Park Bench Tales and other writings

Thoughts and writings reflecting the poet within and the activist

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Walking into the shadows

As darkness is descending

Like a heavy burden upon the frame

Crushing hope and bringing fear

Tongues of those shadows stretching further

Enveloping as they proceed

Around my form

An amplifying of those unknown sounds

As the moon hides behind the clouds

Rustling of leaves

A wolf or bear or even worse

Some mythical beast arising from a curse

Spirits of the dead may be wandering free

Who knows the evil of their name

How far away?

I cannot tell

Where is the shield

That guards against the foe

Who will come

Defending in the hour of need

Nerves tingle

I sweat and shake

Then shiver as the hours pass by

Cold comes creeping down on me

Until those first rays of sun

Stretch towards me from the hills

Behind me the sound of breaking twigs

I turn quickly

To see

A figure hastens away between the trees

What was the intent?

Threat or protection

Yet though the night is now done

I leave still wondering

If through those dreaded hours

Was there always light beyond the dark?

Copyright: David Hopcroft January 2021


Memories in windows and on walls

Memories in windows and on walls

One thousand years of history locked in those walls

I became lost in thought as I looked around

At carvings upon the doors to stalls

Those figures who could make no sound

A booklet was for sale by the door

A box for donations £2 or maybe more

Yet the history was really with the walls

With the stained glass that lit up those who knelt in stalls

Telling stories of a babe left among the rushes

A testament that craftsmen had with care brought to life

Stories of the ancient struggles and of strife

Of exiles to Egypt and slaves held in Babylon

Of prophets who spoke in times long gone

The light that through those windows shone

Illuminated both the history and those it fell upon

So that in this morning silence I might reflect

Upon the glass and unlock the messages they kept

The figure at his feet who wept

One who was taken whilst others slept

Layers of white paint daubed upon a wall

Hiding another glory that was once seen

Pigments that had portrayed the bible call

Faith through the ages displayed scene by scene

Why was such love and glory hidden by the Puritan

I drink in the food of ancient thoughts whilst I still can

Above the altar a body hangs for all to see

There are no secrets in the tapestry

Of a life once lived as a model for you and me

What then of this booklet I have bought

Does it contain the history that I sought

To learn of the lives and how they built this church

Whose love I can still see before my eyes

The strength of their belief I cannot disguise

How I wish I could learn more of that yesteryear

Of those who learned of a love that had no fear

Yet on the pages of the book I find

Lists of past priests with dates that blind

Who they were and what they had to say

Why were they called and why they chose to obey

And what of those who dwelt to pray in pews

Were they captivated by messages of good news

What of their lives and why they came on Sabbath days

Did they seek more than escape from the drudgery of their ways

Why does the booklet not tell me more

Of those who passed through the creaking oaken door

And stood in sandals on a stone cold floor

There are lists of those who died in war

And pages of those who left small fortunes to the church

But the real history still lies

In windows and in paintings on walls

And from that past you may still hear the calls

Of those who praised His name from pulpit and from stalls

For history should not be kept in lists so dry

That leaves me pondering each name and asking why

Just as light brings its message through the glass

I wonder is this a story ending or what will come to pass

Or can we truly paint a future that will last

With memories on walls to show we cared

To illuminate the message that he shared

Copyright: David Hopcroft December 2020

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Nativity Scene 2019

Nativity Scene 2019

Two lonely figures that make their way along a path

Seeking to avoid the menace of the border post

Far below they could see lights along the road

Patrols seeking out all those who tried to cross

Discovered on this side meant a return to the hell they left

Found on the other side a place in a detention camp

Where after several months they might be returned to hell

Between the two were fences of concrete and razor wire

Overhead they heard the sound of a heat-seeking drone

Quickly they struggled for shelter in a nearby cave

The snow began soon after the drone had gone

The temperature falling swiftly by the hour

There had been no time before they fled

Running as bombs rained down from overhead

Her thin dress was no defence against the cold

Shivering now they both stumbled on

Until they saw the slow flashing light ahead

A friendly figure who would guide them through the fence

Crawling now through the mud and snow

The cutters snipping at the razor wire

Now the danger as they crossed ‘no man’s land’

But where was the next guide they were promised

The searchlights with beams moving back and forth

Crawling forward they found a ditch to hide

Lay quietly until they heard a faint call

Their guide had found them and now they might be safe

Through ditches they crawled and a tunnel

Until they came to the roadside at last

A camp for refugees was two miles down the road

Each step now seemed to increase the aches and pains

Admission granted they were shown a plastic sheet

Erected like a tent this was to be their new home

Shared with others who had fled the brutal curse of war

Help given as water was boiled to make tea

Soup and some bread brought from another tent

An ageing nurse appeared as the woman in labour lay

More water boiled with an urgency

Others went searching to bring blankets for the child

The stove lit precious fuel must be burned

New life was brought into this strange world

A stray dog pokes its head between the flaps

In the distance a starry night from bursting shells

Cheers as the child lets out a cry

Relief from a father that his family was safe for now

One day they might return to a shattered land

This story does not have shepherds, three kings and a shining star

But it is today’s nativity story from afar

Young mothers struggling to keep a child alive

Whilst those who run the camps still strive

To show God’s love can still be found

When there are kindly folk around

Copyright: David Hopcroft December 2019

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Let’s have a very messy Christmas

Let’s have a very messy Christmas !

Mummy’s off to chapel and Auntie Bessie is off to church

Dad and uncle Ben are still here so we’re going to have some fun

We’re going to rummage around the kitchen and have a search

The oven is already warming up and there’s so much more to come

Let’s get the pinnies on and find those baking trays

Time to make those Christmas cookies while we can

So open up the packets let’s have no more delays

Get ready with the frosting for the best snowman

We’ve got the wooden board so roll out the cookie pastry

Let’s use the plastic cutters to make the different shapes

There’s a lot of flour on the floor; I think we’re being hasty

And we spilled a bit of butter when we made a few mistakes

Now Dad and Uncle Ben have had a beer or three or four

They are looking after the oven whilst we take a break

And that looks a bit like smoke coming from the oven door

Never mind we’ll just continue with a Christmas cake

How many fresh eggs should we use, what do you think?

Whoops! I missed the basin when I broke that shell

Gosh, the washing up is really piling high in the sink

Dad and Uncle Ben looking on singing out The First Noel

Hey! I see snowflakes and so we grab the sledge to go outside

Leaving Dad and Uncle Ben to finish off the washing load

I can smell the burning kitchen so I think we’ll go and hide

‘Cos I’ve spotted Mum and Auntie Betty coming up the road

Copyright: David Hopcroft December 2020

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Twenty twenty

Twenty twenty

If the story doesn’t have a happy ending then could you give it one

See how they shuffle slowly always looking down at their feet

Can you just do something to put a smile of the face of everyone

Could you start the party that has us all dancing in the street

The year has been a long battle against death grief and misery

Now comes the season where we seek out happiness and good cheer

Keep the dream alive in your mind and believe in destiny

Laugh until you cry if you really want to shed a tear

We’ll still get out together and join in the carol singing

Sing out the songs we know so well as we loudly celebrate

Down the street we march to where church bells are ringing

Lights are twinkling in the windows as we congregate

Take a walk along the street to seek out a homeless soul

Give something with your message to make glad tidings joy

Buy a meal for a stranger and be glad your life is whole

Show them there is hope for a future and love we must deploy

Copyright: David Hopcroft December 2020


The Christmas Sermon

The Christmas Sermon

The church was not far away as he set off for the walk

Hope high in his thoughts as the snow continued to fall

Wondering if promise came with the seasonal talk

Was this really to be a time of good will to all

Boots tied with string

Jeans worn through with holes

His coat had seen better days

Unshaven and face half-hidden

A small dog in tow

As he shuffled through the streets

The ancient church was the pride of the community

Stained glass that had been brought from afar

Where worshippers would bow down with humility

Above the great oak door there hung a star

A place upon the steps

Worshippers would soon be along

Shivering beneath his coat

The dog sits by his side

Waiting and anticipating

Perhaps shelter for the night

The first cars arrive and families well-dressed

Begin their walk carefully ignoring what they saw

Thick coats to keep them warm the very best

A voice that asked politely ‘Something for the poor?’

His hands were cupped

A polite request for alms

Pale fingers that were shaking

They looked the other way

Pretending that he was not there

Spoiling their special day

A Christmas visit from the bishop by whom they would be addressed

Dignitaries selected to read the nine lessons for the night

Mince pies to hurry home for once they had been blessed

Presents beneath the tree and the log fire’s blazing light

‘Spare a penny please’

The voice irritated them

‘Something to keep us warm’

They wished he’d go away

‘Ain’t eaten for three days’

He was spoiling their occasion

Could this be hope? A child tugs at a parent’s sleeve in vain

‘Mummy can we give the mister something ‘cos it’s cold’

The parents look at the shivering man with disdain

‘No. We don’t want to be late. Just do as you are told’

They crowd in through the door

He follows with his dog

‘Sit at the back’

The verger is quite abrupt

Some turn around to glance

‘What a cheek. Begging in a church’

They hear stories of three kings and the gifts they bring

The mayor complete with chains reads with a voice so clear

There’s a feeling of expectation in the way they sing

A silence of anticipation as the moment draws near

Their priest steps forward

The time has come

‘I’d like to introduce the most reverend our guest’

The look a little puzzled

‘Can you please step forward’

Heads turn and eyes seek out the bishop’s dress

A Christmas sermon from the bishop was not to be missed

What was this? A beggar stepping forward with a dog

There must be some mistake. Their priest was being kissed

By this very stranger, and in the house of God!!

A silence and heads bowed

How could they show their shame

For the bishop was the beggar

The man that they had shunned

They waited as he paused

Then this is how he began

‘I have given you my Christmas sermon as you now know

I introduced myself to each of you whilst I was outside

And you met my friendly dog out there in the snow

I learned so much about you that you could not hide’

He paused again and then he smiled

‘God gave me a special task

And I can see there’s work to do

To find what is really in our hearts

Which is why I chose today

A birth that tells us there is another way’

Copyright: David Hopcroft November 2020




Greasy jackets heavy with rivets

Chapters shown upon their backs

Helmets with wings

Strapped over bearded faces

Leather boots

Polished a thousand times

The smell of leather all around

Smart machines

Row upon row in the old hanger

Shining without a speck of dust anywhere

Throbbing between the knees

Growling as they start to move

A great echoing from the roof

A convoy along the streets

Breaking now

Some down Palm Beach Avenue

Others turning into 42nd Street

Locals peering over painted porches

First stop for Black Bear

Outside the old cabin

A hollering from the rider

As a small lady appears at the door

‘Put your mask on lady I’m a coming’

She smiles first and then waits

He removes the box from the bike

Walks to her and hands over

The parcels from the food bank

And the medication she needs

Hells Angels are on the street

Just going about good deeds

Copyright: David Hopcroft November 2020


On the edge: Boat Trip

On the edge: Boat trip

A family gathered together slipping away from the camp

They had prayed for a calm clear night

For bright starlight but not for a moon

They walked purposefully across fields towards a ramp

Then through the woodland keeping out of sight

Watching the guards pass as they crouched behind a dune

Towards the bushes where the dinghy was hidden

And another where the engine had been stowed

Some paddles and a can of gasoline

Quietly now they passed beyond an ancient midden

Carefully manoeuvering their precious load

Relief as they reached the water still unseen

Seven of them climbed into the boat

Lying low and even now barely afloat

The paddles used to row clear of the shore

Then they felt safe to let the engine roar

Heading out across an open sea

With only a compass for a guide

Believing safety lay on the other side

Their freedom would not be denied

In the darkness the great tanker loomed

Ploughing through the water in the dark

Behind her the swell spread slowly out

Now coming towards them. Were they doomed?

Water spilling in over the safety mark

Bailing furiously with nobody to hear them shout

The twinkle of the stars had faded fast

Clouds scudding quickly across the sky

A darkening and then the first flash of light

Help needed. Was that a light on a mast?

More water spilling in. A child’s cry

Slipping overboard soon out of sight

One lost but no time to search

Prayers said for a sight of land

The dinghy now filled they cling to the sides

The chill of the water takes the mother

A journey’s end and no freedom gained

Prayers unanswered as another child is lost

Death like this claims its victims easily

A light

A sound of a heavy engine

Chugging slowly through the waves

A beam of light playing over the surface

Picks out the dinghy still just afloat

Yells from the sailors as they come alongside

Bodies pulled aboard

Yet only the daughter and her father have survived

Two more lie motionless and cannot be revived

The coastguard make their way back to the harbour

The survivors taken into care

Another night and another report

A pattern that is repeated day after day

They wait for the next night

Wondering. Surely there must be another way?

Copyright: David Hopcroft November 2020


Impressions on a walk

Impressions on a walk

He slouches a little as he walks head looking at the ground

His hands in his pockets occasionally turning around

Hair uncombed and shoes worn from playing ball

Or kicking tin cans around against the backyard wall

He does not answer back when a stranger calls ‘Hello’

Is he just a street orphan with nowhere to go?

What can we make of him so sullen and unkempt

Yet there’s a mission in his mind and he’s a gent

Reaching the corner shop and holding open the door

So that his little sister could browse in the store

Spending her pocket money pennies with delight

She had saved for weeks to buy the special kite

Which she would fly from the park today

Her brother looking after her in a special way

Are they punk or goth? I am far too old to tell

Dressed in thrift shop fashion and giving out a yell

Ladies who don’t give a you-know-what maybe doing crack

Leather jackets with ‘Sid Vicious’ painted on the back

Steel rings to decorate the skin they had exposed

Voices ringing out with songs they had composed

Using all the language that would make you blush

Lines about a toilet that would not flush

It’s the wheelchair they are pushing that takes my eye

With granddad joining in and laughing; I do not lie

A weekly visit to the cemetery where granny rests

I wonder would she approve of the tattoos beneath their vests

But there’s a twinkle like a star from above

For she knows that they are expressing love

Punk love that crosses over a generation

Defying intuition and my imagination

There’s a purring limousine slowly cruising the avenue

Inside a well-dressed lady showing just how she’s well to do

Rain falling steadily but her jewellery still sparkles bright

Is she off to some mansion to dance away the night?

Diamond studded headgear sets her a world apart

I wonder do these people really have a heart?

A dress that cost my rent for at least a year

I watch as I shelter in my Goodwill gear

An old man trips falls and lies still in the street

Who will brave the rain? ‘Tis no time to weep

Water in the gutter flows around his form

His life ebbing from him in the storm

The limousine comes to a halt with screech of brakes

A door flung open the lady steps out and takes

The limp form carefully into the car

‘Hospital’ she tells the chauffeur ‘It’s not far’

Thoughts of dance and partying are gone

Knowing that to ignore the sick is wrong

Impressions that we bring to every situation

Misadventures of the mind by implication

Copyright: David Hopcroft November 2020

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The Parade

The Parade

They stood in their decorated uniforms feeling proud

Another war had been won and called for a parade

Bellies full of beef and port as they waved to a crowd

A stand to deceive those who had been betrayed

Truth then began to unfold before their eyes

Gone were the tanks the artillery and marching band

The old images had at last been erased as lies

No more the silence of bodies lying in the desert sand

First came the wounded with uniforms stained in blood

Then those with crutches who had lost limbs

Remembering the stench of death amidst the mud

Whilst choirs throughout the country sang patriotic hymns

Invalids in wheel chairs still coughing from chlorine’s mock

Whilst others led the blind upon the cobbled road

A silence needed for those struggling with shell shock

Missing were the deserters shot for fear they showed

Following behind were mothers who had lost their sons

The familiar story of those who do not come home

Wives and sweethearts forever mourning their loved ones

Left with a telegram ‘Missing in action’ you are now alone

What of God? Was he really ever on your side

Wishing death destruction and damnation upon your foe

For they too mourn with tears that cannot be dried

Understand that God loves all if peace is to grow

Copyright: David Hopcroft November 2020