The UK usually celebrates a National Poetry Day the first Thursday in October. So I was caught off guard and the September 28th festivities completely passed me by. Ireland used to join in with that but this year did a break away to April, which coincides with the USA’s National Poetry Month. At least World Poetry Day is set in stone on 21st March each year. But maybe even UNESCO will wobble on that date.
This basically makes me feel like a grumpy, grumbly old person. We like our routines, our schedules to rely upon and heaven help you if you move the tinned baked beans to another aisle in the supermarket!
But I digress…
Belatedly, I note that the UK theme for Poetry Day is Freedom. Which is a big theme. So two poems,one based on Biblical story inspired by the plight of refugees. The other is practically a manifesto for social introversion.
Two ways to be free…in poetry
The Zamzam Well
Hagar, did you flee?
Or were you cast out,
left for dead in the desert
with your infant son Ismail
wailing and kicking in his swaddle clothes?
In a place where his mother’s milk
would soon dry, withering
like the thorn tree berries,
your inconvenient son Ismael
keening and kicking
at sand and stone, kicking, howling,
kicking, hollering until –
miracle of miracles! –
in answer to his mother’s prayers
her son, or some angel
directing his little heels
the well open to all.
They lived and made no one strange
where all were strangers.
They were blessed and praised
Hagar and her son Ismael.
They came like pilgrims
making the Zamzam holy
until even Abram came,
acknowledging his seed.
Hagar, did you flee the wife’s envy?
Did you fear the power to harm?
Were you cast out by weakness, or fear?
Were you left for dead for some
the spring of surprise and salvation
even as his mother was cursed
cast out, forced to flee
to make a new tribe
those who wander but are no strangers.
A Way to Be Free
getting the top deck
of a London bus, front seat, all to oneself,
soothed by intermittent ding-dings,
conveyed in stops and starts,
looking out the front window,
sulphur street light freckled with rain…
into the womb of cheap stalls
a rainy Saturday afternoon
mesmerised by the actress singing
all for me down in the matinee dark
the sound of
the fourth wall falling…
an art gallery
especially those with portraits
with whom I can play talking heads
making imaginary friends with Francis Bacon
or Gwen John’s
implacably impassive face
of never ever to be at the beck and call
of flower arranging rotas
or deciding a room’s colour scheme
or the hell of formulating a policy
a way to be free
to go about unmolested,