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Six poems.

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.

EUROPE, 1914-1918

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.

ZORBA’S DANCE

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.

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