Posted by: John Looker | 16 September, 2018

With These Rings

With These Rings ...


   ... we (now fifty years ago!)
   us wed.

Two rings fresh-minted, blazoning out Just-Married
and we fresh-faced with nothing in the bank
and a flat in – marvellous name! – Hope Park.

   See how they’ve been transmuted as Time
   has fled:

scratched and worn, too tight or prudently enlarged.
And we? Weather-beaten & harrowed. But you lovely as ever
though your heart is limping; it’s those years of generous loving.

   Scenes from the life we have made go round 
   in my head. 

I had thought of saying we were goldsmiths
working away at the same task, getting it wrong, getting it right,
but no – it’s more like alchemy: how did I find such gold?

   Me, thou – darling woman, I do so love
   us wed!


© John Looker 2018

Yes, my wife and I have reached our Golden Wedding Anniversary and I am immensely fortunate. 

 

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Posted by: John Looker | 26 August, 2018

‘Voices loud in martial prayer’

Each month this year, more or less, I am posting a poem from my book The Human Hive. This one is taken from Part Four, ‘Tribal Loyalties’ which considers the darker side of human nature. Although the poem describes a historic event, the culmination of religious conflict which in 1618 ignited the Thirty Years War in Europe, it seems painfully relevant to the world today.

The Defenestration of Prague

No blood here now, unless imagination
can paint the grey stone brown along the sill.
No water in the moat below, just grass.
And such a sense of peace.
It takes imagination to conceive
of how rough hands and over-certain minds,
calling on God but vying for civil power,
could hurl those men and all Bohemia with them
into a war of thirty years –
the Holy Roman Empire, dukedoms, fiefs,
cottage and mill – out of this room
of elegant refinement, out of this land 
of settled prosperity, into a world
where would-be theologians write their theses
with the sword, voices loud in martial prayer,
their conscience clear. 

© John Looker 2015

The Human Hive was published in 2015 by Bennison Books and is available through Amazon at a modest price. You can also read a selection of its poems here on this blog – see the page at:

https://johnstevensjs.wordpress.com/extracts-from-the-human-hive-bennison-books-2015/

Posted by: John Looker | 22 July, 2018

In a Strange Land

In Strange Land

 

Passports :- Baggage :- Arrivals. And it’s bedlam!
A melée like a field of medieval battle,
shoving, shouting, scuffling,
the announcements and all the signs completely baffling,
and only this thought consoles:
that somewhere this pandemonium conceals
a chauffeur trying to be heard
and a well-dressed aide with a clear head.
Where are they though? Ten minutes. Thirty.
Only the hustlers remain, grabbing and hissing out “Taxi?”

… pitched on the bank of a river where the adult males
are fidgeting with spears … guarding a train of mules
through a strange bazaar … bringing the caravel
into a bay to be met by prowling canoes …

and they know (regressing to childhood prayer),
they know that they’re quarry, they’re prey.

 

© John Looker 2015

 

This is another poem from The Human Hive (Bennison Books, 2015), a collection of poems looking at life through the work that we do, down the ages and round the globe. This one comes from Part 3 which rejoices in international travel.

 

Posted by: John Looker | 21 June, 2018

Midsummer’s Night, a User’s Guide

A poem for the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere:

Listen: perhaps we’ll hear

the cold, pewter-coloured sea,
slapping on a Danish shore.

It’s late. The light is dying
slowly – imperceptibly –
and now the eye picks out

along the coast,
across the many fields,
the presence of bonfires, banishing primal fears.

Each one is ringed by ancient silhouettes,
tankards raised, singing as the pale sun sets.

Summer has crept to its own high-tide limit
where it lingers for weeks
before finally – stealthily –

ebbing away. Why do we note
this day rather than others,
all so hard to distinguish?

Turning our backs against the night,
draining our mead, we master

the things that we can.

© John Looker 2018 & 2010

First published in 2010, this is a poem that still means something to me.

Posted by: John Looker | 3 June, 2018

The Death of Pocahontas

I’m really grateful to Artemis journal (USA) for publishing this poem last month:

The Death of Pocahontas

This was the Thames, she had thought, not the Styx,

having sailed with the tide from London’s wharves
but berthed some miles downstream.

Gravesend, they said.
Not a name that augurs well. And then,
confined to her bunk in fever, back it all flowed:

not the spires and domes,
the forbidding Tower or the stinking streets,
the clangour of bells; not the Palace at Whitehall,
that warren of rooms, noisy and odorous
with courtiers in their wealth of clothing;
nor her presentation at Court.

In the half-light of her cabin – the ship restlessly
shifting with the water, its timbers groaning and cracking –
she lay weakening, her great adventure fading.

In her delirium she walked again the coast
where she was born; paddled its lagoons and creeks;
she breathed the thick humidity of summer nights thrumming
with insect life; heard voices in her own language
whispering of still-unrelinquished beliefs
and her secret name spoken. 

They had taken on board fresh water, supplies
for a dozen weeks at sea but were moored here, aghast,
watching, her great adventure prematurely fading.

And yet – such a journey! Even the snow goose,
appearing on the lakes of her native land each fall,

travels merely in time and space.

© John Looker 2018

This is the last of ten poems that consider historic or legendary journeys, to be the opening part of a book in draft entitled “Shimmering Horizons”. Other poems from the draft book have been published in other journals and anthologies. Artemis journal, founded in 1977,  publishes poetry and art ‘from the Blue Ridge Mountains and beyond’ – see artemisjournal.org

Posted by: John Looker | 14 May, 2018

The Descent of Europe

Here is the poem of mine published by Magma in their Europe Issue on 6 April. ‘Descent’ as in evolution and Darwin’s ‘Descent of Man’.

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The Descent of Europe
After WB Yeats’ ‘Long-Legged Fly’

Let us listen – as Lydia is doing,
here in northern Greece, here in the shade
where a clear stream runs whispering over the stones.
She is listening to Paul, this weather-beaten traveller
from the shores of Asia. Such upright bearing though.
Clean hands. Piercing eyes. Clearly an educated man
and his thoughts sink as easily into her mind
as rain into long-parched land.

    Like a chick heard tapping within the egg
a new age stirs to break free.

 Or listen to a group, in doublet and lace,
standing in the sun on the Capitoline Hill in Rome.
Well mannered, they greet and chat or mentally rehearse
(again) their studied orations. They are waiting
the arrival of Petrarch. With his ink-discoloured fingers
and his tired eyes, he has laboured to bring
out of the dust the incisive minds of the past.
Their reasoning. Their argument. Their courage.

   Like a chick heard tapping within the egg
a new age stirs to break free.

And listen if you will to the iron wheels
grinding the cobbles of a cathedral city on the Baltic;
cries of the harbour and of the gulls, raucous, overhead.
Copernicus goes walking here, fur collar against the wind.
His mind is full of the silent motions of the planets,
their paths across the sky, their advances and retreats.
Indifferent to the crowds bustling about him, he’s lost
in the computations on which his thesis rests.

    Like a chick heard tapping within the egg
a new age stirs to break free.

 

 

© John Looker 2018

Magma’s website is at https://magmapoetry.com/  

It’s been a very popular issue – such a variety of strong poems, from established poets as well as newcomers like me – well worth getting a copy for your shelves if you can.

 

Posted by: John Looker | 10 April, 2018

To Love Thy Neighbour

John Looker

http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/pages/?p=15985
— Read on www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/pages/

I’m most grateful to Ink Sweat & Tears, the literary webzine, for posting this poem of mine today. I follow their posts daily by the way.

Tuesday 24th: at last, today I’ve had a chance to return to the laptop and update the formatting of the poem below.

 

To Love Thy Neighbour

 

So still, the street. The single patrol car
stationary, the team from the hospital
standing beyond the trees, the neighbours
behind their curtains. And the doctor
one foot on the step, frozen.

You’ll let them take me away, he’d said,
pulling the window shut, his voice
burrowing into her mind like a weasel,
digging out memories of a previous occasion,
hunting her conscience down.

Her eye fell on rubbish that was spilling out
from the cluttered porch to the patch of garden:
bottles and cans, wrappers – and something
that was surely the remains of a chicken. Softly,
I promise I won’t, she said.

 

(Posting this from a tablet and not my laptop, I cannot get the formatting right no matter how many times I try. But Ink Sweat & Tears have done a great job with the formatting on their own website – thanks again I,S&T !)

 

Posted by: John Looker | 21 March, 2018

A few words about Spring

 

Blossom       dips and lifts.

A bee       big as a truck

freighted with purpose.

 

© John Looker 2018

Posted by: John Looker | 4 March, 2018

The Adventurer

The Adventurer

 

Having been outside
all through the long cold night
the cat returns. Let him come in.
Well might you ask, but he’ll tell you nowt.
He’s conquered the Persians perhaps,
or steered his ships
around the Cape; whereas you –
you have the plates, the beds, the bins …

 

© John Looker 2015

 

This is taken from section 2 of my book The Human Hive (Bennison Books 2015, from Amazon. This collection of poems looks at life through our experience of work, down the ages and round the globe. Section 2 celebrates the work in managing a home.

Posted by: John Looker | 3 February, 2018

Raiding the Deep

Raiding the Deep

 

Let’s spin the globe, spin it towards the sun –
slowly now – we’re looking for a likely place,
a place where the sea or the ocean touch the land
and men have always put to sea in boats,
have moored their boats or dragged them on the shore
with heavy limbs after the homeward run.

Here will do,
here where the wild Atlantic batters the coast
and the heaving tide has carried a fragile fleet
up on to Portugal’s sand. The boats are beached
and the sardine catch laid out in boxes for the buyers,
and men with wide-brimmed metal hats
will carry the fish on their heads, salt water dripping,
up to the trucks and out of view.

Soon the men will hear how much they’ve earned.
A decent trip? Not bad.
The catch? So so.
Not as much as in the glory days
but the weather held, the fish were there, the gear behaved
and (although this isn’t said) they all returned.

Spin the world,
and find the trawlers active in early morning
off Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New England.
Spin it and in the darkness look for vessels
ranged around the Pacific ring of fish,
tuned to their weather warnings, studying sonar,
watching the stars in shoals expiring slowly
and the depths putting on new colour,
as the day – a day of promise –
is unfurled.

 

© John Looker 2015

This is taken from section 1 of my book The Human Hive (Bennison Books 2015, from Amazon, now at only cost price). The book looks at life through our experience of work, down the ages and round the globe.

I am posting new poems less frequently these days because I’m working slowly on a second book and meanwhile trying to place some of the contents in poetry journals here and there. So far new poems have been accepted for advance publication by Magma  (UK), Artemis (USA), Communion (Australia), The Wagon Magazine (India) and Poetry Breakfast (online). Others have appeared in the Austin International Poetry Festival’s 25th commemorative anthology  and the Indira’s Net anthology (UK)Wish me luck with others please!

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