The Bottom of the Cup

This is a poem about the way some people can be lost in their thoughts. I saw a man sat with his drink, he looked so thoughtful and peaceful and as I thought about that afterwards I wrote this poem.

Silent, almost motionless,
Static as a statue,
Long, straggly grey hair,
Mirrored by a shaggy beard,
With blue striped suit, brown brogues,
A character from Joyce’s Dublin,
Perhaps a little out of place,
In Rochdale’s cold glass clad malls,
He looked, well stared, intently,
At what? The bottom of his,
Empty coffee cup,
Fifteen minutes passed,
In home-time haste,
His gaze, steady and calm,
Neither fades, nor shifts
Not one sliver of a fractured inch
A few more minutes passed,
I sneaked a look,
But all I saw,
Was the bottom of his empty coffee cup,
An empty, used receptacle,
I went back and looked again,
I saw no more than drying coffee dregs,
I wondered what his gaze could see,
But couldn’t bring myself to ask,
He looked so calm, at peace,
A peace my uninvited voice mustn’t break,
Instead I asked myself,
What can he see?
Has he practiced through the years?
Has he perfected the art of seeing?
Can he see beyond mere eyes?
Did he break the chains in which we live?
The cast-iron shackles of the everyday
Was his mind flying free?
Looking down on the ordinary
In the bottom of his cup
Had it flown to
Another place, or another time
An unlived future yet to be revealed
A past lived then and lived again
An unseen present exposed just for him
No need for diaries
Or photos
Or fancy DVDs
Sitting with his memories
Perhaps his hopes
His dreams
His life beyond my eyes
I watched him as I walked away,
And wondered, could I learn to see?
To really see!
Like he can see,

In the bottom of a coffee cup

Only in my dreams

Another poem I wrote a few years ago. This is about a place that has always been special to me but it is also about the way that the human race has always messed with nature and continues to do so.

Carabeg,
A peat bog in Ireland’s West,
I travelled here every year,
Often more than once,

Sat there beside brackish pools,
Breathing that cool clear air,
I dreamed my dreams,
Deep in thought,
Totally at peace,
Light grey mist swirled in wispy veils,
And in the distance the curlew called,

Here once was a primeval forest,
Here there lived great trees,
Fearsome insect eating plants,
Early mammals and birds,
Then,
Long, long ago,
The forest died,

For thousands of years,
Below the surface,
The ancient forest remained,
Preserved in the peaty mass,

New life came to Carrabeg once more,
Frogs, newts, water dwelling beetles,
Butterflies flitting from flower to flower,
Dragonflies patrolled the ditches,
Horsetail grass that ancient survivor,
And the cotton-wool flax waved in the breeze,
Early men, hunter-gatherers lived nearby,

This was a mystical, magical place,
The earth shook under my footsteps,
Ancient tree trunks, bleached by the years,
Broke through the surface,
Like great white skeletons, long forgotten,
The Will-o-the-wisp,
Glowing eerily across the bog,
For thousands of years man and nature,
Shared this place, side by side,

Not now!
Those times are gone,

A plantation,
Man made!
Un-natural lines,
Of un-natural trees,
Men chose the trees,
Men drained the water,
Men killed off the frogs,
The dragonfly, the sundew,
And the cotton-wool flax,

We’ve thrown away our past,
Lost our link to those few, early hunter-gatherers,
We took away the mystery and magic,
Those beautiful plants,
And birds,
And animals,

That history!
That journey of a million lives,
Lies buried,
Lost, beneath the firs!

I still see the Will-o-the-Wisp,
I still smell the brackish pools,
I still taste the sweet, clear air,
I still feel the spongy earth beneath my feet,
I still hear the curlew call,
But only in my dreams

On the Edge

I wrote this poem a few years ago on the day my cousin Chris O’Grady died. I was out walking around Blackstone Edge above Rochdale and the poem almost wrote itself when I got home.

It’s wild up here, properly wild,
Surrounded by earth, rocks and sky,
Windy, always, even on the stillest days,
Rocks carved, smoothed by the elements,
But touch them with an un-gloved hand,
They’re sharp, rough; they’ll tear your skin,

An unforgiving piece of wilderness,
Not nature as a soft and comfy friend,
But powerful, strong and hard as nails,
Small loose stones that twist unwary ankles,
And should you fall the grit-stone rocks,
Will bruise your body, break your bones,

Here nature forms a wild frontier,
A watershed of life and death,
You’ll find your soul in a place like this,
I’m here today, seeking peace and inspiration
But memories, emotions flood my mind,
And I share them with nature, my old trusted friend,

Almost fourty years ago,
With my cherished childhood friend,
I played in rocky fields,
Ancient warriors roaming where they choose,
Raced across wide open places,
Prospectors seeking Klondike gold,

Built shelter of sticks and fronds,
Desert nomads hiding from the searing sun,
Watched our ships of twigs and leaves,
Rafts braving the wild Orinoco’s falls,
Hunted frogs among the rushes,
Pharaohs stalking crocodile beside the Nile,

Searching out eggs,
In the depths of King Solomon’s mines,
Jumping out from the ditches,
“Your money or your life!”,
“All for one and one for all”,
Culmore’s own small band of Musketeers,
Standing high on the wall,
Hilary and Tensing on top of the world,

Early today she died ….. we knew she would,
If not today then someday soon,
We all knew it was ….. “for the best”,
That’s what we like to say,

Emotions and body sheltered in our home, I heard the sad news,
We’re all grown up now, so I mustn’t cry,
Stood here on the moors, with my old trusted friend,
Like nature’s child, my heart unfettered, my mind runs free,
I mourn her loss, question, curse and finally I weep,
My dear cousin, my childhood friend, left our world today,

But for an hour this afternoon, Chris O’Grady is here with me,
Running and playing, hiding behind the ditches,
Hair blowing in the wind, around that freckled smile,
Here we stand, as we always will,
Facing West, on the Edge, drinking in the essence of life,
Its wild up here, properly wild