To think that once
We’d gather while the saner world
With its small ways
And dull, diminished dreams
And roll out
Knowing we’d be gone
Till those same silent streets
Smouldered gold in a hickory reek
And weary shadows yawned and stretched
Into encroaching dusk;
Cheeks and bellies hollowed out,
Legs freighted with a double metric tonne
Of England’s lanes and hills;
Unconscious of our glory
Complacent in our strength
And never yet supposing
That our one day’s ride
Would turn in time
Into a weekend’s work;
That knees and hips would find their voice
And raise a chorus of complaint
With backs and shoulders
And all our talk
Would be of what had been.
A different road
Through distant days.
When I was 15, Bruce Springsteen’s anthem Glory Days was just a great song. It still is, of course; but 30-some years on, I feel as though I’m in it. My friend Mike wasn’t (as far as I know) ‘a big baseball player’ but he was a fine bike-rider, and a great companion on the road. Looking back, I can’t quite believe we put in some of the miles and days we did. Couldn’t do it now, but wouldn’t have missed it for the world. N.
Beneath my eyes
Are just my carry-on;
My real freight
Is checked and stowed:
The baggage that I do not need
But cannot seem to live without;
A steamer-trunk of wasted years
A rain-stained tote of lost ideas
A locked briefcase of secret schemes
A Samsonite of fragile dreams.
It’s unimportant where I go
How frequently or far I fly,
How carelessly I label them
Or hope they tumble from the sky:
Each day I’m at the carousel
To find that every single piece
Has made it with me, safe and well.
A reclaim that brings no release.
I envy them their energy
Insouciance and ignorance
Ability to stay up late
And lie in later;
I covet their unclouded eyes
Their narrow waists
And knees that don’t complain
On autumn mornings.
But most of all I’m jealous of
Thick and lustrous
As the new spring grass,
With scope to sculpt, the heft to gel and flick,
Strong and shining
Packed full of pro-B vitamins and promise.
Submit meekly to the clippers
And an undebated scalping,
All thought of style,
Like the substance,
Long lost and brushed away.
Youth. Truly wasted on the young. N.
We were to think
The First would be the last:
Now April’s lunacy lives on
Will lose its blue
And then the red will fade
Till all we’ll have to hoist will be
When all of this
Is done we will look back
And say that it was right, and good.
You Viking hordes,
Dread knights of Normandy:
Your swords would wound less deeply than
A Grendel stalks
Our land. Come, Beowulf:
Rise from the page and save us from
With local elections this Thursday, and the hideous spectre of next month’s general election haunting the nation, I decided to cheer myself up with another round of cinquains, aimed at what now passes for democracy in these isles. Pleased to report that I’m feeling much better. As Sir Thomas More astutely noted: ‘The devil…that proud spirit…cannot endure to be mocked.’ N.
Grows weary now,
Decides to call it quits
So draws the clouds across the sun
And shuffles into twilight. Blackbirds call
From treetops but it does not turn;
Just fades away and leaves
A lonely world
Is not against
The clock; no pack or prize
Impels you. All you have to beat
Is deep pain, your own doubt, the wasted days.
Recharge the lightning in your limbs,
Relight your inner fire:
I long to see
Revisiting rictameter. The second poem is for my beloved but somewhat banged-up whippet, who’s three weeks into a month-long convalescence from surgery to secure his left shoulder, which he dislocated in a fall at the beginning of April. He should make a full recovery given rest and time, but it’s going to be a long, slow job. Thank goodness for pet insurance…N.
And one by one
The lights still left to us
Are doused. How long will we await
Have read the signs
In wind and earth and tree.
One day, we will wake up to find
The flowered fields
And through the clean-clothed woods.
But where in all this life may I
Burns low, its light
Too faint to read, the flame
Too weak to warm my back; and soon
Moves slowly west
Into a great unknown
And who can tell us if they will
Today’s prosodic experiment is the cinquain. It’s quite similar to yesterday’s rictameter, in that it’s syllabic; the differences being that it’s five lines, not nine, made up of (respectively) one, two, three, four and one iambic feet. The final cinquain is inspired by the wonderful ‘slow TV’ documentary Reinflytting – minutt for minutt (literally ‘Reindeer migration – minute by minute’) currently showing live on Norwegian channel NRK. I shall try to write some more cheerful cinquains in due course, I promise. Just been one of those weeks. N.
In every note,
Bow arm strong and supple;
Eyes closed, lost in concentration,
You own this space, command our attention;
The music and moment are yours.
Wild applause. My heart swells.
This is my first crack at rictameter, which I’d never heard of until today. Nine lines; start with two syllables, then four, then six, eight and finally 10, before counting down again to the same two syllables you first thought of. My subject, once again, is my wonderful daughter, who played a magical violin solo at her school concert last night. N.