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.
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)
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.
(for Estefania, now gone)
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
(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.
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.
(with apologies to Mr Orwell)
Let’s keep politics out of this.
It’s only entertainment, after all.
There are many Truths and Beauty, as you know,
is always in the eye of the beholder.
As for narratives, be they ever so grand,
they really are so very last year.
Let us, as professionals, polish our skills;
let us make a whetstone of perfection.
Poets, though, do it mostly for love,
there being piss poor profit in verse.
So when is a poem not a poem at all?
When it’s song that breaks the rules.
And when does the song-bird forget to sing
if not when she’s hobbled and tied?
The smart set would strive for anonymity now
but how will they know when they arrive there?
Perhaps, after all, we have waited too long
to find we all have a story to sell.
Orwell’s essay here
On TV today, ‘The Repo Man’,
a look at life lived on the edge
that comforts and scares in equal measure,
we who have so much still to lose.
Though we are not there yet,
on the grim edge of the abyss
we may, at any moment, miss our footing;
and to think of this man, like a broad side of beef,
with his hand as big as shovels on a digger,
reminds us of the way we may go
and causes us to tremble in our boots.
Our schedulers are kind, though: they offer us shows
that help us to see our silver linings:
our prime-time viewing is composed
of the lives of those who must struggle to eat;
then there are those who, by disease or misfortune,
have been robbed of their chance for simple happiness:
freaks and midgets and paraplegics,
those who are marooned by their own appetites,
those who are paraded to cavort like grotesques
and caper like hunch-backs and fools.
It is we who are the fools, though, for we are taken in,
dumb in the face of so much outrage:
by our dull consent, we bring to our own homes
the stink and clamour of the booth;
and, by its execution, this ‘entertainment’,
makes a fairground and a circus of humanity.
Who profits by it? Who oils the wheels?
What is the hand that cracks the whip?