Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Sea

Remaining with Nature, I next turned my attention to that wonderful but often mysterious part of it in my poem The Sea. As you will see, wrapped up in this piece is a figure who has been of central importance to me in my life, my Dad! 

Due to his own vicissitudes growing up in the world, dad sometimes got a bit grumpy about stuff when he was younger, though it is one of those strange mixed blessings for both of us that in supporting me through my illness he softened immeasurably such that he is much more chilled now!

What I wanted to do here was capture that switch and confusion we sometimes feel when anyone (it doesn't have to be a parent, it could be a sibling, friend, colleague even) shows us that different side to their character through getting stressed out, and I felt the sea depicted this very well with its calm, welcoming ripples which could be turned by stormy weather into ferocious tides. 

And so I dedicate this poem to my dad, the man who helped me shape these early poems into that 2004 collection and who has always supported my writing endeavour, who overcame much in his own childhood to provide for, nurture and love his own family...  

Shimmering, glistening, gold and green,

My sea rises and falls.
Harbouring life of an obsolete kind
From the dawn of the world to the end of all time,
Its secrets lie quiet as those crater depths
Which trudge and trench this earth.
Sometimes I walk amongst the rocks,
Breathing the smell of the tide,
And I wander back to a memory of hate
When I failed to explain how I felt.
Then I walk, run, swim to a rope, and holding tight
Let the swell ride beneath me, basking in ease,
No pressure, no strife, no stress, playing games in the surf,
Feeling joy in Nature's gift,
Knowing then that we are the sea, we are water,
A microcosm of our world. We are made of other lands,
Deserts, mountain, dale, but water makes us whole,
Surrounding, underlying, underpinning all we are,
Never leaving, always there, patient, humble, loving,
Slaying drought, scalding fire, ripping through the air,
Our faithful element, our friend in time of need.

How then can this same pal turn and bare its teeth,
Hissing itself into frenzy, shaking itself into wrath,
And unleash with such spiteful force
Primordial powers unmatched across the globe?
I suppose there needs wind,
But how that explains the need for tempestuous rage
Beggars my belief more than the thought that this sea, my sea,
Betrays those who live and work and love it.
Perhaps it seeks revenge, loathing us for spoiling, wasting, ruining its purity,
As the voice of my pedagogue speaks in mind that all the water
In all the world is stained. Yet why in those centuries gone,
Before we knew such filth, when the sea was fresh,
Did it still conspire to wreak havoc with life,
Tossing ships on rocks, freezing men where they bobbed,
Causing wilful destruction and dread?
No friend indeed, but a patriarch, close by bond, civil in course,
Distant and cold at will, letting us know our place, far, far below it,
Though like a child we look up, praise and revere its majesty,
And ambivalence strains our hearts. So tame, so fierce,
So kind, so cruel, my sea, my father sea.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Prayer

The positivity and assurance of Sung Eucharist begin to evaporate here in Prayer, a gentle poem about God, or Love's seeming absence from the world. I am a massive Doubting Thomas in that I strive hard to believe in Love's all-embracing power but often find myself coming from watching the news to wonder how on earth a benevolent deity could allow some people to suffer such hardship. 

My own cross to bear is bipolar disorder, a hideous, insidious illness which attacks every part of the mind in effort to destroy the sufferer. You will see this play out in poems to come but for now I am rather rational in my questioning about Love's presence in our world, throwing in a Nature metaphor which I hope appeals to your senses! 

I love that time of day when Nature goes to sleep,

When the sun dips low and bids a slow farewell
To all that owes it life before the dark;
When that silence, such stillness screams to be heard
And the balance of this world with its shadowy counterpart
Calls us to ourselves, emboldening hearts so meekly mild
To thump aloud the question fraught throughout our conscious souls,
Unanimous straight voicing one and only plea upon our lips:

'Dear God, why don't you show yourself, just once, please, come walk with us,
Prove to us you're not the product of our lonely minds
But the starter of our race who set us all upon our way
The fittest and the best? Tell us what it's like to rule above,
To oversee your mantle of creation,
To live and breathe omniscient in our minds,
To feel the pain we feel as well as all our joy.
Oh Lord, faith is not enough. We need you here, we need you now,
The dark is coming. Please, banish fear, show us you exist.'

Night's pall thickens. The shades come on and I wonder if we'll mirror
Nature's way, given to darkness at our death then reawakened at the dawn
To live another day. That is Her way, let it be ours. Sweet sleep indeed.
Amen.
 
 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Sung Eucharist

I actually wrote this next poem, Sung Eucharist, whilst I was convalescing on the Isle of Wight. I'm following the order of a 2004 (now out of print!) collection which I self-published, and this piece follows on from School in its concentration on the numinous, the spiritual, the religious I suppose. I had battled long and hard with my faith over the last few years and there are poems to come in which I denigrate Christianity completely but for now I still held belief in an ordered, rightful world, proclaiming so with these lines...

Never, never, never will I die.
I will dance upon the wings of angels
And sing of all the lives of kings,
And when God Himself hears my praise
He will come to where the common weal lies,
Where heady wonders seek their space, melodious on the ridge,
Where His folk lie with me in the grave, awaiting peaceful calm,
And memorials remind me of the passing of my friends.

We will go. We will walk inside and pew ourselves in prayer,
Bent in supplication at the Intercession,
Hearing now the Holy Ghost's refrain,
Beseeching He who walks up to the pulpit, 'Hear our prayer'.
We lift our eyes, and hearts come too. God delivers His sermon.
Do you hear? The Lord, the Giver of Life, talks to us,
His aura spreading Love, Hope and Faith throughout our souls.
We are as one. He welcomes us home, offering us fare.
There, by the rail, stands another,
A man whose countenance brings tears of joy to us all.
He bids us come, receive His body and His blood,
Shed once for our forgiveness. We go, we take, we eat, we drink,
No longer in remembrance, but in glory of His presence.

The three become as one, urging us back outside.
We follow, join hands (such strength flows between),
And led by Our Lord we ope the graves of those acedians,
Their inertia, banished by His radiance, Whose brilliance, greatness,
Wonder and light fills this acre with peace.
But wait. What of the noise? One from our number rushes aloft,
And there details such jyous note that the tears return once more.
We raise our heads up high, and walk in time beneath the lich,
Two by two, singing great hymns of praise,
Happy now as we journey on through sacred bowers
To a land blessed far and wide, where abstracts cease to live,
Where good is good is good is good, and heaven's eye is sound.
Everlasting clarity, eternal self-belief,
Never stopping, never wavering from the path of right right right.
This is our home, may we who see it while we live write of it when we die,
We who glimpse its splendour tell all the human race.
It is our duty, now, to climb upon the very highest pinnacle of hope,
And proclaim unto the masses, 'God is love, love God' - that is all
Ye know on earth and all you need to know. Teach it. Learn it. Amen.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

School

What I hoped to capture in yesterday's poem Jailbreak was that tremendous ability we once had as young children to live so in the moment that we forget the entire world around us. The game in the playground, for that present time, is everything to us and our concentration upon it quite wholesome and fulfilling. I don't think we ever have quite the same experience or ability even a stage further into early teenage years or as young adults to be able to simply focus and concentrate on the immediate - do you agree with me (I hope so!)?

I wrote this next poem, School, some years after I left secondary education. I'd enjoyed much of my university life but had also grown torridly unwell and this piece is part of my reflection on how in such short time I had completely forgotten the sureness and stability of my schooldays. One morning, I took a walk from present accommodation, sat on a bench looking over my old school's playing fields, listened to the soft breeze dancing through the leaves on the trees and suddenly felt myself quite dislocated, disembodied, separate from myself... 

If a different world it seem,

Then maybe it be so,
Maybe the self regenerates,
Maybe we'll never know.

Maybe that watching cricket
In the lazy summer sun,
Is like to fast remind us
Of those halcyon days of fun.

The sports hall and the fives courts,
And the tennis courts as well,
Remind us of ten years ago
When time was just a bell.

Bell to move us daily from each class and to the next,
Bell to time us hourly as we studied hard set text,
Bell to bring us into school and then to send us home,
Bell to mark our onward course as we left here to roam.

To roam beyond the playing fields,
To roam the outside wold,
How comforting return from there
Into this welcome fold.

Once more, the sights, the sounds, the smells,
Assail our sense high,
'Tis pity we must soon begone,
Return with drawn out sigh.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Jailbreak

This is a companion blog to my author website which can be viewed over at:


Whichever way you landed here I welcome you to these my complete poems, hoping they may afford you a different perspective on where the tales in William Ottoway's Utopia and other stories sprang from, my mind!

I exclaim because in sailing near to that faculty of mine I'm afraid we enter some pretty choppy waters, for when I was in my late teenage years I grew infirm with serious mental illness which has taken me just over two decades to assimilate and understand fully.

But assimilate it, I have. Understand it, I do. And do you know where it all begins, this madness? Well of course at school, with friends in the playground. This is Jailbreak...


Lunch was cooking, and the smell of tarnished wood made me dizzy.
It was time for jailbreak.
There was laughter, shouting, jeering as we chose the gaoler.
James today. He scowled and skulked, holding onto the four foot fence
Whilst we ran away, cursing us as we trod the gleaming snow underfoot.
I still feel the exhilaration, the anticipation of the chase.
We were excited, scared, but mostly happy. James started after us,
Stealthy mind like a panther stalking its prey -
He moved under the covered way, tracking us then 'Bam!',
He'd set his sights and go angrily, knocking into others playing football,
Talking, fighting. He'd catch someone. They'd head for jail and wait.
One more, they'd do the same, then link hands,
The rest of us would scurry away into the bag room,
Hiding under coats and satchels, dreading to be found.
Soon there'd be five or six held, each joining the last,
Swinging out from jail like the ladder from a helicopter,
And I'd time my move, run, strike, so touching one, free them all.
We'd fly like birds, scattering over the playground,
Holding the tips of thumbs to our noses,
Wiggling our fingers and sticking our tongues out at the screw.
He'd have to start it all again, but this time no build,
Just charging madly, screaming how he'd get us all.
I ran so fast the school yard blurred, and revelling in my speed
I raced right round the bend, away from all the noise of classmates playing,
To the fountain at the base. A draught, two, the water dripping off my chin,
Then I looked up to see James staring. The game was over.

I feigned left, dodged right, and somehow slipped right past, away and back.

My friends were calling, yipping, dancing. I was there, when suddenly

The touch came from behind. James had me. He smiled, and the others

Broke off from the fence. That was it. We skipped in for lunch.