Two Poems

Patricia Beer

Autumn

Weeds start up out of the wall now that summer has ended.
Holiday-makers already begin to turn yellow.
Shadows look brave but have lost the bone-marrow of August.

Introducing two recently heartbroken friends to each other
How we hope they will mate, how we know that they will not.
The season is over. Young blood has gone into the ground.

In the church a low sun stabs away at the wings of an angel,
That slipped down into darkness last April and stayed there till now,
Making them move, even flap, from their warm hibernation.

Autumn colours walk into our field in the guise of a pheasant,
Bright bronze and with markings like raindrops; respected and safe
Here with us, but the popping of gunfire comes up from the valley,

As it does from a room in the house where somebody is watching
A western. And after the shooting a two-minute silence
For the good and the bad, then the musical ride into sunset.

In the hospital bed that is nearest the door, an old man,
Fenced in by chrysanthemums, blinks out his wife and his sister
And follows the agile young nurse with his eyes, calling ‘Mother’.

Ballad of the Underpass

The day I watched them carry her
Along a stony path in Devon,
Black-clothed relations bullied me:
‘Now, now, your mother’s GONE TO HEAVEN.’

Later I went to read her stone.
The churchyard creaked with lumpy graves.
In all that weight I could not see
The feathery souls that Jesus saves.

I travelled. Time looked after me.
The seven seas were nothing to it.
I wanted to make money, love
And war. Time showed me how to do it.

I came home like a story book.
The clock had nothing new to say.
Tractors and cows strolled down the lane
But now time planned a motorway.

It would be almost out of sight
And in itself do little harm
But the approach road would scoop up
The church and Farmer Gurney’s farm.

The Church sent up some peevish prayers.
The farming lobby stood its ground.
A small mob kicked the Ministry
And an alternative was found:

An underpass. The tunnelled road
Is short, the village is so slight.
Today I drove right underneath
The tombstones in the fading light.

‘Now I have really GONE ABOVE’
My mother said, ‘though not to Heaven,
Nearer the light, nearer the air.
Set free by half the worms of Devon

My bones hang over you and twitch
Under the rain. Tall as a tree
You used to stand there looking down
And now you must look up at me.’