The Mystery

From the edge of the park I see

The railway bridge and the Georgian row.

The rugby posts catch the setting sun

In a wooden frame.

The people walking by

Don’t see me where I stand,

Melting into the worn brick.

That suits me fine.

Sounds fly in from every side,

Even above, from the birds and planes

And swishing leaves paint a wash

Over the harsh clatter.

There used to be swings here

A lifetime and a half ago.

Tarmac and swings and laughter and fear

On the Mystery.

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Song

Sing me no songs of love and light,

Of laughter, friends and summers bright.

No lilting lyrics tinged with bliss,

Sing me instead a song of this:

Salah, coming down the wing,

Dodging round and letting swing,

He strikes the ball and lets it fly,

The goalie sees it whistle by.

Your “moon and June” means nought to me.

Nor tea for two and two for tea.

I have no use for songs of flowers,

Of couples lost in tender hours.

Don’t think I’ll wait while someone sings

Of wedding vows and golden rings.

If you would melt my heart of stone

Sing me “You’ll never walk alone.”

Remembering the Dead

On 15th April 1989, 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives at Hillsborough Stadium.  After years of cover-ups, an inquest found that they had been unlawfully killed and that the actions of the dead and the other fans had played no part.  At 3:06 pm, Liverpool will fall silent in their honour and, later, the bells of both cathedrals will ring out for them.  RIP.

 

When the town falls silent,

When it bows its head,

When the candles flicker

We’re remembering the dead.

When the bells are readied,

When the names are read,

When the prayers are muttered

We’re remembering the dead.

When we offer comfort,

When the truth is said,

When we shed a tear

We’re remembering the dead.

When the lives are honoured,

When justice lies ahead,

Then we’ll never walk alone

Remembering the dead.

Void

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This year sees the 27th anniversary of the tragedy at Hillsborough Stadium that resulted in 96 Liverpool fans losing their lives.  As the jury consider the evidence they’ve seen and heard at the hard-won inquest into the deaths, it seems as though the 96 may finally be granted the justice they deserve.  Because of that, one last Anfield memorial service will be held for them today, but their names will remain written in a place of honour at the stadium and their flame will never go out.  This poem is dedicated to them.  You’ll never walk alone. (Photo via http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk)

No pile of scarves,

No empty seats,

No list of names,

No flickering flames,

No silent minute from the crowd

Will ever fill the void.

 

No heartfelt words,

No tribute plaques,

No mournful tolls,

No prayerful souls,

No sculpted works of stark respect

Will ever fill the void.

 

No floral wreath,

No perfect choir,

No teary eyes

No exposed lies,

No long awaited justice gained

Will ever fill the void.

River

the cold iron rails,
the grey, concrete ground,
the black-mirrored ripples,
the wind’s lonely sound,
the hum of the ferry,
the wake’s frothing line,
the shore’s curving profile,
the water’s lithe spine,
the shrill conversations,
the feel of the spray,
the gulls’ constant chatter,
the call of the bay,
the thrust of the current,
the dance to and fro,
the long tidal rhythms.
the stillness below,
the buoys and the tyres
the waves push along
the music and words
of the proud river’s song.

Getting lost

Somebody told me, today, that I’m the image of my mother; apparently, they think he’ll be out of the cast by March. Don’t judge me! Unless your mother is Angelina Jolie or Charlize Theron, it’s not what a woman wants to hear. It’s not the first time I’ve heard that and I have to grudgingly admit that it’s true. I have her blonde hair and her blue eyes; I should give them back really – she’s scaring the kids. We do look alike, though, and I’ve inherited other things from her: a love of reading, a memory that seems hardwired to store poetry, dates, useless facts and phone numbers, a virtual addiction to olives and big feet.

It’s harder to say what I’ve inherited from my dad. Perhaps when all my hair drops out, it’ll be easier to spot any resemblance but, looks-wise, it’s difficult to see any similarities. My squidgy nose is nothing like his Roman one and in spite of his brown eyes, a recessive blue-eyed gene obviously allowed me to take after Mammy. I also have excessively long femurs as opposed to his tiny ones that meant I’d have to push the car seat back a foot if I drove his car.

Looks aren’t everything though and I take after him in other ways: I don’t like to spend money unnecessarily, so I’ll have the washing machine in pieces year after year rather than buy another; I love a good detective programme and have shared many a happy hour with him, watching Columbo or the Rockford Files, and I have one of the most appalling senses of direction ever seen in a person who hasn’t been blindfolded and spun for an hour on the Waltzers. My brother-in-law nicknamed my dad ‘Pathfinder’ and it wasn’t a tribute. All who have ever had a lift from him have come to dread the tell-tale signs that a ‘short-cut’ was imminent: the turn down an apparently innocuous side road, the inevitable three-point turn when we would meet the dead end, followed by the attempt to retrace some or all of the turns that had led to us being hopelessly lost and, often, irretrievably late for an appointment. Similarly, I have been known to get lost in my own work building – although I must point out that this was before I worked from home – and after a drive through Aintree, I caused hilarity in the office by asking the question “What racecourse?” Yes, truly, I am ‘Daughter of Pathfinder’.

So, I know that I am in some way ‘a chip off the old block’ and this is a comfort because, earlier this month, he died. At the age of 91, after a lifetime of working hard and being daft and funny when it was right to be daft and funny and being serious when it was right to be serious and being the western world’s foremost advocate for the eating of bananas, he collapsed in the house with my mum, for whom he had long been a carer, and there was nothing anybody could do for him. After being lost with my dad or on my own so often, in many ways now, I think I’ll always be lost.

To Dirty Washing (With profound apologies to Andrew Marvell)

Had I but world enough, and time,
My efforts I would turn to rhyme
I would sit down and think which way
To sculpt a poem every day.
I, by the chattering Mersey’s side,
Could sit with pen and watch the tide.
Of chills and winds, complain. I would
And shuffle back to flee the flood,
Of water, not of words I’d use;
The offerings of my shimmering Muse.
My verse anthology would grow
As vast as any that I know;
And readers would, with deep amaze,
Marvel at how I used my days;
Yet empty pages do attest
That my sweet Muse remains at rest;
Or else she knows not how to start,
Bold inspiration in my heart.
Most likely she must sit and wait
‘Til I surrender to my fate.

But at my back I always hear
The pile of laundry, damp and drear;
Which will not hang itself to dry
Though I should wait eternally.
And in the bedrooms, more is found,
Socks, shirts and towels, all in a mound
I gather laundry with a sigh
And wonder why it’s left to lie,
Forgotten forms to gather dust,
If left too long to form a crust:
To banish beauty from the place,
Inviting odours at a pace.

Now therefore, when my sons return
Strong words will make their ears burn,
And consequences may transpire
Involving piles of clothes and fire,
If I should chance to find them thrown,
Upon the floor; my will is stone!
Their clothes will dwindle by the day
‘Til every thread is cast away.
Let them retrain to nightly scamper
To drop their clothes into the hamper.
Then I can take my book and pen,
Commence to gather rhymes again.
Thus, though I may not be a bard,
My laundry won’t be half as hard.

At the Edge of the Mersey

All the beauty of the sparkling river, spread out in the sun.

Red ruts rise here and there, naked in the ebbing tide.

Between the river and me, a ribbon of green and grey

With one magpie, bobbing.

The wind carries my breath toward the rails.

Could my words make these ripples?

I move closer and see the shards of colour on the water:

White, grey, green, blue, black.

The magpie startles.

It takes its leave.

And so do I.

New Eyes

Suddenly, as if with new eyes I see

This place.

Having passed this way a thousand times or more,

I’m thrown into a panic,

As though lost.

These old bricks, soiled by years of existence

Must have always been this way,

Or similar, for decades.

Today, without real change,

They look so different.

When I first saw this road

They may have been clean

But can’t have been new.

Older than I am,

They’ve watched me pass

And many more before me.

Is it possible that, today,

They have seen me with new eyes?

Do they wonder if I was ever

Untarnished by time?

Park Bench

From the bench between the lampposts

I can see the path stretch off

To the distance through the trees and through the grass.

I can see the wrought-iron fence.

I can see the tangled shrubs.

I can see the winding road and cars that pass.

 

From the bench between the lampposts

I can see the open field

Where the families and friends spread out and play.

I can see the distant spire.

I can see the old café.

I can see the palm house hiding by the way.

 

From the bench between the lampposts

I can see the ground slope off

Where it gently forms a hill beside the lake.

I can see the beds of flowers.

I can see the tiny bridge.

I can see the perfect scene these features make.