Category Archives: Poems

Matthew’s Tale

For heaven’s sake – it was ages ago –
Those troublesome years before I was born.
I wasn’t here when the cosmos was torn,
And the holy of holies was birthed.
But of course I recall the day he stood
In front of my desk in Capernaum
As I tallied my taxes and smirked.
And he looked straight through me and understood
The contempt of my kindred, and scorn.
Then my home was suddenly filled with feasts,
With food and wine for our bankrupt hearts
And loving forgiveness and laughter.

So I must tell you – you who come after –
I took up my pen and papyrus reeds,
Collected the fragments, asked around
For memories garnered from everyone.
(I’ll leave the angels and shepherds to Luke!)
His risky remarks and life-in-death deeds,
His evocative stories – so artless, profound,
Other-worldly and earthy in one.
He could argue his case and cock a snook,
This unknown upstart from Bethlehem!
But noble, you know, of a Royal Line,
A Jew among Jews, well-read and refined,
And quite indisputably one of them!

But I want you to know – you who come after,
These strangers arrived from the mystic East,
With their lavish gifts and outlandish names,
With their gaudy dress and eccentric beasts,
Their noisy entrance, their rumpus and fuss
And bizarre astronomical claims;
But for heaven’s sake, it was clear from the start
That this was epiphany, this was the Christ –
And this child was born to be one of us.

Helen

There she stood at my garden gate,
Tall and slim with a sassy grin!
I’ve come to sit in the sun, she said
As she flat-footed her angled feet
between her hospital sticks to tread
adroitly among the daffodil bulbs,
(harbingers of a future spring) –
Negotiating the rutted curbs
of the paving slabs, to the seat.

A mug of tea? she said again,
enfolding bandaged-fingered stumps
around that universal brew.
We talked of things that mattered much,
Our mutual respect for learning,
Of students, theses, grants, and such;
And, yes, of muscle waste and pain,
The need to map her life anew,
And tap her feet to a distant strain.

Unexpected in every way,
Uninvited but oh so sought.
A miracle of skill and grit,
Adversity and suffering, fought
With boundless hope and yearning.
And I thought back to that sunny day
In the church of St Peter in Chains:
Bidden to think of a friend in need
I lit a candle to pray.

A new pair of boots at your age?

I abandoned my boots at Barmouth!
Well, I’d bought them for Hadrian’s wall;
And they’d seen me walk with Coleridge,
Through Dorset and Devon an’ all;
Along the river from Ilkely,
Across the Pennines at Dent,
And up and down like Everest
With thousands of feet of ascent.

My rucksack was dumped in New Street
(A tip-off you’ll have to agree!)
As we walked through Aberystwyth
And down to the infinite sea.
It had carried my waterproof trousers,
A bookshelf of maps and guides,
A medicine chest for disaster
And various utensils besides.

So, on Monday I went to Tiso’s
Aware, if you’ll pardon the pun,
Of being considerably over the hill,
On my last legs when all’s said and done!
But the path still winds through the uplands
As quiet as a whispered prayer;
And I’ve got me a map of heaven,
And a signpost to lead me there!

On the Coleridge way

Bliss was it on that Way to be alive
But to be old was very heaven.
The troublous times of life have slithered past,
The hectic turmoil, diary-driven hours
Have slipped away into the memory,
Not with resentment, yearning nor regret
But reminisced with dignity and pride,
Delight in life’s achievements and with joy.
But that was then and this is gentle now.

And here is time to wander off the track,
To slumber in the heather, watch the clouds’
Fantastic shapes; gather black-juiced berries,
Identify wild flowers and search the moors
For windchats, warblers, kestrels, linnets, snipe.
No competition to exceed the miles,
No pressure to outdo the ETA,
Just time to dawdle, comment and explore,
Just time for ice-cream cones and Devon teas.

And here is time to read again at ease
The once remembered verse of Xanadu,
The Ancient Mariner and Christabel.
Not studied for an essay or exam
But browsed again as fancy pleases
Above Ash Farm, within the pub, stretched out
Beside the river or the reminiscent fields.
To walk the way of those who weave with words
And fall in love with poetry again.

I’m chapel really!

Center map

I’m chapel really!
Four timeless walls
Battered by the wind.
A bell, the call to worship,
Cwm Rhondda and Blaenwern.
King James’ version
on the eagle’s wings.
Pews burnished with rumps
of modest worshippers.
A pulpit with a tester,
The font a hollowed stone;
A coffin trestle and
A field for burial,
And through plain glass
God’s handiwork.

Of course I like a choir
Rich purpled glass
and charming kneelers;
‘The Message’ read
in modulated tones
and faith decoded for
the Guardian-reading
Waitrose-shopping
laissez-faire.
But I’m chapel really.

Camino

Of course, we found God by accident.
Not in the seas’ eternity
or the omnipresent sand;
Not in the majesty of mountains
or the baptism of streams;
Not even in the wind, though that
is Biblically sound;
and not in the tiniest flower,
Transplanted from the sermon on the mount,
Nor in the Psalmists’ cattle on a thousand hills.
No.
We found God when, going to the loo –
That most crude of human functions,
half-way up ‘The Rivals’,
There it was on the post.
A pilgrim not like us but yet like us,
Travelling with a purpose.
With God.

The Shepherd

It’s hard graft, shepherding,
Solitary like, and often desolate.

You’re always brooding, mulling over
Where to find pasture or refuge;
How to keep the wolf from the fold.
Preoccupied with options, tempted
To play safe; dreaming of clout.

No-one thinks much of you sleeping
With the flock; sordid they say, thirsty,
Hungry – and not just for food;
Only the clothes you stand up in.

And you need courage: the hills are full
Of rogues and bandits – those who don’t think much
Of what you do and what you say and who you are.
Some of them – the ‘powers that be’
They’d kill you without a second thought.

The good sheep, they look to me for the route –
They want a crutch ‘A moral compass’ they cry,
But I have only my integrity – the ‘I am’ of old.

And there are always those who
Blame me when they’re lost;
Argue it’s all my fault when things go wrong,
Assume the world is kind to sheep!

But I do love them – all.
I’d lay down my life for them.
Bit like the other Shepherd I suppose.

Christmas Oak

Oh dear
The muse has flown!
The Christmas verse so kindly meant
has went!
Ma heid just birls and twirls and whirls,
I’ve nothing canny, shrewd or smart
Of Clinton Trumped or Brexit won
to impart;
And (just for now!)
I’m lost for words
and woebegone.

And all I have to send to you –
one crow and Santa owl
Tu-whit tu-whoo;
A goldfince thrice
and robins four
and bluetits too;
with a cat on a bough
in one accord.
A gilded metaphor.

But if you search,
A golden star
above them all shines bright.
So may it shine
this Christmas time
to bring the world aright;
and be the Maker of the tree
Adored.

 

Christmas card designed by Jane Crowther 2015
Published by Bug Art Ltd, Nottingham, England
Used with permission

Chasing the acorn

CHASING THE ACORN

On stiles, stones and signposts hidden unseen in the hedge
On lamp-posts and paving stones, incised along the edge
of inauspicious pavements – the symbol summons me,
As the white acorn dances by the ever-present sea.

The ox-eyed daisies stare at valerian pinks and reds;
And iridescent bugloss by poppied pastures spreads
Across a glowing landscape of mallow, thyme and thrift
As the grassy seeds scatter in the sun-rays’ drift.

Cliff-hanging peregrines and furtive choughs in the corn,
Yellow-billed kittiwakes wedged on weathered granite slabs;
Cormorants on craggy rocks and gannets storm-wind borne,
Turnstones turning stones and wading curlews crunching crabs.

Softly-trodden paths wend through beech and silver-birches;
Fishing boats on sandy shores with upturned rusting keels;
Bollard-stumped harbour walls, coiled chains and lobster creels,
And needlepoint kneelers within bell-towered Saxon churches.

Through kissing gates and wicket gates across a five-barred fence,
Finger-posts and white-washed stones – yet they call me hence;
Enticing ever onwards, the symbol summons me
As the white acorn dances by the ever-present sea.

Not all who wander are lost!

We have maps in glorious colours and a compass pointing north;
We have digital equipment and an iPad with the route;
We use satellites and GPS before we sally forth,
And Wiki and the world wide web to help us to compute;
For just because we wander, it doesn’t mean we’re lost!

We meandered down the Calder on a crisp and sunny day
Turning right across the swing-bridge, climbing up the clarty brae;
There were marker posts and arrows and a sign to find our track,
And an information board to tell us where we were on our way back!
For just because we wander, it doesn’t mean we’re lost!

In the summer we had transport for our walk along the Tweed
And as long as it was by our side we could not go astray!
Although we stopped to ponder there was nothing to impede
Our convoluted ramble on the Border Abbeys Way;
For just because we wander, it doesn’t mean we’re lost!

We took the train in Autumn for a walk among the trees,
To a Hermitage and waterfall and Ossian’s old abode;
And we worry not when Arthur carries on along the road
For he’s got a phone to find us  – and everyone agrees
That just because we wander, it doesn’t mean we’re lost!

And for our Christmas saunter when the weather turned out cool
We knew we’d find our footpath because we can read a map!
We knew that ‘Daff ‘did not mean ‘daft’, that ‘Kip’ did not mean ‘nap’
And that Anne would know that Everton is not in Liverpool!
For just because we wander, it doesn’t mean we’re lost!

So down the years we’ve walked God’s earth with friends from every shore,
With Calvinists and Baptists and an atheist or two!
We’ve argued eschatology and politics and more;
And chewed the fat of friendship with companions old and new.
And though through love and duty our path may twist and bend
and by the storms of life we may be buffeted and tossed,
We still have one to guide us, and we know that in the end
That just because we wander, it doesn’t mean we’re lost!