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.

Poem ‘Weapon Take’

Weapon Take

No rusty blade
ever turns up here,
no shadow of a ship
or bejewelled belt;

no iconic helm
to add credence
to our wounded identity.
Not even signs

of a mystery hillock
rising in hugging mists
to excite or intrigue
those metal detector men.

Merely one vast industrial
scar, scoured of feature,
almost of life, tamed,
or destroyed,

depending on your view,
turned inside out
by Angevin priors
and inscrutable Dutchmen.

I come from a long
line of diggers
and dark-eyed women,
grown out of this morass,

hardened to sweat
and pitiless Ural winds.
People who made-do,
though never in

any doubt they
were the subjected
men of their Hundred,
the brave new Wapentake,

where the councillors
still speak in a
double-Dutch behind
tall, timbered walls.

poem and image © copyright dfbarker 2012
*poem first published in collection ‘Anonymous Lines’, available at amazon.

** Wapentake was the Danish word for the English Hundred (a small, political unit, originally meaning a hundred homes). This word is still used in the ‘Danelaw’ counties of eastern England.

Poem ‘Sandalwood’

Santalum

Image via Wikipedia

 

The first warm wind of spring

whispered threats in his ear.

Not even blossom bedecking

knolls of the smoking temple

embraced by those steepening hills

could turn the colour of his mind.

“I can’t feel a part of this,” he said.

He watched her take a piece of bread

and a cloud passed before her eyes.

Neither his touch or choicest word

would have any effect

and no amount of wisdom exuding

from centuries of contemplation

could prevent him feeling alone.

Their minds would never mingle

like fresh sandalwood in mountain air.

All he saw was a set of blue irises,

statements of beauty

and perhaps an intent

 

poem © copyright df barker 2012

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.

Poem ‘Raptor’

Raptor

Over church, a windmill,
warmer hued in a meagre sun,
through copses freshly naked
and into skies of madonna blue

My eyes are led easily,
catching the swift sole movements
like a gorgeous leaf circling
in elegant fall and flight

It all brings a rare smile
to winter’s thinnest lips,
this soaring, plaintive viola—
a primed glissando on his prey

image and poem © copyright dfbarker 2012

Poem ‘Daffodil Girl’

Daffodil Girl

I took a picture of you.
The one where you’re cupping a daffodil,
kneeling in the sacred space,
where you wear your sky blue coat

with the sun in exaltation,
as if shining from your April face,
so round and vibrant and pink,
leaving me to the sombre shadows,

out of sight on the nether side.
And I was some strange Narcissus,
making sure I saw myself when
passing shop windows, always critical,

so self-absorbed and vain –
though far from glorious.
But I still remember that image,
the delicate touch of your fingers

on the flower, all caring and giving.
So thanks for being you,
for making me see beyond
this paltry vision of myself.

image and poem © copyright dfbarker 2012
poem taken from collection ‘Anonymous Lines’ available at amazon.
image partly digitally altered from a larger original.