Sheena Blackhall

Gold Star - 7,514 Points (18/8/1947 / Aberdeen)

Of Samye Ling, Winter Cricketers Etc. (19 Poems) - Poem by Sheena Blackhall

1.Wild Mentors

When a bird is hurt
It cries in half - notes
In semi quavers
Making a grace of suffering

The fish in the loch
Opens its tin eye
To the great ball of the sun

The rattle of winter's hail
Enters into the bowl of its world
It slides through continual transformations

The cat, goes where it goes
It accepts encounters But only on its terms
No-one thinks less of it
The tree produces leaves Like tiny poems
Which fall to the forest floor

In autumn, we walk on the trees' thoughts
Our feet, touching impermanence


2.Spinners in Space

Speck in the planetary plan
A grain of cosmic sand is man
Where cold Orion stalks the skies
Comets descend and suns arise
Curved like a mighty Catherine wheel
The rings of Saturn spin & reel
And sequins in the Stellar gown
The glittering Pleiades stare down

The plough cuts furrows in the night
The globe that's Venus, swivels, bright
As souls ascend the Milky Way
Star-ladder to Infinity.

Hulls flounder. Crews and cargoes slide
The pole star shines, Galactic guide
To weary sailors, storm-tossed
A beacon, to the ocean's Lost.

When Earth cooled in her infancy
The dog star prowled the galaxy
Growled in its cold, celestial lair
As Taurus challenged inky air.

Cold stars by untold aeons blent
Imprinted on our firmament
Blazing immortal from the sky
As centuries dissolve and die
Cannot surpass that lunar sphere
That silver orb, majestic, near,
That hangs, a firefly in space
Night lantern of the human race


3.January

When the roads are a-slither of break-bone ice
In the Omega-Winter days
The trees are sugared with crumbling snow
And the pools have a glassy glaze

The birds go foraging, famine-thin
The burns run breath-stop slow
Like a man just dead, where the red blood sped
Life's streams no longer flow.

The silent land is a brittle shroud
That shatters beneath the heel
And the leafless branches, pronged and forked
Are tipped with buds of steel

In the quiet wood in the ghostly mist
A necklace of footprints show
Like a printed page that the nib has scratched
Where the ravening foxes go.

And clouds like a long-lost whaling fleet
Come lurching, tempest tossed
Through the black lagoon of a blind eyed moon
Their rigging, ringed with frost

Mother of pearl is the gleaming wood
Each fir is muffed in white
With a Kossack's ermine bonnet on
Peaked glow, in the glistening night.

It's time to huddle around the fire
The flames in their dervish-whirl
Like a well-mulled wine, will charm & cheer
Old Age and the snub- nosed girl.

When dog and master and all are in
And the coats in the hallway drip
The imps of the hearth that scorch and spit
Make fingers and noses nip.

And then, with cherry-ripe cheeks a-glow
We watch from the window pane
In gosling feathers, the sky fall down
In snowflakes soft as rain.

Of all the planets the Heavens o'er
How pleasant to find a berth
In this ship of Seasons crossing Time
Old Rolly, we call Earth!


4Subtenants

'How can you bear to share with them? My neighbours ask.
They're such a crowd!
Destructive, too. And for your loft,
They pay no rent. They're thankless, loud,
They're up at daybreak. And they squabble!
A lazy, poor, ungrateful rabble!

I watch him, toiling out and in, to feed his brood...as large as him,
They jostle for supremacy, as siblings do. Their rivalry
Must wear him down.Yet off he speeds, ministering to their daily needs.

Soon, I reflect, his cares will ease... My tenant, underneath the eaves,
As one by one, they'll up and go
How he'll rejoice! ....But will he, though?
The mainspring of his clockwork, gone,
No youthful chatter at the dawn
And with him, I feel empathy...
The starling....my co-habitee.


5.The Little Tree

There is a little tree in our back yard
Twisted it is. The ground around is hard.

The merest chink of sunlight keeps it growing,
Bitter the wintry blasts above it blowing.

It won't amount to much, so starved of all
The good and lovely things that make trees tall.

Unwanted, suffering, never meant to be....
Just like the boy at number 93.


6.The Hedonist

Humpty Dumpty, A, B, C,
Snotty nose and scabby knee.
Kate was the cricket in the grass
Fat Jean, the Einstein of the class.

Goodbye childhood, Hullo teens
That awkward age of in-betweens
Jean swotted Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky
Kate studied discos, fags and whisky.

Jean, read reams about osmosis,
Had buck teeth, and halitosis.
Kate learned Anatomy first hand
From close encounters on the land
Bend to a touch, like any willow
With grass or straw -bale for a pillow

Kate shrugged off scorn.. Made eyes at Fred.
Made hay with Neil, and Nick and Ned.
Jean's thesis gained a PhD
On Lenin's place in History....

Kate scraped a Third. Drank Beaujolais
With Ranjit, Guillaume, and Jose
Cementing international relations
In all its varied combinations.

Jean wedded well. The solid kind.
A credit card. A cultured mind
Marriage brought comfort and career.
What matter if her man was queer?

Alas, poor Kate the Hedonist,
Her liver fried from getting pissed,
Found that the price of earthy passion,
En plein air, a la doggy fashion,
Brought rheumatism in its wake
And Bacchus added bellyache!


7.Sonnet For Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill

Each listener was a moth to her light drawn.
Her Irish brogue went lilting like a swan,
Trailing its thought-wave ripple all along
The reading room, where like a new-ploughed field,
The loam of every mind lay opened wide.
A golden acerage was her poem's yield,
Ni Dhomhnaill, potent as a corn bride.
A laugh as deep's the Shannon at her throat,
Her heavy pleat hung down, a Celtic braid,
Russet with copper, amber overlaid
With bronze, it shone as sleek's a fox's coat.
And like a torc, her wit and wisdom turned
Brilliant and bright. And like a flame, they burned.


8.Shrine in the Woods

The rhododendron's dew-drenched frills and flounces
(Chiffon corsage, pinned to a dress of green)
Opens its pink, wet pout to pluck a feather...
A fluttering butterfly, dropped down to preen.

The green and purple lily-pads are resting
Their secret roots lie hidden without trace,
A ripple stirs the glassy water-mirror
An iris, gazes on its own gold face.

A poppy waves its torn, crimson banner.
Trinkets of water, tinkle in a brook.
White marble meditator in the woodland,
You never lift a downcast eye to look,

You never see the beauty all around you
Yet you're the peaceful guardian of this nook,
As much as swaying swallows, sacred oak leaves,
The honeysuckle, roses, and the rook.


9.Samye-Ling.

Six am. A young nun yawns at prayers.
Monks drone a honeyed mantra. Hand bells ching.
Lord Buddha, gold in Langholm, contemplates
In still unbroken thought as prayer wheels swing.

And this is Samye-Ling, is Samye-Ling, is Samye-Ling.

Shuffling in line, the laity are fed
Behind old ivied walls, where sparrows sing.
Porridge, molasses, tea and crumbling bread
A duty roster flaps from greasy string.

And this is Samye-Ling, is Samye-Ling, is Samye-Ling

The rain weeps down on a pagoda's crest.
The temple peacock trails a draggled wing
It peers at empty shoes, at temple door,
No tit-bits there for that exotic king!

And this is Samye-Ling, is Samye-Ling, is Samye-Ling.

Thistles claim the Esk's stinch Lallans' banks
MacDiarmid land. These pebbles filled his sling
(David, who matched the South's Goliath tongue)
Scots mingles with the winds where prayer-flags cling.

And this is Samye-Ling, is Samye-Ling, is Samye-Ling.

A shrine rears up, above the river's spray.
A Naga's home, where biting midgies sting.
A water-sprite. Will dour Scots kelpies choose
To welcome this new-comer to their spring?

And this is Samye-Ling, is Samye-Ling, is Samye-Ling.

A lilypool lies in the temple grounds.
Tall purple irises its waters ring
Head-heavy tadpoles linger in its cool
Where plashing raindrops plunk, and plink, and pling.

And this is Samye-Ling, is Samye-Ling, is Samye-Ling.


10. Aunt May

My Aunt May was a farmer's wife,
A farmer's daughter.
Bred in the bone, her patient, peasant ways
Those habits carved in stone
The sundial Seasons taught her.

Buxom in cotton dress of cornflower blue,
I see her still, pouring a jug of milk,
Tipping a steady stream
Of her Ayreshires' dairy cream,
Her herd that cropped the clover tufts
Of waving grasses on the wind-combed hill.

The peats, banked roast-leg high,
On the spit-red hearth.
A warm, safe nest, her home.
Cuckoos like me she coddled.
Her love was all-encompassing as loam.

Each word she spoke was Scots, was soft, was slow.
Firm as a harvest scythe, rhythmic and low.

She scoured muddied flags on kitchen floor.
Housewifery was a willing cross she bore,
Busy's a bee from her honeyed, humming hive,
Her face, with smiles and dimples, all alive.

Tailed by a barking dog, hands, raw and hacked,
She carried heavy pails, taut-armed, straight-backed,
From dark, cool, byre, her neck, sun-burned and bare,
Where midgies danced and swam,
In the crack-sheet, whip-dry air.

A punch of a playful breeze,
Made blossoms bob, in the bending, bouncing, breeze.

These fifteen years, to farm and family, dead...
Aunt May still smiles a welcome, in my head.


11.What do Cricketers do in Winter

If you should see a man, dear, come crawling on his knees,
Behind a freezing stag dear, behind the freezing trees,
No cause for protestations, he doesn't mean it harm,
He's just a winter cricketer, who wants to keep it warm.

He's taken off his jersey....He's followed it for miles...
Through clogging drifts of snow, dear, with subterfuge and wiles,
But when it's caught and cornered, although he's tried and tried,
However big the jersey, the stag won't fit inside.

Its jointy, pointy antlers, that make it such a charmer,
Are awkward as attempting to fit a fir with armour.

If you should see a bird, dear, a-perching on its nest,
And someone hurling snowballs towards that bird with zest,
You've spied a winter bowler, a-practising his throw,
You've wondered why the robin's red? Well, now, my friend, you know.
A bowler's ripping fastball lit a fire upon its chest
And that is why the robin has a VERY rosy breast.

If you should see a clothes-line with icicles like posts
Go gently past that clothes line, it holds a wicket's ghosts.
For wickets die all winter and resurrect in spring
When maidens are bowled over and slips and gullies zing.
If, through an Arctic blizzard, you think you see a frog,
It's just a winter cricketer a-fielding on a log.
He's catching balls of hailstones that hurtle from the skies
In fact, he'll catch most anything, from globes to apple pies.

If you should see a snowman, with square legs and a cap,
And all he says is 'Hat-trick' Your'e stumped sir! ' and 'How-zatt! '
Oh, do not judge him harshly, his head is full, alas,
Of leg-breaks and mid-overs, and fields and fields of grass.


12.Villein-ill

An aberration on unsteady feet,
The junkie staggers, stoned, into a wall,
A rabid mongrel no-one wants to meet.
He is the lurching leper of the street,
Afraid, I step aside to let him fall,
The startled shoppers swerve like parting wheat.

His drugged realities are incomplete
His skull rolls on the pavement like a ball,
That feels no pain. His fixes keep him sweet.
No policeman to be seen walking the beat,
Clod-plodding to the rescue, black, and tall,
Messiah of the normal. Whole, concrete.

The junkie makes a paving stone his seat,
A shrivelled shriek, he suddenly seems small.
I hurry past, his presence to delete.
A confrontation I attempt to cheat.
I shut my eyes. He isn't there at all...
I open them. He's staring, cold as sleet.

Oh wrap him tightly in a winding sheet
This husk. This sham. This broken human doll!
His scrambled raving is a jangled bleat.
The dragon drags St. George to a defeat,
On Any Corner and on Every Street.
I am no Dalai Lama. No St. Paul.
I stop my ears to Horror's haunting call.
I want a world that's pretty, nice, and neat
An Eden, where no suffering serpents crawl.


13.An E-Mail to the Moon

Dear Mr Moon‑
Here is an e-mail from a far country,
Written by a blue receptionist.
Today, I am all smiled out. I wish to declare a curfew on the sun.
I wish your silvery sojourn up in the heavens might never be done.

I wish you to gleam there always, like a taxidermist's trout.
Please don't turn in at dawn like a sulky, up-tailed cat
At the first cock crow.Let me linger, dreaming and dozing,
My thoughts like kneaded dough
In a quiet country kitchen, steadily rising, rising,
My eyes, tight-petal shut
Like two sealed snowdrops....
Let me continue to pretend
My home is a moist and mushroomy meadow
Where one cow moos in a jungle of tangly grass
That could have been painted by Rousseau.
May your lunar reign not end!
May the hare that sits at your core
Twitch his magic ears some more,
In your cool, cool realm where alarm clocks never ring.

A tiger strolls through my dreams, strumming a mandolin.
Black telephones do not sing
Their shell-like whines in my prodded, pulsing ear.

Mr Moon, when you shine, my time is totally mine,
And my mind is calm as a Mother Superior's teeth
In a Jubilee mug of milk,
(That somniferous state of swaying, swaying, swaying,
In a soft subconscious hammock of dreamy silk,
A gossamer thread in the spinning World Wide Web,
A flickering seaweed, clamped to the sea's deep bed
That's soft and quiet as breathing, rhythmic, rhythmic as Rilke)

So, Mr Moon, if you just could see your way
To declaring war upon day
By crossing its hours off your list,
I could stay forever in dreamtime.
A stopped watch, with no sun. A no-one.
A no-thing. A piece of cosmic fluff.

R.S.V.P, Mr Moon.
Let's do it. What do you say!
Let's stop Time, declare that enough's enough!


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Poem Submitted: Sunday, February 28, 2010



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