Park Bench Tales and other writings

Thoughts and writings reflecting the poet within and the activist


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Book

Book

She did not like the book and so she complained

About the library from which the book had been obtained

There were words and phrases beyond her comfort zone

She moaned to her parents as soon as she got home

Their first reaction was that this book must be banned

Then the situation kind of got out of hand

They decided the book should really be rewritten

So that those nasty bits could be hidden

The narratives really had to be changed

Some events of necessity would have to be rearranged

Even though a truth may become estranged

They sent me a copy of the revised edition to review

Showing how the narrative had been changed to protect you

Of the people who queued to leave their foreign homes

For a free passage on the tall sailing ships

To seek out a new life in a paradise overseas

Employment and a new home were provided to please

How the kindly plantation owners showed how they cared

For those who had fled horror and how their lives were spared

The wealth and riches of the new land could then be shared

A proper version was written of the nation’s history

The rainbow pictures painted of equality

Now the books are so much better don’t you see

Our children need to be told the truth I’m sure you agree

You might find this a more comforting version of their reality

There are still some books that await to be rewritten

The one where a girl loved a girl and was smitten

The book where a boy played with a doll was clearly wrong

I heard the governor kicked up a dance and song

His disciples nodded and followed like sheep quietly along

Those books had to be altered so they would belong

In a society that had to be carefully constructed

To match the dream that was being structured

The girl now dressed for the boys at night

The boy found an automatic rifle to his delight

They married and had children of course all were white

The young girl could now go to school

Unaware that she had become the fool

For the books now defined her new position

So clearly as being one of total submission

Copyright: David Hopcroft May 2023


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Waves lapping at the shore

Waves lapping at the shore

Where the ghosts of smugglers still roam in tunnels undiscovered

The fragrance of their contraband trapped in the stillness of the air

Beneath the unmarked grave lies a story yet to be recovered

Where turf was lifted then replaced before the dawn with care

Perhaps those tales are of a past best left to remain uncovered

For there were those who turned to the wall to avoid the stare

Upon the darkest nights the moon again hides her face

There is no lantern swinging to guide away from rocks

The boat no longer filled with brandy casks or finest foreign lace

A path beyond the cove is now a refuge for different flocks

Bodies disembark upon the shingle beach and embrace

There are no excise men and villagers no longer fear the knocks

This landing upon a foreign shore now marks a journey’s end

Life-jackets are discarded as tired figures clamber up the slope

Fleeing danger and peril that many find hard to comprehend

Now they seek a future on these shores looking to us with hope

Their tragedy and needs so clear and yet they seem to offend

Where is the compassion and empathy faith should evoke

Now people are the pawns forming the smugglers’ contraband

Each day the boats are launched each day there are more

They are the jetsam of dictatorship we pretend not to understand

Look at their suffering then tell me why we slam shut the door

See how their faces are alight with joy as they tread the sand

Yet hope comes then recedes like the waves lapping at the shore

Copyright: David Hopcroft March 2023


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On the edge: Both sides now

On the edge: Both sides now

That day as she sealed her marriage she was filled with pride

Her flowing white dress hid pregnancy but she did not care

With flowers in her hair she smiled as she became the blushing bride

A village danced the night away with music on the cobbled square

They celebrated once more on the day that Yuliia was born

The priest held her by the font wrapped in babusia’s shawl

A new chapter in their lives heralded by a golden dawn

Happiness grew with each day as Yuliia learned to crawl

Then gathering clouds brought a darkness to their lives

A call to arms as the tanks began to roll across the plain

Anton and the others now kissed goodbye to tearful wives

Shells burst upon the houses as the enemy took aim

Fearful for her daughter she gathered some clothes and fled

Across the marsh at dead of night through the enemy line

Hours at the border but she believed safety lay ahead

In a shared room through frosted window came sunshine

She found work in a meat packaging factory at night

Some days they strolled in a garden near their home

Today she watched a young child flying a dragon kite

Yuliia had wandered up to an old man sitting all alone

A friendship that slowly grew as each week passed

Until one day she received news that Anton had been slain

A war widow dreading the question that might be asked

How could she tell a stranger when love was mixed with shame

Anton had not marched to the flag that now was glorified

His conscription was not of his choice

The stench of corruption deified purified and justified

A moral vacuum where truth seemed to have no voice

The widow and the old man took the secret to their graves

Yuliia spared the prejudice that might have sealed a different fate

She grew to find happiness and a new life beyond the waves

Saved from judgement by those with the vitriol of patriotic hate

Copyright: David Hopcroft November 2022

I have often wondered when women and children seek shelter and safety how the reaction might differ if they discovered a mother and child who had come from what is seen as the ‘wrong side’?


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On the edge: Left Behind They were not white

On the edge: Left behind They were not white

She clung to the top of the wall

Peering through the strands of barbed wire

At the plane on the runway

Slowly moving forward along the tarmac

Being pursued by hundreds seeking to make their escape

Some clung in desperation to the undercarriage

But were flung off as the plane gathered speed

The huge fuselage lifting from the ground

Rising over the hills

Disappearing to a safety that she would never know

They had come for him several days before

He had known they would come

He had persuaded her to leave with the child

So that she did not hear the shots ring out

When they dragged him from his home

Bullets that blasted his head from his body

His crime had been to work for those

They now called the enemy

The occupiers

He had been a translator

She had taught in the village schools

Where girls and boys could learn and play together

That was her crime

The journey had been long

Knowing they were looking for her and the child

Knowing that death awaited if she were to be caught

The first border crossed

But safety was a thousand miles away

Sometimes she begged

Sometimes she sold her body for a crust of bread

But all the time she walked

Holding her child close

The small inflatable was now at the water’s edge

She awaited her turn

She had raised the money

Selling her body again and again

Cramped for space she clung with her child

As the overcrowded boat pushed off

A small outboard fired into action

As they set off

Towards white cliffs they believed offered refuge

And a new life could begin

Capsize

They struggled

Was this the ending to it all

The rescue boat pulled them from the water

Took them ashore

Where hopes were raised

Then she realized

For her child it was too late

Now she was on the tarmac

Waiting for the plane

There would be no running

Boarding would be orderly

This time there was space for her

They made sure she had a seat

As she stood in the compound

Surrounded by a tall fence

Staring at the hut where they had been herded

Like animals awaiting their fate

As the sun beat down

The humidity rising

In this strange land

She wondered

Why this had to be her fate

Knowing how different it would have been

If she had been white

Copyright: David Hopcroft October 2022


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On the edge: Betrayal

On the edge: Betrayal

They drank their Prosecco laughing and giggling

Unaware of a world they had left a thousand miles away

Their time now devoted to the manufactured look

That they adored on the covers of glossy magazines

Wishing their bodies too could attract the male on Tik Tok

As they checked their pouted lips in the mirror

Taking the selfies that were a reflection of their self-importance

In a world created by the unsuspecting donor

As they forgot about all those who were left behind

Crop tops and short skirts for a fashion world

That seemed two planets away from the now forgotten home

Their cares drowned in wine and laughter

They no longer recalled those who they had left alone

As they sheltered in their own cubicles of deceit

Turmoil and death never surfaced in their sleep

They strutted the catwalks in their minds

Toying with the minds of fools as mouths were left agape

The men at home soon faded far away

As they plundered new riches hanging low on trees

Rosie the riveter was but a part of history

Here was cash to spend and nights were young

The were no Florence Nightingales sitting in this bar

What had surfaced was no mystery

The world had changed

Others laid down lives for their liberty

How can they possibly know

What it really means to be free

Copyright: David Hopcroft October 2022


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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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Please wait in the bomb shelter


Please wait in the bomb shelter for your visa (the phone call)


I’m sorry about the bombs and the shell

Just wanted you to know we wish you well

Though I know it is a bit like living in hell

Thank heavens its quieter where I dwell


If you have internet you can connect

To make your application more direct

You’re battery is dead What did you expect

Don’t worry we really are here to protect


You’re starving Please don’t let it get you down

I know the missiles are hitting your town

Water rising in the basement you might drown

You say your life has been turned upside down


You could call back later if progress has been made

Just keep your spirits up don’t let hope fade

You’ve just lost your husband don’t be afraid

I’ll have to pause now Tea has just been made


It’s your baby I’m sure you understand

We’re making security checks nothing underhand

To make sure we don’t let a terrorist into our land

There will be a delay we’re terribly undermanned


I know you have a little one who needs greater care

But security arrangements are needed to prevent a scare

After all a terrorist could arrive from anywhere

I know he’s only two years old but …

I’m sorry was that an explosion?

We seem to have lost the connection


David Hopcroft March 2022


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One Breath Away from Death

One Breath Away From Death


One day Maria played

Never afraid

Each nigh

She prayed

Then she could hear

Shelling

Draw near

Striking fear

She hid underground

Could still hear the sound

Mom’s calming voice

Drowned

In darkness bodies were crawling

Did they hear the bomb falling?

Could she hear mom calling?

Mom’s hand

Was grasped

Each to the other

Clasped

Katrina gasped…

That last breath before death


David Hopcroft March 2022


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How love was lost

How love was lost

They asked in the west

What’s in a name

If it’s only Ukraine

They asked for our help

But nobody came

The excuses were lame

They cried out loud

The reply the same old refrain

To help you would be insane

They shouted louder

But all was in vain

Though we knew of their pain

Then they were gone

Our answer was tame

Saying nobody was really to blame

Leaving a stain

Blood on our white flag

The blood of those slain

Tears cannot contain

Nor can I explain

How Ukraine

Was slain

By a 21st century Cain

Whilst we did nothing

David Hopcroft March 2022


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The New Story Of Noah

The New Story of Noah

In a country not so far away

An evil beast went into a rage

Threatening murder every day

The world had entered a new age

The beast threatened to lash out as those who were near

His actions were intended not for love but for fear

His neighbour could see that his intent was clear

Whilst others looked on and said ‘Oh Dear’

Noah knew he could not look away

The murderous beast was prepared

Whilst others said ‘You’d better pray’

‘We’d like to help you but we’re scared’

The evil beast beast like Faust became the Devil’s bride

With four horses of the apocalypse he would ride

Noah prepared to defend his people and their pride

Whilst others hastily found somewhere to hide

Noah began to build his defence

An ark that would bring his people peace

To Noah this action was only common sense

Knowing what the devil would unleash

He appealed for the help of others to build his ark

Noah knew the devil’s bite came after the bark

He appealed once more as skies became dark

Looking to the west the skyline was stark

Boris the joiner spoke out

‘Hey I could spare a small nail’

Joe the carpenter then gave a shout

‘I’ll donate a little wooden pail’

Hell’s fury was then unleashed upon the innocent

The crazed madness of the devil was never spent

In the background a cockerel said he might spare a cent

A bishop promised a collection since it was Lent

The devil looked and the ark he saw

Furious he opened Armageddon’s door

Starting the world’s first nuclear war

Here it ends, there can be no more

David Hopcroft March 2022