Ash Wednesday

Ash is blowing away on history’s wings.

No more the daily product of fire, swept

Together on bended knee from soot lined

Hearths; Cinders is a figure of folk lore;

Loved ones are gathered to be thrown to air;

Stains and foul odours are no longer purged

By ash; no more does ash shine the silver.

But it still sticks to woeful Wednesday.

Its pall can still douse the pride of lost hearts.

With the embers of vanity painted

On brows, bowed before the unchanging force

Of time, we still hope for transformation

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Cold Front

 

The dampness trickled down my neck
as we walked through the fertile mists.
Midges were dancing by the beck.
Around us gathered all the ghosts
of association lifted
from memory by warm wet winds.
In the undergrowth life shifted
its limbs, stretching fingers to find
the fermented leavings of past
adventures. Around us, the songs
filled the air, the scents of life cast
their spell, until at last, we longed
for purity, abstract, released
from bustle and jostle, all still,
the horizon a single crease
across a blue sky and frosted hill.

Our voices rang clear in the cold
’till we too were chilled to silence,
relieved to let the frost freeze old
obligations, close down the sense
of the unfinished, shadows gone
in the crisp noon of Winter sun.

The Legacy

That blue jug – such a demure

container – “Tea, vicar!”

it cries in its pasty modesty.

It’s cheap, chosen for ‘niceness’,

locked for ever in a colourless

domesticity; no ambition

to step from the suburbs,

to be other than inoffensively useful.

It is what I try to escape from.

But to my daughter it is an heirloom,

a bit of a world where

she knew love and safety;

it connects her.

Wensleydale

Innocent country;

these hills are content in their folds;

the winds play happily

as the rains wash field and stone

inside and out.

 

Grey echoing grey

stone barns meld with mists on cloudy days,

lingering in sympathetic

harmony when sunlit walls

frame quiet trees.

 

Men, lone and silent

brace themselves against the same winds

that lift lapwings in play,

like exuberant butterflies

but chapel clad.

 

Only as daylight

is blown away, do darkening

thoughts gather with the crows, circling

each other like restless fears stung

to life by night.

 

In the black of night,

scavengers gather to clear out

all thoughts of blood and death,

whilst the silver light manicures

all savagery.

 

And always the flow

of streams, dancing to an endless

rhythm of life with youth’s delight,

now hiding, now bursting into song

in growing choirs.

Sorry, Mr Simon…..

 

Where are all those scattered years

scarred and scored with hopes and fears?

Are they hiding in some shuttered hall

trembling, cringing in a yellowing shawl?

In the shadows of a smoky flickering light

where memory might

hear the past’s soft humming.

 

Now I look into the dark,

strain my eyes to see the mark

of how I spent my lost productive days,

cushioned, framed in the romantic haze

of a dream world filled with youthful fiery hope

beyond the scope

of the past’s soft humming.

The Wall

Ahead stands the wall.

Unavoidably there

for no reason.

Blank indifferent unmarked.

The mists of Winter

fall from the skies

with the lethargy of despair.

Only the wall remains,

the wall and the breathing.

Clouds of vapour, bearing

the unmistakable scent

of a life, of the unconsidered,

hang in the air;

a condensation.

And so it comes to this –

the wall and moisture

mysteriously at a moment

in doubt with each other.

Both unseen, unseeable.

Only the shade crawls

through the silence

to reach the wall with a shudder.

But is there music?

Where were you when Kennedy was shot?

Was it hope that died

when rifle shots blasted the promise of youth,

silenced the dreams of perfection?

The radio crackled, the valves flickered.

Heroes were reduced to the banalities of grief

and the leaden prose of eulogy.

 

Now these phantoms ride

in a bubble, thinking strengthened glass proof

against the drunken stupor of destruction.

Cushioned in posts and tweets, the absurd

washes away the vernix of infantile belief

to leave only power as our cold theology.

 

The journey from saviour to villain

remains a short road, well signposted

and heavily trod, a blood stained highway,

a monument to misconceived hopefulness.

 

So these bitter reflections are scattered

across my world’s shrinking horizons.

They are transient litter. They may scar

the view from my window but I am too far

from the place where the earth still breathes

and hope hops from step-stone to step-stone

in the froth of the raging waters.