Park Bench Tales and other writings

Thoughts and writings reflecting the poet within and the activist

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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