The next Stoke Stanza will meet upstairs at The Leopard, Burslem at 8pm on Tuesday 21st May. All welcome, admission free.
It’d be great to see you there. Meanwhile, here some poems from the Stanza session on 23rd April.
First up, JOHN LINDLEY, the 2004 Cheshire Poet Laureate with Love & Crossbones.
LOVE & CROSSBONES
prove faithful to the bitter end
no matter to which cross it’s pinned,
that once it’s fixed, hung out to dry,
always either lies or dies.
The lovers who had thought love died
discovered it had been shanghaied
and over two crossed skull-less bones
a heart thought dead was deftly sewn
and threaded though the weave and weft
by men content with what was left
’til etched out on a bleached-out rag
they raised it on a half-mast flag.
And there it flew, both night and day,
a compass pointing out The Way,
an anchor in the sailors’ drift,
a code by which their lives were lived.
The heart stayed true, the bones held fast.
No blood or splinters left that mast,
not one shred of flag was lost,
not one bargain double-crossed.
A while, despite the crosswind’s blast,
it hung there from that steady mast
until that day when ragged, torn
it came away in tempest storm.
And when the storm was spent and through
this weathered, broken-hearted crew
stood over where the crossbones crossed
and recognised the heart was lost.
They crossed their own hearts, bowed and then
vowed loud it would be found again.
One day the vessel reached the shore
(The heart or ship? No-one was sure.)
but in some misshape, run aground
on blasted, parched, unholy land
the capsized love spilled on the beach
and scattered from the sailors’ reach
where it was found and carried off
by one portentous lovesick dove
who took the heart the crew had lost
and nailed it to a hilltop cross.
Wolves dragged it down as thunder cracked
It hid in stone. The stone rolled back.
The thunder rolled. The heart rolled too
back to the ship, the heartsick crew,
unseen by them. Convinced they’d failed
they lifted anchor, hoisted sail.
The heartless flag lay on the deck.
They tied it round the lifeless neck –
at just the point the crossbones cross –
of some abandoned albatross
the captain shot the day before
they’d pulled out from that wretched shore.
The weather turned from mild to mean
and evermore that heart, unseen,
rocked upon that curséd ship.
Successive crews in blind worship
would hear it from some distant mount
or glimpse it as a ghostly print
upon the shroud of that worn cloth
that once had been a flag with both
the heart and bones of life and death,
a martyr’s badge, a lover’s breath.
Next, GEOFF SUTTON with a contemporary ‘take’ on a poem by Auden.
TWENTY FIRST CENTURY REFUGEE BLUES
(with thanks to W.H.Auden)
This city has a river its waters are tidal and deep
Under its many bridges there are sheltered places to sleep
Good enough for you and me,Ali,
They’re good enough for you and me
Once we had a homeland pastures fresh sea air
Google it on a smart phone and you’ll see it’s still there
But we cannot go back now,Ali,
No we cannot go back there now
Fat for birds in the garden flap in the door for the cat
They should be gay like us,Ali,
Eastern Islamic black
PAUL FOX both intrigued and moved us with a ballad-style poem on a real piece of family history.
DEATH SENTENCE | Paul Fox
He went upstairs to Granddad
And lifted up his vest,
Then taking out his stethoscope
He listened to his chest.
He came back down to Grandma
And whispered with a sigh,
“I’m sad to tell you, Mrs Brough
Your husband’s going to die.”
The impact of that sentence
Cut Grandma like a knife.
It caused her such distress that she
Would come to lose her life.
A few hours later as she dwelt
On what the doctor said
Poor Grandma had a heart-attack
And sadly fell down dead.
Now Granddad beat pneumonia –
He fought the cough and pain,
But finding that his wife was dead
He sickened once again.
So Granddad pined and faded
With no one at his side
And just a few weeks later
He too fell down and died.
I often think of Grandma now
And how one sentence shocked her –
And how my poor grandparents
Were both killed by a doctor.
MAURICE LEYLAND supplied another intriguing poem.
LIGHT | Maurice Leyland
Light means danger,
flickering through the dense forest,
threatening reflections from frost-skimmed pools.
No sign of pursuers
only treacherous, ever-seeking beams
from searching, probing torches.
Danger spearing through the undergrowth,
hunting and harassing the fugitive,
who dodges and weaves
through the slashing, dagger-sharp thorns,
tearing his way towards freedom.
Gradually, the once dazzling threat mellows,
its piercing flood of light lessens,
grows feeble, without hope.
The trees helpfully spread out,
illuminated now by soft moonlight,
showing clearly the path to liberty.
The chase is over