Fourteen³ - January 2016

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A Song Of Eighteen Hours

CONTENT WARNING: Sonnets XXIX - XXXI deal with a period of 18 hours during which there seemed a real possibility that my wife was going to have a miscarriage. If this is a subject which is difficult for you, please skip to Sonnet XXXII which is a cheerful poem about rainbows!

Sonnet XXIX - On Shroedinger’s Baby
8th January 2016

For eighteen hours, hell was not to know
If you were living still or doomed to die.
The midwife called: “It might be nothing, though

It might be serious,” she said. And I…
…I held your mummy’s hand to reassure,
I held her tight, and told a happy lie.

I went and hid behind the bathroom door,
And pleaded for your unborn life so brief,
My knees gave out, I wept upon the floor,

Then washed my face to hide the marks of grief.
I did not want my lack of faith to show,
As tragic loss combined with hope’s belief.

We lived them both, let them entangled grow:
For eighteen hours, hell was not to know.

Sonnet XXX - On The Cup Of Sadness
13th January 2016

Lord, take this cup and fling it far away,
Its taste is all the bitterness of tears.
My future hope is fallen to decay,

And all the desolation of my fears
Is all the harvest that I have to reap.
I cast my mind through unimagined years

To moonlit garden where disciples sleep:
While holy blood, like sweat, beads on His brow,
They witness not their master bowed to weep.

Like them, the silent world is sleeping now,
But as each wakes to face their lonely day,
Not one can share our lonely pain somehow.

When earth and heaven’s silent, all I pray,
Is take this cup and fling it far away.

Sonnet XXXI - On An Ultrasound
18th January 2016

When I looked up and saw my baby there,
Upon the screen, in shades of black and grey,
I felt the eighteen hours’ black despair,

That bitter cup, be taken all away.
And felt my spirit lift - like uncaged bird
Which soars in golden light of new dawned day;

In song of the sonographer, I heard
The sweet prophetic promise I had lost:
Of life’s first step, first smile, first laugh, first word,

Of every mile-stone passed and hurdle crossed,
Of all the things which I‘ve long longed to share.
And out the window, January frost

Began to thaw; I mouthed a grateful prayer;
When I looked up and saw my baby there.


Sonnet XXXII - On Rainbows
20th January 2016

I saw a bow projected on the sky,
In colours too fantastic to be real.
A trick a raindrop played upon my eye

A trick it made no effort to conceal.
But even knowing how the trick was done
It did not change the gladness that I feel

At seeing all the beauty of the sun
Refracted through the life renewing rain.
Small wonder that the ancient poets spun,

From rainbow thread, an Earth made new again;
A sign that holy vengeance from on high
Gives way to holy grace which shall remain:

The clouds depart and tears begin to dry;
I saw a bow projected on the sky.


Sonnet XXXIII - On Needy School Children
24th January 2016

Do not tell me, I simply do not care.
I do not care who poked their tongue at who.
I do not care who should be here or there.

I do not care you think you need the loo.
I do not care to hear at length of how
You plan to do the things you’re meant to do.

Just sixty seconds, please, of stillness now.
Just sixty seconds peace to drink my tea.
Just sixty seconds silence to allow

My thoughts to clear of your concerns, and free
Them up for tax, the car that needs repair,
And all I have to sort, and do, and be.

We’ve all got problems, kid, we have to bear,
So don’t tell me, I simply do not care.


Sonnet XXXIV - On The Buses
24th January 2016

You try to make me trust you but you lie,
You say that you’ll be there but don’t arrive.
I want to make things work, but all I try

Is dashed on your indifference as you drive
A wedge of broken promises between
Us both. I don’t know why I choose to strive

To make things work, with all the hurt I’ve seen.
You want to make me keep your time, your rules,
But act, yourself, the faithless libertine.

Too long you’ve taken all of us for fools,
And don’t be shocked when you’re left high and dry,
The reel of costly ticket stubs unspools,

And no one mourns: you’ll know the reason why:
You try to make us trust you but you lie.


Sonnet XXXV - On Burns Night
25th January 2016

This is my toast to him, the Ayrshire Bard,
My toast for all his poetry sublime:
The verses which, at first, had seemed so hard,

But spoke to every heart in every time.
The words which in a perfect meter ran,
And built, one on the next, to perfect rhyme.

I weep for mice and men who have a plan,
Which by the ploughs of fate shall go awry,
Remember that, for that, a man’s a man,

And with the gloomy winter month, I cry.
And for the ploughman-poet who was starred
To speak to every age, I shall raise high

My glass, and give on this, his day, regard:
This is my toast to him, Ayrshire Bard.


Sonnet XXXVI - On Scotch Whisky
(After A Couple Of Glasses)
25th January 2016

This lovely, golden, Scottish whisky drink
Which I shall take upon this honoured night.
With haggis, neeps and tatties mashed, I’ll sink

A dram or two, a verse or two recite.
I’ll feel the lovely burn of highland gold,
And in the mellow glow of amber light

I’ll chase away the winter’s dark and cold,
And feel the warmth envelop me again.
But time draws on, the night is growing old

And soon my glass I shall be forced to drain,
And then in cosy slumber shall I wink.
It tastes of comfort, warmly hugs the brain,

(Although, it can’t be said it makes you think)
This lovely, golden, Scottish whisky drink.


Sonnet XXXVII - On The Sisyphean Nature Of Being A Primary School Librarian
29th January 2016

And so the endless struggle starts again.
I heed my measured master, Order, call:
I heft the mass of scattered books, and then

I heave them up to shelves which line the wall;
I grapple each, on alphabetic climes,
Towards its proper place amongst them all.

From cockerel’s crow ‘til bell of evening chimes,
Each library user shall my task renew,
And, like that proud, cursed king of ancient times,

My labour daily falls to nothing, too.
But I must start afresh each morning, when
I clear my desk of gathered Dewey dew,

I look towards the heights and count to ten.
And so the endless struggle starts again:

(I heed my measured master, Order, call…etc.
To be repeated an infinite number of times.)


Sonnet XXXVIII - On The Boy Who Ran
30th January 2016

I saw a boy who ran because he ran.
When gifted with four minutes’ freedom, he
Was out the door, and so the chase began.

He ran because that’s what it meant to be;
Because within his childish, school-bound frame,
Was boredom stored and turned to energy.

And as he ran, no other children came,
That moment’s joy belonged to him alone,
But still he ran his solitary game.

I stood and watched, as motionless as stone,
And ran my mind across my mortal span:
I thought about a stranger I had known,

The one I was before I was a man,
And saw a boy who ran because he ran.


Sonnet XXXIX - On The Man Who Runs
30th January 2016

I am a man who runs because he’s fat,*

I run so I can drink and scoff and chew,
I run to feel time pass beneath my feet,
Because it seems the thing for me to do,

And as I run each path and road and street,
(And wheeze and groan and sweat and pant and puff,)
I make-believe I’m part of some elite,

Of lithe and supple bodies made of stuff
They put in Lucozade and yoga mat.
But then I have to walk, I’ve had enough,

Because I spent too long on bottom sat.
I am a man who runs because he’s fat.

*Though this is more hyperbole, than true,
I think it’s more amusing put like that!


Sonnet XL - On The Colour Blue
31st January 2016

About that so-called ‘boyish’ colour blue,
The colour of the gentle summer air.
It is the blessèd Virgin Mary’s hue,

Which artists choose to give to her to wear.
And fair Forget-Me-Nots, with childish mirth,
Are picked and threaded into golden hair:

A present from our mother-planet Earth,
Like water which revives, sustains and flows,
Toward the sea, which gave all life its birth.

I wonder who the person was who chose,
And how this most perplexing notion grew -
To give to boys the blue and girls the rose?

I do not know what I’m supposed to do
About that so-called ‘boyish’ colour blue.


Sonnet XLI - On The Colour Pink
31st January 2016

About that so-called ‘girlish’ colour pink:
A mixture of white anger and blood red.
The colour of the rain which runs like ink,

Across the battlefield and round the dead.
And from this violent scene arose a king,
Who placed the crown of England on his head,

And forged a pink, united, Tudor thing
From warring English roses, red and white.
Now bring burnt carcasses of lambs in spring,

And let the juices run with every bite.
It seems to me the fact we’ve made a link
Between all this and babies can’t be right

I do not know what I’m supposed to think
About that so-called ‘girlish’ colour pink.


Sonnet XIV - On A Sunday Afternoon
31st January 2016

I check the clock: it is not bedtime yet.
I flip through all the channels on TV.
I vaguely skim the local news gazette.

I note the price of nearby property.
I look outside, the sky is cold and grey.
I rise to make another cup of tea.

I pour my lukewarm, former cup away.
I stare at cryptic crossword clues in vain.
I find some cards, but can’t think what to play.

I sip my tea and find it’s cold again.
I think that I should learn the clarinet.
I tip both thought and tea right down the drain.

I notice that the winter sun has set.
I check the clock: it is not bedtime yet.