Looking South

If you stand in the wind
and allow it to bend you
so you flex and withstand it,
don’t let it uproot you,
then you’ll find it can’t hurt you
in spite of extraordinary pain.

If your instinct for flight
is taken away
your options for fighting
in an instant are gone,
like a parent removing
your permission to play…

…with the most bitter of tears.

If there’s anything surer
than the moment you hear
a deafening sound
of silence and the fear
rushes in like air
to a vacuum.

There’s nothing more certain,
never so clear,
as if a vision of your life
were etched in white light
closing your eyes
and blinding your sight…

…but opening them on the inside.

It seems you were born
for this moment;
that this is your time.
You appear to have arrived
at the moment when pain
can no longer touch you.

That stress and the anguish
of screaming self-doubt
have momentarily left you,
your inside looking out;
outside looking in;
thoughts perfectly scrambled…

…like the dream of Gerontius.

Circumventing your demons,
overcoming your fear
this vision of whiteness
tears at your heart and your soul;
bedazzling lightness
of mind; supernal disclosure;

a revelation that you’ll never
be left on your own.
You will never be able
to embark on this journey
without your assistants;
your brothers in arms…

…but they’re not the Invisible Choir

Your angels are next to you;
there at your shoulder if you look.
Maybe a Prince or a pauper,
but either will brook you;
all you need is to ask;
as long as you let them know.

Then, when you stand there,
sharing legs, shoulders, arms,
looking South when you know
that there’s no further North,
surveying a World,
that will sing your arrival…

…knowing now that you truly have life.

Looking south
can’t say how I feel
Looking south
at the great, white sea
Looking south
just seems so unreal
Looking south
making known that I’m free.
Looking south
a muse at my heels
Looking south
nothing more to flee
Looking south
my brotherhood sealed
Looking south
fearless of what’s to be.
Looking south
my soul is healed
Looking south

© 2011 John Anstie

(Read the author’s commentary on this poem)

About PoetJanstie

“Life is short and art long, the crisis fleeting, experience penniless and decision difficult” ~ Hippocrates. As a young man, John was sporting and fit. It was then as much his recreational therapy as a cappella harmony singing, music, walking in the hills and writing is now. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines and ethos as that famous Scottish public school, Gordonstoun, where our own headmaster had been as a senior master. This gave shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. His fitness was enhanced not only by playing rugby, but also by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family, pursuing a career and helping to pay the bills, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a writer of prose and poetry. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a fifty-two year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three a cappella harmony groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices and barbershop quartets. He is also a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (stage name of the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), who, for the eighth time in 41 years, became UK Champions in 2019. He is also a would be (once upon a time or 'has been') photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is sometimes autobiographical, often political, sometimes dark and frequently pins his colours to the mast of climate change and how a few humans are trashing the Earth. In 2013, he published an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of poets, who met on Twitter in 2011. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle. His sort of strap-line reads: “ iWrite iSing iDance iChi iVolunteer ”
This entry was posted in courage, experience, Heroes, Hope, Injury, poem, poetry, War. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Looking South

  1. Signe Maria says:

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  2. Marinela says:

    This was an interesting and very cleverly written poem, John. It made me think!
    All the best


    • PoetJanstie says:

      Thanks for calling, Marinella, long time no hear. I see your blog is going strong and your own poetry is getting better: I like “Halloween”.

      Sorry for the delay in responding, by the way. Your comment was treated as ‘junk’ for some strange reason and I only spotted it almost by accident. Thanks all the same.


  3. 1emeraldcity says:

    I liked this poem, John. Though the 4 soldiers in Afhganistan are in the forefront, it certainly is a tale of life’s journey, and a kind of summing up at at a point in one’s life where seemingly you or the journeyer comes to certain realizations about life and why you are here. I firmly believe we are put here to love and help one another. We can’t do this journey alone. You are so right. Interesting that North and South are chosen as the compass points in life here. In American literature, we seem to favor going from East to West…that has been our history, and I suppose one can see the metaphor of the sun rising in the East, setting in the West. There’s more to it than that, of course, but couldn’t help noting that. A thoughtful and sentient piece, John. Thank you for sharing this!


    • PoetJanstie says:

      Yes, East and West have a very strong resonance for me too, but for different reasons. As I was growing up, East was the dark side, the bad side that hid behind the Iron Curtain and West was, well, the West, which stood for all we knew was right. But I know your East to West movement traces the the history of the development of the USA as a nation, with the migration of European (and African) incomers on the East coast over to pastures green in the West. I feel sure there is something much more fundamental, much more rooted in our being, a part of the earth and it’s rotation and orbit around the sun that must be built into our psyche. The North South thing for me was driven primarily by the documentary about the injured soldiers journeying to the Geographic North Pole, which, when you normally view a globe, is always at the top, the zenith if you like. So looking South is the only option from there; looking back on your journey to get there in the first place. Thanks for commenting and putting some perspective on this, J, I appreciate it.


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