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Jun 2020 · 203
storm clouds rising
TJ Radcliffe Jun 2020
storm clouds rising            somewhere up ahead
blossoms tossing              shadowed on the wind
skies are changing                  blue is running red
searching for forgiveness                    for our sins
in the darkness                         under forest cover
eyes that hide from hunters                 passing by
we hold these truths
                               clutched to us like our mother
we tell these stories hoping                they're a lie
raindrops splashing             fat upon the flowers
shaking leaves and          dampening the ground
summer's waking thunder              tolls the hour
what never has been lost            cannot be found
young buds open          now their time has come
senescent giants falling                       free the sun
Inspired by a painting my wife did of blossoms under a sunny sky, after some reflection on current events. Ideally the formatting will come through.
Apr 2020 · 148
Long March
TJ Radcliffe Apr 2020
For we are not yet there, you know,
although it seems like months have passed
we've got another mile to go
and then one more, one more... at last
upon some distant future day
we'll reach the place where we can say:
"We did it! Now we have arrived!
And most of us are still alive
after silent passages
through the tedium of time
alone." We'll dwell in warmer climes
after long March ravages.
But first slow April's patient flowers
must bloom and bend within their bowers.
Alludes to the "Long March" disaster that forms part of the mythology of the modern Chinese dictatorship. Also alludes to the opening of "The Waste Land" (and by implication, "Canterbury Tales") although obviously much more hopeful in theme than Eliot's great work.
Mar 2020 · 111
Not Everything
TJ Radcliffe Mar 2020
Not everything that can be said needs to
be said. It's not like you will burst in to
a flaming cloud of words, you won't come to
an end because you do not say right to
the face of some far friend or stranger who
may well be wrong when you are right. For who
will benefit from that? When speaking who
will hear your words, your thoughts? No one, that's who,
if you do not engage their sympathy
if you don't stimulate their empathy
if you ignore their perspicacity
in your need for pure supremacy.
Sometimes silence and simplicity
are what need your wise complicity.
Thoughts on the internet
Mar 2020 · 154
Brightness, Darkness
TJ Radcliffe Mar 2020
Brightness, darkness, falling both
softly from the spring-time air
teasing dormant life to growth
turning green the golden hair
of grasses dried and brittle now
to the Pleiades they bow
in thanks for rain, which brings new life
to pools and ditches, dark and rife
with strange concoctions, shadowed roots,
tendrils fine exploring through
the muddy depths to find a new
embankment where they push up shoots.
Brightness falls, the rains of spring
Closing now the season's ring.
My wife has been painting "wetscapes" recently: local scenes of ditches and swamps and streams, filled with spring rains (February is spring here). The line "Brightness falls from the air" is from a poem by Thomas Nashe, mis-remembered as "darkness falls from the air" by Stephen in James Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man".
Feb 2020 · 243
TJ Radcliffe Feb 2020
A wooden door is built into the wall
of dry-stacked stone that bounds the little lane
between the elf-mounds. Curious, and small,
the door's ajar, a gate to other planes.
The wood is grey and weathered, like the stones
which grow with moss and lichen, ancient rime.
I put an eye up to the gap. Alone
I've wandered here, beyond my proper time.
A face shows by a hollow in the dusk,
someone familiar, yet so far away...
I turn and see the lane-way, feel I must
continue on my journey. I can't stay.
Above the stars are pentagons of light
while I walk on, across the fields of night.
Inspired by an abstract painting my wife did, which had a quasi-crystaline (approximate 5-fold symmetry) structure, but was better served by a far more eldritch poetic voice.
Feb 2020 · 198
Trees and Towers
TJ Radcliffe Feb 2020
I swear a good deal more when in the city
my wife observes as we two wend our way
along the street. The towers are kind of pretty:
walls of glass, yet blocking out the day
so down here on the sidewalk dreary shadows
are damp reminders of how far we've come
from towering trees, from open mossy meadows,
from ravens swishing by. Look, here's a slum
a block or two from banking towers and glamour.
I should not fault the place. Variety
is the spice, they say. But such a clamor
of humans challenged by sobriety!
Life here was once quite good to me, but now
I'm just a rustic, pining for his plow.
I live in a small rural community but was an urbanite for many years and recently was back in the city to see a (remarkable, wonderful) show, and my wife said within a few minutes of getting there, "You swear a lot more here." There's a reason for that. I'm at home in the trees. Among the towers, I can flourish, but it's a lot more effort.
Jan 2020 · 110
The end of winter
TJ Radcliffe Jan 2020
living rill feeds green
ripe grasses catching sunlight
ditch runs with spring rain
Spring comes early here
Jan 2020 · 145
The Navigator Speaks
TJ Radcliffe Jan 2020
You'll never know how near the edge we came,
sailing past the world that's known to men.
Your ignorance, good Captain, was to blame
for the risks we took. You do not ken
how fragile was the ship, nor how the crew
was suffering in waters cold, beyond
our charts of isles and straits, the seas we knew
were far behind us, out of sight, long gone.
I guided us through danger, reefs and shoals;
the crew were stalwart, never letting fear
overwhelm their courage, though we rolled
upon our beam-ends, bringing shipwreck near.
You'll never know the gauntlet that we ran
to set your feet so gently on the land.
This might be a metaphor for something.
Jan 2020 · 161
Forest Floor
TJ Radcliffe Jan 2020
The tangled under-story dwells
above dark earth, the ground's foundation:
listen to the tale it tells
while the wind's damp susurration
passes by on raven's wings.
All around us voices sing
of elder days, when on this ground
no human footprint could be found.
The under-story still remembers
life alone beneath the tress
where forest gods might bend their knees
and coax new shoots from winter's embers.
Ready always with the flame
of spring they leap to life again.
TJ Radcliffe Jan 2020
You are reading "If On a Winter's Day a Traveller",
perhaps online, or on your phone,
during your commute. The train, the bus,
the streetcar is quite crowded,
jostling and rattling around
as you get your head into the poem.

What lies ahead? The curve of road or track
leads on to darkness, mystery, confused
deep tunnels, full of dusty lights,
or intersections where the traffic snarls
into a knot. There's no way out
but forward, so you go,
in time.

The screen is dark, you've been distracted,
and now the poem is done.
Riff on Calvino's "If On a Winter's Night a Traveller", a novel that describes the experience of reading it.
Jan 2020 · 98
Evening Fire
TJ Radcliffe Jan 2020
The rain is falling down the winter sky
the fog is wrapped like moss around the house
a fire is burning in the stove and I
am curled up in my hole, an elder mouse
who's seen the wars and lived to tell the tale
who's belled the cat and stolen all the cheese
who's climbed the stair and slid down on the rail
who's lived through summer's heat and autumn's freeze.
That is the past, for now the days are warm
even in this winter-time of life
although I'd take the snows to rainy storms,
for burrowing beneath avoids the strife
of dodging hawks and cats, and also owls
but in the sky the future softly growls.
Jan 2020 · 139
January Melt
TJ Radcliffe Jan 2020
Scent of springtime wafts around
the road's slow curve as it nears town,
passing through low swampy ground
where the rills are running down
from the forest, deep and drear,
fog enclosing hopes and fears
for the future. Spring will come,
when winter hibernation's run
will end in waking. Life again
will rise from loamy fecund soil,
will prise from time by endless toil
a season's freedom from its chain.
The early snows have come and gone
Wet fields await the deer and fawn.
Deep rich scent of spring today walking into the village. A few days of snow have yielded to rapid melting, and the world already smells like spring.
Jan 2020 · 232
Sufficient Unto the Hay
TJ Radcliffe Jan 2020
Behold the ponies in the field
who neither sow, nor do they reap:
they run with unabated zeal
from dawn until they pause to sleep.
They do not worry, fuss, nor fret
that with a hand or two they'd yet
become a horse, majestic steed,
a noble beast of strength and speed
that all admire. A pony's satisfied
with sun for warmth and grass to eat,
a stable's shelter when the sleet
of winter falls, and one to ride
them round the ring, through woods,
to dappled meadows, fine and good.
TJ Radcliffe Jan 2020
It's quiet here beneath the waxy leaves
looking through the flowers at the sky
so changeless blue. The faintest summer breeze
stirs the rhododendrons as I lie
within the peaceful darkness, damp and cool.

Voices in the distance, kids at play,
cars along the boulevard hiss by,
furtive couples fumble down the way,
off to learn the meaning of a sigh
by the river's isolated pool.

I close my eyes and feel the Earth beneath
the world above the universe. I fly
to distant lands where dragons form a wreath
around my life, where magic will not die,
and knights defend the helpless from the cruel.

— The End —