Sowing discord

27 September 2011 § 8 Comments

Seeds of change

One for the rook
One for the crow
One to wither
One to grow.

One for the deluge
One for the drought
One each for the pigeon
And mouse to dig out.

One for the subsidy
One for the crash.
One for the Government
Desperate for cash.

One for the trader
In futures, who bets
On prices, then pockets
The millions he gets.

One for the banks.
Make that two – make that ten.
No, make it a billion.
And then start again.

One for the climate,
Now warming, it seems.
One for our hopes.
One for our dreams.

One for our gluttony
One for our greed
None for the millions
We choose not to feed.

One for the rook,.
One for the crow.
One to wither.
One to grow.

The farmers are already busy drilling next year’s cereal crops, and I’ve had the old rhyme about seeds that bookends this poem going round in my head all day. Blame the Party Conference season for the rather downbeat tone of the stuff in between!

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Hurricane Katia

12 September 2011 § 9 Comments

Someone else’s storm

The oak is full of surf-sounds.
The poplars hiss and twist
Branches bent like umbrellas
Blown inside-out.
Twigs, leaves, small branches litter
The verge and gutter,
Pigeons hurtle over the wood
Like artillery shells:
Even the drowsy river
Is stippled and disturbed,
Raked by cat’s-paws.
Clouds big as counties
Shutter the sun, sending shadows
Running like hounds over the plough
And under it all
A deep-drone fugue
For Aeolian harp
Played on gates and power lines.
The land shakes, waits,
Wondering what will break upon it
As force and fury tear across
Three thousand miles of ocean.
And here we are
Caught up again
In someone else’s storm.

Harmony and discord

30 March 2011 § 10 Comments

News of the world

Eight voices
Reaching across five centuries;
An old motet,
Its golden notes as rich and clear
As honey in the comb,
Pouring from my radio
Over the kitchen counter
And the breakfast bowls;
Eight parts intertwining, rising
Bass to treble,
Earth to heaven:
Nesciens mater virgo virum
A purity unstained by pride,
A verity undimmed by time,
Whatever you believe.

Eight a.m.
Six pips count the seconds down
And my own century smashes in
With yet more news of war and cuts,
Protestors, rebels, innocents
Lands torn up by natural forces
Ideology and isotopes.
And Mouton’s melodies are blown away
Like dandelion seeds.
Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi,
Miserere nobis.

Like Charles, I’ve despaired of the news, which is why I’ve finally kicked the Radio 4 habit (and as any regular listener will tell you, that’s like converting to a different religion) and transferred my allegiance from The Today Programme to highbrow music station Radio 3 when I’m unloading the dishwasher and preparing breakfast. Even here, though, the BBC insists on providing an hourly news update, and this morning, I just wasn’t quick enough with the ‘off’ button.

A tale of our times

24 March 2011 § 6 Comments

Cuts

He walks
Towards the grey stone house
Like a battlefield surgeon coming down the line
Or a man who, shaving hastily, contrived to nick
An artery in his neck.
The warm red rain has spattered his face,
Soaked his cap and shirt-collar,
Stained overalls and hands like some apprentice butcher’s.

He knows
This was a task he should have tackled
Back when they were calves,
The horns mere buds, and their removal
No more than a touch of glowing iron,
A brief sharp stink of burning hair –
A job for life in a minute’s easy work.
Now, left so late, it took three men
And a whole sodding day of trodden feet,
Shouting, straining, geysers of muck,
Maddened beasts slamming on sleepers and steel;
An improvised corrida, short on finesse,
Long on blood.

He begrudges
The time, the hurt, the fat fee to the sweating vet;
Still, it had to be done:
Seeing them swaggering into the yard,
Cocksure with their weaponed heads,
There was no question. The wounds, torn wire
And their seigneurial strutting at the trough
Left him no choice
But the crush, the needle and the blade. Yet

He finds
He cannot say who won this one. He’s left
Slumped and blasted, arms hanging like empty sleeves; the beasts
Bewildered, polls still stunned
By adrenaline local and the shock of shears.
All change in the herd, he thinks:
A social shuffling, a shift in power.
A bullet bitten, the right thing done.
But as he stumbles in to wash and eat
He shakes his head. And does not smile.

Democracy in action

18 February 2011 § 6 Comments

A NEW LEAF?

I thought that I should never see
This triumph of democracy;

Our voices raised across the land
Forced ministers to stay their hand,

And cancel plans to sell our oaks
And other trees to greedy blokes

Who only see the beech and ash
And chestnut as a source of cash

And would have curbed our ancient right
To walk the woodlands. So in spite

Of pressures on the national purse
Our leaders paused, engaged reverse

And said that they had got it wrong
(As we had told them all along).

The law is made by fools, you see;
But only God can make a tree.

A follow-up to yesterday’s U-turn by the Coalition on its proposed national forestry sell-off. Alfred Joyce Kilmer’s poem ‘Trees’ has been parodied many, many times, most famously by Ogden Nash. I figured one more couldn’t hurt.

Victory

17 February 2011 § 2 Comments

The Coalition has just announced that it won’t be selling off our publicly-owned woodlands after all:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12488847 

If you were one of the half-a-million people who signed the petition against the plan, thank you. Occasionally, just occasionally, democracy can be seen to be working.

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