Sunday, 25 December 2016

poetry at christmas

I used to write poetry when I was much younger, and I still remember why I stopped: I’d decided that in order to improve, I should read work by established poets. Unfortunately for this strategy, one of the first poems I read was TS Eliot’s The Hollow Men, and my immediate reaction was “I can never match this!” However, I did succeed in getting a small booklet of my own poems published in 1971, and because most of the people who know me now are unaware of this fact, and also because I shall be out cycling with Paula over the Christmas period rather than spending the time compiling blog posts, I present three poems from that 1971 booklet. Merry Christmas.

occult incident
    It is midnight!
The churchyard is shrouded by a low mist
that flows endlessly over the tombstones.
A shrieking that only the occultist
hears, detached from the stimulus of fear,
a sound that shatters, like a telephone’s
shrill cry, rises from the unsmiling ground
and echoes—a certain sign of the near
approach of evil. After the strange sound
   a spectral light
flickers across the graves, reaching the wall
where normal living ends. For here the hand
of death works freely, here a demonic
apparition terrifies. And yet, the brawl
of sound and vision could well be a trick,
played on deluded senses by wind and
   misty moonlight.

shadows of the night
Black, prince of the night, lies hidden by day,
When sunlight chases the shadows away;
But, hidden or not, it is never quite dead,
Gathering when the last traces of red
Fade from the sky at the onset of night,
And shadows of darkness conquer the light.

So the night lowers its dark, deadly veil,
The calm, clear peace of the day to curtail;
And as sinister purple deepens to black,
The forces of evil mount their attack.

The light of the moon (a pale light, and cold)
Outlines the night and the need to be bold,
For darkness means danger to unwary men,
Danger, so deadly, from devils whose den
In the shadow of death, behind yonder wall,
Is fatal for some, a menace to all.

All through the night the dark demons will reign,
Seeking out victims till the light comes again;
For faint fingers of fire in the east have shown:
Light in the darkness dispels the unknown.

the garden of despair
The fruit is black, the trees are bare,
In the garden of despair.
An old man sits among the weeds,
His mind is sown with seeds
Of doubt: a dark course that leads
To the garden of despair.

The birds are poisoned by the air
In the garden of despair.
The gardener is sorely pressed,
There is never time for rest;
Peace is but a hopeless quest
In the garden of despair.

Yet can I hear the sound of prayer
In the garden of despair.
Or is it all becoming worse?
Is there life within the hearse
Of death? Or is life the curse
Of the garden of despair?


  1. Is that last poem a reference to the new US predident?
    Merry Christmas!

    1. Not intentionally Mr Green, although you could call it appropriate. I would have been remarkably prescient, given that it was written in 1970, to have had Donald Trump in mind.

  2. Wish to read a more lighthearted poem on Christmas...


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