restless art

art which is restless

Tag: Jesus

Poem ‘The Country’ (for England)

“Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget;
For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet.”

from ‘The Secret People’ by G. K. Chesterton

The Country

It’s all around them, though they never see it,
like Jesus said about the Kingdom of Heaven.

Some, even a poet, say it cannot be defined,
even though they are immersed in it,
like fishes swimming blind to the sea.

They take it for granted, spurn it,
but they are born in it and nurtured by it,
educated and employed by it,
and then nursed to the very end.

They say the language is not ours,
that it belongs to the world,
or to the oppressed,
to anyone with a cause
except our own.

Countless cocks have crowed,
but each time its existence is denied,
its very future put up for discussion
by people who owe it everything –
yet who would rather die than accept it
for what it is.

poem and image © copyright df barker 2012

*** For Saint George’s Day on April 23, patron Saint of England (and other places) for around 700 years, at least. William Shakespeare (1564-1616), a candidate surely for ‘Greatest Ever Englishman’, was born, and apparently died, on this day. This is not meant to be overtly nationalistic, but to simply, starkly, re-iterate that the feeling that poets and people in the past saw as a reality, is still clearly evident today.

* First published, without the quotation, in poetry collection ‘Anonymous Lines’, available at amazon.

**The image is reproduced from a painting based on a scene at Southwold, Suffolk, a quintessentially English seaside town.

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Poem ‘Pomegranates’

Pomegranates

They smile when I shut the heavy, creaking door,
from behind their neat wooden kiosks
stuffed with pamphlets and insipid books.
Smiles of recognition, a nodding
acceptance as if to say –
‘Oh, it’s you!’ Volunteer women serving Christ
better than those above them in Church.

I walk along the emphatic southern aisle under
über-Norman arches, at the far end of which
hangs a limp flag of Saint Andrew,
in honour of Mary Queen of France, Scotland
and some say of England, too.
Glancing to my left a young man kneels,
wringing hands beneath a life-size figure

of a crucified Jesus, hanging high in space.
He stares upwards, rocking gently back and forth,
as if imploring Him to be real,
to writhe, sweat, bleed, perhaps to save Himself
and then, somehow, to save him as well.
I’m here to light a candle outside
Saint Oswald’s shrine and to sit for a time

in silence inside the tidy chapel,
to pray for a poor boy in pain,
perhaps to ponder on those relics,
those bits of bodies and other things,
worshipped once and then dispersed,
despised in fractured minds,
to us now mostly objects of indifference.

Oswald’s arm must lie hereabouts,
known to someone who still believes
in its restorative power, like the monks
who consumed this place, where Domesday
came and went without event,
where the Chronicle of a people faded to grey
in an undrying ink. Still it awaits the next line.

In this fossil the dead are lucky.
They are dead but in faith, whereas I roam
restlessly among echoes and whispers,
a heartless void. I cut across through the choir
to find I’m not alone, where the true
Queen of Hearts lies. Letters of gold spell
her name to all, but for me she smiles

brighter than anyone alive,
a smile from scorched Iberian lands,
her fate to end up on this drab island
where fashioned pomegranates mark her spot,
from which she expects to rise
at some glorious hour, where, until then,
the anonymous faithful lay fresh fruit

and flowers to mark her special days.
I watch a tourist, a German tricolour sewn
onto his rucksack, as he reads
the commemorative words. A sudden,
unexpected pride washes over me
while he pauses on her ground to think –
where I was once intrigued.

Almost believing.

image and poem © copyright dfbarker 2012
*poem first published in poetry collection ‘Anonymous Lines’, available at amazon.com
**image from part of an historical reconstruction I did in watercolour of Spalding Priory, as it might have appeared in the fifteenth century.

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