Reflective poems for the start of the year: through people, with people or aiming out into the ocean or seeking the peace and silence of a country retreat, Alwyn Marriage, Ian Blake, Sheena Blackhall and Kemal Houghton offer their distictive previously published poems
We welcome poems first published at least three years ago, from poets all over the world, though they have to be in English (or another language with your own translation into English, for copyright reasons). In any case you must hold the copyright. How to send: see the first post in January.
Thanks for sending, thanks for reading.
Downs at the café
The boy creates a scene,
changing from benign, affectionate
to fury as he meets and battles with
the limitations of intelligence,
the gaping hole where social skills should be.
Some turn to stare, while others studiously
ignore the rumpus, look the other way.
He knows, he sees, and both reactions
add fuel to his frustration, prove the world
an alien place he cannot understand.
I recognise in him
myself below sophistication and assurance:
the childish self
that hides beneath mature intelligence
and hasn’t learnt how not to cling.
Though less aggressive I, too, find the world a baffling place.
Again I hear an inner voice begin
petulantly asking pointless questions,
a lost small child within
First published in ‘Touching Earth’, Oversteps, 2007.
Tarring the Boat
Each year we tar the boat,
hot on our backs the sun
raises that familiar, tangy, sweet
almost antiseptic smell
winterlost, but now remembered well,
another mackerel summer has begun.
Careful, we brush black tar
filling each chink we know,
caulking treacherous gaps which winter found
and drove intrusive sand
past rib and strake spoleshaved by loving hand
carried gravewards eighty years ago.
Bench-seated, two by two,
bum to bum, six men
each pulling one salt-whited narrow oar
between two stone groins, they
creel-laden, stir the elephant-wrinkle-grey
autumn sea. Or middle season, when
bright from the sand, the sun
reflects, turns water blue;
surface flaming mirror. On their backs,
through flannel shirts, the heat,
line featherhooked for mackeral at their feet;
a usual summer eveniong’s work to do.
Those who built this boat
a century ago,
would marvel at the Seagull we shall use,
but superstitious wish
for ritual, more important than the fish,
moors us fast to customs that we know.
How many years until
others tread this shore,
replace the warping bottom-boards and then
push out, just as we
push out to where the sun gilds up the sea,
succeeding those who steered her out before?
Painting the gunwale blue,
descending, year on year,
pretending we’re no older than we were,
and that, though seeping in,
sharp, grainy years can’t pierce our leaching skin.
We caulk ourselves against that tide we fear.
Winner of Neil Gunn Poetry Competition and first published in Poetry Scotland 1998
Meditation Hall, Balquhidder
A silent room, sun on the shining floor
This was a byre once, filled with steaming sides
Of highland cattle, hoof and horn and hide
wet dung and straw, commingled on the floor
Now, it’san airy interlude of calm
The purple thyme crumbles around a shrine
A smiling Buddha sits amongst wild flowers
Teaching that stillness is a blessed balm
Through cherry blossom lights and shadows shift.
We all step through the wide clear door of Now,
Over and over, breathing out and in,
Gentle’s a harebell or a resting swift.
Peace is attainable, it’s our belief
By mindfulness of all the world around
Letting the eye fill like a thirsty jug
With the last drop of tree, or dripping leaf
Each ear-lobe, eyelid, every tiny hair
Upon the scalp raised in a goose bump crop
Is never so alive as when it makes the wind
Make each bow down in homage like a prayer
Sometimes it comes upon me like an ache
The need to be apart from men’s discourse
To walk unhurried through the sparkling glen
And listen, where the linn’s dark waters break.
First published in The Skreich, Lochlands, Maud, Aberdeenshire in 2010.
and he challenges me to a fight
every time I get pissed-off
he picks on me —
gnaws away at my brain.
kick the polythene bags
of suffocated dreams.
He is there
in his chair
and still coming back for more
How can I let go?
Grasping at his strength
I hold on
for the rest of the ride.
First published in 2009 in Onya Wick, Cestrian Press, Wirral