Goshen

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              Goshen

Jacob named his destination Goshen,
land of light, free of plague, war and sin,
there shepherds grazed their flocks in peace.
Halt, said Nahor, an old man, met at a well,
such a land is only found within.
Tapped his chest, stiffly,
his hand bony, fingers thin,
robe grubby, smelt of camel,
desert wood fire smoke,
sand and dust encrusted skin.
Jacob was impressed, but not convinced.
In the city, what is wrong?
Nahor questioned him.
Within high stone walls, a man is safe,
at least from the invader’s sword, isolation.
Women you want may be beyond your reach,
but still there, at their windows,
glittering with jewels,
in the market place, passing by.
I speak as one who has travelled many lands,
stood on shores, looked on seas
where dolphins swim.
Jacob said no more, led his tribe away.
Nahor wondered later,
if he should have taken up his staff,
and followed him.

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Naive Painter

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               Naïve Painter

Yugoslavian mountains, lakes, rivers,
he painted, copper, russet, vermilion,
smiled to himself,
born to make as much impression
on this world, he reckoned,
as that brown moth that flittered
by that rock or by the stream, that lamb.
Father huffed and coughed
over his talk of art.
What is that to do with you or who I am?
he questioned him.
Mother understood, remotely.
Always was a distant sail on the water.
But what was never in your line, she said,
is never in your blood.
No money to study in the academy,
never been to the city, anyway,
bound to rural life,
sheep flocks, farm economy.
Over his shoulders, some looked,
grinned, shook heads at his rounded trees,
like those done by a school child, they said,
look like  shiny balloons,
big lollipops bought at the fair.
Naïve painter acknowledged himself to be,
so, free of rules, tradition, tuition,
what if, in his paradise vision,
beyond those mountain peaks,
he painted what he had seen alone in photographs,
Inca step pyramids, Sumerian ziggurats,
Babylonian towers?
Breathed in, smiled again.
Free to do so,
made turquoise smears into flowers,
scarlet streaks into trees,
fields from sweeps of indigo.

Monk and Traveller

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                                 Monk and Traveller

Monk said no word,
seemed he never would.
Traveller prepared to go,
did not mind, he understood.
At hut door, he turned.
Monk shone, said:
May Yamantaka,
Destroyer of the God of Death,
step from his heaven,
to defend you when you need his aid.
Among urban fume, city clatter,
may you hear, far off,
a Himalayan temple gong,
an old goat herder
play on a wooden flute,
a shepherd song.
Every house you find as you roam
be the home where your heart may rest,
your soul belong.
Blessings from east to west,
north to south,
as you move through
the seasons strong.
May your mind metropolis
lift to a higher key,
the holy ones cleanse your windows,
oil your wheels,
reveal wisdom books,
open seals.
When you walk in the fair ground of the world,
and choose for yourself a treat
you would not eat at any other time,
be it candy floss, toffee apple or milk shake,
may that fresh taste make
something deep within you wake,
so you see the plum and crocus clouds,
bold above the earthly carousel,
and you grasp the wonder
that truly all is well.
And may the parliament of poets
pen lines to ponder on your path,
the clown of the god king’s court
remind you that beyond the enlightened smile,
there is the blessed laugh.
Monk fell silent, smiled,
gave his head a nod.
Traveller said thanks,
wondered if he need seek
the servant of another god.

Volund

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                Volund

Volund rested from smith work,
his hot forge behind him,
he stood in the doorway,
looked up at the high pines of Wolfdale,
his eyes, sore with flame, smudged by smoke,
brightened with wonder.
Three swans he saw,
swoop down from the sky,
to settle on water,
on a far, tree hidden lake.
In a sudden, they came,
flew out of the thunder.
Later, three women
came walking towards him,
two had dark hair, one had golden.
He knew they were not mortals,
but Valkyries, handmaidens of Odin.
“First I saw three swans
fly down to the forest,
now three white clothed women
come to me. What means this?”
he asked them.
“That was us, not Odin alone
can change his form,”
said Hervor, whose hair was golden,
like sunshine on cornfields.
Volund’s two brothers,
Slagfidur and Egil,
came down from a hunt
for jewels in the mountains,
saw him speak with three women.
“What is it I see?” said Slagfidur to Egil.
“A vision of Valhalla?
No mortal women does our brother entertain.”
“They are Valkyries,
handmaidens of Odin,
come down to Earth to court mortal men,”
Egil told his brother.
To him all was clear,
the air without smoke to smother.
“Do not take her for your wife,
she will leave you heartbroken,”
Volund was warned by Gunnhilda,
his mother, long a widow.
Where he saw sunshine,
she saw only shadow.
But he looked upon Hervor,
her bright hair that was golden,
and listened not to his mother
with her rune stones and elk horns.
For nine winters,
Volund lived with Hervor, his lover,
as did Egil with Olrun,
and Slagfidur with Swanwhite.
Nine winters went by,
warmer than wood fire,
then for the chase,
the wild ride in the sky,
the courts of Valhalla,
the three women pined.
One early spring morn,
Volund woke without Hervor beside him,
her bright hair on the pillow, like corn.
Outside, in Wolfdale,
he watched three swans
fly from the forest,
but he still had his smith work,
he grew cold as his anvil,
hard as his hammer,
cared not that snow fell in winter,
the sun beamed in summer.
Thought only of Hervor,
his fair one, his lover,
from whom he was parted,
who now rode in the sky
with her Valkyrie sisters
over the battles of men
on land and on sea,
doing their duty for Odin.
His two brothers went off,
sought gold in the mountains,
long hidden treasure,
knowing whatever they found
would bring them no pleasure.
While he dreamed he lived in Asgard
with Hervor, his lover,
as servant of Odin,
held in high honour
as smith of Valhalla.

 

Ascent of the Prophet to Heaven

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                 Ascent of the Prophet to Heaven

Jade mountain, white crested in winter,
stars, black and red, stabbed the sky,
punctured the void, like diamonds
on a playing card.
Not for his body or his pride,
he wound up the mountainside,
to prove, maybe, he had a spirit,
heard the tick of clockless time.
His feet bled, grew hard.
Looked up, saw the summit waited,
bare, broken, made vague by mist.
Dice games of gamblers, behind him,
left in a wayside inn,
further down, the mutter of shepherd men.
Persian painting path pursued
from when he was eleven,
glinted gold, silver, red,
on a page of verse,
ascent of the prophet to heaven.
Light, he rode from the summit,
as if on a horse,
then, winged, he flew, like a bird.
Cheerful ones met him,
asked if it was worth the effort.
He smiled, nodded,
said he wanted to turn,
tell those left behind:
it’s all true.
They shook their heads, told him,
there’s nothing you can do.
When we came up here, they said,
we felt the same as you.
He understood, knew,
for a moment, everything,
then, higher up, he followed them.

 

His Word Hoard Unlids

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                His Word Hoard Unlids

Wave wet stone glistens.
One human alone listens.
And what brings him to the shore?
The sea, nothing more.
Anthems, anniversaries
seagull and sailor tunes
strain to find keys.
Waves were before,
and will come after.
Pay no heed to beer brewed laughter.
Sober, silent, he wills to respond,
reach to what lies beyond.
The further he scans,
the wider his plans.
If, he thought, the universe
was unobserved by his kind,
it would all just be about numbers,
distance and weight, unsighted, cold, blind.
But what torture it was, at times,
to know what mortal means.
The fly hits the window, as it always will.
Birds sing on. Nothing will be still,
after he has gone. It will all continue.
He knew the puzzle, but not the clue.
Wanted his wit whittled down, refined,
to think with a simpler, cleaner mind,
be deaf to needless noise,
leave mirror hall reflections behind,
keep to root routine,
tend green shoots in his garden green,
savour each meal,
not take for granted
what was indisputably real,
awareness attain,
his brain entertain
with his own visions and tales,
so in the silence, his word hoard unlids,
reveals his simple treasure,
sculptured in gold, silver, bronze, copper,
senses his spirit, yearning to sail,
swim, sing, in the ocean,
structure sound screens,
pictured prints of pipes,
cries from dolphins and whales.

 

Sailors of the Summer Stars

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                    Sailors of the Summer Stars

I travel far, he said, I travel far,
I am a sailor of the summer stars,
I bring you treasures in my shining jars,
I am a sailor of the summer stars.

She said, I saw you, mounting from the sea.
I did not know you had come for me.
Once, outside my window, I saw you, flying in the sky.
Your pearly vessel signalled to my eye.

He said: Let’s go now, to the landing place.
All our ships are leaving, voyaging to space.
O, come, let us travel, let us travel far,
and you’ll be a sailor of the summer stars.
We shall leave a message in my shining jars,
gift from the sailors of the summer stars.

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