Robin Sang for Willow

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

The magnificent old Willow
was being taken down,
limb by limb,
branch by branch,
and finally,
segment of trunk by segment of trunk,
all day.

And . . .

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

The louder the chainsaw
roared
the louder you
sang,
so she would know
you were there
singing to her,
singing to ease the pain
to honour her living
mark her dying,
so she would know
she was not alone.

And . . .

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

You sang when the squirrel
fled its drey
moments before the chainsaw man
ripped it out of its place
nestled in between
two strong branches,
and threw it on the ground
like rubbish;
it had been a good place for a drey,
the squirrel now has
no bed for the night.

And . . .

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

You sang as the wood dust
spewed from the whirling saw
and fell sparkling in the sun
like snow or rain on a sunny day,
but it wasn’t rain or snow
it was part of a life
being cut down;
and as the parts fell,
thudding after they were
too heavy to tumble
crashing earthward,
the sky opened up
bright blue
on a sad day.

And . . .

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

You sang farewell
to an old and noble
being who had stood
where it could not flee
when it got in the way,
got too big and had to go,
like so many of its kin
right now around the world
lost to clear cutting,
lost to fire,
lost to greed,
lost to commerce,
lost to progress,
lost forever
and we shall never know
the weight of the loss
until it is far too late.

And . . .

All day you sat,
on a branch of a hawthorn
at the edge of our orchard,
Robin, and sang.

The Piano has to Die

It is an odd feeling, sending a musical instrument to its doom.

I had not really bonded with the piano I got a couple of years ago for free, well plus moving costs. For a lot of that time it was in the hallway covered over whilst the house redecorating continued. Last year I moved it from the hall to the snug. A lot of pushing and shoving on my part was required.

Still it was not like my Jemima, the old Blüthner whom I gave to a friend with a dance studio two moves ago. This piano did not give me its name. It lived in a house, the one my husband and I are moving from, that did not like music. I havep layed my concertina now and then, but only for a few days running and never in a consistent way. The drums remained silent because we live in a city. Nor was I able to overcome the treacle energy here to bring my double bass out of the corner.

So, the old piano, who did not have the pedigree to make it financially viable to refurbish to sell on, was taken away four days ago to die. It should be able to donate its ivory keys to an instrument that is getting a makeover, at least I hope so. But the instrument that has been in my house all these months reached the end of its life.

Before the removers arrived that morning, I played all the keys. I played the white ones up and the black ones down. Then I played notes and chords. When I sensed the piano had had its last song, had sung its last, I let the final notes fade.

It is bittersweet because musical instruments have a soul of a sort and this one’ left as the last note faded. I knew because I told it the fate that awaited it. I was glad that its soul flew with the last notes.

Farewell. Your last note’s song escaped into the aether and will resonate somewhere, always.

Farewell, sweet musics.

Motherline

I broke the line.

From your fragile genes,
Wilma Darlene
transfigured
into
Judith McGraine
there will be
no more daughters.

Your motherline is dead.

I broke the line.

From your history
of loss and misery,
of anger and surrender,
there will be no more
women carrying
your burdened story
into tomorrow.

Your motherline is dead.
It dies with us.

I broke the line.

Never wanting to carry it forth,
even at five years old
I knew I’d be no nurse,
or teacher or mommy,
and though I have nurtured
others’ souls and selves,
they were the souls and selves
of other motherlines,
and those of fathers too.

Your motherline is dead.
It dies with us.
No daughters follow me in procession.

I broke the line.

Feast, Wild Ones

Feast, wild ones
in the halls of those
who have gone before you.

Know the healing
of your essential self
as your soul moves
between the worlds,
even as the molecules
of your physical self
seeks once more
their place in the reservoir
of elements supporting
the life and beings of our world.

Feast, wild ones
in the halls of those
who have gone before you,
who wait your arrival amongst them.

Treecestors
Lioncestors
Elephantcestors
Squirrelcestors
Badgercestors
Bluetitcestors
Hibiscuscestors

Those of the clan and kind
of any wild being,
animal or plant,
who this day makes
the perilous and liberating journey
across the divide between
life and death,
living and dying.

Feast, wild ones
in the halls of those
who have gone before you,
who wait your arrival amongst them,
who know the trauma of leaving life.

Go free each of you,
those poached or trapped,
those culled or hunted,
those lost to disease,
to accident,
to predation,
I mourn your loss;
each of you was part
of a place, a pride, a family,
a herd, a sett, a nest,
and your absence will be felt
by those who will not see you
again in this life.

Feast, wild ones
in the halls of those
who have gone before you,
who wait your arrival amongst them,
who know the trauma of leaving life,
who now welcome you to the place of healing.

After Manchester

You scythed them down in a harvest of hate,
grimly reaping the innocent with shrapnel,
bursting apart hearts already opened by joy,
turning youths’ delight to death.

You claimed to have taken down the crusaders,
yet these young women and men
were not responsible for the acts
of those long ago who were in a battle
perverting three religions
by staging bloody acts of horror
engaging in atrocities unspeakable
self-righteously acting in the names
of their war-blessing gods,
where there could never be any gain
and still today precious little hope of peace.

No, these were innocent children,
these were youngsters and teens
who had yet to learn the hard
cold lessons of adulthood,
despair and disappointment
scuppered dreams and latent wishes
for more and better ways to be,
who would never know
the tender touch of first love,
the delicate holding of a first baby,
the exhilaration of a double first.

Instead,
they rest in morgues in bits and pieces,
or in hospital beds balanced
between life and death,
with shattered limbs and mangled organs,
numbed by drugs sheltering them
from awful truths of agonising realities
they should never have had to learn,
yet to wrestle with the guilt of living on,
stealing forever the survivors’ innocence.

You scythed them down in a harvest of hate,
grimly reaping the innocent with shrapnel,
bursting apart hearts already opened by joy,
turning youths’ delight to death.

Walkies

I remember the day
we were heading to your room
unsure what we would find,
as you were slowly slipping away.

All of a sudden I felt a presence
next to me on the side
White Wolf usually travels
but who with no fuss relinquished his space
to The Old Dog,
in her splendorous form,
young now and carrying her lead
allowing us to take her
to her dying mistresses room.

It was at first unsettling,
then it felt right and comfortable
as we showed her the way
along corridors unknown to her,
going to keep watch,
waiting to go with you on a last walk together.

Once in the room she jumped
on the end of your bed,
dropped her lead and curled up protective,
projecting her familiar presence,
as one by one others arrived,
family long and recently departed,
people not seen for many years,
some never seen or known,
peace being made between you and them,
forgiveness and understanding
shared at last preparing for new beginnings.

As I felt them arrive,
and though unresponsive to us,
at each appearance
you nodded and said, ‘Yes,’
clearly acknowledging their attendance,
the room crowding palpably with comfort,
while the drip numbed your pain.

The following week
when we returned The Old Dog
now sat beside your bed
her lead once more in her mouth,
waiting as you slowly moved beyond us,
clearly there were only hours left,
your breathing laboured and raspy.

At one point when it was right,
I stood up and leaned over you,
and gently spoke the Lord’s Prayer
followed by the 23rd Psalm
reminding you that your lord
was indeed your shepherd,
and you would dwell in his house forever,
I worked from memory,
reaching for words I no longer use,
but that were familiar to you
to offer reassurance and solace.

We left after several hours,
I sensed we did not need
to be there when you died,
that our continued presence was unnecessary,
for beyond any doubt you would be welcomed
at your crossing by those who
the week before gathered at your bedside,
but more importantly,
when you rose from your body to journey on,
your faithful companion would offer you her lead,
and seizing it The Old Dog would take you
on the most amazing walkies ever.

 

This is written about the experience I had when my dear friend Wendy died over the summer. When I would ring her over the years my greeting would be: ‘It’s me.’ To which she would respond, ‘Hello, you.’ I can still hear her saying those words that cheered me through some dark and difficult times. But I know she is safe and in the company of her loved ones, not the least of whom being Misty, The Old Dog.

Incoming

In the dark beyond
our doors tight shut
celebrating bonfire night
hear
whistles in the night
a moment of silence
then pop and bang
explosions
boom boom boom
again again again
harmless when careful
see
sparkling fireworks display
colour illuminates the sky.

Tonight
in dry lands
in inhospitable places
in alien locales
infants children teens adults elders
Mosul and Aleppo,
hunker down
cower
nowhere to hide
hear the sounds
ring out
bombs rockets mortars
rain from sky
reach from sea
erupt from land,
endure shellfire.

Feel —
fear terror shock,
witness —
injury
death
loss
destruction
horror,
know —
unspeakable actions
unutterable results,
hellfire.

In tonight’s darkness
as we hear
whistles
silence
pops
bangs
booms,
sprinkling awe
cascading light
it is impossible to ignore
these are no threat.