‘ What of Ravi, Sunil?’ and other poems
By: Stephen Kingsnorth
What of Ravi, Sunil?
Pencil moustache, bike perched as frame,
common boyhood smiles about,
and bright, bright eyes hiding nil
save haunting heads that never will
meet again as growing lads.
Here, Ahallabad, green college fields,
the only common ground, for me
Cambridge, Senate, Great Court lawn;
far pavilions, little more,
save for the bike, seat handlebars,
the boy with first hair on his lips,
and souls in faith we’ll meet again.
Procession plods, saunters on,
camels, elephants, and heads,
burdened bright sari girls,
dry bundled grass and dreams elsewhere,
none bothered by my camera.
But, strong, hot, dry, the dusty loo
blows from the west, plain sailing flow,
diseased lives claiming, famine feeding.
Round body by roadside collapse,
crowds argue who should stake the blame
for soiled and smirched the source is stirred,
in dried drained spring shafts, cholera.
From handlebars, as after-glow,
campus contaminants assured.
The magazine seeks sum-up snap;
I send the pencil, Sunil smile,
and Ravi, bike, at one with me.
Rhyme and Reason
A kingdom in a priceless pearl,
potential in a mustard seed,
infinity for poetry,
a time and space continuum.
By numbers, painting, not my style,
nor black outline to emphasise,
the portrait not a photograph,
unless the mood is captured, still.
A billion texts do not suffice,
poor studios, walls, galleries,
so brochure for the oeuvre range,
used tickets, book stacks, theatres.
More learned, seek answers, than propose,
react, respond to questions posed,
ekphrastic images for work
to delve into the artists’ lives
with gift and curse of mindfulness,
recalling all that passed this way.
My life or ours, for all are mine –
collective book of hours our prayer,
an offering to Calliope,
where sparks ignite flames, fire of words.
So look but see, hear, listen too,
find what is there, discover more.
The floods have drained, a rainbow curves,
whilst raven sent, found carrion,
the dove returned with promise twig,
the judgement shown can be confessed,
and earth reverted stewardship.
What will we do, now cleared the air?
The goal displayed, a target set,
folk breath anew where Covid threat,
and close-call death, corona fed,
retreated, as waves Ararat.
Clouds gather, our exhausted sphere,
Babel elements laid again;
on global plane, the language mixed,
what message does our actions send,
as children from the ark descend?
His belly passion, quiver twig,
hand hazel whipping, earthing strained;
how could this weeping sapling know
the bubble stream beneath these sods,
or did it speak, forked lapping tongue,
a wraith in hellfire sapping faith?
Was this the Greenman playing tricks,
the sprite released from Sycorax,
or flaming phoenix fantasy,
hang thirty pieces, alchemy?
Familiar or stranger pot,
what troubles hubbled, cauldron, hot?
In balanced humour as they watched,
raised brows, taut zygomatic arch,
what cheek he showed in arrid field
to chance them with the unexplained,
the homing pigeon, urine trails,
and twitching tics where crow’s feet walked.
Dry earth, mist air, folk mysteries,
and lore to fan that cordial flame,
he told the course of underground,
subversive mind map on the ley,
his Xanadu exuding Alph,
those caverns measureless to man.
On these four gospels life depends,
earth, air, fire, water, holy blend;
a synergy, not juxtaposed,
yet each engulfed predicament.
Float fragile globe-spin held suspense,
greed centrifugal selfish speed,
its stewardship extended loan,
yet fossil fusion undermined.
Our breathing gulps, thin atmosphere,
while smogged, fume-filled, its shielding shelved,
heliocentric climate claimed
and lead is streamed to baby days.
Flames of the forests, pieris smoke,
curl billow snakes from space observed,
brand burning sears our scar flesh crust,
pyre ash lies piled, our gravest plot.
All waters clogged with plastic balls,
no longer sewage, fertile crops,
homeopath, its memory
dementia cursed, with turtle nets.
Though sandwich board has lost its taste,
the end is nigh, outworn bequest;
but little child, play viper’s nest,
hope, mea culpa, beats in breast.