Billy and The Angel

The angel sat on the edge of the trench smoking a cigarette as a new dawn rose over the ruined landscape.
‘There’s always someone worse off than you’ it said.
Billy looked around with the eye that he still had left to see.
The trench was full of mud and blood, most of which, observed Billy, was his.
‘I don’t see anyone’ he said.
‘Look harder’ said the angel.
‘My legs hurt’ said Billy.
‘That’ll be the legs that you no longer have’ said the angel.
A tear fell from Billy’s eye.
‘No use crying over spilt milk.’
Billy wiped the tear from his one eye with the one arm he had left.
‘God help me’ he said.
‘Praying for yourself now?’ said the angel, smiling, ‘Tut, tut.’
Billy despaired.
‘Give me a break, for fuck’s sake.’
‘Look’ said the angel, pointing, ‘over there.’
Billy strained his one eye in the darkness and saw, ten foot down the trench under a pile of wooden planks and body parts and broken ammunition boxes, something stir.
‘There you go’ said the angel.
‘There you go what?’ said Billy.
‘Someone worse off than you.’
‘Help me’ said a feeble voice, ‘please help me.’
‘Well go on’ said the angel to Billy, ‘do something.’
Billy looked with his one eye at the arm he no longer had left and the legs he no longer had and the blood all around him that was mostly his and said:
‘I’m sorry.
I can’t.’
‘Help me’ said the voice, ‘please help me.’
‘How the fuck’ said Billy to the angel, ‘is he worse off than me right now?’
‘It’s simple’ said the angel, blowing a cloud of smoke across the last star.
‘Nobody loves him.’
A warm wave washed over Billy’s heart and he remembered the sweet peas in his grandmother’s garden and the warm smell of home.
‘Oh’ he said.
‘Help me’ said the voice.
‘I’m here for you, brother’ said Billy.
‘Goodbye, Billy’ said the angel.
‘I’m here.’

© Gail Foster 30th July 2019

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What’s it about for you, then?

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What’s it about for them, then

Loneliness, poverty, pain

Bang of the bailiff at the door

Death in a ditch in the rain

What is it like for the Joneses

Bigger and better you think

Posh port and pigs in blankets

Sick in the kitchen sink

What’s it about for him, then

A clock, and an empty chair

Picture of her on the mantelpiece

Candle smoke curls in the air

What is it like for her, do you think

Hairdo and heels and hurrah

Hampers and champers from Harrods

Packed in to Daddy’s car

What’s it about for the Christians

Return of the sacred child

Under a star in a stable bare

Jesus, meek and mild

What is it like for the Druids, then

Stood in the circle at dawn

Frost on the moss on frozen stone

Lit by the sun reborn

What’s it about for the children

Mysterious, glittery, bright

Hope of a mythic benevolence

Come as a thief in the night

 …

What is it like for us, then

Rushing and spending and stressing

Cursing the souls in the queue at the till

Kissing a friend with a blessing

 …

What will it be like for you, then

What will you will it to be

Riotous ostentation, or

Peace and sweet charity

 …

What it’s about for me is this

One white and holy dove

The silence after the shops have shut

And love

 *

© Gail Foster 3rd December 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She Comes

Silbury Spring

A rhyme written for the Spring Equinox

and the Gorsedd of the Bards

at Avebury, Wiltshire

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For all the night she trod the furrowed earth

As she has walked all winter in her wake

In seeking for the child she brought to birth

The maiden bride whom Hades chose to take

The gibbous moon is waxing to the bright

And shedding shifting shadows on the lands

One single moonbeam spills down through the night

Upon the rutted earth on which she stands

Made heavy by the weight of mother’s tears

The ground beneath her feet begins to yield

The imprint of a child’s foot appears

Emerging from the darkness of the field

The dawn is tinting grey the silken skies

The lifting mist moves gulls to take the air

She swears she hears these words within their cries

She comes, she comes, she comes, is nearly there…

Around the hill of Silbury swirl the springs

From many sources meeting there as one

Upon the fence a bardic blackbird sings

His songs of seasons ended and begun

The heron stands in wait down by the brook

The willows’ leaves weave rills upon the stream

The cormorant is fishing for the rook

Whose shadow shapes a fish from daybreak’s gleam

From alder trees drip drops of ancient dew

Like shining crystals, in to waters deep

The grey of morn becomes a brighter blue

New lambs are woken from the dark womb’s sleep

A muffled drumbeat pounds within her bones

Thrills through her feet and trembles in her chest

Draws from four corners people of the stones

To stand and lay the winter to his rest

Can it be so, she thinks, that she will come

And willingly escape the thrall of Hades

Be called by this fast beating of the drum

To dance among the wild lords-and-ladies

The drum, the drum, the Druid in the East

The daylight shattering the glass of night

Behold the mead and cake that form the feast

Behold the glorious blessing of the light

The blazing gorse flames yellow on the hill

Bright shafts of sun surround the Druid’s head

She comes, she comes, my daughter liveth still

Released at last from fathoms of the dead

Her eyes are purple crocuses; her hair

Is woven through with wood anemones

She shocks the eyes, her presence is so rare

And strong, as hyacinths upon the breeze

She wears the sun a-shimmer on her dress

In folds of drops of snow and celandines

And, as befits she with the power to bless

Comes riding on a stag of seven tines

She speaks unto the awed and silent crowd

“I come” she says “I bring the fire of life

I come to cast my seeds on fields ploughed

To quell your hunger and relieve your strife

I bring you daylight from the depths of hell

Where I with Hades am forever wed

Of Christ and Dionysus I shall tell

In sacred stories of the risen dead”

The crowd are stunned to silence, robbed of breath

She came, she came, brought winter to his knees

Defied the dreadful tide of dark and death

To bless the ground with shoots, and trees with leaves

The ancient Druid offers up the cup

The wine of her libations there to sip

He bows his head, as down she stoops to sup

And touch the cup upon her rosy lip

And with this act the sunlight floods the sky

The spell is broken by the touch of earth

And Demeter runs forward with a cry

To hold the maiden that she brought to birth

The seasons come, the seasons go, and all

Shall rise and fall and fade and reappear

And Spring shall once more answer to the call

Of Hades at the dying of the year

But here, by mother love and heat of day

Persephone is made a child again

To run upon the hills; to dance and play

And plant her flowers in the world of men

*

© Gail Foster 2016

Here Speaks The Magic Work Of Raymond John

Inspired by the writings of Raymond John Burt…

 

Here speaks the magic work of Raymond John

Intrigue in reference, delight in phrase

I’m curious as to what, my friend, you’re on

That powers your pen to so the mind amaze

Let he that has an ear be still and hear

Let she who has an eye seek out the light

For here some crazy wisdom doth appear

On wild wings of angels in the night

For Love and God and Death and Grace and Hell

Within your words take buttered toast and tea

More syllabub, Beelzebub?  Pray tell

What syllables might set the Sibyls free

Get thee behind me, ghosts, take flight, be gone!

Here speaks the magic work of Raymond John

 

© Gail from Devizes 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blossom Rising

On the deaths of Major John Cairns Bartholomew, of Wadworthshire,

and a much loved Devizes tree…

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Beneath a grey and monumental sky

In wild confetti clouds that dance in air

The blossom falls, all trees and men will die

However good, or beautiful, or rare

For years beneath the branches of that tree

Have lovers kissed and lonely mourners waited

All men and trees shall die, he, thee, and me

By that same force destroyed and yet created

The clattering of horses’ hooves, the sound

Of yeoman passing, ghosts that haunt the ears

All trees and men be gone into the ground

Till from the light new word of life appears

In red Victorian brick and petal glow

Are strength and beauty blended for our eyes

Good men and trees in season come and go

Such knowledge is the glory of the wise

Drink with your eyes each bright delight you see

And savour every moment of creation

For man will pass, and wind will fell the tree

And wine will fall on coffins in libation

If blood still flows like sap, then drain your glass

Enjoy the fleeting sunbeam in your ale

All trees and men will die, for all things pass

All moonlight fade, and colours turn to pale

Let hops be gathered, make of sunshine, hay

Add rosebuds, and ferment a heady brew

For trees and men shall certain pass away

As dark of midnight shadows summer’s blue

And soon enough, last orders will be rung

Sad flags will flutter half way up the mast

And dark laments for men and trees be sung

And rest be found for dear old souls at last

Learn wisdom, child, from ale and wood and bone

Brew love in barrels down in cellars deep

And find it there when you return, alone

To watch the man in blossom rise from sleep

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by Gail

The Curious Offering of the Sacristan

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The curious offerings of sacristans

Are given in obscure humility

The symbol of the cupping of the hands

Enshrines the essence of this mystery

The dawn unlocked; the turning of a key

The mystic world behind the little door

The mourning weepers, watching, silently

The quiet foot upon uneven floor

The layered shadowed centuries; the pass

Of long dead worshippers before the throne

Slow shifts of coloured pools of stains of glass

Soft drift of latticed light on pillar stone

The empty candle, thirsting for new oil

Unscrewed and filled, screwed up again and lit

The hidden corners, carved by masons’ toil

In which a wary flickered flame may flit

The covering, uncovering; each fold

Of linen and of altar cloth an art

Within the starch of white, on marble cold

The space to hold His living, beating heart

Here, understated wafers wait in line

For blessing, as an unblessed congregation

Here silver, water, light, and red wine shine

Anticipating sacred consecration

Here eye, and hand, and mind, seek symmetry

In objects placed, in psychic ebbs and flows

Seek that perfection only God can see

In right angle and scented mystic rose

When all are done and gone, her hands will shake

The fragments of His flesh on holy ground

Shed drops upon the earth its thirst to slake

Pour water through the light without a sound

When all are gone, all blessed with wine and bread

There, in the East, where better men have trod

She kneels and presses to the step her head

And, lost in awe, she speaks these words to God

I am that ancient soul you always knew

A part of you, from when time first began

The I am that I am, the that in you

That serves thee, as I will, while still I can

I come to you as Christian, Muslim, Jew

Agnostic, Gnostic, Druid, Angel, Man

In the cupping of my hands I give to you

The curious offering of the sacristan

© Gail Foster 2016

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This poem has been chosen as Poem of the Month at Sherborne Abbey

I’m thrilled

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Satire and The Soul

Kevan Manwaring, in his book The Bardic Handbook, suggests that we

satirise ourselves in order to see how it feels…

 

With satire comes responsibility

Thus spake the bard, regarding cosmic law

‘Tis true that thought and act and speech are free

But heed the truth learned by the bards of yore

What goes around and round will soon return

To that dark human place where it began

And pain shall be the lesson he shall learn

Who points his pen in anger at a man

Lest he forget, we none of us shine bright

That are not sullied by some silent shade

And he who seeks another man to slight

May curse the pen that bore the words he made

For what we see in others, we have known

Some simple human neediness or greed

The weakness we perceive is like our own

Who knows a tree that has not seen a seed

So satirise yourself, so spake the bard

Before you dare another man to mock

And turn upon yourself a light as hard

As that with which you wish a man to shock

Unshadow your shortcomings, write them true

Or fall upon your failings like a sword

For this is what you would to others do

And thine own self hast thine own pen ignored

Now weigh the pain you draw like blood from light

With cut of blade, of swift and vicious pen

Look down upon yourself from lofty height

As you would fain look down on other men

What do you see, but merely flesh and fear

A naked frightened soul that cries for love

All sorrow bound and clothed in darkness drear

With eyes up turned in hope to light above

Have pity, spake the bard, for every word

You wield will have the power to wound or heal

Remember what you here have seen and heard

Think twice before you cause a man to feel

The lacerations of your jagged wit

The schadenfreude of your savage ire

Lest you be made to join him in the pit

Lest you be so consumed in that same fire

He snuffed the candle flame, picked up his book

And left the poet, wise from sorrow shown

An unveiled mirror’s face in which to look

At imperfection that was his alone

 

With satire comes responsibility

For what goes forth returns, of that be sure

And you are that which you in others see

The naked frightened soul the poet saw

 

by Gail