William Oxley: Four poems

Magpies

A magpie soars to left and right
like a Japanese kite in wet-streamed air,
a blackwhite angel or devil
that people fear, unlucky, unlucky bird.

One for sorrow, two for joy, people
count with eyes closed - but, really, it's not fair:
like the moon-shooting owl's call
your chattering means no more than you're living

the way you have to do, and what fear
you inspire is only humanised self-despair -
so let go, let go that odd shrill
chuckle and fly on those wings like black hands

and if you resemble the Gestapo of air
and are rumoured birds of wickedness,
take no note of the tongues of men
who, after all, are in no position ever to malign.

Below the Surface

It is always important, naked one,
as summer water envelopes your breasts
to remember how much you are human

in spite of the glitter of sex
that diaphanous coating shawling
your splendid motherly limbs

and is a sweat-fire burning the guilty watcher.
Important to recall over and over
how much you are vulnerable
to feelings neither life nor death can still.

Marvellous yet

When a kid in a world of
broken bicycles and busted knees
and Satan's infant agents, bullies,
we still loitered by daffodil
fields and secret-yielding rivers
and stood up for that
realer real oldies called 'truth'.

Bashing one fist in another
(and sometimes in another's face)
we shouted for joy seen
in the dull-green fields around;
and what was later just ordinary
was as original as hell
and fresh as Jesus's heaven
to us then. Kids, we were men.

And when I think of the hawthorn's magic
or watch sun mocking the day,
even remember my silly surrendered years
in thickets of commerce,
well, what the hell?
No need for me to immerse
myself in any pretense -
just let go and say outright
that girl there in maiden bloom
this blue-cup roistering bay,
all the sun-stirred avenues of time
and place we visit and forget
are, quite simply, marvellous yet.

John David Erik Knud Beugger, Esq.

A superannuated Viking you are,
Numbering at least one such ancestor;
But however fierce your forbears were
Are gentle as Columba of Iona, I swear,
Who succoured even a weary heron
FRom the 'sweet land of Ireland' and anon
Sent it back from whence it came.
Yet that sea-chewed isle adrift from Mull
That holy centre founded by Columcille,
Whose reverberations spread mind-wide
Through the then-known world, was destroyed
In 855 AD by longboat men on evil employed:
Men like Erik of York - he of your name -
Who unlike you gave such senseless pain,
Being a thug, a sadistic berserker,
Of women and children a mass-murderer
Whom to slaughter without compunction
WAs his roving brief and chief function:
A name that to honour like that of Hitler
Would be to act forever the traitor
Losing all that is decent and good
in an evil glamour of cruelty and blood.
- Strange thoughts, as these, invade my mind
As leaving you in sunshined streets behind
I stroll where cars siesta in silence awhile
And mid-day summer starts to creep from walls
And the arctic wind which refrigerates our sea
At last abates and skies get kind again
And 'all that lives is holy', save for men?

            The Golden Lion, Brixham
                10.5.96