Monday, 12 August 2019

I woke this morning

I woke this morning

to music of breath and skin,
dark cascade of pillowed hair,

a jacaranda-blue day
dancing through the curtains

and kookaburras exultant
celebration of day.

First published in One Sentence Poems May 19

At the Victoria and Albert Museum

At the Victoria & Albert Museum

Two little girls, both about four,
play in the courtyard’s shallow pond.
The day is warm. They run and splash
in unselfconscious delight.
I have seen such abandonment before 
in a great violinist playing Beethoven’s concerto.
I have watched as she was lifted 
and then carried away
on the tide of the orchestra.
I saw her surrender to the music,
as if she was a mere instrument
and the orchestra a single entity
chosen for that moment 
to transmit wrought transcendence 
in all its complex, shifting moods.

The concerto I hear this day is different.
As I watch and listen
I am moved by this question:
in all the marbled stillness inside the museum,
all the carefully re-created rooms,
all the beautiful costumes
from eras long since gone
and all the exquisitely designed rugs
hanging quietly on walls,
is that any greater beauty 
than this which I observe
in these two little virtuosos 
improvising on their single theme
in a way that requires no rehearsal,
only the abandonment found
in the very young or in great artists,
whilst an orchestra of blue sky, water,
sunlit grass, light on skin and hair,
splash of colour and ripple of laughter
plays in beauty-saturated accompaniment?

First published in Anti-Heroin Chic, may 19

Elegy for Ikeogu Oke

Elegy for Ikeogu Oke

Always the relentless tide comes in.
Sometimes it snatches a child.
Sometimes an adolescent is held in its suck.
Sometimes it takes the infirm
waiting silently on the beach in hope of release.
Always it sucks back, carrying them out
into the vast, dark wasteland,
a region beyond the sight of the living
who play in the sun in the knowledge
that one day a wave will roll in for them.

Sometimes it comes for one such as you,
someone in the prime of life,
someone garlanded with deserved honours,
someone with a wife and young children,
someone with a mind clear and deep
and crackling with ideas
and in whom adversity and courage
had forged a character bold, truthful
and uncompromisingly upright.

Then our tears must flow.
Our hearts must mourn.
In our spirit we groan and sigh.
We wear the heavy mantle grief.
We stand and gaze out to sea.
But we cannot seek there forever.
The living will return to life,
to joy, to celebration, to love,
to songs celebrating our brief moments
in the wonder of the world.

In my song of living I will make praise for you.
I will celebrate that I have known you.
I will rejoice in your life.
I will rejoice in The Heresaid,
your masterwork that for years
you honed and polished into perfection
with no knowledge of the honours it would bring.
I will rejoice that our minds met
and our friendship flourished.

You have gone and yet you still are with us.
You have not drifted anonymously away.
You have touched hearts.
You will touch hearts yet to be born.
Your legacy is not just your work.
You have left a reminder of what
we flawed humans can be.
I want to take your diligence, your honesty,
your uncompromising adherence
to the search for truth,
your generosity,
your belief in justice and equity,
your love of creative endeavour
and your ceaseless search for its perfection,
yes, take them and desire that they live in me
as a continual reminder of you,
you, who it was my privilege to know,
you, who I celebrate,
you, who I praise,
you, whose name I say,
Ikeogu Oke,
great poet,
clear thinker,
wonderful man,
dear friend,
now gone
too young.

first published in Praxis Magazine, May 2019

Come, Companions

Come, Companions.

We have stayed too long.
Betrayal sent us to this cove
and grief has kept us here,
growing fat and dull
in indolence and self-pity.
Why tarry longer?
Our boat is repaired.
The day is clear. 
Salt is in the air,
wind on our faces.
Remember how the water roared,
the sea sprayed and our boat surged 
before the towering swell.
Dolphins frolicked in our wake.
Great whales rose to breach by our side.
We laughed at storm.
We slept beneath diamond brilliance.
Now throw in your sacks.
Take up your sword and shield.
Climb in.
I hold our vessel still.
Have courage.
Adversity brings strength
to body and mind.
Fear not failure.
Fear only stagnation,
that dullness that first seeps
then sucks all spirit away.
Do we not have choice?
Are we not masters of our fate?
We will not look backwards.
We have no time for revenge.
We leave behind the pettiness
that stranded us here.
Our way is to the unknown west.
We will see things yet unseen.
We seek whatever lies 
beyond the setting sun.
If we fall, we fall in striving.
Now dip your oars and row.
Our first challenge is before us.
The current is swift, 
the channel narrow,
the waves curl and crash on the cliff.
Out yonder lies the open sea.
Now row. Pull hard, my friends.
Bend your backs.
Row. Row.

          -For my indomitable sister, Jean,
          who was ready to launch long before me-

First published in Verse-Virtual, June 19