Park Bench Tales and other writings

Thoughts and writings reflecting the poet within and the activist


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Conditioned

Conditioned

When there was no longer a history available to consult

There were no longer memories hidden deep within a vault

No place where echoes of a distant past might have emerged

Of past solutions where thought had once diverged

Such thoughts of which people could no longer speak

A time when minds had been free to seek

When each believed there might be a universal solution

To a universal problem created by evolution

Life some had believed could be controlled by magic pills

Little helpers to see each through real and imagined ills

Depression could be replaced by chemically induced thrills

Whilst other thought had traversed a different route

Gene manipulation to hasten a human reboot

Clones whose reactions would always be the same

The odd mutation culled with nobody held to blame

Life’s peculiarity would no longer be there to tame

But life’s peculiarity would not be put to shame

So had control of the masses eventually be lain to rest

Had the laboratories failed to meet this final test

Was free will unharmed and looking on in jest

The prodigal returning as a welcomed guest

Yet so often discovery comes with a single incident

Stumbled upon by good fortune or accident

Knowledge that was almost forgotten yet really present every day

Staring all in the face whether at work or play

Now the blinkers of obstruction fell away

For minds really could be programmed to obey

A conditioning created by constructed scenes

Imported into the mind though numerous screens

There was no need for drugs or carefully modified genes

The world could be controlled by Orwellian dreams

Though there remained at first the problem of memory

Until it was erased and renewed at the start of each day

Last night’s history wiped clean like the child’s slate

Now images told you who you could love or hate

Yesterday’s truth lost as each new image closed the gate

Like the swipe across the face of some ancient phone

Now you’ve forgotten everything you’ve ever known

Each day you find yourself living in a brand new home

The trick was to simply keep removing yesterday

So that another world could come into play

Where all news could only be the here and now

The past turned like the sod beneath the plough

Recording of anything that ‘is’ would break the vow

Made before the Great One with a bow

The morning’s history by afternoon has gone

By evening the afternoon’s events are also done

Which nightly play would then overpaint with fun

Though in some hidden book there was a story of how it had begun

Where lies had proved more powerful than the gun

Where lost elections had always been won

And truth was buried with the setting of the sun

Copyright: David Hopcroft February 2021


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Inside Alternative Worlds

Inside alternative worlds (A first glimpse )

Truth could not be seen as a casualty

In a world that had sacrificed reality

Upon an altar to the god of obscurity

Such that remnants were lodged out at infinity

Now each could have a ‘truth’ that was the other’s lie

Such that both the other’s ‘truth’ could easily deny

So that all alternatives were but conspiracy

Found in the imprinted mind that had come from birth

Each form of news peculiar but had apparent worth

Serving as nutrient for those still trapped upon earth

The alternative world had long since bid farewell to sanity

Creating mists of illusion that seemed to fringe on lunacy

Such are these worlds created by dissent

Dissatisfaction magically covered by new sediment

With history to be regarded as excrement

All paths might once have led to merriment

Now each world could only thrive with an enemy

Such hatred is created in the fields of uncertainty

By those who really strove to form a new nobility

How easy it became to mimic what was once sincerity

Driving the flocks ever closer to conditioned slavery

And I but a rebel still unshackled in such a world

Raise the flag of free will to be unfurled

Copyright: David Hopcroft February 2021


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The Eagle and The Dove

The eagle and the dove

Wings spread and flapping the landing not too carefully timed

An arrival that was loud and raucous a most unusual kind

Then strutting along the ledge squawking at those below

Claiming he had the answers to all they needed to know

The message rang out ‘Listen carefully to me’

‘For I am the only one who can set you free’

A small white bird perched in an olive tree upon a bough

Had cooed a peaceful lullaby whilst the wind did sough

Was somewhat perplexed by the brashness of the claim

They had the freedom of the skies’ she heard herself exclaim

But the softness of her voice was soon drowned

By the brashness of a bird wanting to be crowned

Yet although the words of the eagle really sounded so absurd

He kept repeating his lies and this is what the people heard

‘I rule the world because I am a celebrity

The greatest one there’s been throughout history’

He had to be the only person on the stage

And he would show his sharpened talons with his rage

The dove looked on and felt that there should be paths to peace

Surely the birds would realise that hatred should cease

Each bird should have a say in avian democracy

Not be a slave unto the eagle’s anarchy

The robin and finch were equal to the vulture and the hawk

But the dove’s words were drowned by the eagle’s squawk

An incarceration of opponents the eagle sought to berate

‘It’s just free speech’ called the crow ‘Nothing more than fair debate’

But the peaceful dove was faced with volleys of arrows carrying hate

‘Our birds first’ the eagle cried ‘The others we must exterminate’

Was it a madness of the eagle’s mind or was it simply age

As he babbled on and on and on with ever-increasing rage?

The dove could see the nightmare that the eagle claimed was a dream

An eagle that glorified himself was simply an arrogant drama queen

The message from the dove was that of showing care

Where those in need were helped by those who would share

Each bird would act in the interests of all and not the self

Survival of all birds that was ensured by every bird’s health

Now two forces that seemingly must always oppose

Must be united and healing be a source from which love grows

Strength and peace both have a time and place

Yet force used for evil selfishness will bring a fall from grace

The dove’s wish was that all might live in harmony together

In a world where incitement of hate was banished forever

Copyright: David Hopcroft January 2021


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The Big Match

The Big Match

We sat beside them on at bus and played together at the school

Met up at weekends to go fishing by the pool

But on this one afternoon they were the opposition

For ninety minutes they would be the enemy

The subject of our village rivalry

The elders had laid out the battlefield

With fencing stakes to mark the goals

Bamboo poles with mother’s rags

Served to mark four corner flags

An enthusiastic father had marked out the boundary lines

Jim’s dad say we could use his garden shed as the changing room

Some had shirts and shorts and even proper socks

We all had leather boots and were ready for the fray

Taking the field to cheers from mums and dads the warrior way

Who would be the victors and emerge triumphant on the day

Whilst the vanquished would be left to plan for another year

The whistle blows ‘Onward lads’ we’ll show no fear

Boots hacked around and the ball flew everywhere

Bouncing off molehills and bodies in the afternoon sun

Did we even keep the score or was it just for fun

Dribbling past the odd stray dog

Parents and others looking on all agog

Half time came with a real orange slice

Rolled-up newspapers to protect our shins

We’d practised taking penalties between dustbins

Almost time and scores still level

Nobody here is playing for a draw

A mass of bodies moves from end to end

Somewhere in the midst of flailing boots there is a ball

Suddenly the ball emerges

Looping high towards the sky

The crowd of players follows its descent

Too late

Kelly’s Doberman is on the loose and really fast

Sinks his teeth into the leather

Punctured bladder the ball deflates

So a draw it is and honour satisfied for another year.

In back streets and on waste land such matches are still played

Where skills are honed and sometimes a player makes the grade

A legend whose name will be held in awe through the years

And many in the snug after a few English bitter beers

Will boast they played with him on that day

And scored a hat trick before the dog got in the way

Copyright: David Hopcroft January 2021


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Shadows

Shadows

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


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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


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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