Monday, 15 April 2013

To His Wife

These sonnets make reference to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian revolution - both "developing stories" at the time. The Russian invasion was taken so seriously that indeed it was feared that "a new Assyria" was on the march. How sobering to look back over these few decades - already the Russian invasion is memorialized by little more than rusting hulks abandoned in the landscape. Shelley's 'Ozymandias' comes to mind.


The first of marriage is a giggling breakfast,
The day as bright as water, and the bed
Which served as table for the night’s repast
Forgotten till old Adam nods his head.

Coffee and toast and glossy orange juice
Are all the contact offered with “out there”;
For lovers have a temporary excuse
To hide behind a cordon sanitaire.

Consider then, no matter where you look
A man beats up another, someone dies.
The Russians polish guns, Iran goes mad,
And tears of refugees make fighters glad.
Compassion scribbles in an empty book,
“Love is irrelevant as butterflies.”


The second is the wilting flower forgotten
As life becomes a hurried kiss and run;
Your hand appals you and seems ill-begotten,
And no one knows quite what is to be done.

Our days decay into a past become
As turbulent as water in a strait;
And our request for all is answered “some,”
And our request for some is answered “wait.”

I offer you a kiss my sweetest love
For soon the times will make us all behave.
At night I question devils in my sleep
As nations clash like monsters in the deep,
And dream of someone pulling on his glove
Who in an instant tumbles in his grave.


The third is in the classic lines of Chaucer
Which tell us of the squire who carved before
His father. But the men of Odoacer
Are busy with their thoughts and call for war.

The Russians play their cards; Afghanistan
Is made a province and the Khyber Pass
Dreams of its future as an autobahn:
The eyes of the dead are silent as glass.

Think tonight of the lusty squire, the one
Who has to love and suffer history.
A new Assyria is on the plain
And stirs up man’s old wilfulness again.
Two people are but fodder for a gun,
And armies marching give no surety.


The fourth is taken from a tapestry
Gone smoky on the wall above the fire;
It shows us in the human husbandry
And dates us by our out-of-date attire.

Come, sit by me and let me hold your hand,
My brain become a blackboard without chalk:
The sun is dancing on your wedding band
But Charon is commanding us to walk.

When time begins to sunder what has grown
As closely as the fingers of a hand,
The furious concerns of man fall by
Become as distant as a fading cry:
And all that you and I have ever known
Is given to the tide and shifting sand.

1st January 1980

© January 1980

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