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Hugh David Loxdale

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Harpenden, England, UK

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- The Beached Whale -

by

Hugh David Loxdale

I am like that great whale
Cast up on a lonely shore_
To stare out with its sad, gelatinous eyes
Along the endurance of the beach.

But even as the seas
Lap at my bruised feet and promise
Deliverance from this awesome plight_
I stand my ground and stare
Back in wrath at those who would
Assemble to point and jibe
In mirth, or worse,
Would do me injury and peck
At my sacred skin
To reveal the pink, bright flesh below -
And blood.

Even those who would push me back
Into deeper waters,
To reach safety,
Are ultimately spectators of my demise.

What surprise to them I do appear; what
Huge bulk; what long yellowing teeth protrude.

Soon the waters are deeper still
And the crowds retreat a little way off.
Only seagulls now, with temerity, survey my back
And would wish to land_but for the occasional dog
That rushes forth to bark harsh instructions
To desist.

The Sun moves around
Whilst the coast maintains itself_
Bastion of solidity against the ephemera of change.

Finally, the waters come right in,
To the very beach’s head_
And when, some time later, they depart_
I am not there.

Perhaps I never was, or am dead?

The sand would prove the lie_
Save for its new, glistening flatness.

An empty canvas on the strange
Easel of life.


- Sea and Moon -

by

Hugh David Loxdale

The long swell of summer
Breaks on the lonely shore_
As it will do ever more_
Whilst the Moon and wind hold sway.

The men and boys on the beach -
And some girls too,
Throw pebbles into the deep_
As if in anger, a frustration
Against its relentless forward creep,
Pushing at their world’s edge.

But their efforts are quite futile,
In vain, as the sea
Endures the pain and continues on,
Lapping and rolling as waves,
Unconcerned, concomitant, as it has always
Done since the seas formed,
Governed by the Moon’s attraction for them.

Like Narcissus, she would visit her reflection
In its shining calm.

Yet her gravity - and the wind -
Denies the peace,
Causing the waves to crash
And pile on wave,
Ruffling both tranquillity
And the sea’s most placid charm.

Eventually, however, the rising
Waters do retreat_
And the stone throwers
Continue to wage their onslaught_
Of missiles, tossed into
That broken, vanquished sheet.

An energetic absurdity as rewarding
As the Moon’s visage,
Seen when the waters
Finally_and sometimes, sleep.


- Reflections on a day at the Seaside in Thy -

by

Hugh David Loxdale

The soft evening sunshine
Warms up my body - face, legs and arms,
And makes me reflect on the sea, -
Now just a thin, grey strip
Seen between the sinuous folds of the dunes
And the shifting sand,
Where above, light cumulus
Ride the breeze, and sail
North-east to a promised land.

Makes me recall the beach,
And the gulls, great black-backed and herring,
That stood expectantly at its confluence
With the tumbling surf_
Or bobbed about afloat, as wave after wave
Passed under them, whilst
Others still flew by to exhale
Laugher in raucous peals.

Of the fishermen in their bright orange and grey garb
Who passed between their little boats,
Also multicoloured in red, white or canary yellow,
Stranded above the tide line, to pluck goggle-eyed
Flounders from the mass of tangled nets_
To slit their necks
With a knife, then to
Throw them writhing, without concern,
Into a tub - to meet their end
With their seabed fellows.

Of the families that played upon the sand,
Children all, and the slim woman
Who dispensed her clothes, to turn her torso
To an even darker shade of tan;
Her back homogeneous in its worship
Of the hot Sun, each vertebra showing
Through the smooth, lovely skin; her front likewise brown,
With breasts hardly protruding
Upwards in their exaltation of freedom_

Whilst the small girl beside her
Played the while with cards
And eschewed the inertia
Of her mother_ and the gulls
Most zealous taunts.

Of the young bloods, someway out at sea,
In their black rubber suits, glistening wet,
Who strove to tame the wind
With lime green sails and spinnakers_
And rushed to and fro at speed
As it changed and they,
Ever daring, challenged its
Authority.

We sat there on a concrete plinth, beyond
The tide’s highest reach,
Watching_
Until the call of lunch
Prized us, as limpets from the rocks,
And bade us leave this spot for another,
Where sitting crowds ate their food
And quaffed their cool beer and cola_
And thought deeply about nothing more_
Save the bill and unique, happy times
Played out as a thousand rhymes might be,
When the sea replays its favourite tunes_
And dances_on the restless shore.


Evening

by

Hugh David Loxdale

On May the twenty third, as the day,
Once so hot and lusty, subsides into cool reflection,
The distant cirrus, bathed in pale gold sunlight,
Transcend into tranquil stasis, and the boys,
Once so noisy, end their play,
To retire to dinner, the reactions of life
Are not quite stilled.

Even as the clock strikes eight, the blackbirds
Astride the roof tops, silhouetted and cocky,
Strike up their own alarm; a cascade of
Reciprocated calls, strident, insensitive, uncaring
Of the small black bees that still ply their trade
Amidst the purple geranium’s lure -
That pureness of colour, beheld in the
Emperor’s wings, his mirrored cloak.

The pigeons make haste to court and mate_
They rustle with hard flapping feathers at the lilac’s crown_
Though with the receding light, calm is soon restored_
A melody of restraint,
With blackbird and doves all
Around, tempering the silence
With their liquid song_.

Night steals in to reign supreme_
All knowing night, a purveyor of uncertainty,
To bandy our senses between the seen,
And unseen, heard and unheard, touched, yet untouched_
Whilst the starlit emptiness above stretches to infinity..
And considered thought is held hostage..to awe.


The Black Poplar Tree at Osted

by

Hugh David Loxdale

We lay on our separate beds
On a hot night following
An even hotter day_
The door open, a slight breeze
Entering to play
On our wet, over-heated bodies,
The yellow Moon showing low down
In the sky, obscured, fragmented
With black clouds, and the wind,
Such as it was, seemingly strong,
Rustling the leaves of the black poplar
Nearby, lone object in an even
Lonelier landscape.

One o’clock came and went
Without relief.

The heat and sound of the tree
Made me think of childhood
Beside the sea, long ago,
On the Isle of Wight,
When I was six, and a great storm
Came and went and kept us awake_
And the returning, renewed light revealed
The roads to be awash and littered
With fallen branches.

Of this memory, I clung through
The long hours of darkness, as a sailor
Might a log in tempestuous waters.

We could not sleep, and though
Tiredness racked our bodies and minds,
The tree seemed somehow comforting_
And focussed our efforts on survival.

In the morning, the wind had eased,
And the tree was now quietened and almost silent.

But our thoughts remained with it still,
Also calmed, when we witnessed
That it remained intact_and had not shed
A single precious limb, let alone
Crashed to earth, as we had
Done the night before.

Rather, it had remained
Boldly upright, despite
All life’s hazards and continued
To face its adventure_unabashed.

And so we decided to thus go on.


Music and the Proms

by

Hugh David Loxdale

Look up at the mushrooms’ glow,
Heaven’s charmed_but they do not grow
Amidst the shade above the brilliant show,
In a cupola that musicians know.

An inverted bowl to reflect the sound,
Light and harmonious, or more profound -
Chords and octaves swarm around
As bees that hum and rich abound.

To enchant the ear and delight the mind,
From brass and piano and clear woodwind,
The flute and oboe and their kind,
Soothing balm that few can find_

Save proffered by this grand ensemble,
Intertwined as threads resemble
As one, admixed, yet separate dissemble
Oh beauteous flow of tempo, now tremble_

Before the trumpets and trombones blare
To tell us all that they are there,
Drums bang and cymbals cheer,
Crash out their joy and their fear.

Strenuous, sinuous, melodious strains,
Music, great melody, ever reigns,
To bathe, tingle those happy veins
And in our head never wanes.

Twenty years or even more
Kept within the memory, that wondrous store,
Placed there by Proms galore,
Spanning the summers, what splendid lore_.

That demands we stay and should attend,
That never once we desert or bend
Our course from that delirious end,
To stand in ecstasy as our senses blend.

Delightful the stream moves on,
On and on from Prom to Prom,
Fleeting now as season’s won
That time of glory that briefly shone.

But hope that it may soon return, -
That choirs will sing and children discern
The beauty of Music_ and love_ and yearn
That which is new_ and old_ and they can learn.

Stride on, oh music fantastic now,
In our heart, please richly sow,
Cut deep furrows with your magic flow,
Of tunes and rhythms, both fast_ and slow.


- The Stuffed Tiger -

by

Hugh David Loxdale

The man watched the faded Tiger,
Its eyes an amber light,
Which began to tease his thoughts a little,
A taunt that would turn to fright.

Majestic amidst the ‘big cats’,
Stuffed and hemmed by glass,
Shot a hundred years ago,
How fads do quickly pass.

All around, beasts and fowl
Accused with blank refrain,
Variety of incredible breadth,
Staring through their pain.

And apes and zebras, gnus and bears,
Dead fellows every one,
Now housed in gloomy cabinets,
Many bleached by the sun.

Whose rays must oft have fallen
On their hairy or furry pelt
When they clung to trees and branches,
Or roamed the endless veldt.

The man stared in amazement
At the Tiger’s solid form,
Its golden back, its huge head,
Its body almost warm.

Then suddenly, realised that fancy,
Its eyes did surely blink?
A trick of the imagination?
At least, that made him think!

But a whimsy so strange and urgent
That the man retired some feet,
To gaze at length in the darkness,
Into that imagined jungle heat.

The Tiger, burning ever bright,
Was still alive somehow,
Its spirit moved, it was not dead,
It curled its furrowed brow?

And just as he was about to flee,
Common sense grabbed his arm:
‘Pull yourself together man,
No need to take alarm’.

Then as he turned his back away,
To see the ‘small cats’, some twenty,
Primitive fears stalked his mind,
Arose like ghosts a plenty.

The hair on his neck began to rise,
His heartbeat quickly sped,
The muffled sound, low growling,
Was not the Tiger dead?

Its frame was so, its being too,
But not its essence sure,
For this lived on, despite the years,
Bold, courageous, pure.

No dazzling bullet, however aimed,
Or cruel, whirling spear,
Can ever kill such ‘fire’ it seems_
Nor totally erase_our fear.


- On Pulling Back The Curtains -

by

Hugh David Loxdale

The spring has dawned,
The cock twice crowed,
The guard dog yawned_

And hence it is now time
Enough for my love to
Throw back the covers,
To arise, get up
And face the new day_
Whatever this may bring.

But first to view_
The awaiting flowers through
The open window,
Especially the daffodils,
A celebration of colour,
Under the ash’s massive form_
And thence to breakfast,
With kippers, toast, marmalade_
And tea_
Before we venture out, like moths
Breaking the cocoon’s silken web,
To step into a crisp, bright morning,
Full of promise_
Yet half-hidden still in the mists’ veil
That clings to the moorland peaks_
Travels on to the horizon_
To be there lost in a whirl
Of contours, green and mauve,
Where blackbirds, wrens and robins
Duet...and by so doing,
Salute the blessings
Of this beautiful world.


Flight 889 at Heathrow, en route to Ottawa

by

Hugh David Loxdale

Whatever happens, we must wait;
however long, however late,
the plane sits on the tarmac wet,
its engines silent, poor lifeless jet.

The passengers unsettled, many reading,
some standing, others still asleep, they snore.

We wait on, hardly better than sheep,
not knowing how to act, nor where to go_

The pilot occasionally breaks radio silence
to cheer us up_
but the messages get worse,
the tone more abject_.

First the fuel switch, then the fuel line,
now the fuel pump too!

Our patience is tested. We desire change,
yet little changes. No sign of flight.

Even the baby in the seat in front,
his parents proud and determined,
has finally sensed the futility_
of screaming.

The rain like soothing balm
strokes the aircraft’s cold,
metallic skin, to trickle
down in virtual tears.

The scene outside viewed
from square portholes seems
detached, grey, half worldly_

Trucks scurry between planes in slackening
pace; they seem always to avoid us_
as if they know the hopelessness
of our plight.

We continue to move in time,
although not in space.


- Fields of Blue -

by

Hugh David Loxdale

Fields of blue,
Serene and beautiful
Stretch north and vie
For dominion of the
Pale, languid sky,
The heavens true.

Fields of blue,
Strange and mysterious,
An inland sea
Brand new, since
Its planting and flowering,
Azure hue.

Fields of blue,
Much loved by bees,
Who flew
Here from afar,
To suck and carry off,
Your goodness,
Your flaxen prize;
They also come to view.

Fields of blue,
Confusion to skylark and pipit
Singing overhead,
The inversion of space,
Where few can hang
Suspended in animation, -
To chide and woo.

Fields of blue,
I see you; I hear you
Calling too;
Wondrous, the powerful
Lure of your dye;
Brings me ever closer, -
But I never knew_

Until now, why your heavy,
Intense gravity,
Pulled so many, to become_
As I, a mere spectator,
In these short weeks
Before your substance
Is cut, and turned_
Into fibres_you grew.


What happened to the ‘Clarendon’

by

Hugh David Loxdale

What happened to the ‘Clarendon’
Along that lone and ghastly shore
As the gale blew her up the Channel
And through the rigging tore_

She was then bound for London
With West Indies sugar, molasses and rum
And eleven helpless passengers,
Their day of judgement come?

The prayers, lamentations and cries
Were their last eternal pleas,
As the small ship yawed and wallowed
In the huge, raging seas.

And despite the helmsman’s efforts
To steer the stricken craft,
The sailors still kept alive their faith
And cut the canvas aft.

But all these efforts were in vain
As she sped towards the coast,
With fishermen on the beach at hand
Who did their able most.

There she struck with horrific force
To be pounded by the surf
Her fate thus sealed, as the Captain knew,
Held fast between Heaven and Earth.

With lines thrown out and some crew saved
Death was cheated thrice,
Amidst the fractured timbers_
Tossed forth as careless dice.

And sadly, with the sickly dawn
On that fateful October day,
In washed the many bodies,
That limp and lifeless lay_.

Including a Planter and his daughter
From Nevis, their distant home,
And a family of four young sisters,
Dead amongst the foam.

A sight indeed so shocking
That grown men tugged their clothes,
And wept and chastised the Almighty
With harsh and mumbled oaths.

Now all these years later,
At peace the lost remain;
From deeds and hurtful misery,
Their bodies long have lain.

Protected from the hurricane
And the stinging gale,
Their lives not even memories
At Blackgang and at Chale.

The last a pleasant setting,
On the Wight’s southern fringe,
Witness though of many a storm,
That blast and take revenge.

And in the quiet churchyard
On blocks of weathered stone,
Are scored the fading stories, -
Proof that Time has surely flown.

Yet disaster may have a sequel
And from flotsam once forlorn,
The ship’s salvaged timbers
In the ‘Wight Mouse’ now adorn.

So that life goes on a flourishing,
As generations thrive evermore,
And drink their beer and tell their tales,
Though none are left that saw_.

Those tragic and awful happenings,
On that night in ‘thirty six’,
When the brave little ’Clarendon’
Was smashed to utter sticks.

Wrecked off Blackgang Chine, Isle of Wight on the 11th October, 1836)


- Through Butterfly’s Eyes -

by

Hugh David Loxdale

Through butterfly’s eyes,
World and wing,
Fly on to sweet meadows
Where the skylarks sing..
There to land on gaudy flowers,
Tall thistles, unfurled, those sunlit towers_
And once sip, suck and delicate probe_
Before traversing the fleeting globe_
On to seek another prize,
Spied through those mosaic eyes_
Gorgeous blooms, thyme and daisy,
Some while to rest and there be lazy,
Before the long days of summer pass,
The leaves turn brown, as does the grass_
And signs of autumn fast appear
Through stagnant mists and landscapes drear_
Frost on the ground, rime in the trees,
Little in flight except for the bees_
Only occasionally when the Sun feels warm
The peacocks and commas
On the asters swarm_
Rich reds and rusts on a purple stand_
Bright welcome petals, an open hand_
But still the days get shorter still,
The wind picks up with unwelcome chill,
The trees are bare as the soil is raw,
Ploughed deeply to the furrow’s core,
Whilst above, rooks and jackdaws happy play
Amidst the spectacle, that winter’s day..
Bleak cold skies, blue and clear
Nothing much to praise.. or to cheer_
Meanwhile in the woodpile deep
The butterflies quietly forward creep
To live out the cruel blizzard weeks
When no bird sings, nor dark beast speaks
Save the muntjac, fox and pheasant,
Harsh cries, haunting, but ever pleasant,
As the frost becomes more severe
The dancing raindrops, a frozen tear_
Ice and snow now abound
Whilst in the woodpile, there is no sound,
Nor movement, hardly life
As butterflies hibernate_ like blades, a knife_
Cast a shadow when the rays seep through
Or shine a bright comma,
On that sentence true_.
And then maybe they take to wing
To gad about whilst the snowdrops ring
Out that message of impending joy,
When life returns, an age-old ploy_
And then for sure, the butterflies emerge
To feel the spring, that sudden surge
Of warmth and colour, a dazzling surprise
Seen through those crazy butterfly eyes..
Thence to mate, and to fly,
To find paradise, lay eggs and die_

A brief life, one so brief
Alas time’s daughter is indeed_
A thief.


- The Thistle -

by

Hugh David Loxdale

An incredible plant the thistle is,
Spiky at each and every part, -
Seed head, stalk, stems and leaves, -
And proud too, as a Scotsman knows;
Defiant against so many various foes;
It stands brave and tall, often alone;
The flower, a mauve of the most intense
Brightness, deepest hue.

Here by Knott Wood, a singleton grew
This summer long, just by the track;
The hoverflies and bees knew it well;
Loved it, fed on it, received succour
And syrup from its presence.

Luckily, when the sward was felled,
It stood back from the fence, to fight
Another day, though offered no comfort
Nor food for thought to any roving
Deer or rabbit, or any other who
Would tear its dark green flesh,
Cut out its sacred heart...and graze_

Only to those who were an invited guest
Would it let sup at its table,
At the sunniest, highest seat_

And so too, it would let admirers, like me,
Stand a little while and gaze
En route the long path back to
Salvation...and some little rest.


- June -

by

Hugh David Loxdale

Ten O’clock at decline of day,
The last swifts call
High up in the Heaven’s arch.
The low planes, with flashing lights,
To Luton pull,
Silent, beyond the horizon’s reach,
As pale, inchoate moths, like wraiths,
Move amidst the shadows
All, cast one upon another,
Thrown by hollyhock and hebe bush,
And roses of many colours,
Bloom so full_.

June in her many shades of night,
Gentle, quiescent,
Until the break of dawn
Breaks the dim-lit lull..
To test her children
Of the sunlit shift,
Now others gad and play,
Dance strange dances, emit their scent
And see their sights..
Movements coalesce_in the twisting dull
Hours, to us asleep,
Strained only by lurid dreams,
Whereupon we wake not
Knowing what befell
Frog, mouse or vole,
Or insects of excessive size,
So small, plucked by
The fluttering bat,
A feast yet amongst the null
Times of summer, before
Our senses return again..
Sun and warmth..
So soft_as hardly to stir
Through the yellow curtains slightly drawn..
Whilst the mild buzz of bumblebees,
Ever early about their tasks
In the garden far below_
Shakes us slowly from the heavy thrall,
And tears us from
Our lover’s arms.


- Heather -

by

Hugh David Loxdale

What can I say about heather_
Other than that it is a glorious plant_
And one which can endure
The entire panoply of weather, -
From hot sunshine to scalding snow.

The August skies are fair today,
Although the wind is cruel,
From the north-east.
No bird keenly calls.
Even so, the bright mauve-pink
Flowers of each inflorescence
Still attract the hardy bees,
Who pay homage to its presence
On the windswept heath.

The ling, much beloved of gardeners,
Who grow its many varieties_and colours
And sing their praises_as do the bees,
Who also cannot deny its worth_.

And hum their particular song of worship
Of heaven on earth, ultimately producing
A fine ambrosia, food of the gods, honey,
A special treat for we mere mortals
Lying back on the moors, as our love picks
The plenitude of bilberries hereabouts_
And reflect on the pleasant tea ahead
Following a strenuous bike ride home,
Up and down many a steep hill,
Also alas, yet to come.


- At the Water’s Edge -

by

Hugh David Loxdale

At the water’s edge,
So wide and clear,
The yellow flags stand and wave
For pleasure and in cheer, not for pity’s sake_
And the dour Moorhen with red and saffron bill,
Skulks at the sedges’ base
To release a resounding cry, blood curdling shrill,
When children, nearby, play_
And sport and try,
Whilst the Mallards, calm onlookers
To the human world,
Rest, huddled together on the grass,
Taking all in, a philosophical stance,
Or maybe not, and if not, wisely so,
As the huge Sun sets, the foxes glow,
Or at least their eyes do,
Beyond the reed beds thick,
Waiting their chance to steal a pale green egg
Or two, or tasty duckling,
Or gaudy drake.


Where Skylarks Ever Sing (Requiem for War Poets, 1914 -18)

by

Hugh David Loxdale

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 gun’s
Savage din_

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_
Of all.

The Song Thrush and the Sycamore

by

Hugh David Loxdale

It was the pulpit from which he sang,
From which joyous melody swelled and rang,
The lofty perch on which he stayed,
In those times of sun and wind_and gently swayed
To the music in the breeze_and his own
Fine notes and song, dialogue, long passages of thought,
Well conceived, but now lost_
Tossed generously into the stirring air,
Amidst the dawn chorus and his unrelenting stare,
As he looked down from this his golden throne -
A ‘Throne of Kings’ -
To listen, await enthralled, at what fortune brings -
A rival, a mate_or sparrow hawk, swift and grey,
Stooping in silence upon its distracted prey_.
Now though, all this is conjecture, mere speculation,
Past history; it is too late_.
For the tree was felled from its high estate_
And where on sunlit boughs, a voice did soar,
To the woodpile was carried_the sycamore!
A mighty tree grown tall to perfection,
Spanned earth and sky in one straight section_
Yet so, a whole piece of trunk remains
(As witness and testimony - like that block
Awaiting the axe man’s raised hand_)
A just rebuke for those who would chase_
The noble thrush from its lawful place.
And still he sits and strides the clean-cut stump,
Like a Colossus in thoughts and deeds; he does not retreat_
But glides down, continues from the sad lump
To smack and knock an unwary snail;
A moral victory of sorts, so no defeat.
This brilliant bird, not spotless,
Though blameless, for sure_
Since his song is both blessed_and undeniably pure.