This week I’m very pleased to feature some more wonderful poetry from the enormously talented Gordon Simmonds, one of my regular writers in this slot.
In case you’re not familiar with Gordon’s work, here he tells you a little bit about himself:
“My name is Gordon Simmonds born and raised in Essex, England. I left school aged 15 and joined the British Army where I discovered early on that I was a good scholar but a bad soldier. I left the Army nine years later and became what I now call an industrial mercenary – in fact I’ve never had a proper job since, and have worked in, and travelled the Middle East as well as my adopted Lincolnshire.
“I would describe myself as a shy extrovert. If you see me on the street I’m likely to be wearing a cowboy hat and boots, or a Scottish kilt and playing the bagpipes. I love to race – either bikes or karts and I once had some talent as a fencer where my hard, aggressive style achieved some notable victories.
“As a writer and poet my work is severely limited by work and inclination. My first poem was broadcast on the BBC while I was still at school. My next poem wasn’t published until 34 years later.”
Here are his atmospheric poems:
The Piper in the Graveyard – 1986
Once more across the sullen Irish Sea I sail
To a grass green glen not far from Antrim’s rocky shore.
I raise these well played pipes, and in a moment’s breathing,
Shatter again the stillness of this, your final place of rest.
Not for you, old man, the eerie fond lament of souls forgotten,
No, for you a reel, a jig, a tune that makes the pulse quicken
And the steps lighten, in time with fingers tripping lightly.
Drones howl and the reed shrieks and lets the Banshee know
That though her job is done and she may try to sleep,
The seed lives on in me, and in my music, death defied.
The cattle in the fields beyond the fence look up and stare
With lowered heads as if to charge.
Then slowly, toward this foreign sound advance,
The better for to hear the trembling reed, perhaps to dance.
As misty images of reel and jig performed ‘mongst graves
Of Planters, whose blood in ages past would surge and boil
With joy, that these bright notes would end their daily toil.
See there the twinkling eye and cheeky grin that I recall,
The honoured guest, a Cockney soul among his Celtic friends.
Then, with a last salute, I turn away and let these echoes fade,
So peace, tranquility and timeless rest return you to your sleep.
God willing I’ll return again, and if this tiring breast can blow a breath
And ageing fingers still can raise a tune, we’ll meet again.
The Piper in the Graveyard 20 Years Later
I care not to count the years I’ve kept my solemn pledge.
On this return, the glen is quiet and serene.
Summer is gone. The cattle have gone. Grey clouds drift and shed
A fine and gentle tear upon your place of rest.
There is no music on the chill wind of this winter’s journey.
For to mourn, to blow, and feel the reeds vibrate; to touch the notes;
To grieve and play, whilst tears and sadness overwhelm this piper’s breast,
Is not within his gift.
Yet joy, for you old man, we cast aside the soil that is your home
And at your side, we bring your friend, your wife, your lover.
Yes her. Her of the gentle ways and loving touch who nursed your children.
Soft eyes, soft hands, which even in death’s repose seemed ready to reach out
And offer comfort. That depth of understanding that isn’t learnt,
But sons and daughters know is there and needs no words.
Together, you and she can re-commence the time you knew in life
And in your ever-after, still watch over us.
Then, when the tears have dried, and heart and mind remember
The oh so many days of love and happiness, I shall return.
Again I shall make the glen ring with the skirl of a piper piping.
I’ll once again raise a jig, a hornpipe, a reel. I’ll make your feet tap
And your eyes sparkle as of old. I’ll wake all the sleeping men,
The women, and the children who have passed within this place,
Their stones betraying someone’s loss, someone’s heartache.
In my mind I see them rise and join that great Ceilidh that is more than life.
But as the happy notes fade, and the echoes disappear, I beg
To let the Flowers of the Forest remind me of you both, and of my loss.