Asleep …

(for Chess)

Now you are out of grieving sight
we think of you as larger than …

Our life is so much smaller now
than how it was before you were …

Asleep you may be gone from view
but we recall your life, renewed
when you defied the odds before
a joyful run in the great outdoors.

Endearing you to all, who, meeting
you, made ‘aww’ a proper word
to celebrate enduring will, and care
by she who brought her love to bear.

Perseverance personified
by a particular desire never, never
to give in, ever … ever to be
assured of your life-long presence.

Ever to be assured of your
character, writ large upon
the landscape of our lives and
she, who served you so well.

© 2020 John Anstie

[Chess was a collie, rescued in late 2018 by my youngest daughter, suffering a certain degree of neglect, in a poor state of health and not expected to survive beyond Christmas. Supreme loving care, especially by my vet nurse daughter and her veterinary friend, brought her through it to live a full, albeit occasionally faltering, couple of years and helped all those, who knew her, come to appreciate what a character she was. She has become a bit of a legend. This dedication is as much to my daughter as it is to the character of Chess.]

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An Invitation

For all those who knew Jamie Dedes, who may ever have encountered her humanity, who may ever have written an essay, a poem, created a piece of art for inclusion either in her personal blog, ‘The Poet by Day’, or the ‘BeZine’, the team here at the BeZine would like to invite you to offer something for inclusion in the forthcoming special December edition of this publication, which Jamie founded and remained as its Editor in Chief until her much lamented death early in November. The BeZine is published quarterly on themes, which reflect its mission to foster Peace, Sustainability and Social Justice regardless of your race or creed, regardless of whether you are advantaged or disadvantaged. To Jamie, all creatures on Earth had the same value, the same right to life. The up and coming December edition has in recent years been devoted to the ‘Life of The Spirit’ and Activism

That will continue in next month’s issue of the BeZine, presenting its usual array of creative contributions true to theme, but will also exceptionally include a special section devoted to Jamie. The BeZine editorial team will be accepting contributions from all those, who wish to show their appreciation of her, in any way you feel appropriate.

If you have something you’d like to send us, please email your submissions to, with the words “for Jamie” in the Subject line. Please also send your submissions as attachments to your email. The deadline for submissions is close of the day, Sunday 6th December.


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(for G Jamie Dedes)

United we stand, divided we fall.
Together we rise. Alone, we hear only the call
from sirens of an alternative kind of destiny,
where attention seeking soldiers of fortune,
their collegial architects and faceless shadows
construct a new order, birthing the unfamiliar,
wrapped in a matrix of the convincingly familiar.

A weeping iconic mater outwardly gestures
her loving hands with warnings from a handmaid
and her tale of forced labour and social media
generating artificial facts of incontestable
statistical intelligence, promising to remove
uncertainty from uncertain lives, to offer
security in a profoundly insecure way.

Yet, still small voices of independent thought,
unafraid of consequence, reality, insecurity or pain,
continue to echo the inspiration of she, who reasons
encouragingly and compassionately against
the harbingers of our future decline, against
the pornography of privilege and wealth,
against the deniers of equitable, sustainable life.

These voices endure, like those refreshing waters
of a spring that flows from deep inside humanity.

Underneath the radar of the darker web of lies,
they carve in stone the undeniable truth of history.

[Jamie Dedes, founder and editor in chief of the BeZine, formerly ‘Into The Bardo’, for over ten years, has stepped down from the roll because of failing health and, in her words, feeling too exhausted from the effort required to maintain the project. Instead she has characteristically shown her faith in the team she has built up, encouraged, nurtured and, above all, imbued with her own enthusiasm for the BeZine’s mission of promoting Peace, Sustainability and Social Justice, through the medium of the written word and all-coming art forms. She invited me to get involved in 2013, it seems like an age ago! I have never regretted a moment and further, I often wonder where my motivation would have come from, to write and achieve more than I would have given myself credit to achieve. This is my humble attempt to show my appreciation for her influence on me, alongside other stalwarts like Michael Dickel, who has agreed to take the tiller as Editor in Chief, and the other ten or so members of the core team, who have kept the faith. Not to mention countless guest contributors, all of whom have entered the spirit of a very, very worthy cause. This is as much a tribute to you as it is to Jamie. I salute you all.]

© 2020 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Posted in Compassion, Free Verse, Hope, Love, poem, poetry, political, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barbershop is …

Barbershop is
a much misunderstood
musical force for good.
A kind of Westminster
without the politics.
Ambassadors without
the Ferrero Rocher. Zero8
with an ironically high score
a Hallmark of Success,
ringing true to their art,
on a journey without end
with songs of many parts
telling stories full of heart,
life’s tales of mixed fortune
that transcend all that stuff
and takes us from the rough
to velvet vocal grace, without
a single trace of discord
(except where intended).

What is? …
Barbershop is
singing unaccompanied
anywhere that you care
in the garden or the park
in the bar after dark or the
pub with some grub with a
pint if you’re dry, have a tear
in your eye for a love that is
lost … or one you’ve just won
whatever the cost. Barbershop
is the salve that, applied to the
ears, rolls away all the years
with ageless appeal and an
endless feel of vocal accord
that enables an equity of
beginnings and endings
and it pleases the Lord
with spirits ascending.

What is? …
Barbershop is
tearing up musical rules
whatever your vocal tools
it allows you to address
with rubato, or digress from
the score and, what is more
it sounds like the Lord
of the Rings hit the ground
on the seventh with a chord
like no other, made a sound
that will astound like you
heard a full orchestra set off.
Give it large. You’re the boss.
You’re in charge of the gang,
be they four or you hang with
dozens more, it’s just the same
this vocal game … Barbershop is.

© 2020 John Anstie
All Rights Reserved

[For good measure and, speaking of “The Boss”, as a mark of our intention to stick together whilst we cannot be together, here is what we ‘performed’ at the BABS Live event last night, a new song that we haven’t performed together, but learned, rehearsed and performed (via skilfully multi-tracked individual audio recordings, woven with video cameo performances from us all, by our maestro MD, Tim Briggs) … Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in The Dark“. Metaphorically speaking, this seems quite an appropriate title.]

You can read the background to this poem here


Posted in Music, Performance, Pleasure, poem, poetry, Singing, story | Leave a comment

Winter Song

A diaphanous veil of mist had settled
sensuously in the valley below.
The upper edge of a jigsaw wall,
its silhouetted frame that lay
beneath a cloud streaked blue, was
stark and sharp as the frozen chill
of air that nipped the ears, and
brought a tear to a rose red nose.

Under foot, a thin and brittle crust,
a chocolate crisp contained inside
a creamy, sweet and treacly core,
challenging the boots that tread,
questioning their proof against a
threat of insidious infiltration, thence
a haunting memory of trench foot,
the spectre of necrotic consequence.

Trees, undressed and still as death,
conserve what little life remains
their fingers, skeletal signposts,
reach patiently for their renewal,
impossible as it may seem to be,
moist and cold, but like a phoenix,
their fertile ashes hoping for a
chance to come again one day.
Once more, the late Spring’s vivid scenes
of sporting courts and verdant greens.
Once more, the early call of song,
the golden warmth of a rising sun
Once more, the vibrant purple haze
of August’s bounteous flowering days.
Once more October’s golden crown.

The moorland heather fading brown.

© 2019 John Anstie
All rights reserved

[This poem has simultaneously been published in the prose blog, Forty-Two]

Posted in nature, poetry, Weather | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

A Poem for Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow


Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” ~ John Donne (1572-1631) from Meditation XVII 


Photo: Sarah K L Langeveld (all rights reserved)

My grandpa is quite old, I think he’s seven

One day, I’m told that I’ll be this old too
in between I know that I should be
mindful of the bell that rings for you
diminishing the life that’s meant for me

So I should make the best of every day
and follow conscience’ dictate as I go
be grateful for my blessings on the way
and, like my body, know my mind can grow

To know that all about me is my heaven.


The idea for the title of this poem came from Patience Strong’s Collection of poetry, “Yesterdays and Tomorrows”, part of The Patience Strong Treasury. I believe John Donne intended that his brief essay, entitled “Meditation XVII” – whilst it may have sounded very doom-laden in the context of its time – should also be a celebration of life. But, as a preacher, particularly at the turn of the 16th century, he was bound to preach to his congregations, as well as the audiences for his poetry, of the importance of appreciating what you have, whilst you have it. 

The lovely photograph, taken by my niece, was one of many from my recent 70th birthday party, arranged as a complete surprise by my three children and my niece. It was a very special evening.

© 2020 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Posted in children, family, Iambic Pentameter, poem, poetry | Tagged | Leave a comment

Lost Gardeners

There was such hustle and bustle
where now reflective calm.

In the thunderbox room
nearby the melon yard
haunting echoes of silent voices

once green fingers that pressed
a trigger for King and country,
gently call from an early grave,
who once scattered humus here.

They shed tears for weeds
that stained the fresh leaves
of Spring, unfolding, unseen

cold frames of mouth-blown glass,
warmed the summer fare
that meant so much to those
who dug




So many lost at such a cost
shovelling cold organic mud
to sow the seeds of future green
in very unmilitary drills

and who would say what
could have been, had peace
been thoughtfully nurtured
like the fruits of this place.

Inundated by nature’s mission
their names forever bleeding
from these crumbling walls

so few in the flesh of then
left much in the earth of now.

© 2019 John Anstie


[A visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall revealed to me a very poignant story of its gardeners, 16 out of 22 of whom lost their lives in the First World War; of the gardens, which subsequently fell into ruin until the 1990’s when a descendant of the original owners set about restoring them to become one of the UK’s most popular botanical gardens. The scene is set around the ‘thunderbox’ room where they would carve their names in the walls as they sat and the small but very peaceful Italian Garden adjacent to it, where you can feel the history of the place; powerful enough to compel me to write this elegy in their memory …

this was intended to be published in the March edition of the BeZine, which I rarely miss, but didn’t make it in time. Here is the link to this worthy quarterly journal, whose mission is to foster ‘Peace, Sustainability and Social Justice’ and whose theme, appropriately, this quarter is “Waging the Peace” …

Posted in conservation, courage, Death, Elegy, Free Verse, green, History, Hope, Love, melancholy, nature, nostalgia, poetry, War | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment


Have you ever felt the mocking tone
of those who disagree with common sense
whose point of view bears truly little weight.

To deny understanding. Socratic debate.

For whom jocular bullying is their choice of stick
to avoid a dialectic path to contradiction
better to decry with pejorative rhetoric.

To belittle rational thought. Compassion. Love.

Blinded by niggling insecurities
to win, at all costs, to conquer all
too keen to let the ego’s triumph reign,

… to understand the conflict between Demos and Kratos.


[This poem alludes to both direct and representative democracy, although the word, Dēmokratía, actually means ‘direct democracy’ as it was implemented in Ancient Greece circa 500 BCE, as opposed to representative democracy. It is also a heavy dig at the unwillingness of politicians to engage in Socratic dialogue or dialectic debate as well as an apparent inability to recognise the ‘Kratos’ in Greek mythology, as the divine personification of strength. In modern terms, this is the competitive flexing of muscles, particularly prevalent in young men, who are so often preparing for conflict … forgetting that, if they are prepared for conflict, they are far more likely and willing to engage in conflict. As the years pass and the generation of those who returned from the World Wars with their physical and mental scars, die and their ability to communicate the horrors of war is removed, new generations of young men will continue to be willing to go off to war, or fight in the streets for whatever gives an outlet to their testosterone, anxieties and quest for conflict.

This also bears comparison with new generations of ambitious business minded men, women and politicians, who have had the advantage and privilege of learning from the best and wisest of educators. It is interesting that it is often that same ‘old guard’, who themselves so often become worth listening to when they no longer have to tow the corporate or party line and are beyond selfish ambition. Capable members of each new generation are, with the exception of some remarkable individuals, rarely able to transcend personal selfish ambition and sustain a mission to make things better for humanity, because they become blinded by their own ambition … their own version of Kratos, the divine, entitled personification of their intellectual rather than physical manifestation of strength]


© 2018 John Anstie

All rights reserved

Posted in conversation, experience, poem, poetry, political, wisdom | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The Festival

In a field somewhere, full of stars,
enchantment you could almost hug,
cupped in hands, with sparkle and dust,
you can carry it off in your pocket.
It’s magic, so catch some you must.

Catch a glimpse of follies too
enormous knitted daisies,
bluebells from yon Brobdingnag
bring you down to earth, coax a smile,
a tear in a song’s moving tag.

Nearby a winch wheel’s silhouette
casts shadows rumbling dark as night.
Here food to spare and racing sheep
yield a home grown breakfast, fresh
as the air that feeds its fare.

Amid the throng, unmannered crowds,
by day an unrelenting sun
glints from beads of sweat
that pour from a steward’s brow,
to sounds of string on fret.

A veil of purple haze on moors
a crown on green and rolling hills
dragonflies and butterflies greet
pink spotted sheep not far away
warmed by the simmering heat.

In a field somewhere, the sound of music,
here the family and other folk sing.
Cambridge beware of your conceit
size matters not to connoisseurs
here is where you’ll find their feet.

Under witch’s hats, the stage is set,
powered by love of music’s brew,
but here, no trouble; nothing jars,
here, the sun shines all day long
and Underneath the Stars.

© 2014 John Anstie
All rights reserved

(This was written five years ago, in response to a particularly special experience at the very first Underneath The Stars festival, in 2014. Originally a festival of folk and roots music it is now much more than that. It features two stages, one of them as big as any you’ll find, anywhere on the festival circuit; the second for standing or sitting on the grass, smaller and intimate, both under cover. The performances on both alternate between them. Still small, clean, intimate and very family friendly and special, this festival has so much culture to offer, including street theatre, workshops, the very best food and beer! And as a measure of all that it has to offer, they sold out of tickets over two months ago!

In less than two weeks, we will be attending for the sixth consecutive year, as volunteer stewards. Also a measure of how it draws us in every time and how great a job the Rusby family have done to make this little festival such a success.

Their website is here: Underneath The Stars festival)

Posted in Culture, Folk, Free Verse, Music, Pleasure, poem, poetry, recreation, Roots | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Last Year

(Same River, New Waters …)

Last year passed me the golden glove
You know, the one with a fist of iron.
She wanted no more of it.    Nor I.
Those glossy, glittering, glistening,
shining products of a golden age
had lost their sheen and the age of
growth and worshipping at the alter, 
where God Demands Profit*, is so last year.

Meanwhile, in the town, at Star Books,
We were reading over a tax-free coffee,
batting ideas on who could pay the bill
and how you make your money work,
if only we had some.

No longer bleeding from the lungs
but from now emptying wallets
consumption was her daily bread
and the disease that strangled
generations, who died of terminal debt,
the improper death of innocents.

Where is our misplaced virtue,
should we be held to account?
Maybe no more, and yet we must
pay due heed and plant a seed of hope,
to fight for nourishment forgone.

It might have been the will of the people,
but, for folk who step in the same river
ever newer waters flow …

© 2019 John Anstie
All rights reserved

[The core of this poem was influenced by the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who lived around the 5th century BCE and was well know for his thesis about ever-present change, that “no man ever steps in the same river twice”, which, in modern parlance, suggests that you can ‘reinvent’ the wheel. It is a subtle but, for me, a very compelling philosophical perspective.

It was first published in the The Bardo Group Beguine on 22nd April 2019]

* … GDP or ‘Gross Domestic Product’ is the standard statistic by which economic growth is measured.

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