As we approach Christmas, with the weather becoming inexorably chillier and more wintry, this post takes a fond look back at the height of the summer.
I’ve never been much of a “sun-worshipper”, but last summer was exceptionally hot and sunny, and I spent quite a few leisurely lunchtimes “soaking up the rays”. My poem “Sun-Salutation” was inspired by – and describes – a particular location, in the city where I’ve lived for the last twenty-five years. Although the location is specific, the activities I observed there are, I’m sure, enacted in towns and cities throughout the world. The juxtaposition of a busy market-place and a beautiful cathedral generated my reflections at the end of the poem.
Sun Salutation: (Heat-Wave, July 2013):
At Laxton Square, a pattern of stones
radiates out, in concentric circles,
like rings around a planet,
at a slight incline, from a central grate.
Here, the Helios-worshippers gather,
sitting on metal benches, at the perimeter.
You can spit, you can shout, let it all hang out.
You can slurp a skinful of scrumpy.
All is permitted, in this transitory temple.
Stunned into submission, by savage rays from above,
The worshippers settle in, to a slow
annihilation of the senses.
Sitting, sweating, staring into blue nothingness.
Skin burning, browning, nicely crisping.
All thoughts and feelings oozing, trickling,
sucked into the oblivion of the central grate.
Minds becoming as blank as the blue vastness above.
From the Identity and Passport Offices, close by,
workers emerge, blinking, dazzled by brightness;
anxious to spend their precious lunch hours
submerging identities, in salutation
to the omnivorous power of the
merciless, monstrous orb in the sky.
On one side of the square, market stalls
seethe and thrive, as minions minister
to the worshippers of Mammon.
On the other side of the square stands
the cathedral, hidden by office buildings.
Overwhelmed by these faiths: Helios and Mammon
– which are vapid, valueless, misbegotten –
its own servants now seen as corrupt and rotten,
the cathedral seems forlorn, subdued,