Monthly Archives: February 2016

Cathedral

CATHEDRAL

Here it stands;
a monument to time
(which doesn’t
actually exist,
by the way;
or so the particle
physicists say).
Imposing edifice,
coated in grime.

Admiration and wonder
are compelled;
how medieval
masons understood.
The cavalcade
of blood and thunder
it has withstood.

Symbol of what
still, stubbornly, persists;
Larkin’s “brocade”:
patterns of belief,
transcending mortality,
love and grief.
All for something else
that doesn’t exist.

My views on the immense subject of belief in God could be summarised as essentially atheistic, with a tinge of agnosticism.  I am basically convinced by the scientific, rationalist explanations of the workings of the universe, without the necessity for the idea of a God, and am not convinced by the arguments of any religion I have so far come across.  There remains, however, a vestigial sense of awe and bafflement; a feeling that we simply don’t know the answers to the “how?” and “why” of the universe, and that anything is possible.  Also, of course – as Professor Joad* used to say – it all depends on what you mean by “God”.

All this came into play in the composition of the poem “Cathedral”.  Living in Peterborough I have always had, at the back of my mind, the need to write a poem about the cathedral, but have lacked the particular inspiration to do it.  I finally got around to it – curiously enough – due to a combination of a reinvigorated interest in local history and some recent books on particle physics.  Lovers of Philip Larkin will recognise the line “Larkin’s brocade” as a reference to his wonderful poem “Aubade”, where he compares religion to a moth-eaten brocade.

(* Professor C.E.M. Joad was a prominent member of The Brains Trust: a highly popular programme on BBC Radio in the 1940’s and 50’s.  He became famous for prefacing his answers to almost any question with “Well, it all depends on what you mean by . . . “, which became one of the first modern catchphrases).   

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Angry Girl

THE FLATS (2): ANGRY GIRL

Bow-legged, like her bull-terrier,
she patrols along St. Martin’s Street;
glowers at any “foreigners” she meets,
swigs from her can of super-lager.

Her bull-terrier terrifies me;
she terrifies me. Head shaved
at the sides, spikes on top;
her small, shrunken figure,
her fierce face, emanate
hostility, rage.

I come within range of her sight.
The glittering orbs converge, assess,
recognise, accept me. “Alright?”
She tells me about one of her mates:
burgled, place ransacked, hit on the head
by some sort of axe; left for dead.
How is he? “Still in hospital, mate.”

I ask about a man I’ve not seen for a while.
“He’s been dead six months now, mate!”
She aims her right hand at her left arm,
mimes the pumping action of a syringe.
“Too much of that, weren’t it!
I don’t do no drugs; don’t want to, neither”
she fiercely insists. I refrain
from observing the can in her fist.

Hubbub on the street, next morning:
she shouts, swears, howls in misery.
“Have you seen my dog? Someone’s stole him!
Some bastard’s took him!” She sits,
feet in the gutter; accosts every passer-by.
“Have you seen my dog?” wipes
her sleeve across her eyes.

I feel sorry for her; she is desolate.
I steer clear of her, I fear for her fate;
this young woman, seemingly
so filled with hate.

In my last posting, I said that I am currently engaged in writing a series of poems based upon scenes and incidents happening in the flats around me.  “Angry Girl” is the second poem in the series.  It’s based upon an encounter that happened during last summer, but remains vivid in my memory.  I haven’t seen the central character for quite a while, now.  I hope she’s alright, but she’s one of those people who provoke strong reactions, and – as I say in the poem – I fear for her fate. 

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