Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Bordeaux Bay by Guernsey-based artist Tony Taylor

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

NOT WAVING BUT DROWNING

This piece of Flash Fiction emerged from the ruins of a failed poem on a similar subject: a paean to the animalistic power of the sea and the almost-ecstasy of almost letting go.  

SWIMMER

They’ve been walking for over an hour and the heat has become oppressive. Patrick leads the way, as always, Jill and Roger at his heels while she, grown bored and weary, begins to fall behind. The group make their way round Bordeaux bay and follow the footpath along a stretch of water between the coast and the small outcrop of Houmet Paradis, enjoying the view of Herm and the smaller islands in the distance. She pauses, seduced by the notion of cool water on her skin. The others have gone ahead but, recklessly, she finds herself drawn to the water and, within moments, she’s removed her boots and socks, then shed her top and hiking-shorts and, dressed only in bra and knickers, begun to wade in. The temperature is shocking at first but moments after she’s dived it’s become tolerable and the sensation invigorates her. She breast-strokes out from the rocky shore and feels shock as the current captures her. She attempts to turn back but finds her rudimentary swimming strokes inadequate. The waves, moving ceaselessly, envelop her: ice cold, it numbs then swallows her effortlessly. It draws her down and she succumbs. To struggle would be futile so she surrenders to the undertow which drags her deep through mists of seaweed that sway and swirl about her like her own dark hair. Eyes wide open, she pays no heed to the bead-bright, sea-bed stones that loom like mountains beneath her. The pressure on her lungs intensifies and she becomes aware that she is drowning. No past-life flashes before her, however: rather, an awareness of a future life that now will not be lived. She kicks out wildly, outraged at the thought of it and suddenly her head bursts through the water’s surface and she’s breathing fresh, sweet air. The sky, blue beyond imagination, seems immense. A wave carries her to shore. As she struggles over gravel, she’s aware that some numinous force, present there below, had taken possession of her, assessed her, then let her go.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

POSTMAN POET

Whilst visiting Devon, Jane and I travelled to the church of St Augustine in Heanton to seek out the grave of Edward Capern, the postman poet, known locally as The Devonshire Burns.
Born in 1819, Edward worked in the lace industry until failing eyesight forced him to seek alternative employment with the Post Office as a letter-carrier. His route lay between Bideford and Appledore and the job required him to make a return trip between the towns with a wait of two hours, to allow time for people to reply to letters he had just delivered because there were no post-boxes in those days. It was during this time that he began writing poems, often on the backs of the envelopes he would later deliver.
Edward Capern became a regular contributor to the 'Poet's Corner' of the North Devon Journal and his submissions became so popular that in 1856 a group of subscribers, including Alfred Tennyson, Charles Dickens, and Charles Kingsley, enabled him to publish his first collection of poems: an early example of crowd funding.
The following year the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston granted him a Civil List pension and the Postman Poet went on to publish several other popular collections including a book of ballads and songs.


Edward Capern died on 4 June 1894, and was awarded a state funeral. 
He is buried beside his wife, Jane, in the churchyard at Heanton Hill, overlooking the beautiful Vale of Torridge. 
His postman’s hand-bell was placed in a niche in the gravestone and this verse by Alfred Austin, the then Poet Laureate, is inscribed below.  

O lark-like poet, carol on,
Lost in dim light and unseen trill.
We in the heaven where you are gone
Find you no more, but feel you still.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

TIME, GENTLEMEN, PLEASE ...

I find it incredibly sad to delve into old photograph albums and be reminded of how swiftly time passes and how rapidly a fresh faced youth becomes a tired old man.

The theme of Guernsey's June Open Mic event is "Time" and, had I been able to take part, this is one of the poems I would have read.  
 

















SNAPSHOT

A dapper man, old fashioned hat,
formality in clothes and stance,
and by his polished shoes, a cat,
as he glares at the lens, askance.
It must be after the Great War
in Nineteen Twenty-Three or Four.

My grandfather. I only knew
him in his sad, declining years:
a dodderer, with tie askew
and all too quickly moved to tears
perhaps for what we all must lose
that cannot be restored by booze.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

SHIP OF STONE

My wife's recently published book, Guernsey Legends, has reawakened in me an interest in tales of the supernatural.  Like my country of origin, Guernsey boasts numerous accounts of witchcraft, fairies and ghostly happenings.
The megalithic standing stone, La Longue Pierre, can be found about a mile inland from the coast, overlooking Rocquaine Bay in the south-west of the island.




 THE GRANITE SHIP

Full twelve feet high, La Longue Pierre,
a megalithic landmark stone,
weathered by time and ocean air,
stands, in its own green sea, alone.
A granite ship, imposing, tall,
with origin beyond recall, 
its ghostly shape casts off at night
with grim cadavers for its crew.
The primitive, long-dead shipwright
that placed it here has left no clue
as to its purpose, to what end ...
what matter now, one might contend.
On certain nights, old legend tells,
an eerie luminescence glows,
voices are heard, whistles and bells,
while figures move in serried rows
up the gangplank, along the rail.
The sleepless dead are setting sail.



Sunday, 20 May 2018

VARNISHING ACT

I've recently added a new word to my vocabulary ... vernissage, meaning a reception at a venue for an arts event that's about to take place.
The word's origin is French: its literal meaning is 'varnishing' and refers to the day before the opening of an exhibition that was traditionally reserved for the artist to varnish his paintings. Nowadays it's an opportunity for invited guests to mix and mingle ahead of the public opening of an arts event.

Hence the glass of red wine and lively conversation I enjoyed at the opening of the Guernsey Literary Festival, a four-day extravaganza of culture and art that's due to become an annual event.
This photograph was taken by Chris George, the island's finest photographer, whose extraordinary images of Guernsey enable even the most jaded of us to see our island as though for the first time and fall in love with it all over again.


You can find many more of Chris George's Festival pictures by clicking on the link below.

https://chrisgeorge.dphoto.com/album/0321ev

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

Is there such a thing as true silence and would it drive us mad if we found ourselves immersed in it?
Even in the most remote places there is subtle music to be heard: a keening wind, bird song, whispering grasses...
Such things help keep us sane.





HARP-SONG

A rat nests in a sheep’s rib cage,
alert: life in a lifeless place.
Stunted trees bend, where harsh winds rage,
resistant, like the sturdy race
of men whose sheep stand, like white stones,
on this land no man truly owns.

We crossed the plain, with boots and packs,
to find the dolmen, picnic there.
The sun, at noon, upon our backs,
warmed our pale skin, wind swept our hair.
I held you then as you loved me.
Sheep watched uninterestedly.

Today, sun bleaches stones and bones.
Young sheep graze where those others stood.
Around gnarled trees a wind still moans 
and teases music from warped wood
that rises endlessly above ...
haphazard harp-song for lost love.


Thursday, 10 May 2018

WHERE POETS GO

I’ve recently returned from Cambridgeshire, an interesting part of England that I had never previously visited. It has much to commend it.
At one point, I stumbled on a small, rural church tucked away in a clearing just off a narrow road and surrounded on three sides by meadows. A side door was open so I was able to go in and, as I always do on such occasions, thought of Betjemin and Larkin, those secular saints whose church poems so impressed me when first I read them.





















COUNTRY CHURCH
 

It feels intrusive, stepping in
through the arched door uninvited.
Money in the collection tin,
a pound coin, appears to right it.
I look about. The church seems small:
not thirty feet from wall to wall.

No stained glass here, no bleeding Christ,
just  hymn books, hassocks, modest pews.
In this place, such things must suffice
to promulgate the Gospel news.
The congregation, I suppose,
shrinks week by week and never grows.

Preponderance of tweedy suits,
of wives in self-effacing hats,
an absence, here, of fresh recruits,
of newcomers to swell the stats.
A failure somehow to connect,
is what the vicar must expect.

The stone floor makes my footsteps seem
funereal, my presence wrong
and out of place. No godly theme
runs through my life, I drift along
as most do, unreflectingly,
a spiritual amputee.

Outside, old gravestones vie with flowers
for my attention as I leave.
I came here to avoid Spring showers,
where others come to pray or grieve.
The dead are lost to us, I fear,
while daffodils return each year.