Barnes Poems Transition
They brought me from Belfast to Bristol, My parents. It took a week. On the overnight crossing to Liverpool They took their drinks on deck Watching the low hills along the Lough slip past In the last twilight of September. I stowed my trunk, my trousseau, Explored my tiny cabin And wondered which new-sewn skirt to wear.
For some days we meandered slowly southwards Through warm English sunshine Past huge fields, tall hedges, cosy villages. We slept under low beams, Peering through mullioned windows At stark stands of trees on sculptured hills. We ate, so strange to me, in pubs, Veal and ham, pickled onions, mild and bitter.
In hilly Bristol, stately Georgian terraces Curved around the drama of the Gorge And humbler houses tumbled down towards the docks. The university, mock-Gothic and modern, Welcomed me.
Bedded in with local Irish refugees My parents kept a surreptitious watch Over their fledgling and her exotic new companions. The English could be dangerous: “They’ll say one thing and mean another.” We sorted matters fiscal. My father and the Manager In his dark panelled office Watched patiently as I practised my signature.
Vicarious excitement mixed with their anxiety And incipient sadness. They were so proud But knew that they were loosing me. My father knew that we were loosing him. He died two days before my finals, A lifetime later.
A Poem - Memory
And I remember â€Ś What do I remember? Less and less. What happened in September?
But some memory clings. Like the first time for many things. Joys of jazz And family gatherings.
Looking forward not back Will help keep us on track. Things to come Replace memories we lack.
Beside the new mosque Blue wisteria hides The ruined church door.
Irish Literature Course
We began with ‘The Dead’ And came alive with close reading. And Free Indirect Discourse “Lily was run off her feet”. Perverted commas made me smile And, until Joyce said it, I had never twigged That Christ’s father was a bird.
JM Synge was next. About that chancer, that flyboy, ‘The Playboy of the Western World’ I am no wiser than fifty years ago Twelve thousand miles from here When I played a part and hadn’t a clue. A tragic comedy, a farcical burlesque? I can see why the Dublin audience rioted The boy’s father died three times.
I enjoyed Ulysses. Well chapter one anyway. How much more could we do in two weeks? Those undergrad types bantering in the Tower (Actually they were graduates) I suddenly thought of Waugh and Brideshead And Catholic, classically educated boys On Newman college staircase, Melbourne.
And why are Towers so important? Stephen Daedalus lives in a Tower, I am sure there’s a Tower in one of Mrs Bowen’s stories I just can’t remember which right now And Yeats grappled with pen over sword While meditating in his Tower.
And so it goes until we get to MacNeice Another Irishman riddled with guilt Living in England Sitting on the fence, Even handed Self indulgent Non Sectarian Sympathetic to the poor and the peasant But glad he’s not doomed to hump a hod It all depends on point of view. I liked his Autumn Journal Topical, colloquial, quotidian Mixed up with flights and forays into classical allusion. November 1938 Civil War in Spain, darkness on the Continent Cf: Winter Journal 2010:Afghanistan, Iraq, The Taliban, Recession.
And that was when our tutor dropped his bombshell Astutely, right at the end of class With the packing up and scraping of chairs He uttered a word avoided till now
Homework. Write a poem! You don’t have to, of course! But it’s the best way to learn about poetry. It will give you an insight.
He knew we would. We’re a bunch of greys. And so we did. And yes, it is and so it does.
Winter has seized the growing and green All stalled in its icy stare. Who knows what summer’s warmth will redeem, What life the cold will spare?
For the gardener may tend and shelter his shoots And hope for the resurrection But deep in the ground, entwined in the roots Lies the mystery of regeneration.
Haikus on ‘Redemption’
A definition Recovery of something From a pawn broker
Salvation from sin According to Jesus Christ But do we need it?
The white worm wriggles And the bed springs are squeaking But does the earth move?
Walk to Nowhere
I remember most the noise, the numbers and the mix That day the doubters marched against the war. There on the Embankment opposite the ‘National’ Theatre of a different sort set out its store. An army of people marshalled with a purpose Parents with painted posters and children in tow Shades of CND mingled with a masked youth Displaying ‘Nuke Israel’ – a place I cannot go. Part carnival, part angry mob, part citizens in sorrow The serried ranks moved further through the town.
Gathering force in size, sound and passion. Could such a protest bring a government decision down? The mass moved slowly but determinedly that February day Snaking its way like a mist through a much loved city. Twice the people did this to prevent illegal action But the wheels were in motion; more is the pity.
Sleep can bring bold dreams Joy and pain spring from deep fonts Tread hard on my dreams
Good trees bear good fruits Redemption is for all men What about us girls?
He broke her best doll Swore friendship for redemption So thatâ€™s how it works!
First sip of our cappuccinos puts chocolate on our lips. Unaware of the hiss of the steam machine, we three doze comfortable, Chatty, playful in our dappled woulds.
And your scent makes me Remember Madam Max Goesler and Maria Gostrey and Aunt Jenny, And our delight in moving with locked arms, locked step, locked pride. How Prepositions can be bold, how with so matters, how our graceful Ankles moved, light and quick and fine.
Ah, and you. Your craggy Mountain range is softened when you speak thunder, earthquakes.. Your voice sounds deep as creation. You are safety and danger. I need Strong verbs for youâ€”come and go and see and be and shine, Where change and meaning live in the core, old as gravity. I do not skip With you, I run to you.
And yet the irony of Alice's amor vincit omnia still stands. There's love beyond what she has known. And amor hidden deep in ubi Caritas. When words are more precise than life they tell strange tales.
So I am happy to have sat under thunder and rain with Both of you. My cappucino was good. But having finished it I lick my Lip and pause to ponder what I might have known of love had my Mother lived.
Ruth Fairbanks Joseph
I can remember when the robin came To entertain us from the apple tree With its special songs and magic colour In the snow And then the cat So gentle and so warm Never to be thought of as a source of harm Leapt from below And our heavenly gift was gone The red in tooth and claw so clear And the innocent garden Now transformed by fear
She sleeps, I clear up When I enter her bright smile Makes my gloom vanish.
‘Sleep, perchance to dream’ Desiring unconsciousness You black out the world.
Cats sleep curled right up Nose, tail, paws in a jumble Warm purry. Ears keen.
So, neutrality Switzerland, also Sweden Shockingly, Ireland.
Is neutrality Right in war or home décor Neutral views, dove tones?
And I Remember
And I remember… Dad talking energy, if that’s not a bore, his memorial, the site for Radcliffe-on-Soar; Cheap power for all, that was the vision with a carbon footprint which now brings derision. A tail-enders trip to the Eagles Nest, Operation Manna, and the rest; Two fingers from Churchill, that’s the tale, but a medal from Juliana, through the mail.
The glory that once was Greece and Rome, can be seen within my modest home. I switch on and it comes into view, mediated via Shakespeare, so is it true? Pyramids, circles, the writing on the wall, Egyptians, Druids, Ozymandius and all. You raised those stones, you piled them high, now you’re as well known as Tesco, so it was worth a try.
Microbial creatures, out from the slime, We’ll go back further buddy, can you spare the time? The Big Bang, with starlight that’s come from the past, I’ll stop right now, with memory receding fast.
Sleep, perchance bad dream Party at the embassy Wearing just a vest! John Moss
Children may cherish, Family care, but with age It’s old friends I miss. Rosie Dalzell
And I remember Barnes in pain In wet February’s chilling grey Though for the visitor the rain Was worse than the numb or the drawn or the recession-haunted faces Slip in via Mortlake tradesman’s door Past moribund brewery, slurped only here is Pinot, Cabernet or Franc; Past jazzy Bull’s riffs and choruses beyond the poor, Past Sainsbury’s despised but crowded market Past shrouded leaping arches, trains beneath tarpaulin, Turn then into Nassau, Bahama in pyjama Two million pound semis, ugh! Appalling Bright yellow elephant trunks house by house Plodding spewing the residues of moved away owners’ lives
Into booming metal skips topped with dusty clouds; Mushroom radio-inactive abandoned hives. Look north and the Old Father hides behind a grey concrete bunker Wall keeping the memories of Gustav and Dame Ninette safe and dry Bring down war and dance unto death the global warmists Who hide from Barnes its bounding glory, glory cry. No smiling black children in Nassau Road To mind your car while you away to learn Skirt the green and pond see the odd baby stroller Do they replace themselves here or for restful extinction yearn? Forget the car, exit quickly by fast train Want of Fieldingâ€™s Runners for safe route to lonely station Across glass diamond-strewn heath blind security cameras stare Is this where we are, New Labourâ€™s high and dry nation? John of Twickenham (with apologises to Louis MacNeice) 2 Haikus Winter, white and cold, Plants buried by ice and snow. Secretly they grow.
All is quiet, still Till my dog barks noisily. Startled, I wake up. Celia Duncan
The whine of the siren Urgent, compelling Froze us in the street Midway between our houses And spinning round My little friend and I Made speed for home after a brief goodbye.
So why the memory of this point in time: Was it the impact of the danger sign, The normal grudge in one so young That this had come to ruin the fun? Rather the awareness keenly felt Of drilled response, an automatic act. Our play that day was at an end. It was a fact And that was that. Felicity Page
Brits at the End of Empire - Aden 1962
Far from his own cool country, The last Governor throws a party In the evening heat. One by one Guests get up to play at bicycle-polo, While sharks hunt in the warm sea below Them, and the barren rocks glow In the light of the setting sun. 1 Marianne Clark
Grey ships on grey sea Heading to the shaft of light White on the Goodwins. Rachel Patterson
Night can be benign Or the night might frighten- then Can sleep bring blessing Rachel Patterson
‘evening heat’ – too hot for full evening dress so men wore Red Sea Rig – black dress trousers with short-sleeved white shirt and black cummerbund ‘bicycle-polo’ – in typically British style, games were played after dinner at Government House to avoid the possibility of too much conversation. ‘sharks’ – Government House stood on a high cliff with sheer drop to the sea beneath it, so bicyclepolo had its perils. ‘barren rocks’ - The Barren Rocks of Aden is a quick march tune played on bagpipes by Scottish regiments who served in that area of Empire
Bird in my hand I pipit bright, and flutter hearted. I ring his tiny leg. Then from my fingers fanned, In softest tumult, He’s departed.
Leaving the group, to walk On pavements, slick with rain Some broken, cracked like Mirrors of our lives foretelling Tragedy, loss and pain. Trying to remember the brightness And the talk, the memories of things past Which lift the spirits of us all. Lost in these thoughts which Struggled with the gloom, Arriving, and in my mind, to call ‘Hello my love, I’m home’ Only to hear an echo in An empty room.
If Redemption is being married to a murderer And living above a fish shop then Count me out.
Whatever the way The woman is the means In Francis Stuart’s ‘Redemption’ Where to be redeemed requires A woman to be the victim. Romilly, Annie, Margareta,
The ex wife Anyone else? Where the Word and the White Worm And possibly the white male writer Were one.
It seems that the White Worm Had a lot to do with it but Don’t overlook the white male writer Blighter.
Thank God for God At least one man’s son Took the rap for us all. Was prepared to stand up
To be counted and crucified To pay for the sins of the world For those of women As well as men To bring us redemption.
But innocence and purity must be Wiped out Democracy too They are likely rotten Like the rose gnawed From the inside by The White Worm.
Poems from WEA Petts Wood Irish Literature Course