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My Son

Since I parted with my agent, I have hardly done any writing.  Indeed I have abandoned this blog for a long, long time.  I find myself disengaged with writing in general, and instead have thrown myself into new roles with my Quaker community and at work (as a Mental Health First Aider).

However I have continued to attend the occasional meeting of a Christian writing group which I belong to.  We often have short workshops to write on a theme and I tend to revert to poetry at these times.  Last week we discussed the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak and the self-distancing (compassionate spacing!) and self-isolation measures, and how these were affecting us individually.  We were encouraged to use a simple 15 minutes workshop time to write a letter or communication to someone important to us, inspired by the current situation and our hopes for the future when restrictions are lifted.

I found myself writing a poem to my son.  We have booked a cottage on the west coast of Scotland overlooking the Summer Isles and hope (had hoped?) to go there, along with my son’s girlfriend, towards the end of June.  I share this with you now and wonder how long it will be until I am inspired to post again!

My Son…

My son,

You are the most precious star in my universe.

I imagine your light glittering in the movement of the sea
as we sit,
here on a cliff-top,
with the Summer Isles set before us.

Lush green mounds,
spreading like cookies baking when I taught you as a child
and we watched, excited, through the oven glass
for the fruition of your efforts,
and yes, the taste in our mouths.

And here are the Summer Isles
settling in the sea.
A warm hue of yellow green
that I can almost taste
because of the intensity of your presence beside me.

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Bedtime Story

My previous Round Robin blog post about story ideas reminded me of this poem I wrote when my son was little. He’s 25 now – my, how time flies!!

Bedtime Story

My bright boy shines –
toothbrushed, washed,
hot water-bottle warmed,
ready to be cocooned in
the pages of a book.

Charmed and chapter-ready,
I rest my arm
across his shoulders,
inhaling deep the drug
that is his perfume.

Together we journey
deep into magical words,
spun into dragons,
and forests,
and happy-ever-after endings.

He is entranced,
entangled in the
ebb and flow,
eye-bright, excited, and
“Just one more chapter, please…”

Later, creeping by his room,
I cannot resist
going to pay homage,
drinking in the angelic beauty
that is his sleep.

My bright boy shines
and stirs at my kiss;
“I love you”, I say,
willing my words into his dreams
I turn and close the door.

© Anne de Gruchy

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Haikus for my Dad

Breakfast routine lost
because there’s no jam. Wondrous
result – full fry-up!

Dad, dog, Bramcote Hills,
mud and early daffodils,
unpredicted sun.

Birthday theatre trip,
puzzled by play. Dementia?
East Midlands’ accents!!

Outside his window
birds in the aviary.
Daily choral joy.

Memory fogs and
can’t play CD. Inside head
The Sound of Music.

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A Blessing for Woodbrooke

This is a blessing I used at one of the evening ‘Epilogue’ sessions at Woodbrooke. It was inspired by the connection I felt to Celtic spirituality while I was here – the relationship this place has to the gardens and nature, and to the rhythms of work and the year.

At the rising of the sun,
when the night disperses with a whisper
and we welcome the promise of day,
let us embrace this place and the people in it:
welcoming their work
welcoming their leisure
welcoming the Spirit that travels with them.

At the height of the sun in the sky,
when community gathers to share food
and news of their efforts and of each other,
let us celebrate the harvest of our hours,
welcoming bounty
thankful for friendship
humble in the face of the beauty of this world.

At the slow, red, setting of the sun,
when the light spreads into crimson wonder
and our hearts are opened wide,
let us drink from the well of the silence,
living only in this moment
drawing deep
lighting our souls from within.

© Anne de Gruchy

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Olympic Dream

I was recently alerted to Benjamin Zephaniah’s brilliant reading of ‘Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’ by Dylan Thomas. This was filmed as part of the Poetry Society’s Page Fright project and can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaH2XO7z4l4. This poem is a villanelle – a form of poem where the first and third lines are repeated in a specific pattern, giving an intense and rhythmic feel. Sylvia Plath’s ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song’ is another example.

This reminded me of my own attempt at a villanelle, which it seems appropriate to share at this time with its Olympic theme…

Olympic Dream

(A villanelle)

They always said that she would go for gold:
No schoolgirl dream – she pushed for each last stride.
Classmates withdrew and watched the games unfold.

At ten, she raced; at twelve long limbs ran bold,
collected trophies, fuelled parental pride –
they always said that she would go for gold.

No time for boys, a girl whose soul was sold.
Friends dated, loved – a world she was denied,
so she withdrew and watched their games unfold.

They told her once that she would break the mould,
show others how, with work, you turn the tide,
and, as they said, she knew she’d go for gold.

For ten long years she trained, Olympics rolled
within her reach, opponents pushed aside.
Her coach withdrew and watched the games unfold.

Crouched at start-line, her breath, her life on hold,
she stood, then walked away – something had died.
They always said that she would go for gold,
but she withdrew, then watched The Games unfold.

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Angels

A miracle, dear readers! In my blog post on 1 February I lamented the loss of a poem. Less than two weeks later and I have found it! I was looking in a file of mine where I keep ideas for new novel themes, and there it was – filed in the wrong place (very unusual for someone as organized as me!). Serendipity indeed – I was only looking in this file because I have finished the first draft of my novel and am thinking about possibilities for the next one.

The poem was bundled together with the details of the Christian Writers’ Group workshop where I wrote it. We were looking at the work of Thomas Traherne, and one of his poems triggered the image of angels for me. It was the poem ‘Wonder’ that begins:

How like an angel I came down!
How bright are all things here!
When first among His works I did appear
O how their glory did me crown!…

So here, for your delight, is my own lost poem:


Angels

Angels in raindrops,
trapped in reflective globes,
beating their wings against surface tensions
so fragile
so nebulous
that they craze and burst at the first
flared
feathered
pulse of energy.

Fractured and fragmented
they split,
spilling into a thousand million orbs
that scatter like mercury
across the ridges of a leaf.

And plunge…

plummeting to earth,
free-falling
only to be trapped by the lace of a spider’s web.
Garnering the light they shine,
patterned by arachnid labours.

Come morning they greet me
as I approach with a basket of washing.
Cornered between line and post
the multitude of Heavenly Host.

I turn and take my load indoors
to spread
damp clothes
on radiators.

 

© Anne de Gruchy

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Love Came

This poem was written at Advent, but works equally as an Easter poem. It was written many years ago, before I became a Quaker, and holds a strong resurrectional message. Now that I am worshipping in a less trinitarian based setting, many people I know would find the words of this poem difficult. This also applies to myself, as I have moved towards pluralism in my beliefs over time. But however much we value other traditions and ways to access God, we each have practices and experiences that work for us, individually. I read this poem back and I still get a very strong sense of God working in my life – of the eternity we are given to live a life in God and the spirit, whatever words we use to describe our experience, and whatever route we come to it…

Love came to us in white, a virgin’s child,
Wrapped tight in swaddling bands, a boy
Laid in a manger, straw for bedding piled,
Because of Him, I hold an Advent joy.

Love came to us in black, the curtain torn
From top to bottom, heralding His death
Upon a cross, destiny of baby born,
Because of Him, sin-free I live on earth.

Love came to us in red, Passion of blood,
From human womb to glory wrought from Thee,
An infant’s smile, wide as a river flood,
Because of Him, I have eternity.

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The Colour of Poppies

This poem was written in November 2014 at a time when there were many events to commemorate the centenary of the commencement of the First World War…

The poppy that I wear is white.
Safety-pinned to my coat, self-conscious in its isolation
amidst a sea of red.

At the Cenotaph, at hundreds of ‘lesser’ memorials
scattered amongst market towns and village greens,
people stand, heads bowed, and for a moment
a precious silence falls.

No silence, though, in those far-flung lands.
Not poppy-seeded, centagenarian fields,
but arid, mountain-fringed desert.
Towns, villages, mortared to rubble,
Prayers called
from the remnants of a mosque.

Bloodied:
A child, schoolbook in hand.
A missing limb
A missing parent
A missing brother, holed up with rebels in the hills.

Politicians speak but do not listen
to the screams of the souls of their dead.
‘No more, no more’ the chant of the grieving,
the wail from white-sheeted bodies
lining a corridor where lights flicker and fail.
No water to wash them clean.

Even I, immersed in the politics of peace,
Fail to resolve the conflicts at my door.
What hope for those, three thousand miles away,
caught up in war?

And, after all,
the poppies that we wear are red.

annedegruchy.co.uk image: poppies

© Anne de Gruchy

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Home Sickness

This poem is another old one. I found it in my archives, complete with notes and alterations. I’m not sure, even now, that it’s finished or in final form. I don’t know why, but it spoke to me when I read it again, so I thought I would share it…

This place is not the same.
It creaks your absence in whale-boned walls
that bend and strain under weight of silence,
missing the sounds of communication,
the rise and fall of taken-for-granted conversations,
empty words scurrying between us
soft-lining corridor and room
with shared domesticity
until your leaving
strips them bare again.

I pace around the edges of the house,
avoiding corners where I might stumble on the scent
of a question,
the stagnated mould of a half-finished argument,
a fertile sowing-ground
ripe for your return.

I know you will return.
I know it by the legacy of threatening stillness
that challenges my right to build
bookshelves full of other voices,
other bindings than that of
me to you.
Held within this padded cell
I never heard the key turn in the lock,
focussed, as I was, on the softness of the fabric,
the silk-sheen cloth of your presence,
disguising frame of steel.

Now,
pared back to stone,
the walls still echo with your going,
yet when I call
there is no ripple of response,
no note of recognition,
to evidence my sole occupation.
Uninhabited except for dreams,
only the shadows move.
The silence feeds on your absence,
deepening,
speaking volumes.

If I could
I’d leave this mausoleum to its ghosts,
but the key remains
on the outside.

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Between the Generations

This poem is a very old one, written about my son when he was 7 (he is now 23). He used to love watching the hay being cut and baled in the fields below our house, and was taken under the wing of the owner of the fields who offered him a ride on the tractor. My son was too shy to accept! I include the poem now because I was looking for one which felt right for this time of year – and of course it brings back some wonderful memories…

Between the generations there is an old bathtub
upturned to form a seat of kinds
warmed by sun and bottoms three.
One, two, three
in a row
deep in contemplation of the age.

This seat affords a view unrivalled by benches marked ‘in memory of -’.
Framed by a blue sky,
dusty air rising above the purr of the tractor as it cuts its way
below the watching three
trailing clouds of stalk and stem,
buttercup and marguerite,
cranesbill, campion, vetch.
Better entertainment far than Coronation Street.

On the left: boiler-suited Luke, plumber by trade, owner of these fields.
Farmer, too, by dint of history and a family name
that rolled off tongues the same
three hundred years ago as now.
Time-warped fields – five, six in number –
hedged by memories laced with hawthorn and elder
woven with the passing of the years.

And here is Fred, eighty if he’s a day, chewing the cud with the cows,
mulling over the wisdoms of silent intercourse
that fold the day in
and send time into tread-water stillness
marked only by the bluebottle buzz of the grasses at his feet.

Between these two, you: my golden child,
harvest of my womb and grown
seven going on seventy.
Conversing deep, in your little coven of three, on things of import:
hay, and tractors, and the best bailing twine.

© Anne de Gruchy