Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Unfinished sympathy…

Seven tsunamis of grief

The land is dry
And yet the waves come
Silenced as sun
And high as pain
Soundless to hide
Their beginning

The land is clear
And yet the waves come
Unmade as breath
And torn as faith
Formless to hide
Their fashioning

The land is deep
And yet the waves come
Ever as air
And light as flame
Weightless to hide
Their strengthening

The land is hard
And yet the waves come
Stoppered as wind
And brave as tree
Placeless to hide
Their happening

The land is high
And yet the waves come
Darkened as moon
And bright as night
Guiltless to hide
Their mastering

The land is walled
And yet the waves come
Driven as time
And forced as rain
Ceaseless to fault
Their bettering

The land is dust
And yet the waves come
Ravished as death
And barbed as life
Hopeless to hide
Their ending

Friday, 22 May 2020

Lockdown diary #5:
Enter into his gate with thanksgiving…

Peacefully, joint in sleep
To Eric Ward (10 March 1929 to 19 May 2020)

I know what it is to die
But not to know that you are dying –
As the breeze clears the hollow sky
Holding your faint, fading soul and fingers
Brushing my face as gently; as gently as
Odours of sage, marjoram and rosemary
Make hands of deep, supportful, lifelong love –
The draught yet unable to fill the emptiness
quarried sharp within my chest.

I know what it is to mourn
But not quite yet to be mourned –
Eight months of pain between our passings:
Mine resolved and out of mind; yours too soon:
Too soon a hand of sharp chalk shelling the blue –
So I take to bed to be with you: too early,
But peacefully, joint in sleep; mine too early:
Yours eternal; mine all too quick, all too quick;
and much too false, except in others’ hearts.

Such endings then should be writ loudly
Each letter screamed so ever deep and ragged –
New scars fresh pathways free forever to explore
Hard into your new hills as they forever grow:
Smoothing under the boots that took so many
To their better futures: taught so well; so well
That your remembrances now merge with theirs.
Proficiscere anima Christiana.
Proficiscere patrem meum.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Lockdown diary #4:
My words fly up, my thoughts remain below…

Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

– Shakespeare: The Tempest (V.i.88-94)

As with so much horticultural minutiae, it was Felix – still not yet accustomed to having the run of the garden (or – as he must see it – patrolling ‘his’ domain) – who first spotted the tiny creature, and then alerted me (his unrealized chaperon) to its hovering presence; swiftly (and coincidentally) followed by The Guardian’s consistently high-quality Country diary column. I say “tiny”… – but the “creature” in question has a big name in so many respects: “Bombylius major, the large or dark-edged bee‑fly”. Nevertheless, it is small. Yet another of nature’s brilliant and beautiful works of precision engineering, and perfect, startling, purpose. [Bee-flies are sometimes called “humble-flies”. But never, sadly, “humble-bees”… – an eponym reserved for bumble-bees: who, if their buzz (or hum) is anything to go by, are actually quite assertive!]

Friday, 3 April 2020

Lockdown diary #3:
You are never parted in the beating of your heart…

As is so often the case, the body was in virtually flawless condition: the only clue as to its demise the dull eye (ordinarily… extra-ordinarily brilliant yet pale with cheeky inquisitiveness and intelligence) hanging loosely from its socket – seemingly beseeching me for help that could never come. Even two days later – when no-one, no-thing, had been to claim it: neither fox nor magpie; buzzard nor kite – it remained impeccably embalmed in its lignite sheen: and so I carefully gathered it from the verge – the weight in my hand remarkable for its lightness (as if the departure of its life-spark or soul had rendered it hollow) – and laid it carefully in its temporary resting place. Normally, we would have buried it in a quiet spot in the garden. But times are not normal: so I swaddled it, instead – muttering a few thoughts of ritual respect and regret… – in a large workaday carrier bag; and then placed it, heartbreakingly, in our green council compost bin.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Lockdown diary #2:
Spare your arithmetic, never count the turns…

And then – suddenly; startlingly; steadfastly… – it is Sunday. The chilling, seemingly fixed north-north-easterly – ferrying in yet one more ferocious (but not this time vacuous) official foreboding of its own, in the form of a frigid wind-speed alert… – seemingly purifying the pavement of all pedestrians. All the silver/grey/black cars, however, immune to its volitions, are stationary: as they still – thankfully – remain locked to their owners’ homes – many warmed with the rainbows and soft toys that demonstrate love, hope, and temporary happiness. [Andrà tutto bene. “All will be fine.” (We wish. Fervently.)]

The cooling breeze – the cooling day – it brings is concretely cleaner; and, as I circumambulate the churchyard (the building at its heart now closed even to such prayer), I launch my atheist’s supplication quietly upstream: craving continuing clarity, and everlasting expanded green spaces to breathe within. At the exact instant I traverse the main, southern entrance, the air resonates with the midday chimes. I feel blessed. Perhaps this presages something. But… – and I hesitate…. Benevolent… or… the other kind…?

I choose the former; and ramble onwards.