A gentle chime;
a woman mixes water-colours
for a sunset sketch,
a table of bottles
moods of sky,
texture of tree,
feel of feather.
The birder with Swarovski 'scope;
a lens to tempt
prey from the darkest horizon,
leans against a silver birch
eyes observing words
writing themselves in shadows
cast by cloud and dying solstice sun;
awaiting his quarry
the tight black drum
of starlings rippling
across the rolling red and yellow
of December's celluloid thread
when suddenly their lime-light dims,
Penelope unpicks the winter,
and a twenty voice choir points out
the lone star overhead
House Martin! they sing
strangers all, but in unison;
Six days from Christmas
flying well and strong
as the artist's brush hangs
in dripping disbelief
and the Swarovski 'scope
points at the earth, incredulous.
There had been Black Friday
and Cyber Monday.
There were figures
of commerce alighting on pages
as if the season relied
on murmurations of madness;
But this bird,
defying the winter
living through and off the air,
finding enough to survive
half a death-sentence at least-
This is what we would remember.
The year a house martin stayed
Copyright © 2015 Richard J Whiting
(For Siegfried Sassoon)
The conspicuous gallantry which was your life
Knew little peace, such as this peace of Mells
Between the avenue of yews
The shadows of St Andrewʼs Church
To the simple stone that marks the place
Where forever you lay.
Do those fields of ripening wheat,
The gently folding Mendip skies,
Sweet wild garlic tasted on the breeze,
Take you back to a Wealden youth
At The Old Centuryʼs turn
Under a dome of always azure sky?
Or does this land, this Somerset serenity
Leave you casting your Subalternʼs eye
Over ridges, vales and wood
Imagining the saps, the Salient
The duck-board, mud and rats
Of your summers on the Somme?
Those twisted, tortured, death-ridden days
When foreign fields filled with corpses
Never again for England;
Somehow you made it through
And here, in this pastoral peace you lie
In Wootton Bassett, forty miles from your grave,
Youth still mourns its daily doom
Like wheat cut green.
Can the breeze still carry your voice?
Does anyone hear your words?
Oh Jesus, make it Stop.
Mells, Somerset July 2010
Final line from Attack, by Siegfried Sassoon
Copyright © 2010 Richard Whiting
Oh girl on the Shipping Forecast
How I wish I was tied to your mast
I don’t care if you’re Mavis, Andrea or Vera
Be the South to my North Utsire
My partner on a Saturday night
I’ll take you out for a German Bight
We’ll stay up till twelve minutes to one
Until Wick Automatic has been and gone
Though I’m way past my Forties, what can I say
I know my conduct is not Ronaldsway
will you love me forever, mighty or lowly
when everything about me is rising more slowly?
I’ll forgive your every indiscretion
your rude interruption of the pre-lunch session
during Test Match Special at 12.01
with England’s openers approaching a ton
If you’ll just read really slowly for me
my favourite Long-Wave poetry
Fair Isle, Faeroes, heart be still
Lundy, Fastnet, Portland Bill.
Warning of gales with increasing power
lets marry beneath a squally shower
moderate or good, that’s the best of me
the rest has veered south-westerly
My love for you is heaven sent
stronger than Yesterday In Parliament
The Daily Service I’d place last
my girl, oh my girl on the Shipping Forecast.
Copyright © Richard J Whiting