meadow-blessed blue skies

I saw this previously unattributed image on Twitter and fell in love with its abundant, feminine, floral simplicity. I kept on looking at the image in wonder. Slowly a creative erotic vision evolved. I hope my poem almost equals this wonderful painting.

image by CARLOS BONGIOVANNI http://carlosbongiovanni.com/?cat=3

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sun-warmed skin celebrates

urging secreted sap to rise:

idyllic scenes, eyes dilate,

meadow-blessed blue skies.

floral scent triggers desire,

passionate pistel perfume;

two song-birds imitate choir,

butterfly embroidered bedroom.

desire’s memory enhanced,

honey-sweet stamens smell;

Edenic invitation entranced,

blood vessels secretly swell.

romantic garden recollections

dream-released: drowsy, slowly;

colour riot, neural connections:

unzipped hunger, almost holy.

pulsing plough, gently pushing,

seed sown in fertile earth,

skin surface shyly blushing,

filled humid feminine firth.

best wedding wine served last,

much savoured in older age,

in gold our bands were cast:

Maker takes centre stage.

For Heaven’s Sake

On Trinity Sunday, I attended a Church in Wales (Anglican) Communion service with my ninety year old father. There were seven in the congregation. The church sanctuary was somewhat unloved. We capably sang rousing Victorian hymns without organ, choir or recorded accompaniment.

Before the communion, I had been asked to do the reading from Proverbs 8. For some reason, as i read the last few verses i nearly started crying…why would be hard to answer.

Was it the small elderly congregants dogged loyalty, the humble retired bishop leading the service, the presence of my elderly father (and walking stick) – or the engaging words of Proverbs 8….?

____________________________________

St Brynach’s Church, Henry’s Moat, Dyfed, Wales

communion

Purple robed priest blessed bread and wine

last supper imitation, six people dined:

all kneeled at shaky wooden altar rail

supped with saviour, once pinion nailed.

 

Hymns firmly sung without organ or choir,

angels seemed absent, no tongues afire;

empty most pews, cobwebbed and dusty,

little heat lacquered cool church air musty.

 

My father’s fingers followed the phrases

his adventurous life has had many phases;

now needing help to stand for prayers,

God-numbered his grey, significant hair.

 

“I was there when heavens set in place,

before moon was given a reflective face;

when sea was given beach boundary line,

rejoicing world delighted much in mankind…”

 

Liturgical books to entrance table returned,

snuffed candles, timeless truths relearned;

slowly we exited from typical church-scape:

thirty minutes set aside for heaven’s sake.

 

Long grass tickle-fringed Victorian graves,

crooked slate stones, carved hopes brave;

hearts and minds blessed, God is good:

birdsong greeted, bees sucking buds.

____________________________________

Proverbs 8: 23 

I was formed long ages ago,

at the very beginning, when the world came to be.

Ballad of Jack-the-Lad (rescue dog)

it was while working in Carraig Books that I first met Jack-the-Lad. a woman found him lost in the area. she was getting posters made in Blackrock Printers (rear of bookshop). i went outside to say hello to the friendly fellow. my wife and animal-centric son heard about this meeting, then insisted on seeing him. when the woman who rescued Jack heard we shared the same vet (for my son’s pet rats) she said if no one claimed him we could….that was about nine years ago…..

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  • Jack wears a rough, russety coat,
    he sports a dandy corkscrew tail,
    he is a rogue among the rascals,
    he gets a smile without fail.

    Jack’s got funny, furry ears
    they tweak at every sound,
    his damp inquisitive nose
    constantly hoovers the ground

    Jack’s always on the go,
    urgent paws, pitter patter,
    chasing anything: whatever –
    it just doesn’t matter….

    hide and seek behind a hedge,
    tail-wagging, waiting for the throw,
    racing after anything that moves
    – Jack’s brain forgot to grow!

    Most people call him Jack
    but I call him Jack-the-Lad,
    he trots with constant grin
    seldom he looks sad

    Jack loves all the little children
    red, yellow, black or white
    he’ll play with absolutely anyone,
    all are precious in his sight

    Did he run or was he dumped?
    Is someone missing Jack?
    I dare not pursue this question
,
    I cannot hand him back.

    I thank my Maker for Jack-the-Lad
    Jack was last to board the Ark,
    Jack brings special blessing
    his life lights up unwanted dark.

    ___________________________________________

    photo: Dora Kazmierak  https://www.instagram.com/dorakazmierak/

snuggle comfort is what i pine

for a poet, bus travel offers lots of ideas for poems. this poem started off when i found myself sitting behind a pretty passenger. the young woman was restless and kept flicking her pony-tail, which distracted me from my book. i started a word-sketch of her on my phone, which turned into this reverie.

kiss couple love

 

 

i’m upstairs on the bus from town,

I spy tilted head, focussed frown,

she swings her girlish ponytail,

dangling earrings didn’t fail

to draw attention, exquisite ears,

high cheek-boned smile endeared,

ensemble easily commandeered.

 

young beauty easily distracts

but my book is full of facts,

now clip clop heels cause alert,

– is subtle gaze secret flirt?

she descends bus stairs –

casual, early-twenties airs,

middle aged men shouldn’t stare.

 

on the pavement young man scans,

she tenderly tip-toe stands,

her lucky boyfriend smiles,

she kisses him, ardent style,

blond hair in streetlight shines

rapturous faces attempt to align;

such snuggle comfort is what I pine.

___________________________

image: yourtango.com/kissing

Ballad of a cattle dealer, Joe Cunnane Snr.

A few times, on behalf of others, I have tried to capture other people’s grief and sadness in my poems. A new Twitter friend of mine was missing their recently-deceased grandfather, who had taken her to the cattle marts since she was five years old.

Having recently spent 70 days immersed in a rural location, I promised to try and capture her farming / dealer granddad. She gave me a bit of description about him and so I set about trying to capture the essence of who he was. She was very happy with the end result.

cunnane portrait

I’m longtime livestock trader, Joe Cunnane,
I travelled all over, on hedge-blinkered lanes
often in old days, after far flung parish dances,
next day a bit of dealing, if given half a chance.
 
Many a day I travelled, alone to faraway fairs,
absent as a father, sometimes whispered prayers,
my wife very capable, minded family and farm;
God’s angels always hampered possible harm.
 
Some say I’m keen to make a pound or two,
I’ll find good milking cows to richly bless you;
atmospheric marts much loved, they energised,
much-admired animal muscles and equine eyes.
 
Long my grand-daughter now dealer-trained,
unafraid of farm muck, or calf birth-blood stain;
she’ll farm with her father, my first born son,
together developing what I long ago begun.
 
on Saturdays I sup tea, sitting by hearth fire,
tell me the all latest news, of such I’ll never tire:
I keep up to date with many family and friends,
I’ll tell some dealing stories with punchline end.
 
on Sundays I attend Mass, leading hymn-singing,
ninety years now I’ve heard Angelus bell ringing;
I’ve lived a happy life, long-loved in marriage
– my time nearly up, order horse-drawn carriage.
 
horses long loved, when few farmers had tractors,
horses once rural royalty, beautiful benefactors;
let horses lead me on, as I breathe my last breath:
no more ploughs to pull but bless me in my death…

Goodbye, au revoir, slan

i guess the saddest thing any parent has to do is bury a baby. for me the second saddest thing was for the anticipating sibling to have to experience  grief a such an early age…that was incredibly painful.

i wrote an early version of this poem for the funeral of my daughter, Holly I.M. April 1st, 1994.

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  • Oh, Holly! how hard to cradle
    your dark-haired head,
    your limp-dead body,
    in my useless embrace.
    How could I make your anxious
    eyes respond with a baby smile?

    How could I? How could I?

    Your mouth shaped by mute cry.
    Was that athletic kicking a death wrestle?

    Was it? Was it?

    Empty hours passed,
    this coward’s
courage grew,
    I held your cold, light body.
    I stroked your petal-peeling skin.
    Heavy-hearted I kissed
    your crumpled, frowning forehead –

    once …. just once ….

    “Put these tears in Thy bottle.
Are they not in Thy book?”

    Goodbye, goodbye, au revoir, ‘slán’
    –
little daughter briefly met,
    little Lawrence kissed you
    through ballooned belly.
    O How he happily hugged you.

    Broken-hearted, drowning in grief,
    this our last lingering look 
at you,
    in your padded white ark,
    the lid clicks shut, locked tight.
    We hand-tighten stubborn screws
    we almost snap with grief’s strain.

    Little girl, little known except to God.
    How plain, how lonesome
    your small, white coffin looks,
    flowers forgotten,
    O painful pilgrimage;
    hopeful sojourners, we follow you.

    Oh, Holly – our lifetime compressed:
    death & birth in two traumatic weeks …
    we bury you under flowers
    under the Father’s sentinel gaze.

    I envy Jesus carring you now,
    a loved lamb on shepherd-shoulders.
    I want to hear your girlish giggle,
    I ache to see you daintily dance,
    I long to see you created anew.
    I yearn for resurrection.
    Cast open sorrow-graves:

    “When Jesus comes back,
    she’ll be alive.
    Isn’t that right, Daddy?
    Isn’t it….?
    When is Jesus coming back?
    Tomorrow….??”

    ___________________________________________________

    “He will wipe away all tears from their eyes and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All that has gone forever”.
    Rev: 21.4

    A video-short about Holly’s life, as seen by her siblings

Summer pastoral scene in rural Russia

to visit Russia was a long-delayed dream come true for me. i had wanted to visit since the mid 1970s. in 2008 i joined a working group, that was to convert an old shed into dormitories for a Christian retreat centre. one of my jobs was to creosote high walls on a rickety wooden ladder. even though i do not relish heights, i did what i was asked to do. besides, it gave me a panoramic view of the countryside.

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  • Hesitant, I ascend a home-made wooden ladder,
    creosote log gable ends, spy ship-wrecked shacks,
    marooned in overgrown, tidal grassy plots;
    behind imposing metal gates a hidden harvest:
    profuse produce, fruit & vegetables
    jostle sunflowers flowers for space,
    a passionate palette of cultivated colours.
    In a neighbouring garden, trees shade
    benches & tables, people exchange
    Slavic conversations & picnicked lunch.
    Occasional glances tossed in my direction

    Down car-free, rural Russian country lanes
    children safely cycle, racing each other,
    steering around large, rain-filled potholes.
    Will they later wander hungrily homeward,
    push open squeaky, wooden garden gates,
    welcomed by sour scented, freshly baked bread:
    it’s incense blessing the evening air.

    Beds embrace their sun-warmed, weary limbs,
    adventure-exhausted children slumber,
    observed by kindly Byzantine, iconic angels.
    Heavenly hosts ascend, descend lofty ladders,
    sloppily spilling hope from paint-cans,
    scattering hundredfold signs & wonders:
    gold stars blanket dark, yearning skies,
    drab rural poverty brightened, blessed;
    poignant Byzantine chant thunder-rumbles,
    minor-chord melodies scaffold wondrous words:
    “Behold! I am making all things new!”

    ____________________________________________

    Illustration: KatyaZhu.com

scenes from childhood

this poem attempts to capture an horrific drama in my father’s family, on April 6th 1942. it concerns a murder / suicide involving his ill brother and his distressed father.

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  • did you hold his life so lightly,
    him on whom you used to dote?
    you squeezed so terribly tightly
    on that sick child’s small throat.

    what thin thread finally snapped?
    what evil possessed your soul?
    what had your conscience trapped?
    what vortex filled that gaping hole?

    then you tied the slip-knot rope,
    then you hung the heavy anchor,
    now gone all your fragile hope –
    what caused such rancour?

    did you linger before you leapt?
    did any witness your bitter end?
    were any repentant tears wept?
    did you struggle, or calmly descend?

    my Derby pilgrimage a family first,
    shared, worn graver marker small,
    no longer circumstances cursed,
    no tears, no prayers uttered at all.

    a “missing” cousin found soon after,
    reunited, after sixty eight years:
    relief, followed by shared laughter;
    blessed – those inarticulate tears….

    ____________________________

    For sadness as intended by God produces a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret, but worldly sadness brings about death.     2 Corinthians 7:10

    illustration: KatyaZhu.com

    Same poem in video short with multiple images by Katya Zhu and music by Adrian Snell

my mother kindled colour schemes

  • as a child, i remember seeing thirty foot “sample blankets” on the back lawn of our home. my mother would hunker down with large industrial scissors, and choose from the many colours and weave patterns, deciding what the next years colours would be. i almost followed in her textile design footsteps.

    on wall behind my mum is the Georgian-style, poplin wedding dress that she designed for my wife 30 years ago!

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    My mother kindled colour schemes,
    my father wove them into dreams;
    They slept on crates, cooked on turf fires,
    their good fight aimed to aesthetically inspire.

    Driven by young hope & mohair wool,
    both energised, magnetised by the pull
    of colour, that refused to be plain or boring,
    they send my spirit skyward soaring.

    Dreams drawn from wintry mountain snow,
    creamy colored sheep & sacred sunrise glow,
    root-tangled turf & dread-dark skies:
    all observed in awe by hungry eyes.

    Colours don’t curse, they merely bless,
    exuberance is what they best express
    playful palette dreams are never dull;
    teasels tugged, raised soft woven wool.

    Who painted such landscapes for our eyes?
    Who inspired those Donegal tinted dyes?
    What drove my parents to such extremes?
    A kindly Creator pigmented their many dreams.

    _______________________________________

    photo of Joy Elliott: Dora Kazmierak https://www.instagram.com/dorakazmierak/

     

Stop the clocks!

From a few exchanged words, this poet unwittingly created something unexpected and apparently powerful. For the recipient of one of my poems to cry in response was very humbling. After many wilderness years, I slowly started believing in my writing gift.

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Outside my old apartment window
all St Petersburg is smudged with snow,
I have no money – there’s nowhere to go.

College friends soon will come,
temporarily I will forget all glum –
hear my heart and mind happily hum.

I will make my room cosy and nice,
I dust and polish everything once, or twice,
I welcome friends – our spirits splice.

Hiding under a blanket i spread,
we’ll lazily lounge on my welcoming bed,
our loud goth music wakes even the dead.

A canopied universe, exclusively ours:
we make the rules, we hold all powers,
we talk and laugh, we listen for hours.

Drinking warm tea out of shared mugs,
opening souls, exchanging hugs –
who the hell needs drink or drugs.

These my few treasured friends,
these my siblings, i happily pretend;
stop the clocks, may this never end.

____________________________
image: katyzhu.com