A Ritual for Peace

If there were ever worthier cause than this,
then tell me please. To start and think how each
and every step we take will mark the ground.
Enduring footprints, howsoever small,
one day will rise in thousands, coalesce
into a hardened monument, that stands

… forever irresistible to all.

Each bastion will strengthen a resolve,
exposing the futility of war;
the rape of Mother Earth. To save her soul,
repeat again, unquestioning, the need
for all to find another way … for all;
and seek new social order; politic.

And might this be our greatest ever quest
that every day we do or be our best

ensuring love and kindness finds a place
in every breath we take, that gives us grace

to reconcile conflicting minds and cease
the fighting; search for everlasting peace.

© 2016 John Anstie
All rights reserved

This poem was first published in the October 2016 edition of the The BeZine, whose theme for the month was ‘Rituals for Peace, Healing and Unity’.
This poem is written in Blank Verse, concluding with three rhyming couplets. 

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Incidental music for ‘Sheffield PALS’

Last night at the New Barrack Tavern in Sheffield, a tribute was paid to a group of local young men, who fought for our country but never came home. To mark the 100th anniversary of the Batt…

Source: Incidental music for ‘Sheffield PALS’

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May 2016, Vol.2/Issue 8; Books That Changed Our Lives

Another special issue of the BeZine, by the remarkable Jamie Dedes …

BE inspired…BE creative…BE peace…Be

Source: May 2016, Vol.2/Issue 8; Books That Changed Our Lives

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Little Big Man

(for Samuel Leon Anstie)

This fragile earth, on which we so depend
is strewn with evidence that life portends
a choreography of happenstance.
Your shoes were made for your own special dance.

Then you appeared and shone the warmest light;
became the star that lights our empty night
with hope and joy, but nature’s wayward rhyme
decided you’d arrived before your time.

Now you are held in safe and powerful hands
and, even after rock is ground to sand,
the echoes of your brave, brave heart are free
to resonate for all eternity

… carrying all our love, our grief, our pain
until we hold you in our arms again.

© 2015 John Anstie
All rights reserved

[Samuel Leon Anstie, my third grandson, was born prematurely at 24 weeks gestation, on Sunday, 14th June 2015; lived to fight for his life – and he was a fighter – until his little big heart ran out of strength, in the early hours of Friday, 10th July 2015. We mourn his loss more than if he had lived to ripe old age having contributed to the wellbeing of this world, as he surely would have done; all the more so because, if we, his grandparents feel like this, then my son and his wife will feel it with so much greater magnitude …]

Posted in children, family, Love, melancholy, poetry, Religious, sadness | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

The Major

(for Arthur Rowley Heyland*)

There is no glory in death.
This is no feature film.
Dying is death … is dying
in muddied boots and pain.

Where is the justice then,
to help us reckon with those
who would put out the light
that always shines bright.

It is here …

And the years shall not dim
a vision of him in gold and red,
on the battlefields of Europe,
the pride of the Fighting Fortieth,
the honour of his men,
the depth of his loyalty,
the colour of his blood …
unswerving from the truth,
the kind of truth revealed
in poverty and poetry … and death,
whose messenger, a musket ball,
cut short his breath, but not his words;
words that give meaning to his life:

On the night before the battle,
a letter to his wife still wets the eyes
and we shed tears two hundred years on.

Brightest of all, his words set fair
to illuminate his love and care

for ‘my Mary’ and ‘my children’,
whose future changed forever, when

the bugler’s victory fanfare blew,
and tyranny met its Waterloo.

© 2015 John Anstie
All rights reserved

*At the time of his death, Major Heyland was Commander of the 40th Regiment of Foot at The Battle of Waterloo, on the 18th June 1815. The author is the Major’s GGG Grandson.

Posted in courage, Death, family, poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Beginnings and Endings

(for Kath)

Your words, those words
you found so readily,
that bound more hearts
than we can count,
that longed to procreate,
transforming stress
and suffering
into new-born life
and unbound joy;
a baby girl or baby boy,
maybe both (who cares),
were made believable with
compassion unalloyed

and you explained,
with measured care
and parallel respect,
the medical complexity,
procedures and advice,
with sympathy and empathy,
more than they’d expect,
but when it ends with
a lonely box of tissues
that cries a thousand
sad and tragic poems
in languages unknown,
in response, you know …
there are no words.

Yet out of screaming silence,
a soft and gentle voice
calms the stormiest sea,
that brings this thing,
this search for meaning
of life, both new and old,
that will either give it back
or offer consolation,
to soften the heavy blow,
this crushing weight,
defying all description,
belying all you know
of life’s great force,
this utter desolation.

Words are like life,
defined by yearnings,
by hope and plans
by pain and tragedy,
beginnings and endings.

But, when words
fail to fill the void,
just one prevails
and this is Love.

© 2015 John Anstie
All rights reserved

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But You

(for Barbara)

There couldn’t be, there could
never be
so flawed and yet
any other being, so dissonant, yet
in harmony
with an Earth full of strife, yet bursting
with life
full of hope, and love, and integrity
and fragility …

[Strange that those words go together
so well,
in one soul, who is with me, in me,
for me,
but a conjunction of opposites spawned
amazing life].

… no one, anywhere else,
ever, in the long history of the universe,
but you.

© 2015 John Anstie
All rights reserved

[I would like to suggest, if you’ll excuse my temerity, to those of you, for whom this poem remains a little ‘mysterious’: just read the blue italicised words … especially for Valentine’s Day].

Posted in family, Free Verse, Love, nostalgia, poem, poetry, Wonder | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Where is The Boy?

(For William Howard: 1818-1832)

Fifty thousand feet on cobblestones.
A chance to have their say, but never win.
The odds against them: twenty-six to one;
they had no right to vote, for all their sin!
Young William stood in awe. The crowd, in hope
of voice for suffrage, was bereft of one.
A chance to vote for what, he’d never know.
Was he a man or still his mother’s son?

Mrs Howard sits in Lambert Street,
displacing her concern with hearth and home.
A thud, more than a knock, an urgent fist
brings news there is much groaning in the town.
Conflicting desire to stoke the fire or save
remaining embers for his coming home,
she muses on her boy, the working man,
whose little hand she’d held before he roamed.

The vocal mob, angry as a dragon,
whose fire surpassed its legal right to jeer,
the ballot box to them, still missing lagan,
the targets of their gall did not appear.

Another knock, an echoed voice that said:
“there’s bin some shootin’ at the Tontine Inn!”
Her heart skipped, then the voice of fear and dread,
intractable pain, cried out across her skin.
Without a thought, and half way through the door,
she felt a strong hand on her arm, instead.
It turned her back against maternal will;
against the voices screaming in her head.

Each time they moved or dragged him from the fray
his screams, lost in the din, renewed his pain.
He felt the closeness of his mother’s breast
and then the shot behind his ribs again.
His weakening hand still clutched a blackened trace
of coal; the piece he’d found on Dixon Lane.
He’s drowning in the dark and bitter throng,
but no one heard his plaintive cry for Mam.

She’d saved the fire for him, in vain, be damned.
Where is the boy that she had lost … to man?

© 2014 John Anstie
All rights reserved

[This is a product of the “Voices in Conflict” Workshop, run as part of Sheffield’s Midsummer Poetry Festival on Saturday, 7th June 2014. The poem is set against the background of a burgeoning, city-dwelling population, poor housing, unemployment and deteriorating public health, in early industrial 19th Century England. It is a story of how discontent and anger at social and political injustice, led to the death of innocence.  A fourteen year-old boy in 1832, forced prematurely to be out – working and protesting – in the harsh world of men, might be compared to an 18 year old in The Great War … but he was still a mother’s son.

At 14 years old, this boy was one of six people, who tragically died of gunshot wounds in post-election rioting at the Tontine Inn, Sheffield. This occurred after troops were called in, following the [disputed] reading of the Riot Act on the fateful night of 14th December 1832. The riot followed a massive gathering of an estimated 25,000 working people, exercising their only right in law to gather and express their satisfaction or otherwise, by cheering or jeering, for the successful candidates of the election, who were staying inside the Tontine Inn at the time. At 14 years old, young William would still not be allowed a vote today. As a footnote, at 18 years old, every British citizen, both men and women, now has a vote – even though every 18-year old man, who served in the first world war, was old enough to die, but not, then, old enough to vote!

It is timely now to publish this, as we approach a crucial General Election for the United Kingdom, in May.  Those, who refuse to vote, whether through apathy, cynical or conscientious protest, should take note of this story and the many sacrifices made by our ancestors through recent history, over the past 200 years, for the sake of a vote for democracy and our freedom of speech.]

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New Year’s Inspiration from The Bardo / Beguine Again Group

The Monthly B-Zine, Volume 1 Issue 3, was published at the beginning of January. And a Happy New Year to you all!

This month’s theme is “The Divine Feminine”, but there are also a number of pieces of general interest too. You’ll find feature articles, flash fiction, photo stories and essays, book excerpts and, of course, poetry …

You’ll find it HERE

Happy reading


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A Bit of Singing from the Barbershop …

This may not be poetry … well actually, powerful and spine tingling vocal harmonies should be considered as poetry, when I think about it. It is most certainly art and when you add the words of some great songs, that’s poetry!

Following is the first informal performance of a couple of new songs from Hallmark of Harmony (aka the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), whom I joined for a course they were running on barbershop singing, in August and September. During the six sessions of this course held over as many weeks, the chorus learnt the two songs from scratch to sing (of necessity, without the music). Since then, I have sung with them a couple more times, and have been invited to join them when they do a guest set at the Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers (LABBS) National Convention in Harrogate in a week’s time. Scary! Whether or not I do join them on stage, depends on my progress in learning the five songs (and choreography!) that they will be singing on that Saturday night, 1st November … In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these fairly rudimentary recordings of that first informal performance …

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ There follows a video of Hallmark of Harmony performing their set at the National Convention of the British Association of Barbershop Singers in Harrogate last May, at which, out of forty-eight choruses they won the Gold Medal. They are therefore the British champions and, in consequence, will be travelling to Pittsburgh, USA in June next year to perform as Britain’s representative barbershop chorus at the International Convention. Lots of work to do (and funds to raise) in the meantime. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsvaS_MX9sc Watch this space for more to come …

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