! A Grief Ago

‘There is no grief
which time does not lessen
or soften’ –
so said Cicero, a man so often right;
a Stoic, those for whom
all life presents a lesson
to be learned from,
and then, to move on from..

But I wonder about all this:
is grief ever lessened or softened?
Is it not, perhaps, overlaid
in our so various ways?

For some, grief framed and falsified
to ease that grief;

For some, like hyacinths and crocus bulbs,
left in a dark cupboard in the autumn of our grief
to respond to time, and
become at last

gently, gently, the covers pulled
over the loving bed,
the true, the pure, the lovely painful grief,
the memory deep cherished,
gently, gently, folded
into the cupboards of the heart

there to be known, without the door disturbed
until the time – ‘a grief ago’ as Dylan wrote –
the cupboard opened only for love’s sake
without grief…:
those carefully folded memories
brought out and loved
and lived a while…

not grief, not grief…but
the pure memory of grief

and behold,

! Metaphor

A pretty girl
is like a simile
and vice-a-versa
so I’d say
for like the sunlight it
delights our so prosaic day

and life is better for
a metaphor
when apposite
to what you write

the first I used
that made some sense
came out of childish

before I read
the word in prose
I thought that what
just goes and goes

was ‘dire rear’ –
not too bad
as an idea
for a nappy-happy lad?

! A Wish

I’d like to write – like grown-up poets do:
with similes that span the universe,
that sparkle, crackle, dazzle, woo the mind;
and touch the heart with tender, swoony verse…

I’d like to write – like grown-up poets do:
in literature that’s all the better for
those soaring, parabolic parables
and paradigms, and rhymes, and metaphor…

I’d like to write – like no-one else has done:
forget the rules and precedents; let fly
to heights undreamt of yet, new mindscape won..

And yet, perhaps, the world’s served better by

small lamps of words amidst the cold night winds
of chance and change; cupped in a poet’s hands.

! Baby Love, Maybe Love

so there you are in
your pram or kiddikarria
nicely tucked up,
being talked to in that
that grown-ups grow down to

when that tingylingy, like
that stoopid thingy
dangling on your cot that
doesn’t do anything else
goes hissdidahdidah
and she switches her attention instantly
from who’s mommy’s little treasure then,
sticks this silver thing to block her ear
and starts talking to thin air

it must be either the fairies
who don’t seem to be very helpful –
‘oh darling don’t say you forgot I
asked you specially…’
or she’s going doolally and
the adult world’s not
what it’s cracked up to be
I’ll give her two minutes no more
or else

! An Angry Poem About Peace

This is an angry poem.
About those weasel phrases
which blow like paper in the street
going nowhere,
hiding truth,
helping us to
deceive ourselves.

‘The pee-yus pro-sayus’ –
say it in the Irish voice
of obscurantist politicians
often enough
and we’ll accept it as a term,
and believe that it needs hard work
and forward planning
and careful progress
and compromise
and agreements
and initiatives
and ‘generous’ concessions
and declarations of intention
and cautious examination
of opponents’ motives
in the ‘battle’ for peace
and coming together
to establish differences…

is what is eternally there
when war and strife is absent.

I can’t remember Christ
(was he Catholic or Protestant? I just can’t remember…)
‘Peace process be unto you’…
uh, when would that be? …
or commanding the waves of the Sea of Galilee
‘Engage in the peace process – be still’…
somehow it just doesn’t seem to carry weight
as a blessing or a do-it-now…
‘Go in process towards peace, my child…’

I wonder why that is.

! A Poet

He — or was it she?
was a child who said little
but walked, endlessly, just looking

or stood still for minutes, hours,
and became what they looked at

was from a large family
but still people said, you’re an only child aren’t you

was it seems very happy in themself
but no-one asked, so never said

kept themself to themself, which annoyed
other children, who bullied them

and then were even more annoyed
when they didn’t play the victim

failed examinations and yet
was always wrapt up in a book

occasionally did things like cutting themselves
and was told off but never questioned usefully

wrote poems secretly but was unconcerned
whether people read them or not

was good to be with as long as you
didn’t expect anything of them

was secretly loved by some
who never liked to say so

because what they loved somehow
didn’t have a name

years later, some of them read the poems
and knew what they had loved

! ! Love’s Grammar Book

I love you.

That’s it, really.
all there is to say.
sums it up.
in a nutshell.
the long and the short of it.
the be-all and the end-all.
I know what I mean;
you know what I mean.
more or less.
we know what I mean.
most of the time.

But though love’s sometimes
best defined by silence
it may be good
to say a few good words

since you, and love, have taught me
love’s grammar-book:

I love ‘love’.
though love as noun is difficult to define.

I love love as an adjective:
love’s.. just lovely, isn’t it?

But most of all
I love love as verb.
and this I know:
this my love’s active voice:

I love. (you) .
I loved you. How well I remember.
I have loved you. I’m so grateful for that.
I shall love you. That I promise.
and when all is done, I’ll be proud to remember that
I shall have loved you;
and that
we shall have loved.

And in love’s passive voice,
I’m so blessed that
I am loved;
rejoice in the hope that
I shall be loved
and promise that
you shall be loved.
I’ll always be blessed that
I have been loved.
and that I can say
you shall have been loved (forever) .

Then there are love’s moods
as they’re called in grammar:
the indicative – I love you; do you love me?
the exciting imperative mood:
‘Love me, do – I promise I’ll be true…’ or better,
‘Love me! Now! ‘;
the subjunctive mood
which is rather subtler in other languages:
‘Don’t leave me, please’;
‘May we love each other till we die…’;
‘If only you were to love me
as much as I love you..’

And then, those other parts of speech
that few of us get around to sorting out
but all lurking there under ‘amo’
in the Latin grammar-book of love:

The perfect infinitive:
‘It is better – to have loved – and lost – than
not -to have loved -at all’;

that great feeling
called future infinitive:
to be about to love;
and that dizzy future infinitive passive:
to be about to be loved;

the gerund:
‘Oh the loving and the kissing
and the kissing and the loving…’;

that cautious supine:
‘in order to love…’;

the passive imperative –
the parents’ wish (with qualifications) :
‘let her be loved’…

and that loaded gerundive:
‘fit to be loved’…

All of which, I hope, leaves you
in that state curiously undefined
by grammar –
a sort of active gerundive:
‘fit to love’ – to love
love’s grammar-book
in full

for love conquers all, it’s said,

even a hatred of grammar.

! A Platonic Reminiscence Of A Great Lady

Someone mentioned your name yesterday
and I was silent

You loved goodness, you were goodness,
and I think goodness must have
loved you; and we,
we loved you for your goodness

You loved truth, spoke truth,
and surely the truth
loved you for loving it; and how
we loved to hear you
speaking truth

You loved beauty in
so many ways that beauty
blessed you: in movement,
in actions, in thought, in words and yes
the beauty of goodness and
the beauty of truth shone from you –
how could we not love you
beyond you?

How often in this poem to you
the word love appears
as it did
in you

! An Offering Of Bliss To You

Your bliss is not my bliss
and yet perhaps
if I tell you my bliss
there may be a place
where we can meet
beyond words

My father
used to meet that small him
who was me
every afternoon from school
in the green park across from School
he had no job then,
it got him out of the house

One day
which lives in bliss
he had this tiny
black and white bundle
straining on a new brown leather leash
overjoyed to see me
though we’d never met

! Old Woman

We see you every day
on the newsreels
a face like the worn map of tragedy
lined with a life of service
that should have ended in an honoured peace
among those you bore and love
your hands reaching out
to the TV camera
begging for water, food
or beseeching
in some unrecognisable, ineffective
local language, or
cursing an enemy not visible
who made a ruin of your home
or being carried unceremoniously
between urgent hands in some material
from a bed that is no longer there
or sitting bemused by life
awaiting some unnamed help beyond request
though never accompanied by your son
who has found a greater cause
than home, or age, and somewhere else…

or, in the occasional poem –
tended, your paper skin and jutting hipbones
not unlike some starved chicken’s carcase
described with painful love
as if you only lived a living life
in the past tense,
beyond the verses, between the metaphors

and yet, if we could only find words
to describe what’s still living,
where pride hides, a pride
too precious now in grief to speak,
how you love those who are not here..

and yet, you’re there, alive or dead
patient, proud, silent, and unnamed,
in every poem
that has ever been written

and I salute you

! Daughter

and some other father at the club
says, has she flown the nest yet?
and it sounds so crude
you don’t want to answer.

You’re sitting on the sofa,
she’s behind you at the table,
she’s silent, you can feel her
growing up inside. You know
you mustn’t turn and look at her –
she’ll hate you for looking her dream
in the face.

Two years ago, she’d have come to sit
beside you on the sofa,
say nothing, put her head
on your shoulder.

Now, she’s in that between place, that place between.
In the between, she lives all the opposites. Simultaneously.
The world’s never been so exciting, all-possible,
or so scary, void; and these together;
she’s never felt so strong, or so vulnerable; both;
she knows she will be somebody; feels like nobody;
she’d like to have every boy, throw them away
to prove her power; yet wait to find if
there’s just the one; she wants both of these
(she, girl to goddess, Princess now a Queen,
she owns all men, yet gives herself to one) .

She’s living simultaneously in dreams
and chill realities.
You know all this,
and cannot, must not interfere.

This morning, you felt like the ideal family,
held in a golden glow of understanding.
Tonight, she’ll dress up for the boy and the dance, gloriously,
and you’ll be torn between fatherly pride
and the feeling that you’ve never, ever known her;
share that terrible place between
where there are only opposites.