The Riverhill Effect
This morning I could count the flowers in my garden:
two yellow roses, three purple irises, seventeen weedy daisies;
tiny tokens from Mother Nature.
Cracker prizes for getting this far.
Riverhill has won more.
Thousands of wedding dresses
drift above the paths with joy and light;
hundreds of silky Gothic bodices
flirt in curtained corners;
and tens of tall, trousered pines
proclaim that they shall not be moved.
Life. Living. Lived.
Because at the end of the day
those tattered, tired flower-frocks are allowed to drop
to the creeping, spidery floor, where they are welcomed
by the stink of compassionate rotting and living decay.
Until, with deadly magic, rips are mended,
hems re-sewn, buttons replaced,
mud washed away, so that
the garden will wear new clothes next year,
harder-wearing, more beautiful, more abundant.
Lying on the grass, nose close to the earth,
eyes blind with pain and fear,
I can just smell the same rich rot in my own soil.
Here too is space for repair; for mending.
Simply let the flowers drop, let the compost work,
and we will both have new clothes next year.
In memory of Henry Buckley of the 15th Hussars
It’s a Sunday afternoon, 18th June 1815. Lunchtime.
The battle of Waterloo. Nobody is quite sure
when it started, watches then were set by the sun.
A shot, a charge. Wellington. Napoleon. Armies
of tens of thousands, delayed by weather, thick mud.
Henry. A brave young man at 18. Had some lover’s
hands once undone the toggles of his tunic, gold braid,
felt his chest before the sword? A hedge of bayonets.
Troop colours: blue, yellow, red and blue. Battle honours,
and yet he died, one of many. Others injured, or missing.
It was to be the end of Napoleon’s one hundred
days in exile – this tree now over one hundred feet high.
Afterwards they built the Lion’s Mound to mark the spot
where the English beat the French, with a little help.
Henry. Futile fields. Was it for this the clay grew tall?
Light cavalry, horses in battle, the conclusion: ‘a close thing…’
In bookshops now, row upon row of military history
every decision recorded, catalogued, codified. Today this
cedar, grown so tall, in spite of further war the world over.
Here now, give thanks for Henry and all who’ve gone before.
after John O’Connor
Bolt your feet to the ground,
centre yourself in the cavity
of your chest.
Extend your arms
so they’re rigid as planks.
Right-angle your hands, stretch
fingers like claws, so palms
push imaginary walls.
Turn your back on the vast valley
of sky, the earth below
too deep, too wide.
Look down, let shoulders
take the strain, neck buckle
with the weight of clouds.
Breathe in, limbs quartering
the light. Close your eyes,
let darkness swim.
The garden of Kent rolls from my feet,
a shift of soil thin as a pauper’s shroud
across shoulders of chalk.
Traffic slurs the space between bird song
and in the distance green shifts to blue.
Azaleas punch fists of glamour at the June sky
and rhododendrons choir open throated song.
Two dreamers on the lawn
shut their lids to the view.
Shadows sculpt hidden eyes
that watch the spark and pulse
of tangerine clouds rimmed with lime.
Legs astride, arms wide as a tent
the statue on the hill
pushes open an invisible space,
commands me – Be here now!