Rain

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[View from my kitchen in heavy rain, image from the Author’s collection]

This month’s theme was prompted by the very changeable weather here in the UK. Late June has been more like March and April as a succession of weather fronts with their accompanying storms swept across us. At least the grass is very green and the fruit trees have had a good watering. Looking forward to the plum season in late summer/early autumn! I find rain provokes a thoughtful mood. When the days are hot and muggy, it is wonderful to sit by an open window and listen to the rain lashing down, if we’re lucky, maybe some thunder and lightening to add to the drama. The feeling as the humidity drops and the air freshens is just wonderful. Ironically, as I write this, the Sun has returned from its travels and it’s a lovely day. We’ll start with a poem by Elizabeth Bishop, a famous US poet. This piece is longer than I usually start with but it’s so evocative, I couldn’t resist. Everything I love about rain is contained here:

Song For The Rainy Season

Hidden, oh hidden 
in the high fog 
the house we live in, 
beneath the magnetic rock, 
rain-, rainbow-ridden, 
where blood-black 
bromelias, lichens, 
owls, and the lint 
of the waterfalls cling, 
familiar, unbidden. 

In a dim age 
of water 
the brook sings loud 
from a rib cage 
of giant fern; vapor 
climbs up the thick growth 
effortlessly, turns back, 
holding them both, 
house and rock, 
in a private cloud. 

At night, on the roof, 
blind drops crawl 
and the ordinary brown 
owl gives us proof 
he can count: 
five times–always five– 
he stamps and takes off 
after the fat frogs that, 
shrilling for love, 
clamber and mount. 

House, open house 
to the white dew 
and the milk-white sunrise 
kind to the eyes, 
to membership 
of silver fish, mouse, 
bookworms, 
big moths; with a wall 
for the mildew’s 
ignorant map; 

darkened and tarnished 
by the warm touch 
of the warm breath, 
maculate, cherished; 
rejoice! For a later 
era will differ. 
(O difference that kills 
or intimidates, much 
of all our small shadowy 
life!) Without water 

the great rock will stare 
unmagnetized, bare, 
no longer wearing 
rainbows or rain, 
the forgiving air 
and the high fog gone; 
the owls will move on 
and the several 
waterfalls shrivel 
in the steady sun.

Elizabeth Bishop 1911 – 1979

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[Part of the Neustadt Kunsthofpassage in Dresden, a house that plays music when it rains, image from: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/dresden-music-house-rain/ ]

My own piece is a detail description of the huge relief when a hot, humid, oppressive day finally breaks with a wonderful storm. I’ve always loved the thunder and lightening. The sheer relief as the humidity plummets and the land cools is beyond belief. I love too, the smell when rain hits the ground after a hot day. Like the smell of fresh cut grass, it’s a smell of childhood, a smell of Summer and a smell of happy memory.

Rain

Sky the colour of storm
hot, wet, humid heat;
driving headaches and
a wakeful night, quiltless.
Watching and waiting with
wide open windows for
the gathering blow.

Welcome to the show,
the night show, the light show
as thunder rolls in, the intro
from the Northern quarter.
Clouds building, an oppressive,
impressive, aggressive sight.

The heat rising, to unbearable levels
as a world girdling flash
marks curtain up. The drum roll
of the first number and it begins,
rain, a few, heavy drops
but the rest join in and the torrent starts
such a simple phrase to describe,

Thor’s bathtub, overturned on us,
mere mortals beneath the flood.
Rain now lashing down to bounce back up
almost to the cloudbase as pools
and rivers form before my eyes.
Heat leeched away to the earth
blessed relief, sound and light
played by a colossal hand.

Vision obscured by the sheer volume.
Thunder, marking the beat to the
rain’s rhythm guitar, lash, splash,
crash, washing the world clean.
Beautiful spray on my face,
soothing, cooling, mending the mood
and a final ‘kaboom!’ as the band
moves on. Bringing their gift to
other places. Songs of relief
cast large, in the sea of rain.

Glen Proctor

Audio version:

 

 

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{MIT study, how raindrops clean the atmosphere, from: https://newatlas.com/mit-rain-drops-on-our-atmosphere-aerosol-ozone/39294/#gallery ]

I make no apology for including another wonderful piece by Tu Fu (also known as Du Fu) as the last poem this time. Writing during the Tang dynasty in ancient China, he captures the sheer joy of rainfall so well. This is an excellent translation too, translating poetry must be one of the hardest tasks anyone can face. How do you keep the pace, the rhythm, the form and still translate the words honestly?

Morning Rain

A slight rain comes, bathed in dawn light.
I hear it among treetop leaves before mist
Arrives. Soon it sprinkles the soil and,
Windblown, follows clouds away. Deepened

Colors grace thatch homes for a moment.
Flocks and herds of things wild glisten
Faintly. Then the scent of musk opens across
Half a mountain — and lingers on past noon. 

Tu Fu 712 – 770 ce

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[Early Morning Rain by Phil Chadwick, from: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/2-early-morning-rain-phil-chadwick.html ]

I’ve leave you with part of a tune related to the subject of the blog, name that tune!

 

 

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[Chiang Lee – Going to church in the rain, Wasdale Head (1937), from: http://museologue.com/blow-away-rain-paintings/#! ]

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Guitar

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[George Harrison at Abbey Road studio – Picture from: https://www.shutupandplay.ca/while-my-guitar-gently-weeps-anthology-version–acoustic.html ]

My love affair with the guitar began in the early 1970’s, picking out tunes on my Dad’s Hofner. There were only three strings left on it, but that was enough to learn the notes to Sylvia by Focus! A few years on and a temporary Summer job enabled me to buy my first own guitar, a cheap Gibson Les Paul copy. Plugged into a small, cheap solid-state guitar amp with a separate speaker, I played solo, with others, in pubs and clubs, at school and at friends’ houses. So began a relationship that still thrives today. I’ve moved on to Fender, PRS and Vox but the desire is still the same. The feeling for making music is still there. To create music must be one of the finest gifts humans have received. Sharing that creation with others is even better. As I’ve already talked about my Dad’s old guitar, it’s appropriate to begin with this lovely piece from the american poet and author, James Whitcomb Riley. The thing about old instruments is, they often get better and better with age. I follow this with an audio file of what learning a tune on three strings might sound like!

The Old Guitar

Neglected now is the old guitar
And moldering into decay;
Fretted with many a rift and scar
That the dull dust hides away,
While the spider spins a silver star
In its silent lips to-day.

The keys hold only nerveless strings–
The sinews of brave old airs
Are pulseless now; and the scarf that clings
So closely here declares
A sad regret in its ravelings
And the faded hue it wears.

But the old guitar, with a lenient grace,
Has cherished a smile for me;
And its features hint of a fairer face
That comes with a memory
Of a flower-and-perfume-haunted place
And a moonlit balcony.

Music sweeter than words confess,
Or the minstrel’s powers invent,
Thrilled here once at the light caress
Of the fairy hands that lent
This excuse for the kiss I press
On the dear old instrument.

The rose of pearl with the jeweled stem
Still blooms; and the tiny sets
In the circle all are here; the gem
In the keys, and the silver frets;
But the dainty fingers that danced o’er them–
Alas for the heart’s regrets!–

Alas for the loosened strings to-day,
And the wounds of rift and scar
On a worn old heart, with its roundelay
Enthralled with a stronger bar
That Fate weaves on, through a dull decay
Like that of the old guitar!

James Whitcomb Riley 1849 – 1916

 

 

 

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[Hofner Senator Guitar, 1958 model, previously owned by John Lennon – picture from: https://www.beatlesbible.com/2009/07/02/john-lennon-hofner-senator-guitar-auction/ ]

My own piece this time arose from using online lessons to improve my skills. I think if YouTube and the like had been around when I was young, I would be a much better guitarist now! Then again, I may have been too lazy and impatient to take advantage of the wealth of learning available now. I’m learning to understand the music theory underlying the things I play that ‘sound right’. Why certain chords and notes work and why some don’t. This poem came after a video lesson by the inestimable Peter Honore, guitarist par excellence and a fine teacher. It’s followed by an audio file of me reading the poem with a background of me trying to play the song Peter was teaching.

Learning from the master

Watch the Master, so very effortless, but he warns:
“This part’s hard, a real stretch. A pain in the hand.”
So I note the dots, build the boxes, 
number the frets, name the shape.
Take up guitar, pause, poised and I know, 
I’ve already forgotten the rhythm, the beat of the song, 
but still, nice chord, rings clear and bright, 
add a bass note, all good still.
Then, my fingers revolt, fail to stretch, a simple barre.
A7 as E, no trouble there, but 
needs another note, far up the neck.
Surely no hand can make that stretch?
Five frets up, fingers don’t move that way, pain.
like an inquisitor’s question, pull the sinew, bend the joint.
Worst of all, a muddy sound, 
finger ends not properly down.
That point where, times past, 
I gave up the trial, played another tune.
An easy one, the one I know, 
the one that doesn’t bend or crack,
these old hands, the resisting wrist, the lazy joints.
No more of that, watch the Master, 
learn his way, listen to his advice and wisdom. 
He knows the pain, he feels it for you:
“Try each day, the joints adjust, 
you need to do this, seeker of harmony.”
I will reach it, five frets away, 
I will hear it, from my own hands.
The Master said so.

Glen Proctor

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[Fender Stratocaster neck plate and jack socket – picture from the author’s collection]

 

I’ll finish with a long piece from the master, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Incomparable poet, social reformer and creative genius. This piece reminded me of the use of the guitar, and it’s cousins the mandolin and lute, for love. So many love songs played on their strings, so many players sending sweet music to the love of their life. Lothario in the garden under their love’s window.

To a Lady, with a Guitar

Ariel to Miranda: — Take
This slave of music, for the sake
Of him who is the slave of thee;
And teach it all the harmony
In which thou canst, and only thou,
Make the delighted spirit glow,
Till joy denies itself again
And, too intense, is turned to pain.
For by permission and command
Of thine own Prince Ferdinand,
Poor Ariel sends this silent token
Of more than ever can be spoken;
Your guardian spirit, Ariel, who
From life to life must still pursue
Your happiness, for thus alone
Can Ariel ever find his own.
From Prospero’s enchanted cell,
As the mighty verses tell,
To the throne of Naples he
Lit you o’er the trackless sea,
Flitting on, your prow before,
Like a living meteor.
When you die, the silent Moon
In her interlunar swoon
Is not sadder in her cell
Than deserted Ariel.
When you live again on earth,
Like an unseen Star of birth
Ariel guides you o’er the sea
Of life from your nativity.
Many changes have been run
Since Ferdinand and you begun
Your course of love, and Ariel still
Has tracked your steps and served your will.
Now in humbler, happier lot,
This is all remembered not;
And now, alas! the poor sprite is
Imprisoned for some fault of his
In a body like a grave — 
From you he only dares to crave,
For his service and his sorrow,
A smile today, a song tomorrow.

The artist who this idol wrought
To echo all harmonious thought,
Felled a tree, while on the steep
The woods were in their winter sleep,
Rocked in that repose divine
On the wind-swept Apennine;
And dreaming, some of Autumn past,
And some of Spring approaching fast,
And some of April buds and showers,
And some of songs in July bowers,
And all of love; and so this tree, — 
O that such our death may be! — 
Died in sleep, and felt no pain,
To live in happier form again:
From which, beneath Heaven’s fairest star,
The artist wrought this loved Guitar;
And taught it justly to reply
To all who question skilfully
In language gentle as thine own;
Whispering in enamoured tone
Sweet oracles of woods and dells,
And summer winds in sylvan cells;
— For it had learnt all harmonies
Of the plains and of the skies,
Of the forests and the mountains,
And the many-voiced fountains;
The clearest echoes of the hills,
The softest notes of falling rills,
The melodies of birds and bees,
The murmuring of summer seas,
And pattering rain, and breathing dew,
And airs of evening; and it knew
That seldom-heard mysterious sound
Which, driven on its diurnal round,
As it floats through boundless day,
Our world enkindles on its way:
— All this it knows, but will not tell
To those who cannot question well
The Spirit that inhabits it;
It talks according to the wit
Of its companions; and no more
Is heard than has been felt before
By those who tempt it to betray
These secrets of an elder day.
But, sweetly as its answers will
Flatter hands of perfect skill,
It keeps its highest holiest tone
For one beloved Friend alone.

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822

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[Young Spanish Woman with a Guitar – Renoir, from: https://www.pierre-auguste-renoir.org/Young-Spanish-Woman-With-A-Guitar.html ]

A final musical piece by myself, just noodling around which is how I end each practice session:

 

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[Fender guitar cable – picture from the author’s collection]

Blossom(ing) and bloom(ing)

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[Picture of Lilac blossom – image from: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/gallery/2014/mar/21/the-10-best-poems-about-spring ]

The subject this time is blossom and bloom. April is the month when Spring really takes hold in Great Britain. Cherry, Apple and Plum trees are in full flower, grassy areas bloom with Dandelion, Buttercup and Daisy, the air is full of scents and the evenings are light (and often warm!). The cricket season has begun, barbecues have been dusted off and the Winter drifts into memory. I love all seasons but I think Spring maybe my favourite time. This period of renewal is very special. The birds can often be seen with fur, hair, grass and feathers in their beaks as they rush to build nests. I’m expecting young birds at the window bird feeder anytime now. Green is covering the landscape once more and cardigans are being hung up for next Winter. Spring seems to inspire poets too. We’ll open with the ‘People’s Poet’ par excellence, Robert Burns. He uses flower imagery quite often, look up ‘A Red, Red Rose’ for one of the best examples. Here’s a piece comparing his love to lilac:

I were my love yon Lilac fair

O were my love yon Lilac fair, 
Wi’ purple blossoms to the Spring, 
And I, a bird to shelter there, 
When wearied on my little wing! 
How I wad mourn when it was torn 
By Autumn wild, and Winter rude! 
But I wad sing on wanton wing, 
When youthfu’ May its bloom renew’d. 

O gin my love were yon red rose, 
That grows upon the castle wa’; 
And I myself a drap o’ dew, 
Into her bonie breast to fa’! 
O there, beyond expression blest, 
I’d feast on beauty a’ the night; 
Seal’d on her silk-saft faulds to rest, 
Till fley’d awa by Phoebus’ light!

Robert Burns 1759 – 1796

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[Blossom at Templenewsham, near Leeds – picture from the author’s collection]

My own poem was written after I had sat with the windows wide open on a warm evening. The light breeze brought in the scent of evening flowers after the heat of the day. I love warm evenings after a hot day, windows open and a light breeze cooling things down just enough. The scents of nature seem stronger then too. Not sure if this is scientifically provable but perception certainly is of enhanced sense of smell.

Blooming evening

On the night breeze.
Scents carried, to here.
Hint of smoke, some perfume
of flower, gently blown
into a room, on a whim.

Like incense, in a temple
to the Green Mother.
Calming, soothing, 
atavistic, ageless. 

Sending Father Winter,
back to his sleep.
Painting the trees,
with white, with pink.
The grass with purple and gold.

Daughter Spring,
promising much,
in the evening 
as she wakes.

Glen Proctor

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[Tulips and Fuchsia in a garden – picture from the Author’s collection]

I’ll finish with a lovely, evocative poem by Rabindranath Tagore. Also known as Gurudev, Kabiguru, and Biswakabi, Tagore was a brilliant Bengali writer, poet, dramatist, artist and musician. A strong campaigner for Indian independence from Britain, he also worked tirelessly to revitalise Bengali literature, music and art. This poem is so gentle and loving, a definite warm and fuzzy moment when you read it. The style is almost prose poem but carries his own unique form. Enjoy as I did the genius of this gentle man:

The Chanpa Flower

Supposing I became a chanpa flower, just for fun, and grew on a
branch high up that tree, and shook in the wind with laughter and
danced upon the newly budded leaves, would you know me, mother?
You would call, “Baby, where are you?” and I should laugh to
myself and keep quite quiet.

I should slyly open my petals and watch you at your work.
When after your bath, with wet hair spread on your shoulders,
you walked through the shadow of the champ tree to the little court
where you say your prayers, you would notice the scent of the
flower, but not know that it cane from me.

When after the midday meal you sat at the window reading
Ramayana, and the tree’s shadow fell over your hair and your lap,
I should fling my wee little shadow on to the page of your book,
just where you were reading.

But would you guess that it was the tiny shadow of your
little child?

When in the evening you went to the cow shed with the lighted
lamp in your hand I should suddenly drop on to the earth again and
be your own baby once more, and beg you to tell me a story.
“Where have you been, you naughty child?”
“I won’t tell you, mother.” That’s what you and I would say
then.

Rabindranath Tagore 1861 – 1941

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[Champa flower painting (untitled) by Arathi Dharani – image from: https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-untitled/85554/2857490/view ]

PS Apologies that there is no audio this time. Still pulling round from a light chest infection. It will return!

 

 

Light

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[Azure sky over Winter Hill – picture from the author’s collection]

For this entry, the subject is light. Not light as in humorous or trivial, not light as in the opposite to heavy, light as in energy, colour, illumination. This was prompted by being awake for the sunrise, a particularly colourful dawn during the recent spell of fine weather. Early Spring/late Winter means I wake in time to see the Sun come up. Soon, I will be waking to full daylight again, unless I stay up all night, not unknown! We’ll begin with a poet I’ve championed before, the wonderful Du Fu who writes so beautifully of that shower in the dawn and then of the smell of early rain.

Morning Rain

A slight rain comes, bathed in dawn light.
I hear it among treetop leaves before mist
Arrives. Soon it sprinkles the soil and,
Windblown, follows clouds away. Deepened

Colours grace thatch homes for a moment.
Flocks and herds of things wild glisten
Faintly. Then the scent of musk opens across
Half a mountain — and lingers on past noon.

Du Fu 712 – 770

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[Sunrise, Bolton – picture from the author’s collection]

For my own piece, I wanted to present three contrasting skies. Sunrise, afternoon sun and the sunset shining on a storm. Not often I write longer poems so please excuse any mistakes! I included this poem before I remembered I am including audio reading now too, so I now need to read it through without errors! For those who missed out, kaylie is a kind of multi-coloured sherbet sold in sweet shops. I well remember the large glass jars full of this glorious powder and the keen anticipation as the shopkeeper poured it into a paper bag!

Sky Kaylie

1.
Dark yellow, ochre? like a sandstorm on the horizon.
Brightening, heating, building to orange 
as the dawn works the bellows.
The light claws and heaves itself, 
over the rooftops, up and up.
Touch of crimson now, burst of scarlet, as it wakes.
Nearer and nearer to the moment when
the giant climbs into the sky.
Ascending red, yellow, finally blue.
Until the shining one spreads azure over all.

2.
Light on the curtains as my eyes come back to life.
Morning, afternoon? no clues in the sleep dulled brain
All quiet, no noise, no birdsong but the windows are shut.
The clock is no help, 4:00? four what? am, pm?
There’s a shadow dance on the curtain,
as sunlight plays with the tree branches 
waving at, who knows what?
Finally, the brain wakes enough to know, 
bedroom window, looking West
Afternoon light, on curtains

3.
Steel gray wall, rising over the town.
Lit by the low Sun, towering, like the
side of a battleship, moored at the house.
Rolling, roiling cloud, building its fury.
Feeding on the dying light,
using the Sun, to power the fury.
As it raises the hammer, for Thor’s spark
and the crash, shaking the walls,
in the opening of the storm concerto.
The hail released, rattles roof and window
and the cloud rushes to overtake, the dying Sun.

Glen Proctor

 

 

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[Sunset during a storm over Winter Hill, picture from the author’s collection]

A poem about light from Dylan Thomas now. One of my poetical heroes. Chock full of Celtic lyricism and emotion. His qualities shine with every word. This one is more mystical than most, almost like listening to the wind as you stand where the druids stood, understanding the universe and yourself.

Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines

Light breaks where no sun shines;
Where no sea runs, the waters of the heart
Push in their tides;
And, broken ghosts with glowworms in their heads,
The things of light
File through the flesh where no flesh decks the bones.

A candle in the thighs
Warms youth and seed and burns the seeds of age;
Where no seed stirs,
The fruit of man unwrinkles in the stars,
Bright as a fig;
Where no wax is, the candle shows its hairs.

Dawn breaks behind the eyes;
From poles of skull and toe the windy blood
Slides like a sea;
Nor fenced, nor staked, the gushers of the sky
Spout to the rod
Divining in a smile the oil of tears.

Night in the sockets rounds,
Like some pitch moon, the limit of the globes;
Day lights the bone;
Where no cold is, the skinning gales unpin
The winter’s robes;
The film of spring is hanging from the lids.

Light breaks on secret lots,
On tips of thought where thoughts smell in the rain;
When logics die,
The secret of the soil grows through the eye,
And blood jumps in the sun;
Above the waste allotments the dawn halts.

Dylan Thomas 1914 – 1953

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[The Brecon Beacons, close to Dylan Thomas’ hometown, Swansea – picture from https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/alarm-small-group-lost-brecon-11174043 ]

I’ll finish this entry with James Joyce. Better known for his classic stories, Joyce was also a lyrical poet with a fine touch. His words are even better read aloud, a lovely rhythm to them and excellent word choice, as you’d expect from one of the all time great novelists.

My Love Is In A Light Attire

My love is in a light attire 
Among the apple-trees, 
Where the gay winds do most desire 
To run in companies. 

There, where the gay winds stay to woo 
The young leaves as they pass, 
My love goes slowly, bending to 
Her shadow on the grass; 

And where the sky’s a pale blue cup 
Over the laughing land, 
My love goes lightly, holding up 
Her dress with dainty hand. 

James Joyce 1882 – 1941

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[ Charles Courtney Curran, Woman in a White Dress in a Garden – picture from: https://www.paintingmania.com/woman-white-dress-garden-207_26627.html ]

 

Looking for Snowdrops

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[Snowdrops from the BBC News magazine – Snowdrop fanciers and their mania http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16789834 ]

This blog entry is partly inspired by my annual quest to see the first snowdrop of spring, partly by Wendy Cope’s wonderful piece. The idea that the first snowdrop has its own song is something that inspires me. Someday, I’ll write that song. For now though, here are poems about the snow and about nature in winter. As with the last entry, I’ve included a Soundcloud link to my reading of my own poem. Unusually, both ‘classic’ poems this time are from living authors. Please respect their work and copyright. We’ll start with the poem that prompted this entry, the wonderful prose poem ‘Exchange of letters’ by Wendy Cope.

Exchange of Letters

‘Man who is a serious novel would like to hear from a woman who is a poem’ 
(classified advertisement, New York Review of Books)

Dear Serious Novel,

I am a terse assured lyric with impeccable rhythmic flow, some apt and original metaphors, and a music that is all my own. Some people sayI am beautiful.
My vital statistics are eighteen lines, divided into three-line stanzas, with an average of four words per line.
My first husband was a cheap romance; the second was Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanac. Most of the men I meet nowadays are autobiographies, but a substantial minority are books about photography or trains.
I have always hoped for a relationship with an upmarket work of fiction. Please write and tell me more about yourself.

Yours intensely,
Song of the First Snowdrop

Dear Song of the First Snowdrop,

Many thanks for your letter. You sound like just the kind of poem I am hoping to find. I’ve always preferred short, lyrical women to the kind who go on for page after page.
I am an important 150,000 word comment on the dreams and dilemmas of twentieth-century Man. It took six years to attain my present weight and stature but all the twenty-seven publishers I have so far approached have failed to understand me. I have my share of sex and violence and a very good joke in chapter nine, but to no avail. I am sustained by the belief that I am ahead of my time.
Let’s meet as soon as possible. I am longing for you to read me from cover to cover and get to know my every word.

Yours impatiently,
Death of the Zeitgeist

Wendy Cope 1945 – 

[found at: https://readalittlepoetry.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/exchange-of-letters-by-wendy-cope/ This poem is published in the collection ‘Serious Concerns, Faber & Faber: https://www.faber.co.uk/9780571167050-serious-concerns.html © Wendy Cope and Faber & Faber ]

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[Snowdrop, image from” https://outsideedgegardenfurniture.co.uk/snowdrops/ ]

I finally found a lovely display of snowdrops, in the grounds of an old parish church a couple of miles away. I’ve heard before that churchyards, graveyards are havens for nature. Things lie undisturbed for years. 

My own piece was also inspired by nature in winter, this time trees. Trees have always called to me. They’re reassuring, beautiful and sturdy. Covered with frost, frozen stiff, they will wake again in a couple of months. Leaves will bud, blossom will appear and life comes again. Other parts of nature also manage as they can. I feed the local birds, lots of Sparrows and Starlings here, the Magpies and Wood Pigeons call now and again too, a few Blue Tits. They all seem to appreciate the help.

Cold snap

Trees frozen in a game of statues,
as the noise stops and everything stills.
Grey above, white below, frozen time.
Sparrows socialising on the feeder, 
sharing for once, not squabbling, not pushing. 
Dog prints, an excited puppy, 
loving the white carpet, perfect for exploring.
People, looking out, deciding they don’t need 
any shopping today, staying in the warm.
Life slows as the snow comes down,
quieter times in Britain in the cold.
“Blizzard horror!!” screams the news, 
at two inches of snow, at soft, white flakes.
The dogs and me know the real story though, 
a white carpet covers ugliness for a while
The falling flakes delight children, 
stop the hustle, calm the town
In a while, the snow people appear, stone eyes, 
carrot noses maybe, if they didn’t go in the stew
Snowfall makes all quiet and right,
and cold.

Glen Proctor

Audio link:

 

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{Frozen tree, Image from: https://www.plantmegreen.com/blogs/news/can-i-plant-trees-in-winter ]

We’ll finish with a poet that I’ve not come across before, I’m going to be seeking out more of her work though, after reading this wonderful piece. The Snow Goose seems to inspire people to create, A beautiful sight as they fly in huge formations overhead. I know of at least two famous musical compositions and a novel inspired by these wonderful birds. From Cleveland, Ohio, Mary writes often of nature with a beautiful, lyrical style.

Snow Geese

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last! 
What a task
to ask 
of anything, or anyone, 
yet it is ours, 
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours. 
One fall day I heard
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was 
a flock of snow geese, winging it
faster than the ones we usually see, 
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun 
so they were, in part at least, golden. I 
held my breath
as we do
sometimes
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us 
as with a match, 
which is lit, and bright, 
but does not hurt
in the common way, 
but delightfully, 
as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt. 
The geese
flew on, 
I have never seen them again. 
Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won’t.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters
is that, when I saw them, 
I saw them
as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.

Mary Oliver 1935 – 

[Found on: http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/mary_oliver/poems/15857.html © Mary Oliver]

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[Snow Geese, image from: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Snow_Goose/id ]

In with the old

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[‘Westward’ gatepost in Bolton. Picture from the author’s collection }

[Audio introduction]

As you can see above, I’m branching into audio! The script for the audio file is listed at the end of this post, just in case you can’t play the file or you prefer to read!

Memories seem to be strong at this time of year. Maybe it’s meeting relatives from distant places again? Maybe a small collection of old photographs sent to my Mum? It could just be the long nights, more time to ponder, more time to read about other days. Still, it gives me a perfect opportunity to present one of my all time favourite classic poems. I may have included this before but it’s such a good lesson for the vainglorious, seems right to get people reading it again. Shelley had a talent for spotting interesting subjects for poetry. He was also an expert at the kind of poetry that makes you pause and think: 

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822

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[Broken Statue of Rameses – image from:  http://mason.gmu.edu/~rnanian/Shelley&Smith.html ]

My own poem this time is a recent piece, yet another poem written on a train. In this case, arriving into the city of Manchester, the transition from the outlying area into the centre. Town and city planning is a black art to me but the contrast between areas where money is spent and those left to decay is stark. Almost a physical border. Like Shelley, it’s a reflection on what has gone before, what we choose to change, what we leave alone.  Must be hard to make decisions such as what to replace, what to restore and what to leave to time. See what you think and maybe look out for boundaries between old and new yourself:

Middle Bridge

Layers of flaking, rusty, worn out iron.
Peeling apart, like puff pastry on a vanilla slice.
Not so tasty, no icing, no custard.
Grey paint, huge rivets, decaying,
ageing ungracefully, groaning and muttering.

The old train fits, clickerty-clacking across
Thumping and grinding, screeching and binding
on the rails, across the bridge,
of forgotten old iron losing its paint.
Above a byroad, leading nowhere, with potholes.

I sing in my head, ‘The morning Sun, 
when it’s on your rails, really shows your age.’
Any old iron, any old iron,
chunky, clunky, peeling, yielding, old iron.
Staying the other side of the tracks,
from the blinding glass and concrete
of a shiny new city
hiding its ageing relatives.

Glen Proctor

[The line ‘The morning sun… inspired by a line from the song Maggie May, written: Rod Stewart, Martin Quittenton, from the album: Every Picture Tells a Story (Mercury/Universal) ]

 

 

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[Iron bridge near Deansgate Station, Manchester – picture from: https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Category:Bridges_of_Manchester_and_Salford ]

We’ll finish this post with a Shakespeare Sonnet. One of the four about the ages humans pass through. William presents a hopeful view about our own ageing and admonishes us to keep tight hold of the things we love in old age. Don’t ever let go of hopes, dreams, fancies. They are what make us special:

Sonnet 73: That time of year thou mayst in me behold

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

William Shakespeare, 1564 – 1616

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{Old things on a barn bench – image from: https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3634346 ]

 

[Audioscript for the introduction – 

Hello and welcome to this special blog post for the Poet Shrub. A short time ago, my lovely friend, Thivashni, was talking to me about audiobooks and how people are turning more and more to the spoken word for learning, pleasure, instruction, all kinds of things. This chimed with a thought I’ve had for a while to include music in blog posts. This entry is the start. 

One word before we begin though, I won’t be posting readings for the classic poems I include. This is mainly because there are already some excellent audio versions of famous poems out there. Try the superb Poetry Society and Poetry Foundation websites as a starting point. Youtube is also a good source. You’ll find readings of thousands of poems by people who speak for a living, actors, raconteurs and the like. They do a much better job than I could! 

For now, Poet Shrub will be readings of my own writing and maybe some short passages of music. Enjoy and thank you for visiting!]

Christmas Time

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[Vintage Christmas card. Image from:http://primbie.blogspot.com/p/vintage-christmas.html ]

This was almost the Winter blog instead of Christmas but Winter seems to come later and later in England. We’ve had a little frost and fog but no snow, just rain. I’ll save Winter for January or February instead. I entered ‘Christmas’ into a search engine and had to go very deep indeed to find any image that wasn’t Christmas as designed in the Victorian era or later. Almost every picture was Christmas tree, decorations, Christmas lights. Hard to believe there was a time before the US version of ‘Santa Claus’ entered our lives. It started as a religious occasion of course, many religions have a celebration at this time. In pre-Christian times, in northern Europe, it was a period to celebrate surviving through the darkest days with enough food to last to Spring. Not much an agrarian people can do when the grounds frozen solid and hunting is sparse. Many other religions and cultures have celebrations as this time too. We’e just passed the opening of Hanukkah, the birthday of Guru Nanak is not long gone, Bodhi Day is approaching this week, and the season of Yule is upon us. Many in Europe now just see the commercial Christmas but some of the old values linger. A time for friends and family, time for giving, time for lots of good food certainly. We’ll begin with a piece that has become synonymous with Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore:

A visit from St. Nicholas – 1823

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Clement Clarke Moore 1779 – 1863
(disputed, some attribute the piece to Henry Livingston Jr.)

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[St.Nicholas, image from: https://www.catholic.org/advent/story.php?id=72365 ]

Interesting that although the poem contains much of the modern Christmas, he refers to the gift bringer as ‘St. Nicholas’. The poem is said to have introduced most of the themes used in the Western idea of Christmas. My own poem this time centers around a much loved dog, a Golden Retriever called Simba. He got extra excited at Christmas, maybe catching it from us? Having a fuss and love from a dog at Christmas is one of the best things in the world!

Shared Heart

Our pup loved it too, Christmas, we’d haunt the kitchen together.
Turkey and pork roasting on a Christmas Eve.
Supper was sandwiches and crackling, hot from the oven.
Skin and crackling for pup, who drooled most,
was hard to say. We loved the moment.
Shared emotion, excitement building, restless us,
hardly able to wait, for morning, treats to be found.
Pup would run, from person to person, Mum to Dad,
Sis to to me, to Bro to Nan and Grandad.
What had we got? what joys had we found?
Didn’t care much, just loved the joy and the fuss,
and the paper, ohh the paper, heavenly treat!
twist it for him and he’d take it away to tear, to chew,
but he didn’t swallow it, just loved the feel, 
in his paws and mouth. 
Till bored with that piece and back for more.
and then he’d sit, close by, for a hug, content.

Glen Proctor

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[Simba – from the author’s collection, old photo, scanned ]

I’ll finish with Thomas Hardy, a writer famous for his stories and novels but it has been said, his poetry is better than his prose. This one was written in 1916 when the harsh realities of the war were coming home. Hardy yearns for a time when he could rest in simple belief, simple joy. A lovely piece and I think of it as a call for peace, love and understanding in a troubled world. Thank you to everyone who has visited the blog over the year and I hope you enjoyed at least some of the work! Wishing you blessings, peace, love and happiness in all that you do!

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
‘Now they are all on their knees,’
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
‘Come; see the oxen kneel,

‘In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,’
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Thomas Hardy 1840 – 1928

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[PIctures from the British magazine ‘the Graphic’ published in January 1915 – image from: http://www.remembrancetrails-northernfrance.com/history/battles/the-christmas-truce-of-1914.html ]

 

Memories

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[Photograph from: https://brightshadow.org.uk/why-there-is-more-to-life-than-reminiscence/ ]

It’s almost time for the passing of the year. The days rush towards midwinter and the solstice, minds naturally turn to thoughts of what’s gone. As I write this, Remembrance Day is tomorrow, first time it’s fallen on a Sunday for a while. A time of remembering, as we wait for the Spring to come round again. The trees have a few leaves left, the late entries to the Autumn palette still have gold on their branches but the paths are covered with a carpet of leaves. First frost has come and we await snowflakes, ice and slush. The dark nights begin before teatime and that prompts thoughts, memories, of what went before. This theme is about memories rather than memory itself, there is a difference. What do we bring to mind when we allow our minds to roam the years? The first poem I’d like to share on the theme of memories is by Elizabeth Jennings. Born in Boston, Lincolnshire amongst the fields and hedgerows, Jennings was a fan of Auden and Graves. You can feel their influence in her work. This poem expresses well her reflections on people who have left us:

In Memory of Anyone Unknown to Me

At this particular time I have no one
Particular person to grieve for, though there must
Be many, many unknown ones going to dust
Slowly, not remembered for what they have done
Or left undone. For these, then, I will grieve
Being impartial, unable to deceive.

How they lived, or died, is quite unknown,
And, by that fact gives my grief purity–
An important person quite apart from me
Or one obscure who drifted down alone.
Both or all I remember, have a place.
For these I never encountered face to face.

Sentiment will creep in. I cast it out
Wishing to give these classical repose,
No epitaph, no poppy and no rose
From me, and certainly no wish to learn about
The way they lived or died. In earth or fire
They are gone. Simply because they were human, I admire.

Elizabeth Jennings, 18 July 1926 – 26 October 2001

 

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[The Obelisk on Alderman’s Hill (also called Pots and Pans hill) overlooking Greenfield, the site of a remembrance service each year- picture from the Author’s collection]

My own poem this time is something different for me. A prose poem but presented in six verses. I wanted to show images from growing up in the Northeast. Just random things that came to mind from childhood while writing the piece. I suppose it’s almost ‘stream of consciousness’ but with a theme. I like to think of it  working like a slide show, I can almost hear myself introducing each image and explaining it.

From childhood

Running down the kitchen, dog and me and friend. My friend is invisible but that doesn’t matter, me and dog both know he’s there and we must win the race to the pantry. Mum looks on in puzzlement, why do dogs and boys have this mad urge to rush from place to place with no purpose but she can’t see our invisible friend. Dog knows, she also knows I love her more. Even more than invisible friend, warm, golden comfort.

Saturday, waiting at the top of the alley, for Dad to finish work. I know if I can meet him, he’ll let me ride the tank of the big, black BSA all the way to the back gate. Machine makes a loud noise and the tank is so very wide, I love the smell of the engine, the oil and my Dad. Fish and chips for dinner, cheese in the oven for tea. Warm, familiar times, the power to bring smiles years on.

Boy on his bicycle on a hot summer day, riding close to home, riding for the joy of it. A school bully is there, sudden and large, holding the wheel between his legs. Just there to frighten the boy and exert control, looking for the fear in his eyes, that’s his idea of ‘respect’. A day so joyful turns to tears, so close to home and not at all safe. I ride out again though, another time. A glorious summers day to the old aerodrome. Exciting explorations with a good friend. Imagination runs riot in the broken bunkers and trenches.

Laid in the hospital bed, a bandage round my head and pain in my ear, the nice man in the next bed shows me where the German bullet went through his shoulder. He likes the lovely nurse who looks after us, she is beautiful and kind but doesn’t let me listen to the telly on the headphones after 9:00. She thinks I need sleep. They buy me chocolate and comics from the trolley that comes  round, I quite like the hospital with all these so very kind people.

Mum gets tokens, made of Bakelite, from the Co-op down the road. We leave them in the empty milk bottles for the milkman to collect. Doorstep tokens to pay for our milk. Without them no milk, my Mum unable to make her wonderful homemade rice pudding. 

Walks by the river, it’s so black from the steelworks and the chemical plant. the mud, black too, stinks. Long grass on the bank with a surprise, an old slipway on which a boat rots, keel and ribs all that’s left. Great bridge painted green, spanning the river, with gaslights along its length. We walk across, peering over the rail, to big town.

Glen Proctor

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[The Author’s maternal Great-Grandmother – picture from the Author’s collection]

As its Remembrance Day, We’ll finish with one of the most famous war poets of all, Siegfried Sassoon. Raised in Matfield, Kent, Sassoon studied at Cambridge before being sent to the Western Front. His poems carried a realism and a criticism of authority that led to him being detained in a psychiatric hospital. Britain’s other war poet, Wilfred Owen was heavily influenced by Sassoon and always spoke of his ability and humanity. This is one of his less controversial pieces and speaks of the changes in his memories as a result of his experiences. A sombre piece, but oh so very moving:

Memory

When I was young my heart and head were light, 
And I was gay and feckless as a colt 
Out in the fields, with morning in the may, 
Wind on the grass, wings in the orchard bloom. 
O thrilling sweet, my joy, when life was free
And all the paths led on from hawthorn-time 
Across the carolling meadows into June. 

But now my heart is heavy-laden. I sit 
Burning my dreams away beside the fire: 
For death has made me wise and bitter and strong;
And I am rich in all that I have lost. 
O starshine on the fields of long-ago, 
Bring me the darkness and the nightingale; 
Dim wealds of vanished summer, peace of home, 
And silence; and the faces of my friends.

Siegfried Sassoon, 8 September 1886 – 1 September 1967

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[Ruined building on Marsden Moor, Yorkshire – picture from the Author’s collection]

Autumn Deja Vu

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[Yew Tree Tarn by Christine Robinson – from: http://www.lancashirelife.co.uk/out-about/25-photos-that-capture-the-true-beauty-of-the-lake-district-in-autumn-1-4249106 ]

The first frost has touched us and leaves are all around. A riot of colour is spreading over the trees and shrubs. It must be autumn again. I did create a blog entry about autumn last year, so this is autumn mark 2! Might be a chance to see if my writing and my taste in poetry has grown since last year? I’m going to start with a poem from John Clare. I’m ashamed to say I’d not come across his writing until early this year. A true son of the countryside, Clare began writing poetry whilst working on the land, gardening, farm labouring, working in the lime kilns. His first collection was published in 1820 and he has been called ‘the very best of the romantic poets’.

Autumn – pub. 1820

The thistledown’s flying, though the winds are all still,
On the green grass now lying, now mounting the hill,
The spring from the fountain now boils like a pot;
Through stones past the counting it bubbles red-hot.

The ground parched and cracked is like overbaked bread,
The greensward all wracked is, bents dried up and dead.
The fallow fields glitter like water indeed,
And gossamers twitter, flung from weed unto weed.

Hill-tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,
And the rivers we’re eying burn to gold as they run;
Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;
Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.

John Clare, 1793-1864

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[Thistledown Seeds – Stevebidmead from: https://pixabay.com/en/thistle-seeds-thistledown-plant-382369/ ]

One of my own pieces next, written after I watched Starlings gathering on the high-tension electricity wires near our local station. They looked like they were having a serious discussion about the season. It did bring to mind my own question, whether spring or autumn is the more beautiful season. Both are seasons of huge changes in the temperate north. I’ve sometimes daydreamed about living in warmer climes but I would really miss the seasonal changes. They seem all too brief when they’re happening but so very precious while they last.

Season three – 2017

Starlings perched 
on high leccy wires
holding a forum
on whether leaves
look more beautiful
as they die and fade

ready to fall to be
as a carpet or a hill
of mulch or dry
to provide a playpen
for kids and dogs

autumn is worthy
of serious talk
by birds and by humans
a metaphor for life
until Spring comes
and falling is forgotten

again.

Glen Proctor

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[Starlings gatherung from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05jmp3x ]

Another (short) offering from me next. It seems appropriate, as we got our first frost just last week. There are still enough leaves on the trees to give beautiful, colourful scenes all around but the pavements have big piles of leaves to walk through (takes a strong will not to kick some up in the air). Those who live with huge changes in season, look for signs like this. The first snowdrop, daffodils blooming, birds leaving and returning. This short piece reflects my feelings on the signs of autumn:

(Frolic in) the autumn mists – 2018

Rumour of colours to come,
a few pale glimpses, of gold and brown,
lemon and lime, russet red.
In amongst the still deep green.
Still there, still cloaking lower fells.

Cooler air, chill breezes,
first fogs, bring silent mornings.
Birds gathering, feeding hungrily.
Preparing themselves, for a Winter sojourn.

All waiting the Frost King’s waking.
Soon to pass by, in his mantle,
making beautiful art, scenes,
on glass and grass, on spider webs.

Daylight runs quicker, to the lower bulb
in the hourglass, autumn’s herald,
summer’s eulogy. Writ in light
and dark, dawn’s dawdling, evening’s rush.

Glen Proctor

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[Wintertime along river Avon from: https://www.countrylife.co.uk/country-life/beautiful-frost-67271 ]

We’ll finish with a post-harvest poem by William Allingham, a poet I’ve just discovered. Allingham was a descriptive, lyrical poet born in the small Irish town of Ballyshannon, County Donegal. He later became the editor of the Fraser’s Magazine. Not widely known, he deserves to be read by more people. A similar background to Robert Burns, his style reminds me of John Clare in his wonderful descriptions of nature.

Late Autumn – pub. 1860

October – and the skies are cool and gray 
O’er stubbles emptied of their latest sheaf,
Bare meadow, and the slowly falling leaf. 
The dignity of woods in rich decay 
Accords full well with this majestic grief 
That clothes our solemn purple hills to-day, 
Whose afternoon is hush’d, and wintry brief 
Only a robin sings from any spray. 

And night sends up her pale cold moon, and spills 
White mist around the hollows of the hills,
Phantoms of firth or lake; the peasant sees 
His cot and stockyard, with the homestead trees, 
Islanded; but no foolish terror thrills
His perfect harvesting; he sleeps at ease.

William Allingham – 1824 – 1889

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[Ballyshannon Bridge from: http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=DG&regno=40852064 ]

 

People Watching

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[Picture by Rob Curran at: https://unsplash.com/photos/sUXXO3xPBYo ]

I hope readers will excuse the indulgence, but for this entry I will only be presenting my own work. People watching is a big source of inspiration for my writing. Railway stations and train journeys are especially good for this, I find. Something about journey’s, about travelling, that makes people more interesting to this poet! I’ll start with a poem inspired by ‘rail improvements’. Well, by their results anyway. Bolton station was closed, with a replacement bus service operating to Manchester. I was en route to Swansea to help my big Sister dog sit a very lovable Labrador. Sat waiting for the coach, a girl appeared, carrying half of a giant pair of scissors. It’s surprising where a brief glimpse can take you. I like to create backgrounds and purposes for my subjects, to fit with their appearance and actions. This is the result:

A Song in the Making – 2018

Vivid blue hair, with a red feather, jauntily tied
on the left. Holding, half a giant pair of scissors.
A scissor maybe? Red scissor with gnarled grips.
She looks around, searching, for a face? A look?
Maybe for the other half of the scissor?
She swings Doc Martined feet, as she seeks,
the pivot of her meaning. The hinge of all things.
Alone in a bus station pretending to be a rail station.
Waiting for a bus that’s pretending to be a train.
While electrification is done, the current takes precedence over us.
So she waits, with us, with blue hair, feather, boots and scissor.
Like a folk song, waiting to happen.

Glen Proctor

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[Blue Feather by Brunettefromfargo – on: https://www.deviantart.com/brunettefromfargo/art/blue-feather-133985992 ]

Sometimes, I get caught in a busy time for the railways. I try to travel when it’s quiet but the world doesn’t always conform to my expectations. Trains can be noisy places when you get groups of people travelling together to an event. This short poem was an attempt to reflect on the madness of one train. A madness that rolled over me as I got on it. Two groups, on their way to wedding prequels and one lady, quietly reading and eating:

Step from the platform – 2017

and in through the door
chaotic people soup
in a little, confused train
with open door policy
scheme

Laughing hens and baying stags
competing for noise, while the lady
of confusion quietly eats
her crisps with a smile

content with her conjuration

Glen Proctor

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[Keswick railway station circa 1972 – from: http://www.cumbria-railways.co.uk/cumbria_railway_photograph_collection.html ]

People of my generation grew up familiar with silence, with boredom, with waiting. Whether it was school assembly conducted in total silence by the pupils or queuing up to get on a bus, we were taught to be quiet and not to fidget about. These days, I seem to see many people who find silence, stillness uncomfortable. They seem to become very agitated, to have a need to fill up the space, make some sound. Writing about it make me look at it from their side though. Maybe there was a reason to be agitated? Could be they’ve just had a bad argument, they’re waiting for contact from someone special? Who knows? I need more tolerance of skittish behaviour:

Fidget – 2017

Riding on the train
Next to someone
They can’t keep still
Fumble, mumble, mess about,
Scratch, sigh, stretch,
Take out a phone,
Put it away,
Take out the phone,
Examine the feet,

They’re still there,
Puts them on the wall,
Across the aisle,
Then takes them down again,
Crosses legs, uncrosses legs,
Feet still there?
Look all around, 
Then down,
Then up,

Sighs again,
Maybe the memories,
Are a mountain of misery,
The actions shout,
and drown out thoughts,
they’re fearful of,
Or they’re bored,
and late.

Glen Proctor

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[Marsden Railway station on the transpennine route – from: https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5321514 ]

I’ll finish this exploration of people watching with the real/imaginary people, the real people we have do imaginary things, the stories we can create about someone we just glimpsed for a moment. Especially when I’m really tired and the sounds of the train are a lullaby:

Rail Dream – 2017

Drifted off, soothed by the clack of rail
and sameness outside the window
a quiet carriage for once
instead of the mad, bad crush

there’s a face, I don’t know who
curly hair, soft eyes, warm smile
where did my brain fetch her from?
mystery girl with Celtic charm

never gave credence to telepathy
dream-walking, those sort of things
a memory I didn’t know I had?
of someone long past, fleeting

touch of glance on face, so soft
by a lass with curls and a smile

Glen Proctor

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[Curl of hair from – http://casterbridge.blogspot.com/2012/06/on-discovered-curl-of-hair.html ]

Although I mentioned this entry would be all my own work, I just couldn’t resist sharing the poem that accompanied this image with you. Thomas Hardy is perhaps better known for his stories but his poetry is sublime:

On a discovered curl of hair – 1913

When your soft welcomings were said,
This curl was waving on your head,
And when we walked where breakers dinned
It sported in the sun and wind,
And when I had won your words of grace
It brushed and clung about my face.
Then, to abate the misery
Of absentness, you gave it me.

Where are its fellows now?  Ah, they
For brightest brown have donned a gray,
And gone into a caverned ark,
Ever unopened, always dark!

Yet this one curl, untouched of time,
Beams with live brown as in its prime,
So that it seems I even could now
Restore it to the living brow
By bearing down the western road
Till I had reached your old abode.

Thomas Hardy – 1840 -1928