Park Bench Tales and other writings

Thoughts and writings reflecting the poet within and the activist

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Irina go out and collect fresh eggs Ivan fetch the longest straw

An excitement building within the home for celebration

Tatyana churn the milk for fresh butter I need more

Customs revived and observed for a new generation

Vitaliia have you clothes to dress the doll in finery

Bright colours to stand out when we raise the pole

Children bubbling over with anticipation and anxiety

Parents struggling to keep them under control

The straw is ready and the lady has been dressed

She stands aloft upon the pole in the village square

A week of carnival and festival has been blessed

Sounds of spring have awoken the sleeping bear

Eggs have been beaten and the butter is in the pan

Add the batter and be sure to make the special toss

Sweet crepes for Mayssa savoury dumplings for a man

Gather around and await the music by the Market Cross

Seek out those dancing shoes for nimble steps in dance

Lads and lassies this is the time to seek out mates

Last night’s dream can come alive so take a chance

Feliks open your eyes and see that Vitaliia awaits

Time to skate the ice and take the Troika ride

Children shrieking in delight at the snowball fight

See how the skaters on the ice smoothly glide

Fireworks exploding in the sky light up the night

The week is almost over and the torch lights the fire

Our lady brought down from high now must burn

Dance with me around the flames as she loses her attire

Sprinkle the ashes on the fields and let life return

Seek your neighbour and friends for their forgiveness ask

The time for grievances to be forgotten has come

Drink to their health and share the spirit in your flask

The week must end in happiness let nought be left undone

Copyright: David Hopcroft February 2023

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The Village Awaits

This is a post from last January but now with the video file.

The village awaits

Cobbled streets once traversed by donkey carts

Sleepy houses where hours are spent drinking tea

Preparing for revival a great display of arts

Traditions awakened by way of celebration

Beauty so long suppressed is now set free

Pine poles form the scaffolding

Adorned with gifts for the special day

Boyka has spent long hours with her spinning

Fibres dyed and woven now on display

A shawl from Stoyanka with colour is shining

Showing her skills with crochet

Blankets from Devora

Pillow cases embroidered by Todorka

All that the couple would surely need

Gifts to remember the day in December

To mark the new life they would lead

Grozdan has been busy with plane and saw

Fine oak has been used for the marriage bed

Seasoned by skills from an old lore

Painted in bright colours yellow blue and red

A crib for a baby Ivan’s parents have hope

Can swing gently from the homespun rope

A time for feasting and dancing with the winter sun

Music supplied by the zurnas and drum

The dark days of the past are now over and done

Two days of celebration when the village has fun

Her excitement near bursting and heart beating fast

Bubbling with joy Rositsa waits in her room

Varvara her grandmother will help her prepare

A face to be decorated and painted with greatest of care

The time for the gelina as the bride is prepared

Her face painted white then with sequins adorned

A red scarf for her hair as the picture is formed

Silk flower garland like a doll she is cared

Streaks of tinsel now complete her disguise

The imam must bless before she opens her eyes

Crimson skirt white bodice she displays graces and airs

A rainbow of stitching on the apron she wears

Guests gasp in awe and wonder with their stares

With sashes of notes from wedding guests

Preparation complete now she is dressed

The blessing of imam can take place

A simple binding carried out with grace

With fresh milk her husband will wash her face

The old darkness has gone a sky bursts with lights

A village with happiness and joy revives Pomak rites

Copyright: David Hopcroft January 2022

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There’s a gathering in this village upon this eve

A tale to be told of a past that is rebirthed

Harken carefully unto the tale I shall weave

Where perchance a sun king has emerged

Magic upon this special eve descends upon the square

The eldest of the elders parades in embroidered cloak

Beneath church towers old and young are gathered there

The old ones are prepared and the young have brought the goat

The sun has opened up the lazy eye

Now slumber of the winter shall lessen by the day

Sweet music in the air signals merriment is nigh

Let the eve begin and climb upon the sleigh

Light your candles and let your lanterns be held up high

Knock upon each door and let the household hear your voice

A greeting poem written with care begs a welcome cry

Ask of your host permission to sing a carol of their choice

Sing well for the household then prepare the dance

Let sweet notes to mark this eve echo from your throat

Make way there is one who wishes to advance

For now comes the moment to lead out the goat

Let the blessing be recited by all who know

For those present know the goat must stamp its feet

Where goes the goat ‘tis where the wheat will grow

For each stamp shall yield the seven sheaves of wheat

Now the goat this night has risen from the dead

Let the children bless each room about the house

Where those ready for slumber kneel and prayers are said

For every creature large or small from ox to mouse

The kutya with such care has been prepared

The wood upon the stove is burning fierce and bright

Berries nuts butter fruit and honey shall be shared

A new year begins so sing to greet the light

There’s a didukh proudly standing near the table

Heads of oat wheat and rye together have been bound

A ribboned grandfather preserved by fable

Sleeps until Mara dances and seeds leap from the ground

Time now to move on my lads and lassies fair

Twixt dusk and dawn every home must be blessed

The seeds of sunflower shall subdue the bear

For peace and prosperity make this kolyada request

Copyright: David Hopcroft December 2022

didukh is the grandfather sheaf, kolyada is the winter solstice, kutya is a food prepared for the solstice, Mara a pre-Christian goddess of spring


У цей вечір у цьому селі збираються
Розповідь про минуле, яке відроджується
уважно слухай казку, яку я зіплету
Де, можливо, з'явився король-сонце
Магія в цей особливий переддень сходить на площу
Старший із старших дефілює у вишитому плащі
Там під вежами костелів зібралися старі й малі
Старі готові, а молоді привели козу

Сонце розкрило ледаче око

Тепер сон зимовий з кожним днем ​​слабшає Солодка музика в повітрі сигналізує про наближення веселощів Нехай вечір починається і лізе на сани Запаліть свої свічки і нехай ваші ліхтарі піднімуться високо Стукайте в кожні двері, і нехай домочадці почують ваш голос Вітальний вірш, написаний ретельно, викликає вітальний крик Попросіть у господаря дозволу заспівати колядку на свій вибір

Заспівай гарно для домочадців, потім приготуй танець Дозвольте солодким ноткам, щоб відзначити цей переддень, лунає у вашому горлі Зробіть дорогу тому, хто бажає просунутися А поки настав час виводити козу Нехай прочитають благословення всі, хто знає Присутні знають, що коза повинна тупотіти ногами Куди коза піде, там і пшениця виросте За кожну марку дадуть сім снопів пшениці

Тепер козел цієї ночі воскрес із мертвих Нехай діти благословлять кожну кімнату в будинку Де ті, хто готовий спати, стають на коліна і читають молитви За кожну істоту, велику чи малу, від вола до миші З такою дбайливістю готувалася кутя Дрова на печі горять люто й яскраво Ягоди, горіхи, вершкове масло, фрукти та мед слід розділити Новий рік починається, тож співайте, щоб світло привітати

Біля столу гордо стоїть дідух Головки вівса, пшениці та жита були зв’язані разом Стрічений дід, збережений байкою Спить, поки Мара не затанцює і насіння не вискочить із землі Тепер час рухатися далі, мої хлопці та дівчата У вечірні сутінки і світанок кожен дім повинен бути благословенним Насіння соняшнику підкорить ведмедя Для миру і процвітання зверни цю коляду

Авторське право: Девід Хопкрофт, грудень 2022

р дідух – дідух сніп, коляда – зимове сонцестояння, кутя – їжа, яку готують на сонцестояння, Мара – дохристиянська богиня весни.

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2. Christmas in Ukraine

2. Christmas in Ukraine (two weeks later)

The sirens have ceased to wail bombs no longer fall

There’s a lull in a genocide that should affect us all

In the square the tattered remains of a fir tree

Smouldering branches hit by an incendiary

The church tower lies in ruins scattered over unmarked graves

There’s a notice fading on the door that says ‘Jesus Saves’

Down the street a small group walk in silence

Candles in tin cans to light their small parade

A young lady stops then notes from a sopilka sound

At first one voice then others proclaim ‘New Joy Has Come’

The Bethlehem star held high carries their hope

Let’s get ourselves several buckets full of snow

Collect some wood from the ruins for a fire

Boil some water and maybe someone has some tea

Gather the neighbours around to show care

A chicken got killed let’s cook and share

There are turnips and greens still in the field

More searching and they made their seasonal casserole

In a galvanised bucket hanging over the blaze

Enough for one bowl each they still bless and give thanks

They will raise another tree in the village square tonight

Their homes destroyed but courage is strong and hope is bright

Copyright: David Hopcroft December 2022

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1. Christmas in England 2022

1. Christmas in England 2022

Stuffed turkey with roasted potatoes and all the trimmings

Christmas pudding to follow when we set the brandy on fire

There’s a pile of presents to be opened beneath the Christmas tree

The stocking is filled and hangs at the bottom of the bed

Santa came last night and drank the whole bottle of brandy

Daddy’s been kissing mummy beneath the mistletoe

There’s a service at the church but we may skip that today

There’s more exciting things to do than to celebrate a birthday

Anyway we’ve already done the school Nativity play

Our Tomas played one of those kings from somewhere

The house is lit up outside with a thousand coloured lights

Christmas crackers to be pulled silly hats to wear

This one has a joke inside we think it might be rude

Open another bottle love the Queen’s speech will be on soon

Carol singers at the door hoping for some contribution

Collecting for orphans because there’s a war somewhere

Give them a pound and let’s hope they go away

Get the mulled wine heated time to sit and relax

An open fire with chestnuts and almost too much heat

We’re getting rather tipsy but we’ll have more mince pies

We’ve all got new duvets so we’ll be warm as toast tonight

Another glorious Christmas I think we’ve got it right

Copyright: David Hopcroft December 2022

A poem contrasting festivities in England and Ukraine. This is part 1.

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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




They dream of futures though miles apart

Each to the other is so closely bound

Within a cocoon their lives lived as art

Can love be love unseen

Within the room the lover’s dream

Forms the world that is the lover’s scene

Fire with the circle of standing stones

She would dance the solstice night away

With her sisters wearing garlands in their hair

Laughing as they sang they were the crones

Liberty they found and liberty would stay

Sparks from their fires in the air

He stood proud at the entrance to her cave

Guardian of a possession he had found

Tall protector with club in hand

Against fierce wolves and bears he would save

Expectation of reward to be crowned

A delusion that he rules the land

Yet her greater strength lay within

‘Twas not some magic but an inner calm

Love that provided the inner peace

Though some would label that as sin

In weakness they might wish her harm

In so doing her power would increase

David Hopcroft April 2022

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Sunday was a big day in the village
Chapel full to overflowing
Cars were parked down every street
Everyone a’coming and going
The organ inside echoing
All to stand, about to sing.

They’d come from all the surrounding farms
To see the young babe in her arms
To make sure he’d not live in shame
To chapel he’d come
To get his name.

There was John the post and John the farmer
John the brickie and John the slater
John the bus and John the builder
John the shop and John the cobbler
John the actor and John the tractor
John the elder and John the welder
Every one an uncle John.

Behind them in one long procession
Came his cousins in succession
John the coalman, John the boatman,
John the sheep, John the sweep,
John who mumbles, John who grumbles,
John the jaw, John the law
John the news, John the booze.
Even Smokey was there (His real name’s John)
Those are the only ones I know
Every one they say is a cousin
They were all there by the dozen.

Then there were all his nephews.
John from Llangefni and John from Rhosneigr
John from Llanberis and John from Llanbedr
John from Llanfaelog and John from Bethel
He’s the son of Uncle John’s Ethel.

The minister stood there in his cloak of white
Everyone craned their necks to get a good sight
Mother handed him over with a smile
Father stood proudly in the aisle
Aunties there were by the score
The rest of the village
Squeezed in at the door;
John Jones, John Evan
John Ellis, John Bevan
John Jones, John Owen
John Pritchard, John Bowen
John Lewis, John Preece
John Edwards, John Rhys.

Now inside the chapel there came a hush
Not a sound to be heard from anyone
Except for the minister,
Who said, with much grace
“Welcome son, I name you John !”

As is the custom, when the service has ended
They went of to the pub for a great celebration.
They had named him John
So none were offended.
Except Will
But how he got his name
Is a mystery
To me !

© David Hopcroft April 1998

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Barclodiad y Gawres

Barclodiad y Gawres

Soft shifting colours of the sun spreading o’er the sky
Dunes moving slowly inland beyond the rolling tides
Messages beneath the sand once carried overseas
Peace out upon the headland where the old bones lie
A burial from an apron where the spirit still abides
Where once a mystery was brewed, some deity to please.
Now there’s a sense of magic just hanging in the air
Like a shadow that deceives; on turning its not there
A mystery that deepens might lift the veil of despair

Spirits who would fly upon this night
Come join with us upon a Beltane eve
When sun is gone and moon is bright
Join with our sister ‘ere you leave

Time-trodden turf now covers earth above the stones
Where believers once steered a course across the seas
Nibbling sheep these pastures keep for us this day
Flaring torches blaze a path towards the ancient bones
Swaying bodies moving forwards; lights that could deceive.
A place to meet, a time to keep, no reason for delay
Our sister struggled as she wandered through the gloom
Shadows closing on her life seemingly bringing doom
Until midwinter’s solstice rays lit up the passage in her tomb

Cauldron grail and chalice bring
To bless virgin lover and the whore
Candles alight now form the ring
Waves are breaking on the shore

Once again upon the headland the sounds of voices chanting,
Calling to a goddess dwelling far below within the earth.
The Shamanka casts the circle with a flaming brand
From the coven is a welcome to the sister they are binding
There are no dreary dirges dragging, only the sound of mirth
Round and round the sisters circle, moving hand in hand
Favours may be granted by the power within the spell
Hear the drumbeats rising, listen to the cyhyraeth yell.
What fate awaits the sister ? Only seers can foretell.

Flowing from the wells, running in the streams
Tylwyth teg are working magic with the moon
Deep inside our hearts, asleep within our dreams
Cast the stones to find the message of the rune

Within the encircled mound lies the sleeping soul of Mona
Forgotten on an island where sheep now graze upon her grave
In their drumming and their chanting, sisters are awakening
Lost memories returning, of Rhiannon, Ceridwen and Epona
The serpent still is waiting by the entrance to the cave
Within the altar now is burning, cauldrons slowly heating
In the bay the goddess dances upon white-crested waves
Around the mound the sisters dance, no longer to be slaves 
Within the chamber of the sidhe another party raves

Nine ladies dance around the Beltane fire
Chalice lifted slowly to our sister’s lips
Knowledge of the cauldron raising her desire
A potion from the berries and the hips

They are singing of a freedom, whilst others wait in pews 
Casting spells of love whilst the preacher points the bone
They are riding through the gateways to another world
There’s a freedom in the air that carries forth good news
Sharing with your sisters, you will never be alone
Sail on to the Summer Isles, the canvas is unfurled
By the powers of air and fire we follow ancient ways
By the powers of earth and water, so be all our days
Let the sounds of laughter still echo from these bays

Laugh with your Lover on this Beltane night
Howl loudly with your Mother at the moon
Walk with the sacred Crone to reclaim a rite
A Goddess waits on Mona listening for your tune.

© David Hopcroft December 2001

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Cumbrian Moon

Cumbrian Moon

Wild windswept a wonder of ancient craft

Stands firmly planted upon these Cumbrian hills

A purpose lost but steeped in legend and mystery

Where moon and sun a message might bring

Who dares to visit upon the solstice eve

Robes and hoods float silently across frosted fields

Tallowed-torches burning held aloft

A gathering of sacred in its purpose never lost

Priest and priestess a duty to perform

A setting sun dips away

Rises now the silvered moon

A steady drumbeat soft at first

Processing now white robe arrives

To take a place in a world where magic thrives

Ceremonies whose life now revives

Before the northern mystic eyes

Torches now thrown upon a pyre

A body lost but the soul now moves

Between two worlds

And will return again to fertile spring

This ritual will fortune bring

In the light now I see the rhyolite-hewn faces

Of her daughters arising from cold bare earth

Daughters of the towering sandstone block revered

I see her them all come to life

Moving around the circle gracefully

In dance

Common folk look on in trance

Whilst I am led towards the burning fire

What now of my fate

Did I in misfortune select the bannock cake

A triple sacrifice to make

Appeasement to some mystic deity

A belief that terminates my liberty

The iron axe is raised as I bow my head

I kneel upon cold earth in dread

The question surfacing within my mind

Will I cross some boundary to some afterlife

Or is faith itself to be unkind

Playing a trick

That Loki might have designed

A thud upon my neck


Then the flood of bright light

Yet I now rise

To see those daughters turned to stone

Witches held fast in some Christian curse

Change sweeps across this barren land

Where Long Meg and her daughters still stand

Copyright: David Hopcroft January 2022