Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Watercolour by Tony Taylor http://www.paintingbreaksguernsey.com

Thursday, 31 March 2016

HARE RESTORER

Murchen is the Gaelic name for hare, a wonderful and elusive creature that features again and again in folklore and mythology.
The hare also appears in a number of poems I’ve written through the years: the one below is the first in a quartet I completed last October.
It’s a stand-alone piece, as are the other three poems: it also interlocks with the others to create a complete work.
The starting point for this particular poem was my awareness that wild creatures are becoming extinct at an alarming rate: not just high-profile, glamorous ones like tigers but also many, many others that we take for granted.
The reason for their demise is almost always a consequence of the action or inaction of the planet’s arch-enemy, Man.
This poem envisages an ecologist who seeks to restore threatened species to their habitat, by fair means or foul, and imagines him secretly breeding hares in captivity before releasing them, under cover of darkness, into the wild.
 

 

MURCHEN

Midnight: a sickle moon, black trees in silhouette,
tall, jagged tops,
an electrocardiogram
scribbled on night sky.
Nearby,
a sloping meadow,
a derelict croft,
a dry-stone wall winding, like a serpent,
towards somewhere unseen.
Field-mice stir
in the emerald grasses,
a barn-owl hunts, soundlessly,
like a reaper’s blade,
back and forth over dew-moist ground.
All is absolute glistening stillness
hushed as the world’s final breath.

He comes over the wall, rippling the darkness, fluidly,

spilling like water,
brown-booted, hooded, soft-footed,
moving with purpose and stealth,
crossing the meadow, head down-turned, hurrying,
curtained by camouflage, covert, concealed.

Kneeling, he opens a satchel,
secured by a leather-made leash,
and gently releases,
as though giving birth,
two leverets, supple and sinewy-soft,
that huddle together, immobile as boulders,
to feel the soft night on their shimmering fur,
and inhale the meadow, the moisture, the magic,
the coolness of grass, the moist sweetness of air.

Two young hares in the vastness of England,
two creatures dispatched to make Eden anew,
heed their ancestral summons and,
swallowed by darkness,
slip into the future, on cue.



I had the great good fortune to be interviewed by Jenny Kendall-Tobias today (31/3/16) on BBC Radio Guernsey and you can hear this poem and others being read and discussed at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03m3wb2

The interview starts 42 minutes into Jenny’s show and lasts for 3o minutes.
 

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

STRIKING GOLD

At night, alone in the darkness of a Guernsey lane, the imagination conjures up all manner of sounds and images, from the faintly sinister to the sublime.
I remember one joyous night a few winters ago when the gable-end of a neighbour’s house became, for a few brief moments, a glorious image of yellow fields and blazing sunshine. 
  
 


MASTERPIECE

At the dark lane’s edge one lone lamp
illuminates a gable-end,
rain-slick, big as a movie screen.

I see there
an undiscovered mural
by Van Gogh: Provencal fields
abundant with shimmering light.

We stand there dripping, dog and I,
ignoring rain
and winter’s cold,
wet cap, 

wet coat, 
wet collar turned,
lost in a landscape, fiery gold.

Monday, 28 March 2016

ONLY SUPERSTITION

Superstition burrows deep into our psyche if we allow it, and can be difficult to dismiss as nonsense.
Most of us avoid walking under ladders but that’s probably just common sense or simply adherence to Health and Safety strictures.
Black cats and the number thirteen don’t bother me but I do feel a sense of unease when I see one magpie.
Happily, these stylish members of the Corvidae family may be found in abundance around the Bordeaux area and their presence in twos, three or fours tends to keep signs of ill-omen at bay.



 

MAGPIES

Two magpies in a winter tree,  
        more welcome, to my mind, than one:
                  their promised joy, a welcome start,
                           this drab cold morning swept with rain.

                           Such folklore, cryptic and arcane,
                   surrounds us. We learn rhymes by heart.
        Two birds for jubilation; one,
for sorrow, we turn tail and flee.

Friday, 25 March 2016

TRINITY

For Easter weekend, here's a trinity of short poems inspired by my experience of religious observance when I was a child growing up in Nineteen-Fifties Post-War Belfast.  
Back then, I was aware of a grim determination on the part of the Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist fraternity to exclude any morsel of joy from their worship or demeanour.
I sure it's all very different nowadays. 

 















CONGREGATION

The preacher’s words would rise and fall
like arrows: God’s wrath raining down
on Sunday faces, dull with fear.

The church was spartan and austere
as though his bat-like, flowing gown
cast a great shadow over all.

Joyousness was in short supply
within those walls. Austerity
was all they knew, that little flock.

Shipwrecked, they clung to the cold rock
of religion, despairingly
waving as life sailed blindly by.



A PIOUS WOMAN

She loves God: approves of no man.
Small face sour with disapproval,
she clutches a well-thumbed hymnal.

Watch her Sundays,
drop shillings in collection tins,
repent an absence of real sins
with contrite gaze.

See her weekdays, at the church hall,
organising the removal
of dead flowers. A pious woman.



TWILIGHT

He has a Bible, black and white,
of ancient words from Heaven sent:
the living truth, omnipotent,
to delineate wrong from right.

Faith is his lantern; hope, the spark
that lights it on the twilight road.
Wrapped in a cloak that has been sewed
with prayer, he braves approaching dark.

 


Wednesday, 23 March 2016

NIGHTMARE SCENARIO

Most writers that I know agree that there are days when the challenge of writing can be a nightmare. 
It’s even been said that those who find the process of writing easy are not proper writers. A debatable point.
This poem wasn’t a nightmare to write but it was written about a nightmare. 

What happened in that strange world inside the mirror? 
I’ll never know. 
I woke up shaking.



BANQUET

A shaft of moonlight, like a spear,
falls sharply through a curtain gap
to pierce a brightly-furnished room
whose jigsaw shapes, so like a map,
fit some erotic hemisphere
where women pause and then resume
their talk of arcane alphabets
and T S Eliot’s Quartets.

See how the ornate chandelier 
spills gold upon a host of hats   
as crystal glasses sing like shells,  
and waiters flicker like white bats 
through a flamboyant atmosphere  
of ever-rising decibels.
The women, shaped like violins,
have anguished eyes and flawless skins

and intuition that ensures
                      a comprehension of the arts,                      
where images are rarely true
and falsehood lives in poets’ hearts.
Pearl necklaces, like ligatures,
hang on their milk-white necks askew
while simile and metaphor,
their analytic minds explore.

Admire the opalescent rings
on fingers, fanged with scarlet nails,
that raise, as heedlessly as air,
exotic glasses of cocktails
while an intense soprano sings
an aria of sweet despair.
An ornate mirror’s icy gaze
alternately reflects, portrays

the brittle women’s sculpted hair,
their worldly, weary, bitter smiles
and watchful eyes that never rest.
Those cool and elegant profiles
are swallowed by the hungry mirror
wherein their likenesses, compressed
into one writhing, fleshy mass,
are sucked into its vortex glass.  

Voraciously, the mirror’s maw
devours them, everyone and all,
till only empty chairs are left
to populate the banquet hall.
Deep in glass depths, they cower in awe
and languish, suddenly bereft
of self or ego. There they dwell
in not-quite-Heaven, not-quite-Hell.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

ABDUCTED BY ALIENS?











 



Apologies for the long silence.
I had intended to continue posting whilst travelling in Italy, Switzerland and France but due to a technical glitch it simply wasn't possible. 
Jane and I started our trip from Lucca in Tuscany and travelled by rail on the legendary Bernina Express through the Swiss Alps, then homeward across France to the Channel, where our journey, which had previously been hassle-free and joyful, quickly became significantly less so in the hands of Condor Ferries, the monopoly sea-transport provider for Guernsey and Jersey. 
Condor's dire reputation precedes them and already this year their performance has been particularly poor, causing despair in Jersey, where they make a serious effort to promote tourism.
We had been dreading this final leg of our journey and, indeed, once again Condor lived up to our expectations.
Twenty-four hours later however, I feel sufficiently recovered to reflect on the numerous highlights of our travels, from Baroque concerts in awesome surroundings in Italy, a feast of Piccasso and Klee paintings in Switzerland, the snowy passage through the Alps in the magnificent red Bernina Express, to the quiet pleasures of Besancon and Rennes in France.
Returning to Guernsey is always a pleasure, despite the frustrations of local travel, and the island looks positively springlike. 
We came back to a high tide in Bordeaux bay, clear skies and sunshine. My heart soared.  
Here then, in quick succession over the next few days, are the posts you should have been able to read.





















HIBERNATION



Hibernation over, they wake
hungry then swiftly re-engage
with animal things: so the cycle
begins again. We understand that.

Is it fanciful to wonder
if they dream? Or is their slumber
incomprehensible, like death,
devoid of sense of anything?