Blackbird

Common_Blackbird

Photo: Andreas Trepte http://www.photo-natur.de. Available under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.5 license.

Your red-rimmed, mystic, all-seeing eye
that asks of us the question …
why you’re first to rise, not we
in time to hear your cry.

A share of this full Earth is how,
you feed your Spring-time pride.
An earthworm meal is all you ever
ask it to provide.

Months of dry and we forget
enslaving is desire …
to sink in water anywhere
nor any drop to drink.

Yet you gift your song’s duet,
its echoes beguile but we
amidst our greed ignore it and
forget to think of thee.

© 2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved

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Eva Joy

Mother Earth expected your arrival
her hills and mountains tumbled into plains,
but fault-lines held for your survival.

She is made of you and you of her,
atoms and molecules indistinguishable
within the organic life you share

now the planets, just like wise men of old
align to honour you, look down on you
and from the star-filled skies behold

their will, it is foretold, to bring us rain
to wet your head and yield a flowering
of joy that sings a sweet refrain.

You are as welcome as any life could be
the seed from which you grow will never die
and flourish for eternity.

© 2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved

[This poem was written for my seventh grandchild, and third granddaughter. The first poem I wrote, in this phase of my life, just over nine years ago, was inspired by the first of my grandchildren, “Jessica Tenth of May”]

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The Great Divide

Crossing the great divide
between the dark age
and a brave new world,
sailing from the safety
of knowing your place
into uncharted waters.
In a deep and sickly swell,
an ocean of uncertainty,
struggling to recall
the purpose of the mission
for control of life, of lives,
and death by ownership.

From a certain time when
the have-nots had not
to one in which they have
a chance to trade their life
for aspiration, for riches,
for stuff and things,
for dukes and knights,
for castles and kings,
in suits that shine
with lights and bling,
for queens and knaves,
who didn’t know that they
would be just money slaves
but didn’t see the price
they’d have to pay.

Rivers flow with mighty force,
and carry away the memory
in a flood of whys, for what
and where will this all end?
Where are we now,
where will we be …

… may be Utopia, the place of dreams
to while away our wild ambitious schemes?

We fail, as long as we can feel the pain
of having less than someone else’s gain.

Or we, by virtue of the coin’s toss,
have more by far … of someone else’s loss.
~~~~
© 2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved

~~~~

A slightly different edit of this poem, along with an associated essay, was first published in the BeZine on 15th June 2018. The essay is also published in Forty-Two.

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One of A Kind

(for Myrra)

Is she the last of a generation,
who lived through two centuries
of cataclysmic events and change;
a century that felt the consequence
of moving territories and boundaries.
From crowns to oligarchical republics,
from rags to riches beyond counting,
technological revolution, the benefits
of science, engineering and medicine,
a system of healthcare and welfare that,
despite the imposed failings of ideology,
looked after her so well … until she left.

Is she the last of a generation,
of whom we’ll be able to say:
“She’s the last of her generation”,
who fought childhood infection
by their own in-built immunity
– no pharmaceutical intervention
to compromise nature’s ways –
who fought for their country
with hope, fear and courage
as their constant companions
without leave for counsel or therapy
to help them through their days.

Malevolent, engineered conflict,
driven by and driving the revolution,
through deeply rooted anxiety
that keeps us at war with others,
with each other, with ourselves …
a continuum of change, so rapid
that we had no time to reflect on
its merits (or not) leading headlong,
steadily, insidiously, irreversibly..?
to a virtual, digital, designer world,
addicted to things that loosen our grip
on a life that once was, not so long ago.

A life more in touch with nature
in which they could roam free;
step out and walk wild for the day
in casual clothes and wellies, with a tin,
a packed lunch, made by their mums;
play games, whose names we forgot.
Walk shoulder to shoulder with a friend,
make daisy chains, mud pies and fish
with a stick in streams and wild rivers,
but virtual games carry young lives away,
so our smart phones all too often convey
in a digest of news, twenty four hours a day.

Is she the last of her generation,
gifted with ‘freedom’ from the toxic
stale air of hyperventilating media
or will we one day be able to say
in the eternity of time and space:
we are all unique, each one of us
was born of a time, from a special
exotic recipe of genes and place,
bringing our gift to the world by
the pull of the moon and the stars,
the physics and chemistry of life
that mould us into what we are …

… one of a kind.

© March 2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved

[In her own words: “Born in Yorkshire in March 1919, Myrra Robb Anstie was educated at Southport Girls’ High School. She then won a scholarship for three years at Southport School of Art. She worked as a draughts-woman until the outbreak of WW2, when she enlisted to serve in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service (A.T.S.). She lived, from the early 1960’s, in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, where she worked as a teacher of Art, exhibited and sold her work. She returned to the U.K. in 1986, spending a few years teaching portraiture and oil painting for Adult Education in Leicestershire, before settling in Devon in 1991. She was then a member of the Exmouth Art Group. Her hobbies are golf, bridge, computers and sewing. Her favourite subject in art is portraiture.”

My words: Myrra was my step-mother, ‘mum’, and part of my life for nearly fifty years. She married my Father in 1963. I first met her in 1971. Born only a year after the end of WW1, she died in February just three weeks short of her 99th Birthday. She was a woman with a strength of character and opinion that made her a force of nature. She cites her hobbies as including golf. To say it was a hobby is a slight understatement. She was a very competitive golfer, in fact she was competitive at almost everything she did. She shared her passion for the game with my father for the 42 years they were married. Both of them had played from a very young age. She was also competitive as a Bridge player. Her mainstay, her profession, throughout her life was that she established herself as a talented artist, specialising in portraiture. She was a teacher as well as a practitioner of her art. My children and grandchildren benefitted from her teaching. She became a particularly major part of our lives after my Father died in 2005. She will be missed.

A few years ago, I wrote a poem for her that she was very rude about and told me never to write another one about her! I was offended, but, with hindsight, I confess and concede that particular poem was not my best work. To be kind, I guess she was applying her own high standards to my art, as she applied to her own. To honour her wishes, this poem is not about her; it’s about the age through which she lived. It is, nevertheless, dedicated to her.]

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Moon Child

Once in a while you excel yourself.
Are you blue, because we thought no more of you
as the driving force for life on Earth
or potency behind the waves of bitches and whelps.
Thrilling moments … or contemplative
of a thriving, muddy, salty, riverine universe of life
waiting for you to draw the pelagic
covers repeatedly over the fruits of our sustenance.

A force of nature, fully formed
yet so much smaller than the mother of your birth,
you hold sway, in countless ways
you touch our lives and drive us through our days.
Humble, unassuming, unnoticed
by those who hurtle, mindlessly, and make no time
for the wisdom of our insignificance
or feel the difference between our age and yours.

As necessity tramples over truth
most days, we hide in fear of the darkening,
of the madness that ensues.
Does not the hunter choose your waning dark
to spike the nervous memory,
and remind us of the untamed wolf pack?
We may not ever tame your ways
but your mother is dying a slow and painful death.

Oh super blood blue moon,
does not your God and our God sing the same tune?

© 2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved

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Sunday

Walking home from church.

Like seeing the sun rise
over the week ahead,
mind full of penitence,
a righteous child, wrapped
in reverential warmth and
a sense of duty fulfilled.

That place of comfort,
as short lived as chocolate,
such pleasure lies in this;
some selfless, priceless
kind of self-indulgence
in your own kind of God.

Who can resist that path
to an easier peace where,
one day a week, the ad-man
cannot get to you; where
you miss nothing; where
those urges play no part.

Where has Sunday gone?

© 2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Posted in Culture, Free Verse, Hope, nostalgia, poem, poetry, Preachy, Religious, Shopaholism, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

The Horizon Written … A New Musical Composition

A new composition from composer, Joseph Alen Shaw, is indicative of a man of considerable musical talent, who doesn’t let the grass grow under his feet. Not for the first time, has he used poetry to inspire musical composition. Last year I was flattered that he asked me to write a brief text on the seasonal theme of Autumn. The haiku triplet was beautifully woven into a song by some alchemical musical magic and is here. This also appeared in the October ‘Music’ themed edition of the BeZine.
The title of his new piece, he explains, was taken from the text of poem, “As at the Far Edge of Circling” by Ed Roberson. In my view, the music fits well with the text of the whole poem. You can judge for yourself.
The new composition, The Horizon Written, was commissioned by musician, Elliott Walker, the Church Organist at St Paul’s Rotherham in the UK, specifically for their Festival of Remembrance, which was held last November. Joseph’s own words in his blog, best describe it. The blog also contains a live recording of the music. The link to his blog is at the start of this paragraph).
I hope you enjoy his music as much as I do.
John

 

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A Voice in The Wilderness

(For Harry)

Metastasising senses
forever unfathomable
darkening eyes, off to visit
another place in the long grass.

As you ferret for your quarry,
so many lives you follow
to play with once again,
returning each night to your bed.

We helped you on your way
to renew your acquaintance
with old hunting grounds
sans malice or judgement.

Behind my eyes, a flash, a jolt,
involuntary convulsing silent cry,
recurring hurt, as you let go
you neither sense my guilt, nor hear …

Vox clamantis in deserto

___________________
© 2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved

[Harry ‘Tigger’ Potter was a handsome lithe 17+ year old tabby tom cat. Until very recently he was, to all intents still fit and active. It was only in his last few days that we realised something wasn’t right and even within his last 24 hours, after examination by and some bad news from the vet when he wandered round every corner of the surgery, probably looking for a way out, that he went down hill very rapidly. Within 12 hours of finding him the following morning and very unsteady on his feet, did the metastases from his liver course in his blood to his brain, causing us to respond in the only way it was possible to be kind to him. For many years, he was king of the jungle around here, but was always happy to sit on my wife’s lap and purr loudly every evening; he was, nonetheless, a good natured, thoroughgoing cat’s cat.

By way of a further footnote, ‘Vox claimants in deserto’, the translation of which means ‘A voice crying out in the wilderness’ – is the motto of Dartmouth College, one of the elite Ivy-League colleges in the USA, which also happens to have been the alma mater of the poet, Robert Frost]

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The BeZine, October 2017, Vol. 4, Issue 1 , Music to the Eyes

Source: The BeZine, October 2017, Vol. 4, Issue 1 , Music to the Eyes

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Underneath The Stairs

P1100485

Wentworth Castle from the Parkland (Photo: John Anstie)

This tale is told by many tongues,
of now and yesteryear.
Three hundred years of life are here,
but memories disappear.

Between each line, a thousand words
of love, of heart and soul,
there’s mystery here, it must be said,
when tales remain untold,

they seed a search for history,
a sparkle in the eyes
of once romantic sons of yore;
a family’s demise.

Refrain:
And how their days would start at dawn
to sounds of clacking feet.
Underneath the stairs they’d run,
their serving paths to beat.

Stone dressed, these monuments became
far more than home sweet home,
for they withstood the test of time
in centuries to come.

And who could guess, in such a place,
we’d cast our eyes and, more,
write stories in organic dust,
of lives that went before.

Their toil, by standards of today,
would break, in half the time,
the backs of men and women who,
at forty, passed their prime.

[Refrain]

Faint tinkling of bone china plates
their masters’ breakfast fare,
the focus of their energies
to serve, make good, repair.

And all day long these duties pressed
their shoulders to the stone
all day, each week, each month, each year,
their lives were not their own.

No leisure time to recreate,
without upstairs’ consent.
With no spare time or energy,
their lives were paid as rent.

[Refrain]

No time allowed away from toil
save worship Sunday morn,
where duty bound them to this house,
all but their souls forsworn.

So much depended on their strength,
their duty, loyalty;
with half a day each week to rest
they earned their royalty.

They had to cast off any thought
of freedom, every day,
they bore their obligation and
they signed their lives away.

[Refrain]

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The Victorian Conservatory, beside the Victorian Wing (Photo: John Anstie)

Then, life meant building grander things
mere ornaments to scale,
denying the austerity,
when nation could not fail.

And here to glimpse humanity,
their own great compromise;
to fall from favour and love’s loss;
so too a great house dies

… and with it all dependant life,
no welfare scheme was theirs
for all of its inhabitants
underneath the stairs.

[Refrain]

And as his mansion starts to die,
the Earl sold on his lot,
the need for education rose
and a roof to stop the rot.

But here’s the final irony:
for those who served in fear
of losing jobs for which, today,
we freely volunteer.

This grand estate, these monuments
this house and gardens too
are all the product of an age,
restored and serving you.

Refrain:
And how their days would start at dawn
to sounds of clacking feet.
Underneath the stairs they’d run,
their serving paths to beat.

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The Cast inside the conservatory (Photo: Brian Parkhurst)

This landscape’s green and pleasant land
its rooted, verdant gold
captures all these mysteries
for you that we unfold.

The following is an edited extract from the whole piece, recorded in Dennis Tuckerman’s Cellar Studios on 21st April 2017. All music: composed, played with pick and bow on six-string bass guitar by Joseph Alen Shaw. Voice: spoken and sung by John Anstie.

Words: © 2013 John Anstie (lyric edited 2016).  Music: © 2016 Joseph Alen Shaw 

[ This lyric is based on an original ballad, written for this historic site, three years before, but never published until it was given its first outing last year. It was extensively edited and augmented for Joseph Shaw’s commission, the ‘Wentworth Cantata’, which was performed in the historic Victorian Conservatory of Wentworth Castle Gardens, South Yorkshire on 16th October 2016. This song was comprised of six cycles of four verses; each cycle consisting of two spoken and two sung verses, the last of which was a reiterated refrain ]

Posted in Ballad, Collaboration, Composition, conservation, History, Music, nature, nostalgia, poem, poetry | Tagged , | 5 Comments