By LEWIS OAKWOOD.
THE SUMMER OF SIXTY-EIGHT
It seemed every day in full bloom though money was scarce
on the ground the summer of sixty-eight a child and the fields
as full as a galaxy of flowering stars.
A white butterfly drinks from a teardrop
on the back of my eight-year-old hand, a hand that rings a bell
on my bicycle as I am swept up into an air of gloom.
I kick off my black shoes on my return from the church on that day
of memory swept days, again and again I dream of my father
and his return from the summer of sixty-eight.
BE OF GOOD CHEER
The morning rabbit to see for the first time bathed
in yellow light the leaves on the trees and the grass
along the bank and the splash of the kingfisher
with a stickleback in its beak.
At every stride, I am again that child of well-being;
my body smoothly bends from side to side along a stream
as days in their thousands trickle down my back
and all thought gone with the water strider.
The sun shines everywhere; great-hearted and without care,
as I place my hand in its waters.
An owl blinks at the blood of the moon
over salmon that leap from nightmare-trenches
to the open sea where fear gives way to the smile of
the sun over an oyster-catcher seabird in white
shirt and straw sunhat and Siegfried Sassoon
out on the seafront with his dog that laps at
the new dawn in a frisbee.
Bread, fish and wine under an olive tree by the blue afternoon sea
where Zorba casts off his shoes and begins to dance—
claps his hands and the soul leaps into the air like the ascension of
Christ higher and higher to leave the body behind with the crowd of
the onlooker-pebbles on a Cretan beach that seem to smile
with confidence at the whole of creation.
THE OLD ORCHARD
Their bones grind together as they walk round and round
the old orchard, where I watch and listen to the dead:
“we lost our tomorrow and in that blackest night we are
afraid that you have forgotten our names.
We have gathered from the few remembrances: blood-filled
clouds across the moon over trenches and rats with fleas
and our feet permanently wet, gas masks and tanks,
rifles with bayonets, severed limbs stuck on the cold barbed wire
and cholera spirals into our food and water and the fallen
we have trodden underfoot.”
With them in remembrance I walk round and round
where my grandfather and his friends lay restless under
the old orchard in France.
SHE HELD OUT HER HAND
A yellow sapphire rolls out of my shoe.
Follow me in happy song, she says.
I observe something in all this
to make the best of it;
with a backwards glance,
the sun behind me is on the rise.
Lewis Oakwood was born in London where for many years he worked as a funeral service operative. He now lives in a small village in Hampshire — at its centre a church, a post office, a corner shop and gossip.