Colin Whyles

Colin Whyles p.2

Fen Boats

A Poem After John Cage

Sestina for Must Farm/Flag Fen

Fen Boats
In 2012 eight Bronze Age boats were discovered at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire.

Your shadows drift by in their wooden craft,
where we walk in heavens above your heads;
where you once sculled your boats and laid your traps,
to feed your families and warm your beds.

We walk where birds once circled overhead,
Heedless of the peace you've lain down to seek;
Resting in the boats carved to earn your bread –
Themselves now resting in congested creek.

We drive these roads; your islands are long gone,
Made one by hand of time and seaborne silt;
Your waterways, now dry and paved with stone,
carry wheeled craft where blood and sweat were spilt.

Your secrets, slipped into these beds of clay,
Lay waiting for the scalpel light of day.

Copyright © 2013 Colin Whyles
Fen Boats read by Colin Whyles
A Poem After John Cage
John Cage wrote 4'33"" in 1952

As per John Cage,
I offer a poem of silence;
two minutes 38 seconds:
I wish to be original.

Sometimes my poem will be a sonnet,
with perfect rhymes.
Sometimes it will be verse libre.
You may choose its form.

My poem will take as its subject
the environment in which it is read.
You will be its central character.
If you do not like its matter
change is within yourself.

If the material at hand
does not fill two minutes 38 seconds,
then you must look deeper into yourself.

My poem has not yet begun.

It begins now.

Copyright © 2014 Colin Whyles
A Poem After John Cage read by Colin Whyles
Sestina for Must Farm/Flag Fen
Must Farm and Flag Fen, just East of Peterborough, have been the source of many remarkable finds giving an insight into Bronze Age Britain.

It is too late now to rescue your homes,
But you have gifted a treasure to our lives;
Though uninvited, we enter your walls
and sift through your worldly goods; your deep skills
intrigue us. You tamed the marshes, the fens,
farmed cattle and sheep, fished the rich waters

that have now run dry, exhausted by waters
cut straight to the sea. Now we lift your homes
from their hidden graves beneath the fens
to discover the richness of your lives:
small, wooden boxes; wheels shaped through your skills;
cooking pots, axes; what were once proud walls

protecting from storms that beat on those walls
but added fresh vigour to the waters.
And yet, showing gratitude for your skills,
you thanked the gods with offerings for your homes,
humbly asking for safety in your lives:
threw your broken, bronze swords into the fens.

But fire that raged one day to light the fens
baked, crumbled and shattered your fragile walls,
changing the course of your idyllic lives.
Your wooden transom boats tamed the waters;
you fished, raised your family and new homes.
Trees felled and shaped to demonstrate your skills,

not only boats, but you learned the skills
to build a causeway stretched across the fens
to reach a platform that dwarfed your homes,
extensive, high and wide but without walls —
for those with courage to cross the waters.
And so you worked, played and sustained your lives

in this enriched environment. Your lives
would change with climate and evolving skills
with metals. You sank your boats in the waters
for us to find, buried in our dried fens.
We guess at how to build your earthen walls;
we find wonder in your circular homes.

We try to picture your lives in these homes;
we admire your skills, rebuild your broken walls,
regret the lost waters, the drained, dead fens.

Copyright © 2016 Colin Whyles
Sestina for Must Farm/Flag Fen read by Colin Whyles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.