My poor England. Where have you gone? These are dis-eased times in which each morning I wake thinking - "surely it will be better today" and find it isn't. This old place is tearing itself apart and what we stand for is being burned and buried. Treacherous, mocking crows call and lie and strut across the grave of something fine.
We are a proud mongrel race. We are of the Celts ,the Saxons, the Jew the Danes; Of Huguenots, and Bengalis and the Caribbean; the sons and daughters of a vagabond heart. I am no less English for being British, no less British for being European. I am not diminished for believing in a world where people come together to build a better one for ordinary folks, I am not empowered when I walk away from my companions.
England is a place of rogues; rebels; thieves and acrobats but deep within it flows something profound and worthy. Those who lead us betray us.
I have felt like this before though not as painfully. 25 years ago I wrote the following song- - the tune was done with my good buddy Tim Gadsby.
We’ve been storm rocked and battered, until nothing else matters,
But to stay here, and lay here, and sleep by your side,
We’ve been cheated
and flattered, our hopes have been shattered,
But I’ll stay here and lay here and dream by your side
Looking Back on England Steve Bonham and Tim Gadsby (c) 1993 Recorded on 'The Moon's High Tide - Steve Bonham
I am writing this in the strange lost lands between Christmas and New Year. Always a time for me of letting go and wondering. It's a slo-mo vortex; a cold wave-tossed beach; a shape-shifting primordial soup of forgotten goals; missed opportunities; little and large regrets and here and there, shining in the mud, the occasional glitter of joy and discovery.
And one question always devils me. How to breathe deeply, face the world anew again and try and make the next one better than the last?!
On the good days I feel, no matter how sorrow stained the last one, however grey, opaque and threatening looks the next one, however intimidated and powerless I stand, that I am on the edge of new adventure. It is a time of renewal, redemption and resolve.
A while back I wrote these words for a friend stepping out into the grace and genie of the long road and I wish the spirit of this to all my good friends as the New Year beckons.
Big Love x
She stands in the window of an early morning
Very still, looking over
To hedges pushing over fences,
The last teasing leaf of Fall
To where the tools of garden combat resting arms on old benches,
Wait for bugles.
Sensing from an impish breeze teasing slow branches
The first belligerent note of spring.
She opens the latch to the thin, chill, aspiring air
Knowing safety is not in caution, in holding things close
But in the expansive unfolding of the great trees and clouds
And the road to the west,
To the mountains, the deserts and the storm,
To America where dreams lie like sleeping sentinels
And the moon is hollow
She shivers at the first kiss, falls headlong
Into the mystery of waking
New-eyed into the kaleidoscope
Of half-forgotten memory
Hears echoing in suburbia’s empty spaces
The purr of the mountain lion
Feeling there is no return, only renewal.
A new poem still under 'construction'. I have recently moved my lovely battered old boat 'Emeline' down to Cropredy on the Oxford Canal. I have dreamed for years about having a narrowboat and this dream is one of the lucky ones that when achieved is all that it is supposed to be. For my money there is no better way to see the wonderful arcane, mysterious place that is England than pottering along at the steady pace of BMC engine chuntering to itself.
It was a Kingfisher morn,
A low mist, the lingering breath of a summers night,
Hung like a ragged eiderdown upon dark waters,
Before evaporating at the new day’s calling
Leaving the canal dappled in the shimmering light
Falling through willow.
As Emeline, steady and measured and awake
Moved to the call of heavy horses whose
flickering feathered remembrance lingered in the hedgerows
And ducked under the swing bridge from field to cow
A Kingfisher morn,
a dominion of sorts,
Where the Capdockin and Flapperdock, the names of old England
As much as the church on the hill and site of the mill,
Stand rhubarb proud at the border, a raggle-taggle audience
To the sublime.
And in the sour green depths of the lock – whose out stretched arms
Wait for the Fisher King, the luscious waters ooze
That all may be healed and transported.
These are halcyon days in the unreliable summer,
of the Damsoiselle fly flitting in ultramarine for the fluttering of brief romance
Dandling in the air amongst the white dog rose and the azure flax
And fussy moorhens and scolding Mute Swans.
When around us, the fields of Oxfordshire
Unbound and close to paradise
Rose expectant and ruddy
Into a time of exuberant flourishing
Flush with the joy of sunlight
An anthem for the vanishing King.
I have been working on some poems recently as a kind of limbering exercise before I get back to the book I am avoiding writing! A bit rough and ready but here it is - not only T. Gray got to chill his backside in a churchyard in contemplation of greater things.
Made me wonder, in a electronic age, when all things are filed in the cumulus nimbus - will we all end with the press of the delete button!
They buried kings of little kingdoms here once,
And then centuries of peasants,
Yeoman, all countryfolk,
Made equal in the rotting clay,
Until the rising of the common word,
Brought on weathered purple stone
The single word biographies of
Curate, wife, child and parishioner
Of Jacob, Bessy, Seth and James
Given a temporary glimpse of immortality.
Such as this might have lingered in the thoughts
Of the unexpected rows of airmen,
Who fell from the clouds to lie,
In rows of white cross uniforms,
Still on duty, still on parade,
By the tumbling wall.
I sat upon the memorial bench
Watching the light of the long-shadowed
As it sparkled on the frosted grass,
And played upon the old church wall,
Against the face of the curious knight above the door,
Whose rusty sword, blunt with age,
Is no guardian of truth or desire,
Or that which should remain.