in the long years of play & growing
& picking mushrooms in Marl Woods
history passed us by
just the khaki shadow of my father
as he spent his leave in beer & baby-making
the sharp taste of salt licked from my fingers
as the vinegar soaks the Daily Post
& Monty’s victory at el Alamein
the crumps & flashes to the north
over Birkenhead & Liverpool
like fireworks as far away as Mars
as we skipped away from school
on a cold February afternoon
a loud curse of metal
like a cow in Emyr’s slaughterhouse
& a mad rush of birds in panic
clouding the sun with our childhood fears & prayers
only the red fruit
hanging from the bony branches
& the smell of burning pine
that even now fills me with little sparks of tears
five souls floated down like sycamore seeds
to land where poppies grow
& children ask to find the stories behind
& learn that sometimes
freedom knocks at the door of our hearts
with a heavy, heavy hand
In September 2013 Peter Walker was adopted as Poet for a year to the Church of Wales. He was inaugurated straight after the debate which agreed to women bishops in the Church. He was my guest on Tuesday Poem shortly after with the poem ‘At Governing Body,’ a beautifully expressed and poignant poem which spoke for women, and was read after the debate. Go here to read the poem and discover more about this fantastic initiative. Scroll down to see Peter’s comment on the poem above.
Of his role as the Church’s adopted poet, Peter said “I hope to offer a perspective on some of the issues facing the church – for instance, how we engage with the largely post-Christian, secular world, and also how we might tap into the broad spirituality that we often encounter around us.”
“If theology is about seeking to know the unknowable, then poetry helps nudge us towards that goal with its hints and shadows, its nuances, and the way it can express our thoughts in sometimes unexpected ways. Poetry is at the heart of liturgy, and can be at the heart of our contemplation of the divine.”
“Hopefully, it helps reflect on our experiences, perhaps putting our intuitions and our hidden feelings into words.”
Peter’s role as Church Poet finished in September last year. I asked him how it went. Here’s what he said,
“My time as ‘church poet’ was a mixture of a lot of quiet and some frenzied activity. The Governing Body of the Church in Wales meets twice a year, and I read at each meeting over the twelve months … the first time being when the decision was taken to allow women to be consecrated as bishops … which led to me writing At Governing Body. I had some interesting conversations on the back of that, all of which were positive. I have also read more locally within the diocese at the Bishop’s Council, made up of clergy and lay people. My major focus over the year was to put together a collection of poetry from people across the diocese for our ‘Year of Pilgrimage’ and this collection was published (as ‘Travelling with the Saints’). The year was rounded off by an evening of music and poetry in the cathedral when various contributors came to read their poems … in some cases, the first time they had read a poem in public, so it was very scary for them but really affirming of their talents.
The poem Winter Trees (above) was written for a 70th anniversary memorial service which we held in church, along with family members of the airmen who had been killed and also the local MP, mayor, and RAF representatives from the nearby air-base. The local History Society had asked me if I could write a poem for the event … at first I thought ‘I can’t write to order like that’, but just having the thought at the back of my mind seemed to spark something ..since most of the people who remember the crash, and talked to me about it, were children at the time, it came out as a child’s witnessing of the fatal crash, and how that memory still remained as one of the abiding moments of that person’s remembrance of those years.
It’s great to catch up with you Peter . Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your very moving poem.
Peter’s latest book is A Pocketful of Myrrh. You can read about this and his other three books here at his publishers Y Lolfa.
Please return to the Tuesday Poem Hub Page and read what this week’s editor has chosen and remember to check out the wonderful selection of poems and poets in the left hand side bar.