Skip to main content

Summer time – holidays, beach days…


Summer time – sea and sand…

We live near the sea, so find ourselves there quite a bit, not just at this time of year. Especially now though, with grandchildren expecting a day on the beach. 
Buckets and spades, bats and balls, bags of food and drink, towels and clothes and all that paraphernalia we lug down… playing on the sand is both a simple and a complicated business.


I don’t know if it’s something to do with getting older, but increasingly now when I’m at the seaside I find myself reminded of death and destruction.

The very sand is substantially made up of countless shells, exoskeletons of once living creatures, each one painstakingly self-constructed.  From them all, the life has gone.  And now the gracefully fashioned ceramic, the solid part that managed to survive (if that be the word), long after the contents vanished, is itself ground up, or down, into dust – or, in this context, sand.

Then there’s the crab containers, the cuttlefish shields, cast off pincers and all the unrecognisable fragments, bits and pieces of so many bodies, washed up and blown around. And now reduced.  I crunch along, crushing all this residue, contributing to its further disintegration.

The whole landscape can be seen as one colossal, ancient, but still living (so to speak) graveyard.

Sorry if this all sounds a bit grumpy.
Of course, I love being in the water, the fresh air, sounds and big skies, and can’t help but share the happiness of dog and children, so such morbid thoughts are often blown away.

But there’s a certain beach, one that we only occasionally visit, which can seriously depress me.  Partly because of the wanton destruction that I once witnessed there – the fact that members of my own species did this, and with such delight – but (perhaps mainly) because I failed to say anything.

OK, it wasn’t a living thing that was destroyed.  I hope it’s not too anthropomorphic to say that a musical instrument possesses characteristics which justify some respect, even in old age when its functions are lost. Perhaps those very qualities account for some of the events, the actions and reactions, that took place?

I’m not sure, but the dispersed materials will have long since been dissolved, consumed and recycled.  Maybe even made it into sand.



End of a Piano

The iron skeleton, green bearded, stubbled
with barnacles encrusted and rusted
is revealed at low tide.  It was a public spectacle.
No blood was shed, though one got a blister.

The men laid in with heavy hammers –
those same ten fingers fit for performance
became fists round a handle. Each for himself,
a single striker, playing con forza

they splintered the shell which fell apart
revealing an expectant row
of flimsy little felted hammers
to be smashed, then rods and dampers.

For some resistant mechanism
a hand plunged in to wrench it out.
Keys were buckled, splayed and shattered.
In this discordant final recital

they played the piano to its death.
As for the music stand and pedals
I cannot say what happened
but bits were stamped into the sand.

In victory astride what remained
they smiled and posed for the photos,
hammers still in hand.  There was no carnage –
except for that blister.

All this I saw from my window
in silence.  The tide returned.
Panels and actions soon floated away,
leaving that wreck of a frame.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A plague on all these houses

It's a great poem, Lowell's For the Union Dead.
I only recently came across it - at least, that's what I thought - but it's been grunting (I choose the word advisedly) away in my head ever since, especially that fourth verse.

Behind their cage,
yellow dinosaur steam shovels were grunting
as they cropped up tone of mush and grass
to gouge their underworld garage.

It took a little while for me to realise why.
Before (I thought) I'd read it, I wrote a poem about the new housing estates springing up round our little town. I was thinking about the various creatures that had lived on the field that was to be covered with houses - sheep primarily - and then those that were to follow.

The first were, well, a sort of dinosaur.

Here's my second verse:

At first it was the one-armed monsters,
set free within their caged arena
to trundle round, and gently paw
the ground, then pile up mounds of earth
accompanied by Lego men.

I was pleased with my trope, so muc…

Happy Christmas!

Christmas – or if you prefer, Solstice, Hanukkah, or just This Special Time…







Stop now.  For a moment, wait. And look.  From here you can see far. In this direction, where we’ve been – the climb, the ups and downs.
Now turn around. There before you lies the future.  At the summit of the year there’s time to rest, and be refreshed – let’s gather here, so we may share each other’s company, look forward to the new arrivals, lives to come travelling into this misty landscape, and in our brightness bring to mind those no longer in our group.
So drop your rucksack, get your breath back the old year lies behind – for now let’s all enjoy the present gift-wrapped here before us.


I’m quite sure this little poem has no great literary, let alone poetic merit, but hey we don’t always have to be polished, clever, neat or profound. Or original. Or elegant.
Especially not when you’ve just got to the top of a mountain.
But there is a definite and justified sense of celebration to be savoured then.
I’ve always loved moun…

The Cadence

He embraces the sheep
an ungainly bundle unusually tilted
now leaning back against the man
who bowed over, grasps with his knees
and left hand, to perform. Like a cellist

he knows how to play.
Fingertips splayed to tension the skin
right hand guiding across the bridge
a gleam of blades to separate fleece –
music from silence, wrapped up in wool.

The animal listens
accepting the prospect of resolution ahead,
resigned to his practised hands, grip of the thighs
the charm of the music
and caressing of steel.

He stretches his arm out
to reach high notes in third position.
Lanolined leather feet shift softly beneath.
The sheep tips back more to enable the soar
of melody heard only by them.

He lets fall the burden
accustomedly righting the sheep. He arises
to bow for a moment as if in acknowledgement
then straightens – the fleece being lifted
and folded, like music.

The performer resumes
with no pause for applause. He turns
to the next – there are more
many more waiting. So the music contin…