I had not thought that the Olympics would inspire a poem. However in the Sunday Times Supplement I read a feature article by Giles Coren reflecting on the Games. Although a prose piece, it explored the Shakespearean dimension of the event, its ability to transcend time and place. So I extracted the key themes, developed them, and used his vision as an inspiration for the following poem:
From Stratford to Stratford
As I watched, I wondered how it would be?
Not whether we would get the £9 billion back,
Or whether the legacy
Would turn out to be
Anything more than a rusty
But how we would be ?
The empty stadium flickered with the light
Of heroic montage
Echoed to familiar voices wishing a safe journey home
Lines of volunteers edged along abandoned rows
Scuttling crab like in search of rubbish which had not been dropped
Fencers, gymnasts, runners and riders
Disappeared into unseen alleyways
Holdalls shouldered, their job done
Expressionless in victory and defeat
Now that no-one was watching,
And I thought: “It’s going to be like this.”
Like an empty bed after sex
Like the school playground in the summer holidays
Like a suburban sitting room at midnight after you’ve turned off the telly
Like a car engine silenced after a five hour drive
Like a still warm corpse
An Arcadian fantasyland in Stratford
Where princes and princesses sat down……
On plastic seating, with their subjects,
One of them even took part
“Where we should be merry and devise sports
What think you of falling in love?”
An Eden devoid of politics and sin
Of winning, losing, and taking part
Where everything was clean
Where it even felt a little bland
As Eden might have been bland
But where you learn to love
The imperfections of your own life
And aspire to better
To appreciate the important things in life
Rowing, cycling, and beach volleyball
“Wrestlers who wrested well and overthrew
More than their enemies”
Rainbow colours drenched our screens
Black Mo, Red Greg, Honey Coloured Jess
Yet to the portent obsessed
The fact passed
That Mo just ran fast,
Faster than anyone else
Hijab blur brought an Arab Spring to an English summer
The Chinese swum too well for some
Cold war clichés rolled irksome
Some find tongues in trees
Books in the running brooks’
Sermons in stones
And good in everything
That competing can bring.
A festival of the young and beautiful
Of synchronised perfection
Of lightning Bolt speed
Then what once loomed larger
Became smaller before our eyes
Those who gave us the story
Those who gave us opinions
Those who gave us the glory
Leaving the stadium a Monday morning husk
“No, no, life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat,have life
And thou no breath at all ?”
And some others:
They are everywhere
On the dining room table
On the kitchen surfaces
On the bookcases
On the floor
Used to hold the letters and cards tight
As I once held you tight.
Perhaps the postman thought it was a birthday at first?
But birthdays do not last day after day
And the elastic bands continued to fall
And lie discarded, abandoned.
An almost empty glass
Sits on the bedside table
With just a little water left
There is no trace of the lips that once
Its shallow draught
I opened the boot of your car
And found a pair of baby shoes
They would have been at least 23 years old
But they looked brand new
Everywhere there are fragments
And perhaps that is all that there ever is of us?
Together they fitted, now they do not
I have watered no flowers
For twenty six days
Since the day you died
I am not sure what they were
It is so difficult to tell now
They rest, shrivelled, gasping
In a pretty ,cut glass vase
Lifeless angular skeletal stems
Drained of colour
A few shrivelled leaves lie on the mantlepiece
It reminds me of you
And what I have become
And finally, a wonderful poem from my dear poetic partner, Amy Rainbow:
For Gary – Words
Yet what is there to add that’s not been said?
What words can comfort on your darkest day?
What lines could calm the stormy seas ahead?
Which wisdoms shared would help you find your way?
All words, once loved, today seem small and dim.
Condoling comments, poor and pale and plain,
Can not convey my sorrow, can’t begin
To tell you of my grieving at your pain.
But know that what they’re saying is I care,
That friends are friends in bad times, not just good,
That if you need a shoulder I’ll be there
To lend support, just like I know you would.
And though my words can never be enough
Please take them all as tokens of my love.