(Wikimedia Commons; Fg2 Ama Pearl Diver, 2005)
Women of the sea,
you took the world’s breath away!
You plumbed the sea floor,
in order to harvest pearls.
Your slim waist shackle
was an umbilical cord.
You wouldn’t reflect
on the endgame should it break.
You signalled by one small tug
One find could buy redemption.
All this for beads to
wreath throats of those who believed
this planet was their oyster.
Long ago, people
showed great appreciation
for all poetry.
If an Emperor was to
hand you an inkstone and say:
Write down a poem!
you’d be obliged to comply.
The Naniwazu would do,
as would Kokin Shu.
You couldn’t excuse yourself,
or your memory.
Calligraphy could be poor,
but you had to show your taste.
A re-blog from Sat., Nov 5th last year.
(Photo by Jonathan Billinger, 2007. St John the Baptist Church, Great Rissington; Wikimedia Commons)
I visited the church today as I wanted to somehow commemorate five
brothers who were all killed in World War 1. Their youngest brother-
Percy Soul- died of meningitis after the war. He was the sixth son.
Apparently some villagers were annoyed that Mrs Soul received financial
‘compensation’ for her five sons’ deaths in service.
Later she moved to Great Barrington. She had three daughters who must
have been traumatised by the loss of their brothers.
I kept thinking of Fry’s Five Boys chocolate, for some reason and I checked
that it was in production when the boys were young. It was. I hope they
were able to enjoy this childish luxury as they ran around the fields,
scratching their names on the beams of a barn. Maybe not, if they were
(Photo by Kim Traynor, 2013. Own work of enamel sign.)
It was freezing cold today. Inside there were wall monuments to others
who had died – centuries before. One girl had only been 19 when she
There was a little trapped wren inside and an aspiring organist who
arrived for a practice. I don’t know how he could have attempted to play
with cold hands!
Anyway, I went home and thought I’d try a villanelle. The rhymes are
limited, but there are 5 tercets- one for each brother, maybe. It ends with
a quatrain, where the rhyme feels a bit anti-climactic. But then, maybe it
suits the content… All ready for Remembrance Day. Let’s Not Forget.
The Lost Souls of Great Rissington
So, she wouldn’t stand for God Save The King,
though all five sons lay down for him and died.
For each life she pocketed a shilling.
The candle in her window kept burning,
watched by a girl who’d never be a bride.
And a mother and three sisters crying
was no salve for the sharpness of Death’s sting.
Over the cow-common, The Windrush sighed
and, in a drawer, telegrams were yellowing.
The candle guttered- a Soul was leaving.
The Roll Up Yonder couldn’t be denied.
No bugler registered this sibling.
In a village barn there is a carving-
names of hopeful lads which emphasised
desires for immortality. Living
in a peaceful hamlet? No, perishing-
even a twin had no one at his side.
While some entrenched neighbours were gossiping,
lethal as shrapnel and more exacting.
(St John the Baptist Church, Great Rissington
Photo by Jonathan Billinger, 2007)
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Paul was in the agora (market-place)
and saw the altar to The Unknown God.
Unimpressed by ineffability,
he was moved to make a proclamation.
Being keen on words and declaration,
he spelled out the Creator’s qualities.
A skilled orator, he had qualities
respected by debaters in that place.
Converts were won by his declaration.
Diogenes submitted to Paul’s God
and was made Bishop by proclamation:
an agent for Ineffability.
Could God retain ineffability
and yet reveal immanent qualities?
His Son, some say, was the Proclamation-
the One prepared to come down to this place,
to manifest the true nature of God
the Father – a fleshly declaration.
Not speculation, but declaration
Paul introduced the Personhood of God
and defined the Almighty’s qualities.
Stoics, Epicureans in that place
felt the power of his proclamation.
The gods had made their own proclamation
on that very site and a declaration
of guilt had been conferred in that same place,
for crimes besmirch ineffability:
Halirrhothius judged for qualities
inconsistent with the ways of a god.
On that steep Hill of Mars, who was the god
of War, Paul made a love proclamation.
He swept away the fickle qualities
of their deities. His declaration
was that Divine Ineffability
condescended to one time and one place.
Paul’s proclamation; God’s declaration:
of qualities, so we transcend our place.
(Photo: Ballista: Wikipaedia)
Great Coxwell’s Barn
Off Hollow Way stands this vast, vacant barn:
huge receptacle for Cistercian tithes,
garnered from tenant farmers – a dry store,
where the granger checked accounts; did not trust
his hired servants. Here Cotswold riches
were protected from thieves and from decay.
Christ had warned disciples about decay
and storing up of surplus in a barn.
Christians were always meant to share riches
and not to extract profit from fat tithes.
The parable’s ‘fool’ was he whose whole trust
was in possessions. He had wrath in store.
Henry VIII would plunder a marked store
and most abbeys were subject to decay.
Monastic wealth was held in deep distrust.
Though Morris praised this cathedral-like barn,
Pre-Raphaelites would not restore tithes;
they venerated aesthetic riches.
We coveted colonial riches
and viewed the whole world as potential store,
compelling other countries to pay tithes;
forgetting moth and rust would cause decay.
What were the treasures we stored in our barn?
We’ll reap what we sowed: we abused faith, trust.
Joseph, in whom Pharoah had put his trust,
managed underground silos of riches
and, when his brothers came – not to a barn-
but to the pits where corn was kept in store,
did they recall they’d left him to decay
in such a space? (He who asked no tithes.)
This massive hulk, once packed with peasant tithes,
now supported by The National Trust,
mouldered with neglect; died of decay,
until ‘heritage’ was seen as riches.
What are the values we would like to store?
Should we maintain the past? Convert the barn?
Some build barns with their family riches,
but tithes benefited community,
as long as mutual trust did not decay.
(Photo: View of An Sgurr, 2008 by Mike Garratt. Creative Commons)
He came from Erin: leaned on his bachail
and celebrated Holy Mysteries,
overlooking Poll nam Partan. His monks,
his muinntir, chanted psalms on Easter’s eve,
baa-ing with sheep, yet he had no shepherd –
no Anam Cara when the slaughter came.
The Queen of Moidart was not of his fold.
She roasted him in his refectory,
unwilling to respect the Lamb of God.
She took the lives of fifty brothers too,
to re-assert her power and grazing rights.
Strange lights flickered over the monks’ corpses
and lured her Pictish women up the slopes
to Sgurr of Eigg. At Loch nam Ban Mora,
luminescence lingered, tantalising
her warriors, who waded out and drowned.
Columba, you did not want to be-friend
one destined for red martyrdom and yet
The Northern Lights received him to glory;
his abbatial staff hooked in the lost
of many a future generation.
And now for the final Eight, Lower rank, in my series of boussokusekika
on the twenty two shrines:
(Wikimedia Commons Photo:
663highland; June 2008.)
Your shrine was once burnt
when a Daimyo killed his foes
and yet he was blessed:
in ‘Tenka Fubu.’*