You gave me plugs for planting
In the ground beneath my plum –
A lover’s gift for growing,
And for shooing Winter glum.
Such blue and tiny flowers
In a little straggly scrum –
Just bed them in and off they go,
With any-colour thumb.
Yet year-on-year, these self-seed parts
Make up a spreading sum –
These almost-weeds, not worth the dig,
Are no chrysanthemum !
You gave me some forget-me-nots –
And later called me scum.
I’ve tried so hard to wipe the slate –
Yet ev’ry Spring, they come.
This poem was inspired by one by Dino Mahoney – I basically took his idea and added rhymes.
Up in Heaven-on-the-Clouds
You works on our behalf,
Pushing through the saintly crowds
To bat for Halifax and Bath,
And bring to Lynn and Dale of Borrow
Sun today and jam tomorrow.
Working hard in Upper Eden,
Pushing England’s cause.
You wouldn’t get the saint of Sweden
Cheering on so many wars:
Rule Britannia, Hope & Glory –
Welcome to the national story.
Tea and crumpets, trains and cricket,
Stratford to South Shields.
There you lurk, on moor and thicket,
Anglicising foreign fields.
Who needs Alban, Bede or Swithun ?
Give us Bowie, Dench and Niven !
But wait, I hear the Genoese
Have hired your service too;
And Catalans, and Portuguese,
And Greek and Germans join the queue –
The Georgian and the Muscovite
Are proud to sport your red and white.
And soldiers, archers, and the Scouts,
Equestrians and knights,
And farmers rearing sheep and sprouts
Are likewise firmly in your sights.
I do hope, George, with all this lot
That England’s voice won’t be forgot.
And then there’s leprosy and plague,
And syphilis to boot,
But here your role is rather vague
On how you earn your extra loot:
Helping patients come to terms ?
Or do you represent the germs ?
And back home in your country seat,
Its lord is rarely seen;
In ancient times, your sandalled feet
Came nowhere near our mountains green.
But hey, who cares from where you’ve strayed –
For Englishmen aren’t born, but made.
You spend your days in Greater Blighty,
Meeting with the Boss –
Asking him to make us mighty,
From Land’s End to Gerrard’s Cross
You always done us proud, our George,
When lobbying for Cheddar Gorge.
Some of them are white, of course,
Though all are pink round here.
They’re not the most impressive trees
Till all the blooms appear.
They blow their show in April,
All before their leaves take root –
Yet all of this confetti
Makes such neat and waxy fruit.
“And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”
Matthew, chapter 27, verses 51-53
And the very earth shook beneath us,
And the sky came dark and the veil of the temple was rent;
As the Son at last came to leave us,
So the tombs where slept the saints were breached as He went.
And there they sat, arisen yet still,
Since so long dead, they patiently waited
For a night and a day and a night until
On Sunday morn, they arrived belated. Zombies on the loose, they come !
Zombies in Jerusalum !
And yet not a word was spoken,
As He was interred by Joseph of Arimathea,
Of other tombs that were broken –
For surely he witnessed the quaking’s rough aftermath here ?
For there they sat, arisen yet still,
Awaiting the one who had yet to be buried;
So lay Him within the sepulchre’s chill
And roll up the stone, his soul long ferried. Zombies yet procrastinate, Zombies lurk and zombies wait.
And still not a word was spoken
By the Marys on Sunday making their way to His tomb,
As they passed all the saints newly woken,
As another earth-tremor gave sanction to auto-exhume.
No more they sat – unprisoned, unstill:
Now great was their stagg’ring and groaning as any;
As stumbling and jerking, they lurched down the hill
To Jerusalem, to the marvel of many. Zombies, rotten of complexion !
Zombies join the Resurrection !
And never more a word was spoken
By the Twelve at the Pentecost, only a few weeks on –
When their voices were no longer choken,
But gabbled in tongues – yet not asking where the dead had all gone.
Where now they sat ? Or risen they still ?
Where went their mission, so silent of news ?
What is the purpose they mean to fulfil ?
Is this what is meant by Wandering Jews ? Zombies, born again through Christ !
Zombies, torn from Paradise !
And still not a word is spoken,
And the puzzling verse is never read out in church.
No statue or stained glass token
Celebrate animate saints as they stumble and lurch.
And those who are sit in the pews quite still
And pretend that the verse is a metaphor or test –
I guess they haven’t the need or the will
To admit to themselves that it might be a jest. Zombies, clinging to their mask,
Zombies, too afraid to ask.
The plant you gave so lovingly
Is dying on my windowsill.
I swear it’s not a metaphor,
It’s just a drooping hellebore.
I tend the plant so lovingly,
And steadily it goes downhill.
I swear its thrips and fungal pus
Are meaningless in terms of us.
This poor maltreated gift you chose,
This sacrificial Lenten rose,
Is no barometer of woes
That gnarls and twists and guilts.
It’s just a plant in dying throes
That cannot blame or presuppose.
The only thing this flower shows
Is soil that’s poor in silts.
I swear our love still blooms and grows,
As surely as this other wilts.
Whatever the bards or historians say,
It’s not the pot-plant of Dorian Gray.
Jesus ? My word ! Oh my lord, it’s the boss…
I never expected to see you today –
Except perhaps hanging out up on your cross…
It’s funny, but when as a kid we would pray,
And Reverend Thomas instructed our eyes
To always be tight and respectfully shut,
I’d sneak them half-open and squint at your thighs,
Expecting you’d come down a moment and strut.
With no-one to see, would you take up the chance
To get down to stretch, and to smoke, and to dance ?
The words of the prayer were quite lost to my trance,
But you never showed even the hint you’re alive.
You hung just the same when we sipped on your blood,
And you looked down as glum when we learned of the Flood,
And seemed as remote when our prayer-books would thud,
And we mumbled or massacred hymn forty-five.
But anyway, never mind my reminiscence,
How long must it be since you came round my way ?
Somehow you faded in slow evanescence,
Your black and white certainties merging to grey.
And Reverend Thomas was no help explaining
The problem of evil or problem of gays,
Till finally, even my lifelong ingraining
Could not keep the wonder or stem the malaise.
But reading the papers, there’s plenty of good news:
From leprosy vaccines to movies and blues,
And juries and voting, and self-tapping screws –
Abandoned, alone, we learned how to be great.
I waited and waited back there in your church
For some word or some action to come from your perch,
But unheard my questions, and unseen my search.
Till now, when I find you, I find you too late.
As I was heading to Saint Ives,
I passed a troupe with many lives,
With many plays and songs and dance,
As I was heading to Penzance.
As I was heading to Saint Just,
They played for me, as well they must,
And bid me “Come and join us, Friend !”
As I was heading to Land’s End.
This piece of nonsense was inspired by the famous nursery rhyme, even though that probably refers to a different St Ives (who’d have thought there’d be two saints named Ive ?) The town in this poem is the Cornish seaside resort on the Penwith peninsula, which is also home to the Minack open-air theatre.