In Flanders’ fields

Niko_Pirosmani._A_Fox_in_a_Moon_Night._Oil_on_oilcloth._State_Art_Museum_of_Georgia,_Tbilisi,_Georgia

I listen when the stars hang low, the night-
cool air is heavy with the smells
of fox and quince and water running bright,
chiming with the woodland’s leafy bells.

I hear the owl call in his fluting voice,
above the ploughed fields furrowed deep and cold,
where dead lie who were given little choice,
whose smooth moon faces never will grow old.

Poppies

Photo©Andrew Hill
The poppy has become the emblem of the British war dead, the cornflower (bleuet) is the emblem of the French.

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There were poppies once
along the bank beneath the hedge,
they cut them down,
the poppies and the blackthorn too
to make it easier for machines
to mow and plough, and all the red
ephemera a memory.

We used to know once why we wept,
and why we praised the countless dead,
those young men who will not grow old,
whose bones lie cold.

Cut down like poppies on the bank ,
they died like heroes in the mud,
so we could start another war
and kill so many millions more.

Red poppies used to grow, they say,
but progress blew them all away.

Poem in Visual Verse

Andi-Sapey-August-VV

My poem in response to this photo is published in Visual Verse today. You can read my poem here and you can read all the poems published so far here.

On the day that Oradour-sur-Glane is back in the news again, the thoughts I had seem timely.

You can read here about why the entire village of Oradour is a memorial to the Nazi barbarity, and why the defacing of the memorial plaques with pro-Fascist inscriptions makes me feel so sick.

Another world, same war

Kerfe introduced us to a German artist, H. Schlagen with her Saturday visit to the Oracle, and his painting of a consultation of Oracles. Another of his paintings, im hyperraum inspired this cascade poem.

You can see the painting here.

 

Honour treads heavy in our hearts,

lift them high and sing the songs;

blood and bone were made for this.

 

Hear the soldier songs your father sung

and taste the rats and bloody mud;

honour treads heavy in our hearts,

 

so wear with pride his medalled scars,

remember all his hatreds deep,

lift them high and sing the songs.

 

I see my own dead face, not Father’s agony!

His pride, his war is yours, my son,

your blood and bones were made for this.

 

Flying to Byzantium and beyond

I liked the image for the last Ekphrastic prompt and wrote several poems to it. You can read the selected poems here. This is one of my (unsuccessful) contributions.

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There are fish in the sea that fly on silver fins

and birds in the air that swim with sea-smooth wings.

 

There is gold in the light and silver in the night

and green weed, a forest in deep water.

 

There are banners in the wind that call to prayer

and prayers in the wind that call to the banners.

 

Fish, birds, sunlight gold and streaming weed dance

on the blackberry path, for they know not what they do,

 

unlike the wind that waves the banners that point the

way to the black oil-slicked darkness at the world’s end.

Creation

On Saturday, the Ekphrastic Review published a short piece of mine based on this painting, Schöpfungsgeschichte II  (Creation Story) by Franz Marc. He painted it in 1914. By 1916 he was dead, killed by a shell at the battle of Verdun.

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Thank you Ekphrastic for giving my poetry and prose a home with a window.

You can read it here

Guernica

Ronovan asks for a poem inspired by Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica. The image below is a mural inspired by the painting in the Falls Road, Belfast.

Photo ©Ross

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Nothing changes.

Robotic brains create and annihilate

indiscriminately—

lion, horse, sparrow,

your wife, her husband, their children.

Lessons of history?

There are none to be learned.

History records not teaches;

we know what we do,

we revel in the blood of the other.

The fire that fell out of the sky still falls,

applauded by the same hands,

anointed by the same dogmas.

Man, the apocalypse,

Je Suis Cronus,

Uranus, Saturn,

parricides, infanticides

and so much blood,

these hands,

though the oceans they incarnadine,

will never be washed clean.

 

The dark falls quickly

A pantoum for the dverse prompt. This one turned out rather ghostly.

 

The dark falls quickly at this time of year,

When winter clings beneath the leafless trees,

Where in the twilight flit like ghosts the deer,

And dead leaves rustle in the spring-sharp breeze.

 

When winter clings beneath the leafless trees,

I listen for the sound of cracking ice

And dead leaves’ rustle. In the spring-sharp breeze

I think I hear a sound, still imprecise—

 

I listen for the sound of cracking ice.

Though nothing stirs yet in the night-clear air,

I think I hear the sound still imprecise

Of laughter, our voices free of care.

 

Though nothing stirs yet in the night-clear air,

I feel your presence wrapping me in waves

Of laughter, our voices free of care.

A sea of grief rolls now, and fields of graves

 

I feel your presence, wrapping me in waves

Of twilight, where like ghosts they flit, the deer,

And grief, a sea rolls over fields of graves.

The dark falls quickly at this time of year.

The bells of hell

For the Secret Keeper’s five word prompt. We watched Oh What A Lovely War last night and the satire and poignancy was as keen as ever.

 

Bell voices ring

for the stolen ones

and their lost without trace

ghostly voices sing.

Their betters bid them serve

for their kin and king,

said for those who do their duty

death has no sting.

So they went and they died

and we watched them fly

with their white crosses

and their poppies

when their souls took wing,

but Haig like French

died peaceful in his bed,

like the stories of the millions

of expendable dead.

Le dormeur du val

I’m reposting this poem by Rimbaud and my translation, written last year, in a small tribute to the victims of war.

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This is a poem all my children learnt by heart at primary school. And strangely enough, they all loved it. I don’t know much French verse but I do like this one. Here is the original poem, by Arthur Rimbaud, courtesy of Poésie française, followed by my attempt at a translation.

Le dormeur du val

C’est un trou de verdure où chante une rivière,
Accrochant follement aux herbes des haillons
D’argent ; où le soleil, de la montagne fière,
Luit : c’est un petit val qui mousse de rayons.

Un soldat jeune, bouche ouverte, tête nue,
Et la nuque baignant dans le frais cresson bleu,
Dort ; il est étendu dans l’herbe, sous la nue,
Pâle dans son lit vert où la lumière pleut.

Les pieds dans les glaïeuls, il dort. Souriant comme
Sourirait un enfant malade, il fait un somme :
Nature, berce-le chaudement : il a froid.

Les parfums ne font pas frissonner sa narine ;
Il dort dans le soleil, la main sur sa poitrine,
Tranquille. Il a deux trous rouges au côté droit.

 

 

The sleeper in the valley

 

There’s a haven of green where the river loud,

Clasps raggedy banks and between them teams

Silver; where sun over mountains proud,

Shines: a small vale brimming bright with beams.

 

A young soldier, lips parted, cap in the grass,

His head bathed in the damp of blue cress stalks tall,

Sleeps in the dew while the white clouds pass,

Pale on his bed where the sunbeams fall.

 

His feet in the flowers, he smiles in his sleep,

As a sick child would smile, when he ceases to weep.

Coax the cold from his bones, Nature, with him bide.

 

No suave, wild scents disturb his rest;

He lies in the sun, one hand on his chest,

Quite peaceful. He has two red holes in his side.