Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Bordeaux Bay by Guernsey-based artist Tony Taylor

Friday, 21 June 2019

HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW

I've spent much of the afternoon watching sparrows feeding their young in one of the bird-boxes in our garden. 
It's the second brood this year and they seem to be thriving. 
I read that sparrow numbers are diminishing in the UK and friends in Ireland say they rarely see any nowadays so it's truly a joy to find them in such abundance here in Guernsey. 




 















SPARROW

A sparrow’s building in the box
we fixed up on the wall this spring:
hardly the tenant we desired;
a dull, unprepossessing thing,
unlike the Technicolor tit
but then, we had no choice in it.

He builds his nest there, bit by bit.
Labours to find, fetch, gather, knit,
while we watch on and gradually
applaud his efforts, even cheer
this hero who was no one’s choice,
uplifted by his presence here.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

WINGS OF DESIRE

On a recent trip to Brussels I visited the Musee des Beaux-Arts and saw Pieter Bruegel's Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, a truly impressive painting by one of my favourite Old Masters. 
The Icarus story is one we can all relate to: a tale of a young man whose ambition overrode his judgement.
Which of us has not, at one time or another, aimed impossibly high and consequently been brought crashing to earth when reality shone its fearsome rays on our ludicrous aspirations. 




ICARUS

I am falling from high
but they do not notice.

The air, through wings
that promised much,
keens like a mourner.

Creeping ants below
evolve
to shepherd, ploughman, angler.

I fall unseen.

Someone
will dream it later.

I have no time
to scream.

The water is
hard as stone.

Monday, 10 June 2019

PANDORA'S BOX

I'm a great admirer of the work of English film director, the late David Lean, whose cinematic triumphs ranged from the wonderful low-budget classic, Hobson's Choice, to epics such as Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia, the latter of which launched actor Peter O'Toole to stardom.  In 1945 Lean directed a film version of a Noel Coward play, Still Life, a poignant love story about a couple who meet in a railway station: the sort of film that my mother's generation would have referred to as 'a weepie'. The film was entitled Brief Encounter.
My story's title is obviously a play on the film's name and is also about an encounter in a railway station but there the similarity ends, except, as a few film buffs may note, both my protagonist and the male lead in David Lean's film are named Harvey.
Briefcase Encounter was recently placed third in the Guernsey Writers Flash Fiction competition.  





 








BRIEFCASE ENCOUNTER

Eurostar disgorged its passengers like a pod expelling seeds.
Harvey, clutching his briefcase, allowed himself to be carried forward slowly, legs still stiff from the journey.
Security checks were in progress but Harvey moved forward confidently, certain his bland exterior would ensure cursory attention.
Waved through, he waited by the railing close to Betjeman’s statue, briefcase resting at his feet.
He saw the woman approach; her stride confident. She gave him a quick, cold smile and set down her briefcase, departing with his. Harvey picked up her case, identical to his own, and hurried to board the returning Eurostar to Paris.
He wanted to be far away from London when Pandora released the deadly spores in Oxford Street.
Safely aboard the speeding train, Harvey cradled the briefcase, itching to handle the stacks of hundred-euro notes he knew lay inside. He thought of Pandora preparing to text him with the combination to open the case: his portal to a new life.
Of the devastation awaiting London’s population, he thought very little. After all, who said life was fair?
Mid-way through the Tunnel, Harvey was on his third cognac when the text came through. He fumbled with the lock; suddenly remembered Pandora’s icy smile, and felt terror engulf him as he opened the case.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

THERE BUT FOR GRACE

In my seventy-fifth year, I regard each day as a gift and marvel that most of me is still in working order. A daily inventory of aches and pains tends to turn up something new every now and again but, to date, it's all been minor stuff, nothing sinister. 
Granted the choice, which would you prefer to surrender first: body or brain? 





 











IN GRACE

The present is arcane and strange
and any recollection left
of what has happened in the past
is vague and liable to change.        
Of future plans, he is bereft,          
for nothing now is hard and fast.  

They give him multicoloured pens
and paper, as one might a child.
Familiar voices interweave.
He sees, through a distorting lens,
people who wept, people who smiled,
that, one by one, stood up to leave.

He is content. He lives in grace.
What matter if the moments blur,
if his nocturnal thoughts are grim?
He has escaped himself: his face,
a kind of absence in the mirror,
comforts and somehow pleases him.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

CHANGE FOR THE BETTER

Poetry shouldn't be a competitive business but we humans are a competitive species so there's a tendency at live poetry events to want to be the best.





SMALL CHANGE                                                                

When words are called for, verse or poetry,
I rummage in my pocket for small change
and promptly offer up a handful: 


See,
here are my poems, these sundry coins ...


It’s strange
to see them there, 

so lacklustre and dead,
those dull ten-pees, those drab pathetic twos,
that shone so very brightly in my head.

My hard-earned verses, rhymes, opinions, views,
have not much sterling value, so it seems,
while other, bolder people’s money screams.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

RECLAIMING THE RAINBOW

The rainbow is an important symbol in the Bible, representing a promise of protection from God to Noah and to future generations.
In modern times it has been appropriated by various groups so that its Biblical significance has been obscured, if not lost.
This poem seeks to reclaim the rainbow’s original symbolism. 




 









RAINBOW

A dappled frog croaks
a prayer for rain. Rain falls.

 

We set out walking in the afternoon
with small provisions and light waterproofs
in sturdy boots because the ground was rough.
We climbed uphill, below we saw red roofs,
and stopped to eat when it was opportune,
then off again when we had had enough.

As we walked on, the rain was left behind: 
a rainbow spread before us like an arc.
The day grew bright, I felt my spirits rise.
the air was charged by some elusive spark.
We clung together, fingers intertwined.
The world seemed new. We viewed it with surprise. 

Friday, 17 May 2019

HOLD LUGGAGE

I read this poem at an open-air venue beside beautiful Lake Orta in Italy several years ago when Jane and I attended the Poetry On The Lake Festival, a prestigious annual event  attended by leading figures from the world of contemporary poetry. It has proved an enduring favourite.


















SUITCASES

Crouching in attic gloom,
where skylight beams illuminate their pool of silver dust,
old leather suitcases doze like alligators
dreaming their prehistoric dreams.

They sleep soundly having eaten up my father’s life ...


the photographs, the hearing-aid and collar studs,
the safety-razor with its rusted blade,
the letters
and the wallet with the ticket stubs ...

  
yet I am so afraid
that when I kneel beneath the skylight
to prise apart those sagging, alligator jaws,
the life that I will find compressed within
will be too small
to match my memories of him.


Saturday, 11 May 2019

TAKING THE PLUNGE

As May advances and the island's weather warms, I've noticed one or two hardy souls braving the waters at Bordeaux Bay.
I'm not a keen sea-bather myself and tend to confine my aquatic adventures to swimming pools, preferably heated ones, and even then only with great reluctance. The sea itself is far too cold for me.
Early exposure to the much-vaunted pleasures of outdoor pools, notably dear old Pickie in Bangor, County Down, left me with strong reservations about that type of rash outdoor activity.  


HIGH BOARD

Beneath his feet the board seems live,
responsive to his weight, his step,
and looking down, so far beneath,
the water, like a massive eye,
ice-cold, unblinking, ocean-blue,
stares back at him, so small, so high:
a diver, fragile as a bird,
fast-breathing, poised, to fall or fly
into an eagerness of air
that courses through his wayward hair.

He pivots on the high board then
and launches out in salty wind,
through years of childhood flown away
like voices calling from below,
into some strangeness that begins
with laughter but will end in tears.

Pickie Pool, Bangor, County Down.



Saturday, 4 May 2019

PICTURE THIS

Jane and I have spent many hours visiting galleries and museums in Europe over the past few months and, amidst a profusion of great art, I find myself drawn to portraiture in preference to landscape subjects. 
There's something about the human face and its expression, as captured by the artist, that I find beguiling. 
I've used this splendid portrait by John Singer Sargent purely to illustrate the following poem about a mysterious lady and a jobbing portraitist. The picture currently hangs in the Scottish National Gallery and I'd love to see it in the flesh, as it were, so perhaps we'll have to add a visit to Edinburgh to our itinerary.




















 

LADY

Such a pensive face, I hear you whisper,
and yes, the lady has a thoughtful look.
We stand together, marvel
at the artist’s skill and brush-technique
while you, with smartphone,
take a picture of her portrait
so that her image travels further yet
in space and time
from Exeter, two centuries ago,
with snow beyond the windows of a room.

There she would sit, while he,
with brush and paint,
would huff and puff to justify his fee.
That pensive look
he captured
defines her now
and we imagine that she dreams
of some lost, wayward love
when maybe she was simply fretting
for a missing glove. 



Monday, 29 April 2019

A HARD LESSON

Back in the days when youngsters played outdoors unsupervised and war-game consoles were the stuff of science fiction, we learned some fundamental lessons about the reality of life and death.
As my late father frequently remarked, "Experience is the best school but the fees are often high."















 





BLACKBIRD



With catapult, once school was finished,

I went to hunt in woodland, high

above Belfast, in summer light

and heard, among leafed branches spread,

a blackbird, singing like a bell.

I took aim, shot; the missile flew
 ...

... unerringly, my aim was true.

With awful suddenness it fell,

all broken. Exultation fled,
to be replaced by sickly fright.
I knelt to watch it slowly die.


Within me somewhere, light diminished.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

HEARTBREAK HOTEL

I find Philip Larkin's poem Mr Bleaney a haunting one, particularly as I grow older and become increasingly aware of the isolation and consequent loneliness that so many fall prey to.
My own poem, The Landlady's Tale, taps into the anxiety that many older people feel as time slips steadily away.  


















THE LANDLADY’S TALE

These were the only things he had.
I put them in a cardboard box.
Just what he wore. I thought it sad.
Apart from extra pants and socks.
A good innings at eighty-one.
We never knew he had a son.

He always was a quiet chap:
no trouble, liked his mugs of tea.
He’d come down to my door and tap,
Fancy a cuppa, Mrs P?
Before you go, forgive my cheek,
he didn’t pay his rent last week.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

HOSE WERE THE DAYS!

The unseasonably warm weather, more June-like than April, puts me in mind of summer days in the garden at home in Belfast long ago and the fun we had when father watered the flower-beds. 

















HOSEPIPE

We scattered, screaming, laughing too,
not really wanting to escape
the chill, refreshing water spray,
like dazzling rain, the hosepipe threw.
My brother giggled like an ape:
in bathing togs, we danced away,
then, panting, watched the water spew.
With Father, we would laugh and jape
while summer days drifted away
and we, like watered lupins, grew.

Friday, 5 April 2019

BAYWATCH

Beachcombing, whilst generally pleasurable, sometimes has its sad moments. One such is recorded in this poem.

Photo by Peter Kenny

  











DEAD SEAGULL

A gull dead on the old slipway,
its whiteness shabby, neck snapped,
pale eyes expressionless, remote.
A gull stone-dead at Bordeaux bay:
a length of fishing line has trapped
both its legs. Debris from a boat.

Gulls live short lives, brutal and grim.
It’s hard to mourn something like that,
or care; to not be disdainful.


Dying entangled limb with limb,
helpless, starved, is a cruel way.

That its death would have been painful
beyond belief, makes the heart bleed.


A piteous and pathetic end,
here on the slip where I found it,
moves me to, gently, lay seaweed
over it, like a wreath, and bend
to gather stones to place around it.

Friday, 29 March 2019

KING OF SWING

On a visit to Dorset early last summer we came upon a swing beneath a tree in a meadow of the sort you only find in England: a yellow and pink counterpane of wild flowers stretching as far as the eye could see.
I treated myself to a few moments rocking back and forth in a relatively sedate manner as befits a member of the older generation and thought back fondly to the headstrong way I rode swings when I was fearless and young. 



















  
  THE SWING 

As we launch out, the air feels clean,
the wooden swing, a pendulum
divining or recording time,
as sunlight stabs, pure platinum,
through woodland chestnut, cedar, lime,
into our playground, softly green.

It takes our joint weight on taut ropes
as we, in tandem, drive it on,
gathering momentum, we rise:
you grip the seat I brace upon
with boots, knees, adolescent thighs
and boundless, adolescent hopes.

The swing is like a storm-tossed boat,
the wood’s a bold kaleidoscope
of light, leaf patterns, soaring dreams.
I shout within the cradle-ropes,
the sound extinguishing your screams.
Free from confining earth, we float.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF

Guernsey's spring seems already well advanced, with daffodils and primroses abundant in every lane. Soon the trees will be in leaf. 

 



 






 
SPRING

Green mariners, young leaves soft as skin,
are gathering before a tall tree’s mast.


A bright, fresh crew,
they have a season’s voyage ahead
to learn the ropes.


They will return, old salts:
brown-parchment-skinned,
rum-soaked,
no wiser than before.

Friday, 15 March 2019

BENEATH THE MASK

In today's fast-paced world, there's a temptation to take others at face value, swiftly categorise then dismiss them, rarely taking time to learn their history or background. 





















REFUGEE

Overhead lights, bright in a white room;
a masked regiment around me
at my command.
In timeless hush, I work:
my steady hand and shining blade
make neat incisions, cut out
tumours, like blind, destructive moles.
It’s done. Eyes, above masks, are joyful.
The patient lives.

That was before...

Today, I wear a white coat in a bright room.
Around me, pale unmasked faces,
that have not witnessed war,
ignore my requests.
In harsh, obliterating noise, I work
steadily with shining blade.
My practiced hand
cuts pizzas into segments
that do not bleed.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

CORNISH CREAM

I'm an admirer of the work of Cornwall's greatest poet, the late Charles Causley, and have recently finished reading an excellent biography about him by Laurence Green.
When Jane and I spent several weeks in Cornwall last year, we visited the town of Launceston, where Causley was born, and the cemetery where he is buried.
I wrote this poem, Blackberries, having just returned one morning from walking a friend's dog on the coastal path above Port Isaac.

 












BLACKBERRIES                                        

Carrying home, in cupped hands,
a clutch of blackberries, freshly picked,
I marvel at the morning light,
high-circling gulls,
the puzzled stares of cattle at a gate.

Beneath a Causley-Cornish sky
I struggle to complete this poem
and wonder would that placid man
(schoolmaster, poet, balladeer)
have made allowances, ignored
blackberry stains like ink-blots on
my hapless, hopeless, homework page
and, with a not unkindly look,

have handed back my jotting book?

Saturday, 2 March 2019

ROVER'S RETURN

Here's a lighthearted, short story for the #Me Too era.


KARMA


When he was born, Maurice’s worst fears were realised. Reincarnation wasn’t a myth after all. 
Maurice had been reincarnated. As a dog.
It wasn’t bad at first. Being a puppy was a heady tumble of warmth, fun and sweet milk.   But all that was rudely whipped away. An elderly woman bought him and started imposing RULES. 
Maurice had to wee on newspaper. He liked that. It was the Guardian not the Telegraph, Maurice’s newspaper of choice in his former life. 
When he forgot and wee-d on rugs and carpets, the woman shrieked like a banshee and chased Maurice, now renamed Boo-Boo, round the kitchen.

Servility was not to Boo-Boo’s liking. When he’d been Maurice, people had cowered at his feet.
An alpha-male, he’d been a swaggering bully, intoxicated by power. He’d made enemies: men he’d destroyed; women he’d crushed.
From youth until horny old age, Maurice had taken what he wanted and damn the consequences. He’d always had his way with women, whether they liked it or not.
He remembered young Jill Fowler, barely eighteen yet annoyingly resistant.
He’d had to force the little bitch but he was sure she’d enjoyed it in the end.
I bloody well hope so, thought Maurice, she was, after all, the very last one.
The next morning he’d strolled onto the golf course and Bang! 

Massive bloody coronary.  End of story.
Except it wasn’t.
Here he was again: reborn as Boo-Boo and something odd was happening. His owner was handing him to a stranger in a white coat.
Don’t worry, Miss Fowler, the strange man was saying.
Castration’s quite straightforward. Boo-Boo will be right as rain in no time.

Monday, 25 February 2019

SPRINGING INTO LIFE

Jane and I have recently returned from Switzerland which was unseasonably warm, so we had the dual pleasure of sunshine and snow when we ventured out for forest walks. 
On arrival in Guernsey it was apparent that the island too is experiencing an early Spring, unarguably its most beautiful season. 





 







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?

Thursday, 21 February 2019

A HARD RAIN

My previous post referred to the rain of arrows that contributed to the defeat in 1066, at Hastings, of Saxon leader, Harold.
Following that decisive battle, William of Normandy's seizure of the throne changed the course of England's history.
Today's poem refers to another significant historical moment which occurred at the end of World War Two.



ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND


We work our fields. The sun is bright.
The men sing a patriotic song.  We bend and straighten. Our backs ache.
We do not curse: we are polite and strong.  To work is to belong.
We toil for the Emperor’s sake.

Old Haruki points overhead: a crane is flying from the north.  Its languid wings sweep like brushstrokes. Cranes are good fortune, it is said.

We resume plowing, back and forth, joyfully, singing, sharing jokes.

I dream of fiery rice wine, ice then flame in my throat; the slow walk homeward.
We are a happy crowd.
Comradeship, sacred brotherhood, binds us together as we think of our great nation and sing loud.


I do not hear the Yankee plane
but shudder as a mushroom cloud despoils the picture-perfect sky.

Nearby Hiroshima,
domain of a nobility most proud,
is laid to waste.

Prostrate, we lie, while airborne poison, like a stain, begins to spread.
We tremble, cowed, claw at the earth, prepare to die.

Our tranquil world is turned to pain.
We burn to ash in fields we plowed.

One hundred
thousand people.

Why?

Friday, 15 February 2019

HEAVENLY INSPIRATION

The least likely things can inspire a poem and it was something commonplace that inspired this one.
I was out walking one showery October day and, finding myself some distance from home, realised to my dismay that the shower had changed character and become an icy downpour reinforced with sleet.
It put me in mind of the lethal hail of Norman arrows that Harold's army must have suffered on that momentous October day back in 1066. 
 











OCTOBER RAIN

An aspen in a Norman wood
supplied the shaft.
A craftsman’s patience
straightened, seasoned,
then perfected
something far removed from nature,
shaped the taper, sealed it,
gently carved the narrow nock.
Fingers, that might pluck a lute
on fair-days, set to fletching:
grey-goose feathers, 
resin gum,
fine thread of linen.
These would aid trajectory,
ensure fidelity of flight.
Lastly, a hand affixed with care
the arrowhead, the killing-piece,
fierce-furnace-forged
into a kind of bird-wing-shape
with pointed beak, as lethal as a battle-sword.

It would be one of many
that French archers took to English soil
to fly in flocks like starlings
over Hastings fields
and fall to earth like iron rain,
out of a grey October sky,
to pierce the fearful blue of Harold’s eye.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

SHROUDED IN MYSTERY

As the winter nights grow colder and we settle down in the evenings to enjoy music, books or box-sets, it occurs to me how very differently families spent their winter evenings when I was young.
Back then in Ireland, a family would gather round the fireside to swap tales, the taller the better.
Inevitably, as the night wore on the stories would become more and more spooky. Here's an example. 


THE STAIN


Alex stepped back and gazed at The Meadow: wild-flowers in the foreground, forest to the left, and in the background, purple mountains in the misty distance. It had the makings of a magnificent picture: a few small touches and it would be finished. 
The canvas was a large one, six by seven, and Alex was excited as always when her creative vision began to become reality.
Stepping back from the picture, Alex turned to her other work-in-progress, a smaller canvas on which a child’s face was taking shape. Working from memory, Alex, continued to add colour to the cheeks of the young girl she had glimpsed years before when witnessing the eviction of a group of travellers from her father’s land. It had been a time of high emotion and the child’s haunted eyes, staring from behind her grandmother’s long white shawl, had touched Alex’s heart, even as the old woman raged and shook her knotted fists.
Alex worked on the child’s portrait for a couple of hours, concentrating on texture and bemoaning the fading light.
The advancing shadows seemed to bring a sense of unease and Alex found herself becoming anxious for no apparent reason. Normally, when a picture was progressing well, her mood was elated but today it was the opposite.
When she set down her brushes and turned to look again at The Meadow she was surprised to see a flaw in the picture that she hadn’t noticed before: a splash of grey paint beside the tree-line. 
Seizing a cloth and turps she attempted to sponge it off but, frustratingly, the mark refused to vanish completely and she resolved to paint over it when she resumed work the following morning.
Alex slept badly on the futon in the corner of the studio and, rising early, brewed strong coffee before approaching the picture again. The splash of grey had become a smear, larger than before and Alex cursed herself for having attempted to remove it whilst she was tired.
Studying it again in daylight, Alex fancied that the blemish resembled a figure clothed in a loose-fitting garment. 
Shaking her head in puzzlement, Alex painted it out of the picture and returned to the child’s portrait that was already taking shape, but couldn’t shake the mood of gloom that seemed to gather around her.
Pausing for coffee, mid-morning, she noticed with dismay, that the stain had reappeared, this time slightly larger than before.
Alex stood before The Meadow. The blemish did actually look like someone at the forest’s edge: the shape more defined. A small figure dressed in a flowing cloak, head bowed beneath a grey shawl. This time Alex made no attempt to interfere with it but moved away, bewildered and slightly afraid.
As the afternoon gave way to evening, she worked on the child’s portrait, recalling the scenes of anger and despair that accompanied the eviction that afternoon long ago.
Each time she allowed her attention to stray to the big canvas however, the mysterious shape seemed larger than before. Alex tried to convince herself that it was simply an oil smear spreading, but knew it wasn’t.
Before retiring to bed, she studied the canvas again and became aware that the figure had grown more distinct. Its face more clearly defined. It had a mean, sallow countenance, deeply lined and furrowed. The eyes were visible now and, to Alex’s dismay, seemed filled with ill intent. 
She turned the canvas to face the wall, extinguished the lights and settled down on the futon.
Alex awoke with a jolt. Moonlight spilled through the high window. Something moved in the room. She sat up, scrabbling for her torch. Its faltering beam fell on the stacked paintings. The large canvas stood at an angle. A triangular strip of darkness between it and the wall looked like a the flap of a black tent. Beside it a figure crouched, the hem of its ragged garment spread on the floor like blood; the face, beneath its shawl, was unmistakably evil.
Alex hugged the duvet to her chest and began to scream. 

Sunday, 3 February 2019

SAD SONG

My previous post referred the Guernsey's doyenne of the arts, Joan Ozanne, who sadly passed away last year.
I wrote the poem, September Song, shortly after attending her memorial service.
















SEPTEMBER SONG
In Memory of Joan Ozanne BEM

Outside the parish church, we pause,
exchange the old banalities
we flee to, at such times, because
we cannot face finality,
then nod, acknowledging a friend,
shake sundry hands, and hasten on
but cannot really comprehend
that one so long beloved has gone.

She seemed so permanent and set
on living, never letting go,
to relish life and joy and yet
seemed not to see death as a foe.
The very air appears tight-lipped
as though the earth has ceased to sing.
It is as though the world has tipped
and scattered, headlong, everything.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

DOYENNE OF THE ARTS

Photo by Peter Kenny
I moved to the Channel Islands twenty-five years ago this spring and since then have been involved, directly or indirectly, with the local arts scene.
It soon became apparent to this ‘incomer’ that no meaningful conversation on the subject of the arts in Guernsey could take place without the name Joan Ozanne cropping up.
My wife, Jane, and I had the good fortune to become friends with Joan, our common bond being poetry, and I recall with warm affection the times we shared tea and biscuits in her cosy front room, the walls adorned with pictures and the mantlepiece with photographs of her beloved family. I was also present, from time to time, when Joan hosted lively meetings of the PIMs poetry group.
One of Joan’s daughters, Marguerite, recently gave me a small booklet containing some of her mother's best known poems but the gift of poetry was merely one of the many talents she exhibited: Joan also wrote a number of excellent short stories and plays.
Sadly, Joan Ozanne passed away last year, at the grand old age of 92, and, as one would expect, there have been numerous tributes to her, written by those who knew her longer and far better than I did.
I count myself fortunate to have met her. One of my favourite poems appears below and this coming Monday I will feature a coupe of verses I wrote following the service in celebration of Joan's life that took place at the Parish Church of Ste. Marguerite de la Foret last September.

EVACUATION  by Joan Ozanne

My childhood was left inside
when I closed my bedroom door.
In the hall, distraught, father waits, mother weeps.
The dog, unaware, wags his tail
and licks the tears from my face.

Reluctantly we speed to the harbour.
The smell of tobacco smoke on
father’s jacket will remain with me.
On the ship we say goodbye, perhaps forever.
I feel empty like a shell.

On the 19 June 1940 as German forces were advancing on Cherbourg, Joan, aged 14, and her mother left Guernsey for Southampton on board the ‘Isle of Sark’.
 

Joan Marion Ozanne BEM
Died 30 August 2018
Aged 92 years.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

A BOOK INTO THE PAST

Browsing in a second-hand bookshop recently I came upon a charming volume entitled Evangile Mis En Pratique
My eye was attracted to it by its simple beauty and obvious antiquity.
Although it was written in French and was clearly of a religious nature, I resolved to purchase it. 
On examining it more closely, I discovered an inscription that indicated that the book had been awarded to one John W. Le Huray in March 1894 as a Sunday School prize or Prix De Merite.
My pleasure at finding this lovely old book quickly turned to amazement when I studied it more carefully and discovered that the Sunday School young John had attended was none other than the Ecole Wesleyenne du Dimanche in the Parish of St Pierre-du-Bois.
This particular Wesleyan Sunday School was affiliated to the Methodist Chapel, Old Sion, also situated in St Pierre-du-Bois. 
The latter building was de-consecrated some years ago and later became luxury apartments, one of which was my home for over a decade.
During my residence there I wrote this poem.

























GARDEN DIARY

Old Sion Chapel wall is high:
the ladder feels precarious.
Up here, I combat vertigo,
fix nesting boxes to hard stone
with fingers, winter-wounded-cold,
claw hammer, last year’s rusty nails.
Below, the bird-table is strung
with nuts in cages, fat-balls, seeds.
The Parish beech trees all seem dead,
my garden tools are stained with rust.
Wood-smoke, soft dew, birdsong, light,
this mellow January day,
awake my hibernating heart
as, high above, jet-trails on blue
chalk out simple geometry.
The hours hang in the chill air.
Damp earth within the Chapel yard
smells like dank cemetery soil
that sucks away without return.

Today I knelt to plant small bulbs,
each squat shape pressed into the loam
like buttons on a telephone:
their planting, one long number dialled.
Down wires of weeks, green life will hum,
till springtime, when these mended hands
may pluck, from softly yielding ground,
bright blooms like syllables of sound.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

RHYTHM OF LIFE

In the spring 2014 my wife and I spent three months living in a small rented house in Italy. 
Situated in an unprepossessing village that had somehow managed to escape the notice of the multitudes of tourists that annually flock to Tuscany, the house was basic, clean and comfortable.
The long lazy days provided us with an opportunity to immerse ourselves in a way of life which was totally different from that of Guernsey.    
We were the only English speakers in the area but were made to feel welcome and soon slipped into the languid rhythm of life in a hot southern climate.
At night the garden was lit by fireflies and an open door would attract moths. One such moth is the subject of this poem.

 



















LA FALENA

A moth came in at the screen door
attracted by light as moths are.
It flickered like a small dark fan,
here and there: I could not ignore
its plight and trapped it in a jar,
released it outside. Foolish man:
moths will return, against the odds,
seeking out light as we do gods.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

RUFFLED FEATHERS

Staying with the ‘bird’ theme, here’s a short poem about the vagaries of love.




















SWAN SONG

Tonight low lights romanticise
this drab unprepossessing room
where glasses raised
entrap a dancing candle flame.
Our hands across the table top
form two swan-shadows on the wall
as you pass me
the papers your solicitor
assures you I dare not ignore.



swan song (noun)
1 : a song of great sweetness said to be sung by a dying swan
2 : a farewell appearance or final act or pronouncement

Thursday, 10 January 2019

BIRD WATCHING

I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
                              T S Eliot from The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock

 
Regular readers will know that birds, real or imagined, feature frequently in this blog as does dismay at the prospect of growing old. 












EAGLES

Like eagles perched high on a crag,
the young men scan a passing crowd,
see girls they’d blank, spot girls they’d shag,
the ugly ones, the well-endowed ...
Loud in their prime, these lads can’t fail:
their confidence is off the scale.

Then fifty years happens just like that ...  

and suddenly it’s all gone flat.
No longer young or confident,
well past their prime and run to fat,
all life’s rich chances underspent ...
Youth seems a million years ago.
No eagle ever flew so low.



Sunday, 6 January 2019

A BRIEF ENCOUNTER

The challenge was to write a short story, featuring a well-known fictional character, in less than 100 words. This was my response.

SHOOTING ROBINSON CRUSOE

Crusoe lay in a crumpled heap. Man-Friday stood astride him, musket smoking.  Blood from his axe made small carnations on the sand. Crusoe’s eyes opened, locked on Friday, his fingers scrabbled for a weapon. From beneath Friday’s breastbone an arrow protruded, blood trailing from it like a ribbon.
As Friday collapsed, Crusoe spotted figures along the beach. Three men struggled to launch their war-canoe in raging surf. Crusoe shouldered his flintlock, took aim. The camera panned in on his fury. “Cut” the Director yelled and suddenly the deserted beach was alive with people.


Wednesday, 2 January 2019

THE CODFATHER

Start the year with something lighthearted from my poet's-ark poster collection.


 THE PENGUIN MAFIA

Penguins look like small fat men
in dinner-suits awaiting lunch.
They shuffle to and fro on ice,
their webbed feet going
crunch,
crunch,
crunch.

They could be gangsters, penguin-style,
but which fat penguin is the Don?
The landscape may be white as snow
but something fishy’s going on.