One of my favourite things is walking. I used to walk a lot at night, loving the darkness and the way the world changed in the fields and hedgerows, the way the flowers stood out like small moons. This was an encounter with a poacher. They were such silent and still men, stiller even than the trees and when they heard anyone coming, it was as if they turned to wood themselves, frightening you out of your wits when you spotted them.
That night, when I was out, Walking the frozen fields, He was the only stranger, The Poacher. Standing still as a death stone Under the oak tree, Switching on his head lamp Only when I was past.
Blinding me and the rabbit, Blinding me and the hare.
And I wondered if this was the time Me and the pheasant, The rabbit and the fox Would all lie down together, All freeze and die together In the white and frosted furrows, To lie there forever. For ever and for ever.
For I had seen the Poacher, By dint of old and wicked country magic Of Deadly Nightshade and Henbane, Leap into the sky above us. His head lamp shining away Every shadow that would save us.
Writers are always certain Those they write about Don’t know what has been done to them, Don’t know and wouldn’t care If they did.
The writers are wrong.
Those captured people, Old ghosts returned, Some happy, some furious, Have a deadly understanding Of what the writer is about.
Lifting their voices in complaint, Shaking writers’ cold shoulders, Awakening them from stolen dreams When they should have been sleeping, ‘Leave the dreams alone, pal,’ They know. And one day They are going to come back To haunt them.
Serve those writers right! Capturing people’s souls without permission. Caught for ever in a remorseless Circle of bad and good. Caught for ever in a circle of helpless love.
This was my father’s garden, too many years ago to count and yet, the memory of it is as sharp as if I had seen it yesterday. My father loved carnations. Carnations and chrysanthemums, the great, shaggy headed, curled-over petalled flowers, which were almost glints of architecture in amongst the more gentle flowers.
THE SCENT OF CLOVES
The garden was full of carnations Standing in elegant rows like delicate soldiers, Or curling up together In friendly circles, Their silvery green leaves Supporting each other.
That spicy sharpness of cloves, That remembered scent of carnations Filled the air, Making me dream of other lives Lived by fabulous people, Which, one day, I would discover for myself.
But I never did. For my own life elbowed those dreams Out of the way And gave me carnations.
These old, cold meeting rooms and deserted chapels are derelict now. Hiding behind weeds and raw, self-set trees, Just waiting for someone to come along and buy them. Turn them into flats or offices. Not nearly as much fun as a gaggle of people Singing those great old hymns and songs That solaced and supported whole generations. Those dauntless songs and psalmodies that made the white opaque lampshades, Wide and lovely as floating tents, tremble and sway on the wings of melody. Now, a lullaby, now a trumpet call of men marching to destruction Or to share in the lonely and terrible deaths of others.
Here is the tiny kitchen, with the battered aluminium kettle Rattling against the rusted taps, Waiting to fill the giant teapots for throats dry after all that singing.
There is the strip of linoleum, torn and dirty on the worn out floor Still showing its faint brown pattern. A skirt of torn cotton hanging from a broken wire No longer hides the clean cups and saucers In the deep wooden cupboard, nor protects the plates, big and small, Stamped with the name of this once much-loved place. All gone, except a broken fragment of pot with a few faint words remaining.
Standing amongst the cobwebs, the torn pages of old music Almost playing themselves in the dusty silence, I hum an old remembered song of such power and beauty, All the lost dead and all the forgotten living Ring out their strong and lovely voices in joyful chorus. Sharing this last remembrance before it is gone for ever.