Ancram Writing

What is...?

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What is Love? asked the girl as she climbed out of bed
And with scarcely a toss of her raven haired head
Went whistlingly off on her way.
What indeed, asked the man as he went back to sleep
Wondering who was this girl with the dark eyes so deep
Who had laughed when he asked her to stay.

He had loved in the past when the world was at peace
With the pure constancy of the white fronted geese
Who sung on the wind and the tide.
He had loved in the days when his heart was still young
When he knew in his soul what the songs were they sung,
When with them he laughed and he cried.

She had loved when the moon and the stars could be seen,
When the sky was still blue and the grass was still green,
And the sun was a reason for joy.
She had loved when to love was a reason to live
And to trust was a gift that was precious to give
And, in giving, dark doubts to destroy.

There was time then to think and to reason and plan
When the world could still breathe and the rivers still ran,
And the sun still brought warmth to the land.
There were moments to savour the scents of the herbs
And to drive through the wild along tracks without kerbs,
To discover a pearl in the sand.

But now there is darkness, decay and corruption,
Black hatred, mistrusting, betrayal, disruption,
All laid at the footstool of Man
Whose bullish aggression and love of possession
Inexorably leads to explosive repression
And breaks the seal on the worms’ can.

And now there is chaos and darkness and killing,
No room for the caring, no hope for the willing,
No space for the flowering of love.
And now there is blackness in place of tomorrow,
All traces of hope suffocated in sorrow,
Humanity crushed from above.

What is love when the moment of now has no future,
When nothing is binding and wounds have no suture,
When all we hold dear will be gone,
When making commitments are walls without mortar
And love is a plant in the sand without water
Where the ‘just done’ will soon be undone?

Where bed is a passage of rite, not of fixture,
And love not a bond but a transitory mixture,
With nothing to show at the end.
What point’s there in loving when all is unravelling,
When the ground’s washed away on the road that we’re travelling,
And fear waits around the next bend?

What is love? Love is naught in a world that’s unloving,
Which mocks at romance and berates ‘turtle-doving’,
As it hurtles towards its abyss.
So ascribe no great value to ships in the moonlight,
But treasure the gentle caresses at midnight
Which build on that first passing kiss.

For love in a maelstrom is love without meaning
An ache without any real pain intervening
To cement its roots in the ground.
Far easier to live on the whim of the minute
Grasping transient notes from the voice of the linnet
To treasure that wild fleeting sound.

What is love, asked the girl as she climbed out of bed
And with scarcely a toss of her raven haired head
Went whistlingly off on her way.
What indeed, asked the man as he went back to sleep
Wondering who was this girl of the dark eyes so deep
Who had laughed when he asked her to stay?

What is Truth? asked the Judge as he donned the black cap
And sentenced to death the inadequate chap
Who before him in manacles stood?
Did it matter who died or who struck the first blow
When all that’s required from the Judge is to show
What was done, it was done for the good?

What is truth? Pilate asked as he fought with expedience,
Too frightened to break from a lifetime’s obedience,
Preempting the Emperor's nod;
He knew what was right but he knew too the danger
Of believing the truth from the mouth of this stranger
Who claimed that his father was God.

What is truth, asked the insurgent as he car-bombed the cafe
In the name of a cause preached by friends of Gadaffi,
And blew up an innocent kid?
A 'truth' with its promise of virgins in heaven,
Which drove the fanatics who caused 9/11
And massacred truth as they did!

The medium's the message, the camera is truthful,
The world is portrayed through the lense of the youthful
Which turns a blind eye to old age.
But where are the warts and the dirt and the bleeding
Where are the signs of the life that we're leading
Which have yet to be seen on this stage?

What is truth asked the priest as he heard the confession,
Overwhelmed by self-pity and boundless obsession
Which bury the truth in their wake?
For we live in an age when the truth is a burden
That gets in the way of the tale that was heard on
That grapevine that feeds on the fake.

What is truth asked the scientist who picked up the pieces
And metamorphosed them into a new species
Which nature would never sustain;
Without heart, without soul, without blood, without meaning,
A machine made of lies with no truth intervening,
A thing with a chip for a brain?

What is truth in a world where the truth has no value,
Where temptations of indolence seek to enthrall you
And cover your eye, mouth and ear,
No longer to judge what is good, what is evil,
With life on a slant in a world that’s not level
And truth is the victim of fear?

Is that truth which I see in the fire’s glowing ashes,
Cracked and singed by the heat of the flames and the flashes
Which burned down the temple of good?
Is this all which is left of the pillars of rightness?
Is this all which is left of the archways of lightness?
Has truth crumbled where they have stood?

What is Peace? asks the soldier while priming the charge,
Knowing well that the blast will be lethal and large
Killing all that will stand in its way.
And for all that he claims that his role is deterrent,
And any fatalities totally aberrant,
He knows that his mortar holds sway.

What is peace asked the mercenary fighting for money,
And finding the peace camps pathetically funny
While burning them down to the ground,
Knowing peace is the enemy of his profession
And war the provider to feed his obsession
Of charging for death by the pound.

What is peace asked the warrior longing for war
As he turned on his heel and walked out of the door
With his sword and his shield in his hand,
Leaving mother and child to the kicks and the blows
And the ravaging violence of cold-blooded foes
Determined to ravish the land.

What is peace asked the good thief who died on his cross
While watching the Temple's veil shudder and toss
And the Ark of the Covenant broken?
As the heavens grew dark and the earth was in spasm
With sanctuary perched on the edge of a chasm,
Peace's name could no longer be spoken.

What is peace asked the peacemaker battered and drained,
Worn out by the anger so deeply ingrained
In those he had tried to concile.
Is it strange how he questions how their peace has mattered
While insult by insult his own peace is shattered,
His integrity placed upon trial.

What is Life? asks the innocent child born with AIDS
As the spirit of life in his eyes quietly fades
And his small face is turned to the wall.
A life that was short with no joy to uplift it,
Just squalor and pain from the plague he'd been gifted
That holds him so fast in its thrall.

What is life asked the flower torn up by the root,
Or the high flying bird brought down in the shoot,
Or the fish as it's pulled from the sea?
What is life but a break between borning and dying,
That moment of light between mourning and crying,
On the march towards eternity?

What is life to the man for whom life has no meaning,
To whom laughing and loving is now just demeaning
And crushes him into the floor;
Leaving nothing but emptiness, anger and longing,
No feeling of owning, no sense of belonging,
Only quaking and aching and sore?

What is life said the man as he walked to the gallows
Where the noose and the trapdoor compete with the swallows
In launching the swiftest of dives;
What takes years in the sculpting is gone in the falling,
A light source extinguished by force beyond calling
Which turns off not lighting but lives.

What is life asked the serf as he scratched out his living
From the soil that was known more for taking than giving,
Leaving little but chaff in the hand?
For the goodness was lost in the crop that he squandered
Cast away on the rocks of the path which he wandered,
Or shrivelled away in the sand.

What is life asked the tramp who must hide at the dawning,
What is life asked the watchmen who sleep in the morning,
And only find life in the night?
With the dreadlocked undead and the semi-decaying,
The ghouls and the zombies, their skins foully flaying
And hearts filled with hatred and spite.

For life is not life in a world without living,
A world that is blaming and never forgiving,
A world built on anger and hate.
Where death stalks the land with his faithful companion,
The hangman who lives in the shade of death's canyon
And hastens men on to their fate.

What is Fame? asked the star who had fallen from grace,
And had learned what is meant by a 'full loss of face'
And been mocked for his sudden decline;
Who had known the enjoyment of transient glory
And played out his part in the Hollywood story,
So placing his neck on the line.

What is fame? muttered Caesar as Brutus assailed him
With poignard in hand as he cruelly impaled him,
Thus bringing his power to an end.
So might Gorbachev ask as he seeks for the reason
Why those who had backed him then undertook treason
And left him adrift without friend.

What is fame? cried the hero, his memory in tatters,
Betrayed by the tale which his privacy shatters
And leaves him exposed to full gaze,
As the flashes that flashed in supreme adulation
Now seek to encompass his humiliation
In a violent incendiary blaze.

What is fame asked the model whose poster is peeling
Laying bare other ads with their models revealing
That nothing is fresh, nothing new;
That beauty is layered, constructed in paper,
True image disguised in the art of the draper,
Creating a fictional view?

What is fame ask the famous whose fame is forsaken,
Where ‘sic transit gloria’ was glory mistaken
And built out of bricks without straw,
Where limelight was lime to achieve dissolution
Consuming, destroying, the final ablution
To wash out true fame evermore.

What is Death? asked the stuntman preparing for action
Aware that his value was tied to reaction
Of fear from the audience below.
Knowing well that his income depended on danger
Of placing life’s thread in the hands of a stranger
And giving his all for the show.

What is death sighed the skeleton dug from the crater,
Who’d died there alone, now some eighty years later
Interred in a proper war grave,
When his sons and his grandsons were buried before him
Alongside the bones of the mother who bore him
In the cemetery next to the nave.

What is death cried the African child to his mother
As he wept by the corpse of his ten year old brother
Who had died from inherited AIDS?
Does our truck driver father who loves his rough wooing
Wherever he goes understand what he’s doing
Infecting the whores and the maids.

In the world of today death moves swiftly and silent,
Where rifles and swords which were bloody and violent,
Are replaced by the germ and the gas?
Starvation and plague fill the web of the spider
And wreak far more damage than even al Qa’eda
In filling the tombs at the pass.

When a suicide bomb blows a hole in the bus queue
Tearing bodies to pieces, leaving nothing to rescue,
And searing the very last breath;
Where the blast from the bomb is the gateway to Hades
Where there's no martyr’s crown let alone virgin ladies.
Then well might we ask what is death?

What is Hope? asked the refugee stopped at the border,
His fears very real and his papers in order,
His terrified wife by his side?
To be told to his face by an officious stranger
Who didn’t believe that his life was in danger
That here he’d no right to abide.

What is hope when to turn back to whence he had travelled,
To watch as his plan for their safety unravelled
And torture once more raised its head?
How can hope in the face of despair and rejection
Escape from the black hole of dark introspection
To find inspiration instead?

What is hope for the addict seeing nothing but yearning
For the poisons that kill him without ever learning
That ‘sometimes’ must yield before ‘never’;
When life seems so empty without the addiction
When hope seems to drown in the folds of affliction
Along with the sparks of endeavour?

What is hope asks the drunk as he lies in the gutter
Dreaming of mince pies and sweet brandy-butter
While knowing that scraps are his lot,
That life on the bottle is life without meaning
A world lived in haze through which demons are leaning
To urge him to drink one more tot.

What is hope asked the prisoner strapped to the table
His arm pierced and linked to the grim hollow cable
Which gives him that last lethal dose.
No chance to make good for the evil committed
No chance to cry mercy through teeth tightly gritted,
Just angels of death standing close.

What is hope asked the skipper whose trawler was sinking
Overtaken by storms through which lightning was jinking,
A sign that the end was at hand,
Where the guardians of seamen in God’s highest Heaven
Could not break the strength of the wild Force Eleven
That drove him headlong on the sand.

What is hope asked the hopeless, their empty eyes staring,
Left adrift in a world with no hope and no caring,
Where Id is the idol of all.
Where loneliness rules in the home of the homeless
And sadness holds sway in the dome of the domeless
Where hope is the first one to fall.

What is Home? asked the wanderer lost in a world
Which had turned out its lights with its banners all furled,
And its shelters locked up for the night.
Where the desperate knock on the door of the haven
To escape the dark ride on the wings of the raven
Pursued by the cries of the Kite.

What is home? asked the orphan with no one to love him,
No safety below and no guidance above him
No roots to return to and cherish,
Where Christmas means nothing and kindness is nowhere
Where even the Bethlehem angels can’t go where
All dreams of a family must perish.

What is home cried the granny packed off by her daughter
To live in a 'home' in Virginia Water
With other old folk of her age.
A ‘home’ when your cohabitees are all strangers
Whose sole aim like yours is to keep clear of dangers
That living alone can engage.

What is home asked the father deprived of his young ones,
Or returning heroes - especially th' unsung ones,
Each barred from the soil of their roots?
What is home without hearth built on solid foundation?
What is homeland if not in the heart of the nation,
The flag that the patriot salutes?

What is Just? ask the gentle whose trust is betrayed
By the cynical use of a law that is made
For the strong on the backs of the weak,
Or the breached Rule of Law by the hard and the forceful
Who rarely show shame and are never remorseful
And tread on the heads of the meek.

What is just? asks the innocent sufferer of terror
Who thought that the violence was started in error
And learned the truth only too late,
Whose crime was the place and the fact of existence
Whose fault was her race and her lack of resistance
When she never expected the hate.

What is just? as you’re driven from home and possessions
When the whole world is deaf to your wild intercessions
And feels not the tears that you’ve cried.
When all that you own is destroyed there before you
And those you have trusted now turn and ignore you
Walking by on the opposite side.

What is just asks the victim whose wounds are admitted
But watches the cruel perpetrator acquitted
Because of the power that he wields.
Where the jury is bought and the judge accepts favours
And proof that he’s guilty is sidestepped by waivers
And truth’s driven back by lies’ shields?

What is just asks the dying deprived of decision
Whose final death throes are defiled by derision
By those who have judged he must die?
Who asks for a reason and meets only laughter
From those who would tarnish his hopes of hereafter
By condemning the beam in his eye.

What is just asks the statue of Justice blindfolded
When she can’t feel the clay from which each one is moulded
And sees all the slights through a veil.
How can it be just that all men are not equal,
And that inequalities recur in sequel,
Their differences only in scale?

What is just cry the raped and the murdered of Darfur
Who watch while the world must decide whom they are for,
The strong or the ones they destroy?
Can there ever be justice in backing the ruthless
Who feed on the food that belongs to the toothless,
Who rejoice in the murder of joy?

What is just ask the poor with no access to justice
Who trusted the law but now find that their trust is
The victim of men who don’t care?
Of bullies whose inferiority governs
To make them behave like the black witches' covens
That bloodsuck the love they can't share.

What is just when the balance of Justice is broken
When the blindfold’s removed and the wrong words are spoken,
When power speaks stronger than fact.
When trial by the media replaces the jury
And the concept of fairness is met with cold fury
By those whom corruption has backed.

What is Night? asked the old man his sight slowly fading,
His memory clouding, his conscience evading
The truths that can only bring pain,
The eyes that are dimming with rheum gently brimming,
His dreams once so bright in the gloom gently swimming,
Like butterflies lost in the rain.

What is night asked the Sun as it set in the West
But darkness created to give time for rest
From the wearying rush of the day?
What is night asked the Moon as it rose in the sky
But a light to allow the nocturnal to fly
And the nightlife to find the safe way.

What is night asked the owl who can see through the dark
And can pick out the meals that parade in the park
From the vole to the stoat to the mouse?
What is night asked the fox as he slunk though the gloom
To wreak havoc and death in the slaughtering room
Which was up until then the hen house?

What is night asked the dying man, fighting the coming dark
Seeking for light in the sight of the dying spark
Wondering if this is the end?
For day follows night in a pattern immutable
While morning is dawning in sequence inscrutable
Bucking the fatalist trend.

But one night will come when there will be no morning
When all of the questions will fade in the dawning
Which heralds a different world
Where the pains will subside and the guilt be forgiven
And the doubts be erased in the hope that is driven
In sight of the banners unfurled.

For night is the doorway to life which is reborn,
The new light and movement which comes with the new morn
And opens the door from the grave.
When answers abound and light fills the uncertain
The stage lights that flare on the call of the curtain
And light up the hearts of the brave.

Yes, death is the last night that each of us knows,
The gateway that takes us to heaven’s repose
Or to pay for the weight of our sins.
What is night? Is it freedom and joy without ending
Or total frustration in frontiers unbending
Which snaps at our heels and our shins?

I am tired and the night offers comfort and silence
An end to the anger, the hate and the violence
Which poison the world of today.
So let the night come that will shut off the questions
And close down the flow of emotive suggestions...


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