The Old Woman Of Yerevan
I stood in the kitchen,
up early to catch my plane,
to fly from Armenia,
back to England again.
It was mild for November,
no sign of snow or rain.
The silence was broken,
I heard a noise, far below,
a steady stroke on hard ground,
a slow scrape, to and fro.
Puzzled, I took a step,
looked down, out the window.
I saw an old woman,
sweeping dry leaves in a heap,
in the glow of a street lamp,
with her broom worked to keep
her city of Yerevan
neat while it was in sleep.
Her wrinkled face was calm,
she did not know she was seen.
She had made it her chore
to keep her city clean.
I saw the strength in her stoop,
that her mood was serene.
Sometimes when I am still
and silent in my room,
I see the old woman of Yerevan,
sweeping streets with her broom.
From The Beginning Of Things
Noah set a garnet stone
in the hold of the ark,
a red lamp that lit the way
through the flood and the dark.
He moored on Mount Ararat
when the waters were calm.
A dove with an olive leaf
flew to perch on his arm.
What a tale that survives
from the beginning of things.
The garnet stone shines on,
the truth of it still rings.
Sapphire beacons in the sky
stun the mind, clear the eye.
Noah opened his window,
and he saw the rainbow.
All his birds and animals,
he could now let them go.
He walked down the mountainside,
his family behind.
The beauty of the cleansed earth,
he could see, was not blind.
Noah held the garnet stone
to heaven in his hand.
It glowed fair as the rainbow
that leaned over the land.
What a tale that survives
from the beginning of things.
I woke in bed,
head on my pillow.
The silence of dawn
made me feel I lay on a ledge,
high on a mountain,
the nest of eagles, far below,
but then where I was,
the hum of traffic let me know.
Some days I feel like Superman,
others like a flea.
If I hit the pit,
here is my remedy,
a honey sandwich
and a mug of coffee for me.
Some have an ego
greater than their brain,
with no true trace of talent
or light in their lamp.
The world is there to lose or gain.
from birth we reach out,
hope to live unpunished by pain.
The books I have read,
the songs that I knew,
paintings that I loved,
quickened my spirit, lit my mind.
They helped me to cope,
revealed the door and let me through,
and now here I am,
taster of my own one off brew.
Sand and Dust
A Stradivarius violin
he knew he would never own.
Fated to be a pauper player
while he reaped what he had sown.
No, there were worlds that were not for him,
would remain outside the dance.
Stood against the wall where he was pinned,
stabbed by a glittering glance.
This poorly put together pantomime,
cruel circus antiquated with rust,
revue organised by black suited crime
was to him so much sand and dust.
Helicopters could not rescue him,
if the ocean hid his hand.
Followed the flight of the albatross
to be native to no land.
Content with his gypsy violin,
played for lovers and for wine.
His tunes were his horse drawn caravan,
be the weather foul or fine.
These cold chants to oppose the citadel,
lost with the bare ballads of broken trust,
were to him like marks on a prison cell,
to fade away like sand and dust.
When Things Turn Out Fine
The celebrated turned up late.
They shone on everyone,
and left not too early
but the party seemed over
after they’d gone.
There are crumbs on the plate,
wine stains on the cloth.
What remains is meant
for the mouse and the moth.
We still have our table.
The music plays on,
and the moon shines clearly.
The party is not over
until we’re gone.
There’s strength in the strings,
light in the line,
grace in the wings
when things turn out fine.
Somewhere water flows
over stones in the wild,
and in dreams an old man
wakes as a child.
Matthew Flinders stands a statue
in the market square
in Donington, a village somewhere
Looks fine in his naval uniform,
seems proud to be him,
with his telescope and cabin cat
that he called Trim.
You may not have heard of his name before.
I had not, either.
Now I know he was the first explorer
to circumnavigate Australia.
He wanted his wife to sail away with him.
Was told she could not by the Admiralty.
They said, no, Matthew Finders,
that is forbidden by the laws of the sea.
Nine years she waited for his return,
heard the sea gulls cry,
until she watched his ship drop anchor,
its beauty hurt her eye.
Voyage out like Matthew Flinders,
navigate your path with map, compass and telescope,
not knowing where the tides will take you,
still master of your skills with sail and rope.
Here’s to the health of Matthew Flinders
who sailed far south to find new land.
Until the voyage is over,
may you do more than you first planned.
One Of Many Names
I fell with my horse at the Battle of Beersheba
but I fought on the winning side.
The last thing I saw was a silver flash in the sky
after I heard the shout to ride.
Almost broke my back building the Great Wall of China,
did not live to see it complete.
Remember me as a slave in an Inca temple,
iron chains round my wrists and feet.
I am just one among the names
never mentioned, left forgotten.
I know what is true, what is rotten.
I was there when it happened,
I saw the sight.
I witnessed the flood and the darkness
that seemed the end of light.
One thing I know,
those who rebelled never got it right.
Only clouds hide the sun by day,
the moon and stars at night.
Mine is just one of many names
not worthy of fame,
but we like to think we were a help to those
who climbed the steps to light the flame.
The film flickers, there I am, captured on camera,
unknown early aviator.
See my flight fail, my plane crash wing first in the bare field.
There is no sound, no narrator.