Sunday, 29 June 2014

Earth to Humankind

When I walked beside the magnificent Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland, saw how much it had retreated, read about the speed with which this is happening, heard the glib pronouncements from our politicians, I was moved by the idea of how exploitative we humans are and our need to act to protect the earth, the only home we will ever have. This poem and its abusive metaphor is the result.

I gave you all, said "Come, lie with me,
on me, in me, live by me, through me,
gaze upon my face, caress my curves,
I give you life and beauty too-
all I have is yours to share
but please place me gently in your care."
Was it right then to tear my garments,
steal my jewels, scar my face,
besmear and besmirch my silken skin,
grope and gouge my secret parts-
your rule, cruel, your treatment, rough,
so insatiable you could never get enough?
Come, repent, be my friend,
be tender, gentle, make amends,
it is not yet too late to start again,
before the future's children bemoan your folly,
and, despairing about their hope and fate,
curse your abusive misrule,
and you for being a short-sighted fool.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Aletsch Glacier.

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland.

Awesomely immense,
Greater than the mind can grasp
Until, in close proximity you stand
Cowed by its size-
Beautiful in grandeur,
Sweeping a wide curving path
From high mountain top-
Utterly irresistible,
For millennia gouging
Its curving, deep-crevassed, ice-piled,
Turquoise-tinted, moraine-laden,
Boulder-strewn, U-shaped path
Through immense, snow covered,
Treeless, granite mountains-
Unstoppable, utterly irresistible,
Until the 21st century's
Insidious warming, partnered
With apathy and denial,
A water-laden, gushing, ice-boulder strewn,
Slow, sad retreat.

From Wikipedia.

The Aletsch Glacier (German: Aletschgletscher) or Great Aletsch Glacier (German: Grosser Aletschgletscher) is the largest glacier in the Alps. It has a length of about 23 km (14 mi) and covers more than 120 square kilometres (46 sq mi) in the eastern Bernese Alps in the Swiss canton of Valais. The Aletsch Glacier is composed of three smaller glaciers converging at Concordia, where its thickness is estimated to be near 1 km (3,300 ft). It then continues towards the Rhone valley before giving birth to the Massa River.

On August 18, 2007, photographer Spencer Tunick used hundreds of naked people in a "living sculpture" on the Aletsch Glacier in a photo shoot intended to draw attention to global warming and the shrinking of the world's glaciers. The temperature was about 10 °C (50 °F) at the time of the photo shoot. The 600 participants on the shrinking glacier volunteered for Tunick (a collaboration with Greenpeace) to let the world know about the effects of global warming on the melting Swiss glaciers.[6] The Aletsch Glacier receded by 100 m (330 ft) between 2005 and 2006.[7]

Monday, 16 June 2014


He was the Sun King.
His image is everywhere, in painting, bust or statue,
Mounted proudly upon his horse
Or, with forward thrust leg, imperiously staring from canvas.
Long ago he planned this splendour,
A palace and garden as grand
As ego, unlimited funds and meticulous design
Could ever conceive and achieve.
Beyond the gilded cavernous marbled palace,
   -Its crystal-chandeliers, its Hall of Mirrors,
   Its room upon room of glory and wealth,
   Its frescoed ceilings,
   Its marbled-gloriousness of chapel,
   Its grand staircases, its corridors of wealth
   Garnered from those with much less-
Lie eight hundred acres of garden
Designed to demonstrate power over nature-
   Planned, regular, controlled, mathematical,
   Great straight lines of canals,
   Clipped avenues of trees, manicured swathes of grass,
   Bright glowing beds of flowers,
   Sculptures classical and heroic
   And everywhere a chorus of fountains
   Displaying their bright sparkling dance.

Yet in the midst of all this vaingloriousness,
I think of his antithesis,
A man born to a modest family,
Who turned his back on possession and power,
Who owned nothing but the clothes he wore,
Whose wealth was his words
And the beauty of his character,
Who set his mind not on monuments and self
But on service and love
And his face not on glory
But the lonely, difficult path towards Jerusalem-
And thinking that such a man I can admire
And such a man I can deeply love

I turn back to the statues and paintings
Of the Sun King in mounted splendour,
The glory of his gardens, the wealth of his palace,
Believing that he is dust,
His crown long gone, his fleeting moment passed,
Whereas he who said
"Put not your trust in silver and gold"
Is Son and King, the first-born from the dead,
Transcendent, transformed,
Glorious, the Prince of Peace,
Wonderful Counsellor
And Reigns now from heaven above.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Monet's 'Water Lilies', Musée d'Orangerie.

The room is hushed.
People sit or stand as they stare,
Awed into silence.
Encircling the cylindrical room
Are four huge canvasses,
Without horizon or foreground,
A mastery of colour, paint and brush.
What do they see?
Is it water or sky, clouds floating
In a wonder of blue and lilac,
The surreal float of water lilies,
Shimmering splashes of green, pink and yellow,
Slender green-leafed pendant branches
Of exquisite gracefulness,
Moments cloudy, hazy, sun-sparkled in a way beyond beauty
Or rippled by momentary touch of passing breeze?

Or do they see the master at his work,
Sublime, magical, mystical,
Representing the great beauty of the world,
Seeing it as transcending time,
As more than a collection of concrete images,
Without beginning and without end,
Ever-changing but forever there,
And taking this sense of timeless beauty,
Transferring it through his mastery
So that all we lesser humans
Can momentarily glimpse in the small things-
     The shimmering play of colour from light,
     The changing dance of water and wind,
     The float of colour upon the blueness-
What is eternally there,
If only we had the eyes to see.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Australian War Cemetery, the Somme.

The day is weeping, quietly, but weeping.
A soft grey mist covers the distant ridges,
Lies close upon the green, lush folds,
And drips off the thousands of white crosses
Standing rigidly at parade ground attention,
Marked with this sad simplicity:
"A Soldier of the Great War".
Hard to think that in this landscape a century ago
A voracious, nightmarish Nationalism
Opened its giant maw and rumbled creaking
Over the green folds, quiet woods and farmlands,
Venting as it went a putrid, reeking stench
Of mud, barbed wire, crater holes, shells, gas,
Kilometre upon winding kilometre of trenches
And a tangled, twist of young lives
Stuck in the deep mud, or huddled
Beneath the percussive thud of artillery,
Or emerging from their trenches
Into the withering staccato spray of machine gun.
Yes, it is quiet. The landscape is green.
The guns have gone. The young men are dust.
Gone too are their mothers, or lovers,
Their brothers, sisters, family, friends.
Gone too is the mud, the gas, the trenches,
The inconsolable grief and loss,
But a soft grey mist covers the distant ridges,
Lies close upon the green, lush, folds
And drips off the thousands of white crosses
Marked with this sad simplicity:
"A Soldier of the Great War",
For the day is weeping, quietly weeping
And must go on weeping still.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

La Loire à Vélo

La Loire à Vélo.

We cycle along the Loire for a while.
There is bird song in the air.
It is quiet. The only sound is the swish of tyres
Or the gentle whirr of chain.
We are in no hurry, drifting along
As the Loire makes its full-bodied, green/brown,
Cloud-shadowed, tree-mirrored, sun-sparked way-
Dropping over weirs with a roaring surge,
Swirling and eddying around islands and under bridges,
Drifting beside
Fields of young green wheat,
Bright green burst of new leaf grapes,
Long rows of young corn,
The beautiful litter of bright-red poppies,
Flowing past
Teetering, hay-filled ancient barns,
Little, carefully tended allotments,
Old villages with their cobbled, twisting streets,
Cottages bright with rose-flowering walls,
Grand chateaus either sheer and impregnable above the cliff edge
Or enveloped by its protective, swirling current,
Meandering through deeply shaded forest,
On and on, for hour upon hour, until finally we are at Tours,
A little tired, glad of a rest, a chance to attend
To the momentary human needs
Of beings so anchored in time,
To wash, eat, sleep, dream,
While the Loire makes its full-bodied, green/brown,
Cloud-shadowed, tree-mirrored, sun-sparked way,
Swirling, eddying, drifting, meandering,


and on

and on

and on....