2020 : A year in poems

In 2020 we’re adding a poem a month to this website.  Each poem might say something about Airton Friends Meeting House, Malhamdale in general – it’s culture, history and landscape – or any current topic.  There’s no set format or theme but the poems could be thoughtful, funny or inspiring.  You can contribute by sending an original poem to airtonbarn@gmail.com and we’ll select one to display every month.  (All submissions must be original and carry no copyright restriction – please confirm this in your email.)

The final poem of the year is also the shortest!  A reflection on one aspect of what it means to be a person in society…

Photo Garry Knight – CND at the Stop Trump Rally, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Normal People

Have unique talent, Why?
they have tears,
success, chains, protest.
A sense of immediately
carrying a route to charity.

Michael Perry

The Magic Box

Photo: Integrated Collections Database of the National Museums, Japan, CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I will put into the box
A hug as warm as a summer’s night,
An autumn breeze with the wind in my face,
A warm laugh from a loved one.

I will put into the box
A kitten with a soft grey tail,
A book with a velvet cover,
The sweet smell of freshly buttered popcorn.

I will put into the box
A unicorn dancing on a rainbow,
A candy cane house with a gingerbread door,
A magic carpet with golden tassels to whisk me far away.

My box is fashioned from oakwood from the darkest glade
and silk from the rarest plant and diamonds from the deepest cave.
With gemstones on the lid and rubies in the corners.
Its hinges are the purest of gold from the depths of creation.

I shall soar in my box,
On the skies of a perfect world.
Then land on a white cloud,
The colour of fresh wool.

Sophie Laya, aged 9


October grazing : photograph Simon Watkins

O how I love thee, dear old Malhamdale!
With thy sequestered nooks and lovely vale,
Adorned by curious rocks and shady dells,
Fine waterfalls and rugged, high-peaked fells,
That lavishly display in many a part
The richest beauty of nature’s art
In thee, old Malhamdale.

Thou dost at every season of the year,
In sunshine bright, and wintry storms severe,
Present to my admiring eyes a face
That’s unsurpassed in beauty and in grace.
For, though I wander other sights to see,
Yet find I none that can compare with thee,
Romantic Malhamdale.

For, in the joyous and reviving spring,
What dale is there that can surpass thee in
The charms which budding tree and freshening field
And springing flower in rich abundance yield?
As nature fair arouses out of sleep,
And with consummate skill makes thee complete
In beauty, Malhamdale.

And when the soft and genial summer’s air
Brings into bloom thy flowers of beauty rare,
They with thy new-borne stream and rocks unite
In making thee a wonder and delight,
While birds, which sport so joyously at play
Raise happy songs that drive dull care away
From thee, bright Malhamdale.

Or when the cold and searching autumn’s breeze
Blights the fair flowers, and strips the dark green trees
Of all their leaves, which once were bright and gay
But now are left to wither and decay.
Although thou art of such great charm bereft,
I love thee still for there is beauty left
In thee, fair Malhamdale.

I love to see thee clad in garments fair
Which winter brings and spreads o’er thee with care.
As though to shield thy beauties from the cold,
She doth thee in pure white snow enfold,
And render thee more picturesque and grand,
While wonderingly at Windy Pike I stand
To view thee, sweet Malhamdale.

I live to view thee in the daylight clear,
And when the calm grey twilight hours appear,
Or when the moon sheds forth her mellow light
To cheer and grace the shadows of the night.
No matter when or where I gaze on thee,
Nought can I find but rich sublimity
In thee, my native dale.

Betty Chester, nee Banks (1862-1930)

Inside Airton Friends Meeting House : photograph Simon Watkins

A Golden Light

Sometimes a golden light falls
across the door to a place made sacred
by silence.

Stroke by stroke the beams pass over
that room where thought is stilled and then

the glow illuminating faces and hands,
ordinary clothes and shoes, all things

while inward light reveals, what?
The centre of each one who waits
its telling.

Those who have gathered
these four hundred years
know how shared stillness
lays bare pretension;

and though its light makes the inward plain,
it answers certainty with questions,
leaving them

better known to themselves, whilst seeking
truth only of the world of experience,
not spirits.

Those who have gathered
these four hundred years
have watched those same sunbeams
waken, glide and fall away

as their world slid from day to night
and night to day.  Just as then
so we do now.

anon, 2020

A response to defenders of statues

When you can say with certainty
that the history you know
is the whole truth;
that no-one’s struggle is left out
and the triumphs of your heroes
are laid alongside their flaws;
then you can say
that British history matters.

If you can claim in honesty
that your place in life
has nothing to do
with circumstance of skin
or with the paths your ancestors took
through choice or by force;
then you can say
all lives matter.

Though we can say sincerely
that we value every person
and want to understand
what discrimination means;
until it’s clear
that the past is past
we must keep repeating
Black Lives Matter.

Steven Laundon

photo Evelyn Simak (Creative Commons licence BY-SA 2.0)

The place by the stream

Yesterday, the place by the stream
welcomed me in from my wandering,
called to by heron who flew
from the sun-infused rock where I came to be.

Midsummer mayflies rising and falling
like faeries with no concern for tomorrow,
dancing to lullaby of tumbling water,
my heart a dancing faerie among them.

A golden chase on the other bank,
three hares ran for play or territory,
their black-tipped ears poised,
white tails focused, darting.

Yesterday by the stream, mayflies, hares and I
Watched over by crescent moon,
each of us creating what it is to be
‘the place by the stream’.

Leila Bawa

The Aire in summer : photograph Simon Watkins

Summer by a stream

Over the gate,
Wellies on,
Splish, splash, splosh,
Grab the biggest rock,
Add it to the bridge,
Splash, splash, splosh,
Step on the mound and…………
Disappointment comes,
Feels like ice,
Chilly cold water soaks till the top,
Make a bigger bridge,
Shiver from the cold,
Here it goes again,

Sophie Laya, aged 9

Alien cloud? photograph Simon Watkins

Aliens over Airton

This morning over Airton
an alien craft was spotted,
all smooth and shiny hanging
in the sky above our cottage.

The elongated saucer
had blown across the heath
and hovered now with meaning
while people brushed their teeth.

The upper side was glowing
with unterrestrial light
while underneath some shady moves
were making birds take flight.

It looked at first that someone
would have to send a greeting
and when the phones began to ring
we organised a meeting.

But just as soon as it arrived,
the saucer blew away
and now beneath the bluest sky
we went about our day.

Simon Watkins

The Kenspeckle Booth

From Airton village phone box, Stephen Craven (public domain via geograph.org.uk)

The kenspeckle booth
stands woebegone in muddy footings,
wearing foliage shoes.

Four tarnished crowns atop
three blackened panels,
a hidden fourth reveals TELEPHONE.

Smeary, virescent panes
framed by peeling, red paint
and mossy eyebrows.

Inside a green carpet grows.
Spidery plants propagate from dead stems,
flecks of red paint spatter the floor.

Two long term residents,
a cork and a taxi card,
detritus from a vespertine visitor.

Hidden scars stud the wall
where the coin box was ousted.

A faded number
an identity lost, severed.

The BT Piper leaps on his sign
playing silent notes
to a clutter of spiders.

Filmy webs span corners,
curling spiders spin and orbit
in the eddies of the breeze.

A heavy door closes
seals in the phone box domain.

The obscure booth
stands woebegone in muddy footings,
wearing foliage shoes.

Gill Petrucci

The Twittering Machine

Birds on a Wire:
painting by Beercp (public domain)

Cacophonies of birds are my reward
for hours of honest labour undischarged.
Not song, you understand, more nuisances
of sound deranged as if by accident

upon the tone-deaf ear. Larks ordered
like notes along some mad atonal wire
are what I see and hear. Unending lines
run parallel yet never cross to yield

the lightning charge, the shock of
knowing how and where and what
to pen, in sync suffused,
the ill-used, febrile muse.

It needn’t signify, for like Paul Klee’s
sequestered blind, the end may be
some existential trick played subtly on
the ever-waiting, hopeful mind.

Stephen Whitaker

In the eyes of God : Climate Change

I swish, I sway,
I stand, I lay,
The Earth is shrouded in light.

For here is me,
Behold, I see
A world of colour
Or black and white.

The end is near
For I am dying here
I feel no longer bright.

My plants are dying
And my people aren’t trying
I am now crying
The world is not a pretty sight.

Alice Peart, aged 10

Winters past

The Meeting house in snow : photograph Simon Watkins

When winters past cloaked these grounds in feet of snow,
little did those who gathered
wish for anything more than a wakening flame
in the hearth.

To their chilled hands, the warmth of this Meeting Place,
walls and windows
dripping with the breath of
dozens or more, was a haven
from the storm.

Little would they recognise the green dampness
of winters now –
though comfort they would find
in our conveniences, fabrics and fortunes,
all welcome –

but we share these winters with them,
past Friends,
who though silent and unknown,
left us this hallowed space, this home from home
in Airton.

Simon Watkins