Saturday, December 23, 2006

Serpent-subduing figure on the 12th century font of the Church of St James, Avebury

Rites from A Day at the Earth House

In the church of St James, at his post
on the font a priest with no face holds two smooth-

coiled snakes at bay. The two stone avenues
coil up over the hill to the henge. Out of sight

the organ tunes up for a wedding and, white
ribbons shivering, a sit-up-and-beg

white Morris takes a road marked red
on the map, that cuts the henge. A sideways

glance: the bride in the back looks, let's say
carsick, as they slow to thread between

great stones. The dancers on the green
wag their hankies like aunts on the end

of the platform of centuries: Morris men
in white laundered blouses slashed -

cross their hearts - with these sashes
of blood red, like barber's poles.

Philip Gross

Friday, December 22, 2006

Standing Stone in Dyfed (detail) by John Piper

Beacon in the night

She sat quietly at the water's edge
alder and willows in-between
and on the further bank she saw
a stone all clad in mossy green.

She plucked her skirts and went across
knelt there a little while
the stone it stood just as before
while on her lips there played a smile.

Old one, she did say to it
I think you more than just a stone
what lessons have you for today
in this place and all alone?

The stone stood just as before
across its surface shadows flickered
and through the branches swaying close
the old one sighed then gently whispered.

Low I was laid then stood again
suns and moons did pass this way
and at the end I will lay once more
stilled beacon on the final day.

She stretched a finger to the stone
and ran it down its mossy face.
Are you lovelier than I she mocked
wiser than the human race?

The stone it stood just as before
across its surface shadows flickered.
Yes my child it did reply
lovelier and wiser it gently whispered.

She stood in fury
and turned around
she took three paces
across the ground.

And at the water's edge she turned
and cast a glare towards the stone
across its surface shadows flickered
the old one stood there all alone.

There is nothing lovelier than I said she
nothing wiser than the human race
take note of this with each dark night
that falls across your mossy face.

The stone it stood just as before
across its surface shadows flickered
and as the day fell into night
the moon rose up and gently whispered.

I am far lovelier than you fair maid
wiser than the human race
I have cast my light across this ground
along the path you start to trace.

She looked then from moon to stone
while on the water moonlight flickered
and in the shadows all around
a voice rose up and gently whispered.

I am even lovelier than the moon
wiser than the earth you now do pace
I am the one without a name
that comes and goes without a trace.

And who are you she did enquire
in the shadows all out of sight?
Silence was the long reply
save for the beacon in the night.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Twin Barrows of Trevelgue: Image credit Peter Herring

The Burial Mound

In my mind, the glowing hump
Becomes illuminated by angry rays
Striking off the stone grey sea.

And for a moment
The discordant gulls
Weave as one with the receding day.

Voices of the long dead
Sweep upwards from the desecrated grave,
To keen with the flowing wind.

And, as eyelids flutter,
People gather in the gloom
And the gestalt sings awhile,
Despite times menstruum.

Fiona Colligan-Yano

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christus est stella

A good night

A good night under the stars at Avebury there last night.
Old friends met and a big groundsheet shared between seven.

A whisper here and there.
A wisdom well-spoken.
A warm hand reaching out to cold fingers
lost until then in a barren dream now gone away.

A clear and brimming glass of flame-thrown champagne.
A lost scotch in the dew-drenched grass of an expectant morning.
Shooting stars with signs instead of the reticent tinkling of silent ice.

And then early partings
chilled, fulfilled, quiet and sleep-surrounded.
Dew-drenched happiness wished to loved ones for another year.
Dreams meanwhile to tickle one's mind-edges and stretch one's fingertips.
Until a colder, quieter sun sifts itself amongst our ancient stones.


Stonehenge, Wiltshire (1981) by John Piper

The Stones

This is the city where men are mended.
I lie on a great anvil.
The flat blue sky-circle

Flew off like the hat of a doll
When I fell out of the light. I entered
The stomach of indifference, the wordless cupboard.

The mother of pestles diminished me.
I became a still pebble.
The stones of the belly were peaceable,

The head-stone quiet, jostled by nothing.
Only the mouth-hole piped out,
Importunate cricket

In a quarry of silences.
The people of the city heard it.
They hunted the stones, taciturn and separate,

The mouth-hole crying their locations.
Drunk as a foetus
I suck at the paps of darkness.

The food tubes embrace me. Sponges kiss my lichens away.
The jewelmaster drives his chisel to pry
Open one stone eye.

This is the after-hell: I see the light.
A wind unstoppers the chamber
Of the ear, old worrier.

Water mollifies the flint lip,
And daylight lays its sameness on the wall.
The grafters are cheerful,

Heating the pincers, hoisting the delicate hammers.
A current agitates the wires
Volt upon volt. Catgut stitches my fissures.

A workman walks by carrying a pink torso.
The storerooms are full of hearts.
This is the city of spare parts.

My swaddled legs and arms smell sweet as rubber.
Here they can doctor heads, or any limb.
On Fridays the little children come

To trade their hooks for hands.
Dead men leave eyes for others.
Love is the uniform of my bald nurse.

Love is the bone and sinew of my curse.
The vase, reconstructed, houses
The elusive rose.

Ten fingers shape a bowl for shadows.
My mendings itch. There is nothing to do.
I shall be good as new.

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The quiet man of metal detecting

Here I lie

Here I lie, no longer flesh or even dust.
Yet here I lie, in signs that tell
That once there was a man
Like you. Who lived and laughed.

I am no less than you, for having gone,
Nor are my rights the less.
I am a man like you and ask
Only that my life is not denied.

Yet here you dig, in blind and selfish haste,
Smashing every clue but one
Because it glints a little
And feed your avaricious taste.

Now, that is all I am,
What bling within your grubby palm.
What now? What will you do
To save me from oblivion?

Take it home in secret? Make it shine?
Show it to your mates to hear their Oohs?
Claim your right to store a husk of history
And never know your history was mine?

Nigel Swift

Friday, December 01, 2006

Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire by John Piper

The Holly-Tree

To return to the Holly-Tree. When I awoke next day, it was freezing hard, and the lowering sky threatened more snow. My breakfast cleared away, I drew my chair into its former place, and, with the fire getting so much the better of the landscape that I sat in twilight, resumed my Inn remembrances. That was a good Inn down in Wiltshire where I put up once, in the days of the hard Wiltshire ale, and before all beer was bitterness. It was on the skirts of Salisbury Plain, and the midnight wind that rattled my lattice window came moaning at me from Stonehenge. There was a hanger-on at that establishment (a supernaturally preserved Druid I believe him to have been, and to be still), with long white hair, and a flinty blue eye always looking afar off; who claimed to have been a shepherd, and who seemed to be ever watching for the reappearance, on the verge of the horizon, of some ghostly flock of sheep that had been mutton for many ages. He was a man with a weird belief in him that no one could count the stones of Stonehenge twice, and make the same number of them; likewise, that any one who counted them three times nine times, and then stood in the centre and said, "I dare!" would behold a tremendous apparition, and be stricken dead.

Charles Dickens

Carving in the Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

Wondering where the Lions are

Sun's up, uh huh, looks okay
The world survives into another day
And I'm thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren't half as frightening as they were before
But I'm thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

Walls windows trees, waves coming through
You be in me and I'll be in you
Together in eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

Up among the firs where it smells so sweet
Or down in the valley where the river used to be
I got my mind on eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

And I'm wondering where the lions are...
I'm wondering where the lions are...

Huge orange flying boat rises off a lake
Thousand-year-old petroglyphs doing a double take
Pointing a finger at eternity
I'm sitting in the middle of this ecstasy

Young men marching, helmets shining in the sun,
Polished as precise like the brain behind the gun
(Should be!) they got me thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

And I'm wondering where the lions are...
I'm wondering where the lions are...

Freighters on the nod on the surface of the bay
One of these days we're going to sail away,
going to sail into eternity
some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

And I'm wondering where the lions are...
I'm wondering where the lions are...

Bruce Cockburn