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: