Wednesday, 13 January 2016

"Nearer My God To Thee"

Fourteen bagatelles or vignettes of the life of birds. I have been fascinated for some years by the incredibly harsh life lived by our supposedly cuddly feathered friends. In fact their life is "nasty, brutish and short"; in captivity they can often survive fifteen or even twenty years; in the wild they are lucky to survive two or three. Their stoical clinging on is remarkable. I tried to put all this into a more developed poem, "Winter: the Life of Birds and the Love of God" which I posted on 31 January 2014. You can link to it here.
   The final bagatelle mentions the magnificent sea swans of Penzance; anyone who has seen them sailing imperiously along the coast and ignoring the bathers on the beach will know what good breeding is all about.


O time-worn sparrow what’s to do?
What hides behind your glint-eyed view? 
Born and bred under the brute sky   
You are closer to God than I.    


From nest to death in two short years,
The thrush en plein will live and die,
Yet cold and starved, for all its tears,
Knows more of life than you or I.


Even the raucous crow knows God,
Famished daily in his black cowling;
Risking traffic for scraps in the road,
Struck by a car he went dead-bowling.


Herring gulls crowd the roofs all night,
Drenched by rain and staggered by wind;
At dawn they launch in hungry flight,
Sailing the spaces of God’s mind.


Balked from feeding a pigeon broods
Deep in an oak tree’s shadowed crown,  
Thirst-tormented like men on roods
As August’s clear-skied heat pours down.

At the pond’s edge young magpies drink,
Nervous of noise and the wind’s breath;
Lusty and boastful on that brink
Their destiny is chicks and death.


The fox lodges its bloodied teeth,
The chick fades in its ruthless mauling;  
The mother moorhen screams her grief,
Thrashing the water, calling, calling.


Starlings feeding until they die
Scuttle the road verge like black toys;  
They rise and fall as cars go by,
Racked by needs, unknowing of joys.  


Sunday, 10 January 2016

Months: Lyrics: January

The poems for March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December in this series were posted on 14 March, 13 April, 9 May, 15 June, 11 July, 8 August, 11 September, 9 October, 14 November and 12 December 2015.
   In this poem, the first and last lines of each stanza are iambic, the intervening lines are trochaic.

When Epiphany snows in the sud-white field  
   Icily to the snowdrops yield,
   Fathers and lasses in crumping boots,
   Kicking through drifts with clenching toes,   
   Shriek at the hedgeside snowdrop shoots
Which loll their heads with a frozen nose.

The glittering snow like jewels of Ind
   Glares in the polishing skin-flail wind:
   Sherbet drops ashake on stalks,
   Milk teeth jangling for faeries’ pence;
   Flustered snowdrops like bobbing corks
Are picked by lasses for ornaments.    

Then snow-melt swamps the field to mud,      
   Lasses’ jeans are splashed like blood;
   Loam and rain like wattle paste 
   Clutch the snowdrops’ slapping wands;  
   Petal-mired like girls disgraced
They whitely, sprightly, banter in bonds!

© January 2015