this imperfect life

Having written this poem a few months ago, I now find myself wondering if it gets anywhere near communicating what I was trying to say. Did I even know what I was trying to say? Sometimes an idea is floating around somewhere in the space of the head, but trying to properly grasp it and then elucidate it in words seems near impossible.

How do we or should we deal with the ‘mess’ that is life, especially if one does not believe in the simple notions that religious doctrines offer, for example that all ‘good’ people will go to ‘heaven’ and the ‘bad’ to ‘hell’, or that a god will ultimately intervene in the mess and absolute ‘good’ will reign. I tend towards the Taoist view that all is relative, that there cannot be good without bad, and vice versa. And yet – how are we to deal with, in our heads, this negative stuff that is all around us? Is it ever possible to simply ‘accept’ it?

The American poet, Carl Sandburg, said that ‘Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.’  Someone else said that ‘a poem is never finished, only abandoned.’ Hmmm.

 

What else would you do with this imperfect life

but push the spade deep

into the sacred earth

to lift the glorious fruit,

having laboured

through the spinning cycle of seasons,

having lowered

your head into the driven hail?

 

but be mindful of each moment

after moment after moment,

knowing the impossibility of it,

and pretend thathomeless-person-asleep-in-doorway-in-mayfair-london-england-uk-bfmak9

all shall be well,

as you pass the sleepless girl

on a cardboard sheet

in a Swansea doorway,

the beggar on the streets

of Mumbai, Paris, Buenos Aires,street beggar

hear of another hopeful refugee

drowning homeless in the Mediterranean Sea?

 

but in those rare moments of clarity

remain grateful for the buzzard’s slow circles

on the rising thermals,

the first appearance of the primrose in spring;

attempt to breathe out the insistent grief,

sweat through the work of days,

getting mind and hands dirty?

 

© David Urwin 2017

Posted in homelessness, modern society, poetry, poverty, religion, religious thought | 1 Comment

Advice of a May evening

This is really advice to myself, although if any reader wants to take it as advice for him/herself, then feel free. Once a poem is released into the public ‘arena’, then it belongs to any and every reader to draw from it what they will. I have written a few poems in the past that were pieces of advice to myself, the result of a ceaselessly reflective and self-critical mind.

The photos were taken in the field behind the cottage I live in. How lucky I am, and yet it is also the result of personal choices made over years.

Advice of a May evening

DSCI0009

Walk out into the broad, open field

of a May evening, look up

and consciously see how

the sunset cirrus clouds echo

themselves and rhyme

their indefinable threads of grace

in the azure void;

stand under the shower of birdsong,

seek no word,

pursue no thought,

lay down your burden,

and inhale a deep breath

of nothing

and

everything

and be whole

a while.

DSCI0012

 

©  David Urwin 2017

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No particular reason

We live in a society and culture in which the ‘powers-that-be’ favour the haves, the go-getters, those who inherit wealth and privelege, profit-motivated big-business, and at the same time largely ignore the underclass of struggling, disadvantaged, ‘ordinary’ working (or non-working) people, because favouring the haves, the priveleged etc. inevitably creates this very underclass by means of hoarding wealth and privelege rather than sharing it out. All too often the struggle becomes too great for some people at the bottom of the heap. This is the kind of situation my poem seeks to highlight. A dark tale: be warned. ( If you have seen it, you might remember Ken Loach’s film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’ here.)

It is the second ‘specular’ poem I have written and put up on this site; that is, where the second stanza is a mirror of the first. See also my poem, ‘Dresden, 1945.’

 

No particular reason

 

There was no particular reason                                                                     traffic on flyovers

that made him slice his wrists open.

It was just another routine day,

the scent of lilac from suburban gardens,

the taste of traffic fumes assaulting the lungs,

the woeful world in its cage of steel and glass.

The children were in school learning to fail,

his wife was in hospital, scrubbing the floors.

Another limp trudge to the Job Centre,

all of the windows screaming money and sex.glass skyscraper

Every slick promise was on special offer.

Under the thundering concrete bridge

the ravenous river ferried him down,

as the shard of window glass opened a vein.

 

As the shard of window glass opened a vein,

the ravenous river ferried him down

under the thundering concrete bridge.

Every slick promise was on special offer,

all of the windows screaming money and sex.

Another limp trudge to the Job Centre.

His wife was in hospital, scrubbing the floors.

The children were in school learning to fail,

the woeful world in its cage of steel and glass,

the taste of traffic fumes assaulting the lungs,flyover and river

the scent of lilac from suburban gardens.

It was just another routine day

that made him slice his wrists open.

There was no particular reason.

©  dave urwin 2016

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Donkey jacket

This might be the only poem ever written about a donkey jacket! (If anyone knows otherwise, please let me know.) Some of my readers outside the UK may not be familiar with this item of clothing, so I will explain: it is a coat very commonly worn by working men, mainly associated with dockers, miners, roadworkers, railworkers etc., and at one time a ‘fashion’ item worn by ‘skinheads’.

It was invented by George Key of Rugeley in Staffordshire for the navvies working on the Manchester Ship Canal, and given its name because it was used by men operating the ‘donkey engines’. It has an added association for me in that I grew up not far from this canal, and sometimes used to cycle down there. I’ve had mine for 35 years, and this poem is to celebrate the long life of this coat.

 

Threadbare

 

It’s a wrap up warm from the wind                                                         dsci0001

kind of a coat,

threadbare at the collar and cuffs

and one button ripped off but tough

kind of a coat.

To my kids it was a joke of a coat:

‘it’s made from the skin of a donkey,

that’s why it’s called a donkey jacket’

kind of a joke;

or ‘it was made by a blind black bloke from Stoke

who loved donkeys’ kind of a joke.

Shoulder patches of black PVC worn and cracked

after thirty-odd years of hard graft,

wind and rain.

Pockets of deep comfort,

capacious enough for kittens,

(I once took two gingers for a walk,

one peeping from each pocket,

safe and warm in wide-eyed wonder),

now full of bits of straw and baler twine,

a fence staple or two, a plant label,

dust and detritus of a working rural life.

Bought in the Army and Navy store,                                 dsci0002

stuff for the working class outdoor

kind of a man.

Did my dad ever wear it when

tinkering with tappets,

adjusting the carburettor

or checking for spark in distributor cap,

and other mysteries of the 1960s

combustion engine?

Memories are hazy and incomplete now,

but I like to think that he did.

It’s a comforting kind of a coat.

Winter nights I wear it, collar up,

walking the dog around the fields,

the crisp frost reflecting moonlight,

Cassiopeia and Orion looking down,

seeing out my days.

 

 

© David Urwin 2016

Posted in clothing, donkey jacket, poetry, rural life | 5 Comments

The wordless earth

The coast of Pembrokeshire must be one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and I am priveleged to live so close to it. Unfortunately, I fail to get there very often, but managed a walk there recently. I am always promising myself that I will go more often. I promise myself again now. The poem is an attempt to deal with the idea of places on earth that just carry on being or growing, when we are not there, as in the Zen Buddhist notion that ‘the grass grows by itself’. We humans overestimate our importance on the planet- it would all carry on quite well enough without us, and indeed does so in the places from which we are absent (except for the damage we have done, and continue to do, on a global scale).

 

The wordless earth

 

 

No words                                                                 dsci0024

 

just grey sky

 

black rock

 

the vast ocean

 

sunlight meagre

 

on the horizon                                   dsci0020

 

a pair of choughs

 

stabbing at the cliff scree

 

blackthorn crouching low

 

where the winds scrape

 

and drag their harrow                dsci0017

 

the heather   the gorse

 

slowly growing

 

in our long  heedlessdsci0011

 

absence.

 

 

 

© David Urwin

 

Wooltack Point, Pembrokeshire, December 19th 2016.

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Not the Dabke

The following poem has just been published on the webzine, ‘I Am Not A Silent Poet’. Here is the link: https://iamnotasilentpoet.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/not-the-dabke-by-dave-urwin/

The war in Syria goes on and on. Nor should we forget the plight of Iraquis, Palestinians, Lebanese and many others in the Middle-East. Innocent civilians are pawns in the ‘game’ played by superpowers over oil, arms and religion, not to mention petty prejudice and hatred. Sad to say, but I think many men get a thrill from killing. Furthermore, human beings become entrenched in their belief systems and refuse to give way or compromise. Therefore, war goes on and on and on.

Not the Dabke                                                         palestinian-dabke

 

(the Dabke is a dance of Middle-Eastern origin, common in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, northern Saudi Arabia etc. It is performed at joyful occasions such as weddings.)

(To be read aloud to a jaunty rhythm, possibly with your foot tapping in time.)

Take your partners for the killing dance,                                                syrian-war-4

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

One step forward, two steps back,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Kill, kill, kill, kill.

The organisers watch from their houses on the hill,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

No one can stop it, they don’t have the will,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Kill, kill, kill, kill.

Rape a young woman in front of her child,                                                   syrian-war-2

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Then execute them both, as the crowd goes wild,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Kill, kill, kill, kill.

Change your partners, make new friends,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Make sure the supply of arms never ends,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Kill, kill, kill, kill.

The dance club’s bombed out, burned to the ground,                                 syrian-war-3

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

No cause for concern, another can be found,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Kill, kill, kill, kill.

The gamblers paid their money, they all want a winner,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

They’ll arrange the next dance over peace talks dinner,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Kill, kill, kill, kill.

The dancers to their gods all pray                                           syrian-war-1

they’ll live to dance another day.

They hear their Holy Scriptures say

kill, kill, kill, kill.

© Dave Urwin 2016

Posted in Middle East, poetry, Uncategorized, war poems | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How are we to live?

There is so often around us the depressing news of yet another human abuse: a murdered child, a bombing raid on innocent civilians, a homeless person frozen to death, ceaseless stories of children abused by those in a position of trust, and so on, and so on. The world can seem a cruel place. Yet there are so many things to be thankful for, to celebrate, to enjoy. How can we reconcile these opposing forces? Some are able to find a way of accounting for it through their religion. What of those of us who have no religion, no belief in a omnipotent god? We must wrestle ceaselessly with this thorny snake…

 

How are we to live?

 

How are we to live in this world

of mangled steel and tangled wire,

of battered babies and brutal dictators,

of delinquent priests and ruthless terrorists,

of imprisoned speech and crucified prophets,

homs-ruins

of melting ice and looming oceans

of toxic rivers and rubbled cities,

of raped children and abused wives,

of children killing children for something to do,

of the starving dying in the stinking street,

of tourists footsore from sweatshop souvenir shopping;

 

although the blackbird serenades his sweetheart

from the blossoming cherry by the bombed-out buildings;

although the music of the shining sunlight                                                  blackbird-in-cherry-blossom

scatters its indiscriminate blessings;

although peaches hang wanton from the fertile bough;

although there are many wondrous acts of

random and spontaneous human kindness?peaches

 

How are we to live in this world,

without running down the sparrow

in the dusty road

without weeding out the wild strawberry

from the stony path,

without becoming an addict or a slave

to any cause or idea,

to any programme or leader,                                                         che-guevara-quote

to any icon or idol;

without bearing false witness

to the despised or reviled,

to the mercenary deceiver,

to the arrogant ingrate?

 

How are we to live in this world

with its clenched fists

with its agonised screams

with its hidden lonely nightmares

with its aching heart?

 

 

©  Dave Urwin  2016

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