Monday, 27 December 2010


These verses were first published in Devon Life in October 1977. They were also runners up, we was robbed, for the Gladys Hunkin Poetry Prize of the University of Exeter. They are reprinted here by permission of the author. For the record, the Mr Bell of the fifth scene was Mr John Clapp of this pish who lived opposite The Green and who died some thirty years ago.

With noises borrowed from the old men's throats,
the raucous rooks about the chimney pots
are croaking out the old year, in the new.
Though January looks both ways, the old
look only back. The black rooks have foretold
this new year's cipher on the headstones too.
At the twilight calm when the smoke soars lazily,
out of the winter haze drift evening swans,
ghosts on the polished edge of the filling tide,
five white souls and two grey little ones.
Five hard working, chapel going fellows
and two, alas, who had their peccadillos.
Across the water, field and winter tree
sketched with a bamboo pen.
Like the shadow of Azrael's wing, the pewter sea
draws back and leaves old men
creaking for one tide more
in their long sea boots.
At low tide the banks wrinkle and fold like an old skin
and under the long abandoned limekiln
old anchors, links of chain,
rusted and forgotten,
rest in the mud.
Here too the old men
who stand and gaze with dimming eyes,
dreaming of wild green years and wild green seas.
As sure of resurrection as a Wesleyan
the winter sun goes down in fierce glory.
Old Mr. Bell has set aside his Bible
and tottered out to watch the setting sun.
The glowing banks are golden backed Leviathans.
And Mr. Bell, who fears the Lord's good name,
reminds the Lord his prophet has predicted
a rising sun with healing in its wings
and Mr Bell shall frisk like any calf.

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