Park Bench Tales and other writings

Thoughts and writings reflecting the poet within and the activist


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Jamaica Train

Jamaica Train

We gazed as billowing sails appeared beyond the bay

Saw them lowered, then heard the anchor splash

Small boats putting out towards our shores

Men holding the iron sticks that spat fire

Our elders greeted  them eager to conspire

Their right to trade passed on in tribal laws

Run ! Run ! We feared the strangers’ lash

Nobody sees those the strangers take away

Too late ! We turned to face our kinsmen’s spears

Our lives worth but a puncheon of kill-devil’s drink

Drunken elders looked on as we took our chains

Their vision blurred as they sealed our fate

Crammed within the hold we felt the strangers’ hate

Our lives spared by greed for ill-gotten gains

Cowering as the strangers cursed our stink

Huddled close together, soaked in sweat and tears

At last, land in sight, a longing to be free

We stand upon the deck, wait for the plank to fall

A scramble ! White strangers bind us hand to hand

Like cattle we are sold. No words are spoken.

Brother and sister flung apart, families broken

The weak brought out, upon a block do stand

Shaking with fear and dread as bidders call

The ship now empty of black ivory

Pressed tight within the cart as daylight ends

Shaken and bruised as we bump along the track

Then bundled out and through the tabby door

Morning comes and then we hear the Driver’s shout

Up and away to the fields; sun is out

To a world where the Overseer’s whip is law

Where slaves who listen to the  leather crack

Toil in the fields until darkness descends

Back bending to break the soil with the hoe

Limbs wearied and bodies broken for Columbus’ grass

Women and children moving slowly through the fields

Each small stalk a symbol of a Master’s greed

Beneath the blistering sun burning souls will bleed

Whips raised and ready for the slave that yields

To the torture of his work beside the marsh

Selfish owners waiting for the cane to grow

The autumn drought a signal to set fields alight

Tabby cabins enveloped in clouds of smoke

Sharp-ground cane knives slowly slashing

Be wary, careless strokes can lead to harm

Look sharp and be sure to wear a charm

Work too slow and feel the Overseer’s lashing

Children, with legs swollen from poison oak,

Scratching and aggravating plight

Bundles of cane stacked beside the track

Hauled by docile donkeys towards the mill

Through marshes where mosquitoes swarm

And cottonmouths in hiding wait to strike

Lurking in the murky waters of the dyke

With their disguise the sleeping alligator’s form

High overhead the eagle’s voice is shrill

Two mules circle near McCullum’s stack

There Moses and Elias feed stalk to the grinding wheel

Juices slowly seeping out as iron pans are filled

On Pelican Island Flynn’s new mill is hissing steam

Hungry iron rollers spin and stalks are crushed

Slaves feed its appetite and cough out dust

Kettles beneath the rollers gather the syrup stream

Sweat pouring off bodies as cane is milled

Scarred and scalded arms have yet to heal

Boiling kettles bubbling with the white man’s food

Crystals forming as the liquid starts to cool

What’s left we’ll use to make kill-devil’s brew

And Africa seems so far from Jamaica’s train

The mill, now silent, rusting from the years of rain

Beneath the ground so many lie who paid their due

No more are hogsheads of sugar carried by the servile mule

But I hear the songs of Underground as I stand and brood.

Copyright: David Hopcroft April 2007

A puncheon is about 200 gallons

Kill-devils drink = rum


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Кінестетична руханка. Налагоджуємо взаємодію обох рук, осмислювання
положення свого тіла у просторі, розташування частин тіла на собі.
Торкнутися правою рукою до лівого вуха і навпаки. Якщо не получається
самостійно беремо своїми руками руку дитини і показуємо правильне
виконання. Вправу робимо перед дзеркалом. Малюнок 1.1
Нахилитися паралельно підлозі, потягнутися правою рукою до лівої ноги і
навпаки. Виконати чіткі рухи 5-7 разів. Малюнок 1.2
Іти на місці перед дзеркалом, підтягуючи праву руку до лівої ноги і
навпаки. Малюнок 1.3
Стрибати і одночасно розставляти ноги нарізно. Малюнок 1.4


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Just Another Morning

Just another morning

Smoke hung in the sky drifting slowly away from the chimney

Where the steam engine powered the looms

The yellow smoke that descended into your lungs

Leaving you coughing and spitting as you tried to breathe

Whilst Walter Grimstone stood on the corner of Gasworks Street

A withering cigarette clinging to cracked lips

Flat cap half-hiding his unshaven face

That had been blackened from the shift he had just completed

A skilled craftsman in the art of exaggerated pessimism

Wailing at the woes of workers streaming from the gates

Dreaming of the sailing ship to a New World overseas

Willie Cargill’s head was nodding

Rather like a mechanical doll

Moving to a tune heard so oft before

Red-kneed Brenda Batson kneeling on the stone slab

Scrubbing as best she could with the donkey stone

Pride and elbow grease shown by the sweat from brow

Down the street a row of regimented heads scan left and right

Bodies half out of doorways exchanging the daily gossip

Her at number 28 Railway Sidings Red hair that’s the one

Gone and got herself up the duff It’ll be her second you know

Seen her down the Nelson Arms Belly bulging out she’s lost her charms

Our Lizzie she gone and got herself a job

Proper good working in an office

‘Cos she were going deaf down there at mill

The trolley bus on Main Street idles by

Pauses to pick up the girls from the graveyard shift

Then trundles on towards the market square

There’s Dai and Dylan sneaking down the alley bunking school

Off to have a quick tab down by the old canal

With the Woodbines they stole from Arthur Paynter’s corner shop

Vera Higginbotham sees it all and we know she’ll tell on them

Six-stroke Robbins cane will be waiting once they’re caught

Little Lucy Larkin limps along with her wooden crutch

Broke her leg when the shire bolted from the brewery

In the playground they boot the footie waiting for the bell

There’ll be clean slates laid upon the desks and new chalk

John Hargreaves dreams of going to the Mechanics Institute

Whilst shy Glynis Jones is dreaming of her marrying

A different husband every time her eyes are closed

There’s the bell and the playground is empty once more

Two lines boys and girls huddle by the painted door

There’s no longer the choking smoke hanging in the air

The old mill fell into disrepair and there’s a supermarket now

Gasworks Street lost beneath the slip road to the motorway

There’s a Bargain Booze store where the church once stood

Walter Grimstone’s grandson slouches against a wall

Can of lager in his hand though it’s only half past six

Jimmy Cargill’s sniffing at the glue and looking on

Dolly Batson with three kids struggles to make ends meet

Looks down a Main Street lined with Charity Shops

Belching diesel fumes the school bus passes by

Taking the next generation to a classroom many miles away

Glynis Jones sits in the Hospice garden still all alone

Her dreams no longer lift her heart for a secret smile

She’s wondering just how much around her really changed

Copyright: David Hopcroft July 2022


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Lingering Thoughts

Lingering Thoughts

He looked up from the seat on his bench in the park

His bench or so it seemed as time had passed over the years

That first time as a schoolboy when he carved their mark

They had taunted him then but he rejected their jeers

There would come a time has was no longer alone

When thoughts of her would no longer be just dreams

Was it not belief that drew the sword from the stone

He surmised that faith if strong could provide the means

The warmth of the sun was upon the wrinkled face

He peered into the light and could make out her form

The white dress she wore and how she walked with grace

That day she smiled as they sat together upon the lawn

He looked at the bench and the initials he had carved

So much was unsaid yet the wood was still speaking

How could his life be full yet still he felt starved

Those marks in the wood a reminder of the seeking

He stared again at the figure and wanted her to turn

To see the smile that had drawn him to her in his youth

That freckled face the laugh that made him yearn

For that time together when they both sought for truth

Who was the toddler who now walked by her side

He wondered why was she always walking away

He wished yet knew each had something to hide

Years ago when both decided they would not stay

Would she fade into the distance leaving him in doubt

Day after day his desire had torn at his heart

What was it that stopped him from shouting out

That always left him seated as he watched her depart

Was it the sun or emotion that formed the tear

A reminiscence of something lost for which he yearned

A restraint to be broken as her form seemed to clear

He hesitated then shouted and in that moment she turned

Copyright: David Hopcroft July 2022


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A message perchance

A message perchance

Reaching out to touch what may not be there

A mind believing yet also seemingly deceiving

Imagining the vision that tells how much you care

Reflected back yet in the air dissolving

Such mysteries that torture taunt yet still titillate

Mysteries that attract only because they are unsolved

Continuing in my mind entrapped because they fascinate

Two pictures of the same scene become involved

A reality of our uncertainty determining if we share

The beauty of the meeting as secrets begin to unfold

Thoughts expressed in words exploring if we care

Can this be passion seeking or does the love run cold

What if we were to meet would truth then be unkind

Souls lost in some ethereal world created by the quill

Strange feelings emerging as we seek perchance to bind

A coalescence of the wandering can now be still

Take me if you so wish into the caverns of your mind

Imprisoned and entrapped to satisfy your exploration

Chapters crafted by the pen and intricately designed

Now flow from those lips without any hesitation

The only nightmares remaining are those that we create

Is this love created by exploration now becoming real

If the future has arrived we can no longer contemplate

A union created by the setting of the molten seal

David Hopcroft June 2022


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Thoughts by a recumbent stone

Thoughts by a recumbent stone

The sinking sun dropping like a shining ball of gold

A twinkling of heaven’s smile removing tears

The rising of the moon and the surfacing of the old

Customs that had been cherished over countless years

A night that would be remembered a tale that would unfold

With meaning revealed as the lunar moment nears

When the heat of smouldering passion melts away the cold

Nocturnal flashes across the sky were seen dispersing fears

The pathway to the circle of the stones revealed by the rising moon

A firmness in her step of confidence upon such a starry night

Ahead the leading of the piper summoning by tune

A solstice call with her heartbeat strong her cheeks rosy bright

Past the Pictish standing stone with a message held in rune

Where the notch of Satan’s hand had once brought fright

To a wandering maiden seeking beyond a crescent lune

Her slender neck almost blemished with a first love bite

Around the circle hand by hand the evening had begun

Young and old are bound by the common celebration

Memories in stones surface at the setting of the sun

To each a meaning would be revealed by invitation

A binding that marked a passing and a future now begun

Blushing as she danced with such hope and expectation

Her life that would change before the night was done

A story to live on forever capturing our fascination

Midsummer’s evening bringing a surfacing of latent lust

Diana’s moment as the orb rolled across the recumbent stone

Love’s awakening with a sprinkling of cosmic dust

A touch upon her shoulder and a tingling of bone

This was not Satan’s hand but the one that she could trust

Gwenllian and Rhiannon now bound by blessing of the crone

Whist young men’s hopes were dashed and elders muttered in disgust

Two lovers had begun a future so they could no longer be alone

Copyright: David Hopcroft June 2022


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A strange perception

A strange perception

Heavy black smoke rising from the rubbled ruins

An acrid smell hangs in the air from smouldering beams

Corpses lie on streets rotting as dogs roam for breakfast

Of the mangled remains of their owners

At the head of a long polished table far away

An old man in delusion proclaims victory

Or perhaps there is defeat in his eyes

In another city someone else declares the victory

Over a land ravaged by a festering madness

That we dare to call primate intelligence

As if culture can be extinguished

As if love could be trodden down by hate

As if peace could be measured by destruction

The old are trapped

Tired of living in cellared uncertainty

In a darkness

Half-starved and dying of thirst

Listening to incoming missiles

Lifetimes crushed by addiction for power

Though the human soul cannot be owned

Nor can the land be truly owned

She stands in a field

Looking at the garden where she buried her parents

There are flowers growing on the earthen mounds

White daisies signal new life

A bee crawls up the simple wooden cross

Resting from the daily task

Of pollen collection

One moment of crazed madness

Her life changed forever

What was the purpose

A small farm in the hills

Destroyed

The night the bombers came

Somehow there has to be a future

Life that needs to be rebuilt

But the memories will always haunt

Returning on the long nights

Awakening in a sweat

Was that the sound of bombs falling?

Nightmares etched in the brain

The radio said there was peace

What is peace

When all that you had is lost

What is peace

When you know war will come again

What is victory

When there is nothing left to win

She knows the madness survived

That the horrors may come again

Yet the land of hell

Is still home

This land of dance and dress

The land of music and legend

This land still holds a spirit

Beneath the charred earth

A spirit that lives

And will rise again

She looks again at the earthen mounds

As a tear rolls down her cheek

Yet in her breast

She feels there is still hope

Hope that suppresses the fear and doubt

Hope that believes

The time for old men drunk with war

Will go away forever

She feels the kick

The infant in her belly

Her husband buried in some distant unmarked grave

But that kick is hope

That kick is the future

She knows

That her future must not repeat

The insanity of the past

Copyright: David Hopcroft June 2022


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Reality

Reality

Reality was in the dream held by the mind

Fantasy imagined by psychiatry was unkind

A future reeled in like bait upon the line

Past memory folded neatly in time

Onlookers searched in vain for what was real

Peering without seeing what the lens cannot reveal

Desire and hate blurred at times

The lie that is the truth deceived in lines

Written as if they were a Janus view

Hope trumps despair

The love affair

Begins anew

Can such a course be one that is shared

Two journeys superimposed yet undeclared

Mock if you wish or if you must

Yet both see vision imprinted in the dust

Walking hand in hand with the inner self

The reaching out that releases new wealth

Feelings no longer disguised with stealth

Prised open the chests we have kept locked

The secrecy of lives unburdened and shocked

A struggle that cannot be compromise

The mirror can still distort

Hiding what we seek reveals nought

Lest reality unburdens the lies

One set of prints that marks out two paths

Tears intermingled now with laughs

Discoveries that exist to redefine our lives

Amongst uncertainty we fear reality survives

Hope and fear simultaneously exist

Are we cursed or are we now to be kissed

Darkness may comfort as dies the flickering light

Though still we seek to illuminate

As if there is reality in shared fate

Hasten and do not close the gate

Else life lost cannot be life in sight

Copyright: David Hopcroft June 2022


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Talking Stick

Talking Stick

It is no merry meet, no pious answer to a saint, no secret sign to moot

Yet this russet eventide draws from turf-capped croft and seaweed stranded home

Folk who brave whipped furies of leaf-stripping gales along their route

Some linked by arm for safety, others ‘neath great coats tread the path alone

The heavy knock above the wailing wind crashes through the oaken door

Which open swings. “A welcome to you all” cries the walking talking stick

Shelter’s finger beckons in; the hearth ablaze entices from the floor.

A haze of heat as glasses mist; “Greetings”, whispers mantle candle wick

Who risks a goat’s foot path or treads the marsh in dark and driving rain ?

Could this be some noble cause, religious zest or perchance some grail quest ?

No bells have tolled; no priest stands robed to kneel before in shame.

Who’d chance mischief and peril on this night; who is host and who is guest ?

All are gathered. “Be seated now in comfort”, talking stick sings out,

“There’s a circle to be made, form your ring around the blazing fire.”

Orange flames leap out and climb, sparks from logs fly all about.

Warmth is spreading round the room, a luring charm of hot desire.

Cotton-wicked tallow sticks perched on window ledges call for flame

Shadows flicker from the gloom as tapers spread the dance around

“Let cold hearts softly melt,” sings out each candle’s sweet refrain

Warmth flows and laps against enclosing walls yet never makes a sound

Cold meets warm as hands in new friendship grasp; talking stick is still.

Glowing greetings spreading out from each to those beside

Sharing out of sacred spirit, thoughts exchanged for hearts to fill.

Time to pass the talking stick, where all such thoughts can reside.

“Speak through me then pass me on

Say what you want or what you will

Who you are and whence you’ve come

But for your purpose speak no ill”

The first to hold the charm of wood

Had laboured long upon the mountain’s slate

Now coughed up dust as best he could

Yet of his life did thus narrate

“I was born as a child from the warm waters of darkness

Sought my love through the dawn at the end of the night

Spring came and was spent in the arms of a lover’s caress

Summer was the quarryman splitting rock with delight

As days shorten I can see without fear or fright

Though heavy on my mind weighs the damage that I’ve done

As one life ends the next is clouded in my sight

Dust of the mountain’s death obscures the rising sun

May the scar on the mountain be left now to heal

The wounds that I made deep in mother earth

Mountains once under seas still bleed from every weal

May the peaks now be praised for all they are worth.”

Talking stick passes on, from wrinkled skin to drawn white hand

A city face thin and pale, hollow valley cheeks eroded by the flow of stress

She has come new to the valley, to a hafod high in this rain swept land

She grasps at the talking stick, and trembling holds it close to her breast

“I search for the island in the opening of the mist

For a land that lies far beyond the movement of the tide

Where mountain peaks by billowing clouds are kissed

The unpolluted land in which I might abide.”

“Ah ! The dreams we often have, the hopes we hold.”

Talking stick is pressed into another palm.

“Seek the vision by your action before you are too old;

Storms across the sky might fly before the inner calm.”

“I know not what I really seek, only that the search has now begun.

I’d like to pretend and say I will not fear what I may find.

Yet fear is there; of tick-tock stop before the journey’s done.

Or what I find to be worse than what I leave behind.”

“Now there’s an honest voice”, thinks our talking staff

“And many more besides could say the same”

If the answers were before us we’d surely know the path

Should we find before we seek then the journey is in vain

“I know not,” calls a voice across the wax-lit room,

“Whether there are deities or maybe none at all

I see the form of this rod as I can see the silver’d moon”

The candles whisper softly “Listen for their call”

“So many now are blindfold led in halls of painted glass

To bow before the statues and kneel upon the floor

Hear incantations in a language strange like some farce

To be no wiser when they rise and flee the door”

There’s a sureness in the voice that’s speaking now.

“I know that I’ve a future, that I must change my ways.

Teach me to love and listen, to respect an ancient vow

Let me the wiser leave to live out better days.”

“I’ve walked across the moving marsh beside the briny estuary

I have followed footsteps I saw before, along the muddy path

That led beside the tide swept sands, though the prints were plain to see

They brought me to this shelter, to a warmth before the hearth.”

So as the stick was passed around and candles flickered by the walls

Each sought to find themselves, searching to find the soul;

Clawing through the dreaded darkness that clothes the inner halls

Seeking within the cavern for the lode that might yield gold.

And in the ringed completion self-made blindfolds are slowly raised

A purpose that is gathering , a pilgrimage this fall begun

Friendships form, bonding minds that had seemed dulled and glazed;

Talking stick and candles smile; know their work well done.

© David Hopcroft October 2000


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The Book: The Making of Perspectives

The Book: The Making of perspectives

His mother kept a diary she would write every day

So he asked for a book to write what should be preserved

Each evening before the fire the words he wrote

Were of life that he saw and what folks deserved

What are you writing my son

Did anything interesting happen during your day

Dad says you played soccer and won

You scored three goals they all shouted ‘hurray’

I am writing of the stream I walked to this morning

I lifted the stones to find nymphs of the mayfly

An adult is forming whilst the nymph is crawling

The ephemeral beauty that is so quick to die

Your sister told me for the school play you are the lead

You must be so excited that you’ll be on stage

This is so important Dad and I are agreed

To have a role in a work by the bard at your young age

I was given a paper to read by a neighbour

There were accounts of wild birds killed by pesticide

Sprayed on the food crops by farm labour

I walked into fields and saw flowers that had died

We got your school report in the post

Lots of grade A and no grade D

I see that you love the sciences the most

You are doing well Dad and I agree

We went out and sung carols yesterday evening

Around all the remote cottages and the farms

We’re not very good but our faces were gleaming

We were met everywhere with open arms

If you work a little harder you can go to university

You might end up as a banker or at worst a teacher

You can get a respectable job with a degree

A regular nine to five with a good salary

I came across the remains of an ancient burial mound

Hidden deep in the woods full of mystery

Four thousand years those stones have stood on the ground

Part of a story that is my history

You’ve been accepted to study for a degree

Your granddad and granny will be so pleased to hear

I’m writing to aunts and uncles and I know they will agree

Hard work and study will be your road to a bright career

I wonder now about my future and what lies in store

A city of life and noise replacing the countryside

New friends and challenges but will I learn more

Mysteries to unravel only time will decide

Copyright: David Hopcroft May 2022