The Spring | Time in the midst of nothing | On life in coronavirus | Autumn | Little boy kneels | Christmas | I care | St Valentine’s Day | Looking down to Foreland Point | Meeting Henry
I first saw light of day on the high moor
I came into the air
After being trapped in the earth below,
I bubbled forth and trickled away.
I was lucky, I did not turn into a bog,
With red tinged grasses, to warn unwary riders
of my presence, to be aware
Of the soft ground and wet land that lay ahead.
I trickled and bubbled down a narrow trench
Over rocks and boulders, still on the moor.
The sea below, a thin blue line on the horizon,
But I could not even see it yet.
Down into what now became a combe,
Now I became a stream, rushing and frothing along.
Without a thought of an obstruction
Only obedient to the forces of nature.
Now, I widened and slowed some
Still bounding over rocks and frothing,
But slower and still a stream
I kept on my way to the river and the sea.
Now I was a river and reached the lowlands.
Rushes grew on my banks
Herons fished in my waters
And duck took off quacking from their feeding.
I slowed still more
And meandered through farmland and pasture
On the lush and level plain
My reeds grew high and my water turgid.
Now the sea was in sight
And the muddy delta beckoned
I moved slowly to the sea,
And the sun, a ball of fire, dropped into it.
Time in the midst of nothing
Beneath the now eternal moon,
Our schizophrenic minds revolve
In past, present and conjective of future
In the mind ruled by
That we only half remember.
What has remained
Of what we really knew.
What will be reaped
And if so, why?
Were we really there
Or are we not here now.
When will it be fulfilled
And we can live in peace.
When will the memory
Become reality and end.
Will it end in death
Or can it be fulfilled?
This time we must find peace
Now we are free
And in a different world
Now we can love in peace.
[ME Edinburgh January 1964]
My wife of over fifty years is dying
In the room next door.
One minute she is still with me
And the next she is gone.
Oh, the arrangements, never ending,
The weeks before the funeral
seem to take for ever,
And then, over in a flash.
The length of a single thought
It can last for seconds
Or all day, all night, for ever,
Never to leave you again.
One shuts one’s self away,
Not able to face the world,
Express the grief that surrounds us,
Engulfs us in a seeming eternity.
And then after a year or so,
We feel ready to rejoin
The human race that we have left behind,
Rejoin society and face our fears.
Tentatively we take the first steps.
Something local and known to be involved with,
Then branching out to other activities,
A sort of normality comes upon you.
And then: coronavirus-covid 19.
We are locked down, shielding, alone.
Just me and the dog, that I take
For a walk daily, on the permitted exercise.
Only the girl who does my shopping
Comes once a week, and we talk.
A neighbour comes to bring me goodies
Once a week. On Thursday, we applaud the NHS.
I sit with my thoughts,
Alone with the dog in isolation.
Go on walks.
Do the cooking.
Then we discover Zoom
A different kind of normality returns.
We learn to keep in touch
The ‘phone, email, Zoom.
Now I can shop again
Once a week with the elderly and vulnerable,
Oh, and we must wear a mask for safety.
I do not feel particularly old or vulnerable.
And yet it never leaves you.
Now you have still more time
To sit and think, relive our past,
Reflect on things that happened long ago.
Autumn, the wind blows and the rain pours.
In the hedgerow, nature’s harvest grows,
Hips and haws bright red,
Blackberries ripen in the autumn sun.
Birds have reared their young and fly in pairs
Seemingly unwilling to break their family ties.
All the beasts of the field prepare
For the winter, and all that lies ahead.
And yet the sun still glows with autumn rays
Promising the year will turn
And we might hope for spring and summer,
A return to some sort of normality some day.
But now we must make do with shorter days
And the cold of winter snows.
The bright light and definition we may see
And the ploughing, tilling and drilling yet to be.
Little boy kneels at the foot of the bed.
What an idea he has in his head;
It may be a mouse or a tiger or two,
There’s trouble for someone afore the night’s through.
Little boy wondering how many stairs
How did he climb them? They seem like chairs
One foot on one and one on another
He’d like to sit or be carried by mother.
Little boy’s small and cannot wander
So it’s to bed he’ll go to ponder
Make it a ship or a boat
Oh, if only he could make it float
Little boy stands on the end of his bed.
“What are you doing Sir?” I said,
“I’m an Admiral — bold and brave
And I’ll defy the watery wave!”
But then the door swings open wide
Mother reviews her joy and pride
“Time for bed, to be tucked up tight
And mind the sails are set just right.”
“For it might snow, or rain, or hail,
Or out at sea it might just gale
And if the rigging’s not in trim
Oh, what will then become of him?”
So from his cockpit snug and sound
The Captain docks and runs aground
No trips around the bay
For he has gone to bed to stay.
Once again around it comes
Time once more to do my sums
I’ve seen so many come and go
Yet back they come, as fresh as snow
Every time the church bells ring
Glory to the new-born king
And so it tolls again today
As once it did, so many years ago.
In Bethl’em there was a child
Still lying in a stable, cows beside,
And Ma and Pa were there as well
As though a little crowd had come.
The shepherds came, to be in awe
And give their lambs to Agnus Dei,
And now the Magi from afar to worship
And, ‘fear’d of Herod, left by another way
A very traditional view of Christmas
And not one, alas, we have today
‘Tis sad, and yet it may not last
There may be yet a way to find the past.
I shout because I care,
I cry because I care
I try to do right because I care
I do too much because I care
I doubt because I care
I do all these things but only worry you because I care
I care because I care
Wouldst thou be mine, my love
And never more to part?
The sky doth change from day to day
And clouds do mar the sun:
Our love will overcome all this
And will not change with years
But grow, my love, and then become
The sweet perfection of desires,
That we could ever wish, or want,
Or ever dream, or realise.
Wouldst thou be mine my love
And never more to part?
Our love can grow and wax with time
And I will give my heart.
Looking down to Foreland Point
I am reminded of times past
Conger eels the size of a man
Caught in the wreck off the coast there.
Lobsters and mackerel fresh from the sea
The mackerel caught on the tide line
Cooked, fried in butter for breakfast,
Their colour still on them
Lobster salad for lunch
The lobster caught in the bay, or down the coast
By Lobster Paul who lives now on a boat
In the harbour at the weir
Old Tom in the corner with his bottomless tankard of Guinness
Shove ha’penny in the bar
The Post Office van that went to Culbone
before the path fell into the sea
A’a’a’Arthur with his stammer
His love of the red deer
They’re be’be’belling up the combe
We go searching in the car
Jack a lamb under each arm
On his pony that he broke when he was 76
In the bar, Jack and Fred drink Bass for lunch
The pony tied under the archway waits to take Jack home
Now nature is overtaking us
The paths and the hedge grow wild
Fallow deer run along the track no longer used
Banks go untrimmed, untouched, untamed
Now Henry is a long dog
A strong dog
A spotty dog
A black white and brown dog
With long floppy ears.
Now Henry is a Bassett Hound
A whatit hound?
A Bassett Hound
A big strong Bassett Hound
With big brown eyes.
But Henry had a stringy tail
A piggy tail
A silly tail
A tie-yourself-in-knots tail
With a little white tip.
Now Henry went a-wandering
On his short stubby legs
His silly legs
His pudded legs
With great big paws.
Now down the stairs went Henry
And through the big front door
And out the gate
Along the street
What had the world in store?
He came upon a little dog
A furry dog
A wurry dog
A run around and scurry dog
With not much tail.
Now Henry is a proud dog
Not a loud dog
A proud dog
Not a run-around-and-howl dog
that chased its own tail.
“Good morning, little silly dog
Oh willy dog
Oh silly dog
Oh must you run around and round
And chase your own tail?”
So Henry took a look at him
And passed that doggy by
That silly dog
That wurry dog
That chased his short tail.
Now Henry went along the road
And saw a big oak tree
He sniffed at it
He whiffed at it
But none had been there but he.
So on he walked and padded
A bus stop for to find
As bold as Bassett
A bus to Richmond Town.
The bus at length it came
The number bold and clear
And when it stopped
Yes, then it stopped
To Henry the way was clear.
One stubby paw was just about
To place itself aboard
Ring-a-ding.” “Hold tight
No dogs aboard this fight.”
So Henry stood as doggies do
And wondered how his scrape
Would end itself
Or lend itself
To further his escape.
Along the road I walked that day
And I saw Henry there
A puzzled dog
A wuzzled dog
That could only sit and stare.
“Good afternoon,” I said to him
But he did not reply
“Oh come,” I said
“And we will walk
Alone, just you and I”
And so along the road we walked
And he came home to tea,
Of little cakes
And biscuit crumbs,
That’s how we filled our little tums.
Alas, poor Henry was not mine
For he had run away.
At eight o’clock
His mistress came
And took him safe away.
Now Henry, he will come to stay
Just for a summer day
Have cakes and crumbs
And wag his tail
Just like that other sunny day.
********** Michael Elwick, Barnes 1964