ARMISTICE DAY

“Died some pro patria non dulce non et decor.”
So Ezra Pound adapted Horace’s lines
for those whose sufferings for their nation
had bred a dull, dark, painful generation
with gloria cauterised from their minds.

In the calendar their deaths are still recorded.
Poppies and medals and uniforms are worn.
Services are held and sacrifices lauded.
Public concern and private grief are borne.

On a cold November day.
In a cold November wind.

In Oxford 1993,
in remembrance of their sufferings and trials,
cars are towed untidily from St. Giles
and scattered without symmetry
in surrounding streets.
To protect old rememberers
from new bombs.

This is the point where past and present meet.

Cadets march tidily down George Street,
to run the gauntlet of upper windows,
from which insults are scattered
like intellectual litter:
‘What a lot! What do you look like?’
Hard and bitter.

This is the recompense the present shows,
as they turn and turn about,
from windows set
in golden stone in upper storeys,
which had been saved, no doubt,
pro patria (sed cum dolore)
by those who fell in thousands,
cast like human litter,
broken and bitter,
upon the dying fields of Flanders.

What they
fell for then
is out of fashion.
They too are not protected
from jibes and slanders;
and their spirits are blown
down Broad Street, past Martyrs’ Memorial
(which commemorates others
who died for a faith
which is also out of fashion).
Stripped of their glory, all
like transcendental dust,
seeking a refuge
among the Just.

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11th HOUR, 11th DAY, 11th MONTH

November Rose.
Pink and white and mauve.
Solitary, still,
among the rosemary and late autumnal gorse.

Sea winds have blown.
The first frosts have frozen the short grass.

Spring and summer are memories,
midwinter an echo in reverse.

November Rose for the dying.
November Poppies for the dead,
who cannot sleep
but stream towards new birth;
whose pain outlasts
the bitter Flanders earth.

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SPONTANEITY

The strive
to alive.

There are some things
which, though honest,
are better left unsaid.

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THE ONE AND THE MANY

If there is only One,
nothing can be special.
If there is Nothing,
what then?

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YESTERDAY’S CHILDREN

Acharn Suphot is the Temple Warden.
Previously he was Headmaster
of the Temple School for thirty five years.
“In the past, for as long
as anyone can remember,
children studied the Code of Good Conduct.
Thirty years ago, the Government
appointed a Christian
as Minister of Education.
Soon after that, the Code of Good Conduct
was taken out of the schools.
That has been the case ever since.”

What was wrong with the Code?

“Nothing. Listen.
A good person has proper respect.
A good person shouldn’t be noisy
where others are peaceful.
A good person doesn’t use harsh language.
A good person has a sharing heart.
A good person doesn’t think only of himself.
A good person dresses respectably.
A good person isn’t aggressive with his words.
A good person doesn’t interfere in others’ affairs.
A good person respects all religious places.
A good person is respectful and polite to his seniors…

You see? Things like that.”

These are Thai virtues. Buddhist virtues!
“Yes.”
And they produce a stable society?
“Exactly!”

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THESEUS

Labyrinths are mind-made
and vanish when the mind stops.
(Do the Minotaurs vanish too?)

Life is a Labyrinth.
Garden gate – Conception.
Front door – Birth.
A thousand mazes
branch off to every room.
Every room with its view
leads to the Back Door.
(Is the Minotaur waiting there for you?)

Are you coming back for more?

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HALLOWELL

The tide that started flowing
all those years ago
has eddied round
and doubled back,
has shadowed our diverging tracks
and monitored their going.
It sidles in and splashes at our feet
leaving us very little common ground
for if and when we try to meet.

Every step is to
(or away from)
the Light that is in you
to care for or stray from.

He sees the dead blackbird at his feet
but not the dead cow on his plate.

Now that he has two new hips
he paints the outside of sailing ships
and though he still has both his knees
he paints the outside of the woodlands
and the outside of their trees.

Tuscany, Marseille, Toulon,
St-Cyr-sur-mer,
Harlem, Dorset, Rouen.

The Piper leads the children
under the hand-painted hill
to show it’s there and outside
and real and what they see;
and it helps to stop the doubt slide
in, that it’s no more real than me.

The watercolour master
gets more from just one sale
than Van Gogh from a lifetime
of lifting the Painted Veil.
Everywhere they hang and sell
to outward-looking eyes
who must most desperately believe
that what they see is there.

Van Gogh, too, painted nature
showed the nerves beneath her skin
and sketched with loving sympathy
the agony within.

Slow trains to Arles were escapes
to sunflowers, absinthe, opium and sin.
The Euro Express goes racing by
to bright but fading landscapes
for that keen but dimming eye.

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WEEKEND PEOPLE

Though the weekend people
leave it all behind,
when they sit down quietly
it’s all there in their mind.

And though they leave their footprints
to commemorate their stay,
when the cosmic tide comes in,
it washes them away.

The sand, the rocks, the buildings
though private (and insured),
the pictures, frames and gildings
-nothing has endured.

The cosmic tide has taken them
and their owners too.
(And when they sit down quietly
it’s all there in their mind.)

.

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HERE NOW

Here exists in Space
Now exists in Time,
so how can they be the same?

New York exists in America (space).
New York exists at five o’clock (time)
say the Americans.
But you can’t say
New York IS five o’clock
or New York IS America!
(Unless you are a New Yorker.)

In the beginning
(said the Greeks)
was CHAOS.
In the beginning
(said the Egyptians)
was SKY and EARTH.
In the beginning
(said the Hindus)
was sat-chit-ananda
which means being-consciousness-bliss.

Time is just movement through Space.
So, if I don’t move, there is no Time
(says Gnome).

Watching a small egg become a caterpillar.
Watching a caterpillar eating a leaf.
Watching a caterpillar become a pupa.
Watching a pupa burst open
and a butterfly crawling out.

Movements in space.

Memory can
capture a facsimile
of the caterpillar
and the butterfly
and retain them separately.

This does not invent Time,
it’s just something
that Memory can do.

They were never separate.
They are always a continuum
through space.

Memory can
capture a facsimile
of a child
and of an adult
and retain them
separately.

They were never separate.
They are always a continuum
through space.

Feeling can prefer
the facsimile of the child
to that of the adult.

Preference makes
Regret and Joy.

She was such an angel.
What went wrong?

She didn’t stop, says Gnome.
She kept going. She invented Time.

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CHRIST SAID

Christ said: “Give it all away
and follow Me.”
They even say
that’s what he said
and praise it,
get their children spiritually fed
(and then erase it).

“If the spirit calls you, Go!”
they say,
and, as you’re on your way,
“Hey!
It’s only a metaphor you know!
Come back!
Let’s talk some more.
You’ll have to pack.
But come back.
And shut the door.”

The door, yes, door,
any door on any floor
in any city anywhere.
Go out now.
It doesn’t matter how you look.
Go now.
Put down the book
slip quickly out.
Ignore the shout,
don’t look back.

Still there.

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