Stone pillars mark the entrance to a graveyard of Victorian times
An immense copper beech stands as this burial ground’s concierge,
Unmoved by the heavy limbed mourners passing in their sad cortege
Or the furtive lovers seeking solace under the cherries and the limes.
Golden needles clothe the path below a cathedral arch of pines
A hundred years of history hidden by their time-chiseled bark,
Against their majesty mere humans struggle to make their mark
We proceed quietly, as penitent pilgrims would approach a shrine.
Andrew has written this poem in response to our last prompt of ‘Rite’. Andrew says: ‘I thought it would be interesting to take a look at ‘death’, our very last rite of passage. For some, there is no death as such, only an entrance into a fuller life, whereas for others, it’s prospect can provoke anxiety or dread, compounded by a fear of the unknown or a fear of loss. In this poem, I have tried to strike a more positive note by considering if there is an antidote to this very common fear. And it’s not easy!’
If I could reach into the silence
to a still point
where memory and desire
are no longer stirring
For a mere second the soldier closed his eyes
and succumbed to sleep’s black embrace. It was long enough for him to shuffle
off the rain-slicked duckboards; off that narrow avenue between places of
He landed on his back on the thick, bomb
Staring wide-eyed at the grey, rain-filled sky, he screamed a muffled cry of commingled anger and terror at his fatal mistake.
She had always loved this time of year, Autumn. From her window, she enjoyed the changing panorama of the trees as they turned gold, russet and red. They reminded her of other Autumns, long ago; collecting chestnuts with her father; marvelling at The Fall colours in New England, on holiday with her husband.
The next day there were fewer leaves on the trees, more on the ground. She recalled running through fallen leaves as a child and the unique, crunchy sound they made. She wished she had someone to share the colours and run through the leaves with now. But she was alone, and housebound.
The woman continued sitting looking out of the window, as she did much of the day. She liked to watch the birds as they hurried about their business, and if a cat appeared her heart was in her mouth in case it caught one. She loved the squirrels, sitting up eating nuts or chasing each other. They always brought a little smile to her face.
It had been a windy night and next day there were not many leaves left on the trees, just a few stubborn ones clinging to the lower branches. The weather was turning cold and her pain felt worse. The autumnal colours were gradually fading to greys and browns. But the woman remains in her chair in front of the window. She does not move. She will never move again. Pale golden light slants through the trees as the sun sinks slowly towards the horizon, a crimson orb heralding the end of daylight. Soon the naked trees are silhouetted against the darkening sky.
The woman in the chair will not see Spring; but she is no longer suffering. She has moved into that soft, dreamless sleep that lasts for ever.
Autumn leaves. And Winter takes its place.
Cynthia Smith 31. 3. 15
(Photo – Falling Leaves on the Foss – Littlebeck, Whitby by Kevin Murphy.)
How can you say what has been, when you do not know,
How can you tell how it feels, when it does not show,
How can you say how it is, when you know not the cost,
How can you think you understand, when you have not this loss.
Let only those who really know speak of what has gone,
Yet they may also hide behind a simple phrase, ‘life must go on’.
The jagged stabs that knot inside, the hidden inner rage,
The tears that well, the pain that swells; such a young age.
Do not tell me you understand or that you really know,
Do not tell me how it feels, when it does not show,
Do not say how it is, when you know not the cost,
Please God you never understand the feeling of this loss.
Still by Tony Burrows
Nobody in particular is present here,
Here in the old churchyard,
Though they all come to rest,and lay beside,
The weary and the unaware, the late,
The dearly departed,
Faithful servant abide,
And those who just fell asleep,
For others to weep, and stand aside,
Uncomfortable in unmetered mumbling,
Mourning uncommon prayer,
With so so many bleak wreath words unsaid,
And wipe away tissue tears, to be left,
On the soon to be lost, and never found,
Still forgotten graves of the dead,
Seeking salvation with upturned palms,
Blanket blind, woolly flock,
Grazing by their shepherd not,
Crosses and prayers and twenty third psalm,
Stand shoulder to shoulder,
In the still and calm,
Of the church clock marking tick by tick time,
Time past over to trees that reach and etch four seasons,
And in its quarters beats the stone ’til,
Truth is gathered as dust, and time is no more,
Still, there is no time for the dead,
For tomorrows tomorrow are on the march,
In warm September sun dried sun,
As bright as a star new,
New grow into uniforms with polished pop out faces,
Full of gilded parental promise, eager eyed, wide,
Wide as the green gates they must pass by,
Whilst in the still, leaves hold their fall, and
A young swallow hesitates before turning to fly,
Confounded, disappointed Mary rises and spirits away,
And something strangely empty now,
Now, nobody in particular, is in the old churchyard, bar I.
This is not the End by Brendan Stoneham
Life suffers a languishing blow-
Anguish haunts her vitality.
Her shadows have come undone,
Their magic lies in tatters.
They dance no more-
They cry out at this
Unceasing cessation of life…