Last Time I Saw Hamlet

Last time I saw Hamlet,
he looked like he’d seen a ghost,
as if he lacked the strength
to spread syrup on his toast.

Ever since his father died,
he has brooded in crow black.
He looks less like a prince,
more a hermit in a shack.

I’m just a castle cook,
but I see what’s going on.
Ophelia drifts by,
paler than a moonlit swan.

Come now, gifted playwright,
with your parchment, ink and quill,
be the scribe to Prince Hamlet,
while he is yet with us still.

Put on stage your drama,
though it ends in tragedy.
What’s at the root of things
make us brave enough to see.

Last time I saw Hamlet,
he was staring at his shoes,
seemed to be suffering
from some post-Renaissance blues.

Our Present Plight

There’s been some kind of disconnect,
some kind of broken line,
but we do have the tools to mend,
we do have the light to shine.

We really must end this war,
this greed and this poverty,
allow ships to reach the shore,
let them sail in liberty.

We really must share this wheat,
open the gates to trade,
do something about this heat,
clear up the mess we made.

There’s been some kind of weapon fired
to explode a nursery.
Too many lies have been told
to engender misery.

The peace pipes have broken stems,
the doves are mute in a cage.
Metal vultures shriek in the sky,
tragedy governs the stage.

Look how we are being punished
by the sun and the rain
for abusing our planet,
for not healing our own pain.

It seems that the powers that be,
dictators most of all,
have a problem with peace,
as empires rise and fall.

It’s not all about the body,
as too many seem to think.
There’s the spirit and the mind,
the wisdom wells to drink.

The body will only let you down,
inspires only vanity,
offers a rusted crown
to those who could be free.

So what of our present plight,
this crisis of climate and war?
If we were ruled by the wise,
our ships would reach the shore.

The Cave in the Cove

If my final voyage is near
or it is far,
I have no idea.
I try to live in the moment,
to be free of fear,
sat in my cabin,
like an old buccaneer.
Here I am anchored,
near a cave in a cove,
hidden by high cliffs
lies my treasure trove.
Outside spreads the ocean,
cries of gannets and gulls.
The remoter the memory,
the harder back it pulls.
I sailed free of the wars
of the kings and queens,
straining to find answers
to what it all means.
Wherever I travel
however far I rove,
I have the treasure I hid
in the cave in the cove.
Sapphires bluer than summer sky
shine in my treasure chest,
emeralds greener than spring grass,
rubies redder than sunsets in the west.
Wherever they travel,
however far they rove,
mariners will keep searching
for the cave in the cove.

STORM EUNICE

Storm Eunice

Through my kitchen window,
I look up at the lines,
clear against the light grey sky,
that mark the tip of a far rooftop,
television aerials, chimney pots,
on this blustery day in February.
Starlings flock down, blacken the lines,
rest from combat with the hard blows
from Storm Eunice, as it has been named
by the Meteorological Office.
Could be on the moors,
to hear the wind whirl down
the redundant chimney shaft,
hard fist the walls of the empty entry,
or sat stiff in a croft in the north of Scotland,
waiting for the snow to thud on the door
and blind the windows.
We are warned not to walk out with dogs,
go near the coast or the woods.
Danger to life from fallen trees, bricks
tossed through the air, broken roof tiles
hitting a head.
Best stay in, they say. Trains cancelled,
no flights anywhere.
Tomorrow should be back to normal.
Pigeons perch on bare branches,
sheltering from Storm Eunice.
Always there are those
who think themselves invincible.
Three youths told to get out of the water,
not to swim in the wild sea.
Hurried back to their car in their trunks and drove off.
Waves hit the promenades and harbour walls,
splash down on benches and lamp posts,
the air blasted clear of seagull cries.
Fallen trees on railway tracks, across roads.
Listen while it lasts.
Never hear the wind moan so on other, more ordinary days.
An ancient, lonely wind, the first tribes listened to
behind the shelter of rocks.
It has blown since there was no ear to hear
what force there was in weather.

Drizzly Days

Drizzly Days

Nothing goes, nothing stays,
on these grey, drizzly days.
Nothing sells, nothing pays,
all this tells of lost ways.

Be aware, the sun is a deceiver in winter,
though it can shine glaringly bright,
the level land flood with light,
low in the sky, even at noon,
it shares no heat, as if it were cold as the moon.

Nothing works, nothing plays,
on these grey, drizzly days.

BARD AT THE TABLE

Bard At The Table

The feud between the barons began long ago,
Set down by the scribes in the annals,
the lists of the sieges and battles,
the history hard and cold as an anvil frozen in snow.
Black blots mark out the names of the traitors
who plotted rebellion to dethrone the king.
Outside the circle, I stand, but a bard at the table,
a minstrel they bid to sing.
A proud knight on horseback, a hard guard at the gate,
I never could be.
My ballads put coins in my pocket, a bed in a stone shelter,
food on my plate.
My face is forgotten till they call me to be entertained.
I sing like a sparrow, fresh throated after it has rained.
The king sits in his castle, swans swim on the moat,
a magpie is perched on the horns of a goat.
The sheep on the hills, the deer in the wood,
herons in the reeds tell me life is good.
The jester shakes his bells, I pluck and strum my lute.
The words of my songs reach down to the root.
The boar in the forest snorts and sharpens his horn.
The lark in the cornfield tells me it was worth being born.
Dark is the raven and the deeds of the sword.
The plough man hoes on to put bread and cheese on the board.
The dove in the orchard, the hawk over the moor,
the cry of the seagull takes me down to the shore.
Sorry I could’nt reach you but you could’nt reach me.
What life tried to teach you was what it means to be free.

OAK TREES IN OCTOBER

Oak Trees In October

Oak trees in October,
I hear your fine fiddle tunes,
deeper down, your autumn fugue,
you play as your branches sway.
You lament your green leaves,
soon to wilt, fade away,
turn acorn brown, red, yellow,
pale silver, bronze, scarlet, gold.
Like you, at nearly seventy,
I must be considered old.
Feel young as I’ll ever be.
I do not crave for youth.
See clearer now, closer to the bone,
detect the bead of truth.
Your leaves will fall, rest round your roots,
fade on hard clay and grass.
The way that it is, the seasons pass.
Once this land was mostly forest.
If you had a mind you would remember,
oak trees in October,
how men came with axe and saw
to cut down your kind,
wheeled them away as logs on timber carts,
in this land of bewildered minds and broken hearts,
to build a fleet to defeat the armada,
and structures as shelters to live and work in,
and when life was bad they made it harder.
Some of you still stand tall in the fields,
in the vales between hills,
oak trees in October,
the wind still blows where it wills.
Unlike you, I have a mind to remember.
Soon you will stand bare, for a sparrow no shelter.
It will be dark November.
The robin we will take note of more in December.
It would be better
if only birds and beasts lived here.
Humans have proven to be bad guardians, poor shepherds.
Oak trees in October,
for what happened, on behalf of my kind, I am sorry.
We built a boat we could not steer.
I am not an eagle, perched on this chair,
but I feel like one.
The way down the mountain is far and sheer.
I blink and the moment’s gone.

THE SEERESS

The Seeress

Beware, beware, the seeress said.
The ark, the ark has been seen,
stood on the side of Ararat,
grey as a rain cloud, still stained by the flood.
No greater boat has ever been built
out of metal or of wood.
Noah built it on the dry plain,
so far from any water.
I speak to the last tribes of men,
time to save your son and daughter.
And further east, eyes have witnessed
the Babel tower stood tall,
built long ago to reach heaven,
in its purpose was its fall.
These are signs, signs from the past
to warn of what happens now.
Let it be not too late,
she cried at the Jerusalem gate.
But some car drivers shook their fists,
beeped horns to drown her raving row.
Two policemen told her to calm down,
be silent, cease her rant,
she seemed to be in distress,
she was upsetting passers-by,
but she pointed at the invading chariots
that wheeled over the scarlet sky.

THE SKILL OF THE SPIDER

The Skill of the Spider

Consider the skill of the spider,
one in particular,
that wove a web
from one back garden bush to another.
Reflect on how wide that distance is for an insect
as lone labourer, solo architect.
In human terms, it can be likened
to the construction of a steel bridge,
built to span a wide river.
Impressed by the industry and skill of the spider,
I came to a halt on my back garden lawn,
yesterday afternoon, decided not to step any further,
or even attempt to duck under
the fine strands of white web that spanned
the space between the north and south hedge,
for fear of breaking it by common human blunder.
What an achievement, I thought.
The spider itself had a tiny light brown bag for a body
and a few thin legs, and was slowly at work on its web,
a trap for fleas and flies.
This morning I walked out on my back garden lawn.
About the spider, I forgot,
until I felt a fine strand of its web
brush against the bridge of my nose,
watched the rest of it fall to the grass at my toes.
It was then I remembered the web and its weaver.
That it was there, I forgot.
Yesterday, I had been thoughtful, careful not to destroy it.
This morning I was not.
I wished to apologise to the spider for my clumsy, accidental act,
but it was not there.
Never mind, it could crawl off, build another elsewhere.

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