This tenth collection of poetry by Hugh David Loxdale covers themes like natural selection, environmental issues and the behaviour of animals and birds. It also includes sex, sleep, the presence (or not) of ghosts, memories of lost loved ones, the horrors of the First World War, and even the struggle to get out of bed in the morning!
Alive!, Always Trust the Squirrels, Autumn Wasps, Ballad of the Poor Old Thylacine, Canary of Madeira, Centuries Will Pass, View from Corr An Droma, Early Symphony, 6.45am, Elysium, First Call, Künstlerhaus Gasteiger ‒ The House of Dreams, Grasses, Having a Fling!, Here We Are, In Memoriam for Rosalind, Kleiber, Lavender, Little Girls, Mid-September, Moving House, Pursuing Dreams, Red Tulips, Where Skylarks Ever Sing, I Can See You, Sunset in Jazan, The Awakening, The ‘Captive’ Robin, Dark Birds, Sex, The Duck’s Tale, Gum Trees of Manjimup, The Hardy Blackbird, Monarchs of Quinta da Boavista, Red Squirrel, The Sleeper, The Voyager, To Kill a Fly, Waves at Peaceful Bay, Wild Winds, Wind Dancers, Reflections of Phyllis, On arriving by train at České Budějovice, You Are My Wife, Damnable Dogs, Somewhere, Vacant Swifts, You are the wind, Impressions at Sixty-Six
About Where Skylarks Ever Sing: “A poem to end all poems! Like a war to end all wars. The reality of man's depravity is unceasing and unflinching. Well encapsulated and a wonderful essay on such a serious subject.” Brian Davis, BSc, DipEd, Senior Geologist, Perth, Western Australia, 11 April, 2017
We are alive…both you and I!
We share the commonality of life,
Ere we die,
The chance to dance, skip, laugh and sing,
To stand in tall grass fields when the quail take wing,
To stand and watch the setting sun,
Full red-ripe, two of us, not just one.
Watch the brown trout in crystal streams,
To cast a line or wish our dreams,
Hold hands and tell stories
Till the hour is late,
By crackling flames, our hopes we state.
Enquire with neighbours of their delicate health,
Of their daughter’s ambitions and their son’s wealth.
And cast down earphones, iPods and all,
So that we can stand in tall grass, so tall,
And speculate why butterflies skim and weave…as they do,
And whether life is sweet, real, perfect…
And indeed, is true.
Red, they explode outward in bold array,
A riot of colour, a revolution, some might say,
They exude energy sucked from the once cold clay,
A dynamic still life, a contradiction, in some sort of way,
They breathe fire, like dragons, that needs must we slay,
Then droop, lose faith, and sad fade away…
But they had their hour of glory, of still fame,
Longer in fact, shone that gorgeous flame,
Of spring’s promise, an essence that no one can tame,
Dragon slayers or fire-eaters, or as you may name,
They have their mission; they know their game,
One to inspire…and hence, show no shame…
A flower, true, yet much more than this,
Tulip, symbol of Lowlands and mad crisis*,
Wild bloom of distant lands, seas of calm bliss,
Growing from high mountains to sunlit abyss,
A lily, so strange, ensnares the rainbow, and is…
The gesture of romance, that most tender kiss.
* 'Tulip mania' of 1636-7
Immeasurably sad – but uplifting too
That they fought believing what was true.
That their bravery and call to arms
Would lead to a just and lasting peace…
And psalms; a war to end all wars…
A cause such that the ‘wolf will dwell with the lamb’
Amidst those scarred, brown, wretched fields.
Alas it was not to be…
Since Man’s warlike nature eventually
Won the day…
Thus wars persist
And strife continues to have its way; it cannot resist…
At least in some enduring corner of a foreign field,
Where skylarks ever sing above the machine guns
But where strange motives
Still belie the reckless sin…and make us sick at heart
To contemplate the horror of it all.
Ah yes, the bugle’s distant call!
Who now will answer that proud, demanding
Wall of sound, just to let off another round
Or two…of death…much less begrudge those young, fit men
Some days, some weeks, to draw their precious breath?
Those poets knew well enough the cause
And contemplation of war…
Long enough to pause and take stock
Ere sickness, gas, bullet or shell…
Struck home with enduring force…
To knock the pencil from a cramped, blue hand,
And kill off another visitor to hell.
Or with luck, spared them
To brood years of torment…or with a laugh
Shrug away the vanity of it all
And let death happily slip by.
Gladly, we are still free and rejoice
At their courage and sacrifice…to us, the then unborn.
Oh cruel war, you are so misshapen.
Your torn uniform is unrecognisable in the mud,
Splattered as another shell lands with a terrifying thud…
To explode in our collective consciousness…
Shatters this brief spell of reflection and solitude
That allows us to shed a tear for those
We never personally knew…
They who ultimately answered the call,
For both country and posterity alike,
And daily tossed that most uncaring dice…
* Written after attending the exhibition of the life and works of ten famous British First World War poets – Anthem for Doomed Youth on the 3rd March, 2003 at the Imperial War Museum, London