Featured Poet Bill Harper

Bill (W K ) Harper was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme and left school at the age of fourteen. During the war he served for four years as RAF Aircrew and then attended Burslem School of Art for three years. He is now a retired pottery figure designer and modeller and worked for Wades pottery (1950-1960) and Royal Doulton (1971-2000) among others.

He has trekked in the Himalayas and other mountain ranges and has two sons and a daughter. Bill now lives in Tunstall.

The Isle of San Michelle
On the Isle of San Michelle
The departed arrive by open boat
Cutting through the choppy waves
With shrouded coffined cargo bedecked
Bouquets, massed flowers, wreaths,
Muted mourners stand looking forward
Black coated black hatted solemn faced
Bright eyed children hold silvered posies

They say Stavinsky’s buried here
I did not find him though
Amid the fetid decaying flowers
Rotting before high urn topped marble tombs
And the long narrow geometric avenues of low graves
Bearing small niched photos new or faded
The new and the long departed

Oppressed among the dead
Too much alive I came away
To stand besides a brown-robed tonsured friar
Positioned on the empty quay waiting patiently
White roped waist and Bible in pale crossed hands
Before a darkly shadowed chapel where painted saints
On darkened walls welcome the departed

The vaporetti bussed me away to sunny Venice
To Verrochio’s majestic mounted Corellioni
Immaculate Madonnas, Titian Beauties, and Paolo Veronese,
A hotel on the Grande Canal dark eyes cool soft hands
Plush red gold opera at La Fenice the carnival that is Venice
Fantasies of architecture, sumptuous painted interiors,
Singing gondoliers festivals, the laughter of costumed figures

Umasila, majestic high pass
A cleft rock a platform
Iron bound in ice and snow
A rampart between two worlds.

A threshold to be lifted over – ceremoniously
Your passing noted by Guardians with blue cloth strips
The simple gift, freely given, unexpected
And therefore precious more than gold or bright jewels
Given with intent.

Umasila, ancient sentinel marks the ages
A watershed each way –
South to Jammu, Hindu, Great India and temples
North to Ladakh, Bhuddists, Gompas, Tibet, and China.

Umasila, divider of old worlds, ancient cultures
Of the green from the barren, of the wet from the dry
Of glacier from crevassed glacier
Umasila, Holy Sanctuary, bridge to all worlds to all people.

In the desert of my being you are an oasis
Where no water of life flows so fresh and clear
No flower has such beauty no tree bears fruit so satisfying
To touch and taste.
You are sweeter than honey, I long to rest among your palms
And see the stars shine in your eyes

When I look into your eyes I see mysteries and passions
When you smile on me it is like a light from heaven
I cannot cross the threshold of your being without invitation
But you can open the gates on the riches within you
And shower them upon me

The chicken or the egg which came first
The poured glass is half full or half empty
Chickens though are reptiles that lay eggs
And so on and so on and so on to the sac
The first life bacteria a soft egg
The glass filled is half full and emptied half empty
And God said let us make man like us in our image
Though science says men and women too
Are very like chimpanzees
Another paradox another slow tortoise
For some swift Achilles of the beautiful lips to pursue
Or drop a stone half way down a well

It is raining here, tears of anger and regret
The sky black and blue from raging storms
The icy river steams, leaves fall, brown snow
On slow carved black rock

But what is the use of all these words
An inquest into something precious lost
That need not have been lost
It cannot be mended now

* * *

In silence then let us bear our sorrows
On distant shores of unknown oceans let them lie
Forgotten, to die with anger pride and rage –
The rest by such undetermined will be
And quiet resolution restore to life a purpose
Stronger than before …

Death is waiting in the wings I fear
Impatiently in this my seventieth year
And so’s my dentist standing by
To draw my teeth before I die
So who will win this grisly race
I hope it’s Death to save my Face

Above the Silvery Stream
The Golden Wand of Autumn
Touches the Summer Green
And I dream of things we might have done
And glories that could have been
Too Late! Too Late!
No! No!
The Rich Colours of Autumn
Come before the Winter Snow!

Open the Door to the Morning
Breath deeply of the Day
Cool air Earth scents and Bird-song
Accept what is and go – upon one’s Chosen Way

What is done is worth doing well
Washing cups or making perfect tea
Bringing beauty into being – poetry
Striving hard to perfect the vision
That’s springing from an intuition

Not done well is not worth doing


About theleopard66

I am a member of the Stoke Stanza of The Poetry Society and run a bi-monthly Poems & Pints event in Alsager.
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One Response to Featured Poet Bill Harper

  1. geoff sutton says:

    San Michele reminds me of the scenes in Don’t Look Now.
    Like the spacious feel of Umasi La.
    Death is waiting in the wings has an appropriate jokeyness!

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