That day in Lincoln Cathedral,
The scent of roses in the air so strong,
I thought there must be some pretty dame
With high heels and posh perfume around.
But there was no-one,
Only me and God and the great circular window
Full of coloured glass, glinting down at us.
It was all so stern, so forbidding,
So ‘in your face’ with the grey stone,
The slabs of walls and hard stone benches,
The weary pavements where thousand year old
Shadows of monks still lapped
Remorselessly up and down.
This house is grey, great slabs of greyness,
With great roofs pressing down
Even as they soared into emptiness,
Undercutting the power structure of witless men
Determined to impress God,
Maybe, with a small nudge to eternity,
Secure a place on that heavenly panel.
Here some warning hand has put an Imp,
But no number of Imps or poker-faced priests,
Or high-hatted, rich robed fleshy monuments to the past
Can distract us from the petal of a fallen flower
Lying scarlet on the stone cold floor,
Pulsing with a life far beyond us.
Love steadies the candle flames
Of small lanterns shining through the hazy darkness
Of a great Cathedral.
Illuminating that which cannot be seen,
Giving glory to that which cannot be touched,
The unspoken harmony of prayer
Enfolding God and us and Love.
© 2019 Gwen Grant
This is a house of ghosts,
Moonlight painting their shadows on the walls.
That one, just above the picture rail
Eats spiders; blows moths out of windows.
The other one lounges on top of the skirting board,
Playing a long game of patience,
Totting up my birthdays,
Sending mean, sidelong glances, warning me
Not to knock the wood with the heel of my shoe,
Otherwise, what birthdays I have left, will all come together.
Sometimes, these shadows go too far,
Peering round the doors of whichever room I am in.
Curious to see what I am doing,
Keeping an eye on me,
Their narrow yellow eyes gleeful when they catch me
planning a future.
I don’t know who these shadows are.
If only I knew their names
I could gather them all together,
Push them into the late-flowering dahlias,
And lock the door behind them.
For as long as they are here,
They are impatient for me to join them.
© 2019 Gwen Grant
Bitter winter, I exult in you.
You are my gift, my shroud, my winding sheet,
My creative death,
Pausing me in a frozen still-life
So that other life can break in,
Changing still-life to full life.
Lovely, lovely winter,
With all your subtle colour,
Your peerless blues and high violets flushing
Your avalanche of lemon light and tender light
Makes me shake and shiver,
Shaking loose the hidden smoulder
Of scarlet tipped berries burning through darkness.
Those bonfires of memory reminding us
Of the steady scintillation of our hearts.
How I love your cold breath
Blowing me always into a new passion.
Blow, winter winds!
Blow your bitter chills until the sky dances,
The sea rages
And all the plump little mermaids
Leap to the surface of the holy water.
Mermaids who laugh at the scunning ships,
At the flag-sailed ships of myth and story,
Bringing us cargoes of dreams and coral and lost sea-horses,
All touched with glory.
Look at the beauty of winter.
Look at the white peacocks flirting with the frosty hoar.
Look at the dark clouds racing darkly over the water
Towards the great-beaked swan
Who pecks gold from the tight-skeined air.
© 2019 GWEN GRANT
THERE’S ALWAYS TOMORROW
That long dirty road
Washed by rain,
Shines now in the lamplight.
Running down each side,
Are stubborn in their silence,
Pitiless in their blankness.
No-one is out tonight,
No footsteps echoing through the quiet air,
Just lonely eyes
Looking through bare and dusty windows,
Wishing someone would walk by.
Perhaps even turn in at the gate.
Step inside for a chat and a cup of coffee.
But that never happens.
The kettle stays cold,
The biscuits put back
In the tin.
And the china cup and saucer
With the little silver spoon,
Carefully replaced in the cupboard.
Tonight the armchair
Pulled up to the fire
There’s always tomorrow.
©2019 Gwen Grant
Aconites shower colour onto the grass,
Their gleaming petals lying gold
Against the faded silver of petals past.
Bright as summer, they blossom.
Bright as false promises of a brilliant future.
At the bottom of the fields, the stream
Leaps like a lamb over brown stones
Lying on the river bed.
It’s here that in the dusk,
The bats play Tag in the scented air
And through this clear water,
Fish flirt with the rising moon.
This is middle England.
A land of spell and myth,
Where corn fields roll over roads,
Fly up hills
And plunge reckless to the valley.
Within memory of men around here,
Within memory of women’s hands
Beating coal dust out of clothing,
Pitheads were sewn into this land,
Tall pit wheels standing
Like slivers of jet in the land around them.
Lovely ships anchored to a soft horizon,
Floating over tree tops.
Now these ships of the earth’s core
Their blackened docks,
Their ugly quaysides destroyed.
They were majestic,
Like the Queens of the ocean,
Lit from stem to stern with pinpoints
Will it all go?
Aconites, river, hill and valley.
We weep for what has already gone.
Let the trees stay,
Let those old forest remnants
Give bone to the earth,
Joining bone to loved bone.
© 2019 Gwen Grant