.

The very word

echoes with jewels

and depths

and night,

or gorgeous knights

caparisoned

in crimson.

 

Ruby

states gems outright

but lips too,

ready to be kissed,

and apples or plums

ripe

for the picking,

the eating,

the stealing.

It hints of larceny,

deception

and desire,

does ruby.

 

Vermilion

is just a foreign way

to say

red

and can have shades

of ruby

crimson, scarlet

or any other red

unless it’s in a paint tray.

Every meaning we assign

to each of those we attach, too,

to vermilion.

 

For a week

I watered the basket

judiciously

while the buds stayed tight

and green;

no red to be seen,

then the sun must

have reached within

and told

the petals to unfold.

They were not red at all

but deep, deep, deepest pink,

beautiful and scented

but not

(most definitely not)

red.

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Snow

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Small flakes spiralling

Cold on damp melting

The world greying

Houses shiver under wet roofs

Trees drink in great gulps

Cars slow then spring ahead

Lights sparkle or quaver

Sound quavers too

Then stills

 

Sharp flakes needling

Ice on ice driving

The world hurting

Houses flinch beneath metal skies

Trees sway at the assault

Cars spin then skid awry

Lights dance or flicker

Sound flickers too

Then stills

 

Huge flakes smothering

White on black swirling

The world narrowing.

Houses cower behind closed doors

Trees shrivel into deep roots

Cars loom then disappear

Lights fail or waver

Sound wavers too

Then stills

 

White drifts glistening

Quartz on silver shimmering

The world shining

Houses crouch inside warmed walls

Trees display jewelled arms

Cars slide then come to rest

Lights pale and are muted

Sound is muted too

Then stills

 

(The tree is at the bottom of our garden but I took this picture a few winters ago)

Thoughts at sea

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Sometimes

 

When we are out at sea

There are islands,

Rough, ragged, jagged rocks

Ready to lure ships

To be holed and torn.

 

Captain and navigator

Steer a clever course

Between, around, and past

Leaving the siren stones

Behind, folorn.

 

And sometimes

 

There are islands in the air,

Cloud countries

That change and drift and loom,

Now tinged with sunset golds.

Now white, now grey.

 

Passengers hold cameras high,

Hoping to catch

The beauty of the skies,

Imprison it to watch later

On a less spectacular day.

 

And then

 

There are ideas that form,

Skimming over the waves,

Dipping into the foam,

Breathtaking in their immensity,

New born and still blind.

 

I watch them unfolding,

Children of the vast sea,

Space ships of the ocean

Inexorably building green island

Gardens in my mind.