The End and the Beginning

 

Long Furlong

The End and the Beginning

 

Because others had named the day

We can plot the moment

When first in a church and then

in the barn of an after bouquet of a wedding

you caught a glimpse of the future in each other

deftly like a slipping shadow at first

then ripening boldly like a stalk of March wheat

in the rape fields of Long Furlong

where the South Downs remind us of eternity.

In a barn you found a storehouse

Of possibilities, scurrying everywhere

Like mice intoxicated

you saw how they ran

and the hurt platoons of the past

counselled caution

as you sensed the enormity and the shape

of the secret places undiscovered

yet waiting like the ruined bandstand

on the Brighton shoreline where permanent words

would be uttered fifteen months later.

And that day

there was a silent espousal that whilst

others were celebrating a wedding

at a place where the bloodlines and the ley lines met

The River Arun would take the promise of the future, a twist of wheat

through the gap in the Downs past Arundel

and out at Littlehampton to the sea

where the Channel eddies and tides

caress the leg of a Brighton pontoon

where one day soon the story

would at the same time end, and begin.

For Callum & Frankie, to mark the day it all began on 23.3.15

Love Dad 26.8.17

For an audio version of this piece with ‘The Irrepressibles – The Tide’ (Album: Mirror Mirror 2010) used as a backdrop please go here

Who Is Like God?

 

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Who is like God?

Love was the father and love the mother.

You arrived in December, anticipating another Christmas

A reward in yourself rather than a present

A pilgrimage more than a journey

Because we cannot find love in ourselves

Only with another

And you were the purest love

The world of love in a moment

To complete the place that was prepared for you

A place shaped, breathed into, palpitating, anticipated for you

And you arrived linking Winter with Spring

A week after Mandela died and two days before his burying

You arrived, your hair already hinting of gold

Woven like the wealth of the Transvaal on the South African flag

You arrived to separate the before from the after

The Anno Domini

Dividing the past from the future

You arrived to say that there was no going back

As the Ukraine edged westwards

After the charge of the dark brigade in Crimea

And your mother wrote the gospel of your life

Like a scream of joy

As the Scribes and the Pharisees fled back to the Old Testament

Making way for the new covenant of love

Turning over and seeding the soil of hope

Too big an enterprise now for the old scythes and hoes

‘We need a tractor’ you said in almost your first words

And we realised that the lines and the furrows

Could mean happiness after all.

Roy Stannard for Michael’s Naming Day 21.8.16

For a version of this mixed with music please visit Soundcloud at:

The Language of Us

 

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The Language of Us

Before you, I walked at the edge of the group

A straggler in strangers

My life didn’t fit, held together with an unsafety pin

I was made not to measure

A bird not of a feather

And my hesitant shadow held back

Expecting never to be expectant, half a step behind

Like a skittish kitten, playing with fear

And then, amongst the bubble wrap multitude

Issuing and popping with importance

Was a face that emptied the page, cleared the stage

And invited me into your dressing room

Shutting out the mob that scratched and mewled against the door

And said sit down, I have a place for you

In my heart

Come and try it on

And I tried it on

Inviting you to lunch without waiting for an answer

Knowing that the glistening still water waves of the Marina

Would caress our conversation

And lap at our bruised emotions

As we refused everything on the menu except love

We had been things to other people

We had appeared as guests in others memories

We were both in a foreign country

But as the first twitch of feeling shivered between us

We found we had the language of us

That said yes whenever we touched.

Roy Stannard for Natasha

20.8.16

For a recorded version with music on Soundcloud please click here:

For Now

For Now

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For Now

A long time ago

An entire lifetime in the past

Long before me

And before you were fully you

You played in the world

Before the world became a serious business

Because before you were a mother

You were a little girl

A wisp of a person

Without a care in the world

A fleck of colour on a dull daily canvas

Playing in the Stambridge fields

Rudely interrupting the country

Where nothing ever happened

Except perhaps an outing to Maldon

Or a flat cycle ride to Flatford Mill

Not noticing how golden the meadows were

In the late afternoon

When the prospect of another day was cheap.

And on another page, you’re smiling

A teenager with designs on womanhood

The hairstyle you were to keep for sixty years

Turned back in the light Summer breeze

Your lips laughing and unkissed

A girl spoken of and soon to be spoken for.

I can still hear the laughter in the grocers shop

Two quarters of a century ago

As you sliced more than a quarter of ham

And wrapped it up in your generosity

That you spent so freely

On all of us.

Even when your purse was empty

Your heart was full

I recall exchanging your last half crown

For a Blyton in Bobbins the Bookshop

In the old arcade where I looked for the clowns

In the Victoria Circus.

You walked so fast, it was a race to keep up

And when I did finally catch up, it was too late

You were too tired to go shopping

And your final half crown was spent

On a last afternoon in Chichester

Held back by the pain growing in the same place

That I grew a generation ago

And you told me that although you had to let me go

Our farewells were for now only

That love is not like a story at all

Because it has no end.

For Mum. Roy Stannard 16/5/2000

This poem was originally written for my Mother’s funeral. As part of a radio show on Thursday 3rd December 2015, it felt appropriate to record a live version of it. Listen here:   https://soundcloud.com/roystannard/roy-stannard-for-now

Eden Again

Sheep like the first Sheep Cuckmere Valley, Alfriston

Sheep like the first Sheep
Alfriston

Eden Again

I caught a single blade of grass twitching

The landscape was amoebic, a jelly of colour

As the Downs pushed at the horizon like rolling pins

Folding dough into the creases of the valley of Cuckmere

With Cross and Tye and Market Square

And an Inn with a Star calling to liars, kings and countrymen

Drawn as travellers, smugglers and heirs to a Wealden seat.

I caught a single field mouse fidget

In the May parade of heat

Sheep like the first sheep, fluff on the freshly ironed hillside.

The Saxon and the Domesday vibrations run

Through this land like arthritis

It will not be moved easily

It makes its own music, the reed pipes and the drum minorettes

And the river’s rustle percussion as a piano carillon

Slips from the South Down cathedral

And downscales to Pingles Place

Mozart’s 21 in C Major

played by 97 year old fingertips in a study

decorated by the Twentieth Century

Eyebrows aloft and a twinkle.

I caught a single piece of history

A man assembling his thoughts like a Summer picnic

You ran through the landscape like a chalkland stream

Swimming bareclad through the jibs and jibes and jabbering

You took photographs through the lens of your compassion

And used words like needlepoint, stitching people into history

‘When in doubt, tell the truth’ you said

And we did for two hours in May

As the rabbits met in coteries to debate the day’s news

and a lone falcon fingered the sky

We talked of Edna, the Bloomsbury Set and danced the Charleston story

Practised the Bernstein keys, recounted Schlesinger

And cocktailed with Bogart, Bacall and Onassis.

I caught a single tentative cloud, a chalk garden in the sky,

The Valley and the shadow of death

You went to Robben Island to meet with Mandela

Surrounded by rabbits, butterflies and jailers

You went to Moscow to meet Khrushchev

Surrounded by an iron curtain

You knew a man of oils at Balliol called Picasso

And painted him into your life.

I caught a single man threaded through with history

In the village where mourning has broken

Like the first morning

And for a moment

Like the photographs of Italy and the discarded apparel

It feels like Eden again.

Roy Stannard 8.10.15 for Lord Denis Healey

Who died at home at Pingles Place, Alfriston on 3.10.15

Listen here for a live version of this poem performed on The Whole Nine Yards on Seahaven FM 96.3 in the hinterland of Denis Healey’s home on Thursday 8th October 2015.

If you would like to listen to the recording of my original 2 hour interview and music selection with Lord Healey recording, it can be listened to here:

Joyeaux Anniversaire, comme ils disent

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Natasha on her Wedding day

 

Joyeaux Anniversaire, comme ils disent

There you were

just a year ago

in front of the march to St George’s Day

we met, melded and married

and defied the xenophobic mantras

Slaying the dragons of prejudice

because the words we use sound different.

But love translates easily

and we didn’t need words to say that we would

and we did and we would again.

So in front of the flags of inconvenience

and the bile balls of blind hatred

we joined hands and futures.

‘Comme ils disent’

‘As they say’, and they did about us

But we stepped to one side and let the dissenters pass

We let the March become April

and the thunder become light.

We searched for quiet, sacred places

in the shadows of Lewes

to leave precious droplets of our love

between the flagstones.

We put new addresses on our hearts

And gave our souls new phone numbers

We threw away the mistakes in our wardrobes

And we agreed that the last Saturday in April

Would be the last day of our old lives.

Then as we stood under the crystal rivulets of sunshine

in a church one day in April

I watched the tired old procession

turn into a victory parade

And threw myself into your path

like a flower.

For Natasha after a year of marriage / Roy Stannard 26th April 2015

For a live performance please click here:

Farewell, Old Long Since

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Farewell, Old Long Since

The final minutes of the year

kiss furtively in a back alley of good intentions

The clocks call it a day

before winding up the night, the fireworks

wrote my name in the sky, briefly

And if you weren’t in a party you were no-one.

But Auld Lang Syne marched in time with the times

and carried our new found best friends

into our best remembered memories

even if the memories were left crying outside

before their cue at midnight

when the legends of the dancefloor

  become legless and the wallflowers wilt,

the high resolutions become low

and the turntable revolutions spin more slowly.

The herd of words that were heard all year spill to the floor

The Châteauneuf-du-Pape language jars and refills

as shapes and sizes and faces and guises

threaten comebacks in the new year

that haunt rather than revive

Like televised fireworks

and 70% proof good intentions

that slur sloth-like across the mouths

of the carelessly happy

tripping over the light fandangos

showing off their moves in slow motion

as fast as they can remember them

like Pinkerton remembered his Butterfly

as the knife fell

and the night began, all over again.

So farewell to the old, we were uncomfortable

with its long since lines and wisdom

and the way it shuffle-danced

and kissed everyone tremulously

like a tipsy iron maiden aunt.

It was a year that started with can’t and ended up in the can

It was a year of just missing the bus

and falling in love

In the queue for the next one

It was a year that didn’t stop for anyone

but there will be another one along in a minute.

Roy Stannard 1.1.14

Listen to a live recording of Roy performing this on The Whole Nine Yards 2.1.14

https://soundcloud.com/roystannard/roy-stannard-farewell-old-long