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.
All these years, we have lived With lies as light as thistledown In our minds. Memories of those times We broke with love Bringing a sad remembrance. Turning sunshine to frost In an instant.
These are the memories We want to polish up. The ones that make us sad, Uncomfortable, uneasy. Make them more forgiving, Sweeter, perhaps, As if they had never happened In the way we remember.
But we know enough to understand No good ever came Of turning memories into lies, No matter how much We may want to lie or be lied to.
In that dark time, then, When we can no longer find Forgiveness in ourselves, When thistledown lies Weigh heavy upon us, Offer them up.
Offer up those memories, Just as they are. Offer up those times We have not loved. Offer them all up, Trusting and safe in our trust That Love itself Will take each sorry heart, Turn bitter frost to sunshine.