Grown Up Poetry
This poem was written for a Bible Society poetry competition for a poetry on the theme of ‘change’. This suggested to me the famous verse about ‘beating swords into ploughshares’ but the more I thought about it, the more this came to be bound up with other instances of agricultural and gardening imagery in the Bible. The final poem explores how the idea of the garden evolves from Genesis to Revelation and the decisive point of change brought about by Jesus’ death on the cross.
A taste of fruit has altered all creation,
And grown both Adam’s pride and mark of Cain;
Entangled in that tree, with each temptation
I choose to lose God’s garden peace again.
Where once I tended Earth and turned the soil,
And gloried in the gifts of labour’s grain,
Across the sin-scarred land, now I must toil
Against all those who share my sinful stain.
And into this the Prince of Peace was sent,
And showed how sweet the fruits of God could be,
Changed spears to pruning hooks, and swords to ploughs,
So we might find fair work, beneath the boughs
Of life-blood stained and life sustaining tree,
Where God Himself bore violent punishment.
And in the silent garden where I sought
To dignify His death with fragrant oil,
I met a gardener - or so I thought,
And felt the bonds of temptor’s tree uncoil.
For from that ground, the peaceful prince had fought
To grow my peace in three days’ germination,
So I might labour in His garden-court:
A paradise of praise and adoration.
THE MONARCH OF THE HUNT
I follow the brilliant @microSFF account on Twitter which publishes tweet length Sci-Fi and Fantasy stories. One time they posted this...
The knights and ladies rode to hunt, their cats astride their gloved hands. They were released to pursue prey; some returned a mouse, others brought newt or frog, and some simply had a nap.— Micro SF/F stories (@MicroSFF) June 24, 2018
The noble whose cat seemed most content was declared the mistress or master of the hunt.
...and because my brain is particularly wired into such things, I noticed that the first sentence formed two lines of iambic tetrameter (assuming you pronounce the 'ed' in 'gloved' as a separate syllable). Using this as a springboard, I set the rest of the tweet into the same meter and the result was a pretty satisfying twelve lines of poetry.
The knights and ladies rode to hunt,
Their cats astride their glovèd hands,
They were released to seek their prey,
Across the golden hunting lands.
Then one returned with rat or mouse,
Another with a newt or frog,
While others simply curled and slept,
In shady spots upon a log.
Whichever cat seemed most content,
On cushioned seat was borne in front;
And so, their owner was declared,
The noble monarch of the hunt.
The Planets Suite
The original idea for this set of haiku came about when trying to come up with ideas for the space anthology for which Twelve Stories To Be Told By Moonlight was also written. In the end, I decided it wasn’t right for that stylistically so didn’t even send it off but I like this sequence for its mixing of planetary mythology and science with a story about a domestic row as well as for its fiendishly complex rhyme scheme.
Orbit swiftly, near,
Teach me what I need to say,
Make my message clear.
Thick, concealing cloud,
Love gets lost in atmosphere,
Our ill-natured shroud.
Marbled green and blue,
Here alone is life endowed,
Home is only you.
Planet clothed in red,
Petty battle lines we drew,
Angry words we said.
Robed with storms, and vast,
Tempest beaten, we embed;
Peace when anger’s passed.
Pale, fragile rings,
Seasons turn; spring comes at last,
Healing that time brings.
World of icy skies,
Heaven-home to feathered things,
Let new love arise.
Blue as ocean spray,
Deep as love and sorrow-sighs,
Wash shed tears away.
Twelve Stories To Be Told By Moonlight
I wrote this as a submission to an anthology of poems which was to be published in the year of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. It didn’t make it in, but I decided to post it on the day anyway. The stories of the twelve men who landed on the moon are fascinating, and researching this and finding a unique angle on each character was both a challenge and a pleasure.
They are the twelve, who went for all mankind,
To walk where none had ever walked before,
So we shall tell their stories and their names
By moonlight, for we walk up there no more.
He led the way, secured his place in fame;
With one small step he made a giant leap,
And set a standard in the lunar dust,
To mark our farthest outpost in the deep.
He waited, second, as he knew he must.
But all alone, he made a sacrament -
First supper on the moon: the bread and wine -
Then walked outside, from Earth to heaven sent.
He would not let dyslexia define
The heights he’d reach. When no one understood,
He found a different way: he learned to fly,
And saw much more than teachers thought he could.
He went and saw things with an artist’s eye,
A wealth of colours in a silver land,
And brought back memories he forged in paint,
Each image laced with other-worldly sand.
He mocked the force of gravity’s constraint,
So using all his secrecy and wiles,
He took a six-iron and hit a ball,
And saw it soar for miles and miles and miles.
He heard the secrets of the cosmos call,
With Earth still far ahead and moon behind,
He caught a glimpse, and lived from then to prove
How soul and science are, as one, combined.
He saw the Earth and Sun and Moon all move -
How gravity had set them in their course;
With hammer and with feather, he showed we’re
All equal to that fundamental force.
He walked, a quarter-million miles from here,
Where helpless doctors watched his heart attack,
But in the rocket-ship’s intensive care,
His heart beat on to make it safely back.
He travelled once before, from here to there,
And helped to pave the way where Armstrong leapt,
And watched as others followed in his stride,
Until he too, on lunar surface stepped.
He took his family with him for the ride -
They missed him when he worked away from home -
And left their photograph where he had gone,
To show love goes wherever humans roam.
He was the first one off and last back on:
But as the lander readied to depart,
He hoped we wouldn't know him as the end,
But rather as the ending of the start.
He never dreamed of space, or thought they'd send
A man who'd only studied earth and stone.
But he was called to ride the final flight,
To see the grandest rock he’d ever known.
We see a little further in the night,
For twelve have faced the darkness to explore;
So tell the stories of the light they shined,
By moonlight, for we walk up there no more.
The View From Crow Hill
I really love this poem, but it’s had a bit of a chequered history.
There’s a hill outside the town where I live which is made out the of debris which was cleared in order to level the ground to build on and it is now part of a nature reserve. It’s one of my favourite places to sit and I’ve always found the story of how it was made to be metaphorically resonant. I also wanted to experiment a bit with Wordsworth-style long-form blank verse and thought the form would match the themes I wanted to explore.
Having written it, the poem got nowhere in a competition themed around ‘community’, nor was it published by the local magazine when I submitted it as part of a longer column. In the end, it found a home on the amazing Places Of Poetry project where it has garnered (at time of writing) a massive eight likes!
Do I recall when all of this was fields?
When nothing but the cultivated earth
Which greenly rolls beneath the blue-grey sky
To find it's limit in the grey-blue sea
Was all there was for countless four-point miles?
No. That is fancy, more than memory.
But I have heard the story of this place
Which has become my home from those who do:
Of how these few square miles were chosen, sold,
And surveyed for a new community
Which bloomed from fertile countryside;
How hardhats came and cut a flattened swathe
Of land, which crescents round to form the bed
From which the streets and houses soon would grow;
And how, within the bounded space, they made
A mound from all the mess they cleared away:
A modest hill where there was none before.
It is a most unnatural, natural space -
A man-made keep, reserved for wild things:
A bluff above an artificial lake,
With rambling paths precisely tangled round,
Where leash-bound dogs and lycraed joggers run.
But there, upon a fishing platform sits
A kingfisher who watches, motionless,
For silver flash before she flashes blue;
Across the path, a sudden muntjac springs;
A kestrel kites above. As evening falls,
The peeping bats patrol the waterfront,
And from his sett, a badger shyly sets
About his nightly constitutional.
But where the grain-rich fields of green once grew,
A richer fruit is growing in its place:
The schools and churches, sport and social clubs,
The cricketers upon the village greens,
The latte-scented coffee house, the shops,
The gym, the pub, the library and the vets,
The fireworks display and Christmas lights,
The council notice board, the potholed roads,
The “What do I pay council taxes for?”
The gossip and the village magazine,
And all the friendships, feuds and families.
They built commuter dormitories, but we
Have gathered up our messy lives to make
Community where there was none before.
And one day hence, when all of this is gone,
And nature has reclaimed it all for green,
Perhaps, a weary wanderer will pause a while,
And climb this modest hill to rest, and see
A swathe of flattened land which crescents round,
And wonder how it ever came to be.