Revelations

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-40645745?SThisFB

Such grim revelations must surely
increase as the process we
have started gathers pace.

Mothers, fathers, daughters, sisters,
brothers, grandfathers, sons,
each in their turn born into the light

in the arms of that nurturing landscape
that held them suspended and undisturbed
with their mortal secrets all kept safe

before the climate, our cameras,
the long reach of our media
rudely stripped them bare.

A long lifetime has passed.
We take stock of their remains.
A woman’s shoe, a green glass bottle.

An old-fashioned back-pack,
a part of a body. The ghoul in us
goes searching for the rest.

For them when the angel
came swooping like an eagle
goodbyes were scarcely possible.

Not for them the reaching out
towards the touching of gloved finger tips
or the last, brief locking of iced lips.

Only sheer, steep terror and
a gripping of the guts as the
horror of it all became apparent.

Seconds crawled by
as the earth up-ended and they
played out their slow, soft descent.

Climatologists instruct us
how a rise in global temperatures
is thawing the ice of mountain glaciers.

Our greed lays bare the corpses
of those loved one who died
in a more transparent age.

 

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Image from the BBC news story. Click on the link above.

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For Vincent Van Gogh, 29th July, 1890

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Image by Abigail Elizabeth Ottley

Sometimes it happens that moved by some trifle
the flood-gates of the heart will seize fast.
Then tears that seemed foolish become a great flood,
a passion that defies all explanation.

In the very young you may see it sometimes
when they throw back their heads and howl,
their plump cheeks red, their eyes screwed tight,
their small fists like windmills through the air.

Do not think it naughtiness. It is no show of mere petulance
but the human condition that has touched them.
They cry their frustration with a world so cruel
that it will not let them have and be.

And the elderly too who have least time left for tears
will weep at the slightest provocation.
This may be what love is: to be touched,
to be pierced by this well-spring that has no end.

Yesterday I watched as three baby rabbits
frolicked after sunbeams in my garden.
Such a tenderness engulfed me.
Later, this morning, I counted only two.

Now, this same evening, a summer storm rages.
It tears at the beauty of my poppies.
My heart bleeds to see them crushed.
As you say, my friend, this sadness never ends.

 

© Abigail Elizabeth Ottley

Of Spiders and Threads

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Image by David Rowland
By narrow light
of thin, hooked moon
a busy spider spins
to turn to grace
her public face by fair
and private means.
A silver spool, a pool
of pearls, and rubies,
deep as hearts are dark.
Such are the jewels
a spider keeps to bless
her precious work.
Then inch by inch
comes creeping dawn
when spider’s midnight
toils must cease.
The fruits of all her
labour this bright
opal’s fiery face.
© Abigail Elizabeth Ottley Smith

 

 

Imagine That

Grenfell Tower

Image from BBC

Imagine yourself on the phone to your sister
who knows she is going to die.

Imagine your neighbour and your neighbour’s children
pressed against their window hoping against hope.

Picture your father fighting to breathe
as the smoke that fills his lungs half blinds him.

Imagine the mother who must choose for her infant
between certain and probable death.

Now picture the scene as the businessmen gather.
Imagine what they said to each other.

Imagine their smooth, untroubled faces.
Picture their pink and white manicured hands.

Imagine for a moment they knew what they were doing.
Imagine that it adds up to murder.

Picture how the truth might look.
I wonder if you can.

Lee Shore

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Image by David Rowland

 

I remember the day the tied went out,
with my toes in shifting sand,
the day we walked by the restless sea
with our backs to the huddling town:
when the salt breeze lifted up your hair
and I failed to understand
that, on this day, the sky would fall
and the stars flee underground.

We strolled from crop to rocky crop
across the sun-streaked shore,
and laid our fleeting tracks of time
where none had been before;
and I called to you above the wind
but it chanced that you did not hear;
for you turned your steps towards the waves
and I was left standing there.

Perhaps it was the sea’s complaint
that rose and fell in your head;
perhaps, it wasn’t me at all,
nothing I did or said.
I like to think you didn’t know,
that it took you by surprise,
the day you shook the heavens
till the stars fell from the skies.

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley (previously Wyatt)

Ice Age

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This time we more than disagree;
the air between us is arctic.
Though I hear the snow shiver
and the ice groan,
there is little hope of a thaw.

I search your face anyway
for signs of spring;
the poppies on your lips still flower;
but your tongue tears
at the root of my mouth,
and your sharp eyes.

The Token

(for Estefania, now gone)

Estef again

 

A caterpillar inched across the path
as we three sat to gossip in the sun.
On such a day as this it was,
and here, on this plush lawn;
the path shone white and he lay
there as bright as any jewel;
and soft he was as any fur
and plumper than a pod.

‘It is a sign,’ you whispered;
‘he comes here to point the way;
and ponderous and slow he is,
yet he comes straight from God.’

‘From where?’ I said, and curled my lip
to think that God might care,
my life in disarray and only sadness in my heart.

‘From God,’ you said, ‘or from that place
where all your beauty is.
He tells you trust in time’s slow work
to grant you wings to fly.

On such a day as this it was
and here, on this plush lawn;
and, though the sun
sank down to sleep,
still all we three
sat safe and close,
just as the evening
air was warm;
and not a passing thought
we had for how the dark closed in
nor did I think this day to weep
to think how true you spoke.

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley Wyatt

Perhaps

(On the execution of Lady Jane Grey, 

Monday, February 12th, 1554)

Not, in truth, a martyr but a trembling girl,
how you must have quaked at the scene:
perhaps the spring surprised the dawn,
silvering the close-cropped winter grass;
and, perhaps, you leaned forward for one last glimpse
and felt your child’s heart leap,
a flightless bird put up too late,
its green wings yearning after skies;
and as he came back, in that blood-bespattered cart,
perhaps, you did cry out: ‘O, Guildford, Guilford,
O, my husband, O, my one true love’
as they lead you then where the scaffold stood
against the tower’s white walls.
And perhaps it was there you shook off
your fear, recalling how he laid you down,
an eager bride, half giddy, in the circle of those lifeless arms,
finding comfort, perhaps, to think how brief
a widowhood was destined to be yours
as you mounted the steps, your eyes still dry,
read your Miserere and died.
Or perhaps you did not. Perhaps you mourned
a women’s life unlived and wept to know the greed
of those who gambled with your head;
cursed, perhaps, the father who gave you up,
the husband who could only whine and die;
perhaps you railed against your fate
even as you seemed so much resigned.
‘I pray you despatch me quickly,’ you said
as you laid your white neck down.

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley Wyatt

All rights reserved.

‘Coming Soon’: My Poem Appears at Poetry 24 Today

Recently, while catching up on what the BBC is pleased to call its News Channel – although it is, in fact, increasingly dominated by topics which are not actually news – I witnessed a shameful display of gerontophobia from the three presenters who were involved in ‘The Papers’, a nightly discussion of the stories appearing in the next day’s press.

In the course of this item, all three of the presenters laughed and joked about the suggestion that elderly people were being passed over for medical treatment on the grounds that they were old and, therefore, in terms of economics not ‘worth’ saving. The ‘problem’ of pensions was mentioned and it was pointed out, still amidst much laughter, that it would be a good thing if some elderly people died because their demise would help solve that problem. My partner and I sat open-mouthed and this display of mindless cruelty on the part of three people in a position of privilege and what should have been responsibility. I was extremely upset by the incident. ‘Coming Soon’ is my response.

Read ‘Coming Soon’ here.