Loyalty - Chris Hudson

God bless...
Beautiful England
As the last living Rose
Quivers in your hand.

The grey and the damp and the filthiness of ages
Through the stinking alleys where drunken beatings rages
Past where the Thames river does flow, glistening silver and gold
That for vain dreams and frippery was hastily pawned and sold

Night falls and moon does rise on silky sliding river
Moon sliver in the moving sky watches ocean’s shimmer
The fields of corn are ripe in beautiful England
As the last living rose quivers in your hand.

Our forefather’s planned we’d never be enslaved in this land
Under yoke of foreign oppression, by another’s hand
Will our blood rise up, brothers, and cast off our shackles?
Or tolerate and suffice in raising of our hackles?

God Bless Beautiful England
As the last living Rose quivers in your hand

The chain that binds us is the boundless winding ocean
This thread that runs through us like a fuse to an explosion
Like Hugo in his exile cross the waters there that pour
Yet conversely my blood my DNA not of these shores

I live and die forever through all England’s merry lands
My undaunted never failing love for you will always stand
God Bless Beautiful England
As the last living Rose quivers in your hand.

Chris Hudson

Sciatica - Martyn Legg

Rats are gnawing, biting, clawing
Pain is searing, endless, aching
Rats are gnawing, biting, clawing
Knotted tension, sleep is gone
Rats are gnawing, biting, clawing
Knives are twisting, cutting, probing
Rats are gnawing, biting, clawing
Tendons rigid, stretching, screaming
Rats are gnawing, biting, clawing
Spine is wracked by endless flame
Rats are gnawing, biting, clawing
Stupid, pointless futile game
Rats are gnawing, biting, clawing…

Martyn Legg

What Is? - Martyn Legg

What is beauty, but the child of dreams and longings held deep within us.
What is love, but the sister of pain and sorrow, wrung from our hearts into new birth.
What is joy, but the lighter shade of loss and feelings so dark and cold.
What is life, but the passing of moments in which we learn to love and remember.

Martyn Legg

Victor Hugo In Exile - Andrew Barham

Here it is, almost the end of October, 2012
And already the first snowflakes have begun to fall.
Should I note for the record, before I delve
Into the meat of this poem and tell all,
That it was in 2008, shortly after the Vale Earth Fair
I was sent scurrying back to this land of exile,
Racing sedately through the stratosphere
Crossing oceans and continents the while?

I cannot but ask as I enter Year Five,
""Has it really been four long years since I left?""
During those latter three years in Guernsey, I felt so alive
Despite the anguish of a teaching job bereft
Of any sense of accomplishment or worth.
They say, ""Home is where the heart is.""
But my heart has almost never been in the land of my birth
Despite the intense love I feel for all of This.

We are truly a social species with a deep need to belong;
In Canada, I really do love all of This: these wild places
Where, with a single moment's lapse, it can all go wrong
And the Rescuers are looking for your remaining traces.
Even here in this town carved from the Forest Primeval,
They probably think I'm more than a little crazy,
Wandering alone with only a bear bell to protect me from evil –
But I'm so used to bears; their nearness no longer phases me

As I hunt for mushrooms, seeking out the Chanterelle
Black in a mass, Golden ones like up-turned bells,
I enjoy every sound, every sight, every smell –
The faint spicey incense permeating every dell
Of new fallen leaves and needles on the deep moss –
But then the snow comes and it's twelve feet deep;
The forests are hidden til May, and I feel their loss
More than I can say, as all of Nature sleeps.

Perhaps my long exile might be easier to bare
If I had a social life, friends with whom I might feel less lonely,
Night after night, through the long dark Winter I stare
At the walls of my living room. To keep me amused, there are only
Persian carpets and tapestries and my collection of old books
And the music on my computer to keep me company.
I have become so familiar with every cranny and nook
That I find myself longing for some BC Bud to set me free.

One more School Year, that's all I need,
One more year of scrimping and saving and getting by,
One more year of monthly anxiety – Will I have to bleed
My Savings Account because my Chequing has run dry?
Every half month, will I get enough work days
To carry me through the next and the one to come?
Once I've got the rent covered and the bills paid,
I can anticipate putting money by and saving some.

I'm not just saving for a rainy day
In this isolated town, where, if it isn't raining it's snowing;
There's more than madness to my method of making hay
Even if I no longer know where this poem is going.
In Guernsey, for the first time since I can remember,
I truly felt I was part of a community,
Someone who belonged even in the bleakest December:
Guernsey, where once again, I can be part of Humanity.

Andrew Barham

The Robins of Cardiff - Kathy Figueroa

Though the snow did cling, 'twas the first day of spring
And I wanted to celebrate
No matter what faith is dear, to all it's clear
That this is an important date

It was Sunday, too, so the thing to do
To start the brand new week
Seemed to me that it would be
To go to church and hear the minister speak

So off I went as a congregant
Since my celebrations weren't of the partying kind
And I hoped that a measure of spiritual treasure
Would be something that I'd find

I wasn't wrong, sermon and song
Spoke of a man from the distant past
Who was wise and kind, a type hard to find
So fond memories of him still last

I sat in the pew and listened to
The minister speak some interesting words
And then was surprised when I realized
She had started to talk about birds

She said she'd learned, when early each year they returned
That finding food could be a difficult feat
So to make it less hard, she spread seeds in her yard
For the birds as a special treat

This once attracted a flock from all over the block
That enjoyed the unexpected lunch
'Til assailed by feathery blows from a crowd of crows
Which were a raucous and boisterous bunch

Suddenly, during the melee, from the fray
A big robin did appear
Then it perched quite still, on her window sill
And showed absolutely no fear

There it stayed, unafraid
As it looked right up at her face
And, with a knowing nod, she said it was sent by God
To illustrate God’s divine presence and grace

The sermon came to an end and I thought of a friend
Whose name was 'Mary Lou'
She had a heart of gold and stories are told
About the kind things that she used to do

All critters wounded or lost, no matter the cost
At her place were welcomed and mended
They convalesced, with food and rest
And were most carefully tended

With the hurt and stray, she had a way
She'd heal them or give them a home
It was a good circumstance, if by chance
To her place they managed to roam

Once, by bad luck, a tragedy struck
And baby birds were left bereft of a mother's care
Though still alive, they couldn't survive
They were too young to find food anywhere

Someone knew about Mary Lou
And her way with creatures large and small
Then correctly guessed the young birds in the nest
Should be taken to her to have any chance at all

Mary Lou fed them by hand and could understand
Exactly what they needed to eat
And people were amazed that the birds were hand raised
Because that was an unusual feat

Thus, by and by, they grew large enough to fly
After being nurtured so carefully
And, for they were wild, not tame, the time eventually came
When they had to be taken outside and set free

It was hard to part because, with all her heart
Mary Lou loved those birds, it was clear
So, her eyes shone bright, with a radiant light
When she said what happened the following year

It was a lovely day, in April or May
Her living room window was open wide
And to her delight, some birds paused in flight
Then, through the open window, hopped inside

They wandered about and checked things out
And seemed as if, to each other, they said
“Here we were raised, mercy be praised
We were kept safe, sheltered, and fed

Though far we did roam, this is our home
When we were motherless we were brought here to stay”
And they looked as if they knew kind Mary Lou
And thanked her, and then flew away

Medicine and technology were employed, but her body was destroyed
For her, doctors couldn't do anything
And right 'til her last days, she continued to amaze
With the way she’d ease all creatures’ suffering

She found relief in her belief
In a man who performed many a miraculous feat
Through the stories told, from times of old
She believed that, eventually, she and he would meet

Poorly she fared, but she never despaired
Or cried out from self pity or the great pain
And though, one day, she went away
I believe Mary Lou lives, again

When birds sing at dawn, maybe they pass the story on
So it's known in each new bird generation
Of how the kindly soul, on whom illness took such a toll
Is now held in great veneration

“It was a sign of love, from Heaven above!”
Said the minister that day in church
“An example of grace, from a holy place
That sent the robin to the windowsill to perch!”

And, to give the minister her due, what she said was true
But there was more, of which she was unaware
You see, Mary Lou used to live in that Cardiff, Ontario, neighbourhood
And I’ll bet the robins still look for her there

Kathy Figueroa