Forty years

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How has it been, these forty years?

A long time since swaggering of youth
And your magic eyes, smiling in a crowd.
We fell like all the others of our time
And our places there were taken
By the newcomers.

And forty years where have they gone?
Five, fighting for a home
Twenty, raising kids
Ten, paying off the debts
And five now on our own.

Forty seems like nothing
Started by that glance
Yet I wish it was a record,
That we could play again,
Again those tracks etched of our lives,
And never reach the end.

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The Conker Tree

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When I last walked down this lane
I was just a boy
Short trousered and muddy kneed.
The puddles were much deeper then
The muddy water splashing
With adventure
And a drowned mouse,
Beyond revival.

The blossom and the nettle scent
Have caught me now
But then it was stingers and the frantic search
For dock leaves
To relieve the pain,
And there beyond the hedge
the conker tree
where Peter fell.

The biggest ones are at the top
He always said.
He was the bravest climber
But sadly fortune
Does not always favour
In the crash of falling branches.

A crowd of villagers
Silently assembled as if
Taking guard.
The ambulance came with just a bell jangling
And on a bike, a policeman
Looking stern, asking, writing names down
Around the bloodied corpse
That was once a boy.

So I’m walking down the lane
And fifty years have gone
But Peter isn’t here, just the same old conker tree
Which somehow looks much larger
And quite alone like me,
As I think of fifty years he missed
And all for conkers,
conkers that were no bigger at the top.

Pat Ladbrooke

The Kissing Gate

imageThere is a five bar gate,
close by a woodland track,
where, half a century back,
we talked till evening late.

Then walking in the almost dark,
her radiance and the night
made each and every footstep light,
as she breathed life to love’s spark.

I find the gate that stands today,
as solid to the lean as then and
I stop to seek her face, as when
love graced that distant May.

But this gate is not the same,
a rotting frame replaced three fold
unlike the love unchanged I hold
sacred, to her whispered name.

And I must always have this dream,
hold tightly to its sturdy bars,
to wonder why the passing years
wash all within their cruel stream.

How different now, her youthful face,
still smiling in my mind?
And does she hold that special grace,
that made my love so blind?

The Furrow Followed

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A’rear the Suffolks’ sure foot gait
And sturdy flank of silent muscle power,
Shining steel of ploughshare cuts a wake,
With scent of earth turned, new and clean,
All held by skills that keep straight
With every corner matched in perfect line,
For the gathered gulls to glean.

And as the father cut the furrow, so does son,
A’helm two hundred horses diesel burning,
Hauling tenshare, cutting with the roar;
Toward the dying day, earth still churning,
With no ploughman’s ‘Hold boy! ‘ check or ‘Woah! ‘
Headlights pierce the boundless fields of night,
And lines still straight and true,
Beneath the stars and watching satellite.

Eighty

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These useless hands
That once could sharply fret,
Bend and stretch and hammer on
And play all round the note,
Now barely hold a pencil.

And the heart,
In truth, can’t run a mile
Still flutters at a woman’s smile
And feels a rhyme
And can dance in time
To music.

But no one sees.

They only see these useless hands
That barely hold a pencil.

The sadness of growing old, that feeling of becoming extraneous to the world and yet inside feeling no different from when you were just eighteen. But the body will not let you be that eighteen year old ever again and a look in the mirror gives confirmation those days are over.

Sailing

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On the trailing edge of winter, pale light led me
To the cut, where alder and bowed willow stand
Reflected in the greys and browns of long waiting,
While winter burdened boats slack at their ropes.

In childhood days my father’s boat was tethered here,
Firm to the rusty ring upon the quay
And I still see her fine hull cut the water,
As she bestowed the grace of sail upon our lives.

The calms and storms, the fair and foul winds weathered her,
Tugged at the sheets and planks of our togetherness,
But now the ring is empty and as cold as winter,
Devoid of lives that once were firmly tethered.

Let it rest, to hold those years, for here and now
The grandchild in my arms is smiling.
Caught within her smile I glimpse my parents,
And once again those white sails fill with joy.

Langley dike, Norfolk – a quiet place, steeped in memories for me. Once there was even a nice pub, a real country pub, at the head of the dike. Today it is a private dwelling. Places change, memories do not.

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Beachy Head

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A place of beauty,
So it seemed,
But I shivered
I realised,
What happened here…

Dry withered flowers,
Tied to a fence,
Final pale tokens,
Life made no sense.

White cliff and lighthouse,
A desperate goal
An abyss of black,
No light for this soul.

No turning back,
From this last, lonely walk,
No one to help…

Blood on the chalk.

Beachy Head in Sussex is the world’s third highest placed venue for committing suicide. Between 20 to 35 people end their lives here each year, which is tremendously sad. A local team is active in try to identify those at risk and stop these acts, but sadly there is also a recovery team who have the job of bringing the bodies up from the beach. It is hard to imagine the desperation of those who jump and the trauma of those who do the recovery.