Park Bench Tales and other writings

Thoughts and writings reflecting the poet within and the activist


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Hollybush Oak

You watched me grow as a small lad to a youth

From short trousers to jeans to a young man with dreams

I watched you grow, more slowly it seems

That skeleton keeping watch over the cold dark days of winter

Sleeping in dormancy yet always there

Facing up to fierce blizzards and to driving rain

Bursting buds giving green again in the spring

Life emerging with vigour from year to year

When the sun shone in the summer

I did my exam revision under your branches

Trying to absorb those theories of physics and mathematics

Enjoying the shade that you provided

Fascinated when the first catkins appeared

Watched as the acorns then grew

Collected some and they grew too

I planted the seedlings in hedges where they might be protected

You gave shelter to insects and food for hairstreak caterpillars

Allowed birds to build nests in branches woodpeckers to carve out a home

When your acorns fell the squirrel and badger turned up for the feast

As leaves fell stag beetles arrived

We made a small garden around you

Planted some beans and a few peas

I remember a snow coming late in the Spring

When because of your leaves

A bough bent down but it broke

Sad days as time moved on

I left the farm so many years ago

When I returned

All that was there was a stump

The impatience of man for a log-burning stove

I wonder if oak trees have souls

Do they hold spirits in the ground beneath roots

Is there a memory that links the tree to me

Days that I enjoyed beneath leafy boughs

Listening to a breeze move between leaves

You may keep your verandah your awning and porch

Just give me the shade of an old oak tree

Where the birds are a singing and insects are buzzing

Nature at its best so why not come join me

Copyright: David Hopcroft July 2020


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Grimes Graves

Grimes Graves

Descending the long wooden ladder into the pit

A musty smell in the darkness that was broken and lit

Only by shafts of sunlight but today there were none

The pits had long been left, most filled and covered

With backfill as chambers were excavated underground

The prize nodules of hard flint to be knapped and traded

Wondering to himself was this the atmosphere

That harbours the trapped souls from the past

Neolithic spirits now held within a grave

Take care how you tread ghosts may not behave

Hark, are those the ghosts coming from above

Footsteps trampling through the darkened wood

Voices from a strange tongue

There is still beauty in the song being sung

Wooden ladders held by leather from skin

Barefoot they descend the rungs

Now the air feels stale in the lungs

I crawl into a narrow gallery

Between the backfill and the pit

Figures clothed in the skins

Of deer and other animals that I do not recognize

Small picks forming antlers shovels from shoulder blades

Their daily toil for the flint

Nodules to be knapped and shaped

To heads for arrows knives and for axe

I watched as they toiled and sweated in the cramped

Dark dingy galleries leading off the pit

Using those shoulder blades as shovels

Antler horns for picks

Seemingly an endless effort for the prize

A stumble on the ladder and one of them is down

Head split by rock he has breathed his last

But who was this skin-robed figure

Why do they gather all around

Why all the wailing and the shouting

This was clearly not some labourer

Smoke began to fill the chambers from the fire

A cremation although the smoke got into my eyes

A ritual performed for a leader who dies

A side chamber to be his resting place

Among those nodules that they all prize

Beside the small urn of ashes they place a pick

Was this a belief in an Otherworld

Did he believe in some deity

Was his death about to set his spirit free

Minutes later and they had gone

Leaving the pit to silence and a soul to rest

I climbed the ladder from such emptiness

Sunlight nearly blinding as I emerged

A hut nearby told their story in pictures on a wall

But deep beneath I had witnessed so much more

A vision that I could not put to rest

Thoughts in which I must invest

A tale is told but is a truth undressed

Copyright: David Hopcroft July 2020


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Beware the fighter who does not want freedom

Beware the fighter who does not want freedom

They were under the thumb of despot number one

Whose rule was by brute force and violence to enforce his law

Dissent was spreading far and wide across the country

An opportunity it seemed had appeared for number two

Who sent around a whisper about leading people to victory

An appeal that at first seemed to have freedom in mind

So peasants armed themselves and marched for number two

Within a year the Imperial Palace had fallen to his followers

The Palace then became the home for number two

Furnished yet again with riches to satisfy a greed

The people again began to feel the weight of oppression

Now whispers began to circulate once more

There was a number three

Arms dealers began to wring their hands in glee

A further uprising was soon under way

As the loyal guard of number two soon melted away

Soldiers who would live to fight again another day

But number three was no better than one or two

Soon the country had gone through numbers four and five

Each new number seemed to keep hopes alive

But under dictatorship they could do more than survive

What does it take to free them and let their country thrive?

Copyright: David Hopcroft June 2020


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New World Visions

New World Vision

When I was a wee lad the world was small

Nothing beyond seemed to matter at all

In revolved around me until mum gave a call

To say dinner was ready unless I wanted to starve

Then my father mentioned a place he called school

To be reached by a bus journey that sounded cool

Until they said come back tomorrow and the day after that

But the world was expanding and gave me new friends

Then college came along in the land of the Big Smoke

Where all sorts of temptations were in store for a bloke

A world choking with fumes from cars and trucks

Coughing and spluttering I thought this world sucks

But I learned a great deal about discrimination

How selfish people could only see a white nation

Whilst my mind was also introduced to a new distinction

I learned of the great divide between the rich and the poor

But could not understand why the rich always wanted more

Or why they were the only ones who determined the law

Leaving so many folk feeling rather sore

I moved on from the smoke to a world they called work

Where the factory sweeper earned more than the teacher

Where the world still respected a preacher

Though all seemed topsy turvy I still saw hope

Young people were rising and the world might change

The banners were flying and apartheid was dying

Colonies were gaining their freedom at last

It the deep south black people were voting

Yet in my mind was the voice of suspicion

Hatred was never buried we all knew it was hidden

At any moment those feelings could have arisen

And we knew white supremacists rarely went to prison

Then when I became old they gave me a pension

And I watched from the wings as the world changed again

But it wasn’t the world about which I had once had a vision

This was the world where it seemed the devil had risen

I discovered there were many who fed greedily upon hate

Goods were worshipped like idols whilst the needy were forgotten

Power held onto by deceit and force

And freedom is a concept

A state that cannot be enforced

Though it seemed that freedom could still be enslaved

But I still have a vision and I still have that faith

That His love will triumph if we work together

There is a new world somewhere built on love and respect

And His angels still can be found on the ground

One day I will hear His trumpets sound

Love will have triumphed and hate been defeated

His will upon earth supported and greeted

Copyright: David Hopcroft February 2020


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Flood

Flood

There were clouds in the sky a darkening overhead

Thickening like a blanket to descend upon the town

Sitting on the porch he felt this was the village of the dead

Thinking if there were another flood how many would drown

The deluge was years ago recalled from his childhood days

Rivers had overflowed and streets were washed away

Too small to help he watched as people climbed to the roof

He remembered his parents pushing him into a canoe

Frantically paddling in search of higher ground

Now the darkness rolling over became more threatening

He saw the first drop splash on the deck

Then more spattering on the steps

This time something was different he felt it in his bones

A warm breeze was blowing against his face

The raindrops were now becoming more frequent

He felt the first ones being blown against his face

Cold and icy even though the breeze was warm

Now the breeze picked up and could be heard

A gentle rushing sound soon became a roar

The first shingles were being lifted from the roof

He heard the siren faintly sound

A severe weather warning

Time to hunker down inside

It was then the heavens opened and the deluge began

Sheets of rain blowing through with the wind

In the distance the church bell swung crazily

Pickups fully loaded were heading out of town

But he knew the risk of flash floods and was staying put

The difficulty of knowing what was the depth

As you gingerly drove along a dirt track road

The rain was now steady the sky remaining black

He watched as small streams ran down the street

As the grass in the yard became a mini-swamp

Then the stream on the street began to bring debris

Still torrential rain continued steadily

He did not know why he stayed upon the porch

Watching a disaster unfold before his eyes

That strange attraction that draws onlookers

At some point he became aware of the water

The street and his front yard had gone

One river now flowed between the homes

He glanced up at the dark wondering was night setting in

Nine o’clock he went inside to check the power

Lights still working he switched on the news

Pictures of other areas rescues being made

Was this time for his own evacuation

No Way

Southerners always rode out the storm

A flickering of lights and then the power died

Thank goodness the generator fired up first time

He stayed up late the river flowing faster

Scouring out the foundations of sheds and homes

A crashing sound and he knew another home had gone

No signal on the mobile phone the landline dead

Should he have made a dash for safety instead

Now he was conscious that the rain had stopped

The river was flowing deeper down the street

The worst of the flooding was still to come

A sound

Yes

A sound of a cry

A realizing that others may be trapped

Wading out he tried to locate the source

Struggling to stay on his feet against the river flow

The old shack was still standing as he peered inside

Three children huddled together trying to keep warm

Clinging to a table top as water flowed below

In that moment he knew why God had not let him go

Three journeys each one exhausting his strength

Carrying each child to the safety of his home

Reassuring them they were not alone

As the water raged along outside

Safety given to them when it was needed most

His purpose in our lives may not always be clear

Yet when your time comes you act without fear

Knowing His presence is always near

When the story was told they said he was a hero

Medals should be pinned to his chest

But he knew his life had served a purpose

God had put him to the test

Faith had saved those children from the storm

As faith saves us when we are reborn

Copyright: David Hopcroft June 2020


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Messages

Messages

Little chapels dotted around the countryside

Spreading a message far and wide

Packed benches of those who are eager to listen

A vacuum being filled by a message they are smitten

From chapel to chapel I travelled at first amused

The more that I listened the more I was confused

Sometimes I admit completely bemused

Each preacher claimed to have found God’s love

They felt the calling of a strength from above

Each one I knew felt that they believed

None would think they could ever be deceived

But if you listened closely messages could conflict

So here is the picture I shall depict

What was love in one house could be sin in another

Whilst the good book asked us to show love to each other

It was clear that not all were sister and brother

Jim could not forgive scab labour it was not right

But he slept with Dai’s wife if Dai scabbed at night

Dilys had not spoken in chapel for more than a year

After the preacher singled her out for fear

A single mother paying a price for being here

Whilst Olwyn too his anger had stirred

She’d been seen with a Jew or so he had heard

But the whole congregation condemned to damnation

For Wanda’s indiscretion she’d been seen with a black man

Though Dafydd’s sin was considered to be far worse

To marry a black lady and to dare live among them

Yet each Sunday the congregation would pray on their knees

Asking God to help them love a neighbour and please

And the preacher would read of all those who were blessed

To many whose views would not stand the test

But there were those who followed the teaching

Often circumventing the word of the preaching

Slowly it seemed these people became the core

Binding a village together and opening a door

That encouraged so many to seek for more

Their faith guided them to encourage other ways

As they guided the chapels through their darkest days

God’s messages come in mysterious ways

‘It’s what people does it’s not what they says’

Said the old lady who looked after the strays

‘I heeds His word and that’s why I obeys’

That is how a faith can survive

Nourished by God’s love it is kept alive

Copyright: David Hopcroft June 2020


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World Orders

World Orders

Brown grass scorched leaves parched earth

Telling the tale of how we see the planet’s worth

Littered with plastic and a silent death from burning fuel

Acidic oceans slowly becoming a mass grave

A dangerous virus spreads quickly around the world

I struggle as I am told where priorities lie

How we must start horse racing for the wealthy again

Extremes of weather with flooding catastrophes

Mining scarring the countryside for mobile phones

Toxic chemicals slowly polluting each water course

Humans denied by colour of liberty and equality

See how those who speak out are labelled then mocked

A schoolgirl with vision and wisdom seeks to save

Life on the planet from an apocalyptical grave

‘Hell we can’t have that’ the climate denier cried

‘It’s all fake can’t you see we live in paradise’

Deaths from the virus filled hastily dug graves

‘It’s only flu the economy just has to carry on’

A knee on a neck and then we all watch in dismay

Though I suspect there were those in power just egging him on

Protests were made to try and bring change

The replies were predictable for there was no shame

‘Send out the dogs It’s time for the shooting to start’

‘Send in the military to teach them a lesson’

What if violence becomes the only tool the oppressed have left

How does He save His people from a coward’s death?

Copyright: David Hopcroft June 2020


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In the land of the never after

In the land of the never after

He spoke to himself and the self spoke back

A struggle as each tried so hard to assert

For each of them envisioned a different path

Neither seemed able to see what they shared

Life took a very different turn when they aided each other

Having learned how to listen not just to speak

A guidance as two selfs were then bared

To look at each self and see reason beyond doubt

Where once there was nothing a new soul could emerge

The two selves that argued could sometimes converge

Two unlike streams had joined to become a single flow

One sometimes led and the other would reassure

The path now followed was firm and secure

An abyss that had once had threatened in between

Became a new bridge to traverse the mind

Some in their wisdom still call out to me

To say this is conscience or psychotherapy

A seeking to understand how love and temptation

Sometimes will conflict and sometimes unite

Of how a small voice within can so often be right

How instinct may not always be the light

But listening to two voices I can discover His might

Copyright: David Hopcroft February 2020


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Honey Moon

Honey Moon

There’s a buzzing of the bees around the hives

A taking of nectar and pollen from the flowers of the chives

The beautiful sound around the flowers of the grape

Pollen spreading over yellow fields of rape

Worker bees busy collecting all they are able

Carrying to the hives the prize that they have sought

Dances being used to communicate

A sharing of messages if you are patient and wait

Men and women robed in gowns gloves and long hats with mesh

Seeking out their prize with the utmost carefulness

Puffing smoke guns then they withdraw the honeyed combs

The bees will continue on the winter store to provide

Monks take their ration to ferment

To make the finest mead is their intent

Days are long and warm in this month of June

As we celebrate the rising of the Honey Moon

Young couples are being bound by the priest

Whilst others have prepared sweetness for the feast

Of such delicacies as suits such an occasion

The celebration of another new liaison

Let’s also celebrate the bee in this month of June

A relationship going back over the centuries

Whose work has given us the honeymoon

Copyright : David Hopcroft June 2020


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Journeys

Journeys 1

I climbed down the cobweb ladders

To explore the crystal cave

Through which the sapphire river ran

Weaving between the stalagmites

Swinging from stalactite to stalactite

A scene lit up by shafts of light

Journeying deeper into the belly of this mountain

A seeker in search of answers to a puzzle

For the sapphire river must have a source

Could I with diligence trace its course

Through the caverns where the blue cave crabs thrived

With toothed pincers that would saw through stone

To black tunnels where hope might have died

Yet in the end I did perceive a glimpse of light

Though my progress was now slowed to a crawl

The cave being only two foot six inches tall

With each movement my body ached

Leaving me to wonder was this an end

Could faith give me the strength to carry on

Was the light real and was that light my belief

Faith if strong enough can bring relief from fear

His guidance was to drive me on

To that point where I found the light that shone

To a new world that I realized had just begun

Copyright: David Hopcroft February 2020