A Car Crash

No spectator he,

caught by the catastrophe of clashing metal

set out before him.

Not even a watcher,

certainly no observer as his mind looked elsewhere.

Oddly, more a seer as he realised

he was fated

to be a witness.

 

Response to a prompt of ‘Spectator’ at local writers’ group.

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Sir Alec Guinness

The grown-ups are dying

Not the old people but

The men and women that make the world,

That see how it is and

Walk through it confident

And with a kind of stability.
They wear suits, quiet ties

Strong sensible shoes and

Functional spectacles. Their passion

Is private, and quietly

Modulated by experience.

They have learned to respect

The triumphs of daily

Endurance and imagination.

 

His gentle voice combines

Sadness with soft smiles, and

Provides a resting place for we who

Have not been reconciled

With ourselves and our worth.
He is not trying to change the world,

But observes, listens, seeks

To learn a craft, offers

A truth wryly, accurate and sharp.

The Tower Block Years

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I wrote this about two weeks before Grenfell Tower went up in flames. I therefore hesitated to post it once that tragedy had happened – it made this seem somewhat crass.

This sense of tower blocks as a blight is it would seem a singularly English way of seeing? It is of course a projection of all that middle class guilt that we love – truth is always more complex.

They appeared across the valley

As I emerged from my foundations;

All breeze block, rough edged

Rutted with channels,

Unsheltered from the elements.

 

They were full of promise,

Of aspiration as they stared

Down the graves where industry

Decayed into wasteland.

They were rising to touch the sky

As if the city raised its arms

In ecstatic communion.

 

What terror this pointer to the heavens

Brings down – an electrical

Storm of ambition

Flashing dreams of mastery

To the impotent; festering

putrid neglect amongst the poor;

Scorning the simple virtues,

The gentle loving of humility,

The saintly courage of doubt.

 

 

And they still stride the brow

Of city hills, hiding

Their stinking incontinence

And rootless isolation

Behind their skyward gaze.

A Stroke of Fate

In memory of a dear friend cut down by a stroke 3 years ago.

 

Cold blows the wind,

Cutting the warm flow of life

Careless of surgical exactitude;

Callous companion to calamity

Content to dig deep crevasses

Across carefully nurtured lives.

 

 

The shattered face is on its own,

Left to smile or yawn unsheltered;

It can only watch helpless or sleep,

At the mercy of kindness or neglect.

 

 

It is hard to know

Whether dazed confusion,

Bemused distraction or some

Secret acuteness of observation

Is more to be desired. Her crooked smile

Spoke to the innocent charity that

Was the hallmark of her health, but perhaps

She was just waiting for us to go,

Waiting to rest from the griefs of her life?

Resurrection

What kind of fairy tale is this?
A happy ending, all pain soothed,
the cries of the mob a memory?
I think not. After all, the wounds
were not healed, were worn like a name badge.

They cut into the quivering souls
that slashed their righteous way
across time’s miseries.
They suppurate in the babbling
cults of the vengeful wealthy.
They daub their watery trail
in shamed innocence thrown
to the wolves of guilt.

Why do we not see?
It was doubt that sprang to life
that Easter morning, human loving
Doubt, the fresh spring of discovery

On being unembarrassed

 

She came bustling into view as I looked

Out on to the grey morning. A lady

Of advancing years, her face contorted

From anything recognizable as

Beauty. I thought it must be the cold wind

That blew her ageing bones and wrinkled flesh

Into a flustered unselfconsciousness.

 

She needed help to write a cheque. At first

I did not see how strange this was; she spoke

As if it were the most natural thing.

“You’ve got your dinner on it” – but she said

She had not eaten yet. Instructions giv’n,

She left, treated I realized as if

A young child, and yet the faint residue

Of adulthood still hung around her speech.

 

This was an incident involving a lady who has since passed away, but was then sinking into dementia.

Aran Fawddy

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We stand, boot shod, dampened

By mists, winds chilling our faces,

The climb to come is held

In a cloud of the unknown,

Both softened and stretched

In our imagination.

 

The height of ambition

Is of no matter. Only the direction

And certainty of the next footstep

Through mud; sheep droppings

As our pathway, streams of water as our road.

 

The ribbon path rises

Enforcing solitude through its narrow

Minded singleness of purpose

And view. It is not the climb

That wearies, but the valley’s changeless

Tones cushioned in cloud.

 

The land opens up, marsh

Not green and not brown, platform to no view

Save a real climb into shadow

In a dank coat of not-grey.

The strain is a relief, the effort

An assurance of progress.

 

Until we arrive, not

At the summit whose cairn, cold and befogged

Is dwarfed by the lower

Monument that stands erect

Over the valley, given a new

Presence by the mystery of life’s passing.

 

Later the memorial

Points us away from the shroud

To emerging green hues, sun shadows,

And at the mountain foot

Vivid oranges and yellows, Autumn

Beauty still in the tomb’s sightline.

 

November 2004