Pea pods and pea straws And fields of green oceans As far as the eye can see, And busy little children Building pea-straw houses Or getting lost in the green fields As their mothers pull peas.
They were all told To keep away from the small river Where the Kingfisher flew, Enchanting those who saw The blue blur, blue on blue. Tempting one child or another To slide into the water.
Languorous now, the afternoon wears on, The sun emptying those green oceans, The red tractor silent As little children are found and woken. Bags weighed, Coins counted one by one Into green-dirty hands, Ready for the waiting corner-shop man.
Time to climb onto the lorry. Time to go home.
Everything will have changed In the year that is yet to come, But the fields will still be full Of quiet green oceans bringing hope Of a new harvest.
Some years ago, I wrote a Christmas Play. One of the parts was taken by my good friend, Irene, who had a wonderful singing voice, so that when she sang, there was breathless silence. This is the poem I wrote about Irene and her Christmas carol.
WHEN IRENE SANG HER SOLO
Our choir is so good Angels come down to listen to them. Those angels think I can’t see them, But I see them, Dancing on the head of a pin, Lolling on the piano, Or perching poker-backed on the tops of chairs Where people are already sat listening. They are very fond of songs where angels appear And especially liked it that time When Irene sang her solo, ‘Angels from the realms of glory.’ The angels liked that so much The tips of their wings were quivering. But when our choir sings about the Lord, Those angels join in. They think I can’t hear them, But I hear them. ‘O Lord my God,’ our choir sings, And the angels singing with them kneel down, Their wings all spread around the singers as they sing, Together filling this whole place with such tenderness I bow my head and cannot look at them again Until the singing ends. The angels have all gone home by then. ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo!’ AMEN.
There is no scent of roses here As there was in that quiet Cathedral, No flowers at all. Only the drunks hiccupping home, singing, Laughing at the grey and hungry water Hissing right up to the sea wall, All frosted and glittering.
Bitter sleet whips their cold faces, Whitens their hair, Whitens the streets around them, Warning of a coldness that could kill them.
But these men and women staggering Down the frozen pavements Are reluctant to go home, Reluctant to leave the fun, Laughing at this little bit of wild ocean, Dancing in and out of the sizzling spray Of wild waves and grasping water.
Drunks boozily loving each other, Singing without thinking, Knowing the words of songs learnt in childhood. Not seeing that the creeping white horses Hushing up the slippery pavements Are out to get them, fling them on their backs And gallop away with no-one noticing.
Drunk or sober, life is for the living. Just keep away from the water.
This poem is one of a series of poems I wrote about several paintings done by a friend. Poems and paintings went on exhibition at Southwell Minster.
THE ARTIST AND HER FISH
Fling the wide river of life right around the world. Fling it round. Fill it with coral and weed, Whales and whelks and beautiful fish, Fill it with mollusc and minnows and those pearly pink shells You can hear the sound of the sea in. Spill it onto the land. Spill it over, Swooning and singing with the voices of angels, Or the roar of a giant, Or the steady murmuring lisp of a baby falling asleep. Fill it full. Be bountiful. Crab. Lobster. Cockles. Flat fish. Round fish. Jelly fish. Fish with square noses. Sword fish. Dog fish. Cod fish And my beautiful yellow fish. Let them swim In the wide river of life flung around the world.