Many Mansions; for Sister David Lewis

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Photograph of Sister David Lewis reproduced by kind permission of Scott Coleman

Sister David Lewis taught for many years at St. Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Devizes in Wiltshire, and will be remembered by many with affection and gratitude. 

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I’m crying for a Catholic nun

Who once was kind to me

As I sat there in my miniskirt

Bad mother, C of E

“Sister David, the police came round

And battered down the door”

“Well, do you know, my dear,” she said

“I’ve heard that one before”

And she blessed me, without blinking

With a smile on her face

And I knew I was forgiven

Hail Mary, full of grace

And I can hear as clear as day

The words she said to me

“In my father’s house, my dear,

There many mansions be”

*

© Gail Foster 29th December 2016

 

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Phoenix Rose; for Lisa Lewis

 

Lisa Lewis is the CEO of Doorway in Chippenham

She’s a legend.  Just don’t mess with her, right…

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Don’t mess with Lisa, she’s a scary

Far out full on punky fairy

Crowned with violent flowers and sage

And riding on her harnessed rage

Through tangled wood and thorny bower

To speak unsubtle truth to power

Don’t mess with Lisa, man, she’s scary

Wise be wise and fools be wary

For she will tread where no man goes

To seek those things that no one knows

Expect no mercy if you cross her

Best be right and not a tosser

Don’t mess with Lisa, she’s so scary

Medusa crossed with Virgin Mary

Bottle, balls, and Occam’s razor

Prosecco, throttle up, and tazer

Wild light to make a diamond shy

And tears forbidden from her eye

Don’t mess with Lisa, man, she’s scary

That’s one well effective fairy

Pierced with wisdom to the bone

Dark metal angel stood alone

Feared and loved by all she knows

A phoenix, from the darkness rose

*

© Gail Foster 2016

 

On the death of Mohammed Ali; three clerihews

The man was a legend.  Respect.

I hope he would have enjoyed my use of the clerihew in this context.

If not then it’s not like he can hit me, now, is it?

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So farewell, Cassius Clay, Ali

You knocked out a bit of poetry

That butterfly one sure packed a sting

And well done on the boxing thing

*

Mohammed, man, you’re counted out

You gave the boxing thing a shout

Wrote rhyme to make a grown man cry

And dodged the draft like a butterfly

*

Ali, you’ve packed your final punch

Man, you took boxing out to lunch

Men say that you are God today

Who made Mohammed out of Clay

*

© Gail Foster

 

Rosemary’s Funeral

Mother’s Day is an emotional time, especially for folk who no longer have their Mums around. My mother is long gone, bless her. She died at this time of year, in 1990. I wrote this last year for Mother’s Day, and the coming of Spring. It’s actually a celebration of her so no need for tears.

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My mother’s coffin on the bier, up the cobbled steps to St. Mary’s church. My babe folded warm to my breast. Green turf on the hill and the early cry of lambs upon the Plain. Warm breath, warm wind, the knell of an ancient bell, solemn steps up to the sacred temple, dedicated to His mother, The Mother, all mothers, my mother.

For Spring is a dying in itself. My child stirs. She waited for him before her passing. I pressed him to her breast as she lay dying, her window open, bright gifted daffodils a-stirring on the sill. I took a photograph and have it still. My mother, blessed in her helplessness, still fierce in her humility, with a twinkle in her eye, a warm smile and her only grandchild in her arms.

Funeral over and back in the light my son and I await new life.

*

by Gail

Farewell Father Jack; a clerihew

Father Jack is a character in an English/Irish sitcom called Father Ted, which is about Catholic priests living on an island. The joke of Father Jack is that he is always drunk and, when he is not being hidden from visiting clergy, just sits in his chair spitting expletives. Today Frank Kelly, the actor who played him so brilliantly, died. The English clerihew is a good form with which to pay him tribute.

So, farewell then, Father Jack
Let this be writ upon a plaque
“All things pass;
Drink, feck, arse…”

by Gail

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

*

by Gail

Dear Old Johnny Walter

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Here comes Johnny Walter, the old geezer on the bike

When he waves and says “Hello there” there’s not much not to like

He is kind and he is funny, and he’s full of Wiltshire wit

He remembers everybody’s name and gets about a bit

For a man of nearly eighty his humour is quite dry

Never underestimate the twinkle in his eye

A Moonraker, a character, an ancient Briton, he

Who reckons that his ancestors lived in Avebury

A child of New Park Street, who heard and smelled and saw

The weary trains of soldiers marching homewards from the war

Who, when he was a teenager, learned how to spin a spool

And hung out at The Palace, and was far too cool for school

Imagine all the movies that he showed throughout the years

How he moved an auditorium to laughter, shock and tears

Fifty years of pictures, all those newsreels and Bond

Folk walking home from Psycho, getting spooked out by the pond

Folk snogging in the back row, swapping hormones, spit and smoke

The porn, the pot, the popcorn, and the icecream, and the coke

Johnny hung out with the Mods, and took a scooter trip to France

And liked to watch the ladies, with a beer, at a dance

Until he married Margaret; ‘twas as his father said

“If you take her to the bedroom, you will end up in the bed”

Johnny didn’t mind at all when she with child fell

First came little baby Michael, and then Carolyn as well

And the cottage, out in Cheverell, where flowed a little stream

Happy years of family, a rural rosy dream

Until the day that Margaret was taken far too soon

Leaving Johnny on his own, to marvel at the chilly moon

He kept calm, and carried on, ‘cos he’s a solid sort of guy

Kids to bring up, work to do and not much time to cry

But to this day he misses her, puts flowers on her grave

One could call him stoical, or practical, or brave

Yet in his quiet moments, sometimes, silent tears fall

Better to have loved, he thinks, than not have loved at all

Kept calm and carried on, and bore his lot with love and grace

Always greeting friends with a bright smile on his face

He stirred the jam at Easterton, rang all the village bells

He filled the air with music and with sweetened fruity smells

He’s still batty in a belfry, still a jammy sort of cove

You’ll see him with his faithful dog, with whom he likes to rove

You might think he’s a boy racer, in his go fast stripy car

He knows who’s who, and who does what, and where wild flowers are

He has grandchildren, great grandchildren, a garden, and some fish

He has the sort of life for which most decent folk would wish

He is full of Wiltshire wisdom, in a quiet sort of way

You’ll see him thinking carefully about what he should say

When he meets you in the street, and doffs his syrup and his hat

And asks after your family, your garden, and your cat

He has some little sayings, gleaned from years of Wiltshire lore

But doesn’t always understand what certain words are for

He can sometimes drop a clanger, with no malice or intent

And once he even asked me what ‘bisexual’ meant

“We’re all different” he says, “it just don’t do to be the same

Tubs should rest on their own bottoms, for the best chance at the game”

He is a loyal friend to many, and a much belovéd Dad

Just the kindest lovely man that Wiltshire ever had

 ‘Tis true that good things come in some unusual disguises

Like dear old Johnny Walter, gentle spirit of Devizes

 *

by Gail