Haiku Hiking (cont.)
Calais allez vous
Fireworks overhead (5th Nov), the Stroud charity Marah, organised a sleep out in Saint Lawrence churchyard in recognition of homelessness.
The name Marah comes from the book of Exodus – a hard place.
Twenty five years before with a Leonard Cohenite drone in my head, I scribbled ‘Platerest Fireworks’. Platerest, near Bucharest, was where there was a so-called orphanage: Windows with no glass, spasmodic freezing running water, dodgy wiring and no light bulbs. On the fifth of November a coach arrived from Cornwall and amongst the contents was a box of bulbs.
Late afternoon on the fifth of November
Darkness was closing on tiny hands frozen
Like hatched little birds without any words
What do they know and remember?
There they remain on the fifth of November
Filaments broken in darkness unspoken
Silent as time, how they should shine
What do they know and remember?
The fifth of November, cross Europe to trail here
Mattresses, towels and a box of light bulbs
What should we give, how should we live
What do we know and remember?
The night of the fireworks, the fifth of November
Screwing the bulbs in and switching the switch on
They clapped and they cheered, lit up the tears
What did they see and remember?
The fifth of November, still glows in the embers
But beauty is candlelight silent on Christmas night
What will they see and where will they be
Where will they be in December?
At least at Platerest there was a roof. Multiply by ‘n’ re the refugees of today.
Things link – carving stone at Marah led to the Independence Trust above the launderette.
There a group photocopied and hand stitched Haiku Hiking, which Stuart Butler kindly encouraged by posting on his blog ‘Radical Stroud’ Tuesday 8am; mindful meditators sit in silence at St Laurence Church. 9am the following week Richard Pond handed me six sides of sheet music set to the words.
What should we give now?
Snug in boots with felt innards, last year I trudged off to a dentist appointment in Dursley. The boots were covered in mud when I arrived so I left them outside. Sat in the waiting room wearing just the felt insides, an elderly gentleman approached.
“I have not seen boots like that since I was a boy,” he said in a broken accent. “I used to make them in Siberia. We would dip them in water and they froze immediately with a coating of ice. They kept me alive.”
He explained he was born Polish and his parents were dead. Alone he had crossed Europe somehow and by the end of the war he was in Palestine where he became a British army cadet. Demobbed he came here and married a Dursley girl.
Tuesday 5th January 2016
Down along the Downs
A rainbow trunk leads on east
Through moss green branches
Sub-merged in the mist
Verging West Dean’s wader birds
Merge in the wet lands
The Long Man looks down
Mist lifts to see refugees
And the Iona stone
Battle Abbey siege
Come on in said the stone man
Don’t say we saw you.
Dover’s Castle Inn
Where Wellington planned defeat
Fab four penned Day Tripper
Battle of Britain
Pilots eye dope smoking maid
‘She’s not so dumb’
Thursday 7th January
Wild Dover dawn
Day tripper beats into the port
Spray over the bow
Dolphin guards Calais
High razor wire board border guards
Piss into the wind
Waste landed fenced in
Bulldoze ferry terminal
Tree bells ring out nourishment
Shaking their cold hands
Armour clad riot police appeared under the road bridge at the entrance as I made my way out of the Jungle.
“Twit, forgot the pocket Scrabble.” I turned back.
A boy, Syrian at a guess, rode by on a bike.
“Do you want to learn English?”
He nodded. I gave him the Scrabble. “It’s a game.”
The so-called Jungle is a frontier township of domed tents huddled around the busy, muddy high street of improvised shops and kiosks. On foot through squally showers I trudged beside high white fences topped with coils of razor wire, round roundabouts, passed an occasional bleak factory site, white police vans and over the railway track back to the port. Lines of lorries thundered by. A onetime ferry terminal was being demolished.
Signs “sortie, depart, exit” tumbled onto the puddled sea front.
Foot passengers are few
A fellow day tripper asked
“So where are your boots?”
He had also been aboard on the morning crossing from Dover. I had muttered “Merci beaucoup”, when he helped me shoulder the rucksack over two coats, weighed down with Iona stones, mallet, chisel, camping stove, gas, food. On my feet paraded the felt lined, Canadian arctic boots. It was his scarf that made me assume him to be French.
Now I was returning considerably lighter if wetter:
“Tell me what you’ve been doing,” he enquired in a strong Irish accent.
I tried to explain about the boots; about the carved stone from Iona; that today is Christmas day in Ethiopia; about the church made of timber and plastic by the Eritrean refugees and how I had shared Christmas dinner with them. He asked interested probing questions.
“Are you with a church group?”
“No, I often go to church, but I’m here independently.” It was my turn. “And where are you from?”
“Hasn’t Derry lately been the City of Culture?” I think he was pleased I knew that. “And you, are you a philosopher?”
“I have a degree in philosophy,” he paused, “from the Open University. I did it when I was a prisoner, a political. I was first put away for seven years when I was sixteen.”
It could not have been long after Bloody Sunday.
“Then I did a life stretch.” He would have known the hunger strikes and dirty protest of the H blocks.
We went on to talk about the cruel things we do when we are young and think we are right, both now being grandfathers. How one needs to learn to see things from others’ perspective.
“And faith for you?” I questioned.
“There’s an intelligence to evolution,” he replied. In a word perhaps, God.
Two lads from Derry about his age were working as volunteers with West London Cyrenians for homeless people in the late 1970s. They could well all have been at school together.
Brian and Tommy knew they could not remain in Derry and not be drawn into the troubles, so they left; and he stayed. The same choice faces those in Syria, Iraq, Eritrea (cont.) Between a stone and a hard place
Haiku Hiking (cont.)
From the Long Man to Long Kesh
Au revoir, my friend
Friday 8th January 2016
Pilot hunched in stone
Looking up to the sun rise
Over the Channel
Seven hours later
The western skyline blazes
Down from the Ridgeway
Monday 11th January
Cricklade’s slipway’s lost
In Old Father’s overflow
Splashing old boys’ boots