Looking Across The Tay

We have a favourite place in Scotland that overlooks the River Tay, so we often just sit there and watch the water.  The Tay is also known as the ‘Silver’ Tay and it really does shine silver.  It’s a very beautiful river.

Behind where we sit, there is an Old People’s Care Home and the ladies are often sat in their little conservatory.  Although they are old and sometimes fragile, you can still see in them the lovely young women they once were.  That they can see the Tay, too, must be a tremendous pleasure to them.

This is the poem I wrote about that Care Home and the ladies.

             LOOKING ACROSS THE TAY

The swans are out again,
Shimmering on the dark water,
Dipping into the splashes of moonlight
they become moonlight themselves,
Every feather sculpted in light.
Little white snowflake swans
Drifting down the silent river.

Behind us lies the Care Home,
Where glass walls welcome the lovely moon
And one lone bed
With a quilt as red as roses,
Lies empty in a corner.    

The old ladies who live there,
Watching the white and sparkling swans
Sailing on the glittering water,
Dreamily send their pretty, remembered bodies,
Down that golden moonlit path.
Frail little birds
Who soon overtake the swans.

This river and heaven
Must have a lot in common.              

©GWEN GRANT

 

Story Time

I wrote this poem after taking a workshop with children who were writing poems and stories about witches, wizards and things-that- go bump-in-the-night.

I was surprised by how hard line the children’s views were, not only on the use of magic powers, but also on what the ordinary people living in tandem with these often malevolent entities, did in response to them.

The children were very hard line!

                                           STORY TIME

Little children tell stories of things
They know by instinct.
Nothing shocks them.
They know wickedness and knowing it
Both makes and breaks its power.

Little children laugh at those
Who would deny witch and wizard. 

In their stories, the poor man who steals the cows
Has good reason to be out in the dark night.
‘The man needs the cow,’ they reason,
‘Because he has no money
And his children will die without milk to feed them.’

 Smiling,
They lock the old witch under the stairs.
She won’t see the light of day again.
But they allow her cow to burn the poor man’s fingers
And are glad that her punishing spells
Turn his eyes to mud.
                                                             ©gwen grant

 

 

Kiss Kiss

When I first started writing, I didn’t really know what I was doing but, what I did know, was that I loved playing about with words.  That was all I wanted to do, just put them down, play around with them, and see what happened, which was how I first started writing experimental prose.  So experimental, in fact, once a sentence was down, I had no idea where it would lead but I didn’t care.  I just followed the words.  But what I didn’t do was impose a structure or form on these pieces of writing.
At some point, just following the words naturally led on to more structured writing, poems, short stories and longer fiction.  So I would always encourage anyone to just put the words down and see where they lead.  At one point, I bought an old sit-up-and-beg Imperial typewriter which I absolutely loved and which really made me feel a writer!  We paid £15.00 for it. 
Then, the advice always seemed to be to write about what you know but as I got more experienced, what I often did was to start with what I knew and go on from there, as in my  long short story KISS KISS, where I took several grains of truth and built on them.  Here’s an excerpt from that story which was published in an anthology……..

     This is one of the best winters I remember because when I look out of the shop window, I can see the whole street glittering and snow plastered to the sides of the lamp-posts so that they look like Maypoles, only needing a handful of ribbons to finish them off.
      Mr. Grogan came back from delivering the Orders, looks at me, then says, ‘You going out tonight, then?’
     ‘Of course, I’m going out.  It’s Christmas Eve.  I’m going to the Palais.’
     ‘Tut, tut,’ he goes.   ‘Never in, you’re not.  No wonder you were late this morning.’
     But I wasn’t late this morning because I got up with our Joe and walked with him to work.  He starts at half past seven.   It was bitter cold when we got outside but I was sick of lying in bed, watching the clock tick tock tick tock tick tock all night.
    I was glad I’d put my stilettos in my bag because it had just started to snow.  It was so heavy, it was already lying and there was a bit of a wind, so before we’d got to the end of the street, we looked like snowmen.
     That was when Joe said, ‘I’m signing on for the Army.  I’m not waiting to be called up.  I’m fed up of the life here.  There’s got to be more to it than this.’
     I always knew he’d go.
     ‘When are you going to sign on?’ I asked, and he said probably the first week in the New Year.
     ‘Then I’ll be gone by Spring.’
     I want to get away from this town, too, but where my Mam’ll say, ‘Good idea,’ to our Joe.  ‘Get yourself off and learn a trade.’
     To me, she goes, ‘You are not going to Canada, full stop,’ yet he’s only eighteen months older.

ebook Kiss Kiss is available on Kindle and Smashwords.

Here Is The True Glory

Some years ago, a friend of mine painted a picture which I absolutely loved. This painting stayed in my mind’s eye until I finally had to write about it.  The result was the following poem. The painting was a mixture of colours and marks, forms and shapes but with a shining overall beauty that made it into one glorious image.  For me, it captured the loveliness that is all around us.

HERE IS THE TRUE GLORY

Here is the true glory of the world.
Here, in the little fluting birds,
In the first quiet gifts of grass and herbs
Love gave to us.
Here lies the true glory.

If you have never seen it, or seeing it, dismissed it,
Look again.
Let this great carnival of green and gold,
Of sunlight and arched shadow,
Of leaves and trees and branches invite you in
Until you are captivated, seized, submerged and drowned
In the worlds created for us,
As freed by the beauty of the sunflower
As we are set free by the grace of love.

Here, in the sunny alfalfa and rye,
In the corn grass and blue grass,
In the little quaking grass,
Lie our little quaking hearts, stunned, half weeping, half fainting,
Before this certain proof of love’s existence.

Parsley, dill, mint and marjoram,
Sweet herbs foaming like a green sea,
Yellow flowered and sharp scented,
Given to seam the earth with fine roots,
Thin as cotton,
Unbreakable as purpose and meaning,
Sewing and pleating the world together,
Setting an example of love.

From our places, from the minarets and spires,
The domes and spaces of these earthly temples
Wherein we live,
Where what we are is cocooned and opposed to change,
Resolute and unchanging, we resist love.
Yet only through love can we be changed,
To send our voices fluting like birds,
Leaping and rising, soaring up to the giver
Of sweet grasses and herbs.
We leap up!  We leap up!
Knowing what we are
But wanting what we could be.
Giver of herbs and grasses, make us what we should be.

©  GWEN GRANT.

 

 

My Library Home

One of my earliest memories is of going to the Library.  The Librarians then were very strict and wouldn’t allow you in until they had checked that your hands were clean.  I didn’t care.  I just wanted to get in amongst those books and read and read and read.  This Library has now closed and a new one built in its place.  The new one is fine but it doesn’t smell of floor polish, or lines of wooden shelves and, most importantly, it doesn’t smell of books. 

Every library I’ve ever visited is clear in my memory but I especially remember the New York Library; a) because it was so beautiful, it took my breath away and b) because, in the book sale there, I bought two volumes which have taken their place on my shelves of best-loved books.

One book was ‘Letters of Arnold Bennett – Volume 2 – 1889-1915’ and the other was ‘Letters of Arnold Bennett – Volume 3 – 1916-1931.’  Bennett was a writer I really admired and still do.

I also love the stamped inscription on the bottom of the books. ‘The New York Public Library – The Branch Libraries,’ and inside, ‘Withdrawn, for free use in City Cultural and Welfare Institutions.  May be sold for the benefit of the New York Public Library only.’  Long live New York Public Library.

Then there was the one in the city of Dundee, Scotland.  A very small Public Library that was so modest, it hardly took up any room at all but with the same magic inside.  That Library has gone, as well, but I still walk into it in my mind. 

 Libraries always seemed to require that you filled in forms and produced a copy of your Birth Certificate before they’d let you have a book.  I’d have supplied them with my blood group, shoe size and almost anything else just to get inside and pick up a book, a book, a book, a book.

 

                                                MY LIBRARY HOME 

When they tell me to ‘Attach Birth Certificate here,’
I ask them which one they mean.
The first one that simply affirms I have been born,
Or the real one, where under ‘Place of Birth,’
I have written ‘Library.’

For it was amongst these book-lined shelves
I was born to an awareness and understanding
Of what men and women, girls and boys get up to,
Plus all those other things we’re told that flesh is heir to.
I took down those books, held them, read them
And loved them so much, I hugged them.

I read about everything.
Love and hate, life and death, war and peace,
Joy and sorrow, crime and punishment.
I read about mountains, valleys, deserts, cities and jungles,
And how man was just a pinprick of light
In a vast darkness.
Or, maybe, a pinprick of darkness
In an ocean of light.

I learnt about creatures that walk, talk, crawl, creep, swim and fly
And how a sudden, surprising spark of affection
Can be a connection between them and us,
Us and them.

Which was why, under ‘Nationality’ where it said,
‘Tick any one of the countries that follow from A to Z,’
I ticked them all instead.
For I am every colour and race, creed, dogma and faith.
Is that hard?
Not when you’ve got a Library card.

So that’s my real home, for me and generations before me,
For together we speak for all those yet to come,
Who need us to succour them, love them, encourage them,
build them and fill them, and shine ‘em up,
As they find their place in their Library home. 

                                                copyright © GWEN GRANT