Alternative histories

I find myself surrounded now
By millions drenched in pure nostalgia –
One hundred per cent proof against
The world they see as forced upon them –
For a time and country they never knew
That like Arcadia or Atlantis
Is all the more beguiling
For never having been.
Their wish to rewrite and rewind our history
And fervent fealty to their imagined glory
Have won for them the crown and flag
I used to see as mine as well
And in so doing made a shell-shocked fiction
Of all I thought I knew.
And so I will allow myself
A little longing of my own
For another life I never lived
And, had it been handed to me then
Would probably have refused
As one too frightened, small, suburban
For something so grand, hard-edged, expansive.
So permit me a moment’s misty-eyed
Far-back-reaching, sadly sighing
Regret for all I never was
And in all honesty, humility and likelihood
Never could have been.

Dog’s life

Me: So. What makes a good and worthy life?
My best friend just looks at me
With fond, pitying eyes that plainly say
What kind of question is that?
Please. I need to know.
OK. First, eat. Anything and everything put before you.
Plus whatever you can find. You may surprise yourself.
Then sleep. Dream. Find the warm spots.
Let others envy your repose, so instant and complete.
Yet always be ready to respond.
There is promise in every sound and movement. You just never know.
Ignore the stick, the ball, the bird:
Mere distractions, unworthy of your speed and skill.
Not so the cat, the rabbit:
Always engage with your true work. For you will have your day.

And those I meet?
Some will reach out, some recoil.
Learn when to press for friendship, and when to walk away.

What are my watchwords?
Loyalty without subservience.
Courage without recklessness.
Fierceness without savagery.

To sum up, then…
Live enormously.
Love immoderately.
Serve unfailingly.
Be adored, remarkable, irreplaceable.

And is that enough? I ask.
My best friend’s eyes are laughing now.
You tell me.

Their greatest fans, of which I’m one, would readily concede that whippets aren’t the brightest dogs in the world – they’re born to run, not to think – but like all canines, they know a thing or two about living. Even an example as irredeemably obtuse as our beloved Viggo is consistently in tune with what’s truly important in a way I never seem able to maintain. How I envy his simple outlook, uncomplicated moral code and serene, untroubled mind, especially in times like these. N.

Wise words

All voices mute. All books closed.
And so I took myself into the hills
Wandered among the woods and fields
To tap the wisdom of the world.

Seek my silence, said the land. Breathe my air.
Watch the shadows cross my face, the trees bend with the wind.
Understand my deeper workings
But never let your knowledge close the door on wonder.

Follow the roll of stars and seasons,
The great wheel turning in the earth.
Plough, sow and harvest; but guard the goodness in you.
The sin is not in lying fallow, but working gifted ground to dust.

Feel my bones beneath your feet. Be that bulwark for those you love.
And as time and fortune wear and shape you
Be shot through with truths as hard as flints
That strike sparks, blunt blades, outlast events and weather.

Day 18,627

No fanfare, flags, no big parade;
A blanket ban on brouhaha

At my insistence:
Not my style.

Still, dutifully
I cast back a weary eye and jagged mind

Rewind the rusting, ever-running clock,
Review and reconsider;

And with a certain sadness
But no surprise at all

Discover things are more or less
Exactly as I left them.

 
 

Self-appraisal

I want to write
Not to have written.
Better to bite
Than to get bitten.
Forget I ran:
See how I run;
What counts is can
Not could have done.
It’s about the ride
Not where you’ve ridden;
When you’ve nothing to hide
Nothing gets hidden.

For all I’ve seen,
What am I seeing?
So much I’ve been
What am I being?
The one who makes
Or one who made
Wrong calls, mistakes
A mark, the grade?
Time to look ahead
Not back, because
The older I get
The better I was.

Don’t need to know

the future:
Just that
There might be one;
What happens next:
Just that
I am strong enough.
What I could become:
Just that
I can change;
Where I’ll lay my hat:
Just that
Somewhere is home;
Who is left:
Just that
Love endures;
Or how and where this ends:
Just that
It too shall pass.

Sonnet: Flight

 

I walked the woods, where Spring at last bestirred
Herself with bright abandon. All around
Bluebells and windflowers gleamed, and every bird
Rejoiced in lusty song. Then came the sound
Of angry scolding overhead: a coarse
And ragged band of brigands in full cry
As one by one, they swooped and swirled to force
The noble, broad-winged buzzard from their sky.
And thus when I, too, seek release in flight
Or silent solitude, the world’s dark woes
Rise up in loud pursuit, grant no respite
And crowd in, mobbing me like churlish crows.
How many years and miles before I find
A place to rest to my weary heart and mind?

 

 

Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary last Saturday has led to this sudden outbreak of sonnets; old and familiar ground, I know, but it’s still my favourite form to work with, and just feels right at this time of year. That said, spring is showing recidivist tendencies this week, with a bitter northerly pegging temperatures in single digits (C) and leaving the flowers  wondering if they’ve accidentally skipped a few pages in their diaries. N.

Lottery of life

If I
were to win
eighty-seven million
tomorrow night
I honestly wouldn’t know
what to do with it all

(Or at least
not beyond
the first two hundred
grand or so).

My big win
would be
a simpler world
where I could get by
without needing
so much as a twenty

And just be left alone

to
 build
  fix
   make
    mix
     plant
      reap
       find
        keep
       plough
      sow
     think
    know
   cut
  burn
 live
learn
everything
myself.

So –

what kind of odds
would you give me
on that?