Every year on Armistice Day, the 11th day of November, at the eleventh hour, we remember all those who have died or been hurt in war. We remember, too, all those who have been caught up in violence, who have trembled with pain, wept with sorrow and grieved for the pain and loss of those they love. The poppy is the symbol of remembrance.
Lately, poppies are in the fields, Beaming amongst the yellow corn, Smiling in the tall tangle Of wayward grasses and nubs of moody ragwort In the hedgerows. Careless, it seems, of the close threat Of the dark, the bitter nettle, Crowding their calm loveliness.
When rain comes, the nettle rejoices As those lovely heads are beaten into the dust. For a while, all seems lost, Until they rise again. Their scarlet pennants trembling In the powerful forces ranged against them. Trembling, yet standing firm.
Frail and beautiful, their petals A flick of red on the painted air. Beautiful and frail, as are all who stand guard Against the nettled strength waiting its chance To crush that which is fragile.
Yet the nettle has always misjudged the poppy, Seeing only its frailty, Blind to its endurance. And this world is full of poppies Shining their bright and lovely defiance Into every place where darkness seeks dominion, Their crimson glory forever seeding the earth with hope.
Blue stars in the garden, Touched by the slender light of an icy moon Trying to contain the storm Throwing itself into a tantrum, Breaking all it touched. Spitefully turning the ruffled cornflowers Into tiny blue rags Pressed against earth’s vast darkness.
Howlin’ Wolf roared his blue despair Into the emptiness he knew lay waiting Behind the beauty of his own rich singing. Set on making a cool and glorious stream of melody To challenge and defeat that darkness. Make it jump for joy.
The Bluesman adding his song To the precise and perfect loveliness Of Lawrence telling of his own blue Bavarian gentian In the frosty month of September, Its blue light leading him only into darkness, Into emptiness, Where Persephone was called back for ever And Lawrence called for love.
Yet the Bluesman never stopped singing, Filling that emptiness with the soul of man. Bringing light to the darkness. And Lawrence kept his pen firmly in his fingers, Adding his song of blue gentians Flowering in the month of September To the eternal battle of hope over despair.
Late one evening, we were heading North and we came upon this little neglected wood at the side of the very quiet road we were travelling on. In all the darkness around us, this wood suddenly shone out.
IN A DARK WOOD
I saw the light of heaven today In a dark wood that ran alongside An old road leading nowhere. It was around that hour When the last flare of sun has gone, So that only darkness was expected. Darkness, frost and a few delicate, Bitter drifts of snow Butting up against the lost leaves.
Yet, rounding the corner, That golden light took me by surprise, For it set the whole wood shining. Turning the dot-dash-dazzle Of snowdrops and the yellow celandine Into a quilted splendor. The tall candles of frosty trees Lighting all the little pathways.
This is the amazing thing, This pure loveliness is all for us, A winter gift of love. But the grace of love has always been To bring light to a darkness That would otherwise engulf us.