A fellow blogger, the wonderful Miss Snarky Pants, challenges the world to create something meaningful (or just good) in just Four Frigging Lines.
Needless to say, we could not resist. Can you? Just put your effort in the comments section of one of her (so far) five uniformly excellent efforts.
In the gutter, on its own, a single empty can of tuna in lemon and cracked pepper.
Mouth open, like a gasping fish, staring at the sky.
I hardly know whether to rail at its former owner for his callous discard
Or to take it home and bin it safely, like burying the dead goldfish no one wants to hold.
And as we constantly remind you (the house reno is expensive) to buy all our poems (well most of them), plus a short story, head to 71 Poems and One Short Story, available in soft cover or as a download.
This is how I want it to be when I go. Beautiful, and apposite.
I posted it on Facebook this morning, and later on got a message from one of my oldest friends saying he was about to fly home to his mother’s funeral. His distress was somewhat alleviated; he now felt all is well.
God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform.
I was so taken with the words that undertook to find out who wrote them. The writings are actually a poem written by Victorian churchman and academic Henry Scott Holland.
Holland (27 January 1847 – 17 March 1918) was Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford. He was also a canon of Christ Church, Oxford. The Scott Holland Memorial Lectures are held in his memory.
He was born at Ledbury, Herefordshire, the son of George Henry Holland (1818–1891) of Dumbleton Hall, Evesham, and of the Hon. Charlotte Dorothy Gifford, the daughter of Lord Gifford, and educated at Eton where he was a pupil of the influential Master William Johnson Cory, and at the Balliol College where he took a first class degree in Greats. During his Oxford time he was greatly influenced by the philosopher and political radical T.H. Green.
In 1884, he left Oxford for St Paul’s Cathedral where he was appointed canon.
He was keenly interested in social justice and formed PESEK (Politics, Economics, Socialism, Ethics and Christianity) which blamed capitalist exploitation for contemporary urban poverty. In 1889, he formed the Christian Social Union.
In 1910, he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity, a post he held until his death in 1918. He is buried in the churchyard of All Saints church, Cuddesdon near Oxford. Because of his surname, the writer, secretary and political activist Mary Gladstone (daughter of Prime Minister Gladstone) referred to him affectionately as “Flying Dutchman” and “Fliegende Hollander”.
While at St Paul’s Cathedral Holland delivered a sermon in May 1910 following the death of King Edward VII, titled Death the King of Terrors, in which he explores the natural but seemingly contradictory responses to death: the fear of the unexplained and the belief in continuity. It is from his discussion of the latter that perhaps his best-known writing, Death is nothing at all, is drawn: the frequent use of this passage has provoked some criticism that it fails to accurately reflect either Holland’s theology as a whole, or the focus of the sermon in particular. What has not provoked as much criticism is the affinity of Holland’s passage to St. Augustine’s thoughts in his 4th Century letter 263 to Sapida, in which he writes that Sapida’s brother and their love, although he has died, still are there, like gold that still is yours even if you save it in some locker.
Which is another sweet thought to end on.
In a cell, or wandering the yard, the two wait.
Soon, they will be taken to a field.
Their choice. Blind or clear eyed:
one last look at the moon?
Stand, sit, or kneel? A thoughtful touch.
Tense as they hear the barked command
the three bullets will tear through the night sky
like eager dogs let off the leash.
Into their heart
or near it.
If lucky, they die instantly
if not, they will bleed
until revolver bang just above the ear
cup of tea home to wife.
High above, the seagulls will whirl,
squawkingly, suddenly, disturbed.
A child stirs down the road in a hut.
Then all is silent, ambulances
remove the bodies. No need for sirens.
No need for more fuss than is
I wrote this poem remembering attending so many Remembrance Day services with my mother, whose husband, the father who I never knew, died at 46, a cheerful but essentially broken man, after six years of service in the Royal Navy..
I am very proud of this poem, both as a poem, in and of itself, and as an authentic expression of my feelings and some things I consider important.
I am largely a pacifist in my outlook, but I have great respect for those who put their lives on the line defending values I hold dear, and opposing tyranny.
It references not only those solemn services attended at memorials with my mother, but the many times since I have seen elderly people stand and pay their respects to the dead of both World Wars, and other wars.
There is a wave of emotion sweeping Australia at the moment when Anzac day rolls around, with record numbers of people attending Dawn Services both around the country and in places overseas such as Papua New Guinea and Galipolli.
Increasingly, those people have young faces. The great grandchildren, grandchildren and children of those who were wounded, broken, and died. Why the sudden upsurge of interest? Perhaps younger people today look back to a past when the issues were simpler and convictions stronger.
I am also sure that the 39 Australian service people killed in Afghanistan since hostilities broke out there have something to do with it. The Americans and others have lost more people, of course, but those 39 lives are a grievous loss to a country with a population as small as Australia’s, just as the disproportionate sacrifice of the World War I diggers left a scar across the country that took generations to heal: the faces and stories of those brave young people killed in Afghanistan in recent years sure focuses the mind.
I am also reminded, on this solemn day, of the most important thing ever said about conflict, which is, of course:
“War will continue until men refuse to fight.”
If you are interested to purchase my collection of poems called Read Me – 71 Poems and 1 Story – just head here.
(Article re-published for Anzac Day 2013 and Remembrance Day 2014.)
The sound of an ambulance
very late in the fetid night
closes, then closer, louder,
howling, cutting machete-like
through the traffic for the ER,
then leaving us, passing
away now, quieter,
and quieter. Just how you
entered my life, in a hurry,
and left it as suddenly.
All there is now to tell the tale?
A wreck, and a fading echo.
You came to me unexpectedly
happening on a glade, as if
gliding over me like crystal in the early morning
cool like the fever in my life breaking
refreshing as the splash of a wave
murmuring like a gentle stream until I drowned.
And then you left as if you had never been
and all my world was dust and air and sand again
but I remember you to this day
when the sun beats down, cruel
when the sun is strong on my brow
I swim in my memories and pretend that you were real.
Stephen Yolland is a Melbourne poet and author/editor of Wellthisiswhatithink. You can find his book of poetry here. The book is also available as a download from lulu.com.
She takes a bottle,
smashes it against a breeze block
they used to build the barracks
that bake at noon and sweat at midnight.
Sorts out a piece of glass
sharp, fits neatly in her hand
draws it across her slender wrist
a green transluscent bow ’cross a brown cello.
She lies back, deeply tired.
More tired than she thought possible
sun incessant on her face
and, dignified, hoses her life over the wooden steps.
Within a few minutes they come running.
Rush her to the infirmary
wrapping her, scolding her,
but she is silent, crying silent, bleeding silent.
A dozen at least like this, they say,
because if they die their children
will have a golden future.
Dreaming of the lucky country.
And in the Ministerial offices
a man with glasses and a poor haircut
says we do not comment on detainee self-harm
we could not possibly comment.
We lock them up.
We send them back.
We give them over.
We un-person them by not talking.
And on the island, the woman lies
wrists bandaged, children frightened.
She is an operational matter:
she operated on herself,
but we are not allowed to know.
The blood bakes black on the wooden steps.
Birds carol raucous in the trees.
Her children weep midst the breeze blocks.
Merry Christmas Island.
ONE NIGHT OF MANY
I lie beside you, a long wait into tomorrow
and listen to you gently snore.
Whoever invented that phrase
~ gently snore ~
they knew. There is ungentle snoring,
when I nudge you in the back and roll you
half awake into silence
but that is not this. This is a soft rhythm
like the sea carressing white sand.
The rain on the new tin roof
syncopatedly changes tempo
as if to accompany you.
For a while there, it rises and falls
in time with your chest
in time with your dreams.
And the life in your breath
and the life in the rain
Without warning, I am assailed by images.
Unbidden. What would happen
if you were taken out of our lives?
A truck, a tree branch, your heart.
Police at the door, our daughter’s face.
I could manage the days, I think.
But not the nights.
I listen for the gentle heave of air.
And again, and again, there it is,
that gentle heave of air, and I am stilled.
Do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Not yet. Not yet awhile, at least.
Go to sleep.
The rain falls on the world like balm.
And by the moonlight of the clock
I see your perfect calm face and think
how you would hold me, if you knew.
To buy a printed copy
of my collection of
poetry, “71 Poems and One Short Story”,
(there’s a download, too), please go to:
Many bloggers were saluting Remembrance Day yesterday.
This rather beautiful poem is worthy of a wider audience. Give it a click.
Poet Neil Hilborn has become an internet sensation in the last 24 hours.
His massively impressive two-minute performance-style, life as art, baring of his soul poem about his love for his girlfriend, written through the window of his OCD, is simply astonishing.
As someone who has suffered from OCD in the past, a brutal multi-layered, multifaceted illness that makes its sufferer’s lives a misery, may I just say that I find the last two lines of the poem among the most moving I have ever heard in all my life.
Listen, weep, laugh, marvel at the courage – enjoy.
So, there I was, having glugged the best part of a bottle of shiraz and now enjoying a second pint of cider, toying with the remnants of a good steak. (The potato rosti had too much thyme in it, and the weirdly modern take on Brussel sprouts was laced with too much chilli – yeah, I know, right? – but the steak was very passable.)
Anyhow, I suddenly felt the need to write overwhelm me. I have blogged about this before: when it happens, it is simply a compulsion that cannot be ignored.
I don’t know if it was the creative environment of being at an open mic, the stimulation of having other artistes around, or simply one too many ciders. But before you know it, I was tapping away on the absurdly small keyboard of my iPhone, running the results past my fellow diners, then showing the hostess for the night, and before you know it, lo and behold, she was laughing and I was on the stage.
Anyway, here’s the result, video-ed on my dear wife’s phone, but the sound quality isn’t great, so I provide a transcript below as well. I actually think it’s not a half bad poem, although it’s only short. Sometimes, the best thing a writer can do is simply capture a moment, so it then lives for other people.
“Liam, I apologise for gate crashing your party tonight … but sometimes every writer in the room knows, that when you have to write something, you just have to write it … so this came out about half an hour ago, so I thought, well, “Bugger it”, I shall just ask Phoebe if she’ll like me to read it. And she was kind enough to say “Yes!”
I will come back and read some other poetry another time.
Shit! Thank you! I haven’t done anything yet! Apart from look embarrassed. Er … this is a poem called “Snapshot”.”
SNAPSHOT (Open Mic, Melbourne, 4th June 2012)
The girl with the nervous eyes
applauds wildly as he works the frets.
He has announced before the coupling “This is hard.”
She knows what he means.
She glances at his girlfriend
here on a working holiday
from the land of the rising blues.
She prays she doesn’t notice
her sudden blouse-lifting intake of breath,
the shy embarrassment.
She’s cute, too, the girlfriend.
patiently working the Nikon.
How confusing life can be.
And in the wings,
another little angel waits –
hugging her guitar like a life buoy,
hugging it like a friend in a cold world.
That’s what the world needs,
On a wet Monday night.
More hugs: even if they are made of plywood.
Even the hugs of strangers.
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