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Chapter 1
Going Home

By tfawcus

The coo of pigeons calls me back
to leaf mould damp
and watered sun
that glistens on the turning leaves
of childhood memory
where lone I walk through time.

I see the lithesome hips of rose;
a blackbird poised
on
rusted rail of iron
entwined with old man's beard;
and bones long
gone.
The church bell chimes.

The hour of evensong has come.
I kneel
and peep between the steeple of my hands
at sandstone arches stained
by saints in glowing robes
whose scarlet hues and sad eyes fall
on chiselled names of those
who passed this way before.

The Advent candle flickers
in the fading light of day,
a rose-rimmed eye that blinks
and forces out a waxen tear
for those, my kin, who died.

Author Notes Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

On Gaudete Sunday, also known as "Rose Sunday", a rose-coloured candle is lit. It is the Third Sunday in Advent and falls in mid-December close to my birthday and that of Jesus Christ. It is a time both of joy and repentance. I know this, because my grandfather, who was a country vicar, lies buried in this churchyard - the one in my mind's eye.


Chapter 2
Beyond the Wit of Daylight Hours

By tfawcus

I have wandered in dark places,
and sought reflection in silent pools
bathed in moonlight,

on paths beyond the wit
of daylight hours,

and there have found
in solitude
the truth in dreams,
the music of deeper worlds than ours,
a confluence with faerie land

that, in kindness,
binds us to ourselves
and to our clay,
when comes the newborn day
and leaves such echoes
as do haunt the song of birds
and mists that rise from dew;

a bidding to fare well,
as blow the winds into
the fleeting sails
of friendship
found each day anew
in ancient grains of sand
and pulsing veins.


Chapter 3
Night Ode

By tfawcus

The light is drowned tonight
beneath a turquoise sea.

All colour fades to black,
the world lies still,
falls cold,
and calls the darkness
out of me.

What slight shadows
cloud my mind,
when set against
the vastness of the void
beyond the shapes we see.

Yet, with their darkness gone,
I've space
and time to think
without the thrall of day,
discerning now the part,
though it be small,
that I shall choose to play.

Author Notes Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash (modified with a colour filter)


Chapter 4
The Sleeping Music

By tfawcus

The sleeping music lies
in harmonies of stream
and spring and waterfall;
glissandos into pools
where quiet waters swirl,
and leaves stirred by the evening breeze
perform a pas-de-deux.

When silken skies subside,
enchanted,
gold and rose,
their glow embalms
the sallow flesh of day
and calms each bruise,

till in sleep I'm drowned
with echoes of those
whose shadows form,
like flotsam
on the dead sea swell;
fragmented figures from the past,
now bereft of sound.

Author Notes Photo by Mike Giles on Unsplash


Chapter 5
The Bells

By tfawcus

Strike words like bells
in blacksmith's forge,
each chime a shuddering hour
that fades;
hours of iron,
once strong and brave,
on warhorse hooves;

their muffled thud through damp, loam woods -
a sound that’s lost in russet ooze
as soldiers seek oblivion. 

At length, a few return
on metalled roads;
their ears still ring
with words and deeds
that will be told, and tolled 
in mournful carillon,

each widowed word wrung out in grief,
then spread across the world.


Chapter 6
Annealed by Fire

By tfawcus

Her life in tatters,
lost, and ash
concealing just the twisted knife,
a melted pot,
and bones;
calcified remains on which to build
the framework of a life again.

I saw her face, annealed by fire,
grey haired and gaunt, with lilac eye.
She gripped her spade,
and then began to dig;
such strength as this our women have.

Author Notes Written following recent New South Wales bushfires (March 2018)
Photo by Alex Harvey on Unsplash


Chapter 7
Ruminations

By tfawcus

Her liquid eye holds dreams
of chaff twice chewed
and that's enough
to fill the stomach of her mind.
How deep need ruminations be?

Between those horns there lies
the bovine essence of eternity;
contentment, chewing cud,
like you or me.

Yet we who fence her field
of winter hay,
will send her, in due course,
to the slaughterhouse.

Will deeper thinking make her more secure
or happier?

Author Notes Photo by Steve Houghton-Burnett on Unsplash


Chapter 8
Slack-Jawed Tide

By tfawcus

Silver still the sea tonight,
a luminescent, viscous thing
of listless lull,
and solipsistic slop
and murmuring,
that softly sucks the life from hidden holes
where monsters lurk and wild imaginings
drift dead men in to shore
on slack-jawed tides
and drag them out again,
where gormless hagfish swirl and swim
beneath the dark viridian
of clinging kelp and bottle-blue Physalia,
whose lethal droop of tentacles
hangs low
to drift,

and
s

t
i
n
g

Author Notes Glossary
Viscous: with a seemingly oily consistency
Solipsistic: self-absorbed
Viridian: blue-green
Physalia: The Portuguese man-o'-war or blue bottle, a jellyfish-like marine organism whose tentacles deliver a painful and sometimes fatal sting. They are found in great numbers at certain times of the year, off the east coast of Australia.


Chapter 9
Hawk Moths

By tfawcus

The air tonight's distilled from jasmine flowers,
a whiff of pheromone.

Hawk moths hover,
tipsy wraiths that waft from cup to cup,
with casual promiscuity,
till lifted by a sultry sigh
to kiss the sequined, velvet dress of
night
on wings of moonlit lace.

Author Notes Image adapted from: Hyles lineata, Flickr Creative Commons user abd-ashi


Chapter 10
The Tree

By tfawcus

The tree at my front gate
I'd given up for dead,
gnarled joints and sere,
some straggle leaves below,
a last hurrah I thought,
and that was fifteen years,
or more,
ago.

Flocks of cockatoos sometimes come,
and settle on
its outstretched arms.
Their clamour mocks with raucous life
its long dead limbs,
while down below,
the straggle leaves gain strength and grow.

Its yearning limbs, on one wild night,
closed round a hunter's moon,
clasped its bulbous bloat,
in heartless mockery of life
but, rooted firm, could not take flight
like seas receding - tide untied -
for still its pendules stayed alive.

At dusk a whispered silhouette
posed against the charcoal sky,
a silent swoop, a sudden cry,
yet still the straggle leaves possessed
their pulsing thread of sap,
undaunted by the death throes of
such heart-torn prey.

I almost euthanised that tree.

 

Author Notes Pendule (French for clock) serves double purpose here as a description of the elongated leaves of the eucalyptus tree.

Image by the author (June 2017)


Chapter 11
A Summer Storm

By tfawcus

In the dark foreshadowing of doom,
I slumped with measured tread
past London monoliths that rose
dejectedly
towards a glowering sky;
my thoughts like lead,

when, suddenly,
the sky was torn apart with blinding force.

Thunderstruck, I pulled up short
and raised the collar on my coat.
The rain began,
small drops at first
that slapped and stung my face,
whipped up by wind
into a furious assault
that left me cleansed,
elated by the primal force,
and soaked,
no longer in self-pity
and slum-pervaded thought,

but in the glorious freshness,
steam on stone,
as the glistening sun came out again,
defiantly adorning streets in evanescent gold.

It takes, at times,
a sudden storm to wash away the grime
from city streets and living.

Author Notes Much of my writing is in iambic rhythm. It is easy to become locked into the comfort of its natural speech patterns. I decided here to take advantage of free verse to use other poetic feet such as the trochee, anapaest and spondee, not to create a measured poem in one sustained rhythm, but to support the meaning of the words with rhythms to parallel changes in mood and pace.

Image from the Public Domain


Chapter 12
Pablo Neruda

By tfawcus

His words flow like liquid in his own language,
a turbulent and raging torrent
to erode rocks,
and cause avalanches
amongst the stone-hearted;

songs with rhythm
sucked
from the oozing blood
of oppression,
to infuse
the pulse of rebellion;

songs intoned in whispers
deep in the muffled snows
of mountainous
dissent;

songs to thaw
rime-encrusted hatred,
dripping from
the brows of the beaten,

and to undermine cupidity
with the voluptuousness of love.

Author Notes This poem was inspired by a recent viewing of the film, "Neruda" which traces that part of his life, in the 1940's, when, as a member of the Communist Party, he was a fugitive in his own country, Chile.


Chapter 13
At Morning Prayer

By tfawcus

A shadowed wraith on weak arthritic limbs,
the old horse leaves his shelter-belt of trees
beneath a sickle moon.

From the still and patient night,
there breathes a whispered breeze
to beckon him,
as it has done before.

He slowly comes with measured tread,
to stand upon an earthen wall
above the pool reflecting him,
and, facing east, he waits.

His chestnut coat
by night bedewed,
his head and neck held low
as if in prayer,
and there, stock-still, he stands,

until the first sharp rays
break out above the hill
to bathe his ears in splendour,
then his back,
brazing him once more,
a burnished bronze,
fit for Bellerophon to ride
against the Chimera of day.

The shadows, mute, shrink back
aghast,
in reverential awe.

Still, this ancient horse stands still
as does the world and time,
his head now raised
to breathe a wisp of breath,
a soft grey incense
silvered by the dawn.

and then, to hail this newborn day,
there starts a joyful chorus,
the orison of birds.


Chapter 14
The Dancers

By tfawcus

Three young girls
were walking home at dusk
with their arms wrapped together
as one

when a sigh in the trees
rippled through the leaves
and their toes started tapping
in the dust,

their toes started tapping
and itching to the rhythm,
the syncopated rhythm
of their dance,

and you couldn't see their feet
as they wove a birdlike flutter
in the utter joyful stutter
of their dance.

Then they swirled and they glided
and they gracefully subsided
in torrents of clear laughter
from their hearts,

a taste of the hereafter
the gods have surely given
to those who dance together
in the dust.

Author Notes The photo, taken by my daughter, is of some girls in a remote village in the Afar region of Northern Ethiopia.
The poem, although it has some elements of rhyme, is not written to any particular form.
I have tried to achieve a rising crescendo through changes of rhythm followed by a sense of calm after the sudden flurry of impromptu dance.
I hope the line breaks are a sufficient guide for the reader without any need for punctuation.
This poem is in the nature of an experiment so any feedback will be much appreciated.


Chapter 15
A Snow Job

By tfawcus

Soft
the snowflakes fall
from swirling skies;

a silent drift
that muffles human margins;

a deadly flutter
that numbs the raw
of snow-grit homeless heaps.

Listen!

Can you hear the crunch
of frozen sidewalk smut
beneath that traffic noise and siren scream?

I do not lie - 
I need your money for the ice!
Rainbows glisten in the sun
as it grows crystal cold.

Then comes the thaw,
and whirring snowplough brush
to sweep away
the residue of sidewalk slush,
assaulting grime
with tears.

 

Author Notes Image attribution: Creative Commons, Some rights reserved by brownpau (https://www.flickr.com/photos/brownpau/)


Chapter 16
The Artist

By tfawcus

He paints the spaces between his images
with as much care
as a poet writing behind the lines.

His puppet, a Pierrot figure,
lies slumped
on a narrow pavement,

with loosened strings,
no longer dancing
to the tune of war.

Each brushstroke licks around
memories of leaden soldiers,
as if they were ice-cream melting

on a hot summer's day;
a foretaste of death
dripping on the nursery floor.

Author Notes This poem is a personal response to an abstract work of art viewed recently in Cuenca.

Pierrot figure: the wise fool, the harlequin.

Toy soldiers of the past contained a high proportion of lead, poisonous if ingested.

Photograph, by the author, of 'Galeria de la Mina' 1965 by Manuel Millares (1926-1972) [Museum of Abstract Art, Cuenca]


Chapter 17
The Conductor

By tfawcus

A ripple rises as the lights are dimmed
that grows into a crescendo of applause.
The great man appears.
An Emperor Penguin,
he sweeps across the stage
and mounts the podium
then turns,
surveys his audience,
and nods acknowledgement.

The scene is set. His baton raised,
he holds expectant silence in the air,
then gently coaxes murmurs from the violins,
a rising susurration of bees set free.
He suppresses them
with a gentle downward movement of his hand,
turns his pointer to the larger deep-voiced strings,
demanding their masculine response,
an ominous drumbeat of rising sound
that enforces interplay with melody.
He draws music forth
with an outstretched hand.

The tempo quickens to the strident shudder of his jowl.
He turns a white-tipped laser to the centre of the pit.
It strikes, exploding brass, timpani and a kettle-drum
before an opening blossom of cymbals
stops their breath.

Majestically, he cuts the air.
Great swathes of sound escape,
marshalled by his rhetoric into ranks.
His eye is wild, he leads the charge
as if on horseback,
the rise and fall of his shoulders
mimicked by a rippling surge
across the silken blackness of his back.
He cuts the sound away again,
severing its roots with silence.

A single flute dares defy him now.
It mourns the melody with keening liquid notes.
The maestro turns
and coaxes once again the strings,
drawing from their amber hearts
accompaniment,
a waterfall of sound
cascading from Olympian heights.

The final notes ascend.
They float like butterflies returning to the gods.
The audience erupts,
washing the magic away
in a torrent of sound.
He turns, bows low,
acknowledges the thunder of applause,
then is gone.

The orchestra subsides
like puppets who have lost their puppeteer.
Exchanging pleasantries, they pack their bags for home.
The symphony is done.

Author Notes Image credited to ThinkingOutLoudBlog.com by Valerie Morrison, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


Chapter 18
The Road to Salamanca

By tfawcus

We drove to Salamanca, you and I,
a bleak greyness of snow on distant mountains,
the foreground rocky, harsh and unforgiving,
a landscape of grey-green ghosts and pining.

A solitary bull breathed thin vapour
across our final olive grove,
and fog swirled, licking at the edges
of our relationship.

The ancient town
disgorged
a soup of salt cod, spinach and
chick peas
the last vestige of warmth
as daylight drained from the cobbled streets
and left us to face our reality.

Author Notes Although inspired by the harsh landscape on the road between Madrid and Salamanca, this poem is not autobiographical.

Image: Van Gogh: Landscape with Olive Tree and Mountains in the Background
December 1889


Chapter 19
The Clock

By tfawcus

Slow and stately ticks the clock
seconds breaking stillness
with pendulous monotony

to and fro
they go

into a haze of bygone days
and dust
suspended in the moonlight.

The lunar
tic of the clock
drips time, drop by drop
ere the cuckoo calls

to cut the thread
that binds us
to the metronomic madness

of the clock.

Author Notes The face of a W & H Sch grandfather clock at the Marines' Memorial Hotel in San Francisco. By BrokenSphere via Wikimedia Commons


Chapter 20
Paper Tigers

By tfawcus

We exchanged paper tigers
in the dark days
of the Kurt Cobain addiction,
neither understanding the other;
I, still enmeshed in the cocoon of her childhood,
she, struggling to emerge
and test her newfound wings.

Never mind that
exotic night flowers are poisoned
and enticing flames burn
for we all must learn to fly.

It took time for me to learn
that she would write her own life
in free, unrhymed verse,
not the straitjacket of the formal sonnet
proffered by her parent.

Author Notes Paper tiger is a literal English translation of a Chinese phrase. The term refers to something that seems threatening, yet ineffectual and unable to withstand challenge. (Wikipedia)

Many thanks to Raoul D'Harmental for 'See Me Roar!' on FanArtReview.com


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