Remembrance Sunday : 2014

100 years Never forget the Sacrifices
Never forget the only Sacrifice which
will save us from this senseless cycle
of needless wanton destruction of
human life in all its forms.
Forgive the stranger and destroy
the sin within the sinner.
The Saviour will be alongside
Neither above nor below.
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A poem of reflection for all losses.

The Great Lie

Alderwood station, the train has stopped,
Quietness, stillness on a line, the platform’s edge.
Looking out the the open window, strap down, countryside
Other view, murmurations of starlings over the station roof,
city side flock across the skies, faint birdsong, in cover,
heard in the woods, earth smells drift, horses chomp the grass
Susan returns, “Two coffins are being unloaded”
Their heaviness a trolley bears, where once their feet would pace
along this platform, to Lord’s to see the batting of W.G.Grace
Now the shaft of light, serrated edge of canopy, cutting angular
across the beaded village nameplate, no longer summoning
now ending, their journeys decree no longer ineluctable fate.
Family flesh, blood circulating like warm tea replenishing.
Dinner would not be taken, shared conversations uncast.
Instead the sun heats the Church stone, the glass reflects intact,
The gravedigger has marked the plots, friends not brothers,
Sharing their dreadful waste, heads still, eyelids forever shut,
Ceaseless, senseless bloody war has us on this spot
Their lives like classroom history shared, had shared,
Fresh books in decades depict this age, this loss so great,
Each a witness to the others courage at war and on the pitch.
The dead have done, a much as they can do,
the dead are gone, soul adrift, none equal in this rest,
Sons and daughters betrayed by guns and low treachery,
The train driver lifts the safety catch, departure,
Our lives they trundle on.

John Graham
November 9 2014

Scent of Dust as Memory

imageNo poverty of Poetry
Such is our fortune in Belfast and on this island to have a people who know the immense importance of all kinds of Poetry it is treated with great appreciation by many in the community.
Writers readers alike, aplenty, axiomatic, liking and writing mastery alongside the double jointed realism of words limitations which yield and weld solid lines and canons in some hands, none to many, greater than Michael Longley who would tell you winking there are far better than me.. Not a quote more a guess.
Those revered Poets to last longer and as art; in concert with the words of the poet Austin Dobsons lines –
All passes. Art alone
Enduring stays to us;
The Bust outlasts the throne-
The Coin, Tiberius.

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Of another art once said-
Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.
So warns us wisely, of the stature less statuesque words descending a page, onto another and an other. You know the kind.
Another accolade if such trite words are necessary, in ML poetry is he himself readily puts out, is the brevity he favours. Ten volumes and the rest of writing in other forms will go far in quenching the thirst born in the mind satiated like Jameson alongside the friends absent and around.
Two pillars Seamus Heaney and the building stands with the hand reaching down holding the air supporting our own Coliseum. To put no finer point on it. It stands and time no respecter is confusing as once again it’s yesterday.
The sounder this becomes; the brevity, when ML has found each cast of a poem embarked on.
The works of Oscar Wilde have many subsequent orations and many times assiduously pertained in the oddest contexts. The learned teacher in ML will know education itself is a limit so future forgotten teachings evinces the confidence of memory deep and putting the matter at hand to rank and order however forgetful you maybe.
Reflections within poems are so.
The poet offers in precision of line material and insight further heights of connection rapidly flowing in the rafters of your mind.
They construct the architecture with words modern ancient and of others souls reworked as the devil and spirit of God or fashionable disbelievers.
Poems made of things.
The poet pulls the strings.
Telling by reading
ML reflected on a choice of coma, of a lateness in putting down a written word which prevented him as poems dictate a measure found once writing to be obeyed Homer like, restraint, from appending or including favourite common local names of flowers or a roll call of a places collection of villages, even the outlying hills.
This book of Poems is sheer wordcraft.
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From the title ‘The Stairwell’ unexpectedly set in America. Others cast out visions if that shore from this edge of Europe. Several rest in Mayo others next door. The scaffolding has been up and down for years in this immensely career defining passage of a book given the changes most recent.
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At the heart of the murmurations.
ML is a bit like- but not an ultra obsessive kind who becomes fixated on a particular thing it eventually becomes the scene of his destruction; – that person the brilliant Architect Charles Jeanneret. Corb. who so admired his once lover Eileen Grays house it called him – once rejected – to reside across from it merely or fixedly to admire its motionless form in the ever changing storms of the south of Frances environ. ML has a penchant for having the Homeric sensibility enter into his mind as a route through to the thought embedded taking shape. Sometimes the direct reference, other times the tonality.
Form of ‘The Stairwell’ is a piece of mastery to invert the accomplishment without pretence of any countervailing realisation. It simply is a modern and timeless work. Like most binding capturing time present for presentation the work cannot nor did carry all. Once completed the new building had gathered another Poem ‘Starling’ like nature requiring another roost. The willow bends but tends not to be uprooted so the building takes on another outlier. The ever near birds and continuing memorial a memory throughout this work of ML’s twin late brother Peter the practical Engineer whose perimeter had also no boundaries but a place to live. That place coastal North East England.
A place honoured and mythical by ML’s account in that here and now.

Footnoted prologue.
The QUB Great Hall was full as full can be 9 October 2014; hereafter remembered besides, as the day UKIP attained their first MP to sit on Commons benches. From one perplexity of unknown Politics in a querulous affectation known in daily passing as Democracy. The Battenburgs at tea were sweet as catastrophe and Wall Street took in the other other places recitations on the day today.
To all and forcthe next they have to be cited and marked. ML no less interested in the matters all around kept out the world beyond the ex-gothic famine dated college walks fenestrated to let in an approximation if a calm place outside mothering by. Tungsten lights competing with the hanging rings of candesent mock flames over our heads.
The appointed time was forward by enough time to see the gathering and ML emerge, circulate, visit the Chancellors facilities in case discomforted mid sentence or between the amplitude of anecdotal, or as allowed, some rich story and reasoning accompanying the muse.
At a point when he hesitated once, allowing an audience member who was making a discreet to most eyes exit, he proffered advice assigned for such occasions, by I think it was the discretionary lady Enda, that the best way to internalise any conjecture of slight was to put it down to the persons likelihood of a weak bladder.
Astute he shared it and on other occasions sequestered Gynaecological footnotes or birth notes. By sense or sheer persist acne he also placed a footnote on the poem dedicated and about his long neighbour, present this evening, the eminent and retired paediatrician Claude Field who shared
His anemones as a gift to the divide between their houses. A growing act which like nature occurred with an unexplained self will. He made, in the poem, he relates, CF of the age of 93 prefrontal to abide with the Poems rhythm to replace CF’s correct age of 96. Another act appreciated no doubt, having 3 years in limbo perfectly still and held all the time in natures revered presence alive and still.

I dislike long introductions and set about a Poem I had recently come across in the style of its own manifestation. Of that see the authors apology at the foot. A tactic to reach the bottom – you can skip as Churchill when sometimes asked about a book he recited – “I have read it- in a general way” so mea culpa.

Present
Summer brings occasional dryness
Through the ever open door
Wave after sunlight wave of dust
Has come indoors to lie in shade

Will it be disturbed this day?…..
It may lie until tomorrow, after sleep
shall I sweep or stir it with a cloth, maybe
gather a small community of dust

No. The dust may be a friend blown in
Returning after many years as visitors
Or the scraps of other nature maybe
Flowers or perished bark oak alder or beech

From where? the Yorkshire hills carried ?
Or Skye or the Hill of Slane? Curragh Plain
Could this dust be a warrior, sailor, Holy man
Or a victim of Gods refrain

On walls, doors, picture frames, a layer cast
Like a exotic creature in watchful rest
Regarding, replenished, open eyes observe
Around each room the dates unveiled past

Sun framed through garden window bars
over the threshold worn and grey
Light splits, spills on the table bright
Revealing on polished hardwood the dust

A dining rectangle, two triangles
Hesitation brings a thought
Wet a finger draw the fish in dust
With the open eye, the unscaled dead
Fish in air stare fixedly aghast to die

Psalms call the morrow on, Sunday
Simeon cradling the infant Jesus
Prophesies Jesus to die happy
Jesus looks up, shares the moment long

When winter calls the dust stays on
I let it rest, memory merges past
with the future skin I cast afloat
Bedfellows with the stories shared

Like a mind the cells link life’s
art of obtaining evaluation of
Dissent or assent? ever graduated
as education espouses to each an end

That theory becoming more, a fact
Prepared for long it will repeat
Gods patten revealed in halos last
Circling floating crowns, dust to dust.

All along the peace a layer outside
of snows crystals representing as life
bound water in constructed frames
To speak of all the kingdoms, us,
of futures evergreen, free words

John Graham
After ‘Dusting’ by Viola Meynell whose work is kept by Jacob Dallyn
VM who ‘imitated’? ‘translated’ a Poem by Theophile Gautier.

In the words of the beautiful Sade – ‘Is it a crime’ what price contentment?
Striking up a few words should be compulsory but wait then it would seem a chore which it clearly isn’t but it does bind you to the limitations of langauge and inform how that can be turned to advantage.

Mary : The Biblical Context

imageMary Mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene

The Gnostic Gospels contain The Gospel of Mary Magdalene; some have called her the thirteenth disciple, a scripture not part of the recognised Christian bible but a biblical text which has to be used by us to inform our views and to reinforce faith. It is regarded by many, in common with the Gnostic Gospels as a text which enters into the spiritualism and is as such in people’s minds untrustworthy.
That is something each individual must make their own mind up on and diverse as we are there are assuredly vast differences and interpretations on the written word. Where we see conflict though we should strive to understand more deeply and that is the challenging thing most would find hardest when they have a preformed set of beliefs and do not trust anything which questions part of that belief. I believe in the contrary, that it will reinforce your beliefs and faith by reasoning and placing these conjectures in the open an engaging in meaningful discussion as a way of expressing the one word. The word of God. Spoken through Jesus in act, deed and
Word.

I have recently read on the concepts, for that is all they possibly can be, of the question whether Jesus, through not being a sinner, how could he imagine the human sinfulness he saw all around him ? The interrelation of the supposed paradox fascinated different writers while at the same time they appeared to miss the logic that this exceptional person being in the form of a human was sent to us by the creator to establish the word on earth and in our lives forevermore. They gave no evaluated meaning to the exceptional, to the supreme uniqueness of the story of Jesus setting it apart from all others. It is possible these considerations have of themselves some value, I understood with more clarity the exceptional Christ by contrasting this with the apparent diversity of views on sinfulness.
So The Gospel of Mary Magdalene also enters and remains with us.

In the case of the second Mary I undertake to look at in this opinion piece, I have read the excellent book The Testament of Mary.
It’s is a fully acknowledged work of fiction, an axiomatic form which is written by Colm Toibin a writer of considerable skill and himself; he has made the point in the past people of other nations are embedded in religions of one kind or another, with deep effect of them in later life when they shape themselves and look back on all heritage, not just religious, he himself had a seriously affecting Catholic upbringing which obviously informs this work and is another document of scholarly value to which we can vex and challenge our perceptions of the life of the mother of Jesus.
Muslims believe Jesus is the son of Mary. So do countless others, Christians and many if not, importantly, all faiths have this as a core belief.
The significance therefore is for us to look further into this life and make a place bigger and larger for Mary whose womanhood is also of significance and irrefutable importance both as Herself alone and as the Mother of Jesus. The place for these thoughts is within us.

I produced two poems of sorts in order to distill my thoughts.
They will not win a Pulitzer Prize but all I am after is a greater understanding and extending to others the question of their own related beliefs and dis beliefs as a means of fulfilling God’s will as brought through Jesus

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene was written for us to share.

Mary Magdelane
Of the one beyond all beings.
A divinity profound of Mother – Father.
Seven flaws In our sphere.
Mary knowing oneself the prequel?
Seek, search look for the hidden.
Disciples testify of Gods laws.
Among us created heaven our habitation.
Not seen nor heard, no heart recalls.
It is prepared Our Kingdom come.
Trample like children the old rags.
Be rid of shame and guilt.
Offer certainty of Good.
Then it will be.

On whose words Mary gave were given These

Mary

What is returns
No sin is outside you
Inside God replaces sin
Look within for that being
There you will find peace
Tell then God’s laws

Let all religions be one
Underneath all known
Is the unseen vision
Uncover it through your mind
Not soul nor spirit
The answer lies between
See the unseen cover (I protect you with)
The soul Protects, conquers ignorance
Will be no more when it is done
The soul said “I am imprisoned” And
“I show you the destruction”
So other forces exist

First there is darkness, desire second,
Then, ignorance, wary of death,
flesh has power, little reason, loathing
self intoxicating pedantry
My words spoken
Turning, stillness fills me
The truth Jesus revealed
I have given to his disciples
Testifying his words
Be one with it and us
No other law exists ‘cept
The Lords
They began to teach

John Graham

May 2014

and on The Testament of Mary

The Testament of Mary A fiction without malice or hubric thought.

A critique in Poetry. A dialogue by Mary Mother of Jesus.

To know is to understand.

I know the past
want others to confirm my truth
foolish desires set aside
but others suffer just the same (Farna)
the Godess breaks my loneliness (Solitude)
Before, my time, tomorrow never comes
I alight, now the future speaks (all around me)
Now
The Temple summons us from nothingness
Prayer replenishes, the day and night (ahead)
By the pool of water and miracles
Beyond lamentation, Lazarus
Stills time, is renewed
Born Again into an empty life

A gathering, a wedding, (and a feast)
The risen, from his cell ( beneath the ground)
The unscrupulous, the arranger
among them came her son

Where water now is wine
Purple robes, confronting
Then home, without my son
The crowd await another fate

What is forgotten? What can be foreseen?
What time was the feast of Cana in?
It was a time after
a terrible truth arrived, new (Jesus is to be crucified)

On time a cross appointed
pointing to a sky full of stars
A multitude, a paradox
We see only some shine brightly

Why so, is this not the universe?
Are these days, our last days also?
I am in this house, this refuge
To see, to be prepared for dark then light (Witness)

Pilates speaks “Behold this man”
to a vast square filled with deceit
The palm, the power, the hand
“Behold the King” Pilate then delivered

From my core tears swelled
Fixed determination took
Bones and tendrils torn (upon the cross)
No turning, crying opened out

How long must this agony prevail?
When it comes to telling of this
words will have endless powers
Once written to bear witness

My son, My Lord
Plain spoken words remain (will be written)
The mortal words when written
speak of your immortality

A thousand things can and do distract
but being born and dying, young (thus)
The last hour powerless, I fled
Mary first, leaving others tending

Hearing his last words (for then)
the sweetness of tending, holding
May last for evermore (but as a dream)
With stealth we made our way (our own survival)

In strangeness, in dream,
I become fastened to strangeness
Statues, carvings mean nothing (the real the one thing)
They betoken death (life has been)

Until He returns, Lazarus walks the world (empty)
I smell the wood off the paper (my reading)
The book I read new like God
as God is here, is always new

Is it despair or grief or confusion?
I, Mary, saw he had many followers
Even after this, I Mary was in two places
As a Mother and with the Son of God

John Graham
May 2014.

Seamus Heaney : Other Places

Part Colin Davidson portraitPublic Poetry Reading Ulster Hall April 10 2014
Part of the Seamus Heaney :A conference and commemoration.

My introduction.
Prayer as the Christian faith has it from the scriptures, is a private communication. A conversation alone with God.
Poetry it is said, and said once more here, as Prayer with the paper proximity and choice of seclusion acts of lone conversation with another’s words.

As human beings we do not conform to ideals but need the shape of others to resonate and collide with to approximate our truth.
Nothing we know is absolute, yet humanity abides and continues in our souls. Other Places are also other people, ourselves alone together.
The gathering on this occasion was homage to a Master and the only way it can be described here is in poetry which the item below attempts.

Other places

The Ulster Hall it’s theatre stalls
collapsible like a boxing ring
fill with people awaiting recited poems
published ripe as nectarine pipped and clean

The pastel walls spot residual damp
Almost hidden behind freshest paint
Focus instead onto the hall wide stage
command the organs pipes gold and gilt

The ear of the replenished soul is cupped
the evening is upon us air is gathered in
The favoured literati remember the sagacity
chosen decks of words joined here spill forth

Virgil yes, remembered, Plato yes,
a festival of learning each other’s speech
No language mutating hard thought, eased
the mind is mine enough to sculpt a poem

My current taste of Stevie Smith has gained
through thinking of Seamus Heaney recognising
‘A memorable voice’, envious of Palmer’s Green?
Seneca scored ‘How do you see?’ 1972 then.

Now girded we recoil ‘we shall kill everybody’
‘It will be too much for us… we shall..’ Seamus
knew the quicksand of a life and poems of the ear
Warmth drew on his breath ‘Be good to one another’

The poets try their damnedest to reflect
to profoundly, simultaneously move on
To catch this latent energy of now
excellence needed summoned every word

Universe, a train, tea ripples in a cup
Dublin, Malahide, Montana, Missouri
Dundee, Derry, no three counties
Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire

But the world as seen from Lanacashire,
Lanarkshire, Gloustershire, Middlesex
.. Oft ‘Rockall, Finisterre’ a field a radio,
A Church locked up grave silent under sky

Where have we been? we haven’t seen
the half of it before our eyes, sat down to tea
With furrowed brow aghast at the obscene TV
Bodies churned up with wild flower gutted

Home is near this place, divided
It’s in this world at least, our body’s
reside one place at a time, Home
That place we know, we’ve seen and been.

Seamus filled our hearts our heads
with things we knew lay beyond our walls
Two fields were plenty enough, a fence
to start a war or plough thus eat.

Suffering from wielded power
Opposition brooked, hunched carries on
paying by blood a fast a pilgrim
hatred, all sins now gathered in

Seamus left us half afraid, for
the other half we return, to
stations next to words, who
Since you think, mind, ever placed

Black cubes, huge sound boxes hang
from the hall roof amidst the plasterwork
Ornate and sparse words ejected, contact
The flesh and bones in regular lines, the rows

Giving your senses reason for endeavour
immaculate organs in decay seek another
body another’s skin to hold, meniscus thin
That water of us we live within

From the trenches, written, ‘Dearest War
Remember me,’ Dead of Hampstead Heath
The airey Christ takes care of them, peace
be upon us, render us relief, hear his song.

Under the bridge, the water flows, taking
your angst reflection downstream, with
the leaves, the twig you snapped, the Kingfisher
Soars, slickly through our canopy, this earth

John Graham

April 11 2014

Belfast

Kingfisher
That Kingfisher amongst the awesome beauty this world provides can make our hearts soar and think as G.M. Hopkins wrote :
‘Each mortal thing does one thing and the same;
from ‘As Kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame’
The division of presence of things. Into this we know our own diversity, what the Hopkin’s folk call self-nature. From the inward poet; G.M.H. Bespoke of his own nature, that he seeks and obtains just cause within to act out his being as influenced by the divine spirit. Christ ‘plays in a thousand places’.

In For my brother – Missing in action 1943.

For in the wreckage of your April Christ lies slain,
And Christ weeps in the ruins of my spring:
The money of Whose tears shall fall
Into your weak and friendless hand,
And you buy back to your own land:

The silence of Whose tears shall fall
Like bells upon your alien tomb.
Here them and come: they call you home.

Thomas Merton

A Clear Midnight
THIS is my hour O soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes
thou loves best.
Night, sleep, death and the stars.

Walt Whitman

The themes we encountered and which I have gone beyond for my own exercise take in the Seamus Heaney effect of most Northern Irish people who read his work. It is our narrative and has been the worlds progress to hear this voice. This commemoration comes within a void. The spring void.
The Easter resurrection so vivid in a spiritual life. Our being challenged by thoughts of others and our own actions. So has it been, this re-encounter with the work of Seamus Heaney, appearing as a miraculous body of work building on the work gone by and kept for future generations to which he generously opened consciousness buried within.
Even now or because it is such an additional wealth for us to carry forward, the themes he covered were of people and places and also of death and I cannot but wonder how Stevie Smith felt of the close to home troubles and 1972 violence as she struggled with her Christian beliefs. How marked upon her Seamus Heaney’s work was and how incendiary most poetry can be, either in the private act of reading or as prayer.

John Graham