Every year on the 11th day of November, at the eleventh hour, we remember all those who have died or been physically or mentally injured 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.
© Gwen Grant
This dazzling book of Hundertwasser’s paintings make the greyest world sing. The picture on the book cover is a detail from a painting I love – ‘Wintergeist – Tableau d’hiver – Winterbild – Polyp’ which I’m reliably informed translates into ‘Winter Painting, Giudecca, April 1966’
Here is what Hundertwasser says about straight lines:
‘If a lion is stalking you, or a shark is out to kill you, you are of course in mortal danger. We have lived with these dangers for millions of years. The straight line is a man-made danger. There are so many lines, millions of lines, but only one of them is deadly and that is the straight line drawn with a ruler. The danger of the straight line cannot be compared with the danger of organic lines described by snakes, for instance. The straight line is completely alien to mankind, to life, to all creation.’
I bought this book years ago from a brilliant bookshop in Lincoln, sadly now closed. It’s one of those finds that are a comfort and inspiration for life.
Silent fields, and a bitter night,
And us, trying to keep warm
Under a frozen sky,
The air so cold, a tap
Would shatter it into shards of darkness
To fall around our feet,
And in that star-lit, owl frozen silence,
The hushed dark call carried thinly
Across the still and sleeping fields.
We, so quiet, the red-gold shadow
Of a fox padded by us
All unaware of our waiting,
Its paw pressing the frosted grass
Into dark and hungry prints
Along the path.
Then the silence was broken
By the soft whisper of wind
Drifting snowflakes down the feathered sky,
To quilt the winter ground,
And, somewhere, in that bitter icy world,
Someone offered a word of hope
To someone else.
As long as hope is in the world, then,
We, cold and frozen in our waiting,
Can warm ourselves at the fire of eternal love.
And the earth turns a little longer.
Finding one another on busy
Or waiting in quiet, hidden gardens.
Late as the sun for the dawn.
Swivel blue bent to my windows,
For the silent lips of a sleeping woman.
And kiss my mouth and I awake
The first dying. Sweet and warm,
I come, and pull the air close round us.
I missed you when you were gone.
© Gwen Grant
Awake one night after a demanding day, I was thinking through
events and, at one point, deep in sadness and regret, I realised
I was forgetting all that gives comfort. So that I could remember
those lovely things in future, I wrote this poem.
Another scratchy night,
With the moon hiding and clouds
Covering the stars.
Bitter thoughts bringing bitter tears,
With memory offering no comfort
Maybe there is a loving hand
To hold your hand,
And maybe not.
Maybe you will remember
Those who once loved you,
And maybe you will forget
How loved you once were.
But when memory fails,
When peace slides out of reach
And touch is never going to be the same again,
You will find strength
In the love that shows itself
In the tenderness of anemones,
Bunched in a small bowl,
Standing on a dark windowsill.