The Winter Gardens

Like an old poet or civil servant.
Is that fluff on your jacket and a
Pen in your breast pocket?
Can I have your autograph?

My elder, my father, on the old
Concrete steps of the Winter Gardens.
Is that a bag in your hand or
Just the way you lean?

Planted there like some old
Shubbery, wherefrom comes your
Elegance? Can I have some?
From the ancestors of my clan?

What bearing becomes you.
Knitted vest like I wore, the
Smart Harris Tweed jackets
Were the smartest on us yet.

Past Life Memories With My Father

1.

We sat upon the temple steps
Overlooking the marketplace.
Casual, side by side, on the uppermost step,
So that neither would presume to sit higher.
And yet still the dark mystery behind,
The large doors, the smaller one inset like a jewel.
Only at times of great festivals
Would the larger doors be opened wide.
Then the crowds jubilant and wild
Would bridge the distinction made
By these soft low steps of stone.
In my hands, forearms resting on knees,
I finger a stalk of straw, blown by winds
That gust occasionally through the city gates
Lifting feathers and dust from the streets below.
I turn the stalk as I turn my mind,
Sifting the dry contents of fields forever turned to hay.
You too are unsure where to look.
But your hand gestures to stay my meandering
And point out something that occurs below.
Ah yes, this stalk is yet no cryptic key.
I stab the air in vain and flick it away with my wrist.
Whatever, we must stay present with this.

2.

Maddened fireflies assail the lanternlight.
The envy of these motherfuckers might
Come to grief with little distinction
Other than their own extinction.

3.

Bearded we might
Scuttle down priory hallways,
One leading the other by the elbow
As though in flight.
Cloistered amid the booklined walls
We try to recall where we have read
What might beckon the other from the night.
Something seen when the moon was passing
The leadlight window framed above.
The hands turn thin sheaves of manuscript
As though we know there’s little time.
And who could say what was discovered,
How much the two friends dared to share,
The ages lost and yet in passing,
Who now knows what’s next in line?

4.

Sorry, the train began on time.
The words were planned that were to rhyme.
The sense is now what’s left behind
Once thoughts have been committed to line.
Some missed the junction, went astray,
Like you and I from day to day.
What use regret and guilt and shame,
The many thin grey shades of blame.
The most is what is left today,
To bring it forth else fade away.
  
28 – 11 – 96

 

The Church Of the World (for Andy and Sonya’s wedding)

She was called by her father on a summer’s morning:
“Be ready, child, we leave now, the day is dawning.”
And forthwith, they rode, from the land that she knew,
Further than she’d been, into a valley new.
And along the wooded trail, as they eased to a pace,
She asked of her father what he knew of this place.
“What you will know too,” he said with a smile,
“For this land is your family’s, stretching mile after mile.
But only the land to the left of this road,
Yet all, for generations, is where your kin tilled and sowed.”
“But what of the land to the right?” she enquired.
“Oh, none live there that your forefather’s sired.
But now,” he continued, “I must tell you why we’ve come.
For your mother and I…understand you’ve met someone.
And there’s a day – like today – in which we in our time,
Were taken down a road such as this, that comes now…
To daughter of mine.”

And with that they turned into a large open glade,
Where dozens of their kinfolk on wooden benches were arrayed.
But only on the left, for to the right sat many others,
And as she took in the view, she tried to discover
Whether in the sea of new faces, she knew anyone,
When suddenly her eyes blinked, as if from rays of the sun.
For the face of her beloved was looking back at her.
And as he came over to embrace her, she heard her father’s words:
“To the heart of this valley, your young lover took a ride,
This morning, before us, with his father by his side,
While your mothers and kinfolk prepared this ancient place
With flowers, food and wine, fit to receive God’s grace,
For a marriage of true hearts. And for all of us here,
We are overjoyed and blessed, for now we can draw near.
For the land to the right is of your lover’s forebears.
But now this land, beyond, is for all of us to share.
This green valley is your heart, this great world is a church.
Along aisles – or roads – in Love…
Do the two sides merge.”