Poem: A Tramp Speaks

Soon after he arrived I gave him
some food. Half way through
his ham and eggs he raised a fork,
pointing it at me as if he had
a thought:

“The universe is where you are, not
somewhere else. Belief is the key,
not truth. Truth is relative,
subjective,
so don’t look for it.

Believe
in what’s important
to you
and go all out. Then keep it
to yourself.”

© copyright David F. Barker

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 ‘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.

Haiku 2012 #2

soft indignation
flat third of a minor chord
world’s light in a cell

© copyright dfbarker 2012

*image based on a watercolour original, part of a reconstruction of a Benedictine Priory. This image is not necessarily to hint at the meaning of the haiku, although it could be one interpretation.

Poem ‘Until the End of the World’ (work in progress)

© copyright dfbarker2011

Until the End of the World

He walked with me
some of the way

Through the dark woods
he became a bright torch
to illuminate overgrown paths
where leaves of oak and ash
caressed my face like friends

On the high moorland
he was the warm fleece
which I wrapped around myself
to shelter from the cold and rain

And when we sat down
in the clearing by a stream
he produced this feast of food
which I shared with a host of birds
and others sitting tamely at my feet

But when he stood up to go
his skin turned a deathly white
I watched helpless
while he vanished silently
into a bank of willow and alder
swallowed by the rush
of the now turbulent stream
The animals all scampered away
to peer at me from somewhere
unseen in the shadows

I began to trudge home
shivering on the high moorland
drenched to the skin
with only hardy sheep for company
who eyed me warily
when I staggered by

Once back in the dark woods
I soon became lost
the stinging branches whipping me
and thorns piercing my flesh
while groping my way through

In my bag I found the old torch
with its flickering light
I hit it against a tree
trying to make it work –
my only recourse
in such a state of loss

*dedicated to all those who have found faith

© copyright David Francis Barker 2011

*image is a digital manipulation an original