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:

Alfriston

Alfriston - St Andrews in the Tye, raised mount and flint walls

Alfriston

 

Alfriston, oh Alfriston

I still hear your sea winds blowing

I was 21 the last time I smuggled myself into your secret passages

It was sunny then too, with the light dappling at windows

like an impressionist painter with an endless palette of time.

 

Alfriston, oh Alfriston

I can still hear your sea waves crashing

At the end of the Cuckmere where Eleanor Farjeon’s morning was broken

Sea trout, dace and perch open their gills

as the anglers brace their lines.

I lock my car and recall an Anglia owned by a brave young student

abandoned beneath the tree in the village square,

its straight 4 engine glowing with the exertion of the trek from Falmer.

Tucked under my confidence then was the contraband of hope

And today there’s an Inn called the Smugglers, a kind of memorial.

 

Alfriston, oh Alfriston

I still see her standing by the stream on the east of the village

Looking over the valley of lows and highs

We unfolded our plans on precious parchment, wondering

where this unmapped love would take us.

Today I look at the steeple on the Tye and can still see the tears

That watered my memory, my crying shame.

And the raised mount of St Andrews and its flint wall

express the dialectic of the place, the uplifts and falls

like a gull wheeling in the small eddies and minor currents

and a man down, below.

 

 Roy Stannard 6.10.11

 

On National Poetry Day – with apologies to Jim Webb and Glen Campbell