Kestrel's Nest

The Fifth Year - 2006/7



This came at the end of a long, hard first term at Oxford. As a result I had need to rexamine myself, my attitudes to life, the world and to others. I spent some long conversations arguing points with people whom I thought I knew and it turned out that, in truth, I didn't. I was feeling pretty black and uncompromising when I wrote this. I expect it shows. It is in some ways a statement of my beliefs, albeit not all of them. I'm not sure I wrote it to offend but I will understand if it does. I don't apologise for that. The title is, of course, ironic; 'polemic' might be a better word....

Consider, take a moment
from the busy morsel of a day
take a moment from cooking, cleaning, reading, writing,
whatever pursuit, serious or trivial
that occupies the mind completely
take a moment
to look.

At what, you say?
The world is the same
it moves as it did yesterday
the clock ticks, the children scream and play,
the cars move down the street
the man at number 45 takes the 8:30 bus
just as he did yesterday
as he will do tomorrow.
So why look and at what?

Have you not seen the clouds?
How they move and change
in their infinite variety?
Have you not watched the leaf as it grew
from a mere pimple on a branch
to a green broad diamond
only to shrivel and go brown
and fall?
Have you not watched the snail
in its infinite slow patient crawl
only to be grabbed by a passing thrush and
smashed against a paving slab?
Have you not watched the river
as you passed over the bridge
on its slow careful amble to the sea
or in winter flood crash through its bounds
and pour over fields and garden carrying
destruction in its wake?

Not my problem you say
as you look up the TV timings,
turn up the CD and feed on
the pap of pulp tabloids,
read the latest scandal of the stars
and which footballer has
been sent off this week for
too many fouls.
As you take your ready-meal
from Tesco's and feed it in
the microwave without thought
where its ingredients came from
or who wasn't paid a fair amount for
what they did or what chemicals
in it are poisoning you slowly.
Not my problem as you
kill yourself by heart disease or smoking.
Not my problem.
And outside the birds cough in the polluted air,
the fish in the old stream
die from the oil poured in by a passing motorist
Not my problem.

Have you not smelt the scent of mown hay
or summer flowers?
Have you not felt the wind on your face?
Have you not felt the trickle of water through your
fingers ice-cold from a mountain stream?
Have you not seen the hawk do
aerobatics over the tops of trees?
Have you not seen the soft roe fawn
pause to watch you before
fleeing to its mother's side?

Poor fool you miss so much,
you do so little,
you live a life that serves no purpose
a cog in someone else's wheel.
Time will not remember you neither
will your descendents,
nor the man in the corner shop you
occasionally go in when you can't
get to the supermarket.

I am the imp of discomfort
who tells you this
who reminds you of
your purposeless existence.
Are you angry by now? I hope so.
Be angry with yourself not me
for I only speak the uncomfortable truth
you do not care for.
Enjoy your life if you can
unthinking and uncaring,
until its end.
I salute your uncaring existence as the flames
consume your unnecessarily embalmed
flesh at the local crem and your
grieving relict takes away your ashes
or someone else's scraped from the oven's floor
in a plastic non-biodegradable urn
to decorate the mantelpiece or
spread its poison over some unwelcoming
corner of this land that neither wanted
nor expected it.
Requiescat in pace,
brief useless candle
and let's hope you make
a better job of it next time…

© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 2/12/2006

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Unfortunately my last poem offended people that it was not aimed at and, in consequence, gave me considerable hurt in return. I should, perchance, aim my missiles a little better. It at least gave me time to reflect more gently on my life…

As the sun rises on a clear day
the sun pours a golden flow
into my solitary room filling
it with light and the outside world.

At night the windows are black shadows
hiding the world's life except for pin points
of electric in rooms or hanging
with white purity in the vasty skies.

What are windows? A way into the
soul of the world, its vistas, its potentials?
Or are they glassy barriers to knowing
how life is, how it works?

Like voiceless televisions they give me
narrow vistas, each one a different
aspect of my enclosing world. Each one
a vision of what might be.

Like Alice's mirror they show only
potential, not the real. For reality can be
found only by knowing it, and not
through windows, however bright the view.

As the moon rises on a clear night
the moon pours a silvery flow
into my solitary room filling
it with light and only my own thoughts besides.

© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 10/12/2006

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The Crone's Song

Imbolc, Gwyl Forwyn, at the beginning of February, is the start of the Celtic spring, a time of new life just coming into being. But here I seem to be stuck relentlessly in winter… but maybe not…

What ails me now, what ails me now,
I that have everything I need?
A damning restlessness of soul,
a need to find from out the void
a meaning to this life of mine.
What can it be, what can it be
that drives me on? A need to find
in life's unmeaning visions here
what might have been, what might have been.
What can I find? A hopeless task.
From wasted days, in youth's short time,
confined by fears of others' thoughts
to penance for no crime of mine,
a truth of being, of what I am,
that only came to me with age.
A lost childhood in anguish spent,
a time of pain, a time of pain,
and now I miss what might have been.
The truth of girlhood's flowering bloom,
first love, the kiss beneath the moon,
heart's ache, a child, the happy days,
all these I miss, all these I miss.
And now an ancient anguished crone
With no womb's fruit to call my own
I ask the spirits why this should be
but answer get I none.
    And why should an answer come?
    This was not their work but mine.
    I made my prison and locked fast the gate.
    I strove to hide myself away.
    I failed my own self-knowing.
And I look back at empty years
but still now with a strong desire
that in the final time I have,
what little time, what little time,
to make each year, each day, each hour,
not time retrieved, that cannot be,
but make each moment count for me,
to feel the truth, to feel the truth
of life's sweet pleasures and its woes
and find in what short time is left
what simple truths there are to know
of wind and tree and rock and pool,
and with my friends so sweet to me
to find some peace of heart at last
until the end, until the end,
sweet longed-for peace, sweet longed-for peace..

© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 7/2/2007

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In late summer I entered a period of total exhaustion. Doctors don't seem to know why. It's affecting my work, my life, everything.

It is a white mist that enshouds the mind,
rendering it incapable of any but the most basic thoughts;
those struggling thoughts being of how to survive.
How to reach that sleep in which there are no dreams;
that rest that the soul needs to replenish itself;
that garment of sleep that enwraps the very being
and which, all too often, is denied.

Oh gods, grant me that sleep, that nothingness,
that I may come through this time of struggle
to restore myself to a nature that I recognise
instead of this non-being, this exhausted state
that has come to me, all unwanted and undesired.

It is so hard to give to others the thought of
how I feel, or rather fail to feel, when this,
this white mist, holds me in its thrall.
I am like a felon entrapped, unfeeling,
except only the despair of not being able to feel,
to be, to exist, to comprehend, to hold on to
all that I am, my essential being,
as the waves of tiredness hold me fast.

Oh gods, release me from this awful curse,
give me back the strength of my soul
that I once had, to do all that I can do.
To be me once more, intact and whole again
I pray…

© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 25/10/2007