And the Blackbird sang on (Lockdown #1)

Anthropocalypse apocalypse

Bats over the river

Beyond ancient trees

Blood of stone

Brute tractor

Buzzard aloft, A

Christmas Ravens, a conversation

Conversation with a Shropshire Kestrel

Crooked path, A

Dead froglet, the

Dying pigeon, The

Early bird, An

Earth red bank, the

Epitaph for the Badger

Farewell to two young birds

Gleam of celandine, The

Good manners

Greatness of small luxuries, The

Grief

I would be dead

Leaping sprite unheard, A

Lost friends

Magpie, The

Nets of words

No earthly worm this

Of a son

Of all the sounds


Once in a country lane

Oratory

Owl and the playtime pinewoods, The  

Paintings hang about for years

Railway warbler, The

Rain love-lines

Raven - evermore, The

Raven spoke, The

Rejection

Remorse

Rubbish

Snow owl, The

Sonnet to a dying squirrel

Sparrowhawk, The

Subjugated

Such is wilderness

They

This farming business

Thumbnail toad, The

Tombstone buzzard, The

Travel travails

Umberleigh

We saw two hedgehogs

Where you are not

White maggots

Whitethroat singing

Wind song

Winter shorelines

 




And the Blackbird sang on


And the Blackbird sang on

When other birds took breath

About the courts of morning

You’d have to be deaf

When virus stopped the cars

With its attendant death


For the open ear to hear

Across the countryside

A new brazening sound

Not helped by biocide

As birds reclaim their stage

And sweeten ecocide


Covid-nineteen might bring

For all its agony

A smack of consciousness

And make the heedful see

Or rather hear

Birds bees even unto the tree

© RM Meyer

Winswell Water, April 2020

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Anthropocalypse apocalypse

(dedicated to Emma)


Last night I dreamt the world was brown.

Lost in space.  Occupied only

By cockroaches and scorpions.

Gone from every city and town;

Gone from every ocean and sea;

And gone to hell all citizens.


So when our fragile planet dies,

It won't be like the dinosaurs:

A death shadow from god knows where

Blotting out all heavens and skies

Clogging and desolating pores

To suffocate life far and near.


The clever ignoramus might

Betray to treason his own kind -

The once called Homo sapiens,

At least he thinks himself so bright.

What's it capable of this mind

That would so invite its own ends?


Granma said “Too clever by half!”,

Aimed at myself over some girl.

But how wrong!  Not clever enough.

If only I could see the path

That led away from a pure world.

But alas for me far too tough.


One small man assesses the fright

And scratches his beard in turmoil.

The woman at his side groans and

Fears his anthropogenic plight.

What drives this brain to over-boil

Reduces her to wringing hands.


But it’s unfair that this should be

For it’s her children, and then theirs

Who will die of this human cess

Pit, who have no choice to be free.

It was ours that had too few cares,

Blazoning on madly careless.


The blank complacency of men

Will tolerate with mockery

A death cloud that's pre-eminent;

And, aye, even more, his children

Confirms in me pomposity

And mocks the word 'intelligent'.


Of all the living things worldwide

How strange it should be just our own -

The one species which perhaps should

Not - but which will bring ecocide.

Yes, human kind have for sure grown

Far too clever for their own good.


The cleverness which drives our lives,

Do not mistake it for wisdom.

Do not mistake intelligence.

In the businessman who survives.

And, yes, thrives within his kingdom,

By making money with no sense.

 

Did we think it would be all right?

Did we think it would not transpire?

Did we think techies could sort it?

Did we think it was out of sight?

Did we think it was not so dire?

Did we think it would not persist?


Yes, our leaders thought all those things.

Their lives were good, their wages fat.

They won’t be here to see the war.

To piss on their graves will not bring

Back all the wonderful life that

Garlanded this planet before.


Spinning in perpetuity,

Never to be replicated;

Unless we’re watched by jesters in

Some galactic laboratory

Pushing us until we are dead

Just to see which life-form would win.


This was what woke me fearfully:

A little planet still spinning -

Indescribably small and lost -

And over all, pathetically,

The golden sun still was blazing

All cellular green life to toast.

© R.M. Meyer

Devon, December 2018

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Bats over the river


I watched the bats flitter and swoop,

One dusky summer evening,

About the river beneath the trees

With their own good reason

For tiny fragments of flying food

That my old eyes can’t see,

Yet they find them through their tiny ears

Oh, better thou than me.


More still come, these flying sprites,

And as the darkness deepens,

Ceaselessly they turn and chase

Other life with its own ends.

I can’t believe in tumbling flight

They have no fun at all

Without sense of endings brought

To those others in their thrall.

© RM Meyer
Winswell Water, July/August 2020

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Blood of stone

Awaiting the rain. Petrichor.
The ground and stones and earth need more
Moisture which threatens, to unlock,
Scented senses within the rock.
Imprisoned long and here throughout
The endless days of summer drought.
Until such time as clouds are rent
Petrichor closely guards its scent.

‘Blood of the stone’ it once was called.
The Greeks knew it well, so I’m told.
Although we’d known it all our lives -
Yet - never known - the word describes
A chemical called Geosmin,
Sensed in five parts per trillion.
Absolving dry and hard terrain
Till moistened by the quenching rain.

So, it seems, only once a year,
Can we breathe such fragrant odour.
And thankful for the days of sun;
Ever the more now they have gone.
Coming fresh precipitation,
Eager with anticipation.
Rain obeying some natural law
Will now release sweet petrichor.

© RM Meyer
North Devon, July 2018
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Beyond ancient trees

[dedicated to Sam]


Up beyond the ancient trees,

Hoping beyond hope to seize,

A glimpse in the furzy brake

The coil of simmering snake.

For I knew I’d never find

In the trees I'd left behind,

The amber cool deadly thread

Many recoil from in dread.


Now oaks, spared by man’s absence,

In rocks huge in tumbled grace,

Through iron age axe exclusion,

Thrive in twisted seclusion.


***


These oaks, over many crises,

Survived by their own devices,

Safe within a natural fortress -

A pristine primeval fastness.

In grand castellated granite

The ancient trees found cool respite.


Here roots probe damp interstices,

Seeking serpentine crevices.

Over millennia they've wormed

And deep among the boulders formed

This inviolate sanctuary;

A sometime serpents’ dormitory.


Higher up, axe man did perspire.

Helped, doubtless, by discovered fire,

Carved, burnt and dug away the old,

To build a farm with shippen fold.

A new cottage for him and wife,

In which to produce fresh young life.


But taking up the ground so cleared,

From rivers' banks the serpents reared,

Their scaly heads and beady eye,

To inhabit and no doubt try

To find their own habitation,

Scared of human domination.


They'd eke out lives and with no plan

Incubate eggs hidden from man.

Kill as he would, their kind survived

Some managing even to thrive.

Nonetheless, life has little ease.

High up beyond the farthest trees.


***


On one of Dartmoor’s highest tors

Keen to imagine days of yore

Dense plagues of flying ants had swarmed

On rocks the tropic sun had warmed

And before me an insect veil

Ended dreams and thus did curtail

Any desire to sit and stare

Across a land now laid so bare

Of moss and furze and pre-man trees

Denuded by relentless fleece.


O those infernal sheep do wreak

Such havoc on the granite peak.

© RM Meyer
Dartmoor, August 2018

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Brute tractor


A monster was coming on at me,

Devouring the world, all I could see,

Such was its all-consuming presence,

That nothing else composed an absence.

Crashing there, pulverising closer.

A beast advanced over the border.


*


Now, sounds of the English countryside,

Herald a fresh hell of herbicide.

An incessant whine of brute machine

Counterpoising the crack, crunch and scream

Of advancing chains flailing hedges,

Even trees and all the quiet edges.


Fields once in early autumn slumber,

Bough and branch in myriad number,

Are beaten into low submission.

Heavy-handed ironbound precision

Bullies countryside's casual borders

Into tame and abased neat order.


Now reducing full forage hedgerows,

In all their blowsy carefree billows,

Into managed new factory walls;

As close as the jackboot tractor crawls.

Those linear woods, trashed in thoughtless

Haste, make a sad wake in wakes of mess.


These linear woods are all that's left

Of a landscape that is now bereft

Of the deciduous eternal

Hanging woods which once clothed the feral

Land from east to west, from south to north.

A greenwood cover of endless growth.


Now, ev'ry year hedges try anew,

To regrow once more and save a few.

Hawthorns! Their remembered sweet fragrance

In blossom clouds of creamy cadence,

But there they are, hacked back more and more

Till all that's left is jagged and raw.


They won't be laid traditionally.

Every advance drives on more fiercely

Into older and thicker timber,

Till the gross impact upon your ear

Is in due accord with the ravaged

Scene: wood and nerves are together shred.


Now, never mind the long standing tree.

And farmers won't see the bird or bee.

For what cannot be seen counts as nought.

Subtle lessons like these can't be taught

To those immured within tractor walls,

Or logged into cool persuasive malls.


Then his tea, in towered splendour, he sips.

And with insouciant fingertips

Nudges on hundreds of horsepower might,

Never giving one thought to the sight

Of tangled despoilment left behind

After the flailing chains' savage grind.


Now, with protection wrapped round his face,

Headphones musicking a deaf embrace,

To insulate the remote cabbed man

From all consequences of his plan.

So deafness mutates this crashing hell.

With never a witness left to tell.


Aye, the crashing sound above all else

Has no regard of pastoral sense.

It surely would dumbfound old hedgers

Thankfully safe now in quiet slumbers.

Would they swap craft's old occupation

For this coarse new manifestation?


Now, a poet wand'ring in Nature

Seeks his peace in this secret treasure;

For wind and song are quintessential;

Listen! And be mute deferential.

For there is peace and sweet harmony

In measuring life's geometry.


Still the brute tractor masticates on.

Jaws chewing; weight thrown about; and strong

Enough to pulverise any foe.

What hope can there be of tomorrow?

Yet wait, the pregnant buds still prepare

For to try once more another year.


Now the ogre leaves the margin'd stage

(And a poet in impotent rage!),

The hedging tree will lick its spirit.

And the only good to come of it,

If calm reflection matters a toss,

Is to help us value what we've lost.

© R M Meyer

North Devon, October 2018

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A buzzard aloft

Hallo! Hallo!
My Buteo.

I see you crescent king
Gliding, ever seeking.
And endlessly wheeling.

Describing parabolas,
Which taken as far as
Your careless casting eye
Spies from such vaultless sky.

Some kind of poor remnant -
Relic of life mordant -
Which you can surely see
(Invisible to me).

***

But least I can say that's not all;
For I can hear your mewing call,
And see your turning O and O.
Sail on my happy Buteo!

© RM Meyer
Winswell Water, 9 July 2018
(Written sitting outside the old studio)

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Christmas Ravens, a Conversation

I

The ravens were aboard their wintry nest
On Christmas morning with no-one about.
Murmuring so softly as in tranquil rest;
A conversation, I had little doubt.

II

Is that the nest you’ll lay your eggs in
A case of only a few short weeks on?
Seems early to be of such things thinkin’
But summer will see your young fledged and gone.

Till April you’ll reign over all country
Outmastering lowly competition
Who flee and yield beneath your majesty.
A soaring black cross in dominion.

A predator, for sure, cruel to some eyes,
But you scavenge and clean up our mess too.
Is it jet blackness or just your sheer size
Which upsets our civilised point of view?

A world without ravens except in zoos
Would render yet more tame this land of ours;
To some, perhaps, mere incidental news,
Just so long as you strut round London’s tower.

III

So, today, beneath a high conifer
(With no awareness of our Christmas day)
I listen quietly and hear you confer
But will never understand what you say.

© RM Meyer
Winswell Water, Christmas 2019

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Conversation with a Shropshire Kestrel


A kestrel hovered over us

   On a road not trod before

Near the Long Mynd range in Shropshire

   Where folk fight the badger war.


To wait aloft on quiv’ring wings

   And see land laid out below

Would better what drones could do

   To measure out the human foe.


So, patient falcon, ride the wind -

   Hung motionless to our eyes -

Suspended as on gibbet ranged

   Simple prey an aimless prize.


Down on earth as evening lengthens

   Come night, hunters still are there.

Then man with unnatural sight

    Setts his aim with trap and snare.


If only you could use your sight

   In all enlarging detail,

And convey to the caring folk

   Patterns of their hunting trail;


With one voice, all true birds and beasts

   Much stronger than feeble man;

Together we are invincible

   This superhuman clan.


Your questing eye, the badger’s claw,

   Leopard’s tooth, the peregrine -

He might! at such victory.

   Let’s add shark’s jaw and orca fin.


Rid the world of pestilence

   Let natural order settle down.

And it would not take too long

   To overgrow the city’d town.


© R M Meyer

En route Devon, November 2019

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A crooked path


After Robert Frost, ‘The Road Not Taken’


There’s a crooked path through life’s dead wood

That a lonely traveller might see

And maybe at the end I just could

With some little sense, might sense some good

And take me to a new mystery;


Yet wonder to myself if that’s fair

For a way that’s straight is just the same.

Oh, the path bends crookedly just there,

And no matter how hard I stand’n’stare

Can’t see the end take another name.


So, the crooked path leads me away

And lets the mystery take me back

Along a journey through night and day

Which matters little in this foray

For it’s dark along the winding track;


And yet for all that, it seems that I

Must tread the crooked path whence

I came before, and believe that my

Travelling will help me rest and try

To believe there is a difference.

© RM Meyer

Winswell Water, February 2020

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The dead froglet


Deep down, within an old clay pot,

I found lying there, long since dead,

The grey mummified skin of what

Seemed to be a desiccated

Little frog. It must have fallen

In so many long months ago.

To lose a life barely begun.

Whose design is it to forego

A life so cruelly laid aside

That no-one ever looked upon?

And although I have tried and tried

I can't forget your skeleton.


* * *


Immured by one sheer and round rampart side.

What mystification? And for how long

Did you leap and clamber before you died?

Tired out, dried out, from going on and on.

We do not know whether you suffer pain;

Nor have any concept of how frogs thrive.

Do you persevere and go on again?

Testing your hurt in order to survive.

But still I have your tiny dried and crossed

Out gossamer paper shroud; in its way,

As beautiful and frail as sun-glanced frost.

I grieve still for this wee sepulchre grey.

© RM Meyer
Winswell Water, July 2018
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The dying pigeon


Why will it not die

The pigeon on my lawn?

He comes every day

With features so forlorn.

His wings dragging the ground

And looking half-dead,

Yet still I feed him corn

Here, where he was bred

In that high Beech tree.

For you know what they do,

Nesting each and every month

The whole year through.


Ignorant of the end

Would that he were I,

Feeling no compunction

Peacefully to die.

Yet he struggles on

Oblivious the fight,

While we intervene

To spite the dying night.

This bird seeks no care.

Like me, he’s grey on grey,

The old wood pigeon

On my lawn today.

© RM Meyer,
Winswell Water, September 2020

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The early bird


A small greenish bird flew across my track.

From its flight and jizz I said a warbler

And waited some time but it didn’t come back.

It’s a long way to here from Africa,

When a pile of brushwood is all that’s here,

Waiting upon a neighbour with a match.

And there are neighbours' cats forever near.

Is that why you flew to this heap of brash?


The last day of Feb is when you dashed past

Me. It seemed far too early in the year.

And no matter how you flew and so fast,

Were you fleeing from there, or coming here?

One week of heat does not a summer make.

I hope it doesn’t mean you came before

We could provide the food you’d like to take

Or protect you from the cats’ killing claws.

© R M Meyer

Winswell Water, North Devon, March 2019

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The earth red bank


On June nineteen before the twenty-first
Summer heat having only just begun
On an old hedgebank where the sun now burst
On bare earth amidst thick vegetation
On sandy soil and glinting stones it beat
There I had time enough to stand and stare -
Near enough to feel the radiant heat -
And stayed long enough to hope to see there
Something called ‘Common’ but not so these days
Lizards: sun-waiting sun-hunting sun-stars
Just to see one I’d be sent in a daze
For such tiny dinosaur replicas


Flanked by rank growth a miniature desert
Sought by creatures which demand dazzling warmth
In the overgrown green they have their thirst
But not for water common in the north
Here they come to tempt fate and become prey
For the cold-eyed lizard and fork-tongued snake
Soporific’ly and carelessly they
Flex and fidget as if they want to make
The day of the rib-crawling predator
And the low squat-legged endlessly patient
Shadowers – exiles from the equator
For here for me it feels heaven-sent


From across the meadow as the sun strikes
The old hedge bank with its red earth prairies
Radiate whispering sultry air like
 A tantalising breeze from Tuscany
I’m lured to these as a moth to a lamp
Attracted by the mesmerising gleam
I know that as long as sun beats damp
The desiccated shimmering earth will teem
With a myriad of invertebrates
Which have been waiting for as long as me
All through the long dark winter months they wait
For this all too brief smile of Tuscany

© RM Meyer
Winswell Water, June 2019

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Epitaph for the Badger

A snarling dark shape in the depths of night,
Blundered into whilst on unknowing paths,
Reduces careless ignorance to fright.
In others, perhaps, causing mirthless laughs.

For sure, there are few to be had today,
Farmers and ministers have seen to that.
While hunts sabs and patrols, try as they may,
Cannot hope to mangle every last trap.

What it is to be feared, yet have no voice:
Found guilty by the company we keep.
It could never have been a badger’s choice
To mix with cows or dung or corn or sheep.

In came a microscopic bacillus,
Named long ago after some wretched cow,
Causing a vast nationwide tumulus.
Thus the killing goes on from then till now.

2

As the badger noses his woodland track,
And cubs dance among the bluebells in play,
A mercenary with gun on his back
Approaches – sights set on a hapless prey.

Despite frenzied digging, claws long and torn,
There is no escape from the senseless cage.
So the badger lapses, senseless, forlorn,
Awaiting the man blind with misplaced rage.

The end comes quick enough, in drifts of mud.
Proclaiming man’s absurd insanity.
The inhuman prison, base mired in blood.
No earthly help to cure bovine TB.

Across all the land, thousands of cattle,
Who – for all their history – stamp and fret
With no thought of misdirected battle.
Leave trails of death we will never forget.


3

And the cows! They go from a stinking byre,
Through crush and syringe to Positive test.
And end their days on a funeral pyre.
Can there be anyone left not depressed?

I’ve been lost and bereft for forty years,
By abrogation of a science law.
And have seen around me good fellows’ tears.
Nonplussed, unbelieving, in fraught furore.

Cool appraisal of the science shows,
However black and white (and neat) it feels,
The badger’s not the enemy they know;
It’s cows which spread the bug from field to fields.

Yet on and on it goes, running amok.
How or when it will end, no-one can say.
But when they’ve killed the last remaining Brock,
They’ll find another neat scapegoated prey.


4

And as though all this wasn’t bad enough,
There, see the man touting pistol or gun,
Who thinks it’s a mark of being ‘dead tough’:
Sporting a quarry shot simply for fun.

Official massacre carries no hope.
A steam-hammer abused will crack no nut;
Blunderbusses trained through a microscope
Can’t stem a bacterial tide like Cnut.

A host called ‘spill-over’ is Brock’s death-knell,
Caught up in the saga of bTB.
Peering from woodland setts where it would dwell:
A bloodied bystander in history.

Politicians – government ministers –
Self-imagery of their poor selves made,
Think mainly in terms of ballot papers.
And wildlife can make no Jarrow Crusade.

5

‘Here today, gone tomorrow’, it’s been said.
Civil servants can blithely walk away.
Leaving behind their bloody trails of dead
That had no English voice and held no sway.

When they’ve murdered all that the state decrees,
Don’t think it all over, dusted and done.
On moor, or under wooded canopies,
The thugs will still be there with dog and gun.

Sharing between them one medieval
Mindset, lacking all imagination.
Corrupted by peer and older evil.
Bloodlust thirsting for extermination.

And while one arm of the law tries its best
To save from louts a protected icon,
Another in power and much better dressed,
Finds ways of letting the killing go on.


6

The caged canary which miners cherished, 
Could warn him of catastrophic danger
Deep underground where fatal gasses lurked.
The badger too might be that messenger.

If agricultural leaders had more
Good sense and far-sighted philosophy
A shambling mustelid, its own sight poor,
Could play such a role taught by history.

They say that those who don’t learn from the past
Will go on repeating old myths and saws;
Einstein went further and said that at last
Only fools repeat what has failed before.

There's none so blind as they that can't conceive,
Nor open minds to a willing concept,
Clinging instead to a crutch, they believe:
Give me a gun and an easy target.

© R.M. Meyer
Devon, Sept-Oct 2018

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Farewell to two young birds


A young Robin appeared, wild and free,

Tawny, fledged but late of recent nest

Found and then bravely adopted me.

Without fear, it spoke and said Domest-

-Icate me! And no-one could refuse,

Could they? Such trusting bold confidence.

Just as if an orphan had said “Please”

With a youngster's winsome nonchalance.


For days and weeks he would come to find

Me out, and stay close within reach, or

At least not appearing much to mind

Such dire nearness of a predator.

Then he would chitter for attention

Where’er outside I happened to be;

Sometimes alighting with a thump on

Some place I sat absent-mindedly.


And then…


A thump above our heads made us

Look up. And through the perspex glaze

Could see the immobile pullus.

Cast from its nest lying there dazed.

A second charge afforded us.

This one without parents to aid

Itself: Passer domesticus.

And all the while we were afraid.


Afraid we would feed it wrong, and

In vain ignorance let it die.

Wary to take food from our hand -

- Before hunger made it comply.

When he outgrew his box of card,

Bought a cage to put him in. So

Much he railed at the steel that barred

His wings, we had to let him go.


He may have fed, we didn't see.

And despite all worry and care,

We'll never know if he lives free.

Wild things of course must take their share

Of life's severe vicissitudes

And make their way, as best they may.


While


We watch nature in all her moods

As safe as houses, night and day.

© R M Meyer

Winswell Water, August 2018

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The gleam of the celandine

When the sun strikes the hedgerow bank,
Shining mid hosts of rainy days,
The sun-chrome flowers turn to face it,
Brightest rays of all arrays.


The earliest of all spring flowers
Now jostles the pale primrose
Softly limpid in pastel shades
While between the new grass grows.


Its Greater relative comes and goes
With the swallow, the chelidon,
But it is the Lesser that gladdens
My heart and shall not see mown.


Eight waxen yellow petals furl
Into themselves beneath grey clouds,
Yet rain, however hard it falls
Upright they stand unbowed and proud.


Nature renews herself each year

Turning to face it once again;
Perhaps this year will be diff’rent
But I fear it’s all in vain.


The strimmer, the mowing machine,
Heeds not the beauty in its path.
Incumbent upon man, it is,
Who cannot see his lack of craft.

© RM Meyer
Winswell Water, March 2020

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Good manners


All the laws and all the rules

Telling us what not to do;

Could they be swapped for just one

To be taught in all the schools?

So that, as the children grew,

Each and every Jack, Jill, John

Did not need to remember

More than just one simple thing.

A pure and golden sanction -

- A password to remember -

And to the complex world bring

Simple civilisation.


***


How come such a foolish idea

Dares to grow in some febrile brain?

What prompts such crude mendacity?

Gestated from a long career

The 'wicked problem' will retain

Some kind sane sensitivity.

The easiest thing to recall,

Hypothetically, say, at least.

But impossible to decree;

A golden rule to rule them all,

And vanquish in us all the beast.

Try good manners and courtesy.


***


Such, would every crime delete.

One great catch-all commandment

Of which the great Lord never

Thought. And render obsolete

Every other staid constraint,

Rendering life less austere.

If we wish to raise mankind,

And see ourselves better than

All that's left of pure Nature,

What we have is one great mind;

Big enough perhaps for man

To breed such benign culture.

© R M Meyer

North Devon, October 2018

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The greatness of small luxuries


The bird and the bumble bee

Sometimes seem the same to me;

Just as the mouse and giraffe

Find themselves on the same path.


So the size of a thing

Will not of itself bring

Any semblance of truth

paw or greater hoof.


Scale defines the human brain

Cuts down to size the lion’s mane

And can truly magnify

Dancing stars in the night sky.


Through telescope eyepiece,

Or some other caprice,

Reduce the greater view

Distort not what is true.


Scale up a minuscule square

- Remove all else that is there -

Of moss, rock or lichened wall

 Thus to show the world and all.


For, in that minute field,

Heaven and earth’s revealed.

Far from panorama,

Here’s the detailed drama


Such microscopic glory

Makes modern an old story:

Disclosing the hidden traits

In clumped and mossy byways.


From just inches away,

  Gliding as birds-of-prey

Magicked terrain you’ll see

 Rainforest canopy!


                               


 

© R M Meyer

North Devon, April/May 2019

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Grief


Immured by grief,
Each sad new death,
The walls accrete
And kill the breath
Of everyone.
And each new blow
Deadens the drum
And weakens the ‘No!’


Such grief, not bid,
Thickened the wall
Until we did
Not feel at all.
Desensitized
We retreat from

Life and are prised

From old freedom.

© RM Meyer
Winswell Water, July 2020

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I would be dead


When I am dead and thankfully gone

          Maybe some will see what I have done


For I cannot be what others see

          Or consider what I ought to be


And all the doubts, toil, worry and fear

          Do not diminish what I hold dear


I would never claim to aim for fame

          Not worth a toss within the game


No! From one’s peers I would choose to hear

           To nurture odd creative ideas


Hacking to publisher or dealer

          Binds one to business year after year


Carrying no true significance

          To any real artistic practice


Mutual appraisal one will accept

          All else it’s by far best to reject


Of course I cope and will always hope

          But not in mendacious business grope


Yes! To reach colleagues (of any age)

          And there find true mutual lineage.

© R M Meyer

Devon, 2019

January, completed May

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A leaping sprite, unheard


Today I saw my first grasshopper of the summer.

It is early July and it was on the house step

I can no longer hear their sweet summer opera -

Though Mij still can – and the gangling insect leapt and leapt

For fear of being trod on though I was not so near.

A green sprite, all elbows and ankles, leapt and leapt at the door

In futile panic. I stayed and watched its mortal fear

Wanting to see it to safety not in concrete nor

On barren unforgiving walls but to some lush grass

Where it could stridulate away silently, least to my ear.

Even the bush crickets in the verge are now alas

Mute to me I’m told despite their loud and raucous churr

But I have my sight and am very thankful for this -

To see the bounding fragment of a summer spirit -

Lifts my spirits and makes me so glad I have not missed

A chanced glimpse. Perchance some more before this world I quit.


© RM Meyer,

Winswell Water, July 2019

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Lost friends


The old friends whom I have known

But now seem to have outgrown;

That is to say they’ve dropped me

For reasons I cannot see.

Once they came in joyous reason;

Stayed season upon season,

When we’d sit and talk for hours

Of animals, trees and flowers,

Of art and philosophy.

Brian, Jim and Valerie.


But these old friends went away,

Uncaring, here I would stay.

Malcolm and Mick died, it’s true,

And those who stayed became few:

New lives and acquaintances.

Gradually though I heard less;

Sometimes new found affluence

Sped regretted severance

To leave me isolated -

Lonely – old friends lamented.


So they go, family too,

Important business to do.

How can this one fain begrudge,

It is not for me to judge

How others must live their lives.

Sometimes it’s men: their new wives

Come and justly take their time;

The same with girls I’d opine.

They will drift and drop away,

Tomorrow and yesterday.


Now I sit with pen in hand,

And will hope but not demand

That news might come in return:

Some view or new thing to learn.

But damned new technology

Makes quick response too easy.

Here it is, what I most fear,

Those few words, ‘Thanks, good to hear’.

To these how does one respond?

Too easy to break the bond.


And lose what little remained -

The smallest that I can claim -

Of dignity without blame.

Of this I feel no shame.

Avoiding those who won’t speak

[Is this being strong or weak?]

But cannot a nuisance be,

To preserve some dignity,

If only for self-respect.

Without that there’s nothing left.                                  

© RM Meyer

Winswell Water, June 2019

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The Magpie

 

Oh, harshly misunderstood crow,

Your priestly raiment flashing white,

Springs up like some alien

Threatening all the dreams I owe.

 

But never could I dislike you,

Your stark whiteness adorns the lawn.

Other corvids are taunted and mocked.

Behold merry avian Jew!

 

You fly down to land near the daws

Or rather you bounce in cheerful

Charade like some gymnastic clown

Waiting for a round of applause.

 

All birds flee at the sight of man;

Is it the penalty we pay?

As man can never get near you

He hates you as much as he can.

 

Crows! Are they’re too clever by half?

Knowing not their place in man’s scheme:

‘The scandal-mongers of the woods’ *

Give them a chance to make you laugh.

 

Do they not thrive upon our hate?

Coming back again and again,

Cheeky as any bird could be,

Cocking a snook at careless fate.

 

You’d think alongside flashy jay

And the chough’s scarlet legs and beak

Other crows would fire themselves up

Brightening the daws’ sheen of grey.

 

Huh! Just to please us and yet why?

Black was selected to serve them

For reasons nature decided

Seeing no cause to please man’s eye.


© RM Meyer

Winswell Water, December 2019

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* Ex Ovid, Metamorphoses.


 


Nets of words – A moorhen in a tree


We saw a moorhen in a tree.
Is that where it was meant to be?
To confine birds in nets of words
Is almost literally absurd.
To tag and confine designates,
Appropriates and then creates
A noose, a trap, or captive pit
For a bird that has no use of it.


The botanist stoops low to spy
Some new flower that’s caught her eye.
Once ID’d she’ll likely ignore,
Moving on quick to find some more.
Twitching birders have less idea -
[Is that there ‘wreck’ your first this year? ]
Blown-in from some far-off country
Mega tick: poor doomed rarity.


Old books say the moorhen’s common
But from old places now it’s gone.
T’is no hen, and few on What moor?
The vernacular works no more -
Indeed, it scarcely works at all;
Marshes drained and mink took their toll -
Yankee ones from out their cages -
Degraded the work of ages.


Oh, for a world before our peers
When beavers were the engineers;
Where marshes slept and quiet streams flowed
Wending wherever they would go.
Now, in a town natives call ‘Peef’
Kids play on a pond in the ‘Heath’
For townsfolk it’s a country park,
The moorhen sees a tree  
                                   (and finds an ark).

© RM Meyer
Hampshire & North Devon, August & November 2020

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No earthly worm this


Thought them one of the fungus puff-balls,
Turned up within wooden compost walls,
I appraised them far too casually.
It took me another year to see.


But next summer they were there again.
I saw them now as far less mundane.
Whitish ping-pong eggs flaccid and hatch'd:
With babies now absent and dispersed.


Gently I turned the compost over -
Simple tool now a deadly rapier.
Then I saw a worm in mortal haste
Slide o'er cabbage leaves and kitchen waste.


No earthly tunnelling worm was this,
No common Lumbricus terrestris.
A creamy flash down its blazing side
Made me lay my garden fork aside.


Privilege and gratification
Bestowed upon my lowly garden.
A tiny bejewelled miniature asp
Took me by surprise and made me gasp.

© R M Meyer

Winswell Water, September 2018

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Of all the sounds


Beyond our ancestors and all of theirs,

There is one sound we hear with unchanged ears.

For every generation, in its way,

Hears that self-same primeval song today -

Over all the world’s uncountable years

And through all her wilderness areas.


This, an echo that even time ignores,

Belying, for me, many natural laws.

Constant. Changing in essence not a note

Nor resounding from any creature’s throat.

Had people time enough when work was through,

Who can tell, then, how it was listened to.


Wind - gale force to even the merest breeze,

Has long fingered forested canopies:

Woodwind! through flinty bush and bare branched tree

Plays the reeds which years change structurally.

Birch, pine, oak, maybe even unto Ent!

Each with vibrations made so different.


We know that animal speciation

Adapts by creative evolution.

Incalculable numbers come and go,

While those left behind must evolve and grow

For to survive the uncountable years.

Not one is left that the falling tree hears.


Endless animal chatter over time

Means calls alter too but I fear that I’m

Too ignorant of things auditory

To fathom out such long-lost history.

Besides, chaotic calls make various

 Concerts audibly too ambiguous.


Extinct creatures dumb in fossil or grave

We’ll never pronounce the noises they made.

And much as we puzzle larynx design,

It can’t identify scream, shriek or whine.

And even this, time’s merest passing phase

On history’s ever revolving stage.


Dinosaur, dodo, archaeopteryx?

Or modern birds’ ululating syrinx?

The sounds of seals and all the Phocidae

Are distorted by ocean density.

And what about the swooning songs of whales?

Or on land: partridges, pheasants and quails?


Thousands in our own vocabulary:

Czech, Italian, Chinese, Swahili.

English language rich in countless accents,

Each region, with its many strange dialects.

Then, our voices age; as does idiom,

And colloquially too, with fashion.


What is left, then, that could possibly be

The same now as prehistorically?

As far back as I can drag my mind’s ear

Did not our long-lost forgotten forebears

Hear it precisely as we do today?

What falls: the brook, the stream and lapping wave.


I can think only of moving water,

Brawling on rock-bed, pebble and boulder,

That echoes the most distant historic

Flow of rivers which become hypnotic.

It takes me away in humility

To dwell long in untouchability.

© R M Meyer

Winswell Water, April 2019

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Of a son


You were one of four

I wouldn’t want more.

This was joy sublime.

Never in my time

Had I thought of you.

Not until you grew

Then I realised

Became mesmerised.

This little chap who

Had landed brand new.

Turned my life around;

Shook the very ground

Beneath the complacent,

Once independent.

Domesticated!

Emasculated!


A better father

Were I to be there

I think I’d never find.

Generous and kind,

Maybe to a fault

But real ale and malt

Whisky chasing dram

Reveals the true Sam

Which life’s troubles hide.

And instead confide

The troubled man who

Wasn’t the boy I knew.

This handsome charming

Fellow could bring

Joy to any life

(Except his first wife).


Here deep waters un-

touched by brooding sun

Cannot hide the work

He feigns to shirk.

Such is decency.

Incivility

And pomposity

Berate him daily.

Still he manages

And disparages

Those who cannot see

Hidden dignity.

Yes, you would escape

To fresh fields – the grape!

And find in Hungary

A new family.


Here this English field

In green shadows stealed

The white clad players

Through lazy summers.

A quiet spoken guy

None harder would try.

“My name is Samuel,

I ravish the duel.”

But the friend I know

Would in faith bestow

A kind heart and soul

In every part whole

For someone in need.

Any race or creed

Matters not at all

Straight is bat on ball.


Candidly I may

Feel impelled to say

With hand on my heart

In discussing art

He is a writer

Few I think better

Though he must believe

Himself to achieve.

All that’s possible

But there’s the trouble

Confounding demands

On debated grounds

Set the world askance

And can’t help but chance

To distract the chap

From destiny’s map

But he will proceed

And at last succeed.

© RM Meyer

February 2019

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Once a country lane

Along the battered winding hedgerow
- And once a country lane -
Where barely a century ago
Lumbered slumbering wains.
Every sixty yards or so erupt
Stark poles for singing wires.
At their rooted bases
Hopeful thickets with briars aspire.
Both sides though the tractor
Has flailed all vegetation new grown,
For here the infernal machine
Dare not reach to get it mown.

Now all fruits and berries
Giving life to overwint’ring birds
Lie mashed, trampled and wasted,
Disdained by ruminating herds.
Finches, thrushes, fieldfares and redwings
Must go short or move on;
Their table scoured clean before them
All hard weather forage gone.
With no thought for those without,
The farmer guzzles his warm beer;
He feels a glow inside and grins,
Job done, for another year.

But two fingered V’s of suburbia
Reach out either side,
Planed into efficient tidy
Parodies of countryside.
Each bustle of sportive wood -
Not wild - spared by man’s erection
Cringes, oblivious of farmers’
Endless reclamation.
In the field, shuffling heavy hooves
Pulverise and grind the grass,
And no ghostly echo comes
From heavy horse that never pass.

© RM Meyer
Winswell Water, October 2020

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Oratory


Public oratory

Is not, I think, for me.

To stand upon a box

And utter to the vox

Populi words of ass-

-ertion which could be crass,

Are never, for myself

Statements of verbal wealth.


The moving finger writes,

And for all its frail might -

- Ephemerality -

Carry some piety,

Which, speaking candidly,

Lacking verbosity,

Trades in so much hot air,

To make truth disappear.


But the great orator,

Waxing lyrical or

Raising the passionate

Mob into maddened hate,

Lynches some poor beggar

Who ne’er posed a danger

But whose unhappy face

Happened in the wrong place.

© R M Meyer

North Devon, September 2018

[after Exeter's 'Save the Badger' march]

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The owl and the playtime pinewoods

(dedicated to Josie)


There was an owl on the chimney cowl

The same evening my mother died.

And the visit made her death less hard,

For all her long life she had loved owls.

Odd, in Shepton - when its gaol still thrived -

Our house should overlook a graveyard.


But this was no chance fleeting visit

For she stayed with us all the night through

Calling in that melancholic way.

The scientist in me cared not one whit,

For I knew she called tu-whit to you,

And knew it was love she had to say.


She might have come before, though not seen.

Her pleading penetrated the walls

Calling us out to listen and hear.

The garden was warm, still and serene.

So we stood, mesmerised by the calls.

And I had little doubt she was there.


*


 Weeks later, coming back from the moss,

Driving the lane from Fishermans Path

In the dusk of a warm summer night

The owl stopped us, right there was my loss,

Plonked on the road, resembling a wraith.

There she stood long before taking flight.


Lazy-winged down an adjacent drive,

The bungalow’s curtains tightly drawn,

To close out the wild life of even

Tide, the same owl we’d just heard alive

In the pinewoods sounding so forlorn,

Stopped us again and made us listen.


Thereafter, each time when I walked there,

Where my mother would play as a child,

The owl never failed to call to me

Even in the bright sun of day's glare.

Was this owl wild, I mean really wild?

Or some spectral thing, comely ghostly?


All told true by my daughter Josie,

For whenever we went, at that time,

 The owl would mysteriously come

And call to speak to us privately.

Telling us that everything was fine,

And not to worry, this is her home.


*


The pinewoods in the nineteen twenties,

In trees up and down the dunes, planted

To stabilise the sand from the sea,

Was a playground to rival any

Modern activity park so themed

For holiday-making families.


There are few woods now where kids can play

Hide and seek, climb trees and build their dens,

Chase the girls and/or frighten the boys.

Where no adult ever frowns to say

Stop that!  Not here!  It is forbidden!

Make no complaint of innocent noise.


The woods now echo to no child’s game,

Just the shadow of Alice Marshall.

To keep her company and beside

Us.  Our mysterious owl became

Her living presence by sight or call.

The playtime pinewoods where she abides.

© R M Meyer

Somerset, Lancashire & Devon. Written December 2018

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Paintings hang about for years


Paintings hang about for years

Remarkably like children,

While producing fewer tears.

And mellowing with years, then

Growing steadily older,

Overtake the work of art.

Until the one which prospers

Leaves behind the mortal part.


The child becoming adult

Leaves behind the old parent

Who fondly saw the result.

Eternal art, apparent,

As young as when it were done.

Yet children scorn old traces,

Nor want things till they are gone

Or see wealth in loft spaces.


***


So many years brings some reflection,

And some semblance of reposeful mind,

Searching for more consideration.

Looking for all those things left behind.

The painting excised from someone's brain

Passes no comment or view at all.

And no matter how great or mundane,

A fortune will hang on someone's wall.

R M Meyer

Devon, September 2018

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The railway warbler

Locustella naevia


I


The grasshopper warbler stopped us in our tracks

as we walked out early one fine May morning

before breakfast when there was no-one about.

Our path took us along an old railway track;

quiet now with no trains. And then with no warning

from a rank field suffering from long drought

an old style football rattle burst out churring

loudly insistent demanding attention

not from ourselves, itinerant passers-by,

who did pass on by in spite of the stirring

ringing thrilling trilling drilling machine-gun

fire aimed not at us but new Locustellae.


A song that’s ultrasonic to some senses

my father’s old Witherby vol 2 tells me

sustaining for up to three minutes (at most);

rarer now than ever in my experience…

A fifties evening walk to a rail busy

with thundering steam along the North Wales coast

when from the marsh alongside came the rattling

churr heedless of a fiery railway monster.

One tiny feather ball from dark Africa.

One iron brute belching steam from some dark siding

charged on. Both from an instant in my era.

And the warbler still sustains his aria.


 II


With North Devon’s clay industry now derailed,

obese articulated lorries came reared

to force and cleave our little country byways.

Ambling trains bothered no-one back in those days.

From 1880 they took not just ‘ball clay’

but people too from along the little way-

side halts where their ghostly footfalls still echo

and mingle on brief platforms where weeds now grow.

Clay workers going to ‘proper jobs’ for sure.

Now with lifetimes satiated with leisure,

would not trippers and holiday-makers be

eager to spend and ride this Tarka country?


Alongside the trains the warbler still would sing

and to those with sound ears would such wonder bring.

Whether they noticed the rattling anglers’ reel

or just the clatter on rail of carriage wheel.

Never mind, the warbler with no interest

in commonplace casual holiday quest

will come churr and rattle his reeling treasure

in this wayside of Devon’s lost culm measure

as though he lives on a different planet.

Truly he does another world inhabit.

The strange frequencies of his yearning lament

must attract the rare female for which he’s meant.

© RM Meyer

On a train from Warwickshire to Devon, June 2019

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Rain love-lines
- for Mij -


It was all I thought it could be
And it came from you not from me.

There and then I found a lover -

Fain the sweet kind of a mother

That which comes unbidden from her -

These the love-lines of a wand’rer.:


Early walks in the rain with you

Others cocooned in safe situ

Better the sun they claim than rain.

So, leave them the beaches they claim.

For it isn’t the countryside

Where they would have themselves reside.


We took the fields and nestling lanes,

The woods with their soft summer rains -

Each drop comes as a gentle friend,
Which kisses the cheek as it wends

To your breast, thence to mine, until

It finds an empty space to fill.

© RM Meyer
Winswell Water, August 2020

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Rejection


I knew it, I knew it
So why do I do it?

Henry once said to me
When younger now than me
That he was way too old.
But I was young and bold
To pay much attention
To think of rejection
So what a relief now
At the age I am now
To no longer care much
That they do not care much.
Then bring on rejection
I expect rejection.

Now I will not do it
Because now I know it.

© RM Meyer
Winswell Water, May 2020

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The raven spoke


I


The raven spoke from the tree

Of love and fidelity

Though I love, my presence cries

Of olden blasted gunshot-fire.

I can’t blame the courtly bird

For scolding me / So warningly

Even though I never shared

In that cruel inhumanity

Which never managed to see

Such wisdom told from so high.

And though I regret the cry

Sense a bird that one day might

Relax himself of his fright.


Perhaps to my inane wave

Rex might nod to some low knave.


II


The next time we ventured near

And the same place quietly there

- Branched high up the conifer -

He sat with no anxious care

As still as the dusky air.

Was he looking / Or just thinking?

The raven king had no fear

Far round his realm he did peer

With no wish to disappear.

As for us, we did not dare

To trespass any closer;

Afraid to corrupt this sheer

Peaceful fathomless pleasure.


We stayed, and stayed a small tear

For a life so unendeared.

© RM Meyer

Winswell Water, June 2019

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The raven -

evermore!

(with respect to Edgar Allan Poe)


Then it was January already

And I see a raven atop its tree.

Very early in the year it’s come

With sparkling life so barely begun.

Here now the king and queen of crows

High in the pine with me far below

Wishing for certain I wasn’t here.

But, for my part, wish he had no fear.


Those centuries of persecution

Have caused this undeserved exclusion

And brought about such calamity

By those with sighted eyes that can’t see

The glory of its magnificence.

Despite all their poison, guns and sense-

lessness they’ve failed in their regicide,

For safe in London’s Tower Rex survives!


Scorning humdrum landscapes, the raven

In its vaulting poise will freely reign

Over tree, mountainside and cliff edge.

Tail fanned full free, they say like a wedge -

But not really, much more arcuate

For the soar and swoop of mate on mate.

It reminds us, wherever it be,

Of primeval pre-man history.


You prehistoric fantastic beast!

Remembered from where we used to meet

In limeston’d quarry when I was young,

Where once I stopped a kid with a gun

Even though myself scarcely older.

Passion made me angry, nay bolder.

And becoming a man from fey youth

Surprised even myself by such proof.


* * *


The raven’s rasping corronking call

Gives notice; fearing nothing at all

Except endless man - arch enemy -

Who darkly shadows his destiny.

Now see the Raven, still beguiling

In its lonely ancient travelling.

This gaunt grim ominous bird of yore.

What is meant in croaking 'Nevermore'?


 Over our Welsh pinewood winter home,

Where the goshawk and red kite have flown,

Came a strange cork-extracting popping.

Not the usual pruk-pruk toc-tocking

Nor the oft heard bubbling and creaking.

This bell-like liquid gong sent me seeking

Off to Heinrich’s ‘Ravens in Winter’;

Myself once more eager researcher.


In his pages I found a treasure -

That this call is of peace and pleasure.

Now in Devon I hear it a lot

Though from childhood remember it not.

Bold comes its cousin, the common crow

(Less bold the jackdaw) to our window

And raps thereon to be fed some more.

But no raven tapping at my door.


Foolhardy to be any bolder:

Keep your distance from human murder;

Groups of crows are so designated

By man to raise fear of the hated.

O, ebony bird, so beguiling

You set my face gratefully smiling.

Stately raven, quoth I, from my door

I would give you shelter…

Evermore!

© R M Meyer

Devon, February 2019

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Remorse


I would not waste one moment owed

In the studio bestowed

By my own hand long ago.

It is to myself I owe

Some debt of past confusion,

For I sit here at the end

To see one more studio

Miss the mark of my arrow.

This is the last time I’ll be

Able to sit here and see.

© RM Meyer

Winswell Water, September 2019

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Rubbish


I see people buying things and

  throwing them away;

I see it outside their houses

  every single day.


I see the lack of respect this

  dismal junk collects;

Much of it for children which

  they very soon forget.


There it lies in jumbled heaps,

  discarded and ignored;

Insult on top of injury

  never to be mourned.


Not all rubbish is garbage. Look!

  There’s some kiddie’s trike;

Surely, he loved it once

  before growing into bikes.


Now that bike is cast off too

  not even sold or stored;

The chain rusts, the chrome pits

  and the handlebars corrode.


It lies forgotten and ignored

  in some weedy shroud;

No more to swing down the lane

  with joyful bell out loud.


Not upright as it should be

  but chucked down on its side;

Exposed to winter’s cruel

  tirade after its last ride.


My bright new bicycle

  saw me, old at just thirteen,

Oiling gears and chains,

  polishing a freedom machine.


I could not tell a child now

  to clean between the spokes,

To get the rim shining bright.

  why, he’d say, it ain’t broke.


Toys your kids tire of

  they are not the only remnant;

Grown-ups chuck out stuff too -

  whatever they think is spent.


Building toss on toss

  the trashy mountains man has made.

Yes, cardboard rots, steel rusts

  and gloss eventually fades.


Yet always there is plastic

  persisting persisting;

And for all our good intent,

  stays ever resisting.

© RM Meyer

North Devon, May 2019

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The snow owl


Night after night I sit and look out
Hoping to see a barn owl about
As white as a surrendering flag -
This gliding wraith-like spirited rag -
Would ghost the dark field in looping strides
And scan the rank grass with razor eyes.

A facial disc, ears set obliquely,
Picks up murmurs sent unconsciously
By vole and mouse – but, yes, lost to me.
Signals that were never meant to be
From deep inside the raked-over grass:
A war zone as deadly as Arras.

This floating thing of deathly beauty
With fine synchronous duality
Is the most sublime killing machine
I am sure that I have ever seen;
And I’ve worked with tigers and lions,
But this owl alone brides its talons.

Yet, see, its peril is also white,
As soft a shroud as wings in the night.
Snowfall that covers the killing ground
Blankets out unwitting sight and sound
And shields for one and for all the voles,
Who may now venture outside their holes.

Yet what brings life in train brings death, and
Will fate Her players as chance demands.
For beneath the snow, still in the fray,
The brown fox now ventures into play.
And snow, which enables voles to crawl
Out of sight, masks the deadly footfall.

Nature weighs, measures and will balance
All the players in Her endless dance.
No design and no manufacture,
Refined, eternally year on year,
Until parts all slot in their places
Until… 
Until man kicked her traces.

His ‘god-given’ urge to dominate
And be set above Nature’s mandate
Does with sublime precision tamper
And monkey with the blind watchmaker.
Those parts that never can be put back
Become young future’s brains to rack.

So the barn owl, in microcosm,
Sets the stage within Nature’s prism.
One immaculate crafted species
Details Her overwhelming thesis.
And would, with infinite patience, show
The magic of the owl and the snow.

© R.M.Meyer
Devon, January 2019

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Sonnet to a dying squirrel

On seeing the dying flexing squirrel.
 “It's hard sometimes, being a bloke,” she said
I'd seen it before and thought it half dead.
“Is that where it was? Is that where it fell?”
Below the old oak in our rutted lane.
“If it's fallen, must've been from some height.”
The poor thing twitched -
its eyes still round and bright.
How can one read another's fatal pain?
Already a fly seized its chance to near
The coagulating and dark blood mud
Insinuating from a matted ear.
I knew I must do something - if I could.
“It must be hard sometimes being a bloke.”
I think these were the very words she spoke.

© R M Meyer

 Winswell Water, October 2018

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Subjugated


If there were no humans being human
Being handfuls of mechanisation
The planet would find itself and be in
Equilibrium.  Instead there’s urban
Grunge. Detritus of civilisation
Bludgeoning pure nature into ruin.


A plague of humans spreads as a virus -
Encroaching deadening all living space.
Were this any other species we would
Claim it’s evil and say ‘It’s taking us
Over’ and should be wiped from the earth’s face;
Absolutely of course for our own good.


Still, people will not see beyond their own
Wants… providing they are comfortable;
Everything will carry on as before:
Computers, wi-fi, A.I., mobile phones;
Technology is more than capable
Of solving the planet’s problems, and more.


Maybe so, maybe not. But what is left?
Where will be the work of millennia,
Of eternity’s manifestation?
Life’s intricate adaptations bereft:
A bulldozed poisoned burnt dystopia.
All justified as civilisation.


Other life forms all are subjugated
To humanities insane drive, to what?
To economic growth, to market force?
We are creating a planet fated
To be too wet to breathe, else far too hot
And left to rot in hell – our fine resource.


And, yet, still around me I look and see
The verdant spirit still trying trying
To raise the silent green banner of growth.
Every year she comes back, grass, flower and tree
Sun sparkling and setting the wind waving,
Until, ‘Oh look, here comes the human oaf!’


Is it possible for a single branch
Of evolution to command the end
Of all others?  Is it just possible,
By dim-sighted ignorance of just chance
To destroy it all with no hope to mend
The riotous ever green crucible?

© RM Meyer,
Winswell Water, July 2019

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The sparrowhawk


A sparrowhawk seared through the leaves and scarce moved a single one

Intent on its course and so in the blink of an eye was gone

Nothing moved thereafter for at least fifteen strangled minutes

The forest died with the bird whose life she had just diminished

 In a hollow of vacuum left in the vanishing slipstream

A pause button held testimony to where two lives had been.


Would this predatory wraith-like apparition come again

To test murderous eye, wing and talon coordination?

Don’t they have a regular patrolling route on which they scout?

Garden bird feeding brings birds in from barren farmed land without

A jungle of leafy trees and dense shrubs deceive with cover

But what conceals prey in equal measure conceals predator.


 Somewhere in the dying farmland lies a scattered wreath of down

Rained on a blooded corpse with frailest of feathers blown around

A pathetic memorial to a life not understood

Hail, higher life-forms the smaller would bow before if they could

The great kings and queens take a life to give a life to others

Thus display their love of life and become the greatest lovers.

© RM Meyer

Winswell Water, August 2019

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Such is wilderness


When they have finally killed the last badger

And the cattle get their disease again

Who next will they blame, who next will they frame?

More innocent lives - more wildlife - oh deer!


Farming and the countryside will not mix

Whatever they say. There is more cruelty

Than can ever be held necessary

In their economics and politics.


Wilderness lies beyond conservation

The intricate web of ecology

Cannot withstand this crude humanity

Between these there is no conversation.

© RM Meyer

Devon, June 2019

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They

They have no stridence for
They have not our language
They’re just poor animals.
They are all the world’s poor;
They live without a wage,
And live outwith our walls.

They live in their freedom;
And live in our wildness;
They live on despite us.
And will live when we’re gone,
They die beneath our stress,
And die without our fuss.

© RM Meyer
N. Devon, July/August 2020

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This Farming Business


We will not let your wildlife interfere

In our flat-capped industrial business.

We will protect our ground as a fortress

Not leaving no space for your wolf or bear.


Let your disease become an injury,

Inflicted on us so deliberately,

Attacking that which we hold most dearly.

Don't think you'll stop till we’re in poverty.


Don’t mistake then a farm for countryside

Nothing of the sort mate, just a common

myth. We’re here to make a nice profit on

our land, which means we must use biocide.


There’s no wilderness left for you to see.

You think we want critters spreading disease?

Attacking our stock and beaverin' our trees -

that's if decide to leave you any.


Hedges grow ugly and get in the way.

Haven’t you noticed? Why d’you think we

get rid of the buggers when we can’t see

any bloody point in letting ‘em stay?


Shelter and cover do not concern me

Animals are tough. Oh, they’ll be all right.

Anyway, can’t see ‘em, can I, at night

from my agricultural tenancy.


It’s nice and big for my vast family

And don’t need planning permission for it!

Tough on you mate, you don’t like it one bit.

But don’t moan at me for no sympathy.


Stewards of the country is what we say.

And do our bit, don’t you worry 'bout that.

That useless bit o'land is total crap

‘Tis always a good scam for what you pay.


Ha! The homeward ploughman don’t plod these days.

I sits in me nice warm powerful tractor.

And don’t care if earth gets compacted or

turned to mud. Yours is just another craze.


We’ll plough on for sure cos that’s what this is.

You should know by now it's an Industry

The soil is the floor of our factory.

If you still don’t get it: this is Business.

© R M Meyer

North Devon, March 2019

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The thumbnail toad

There was no car
On the lanes this morning,
And with my ear straining
Said, “Well, not so far”.


Sunday's first opaque light
Sees none about,
Nor me to cry out
‘Hark!’ lest some car might


Fill the wide empty breadth
Save for this thumbnail toad,
Stumbling across the road,
With no sense of tarred tread.

 

Reaching the near side verge -
To you perhaps a mile -
Can now repose awhile
Where skin-toned dry grass merge


Whatever will you find to eat?
Something smaller even than you?
Yet, when all is through
- It is true -


Your tiny heart will beat.

And I wonder if you can see
New life you’ll bring
Next March, in spring,


Or maybe even February.

To a pond (for some escape)
Across fields, soon newly green,
Where I honestly do mean


To build you a spawning scrape.

So off, away so far,
To meet your ancient kin -
A fair amphibian -
And dread no treading car.

© RM Meyer
Winswell Water, 2018
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Travel travails

Inscribing our planet as maps,
Or on new electronic apps,
Serves to make ourselves gigantic,
But rooted space microscopic.


Maps conspire in making the world,
Laid out in close detail unfurled,
A tiny place where, with no fuss,
We go where'er fancy takes us.


Transport at every persons' door
Waiting for the rich and new poor.
And thus the common cars and trains
Convey us to pernicious planes.


For now, the general populace
Wants always to be somewhere else.
Motorways clogged in foul delays
Two fingers trafficking both ways.


Can we not exchange our ideas?
Experience each other’s prayers?
Be content with what we have got;
Nothing certainly it is not.


If maps are so necessary,
Were they not so very many
Years, decades, centuries ago?
Did not then ideas also flow?


 Now there’s no space for idle thought.
Where they go matters less than nought.
Each desire mutually transferred:
Movement, ambitions, endless words.


It is no right of common man,
Though it's claimed as he alone can;
To also claim the planet’s wealth,
No matter its expiring health.


Your primrosy road to leisure:
Sex, sun, food and boozy pleasure.
All things which might seem so funny
Sure as hell cost too much money.


“To Hell with your pessimism.
What we want is cheap tourism.”
Hours spent going nowhere at all,
Fuming in some departure hall.


Enmeshed motorways now car-bound,
Bus and coach stations moribund.
Trapped in one cage or another;
Rumbustious slums never more drear.


The glory of the Open Road,
As envisaged by Mr Toad,
Which once promised glamour and dreams
Now project exhaust pipes and fumes.


Existing space is exhausted
Heated up. No! Suffocated.
Pumped out gaseous emissions
Choke vital vascular systems.


What has caused this situation?
Not just the essential mission;
Could this be an explanation -
Endless jaunts and small excursions?


Could such an explanation be
- Sacrificing our history -
Those frivolous expeditions
Pumping out endless emissions.


Businessmen claim they're essential,
Trippers, tourists say medical
And claim travel broadens the mind.
Usually though just the behind.


Shangri-Las became ambitions.
Imagined real destinations.
Relentless days searching for sun,
And endless days queueing for fun.


Lost some other place the luggage
No-one will broadcast a message;
Silky staff once keen to sell flights
Strangely now disappear from sight.


Cruises and package holidays
Leave me beyond bereft and fazed.
What on earth has been left behind?
What on earth is there left to find?


Security and visa checks.
Essentials, one of course forgets,
Frustrates that fragile piece of mind
Searched in all those brochures to find


When back, we breathe sighs of relief,
Joke about all those hours of grief.
And before very long we’ll say,
“Let’s plan another holiday.”

© RM Meyer
North Devon, September 2018

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The tombstone buzzard


On the quiet road I often travel

Aloft a telegraph pole I may

See the tombstone Buzzard sentinel.

Hunting or just resting, who can say?


Standing erect so obviously,

No recourse to common camouflage.

He claims his invisibility.

Challenging vision by bold carriage.


Fooling myself that he nods at me.

Still I wonder: Might a thought carry,

Between a man earthbound but friendly

And a raptor perched so loftily?

© R M Meyer

North Devon, September 2018

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Sonnet


We saw two hedgehogs


We saw two hedgehogs feeding side by side

And it wouldn't be our fault if they died.


They had been grunting through the summer night.

Safe from traffic - we thought they'd be all right -

In an island garden bordered by woods.

Every evening we gave them special food

In a plastic box wasted and surplus.

They went straight there the first night with no fuss.

Though far too nervous to come out in light:

This their entrench'd anthropogenic plight.

Now mangling their nightly excursions are

(New dreads but) most of all the motor car.


And remember bonfires roast them alive,

As one did a guy on November Five.

© R M Meyer

 Winswell Water, 12 October 2018

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Umberleigh


Once on the station at Umberleigh

A blackcap chortled and laughed at me.

The wind lessened and let the sun out.

A wayside halt with no-one about.

We were early, waiting for the train

As I remembered that Spring refrain.


Across a single-track willows massed;

Twelve again with no thought of trespass,

I would jump down and scurry across

To find caterpillars of hawk-moths.

But sensible now on the platform,

My poor old eyes struggled to perform.


As hard as I tried, I could not see

The blackcap which was laughing at me.

Hidden deep in the osier bed

Where I fear no caterpillars thread

Their silken metamorphic cradles

Any more - just old childhood fables.


But birds here must find something to eat -

For it’s verdant with no dead concrete.

Then, over the blackcap’s serenade,

A song thrush begins his fusillade.

Both unyielding in their dual refrains,

Jousting with the little branch-line trains.


Emerging up round the curving track

Two carriages creeping on their way back

To shuttle over rails Beeching forgot

In that sightless economic plot.

Here they are, brushing the willow trees,

With blackcap and thrush in harmony.

© R M Meyer

North Devon, May 2019

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Where you are not


I


Where you are not is where you want to be.
When you are there do you think Somewhere new?

Why do we move? Some notion to be free?
Or to some place else for a better view?


II


Today I find freedom in a locked room

But yesterday I moved on anxiously.

Now I find the near view to be the moon

And see the old wall microscopically.


Look deep! A detailed vista lies within

Another new mysterious landscape

Awaits and by scale alone is hidden;

But square it up and make the detail great.


III


The miniature expands in essence

Overlooking far and wide distance.

Study hard the tiny inflorescence

And jewel-like crustose lichens will entrance.


Fruticose ones, emerald mosses creep through

Crumbled joints of mortar into chasms

Inch miles deep, and astonish the narrow view.

Stay put, look hard and behold new prisms.


IV


Let’s lock ourselves down and swap our places,

We might be settled, even happier.

Forsake streams of cars in endless races

Going to some new place where once we were.



© RM Meyer

Winswell Water December 2020

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White maggots


Look, there, smearing the shorn green fleece,

All over it, the parasites.

What on earth? And why so many

Strewing once wild Welsh Shropshire heights?


They don’t deceive, their silent bleat,

Viewed afar across the railway

Tracks the contours through the valleys

‘Neath blank skies of indifferent grey.


Scattered over plain green parchment

Punctuating little commas

Though lit’rally illiterate

Of pure still unwritten sagas.


Their clean placidity cannot

Deceive. They are there, that’s the proof -

Mankind’s slavering meat habit -

White fleece on green grass thence red tooth.


‘Meagre sheep and thinly-scattered

Shepherds’* they watch no more their flocks

Whose mutton flyspecks a land in

Blood splattered drifts of snowy flecks.


Your mowing machine efficient sheep

Cut down and razor off the trees

That prehistorically bestowed

A refuge for all our ancestries.


* George Eliot (Silas Marner)

© RM Meyer

On train from Shrewsbury to Devon, November 2019

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Whitethroat singing
(Dedicated to Anikó Kover)

I heard a whitethroat singing,
From a tree that wasn't seen.
And saw a young girl walking
Through corn that grew yet green.

The wind that set it waving
Attended a silent dream.
While green becoming hedging -
Heedless of axe unforeseen –

Embraced the sunsheen waiting
Of wife, mother, son between.
And the whitethroat still was singing,
Yet still could not be seen.


© RM Meyer
Hampshire, June 2018

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Wind Song


Through the gales in the leaves

Came the faintest cadence

Of a song only breathed

Yet, stoically, intense.

The thrashing of the wind

Drowned out all else, rather

Like when gardens are strimmed

Yes songs will persevere

Threading through troubled air

Gracing us such sweet fare.

© RM Meyer

Winswell Water, Sept 2019

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 Winter shorelines

1

There were shifting flocks on the winter shore.
I saw the gulls, knot, turnstone and yet more
Fish-skinned waders shuffling and skittering
Along the spumed-up tide-edge shimmering.
Late in the afternoon with most light gone;
And people too with just me left alone.

2

A winter shore, rock-strewn, raked by the wind;
Rustling silver sanderling and dunlin
Make this seascape primevally arctic.
With no thought of anything poetic
To convey such wild bleakness and glory,
Sixty years on, I live this history.

The winter beach, my one escape from home.
Life-frayed decades have passed since there I’d roam.
Myself, birds and a lonely cold refrain
Would release my ‘little idiot’ brain
To where I could wonder and be free.
Then came a Sibelius symphony!

His Fourth cleans the world of humanity
And brings a storm of Finnish melody.
Terrible landscapes to thrill Beethoven -
Whose Sixth conjures up a serene haven.
But here, it’s clean-aired, bird-wand’ring, wind-raw
Oh, this limitless roaming winter shore.

An endless horizon of grey-flecked sea
Teases on the wandering soul to be
Engulfed. Consumed by such intimacy,
I won’t erase that lonely memory
Of such a life imagined before me.
The birds arise and that will ever be. 

Out from the shore, scudding over water
Lo! There! Eider, scaup, merganser, scoter,
 Behind grey waves, bob in and out of view, 
Drifting and dozing, head to tail in queues.
 From some other mysterious world these
Birds bring buoyant charm and ride out the freeze.

3

I will go again to the lonely sea and sky
Once more this winter but with no ship sailing by.
Feel again the salt-smacked wind and the stinging rain.
See wildfowl drift and waders edge their tide-terrain
To skitter off on flashing wings of icy fire
And leave me to recall their melancholy cries.

© R M Meyer
Devon, February-March 2019

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Richard’s poetry

Introduction


All writing should speak for itself I suppose but these thoughts about poems come from my love of traditional nature writing. Wordsworth described poetry as the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity, and who would argue with him?


I have no formal education in poetry (nor in much else) and find all the strictures and structures mind-boggling and too scientific (quite enough of that in other fields) and fear that if I worried too much it would kill the love. Instead, I'm inspired by John Donne (we share a birthday, though in a somewhat different century), Robert Frost, John Clare (of course), Edward Thomas, W.H. Davies (Supertramp), R.S. Thomas, William Barnes, H.D. Thoreau, W.B. Yeats, Dylan Thomas and Bob Dylan.


So, as always, mentoring comes from the masters. Isaac Newton mentioned ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’, and the great self-taught Spanish guitarist Segovia said, I was my own teacher and pupil; anything is possible if you have enough enthusiasm and work hard.


Finally, though I have nothing against ‘free verse’ or 'blank verse' per se it has to be of high quality, a la Shakespeare or Wordsworth. I often struggle to distinguish free verse from cut-about prose. Funky or clever use of blank space, and truncated line breaks do not, of themselves, make good poetry - which, for me, is linguistic music. Robert Frost memorably said that free verse was “like playing tennis without a net”.


I hope you can browse and enjoy some of these poems.

Richard



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