Park Bench Tales and other writings

Thoughts and writings reflecting the poet within and the activist


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