A Nightfall Shared By All

This poem is Part I in the Deadwoods series. You can read more about the series in general here.

Usher forth the inversion of the clouds,
the sky shall now sleep underground.
Without reason is this ceaseless night;
the missing beacon that is moonlight.

When the sun slept it refused to rise
and the same was said for the other side.
Some say it resides with the dead,
dormant upon its grey funeral bed.

Trees in the breeze now shiver sadly
where they once danced all too gladly.
Animation in nature has come to a close
as the petals begin to fall from the rose.

Seething superstition has come to a simmer;
a saint has been made of every sinner.
The heathen now withdraws their disbelief
in the fear of whatever shall lie beneath.

It seems that our Gods have been lulled to sleep;
silence shall resound as the angels weep.
The church halls face now the abyssal doubt
when the chill of stark forsakenness abounds.

For now we watch the candles burn
because all clocks have refused to turn.
Time is told by the perishing wick
rather than the second hand’s faint tick,
as our minds cannot help but think
‘when shall we wither and become sick?’

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Sleep Beneath Crossroads

The sun sends its light unto where I sleep
beneath a four-spoked post, buried metres deep.
Spare a gaze to the withered white yonder,
far beyond lands that you would dare wander.
Here at the crossroads is where we may meet
removed from the grounds where widows weep.

Spared no cenotaph nor celebration
hidden is the site of my commemoration.
Staked to the stones by seeds of superstition
flowering as fears of a returning apparition.
Unworthy of ceremony and of convocation
my body is a marker of the soil’s desecration.

My waking years rendered me uncharted;
with no change now that I have departed.
The taint of my wickedness must be allayed
though we are all buried to meet with decay.
It’s a blood process, what I have started,
to become disenfranchised and discarded.

Don’t Bring My Body Home

One thousand worlds stare down;
we don’t really matter at all.
But in that moment I could have sworn
we were a microcosm of colliding stars.

Crash against the rocks, exist again as a sea mist.
Pull me from the stream, the water then shall have me.
Don’t bring my body home.

Passing through the centuries;
this Earth imbibes all time.
The ground on which we stand
is saturated with moments.
We don’t really matter at all,
but matter’s not on my mind.

Stand beneath the sun, stain shadows on the stone.
Wrap me up in arms, I shall burn within my blood.
Don’t bring my body home.

Transcending all but time
was a world that mattered not.

A Perceived Distortion

This poem is about photography and newspapers, and how the images we see before us can tell so many different stories, whether they’re true or false. So much rests on what spin we put on them, and the explanations we give. I’ve chosen to put this in the context of the Second World War, particularly the London Blitz, but it’s still a topic that is very relevant today, as all of the newspapers we read have a particular political bias, and therefore the same story can serve two different interests. It’s all in the hands of the interpreter.

One picture shows a cathedral consumed by fire,
another shows it rising from the flames.
What if I told you they’re both the same photograph?
Does London burn or does it become strong again?

‘Oh! It’s a lovely war’
said by the lady in the widows weeds,
apparently.
‘We must defend British shores’,
uttered a lad of spectral seeds,
transparently.

For they’ve ashen faces and nowhere to go
searching for traces of someone they know.
The fires are burning but they frighten no more,
the tables are turning with death at their door.

Pick up a paper, you’ll see soldiers laughing,
read another and they’re dead in the field.
Some see a good life, others see the skeletons,
look behind the captions to see what is revealed.

‘Come, you must hide away’
shouted the general in uniform,
concernedly.
‘My faith will keep me safe’
prayed the woman with a cruciform,
avowedly.

For the light is all they have left to hope,
and their sight tells them they will not cope.
When the bombs come they’ll look to the clouds.
After the siren’s sung they’ll make it out.

But who’s to say what they’re feeling?
They may smile but they’re still reeling
from the missile smashing through the ceiling.
It’s their stories we make habit of stealing.
The rain washes away the ink of the page,
the page declaring stories of the age,
the interpretations of the pain and the rage,
of those who chose (or not) to engage.

When the records are lying, who will tell
the stories of the dying and their own hell?
Polarised are the thoughts in our minds
as we’re sought to become one of our kind.

Asphodel Meadows

I used the concept of part of the Ancient Greek Underworld as a metaphor to describe my own feelings at the time. Those who had lived unexceptional lives, were believed to be sent to the ‘Asphodel Meadows’ – a rather banal place. I saw this as somewhat comparable to my own life. I was asking myself, ‘what was I doing?’ I couldn’t think of anything exceptional that I had done, or that I could possibly do.

I was delivered unto a place of grey.
All I could do was to sit on the dry grass
and reflect on what had made this my home.
It wasn’t by choice that I lived so ordinarily;
in the vale of years I remained uninspired.
No creation to my identity,
nothing synonymous to my name.
Not a dent was made
on the clay model of lifespan.
No handprints left from efforts to press down,
just the puddles of raining ink that I had spilled.
Through pleasantries, I found no ascension.
To be polite, is to be enveloped by time.
Becoming a grain of sand, one for the mound,
without a notion to change.
What I dreamt to express, the words refused to orchestrate.
instead, every meaning and feeling eluded me.
Now it’s too late,
for I am bound to a constant.
I harvest grain, only for it to rot from birth.
I walk under trees, but no leaves will fall.
I long to flow forgetfulness into my mouth,
and let Lethe, oblivion’s patron, rebirth my soul,
lest I linger here, burning in monochrome.
I preserved ambition into the afterlife.
But I’m trapped by stone peaks,
in this arid valley.
I dream of the Elysian;
the sunshine gold that I stretched too far for.
Only the notorious achieve the prize,
And the mediocre inherit a static land.
Surrounded by spectres that I do not identify with,
They mourn, and themselves become mist.
I don’t belong to the haze,
but it has me, and I dissolve into white smoke.
I become one among the dull trees,
swirling with the dust on the ground.
Even when it was Earthly air that I breathed,
I acted the role of the scenery.
Never finding the voiced half of my thoughts,
and always being swayed to a direction.
Like a river of opinion.I was a tiny stone,
being ground to salt by the louder pebbles,
and integrated into the scream.
I was shouted down.
The Elysian Fields are full of loud voices.

The Portrait And Landscape Of Lady Jane

I suppose this is where my inner-history student comes to the surface of my poetry. This discusses the way that the personality of Lady Jane Grey has been interpreted in history. From victimised puppet, to a cunning woman, clever in the coup that gave her the crown. I’d like to think that the actuality of the situation is much less black and white than this interpretation suggests. Lady Jane Grey, in order for a Protestant succession to be achieved was named as heir to the throne of Edward VI. It is likely that his will was hastily altered in order to accommodate for this to happen, and it was not his decision. This was to stop the Catholic Mary I from coming to the throne. This, predictably did not work. Public support generally went in favour of those who had the natural right to rule, and this was seen as Mary’s right. Mary became Queen of England in 1553, and Lady Jane was confined in the Tower of London. Originally, she wasn’t going to be executed, but it was on the insistence of Philip of Spain, Mary’s to-be husband that Jane be executed, as she was seen as a possible figurehead of rebellion, which Mary (popularly and inaccurately demonised as being evil) was extremely reluctant to do, but knew that it was inevitable. 

A planned construction like the scaffold,

a calculation of canvas and oil paint.

Herself, not central, but her white gown

on her, she was transformed into

the immaculate virgin raped by the axe.

The head that harboured the crown;

guileless, apparently so.

The chest that took anointing oil;

a pale close to snow.

We observe her memory

through stained glass.

We see her outline,

but let our minds be coloured.

The paints of propaganda,

the murmurings of martyrdom,

whisper the stories of

a flowering rose of red and white,

and a severing of the stem.

An undercurrent still remains,

suggesting a sliver of guilt.

She is now stripped of petals,

causing the core to wilt.

The Murder Of The Antediluvian

This poem takes place in a completely different world to ours, one that is almost barren of organic life and completely unrecognisable to our society today. Humanity has changed and control is rife. The heroine of the story dares to learn. She wants to know what came before and she refuses to believe in the continuity that is being stipulated. But she learns that there are dire punishments that are to be wreaked for having the audacity to learn about the forbidden.

In an encyclopaedia of days gone by
I was drawn to a wonderfully curious thing.
In retrospect they called it ‘fated to die’;
this was only known when it went extinct.
Passed are the times of their reverence,
celebrated were their leaves in a breeze.
All we have is this reminiscent reference,
to the spirits we once knew to be trees.

I read of glades of elms and rooks,
and a silence pierced only by the hourly belfry.
They are gone now if you were to look,
ephemeral memories of a bygone fantasy.
Abundant now are the granite and steel
forming a landscape of institutional grey.
Nothing remains to evoke one to feel;
the metallic numbness is here and shall stay.

The history books spoke to me of cyclical time;
a season could be told by where the leaves lay.
Autumn once conjured an amber so fine,
and the coming of Winter blew them all away.
Artificially impervious to weather shifts.
We’re told it’s optimum; neither cold or warm.
An impenetrable security is their gift,
a climate where only approved thoughts shall form.

Each breath is a gift from the force
provided by their fabulous oxygen machine.
I cannot help but wonder, of course,
what if fate showed it’s hand to intervene?
Surely a mechanism so complicated
would find a fault and sever our supply?
Then, even quicker than we were created,
in this steely world we’d be destined to die.

Of knowing too much, I am accused.
We’ve been told that history must be released.
Every scream I uncover of this world abused
tells the tale of an Earthly beauty deceased.
Yet it is not for the liberty of our minds
to know of the horrors of nature’s genocide.
The fires of the world and the blood of mankind,
burn and boil, eventually to our suicide.

The wind beaten moors of Wuthering Heights
and the solemn gloom of Brontë’s woods.
With Tatiana’s dwelling of organic lights;
an enchantment I never fully understood.
My reality is more like a Carroll tale;
self-illustrating every cranny and nook.
And just like Alice and her literate trail,
though I must peruse the forbidden books.

I’ve heard the whispers of my community;
they say that I am dancing with knives.
But I’d rather relinquish my immunity,
than be content with their prosaic lives.
Everyone is a paralysed and schedule bound.
Everywhere can be heard the bleats of sheep,
far too many for the shepherd to count
and becoming one will never let me sleep.

They say gossip percolates into outer rings,
that you’re only safe if you’re shrouded.
If I keep researching past queens and kings
I will find my fate obscurely clouded.
It never occurred to me to fear
until I was torn from security’s breast.
Thrown from my origin without a tear,
then captured, tortured and forced to confess.

I awoke once more in a dazzling dress,
covering my body and flowing past my feet.
The silk did disguise the wounds of my flesh.
Now out of the cold, I felt the heat.
Men approached as I leant on the pyre,
and I wondered what more they could take.
I looked then of their torches of fire
and knew that this stage was a stake.

“Ladies and gentlemen, and all others of worth! Come witness the immolation of Mother Earth!”

Leaves’ Grief

This poem is a reflection on privacy in our modern world, with a look to social media. How do we respond to grief? How do we process it? How do we share it? I saw it, when I wrote it, like feelings being picked up by the wind, and scattered all around.

Hang around now my social world,

you’ve heard of the story that had unfurled.

I presume you cry,

I presume you grieve,

you’ve lost something that cannot be retrieved

but also something you’ve never seen.

Fallen leaves surround the trees,

a reminder of the Winter’s breeze

that takes them away.

They have something to say,

to remind us one day,

it’s not so beautiful.

Open your eyes,

this isn’t right,

passing on stories,

of the loss of life.

Weeping as if,

they’re something we’d miss.

Can’t you see,

we’ve got to move on from this?

Debate a life,

as if it were mine,

we intrude so what will we find?

It isn’t our place to say,

whether they went the right way.

East or North,

the leaves mourn and move on,

carrying their bleak elegiac song,

and they moan.

Wailing winds are whispering things

to all the ears that still harbour tears,

and they fall.

Falling around us all.

Open your eyes,

this isn’t right,

passing on stories,

of the loss of life.

Weeping as if,

they’re something we’d miss.

Can’t you see,

we’ve got to move on from this?

Debate a life,

as if it were mine,

we intrude so what will we find?

It isn’t our place to say,

whether they went the right way.

The ghosts are going mad,

the trees are oh so sad.

You’ve had strangers fill their land.

One hundred thousand, dressed in black,

mourning one who could never come back.

The storm is here and the leaves still scream,

preaching to those who already believe.

Hoping they won’t find the sun,

just as they have not done.

For The Look Of A Lady

From the point of view of a minstrel in love with the lady of the house, even though he knows that she is completely out of his reach, socially speaking. In the era of courtly love, women would often be idolised in the poetry of troubadours, and something of a rapport would start up between the musicians of a court and the women there; even ones that were unattainable. It was a bizarre, extra-marital game, that has left my minstrel a victim. Whether things such as this would have happened in history for real, I do not know.

melting in to the shades of a lit room
illustrating the ephemeral string blooms
not often present in the foreground
seldom gone from his delicate lute sound
taking turns to pleasure each strung chord
rearing the dance for the lady and the lord
even appreciated but never for his name
lower of the kinds and they’re all the same

he hides from her and veils his face
a kiss of his would not be to her taste
reading the dances faced with her betrothed
bearing the smiles of the man he loathed
on and on, his score must never cease
undoing waterfalls he continues with his piece
relishing the pause for them to catch a breath
seeing the courtship that may make his death

“allow me, your lordship”

singing his lament to the partner of his life
even so, a lute can’t become his wife
caressing the strings of his lone consort
relaxing him as his horizon starts to distort
ended his energy through the drink he took
these dying days were all for a lady’s look