This year, after a summer of rain
after the poor crops and the hunched creatures
bewildered in drowning fields,
after the pinched, still wintry faces of people
desperate for rest, for sun enough
to bring the colour back into a world
gone grey with threats, with terror, with a burned fuse
of distrust, after the summer when we all became angry
and poor, and Gaia’s future offered only
a drowned world and a burned world, misplaced peoples
in millions and all that we love extinct –
after this summer of rain, cold rain –
She gives us late days of warm sweetness.
I have seen a dark green sea shining with sun-sparks
brilliance and blaze – as if a whole nation made offerings
of candleflame-prayers sent out on the tide.
I have seen cobalt skies over heather and yellow gorse,
wrens in the brambles, a wheeling skitter of black choughs
skimming the cliffs; evening fields brimming amber
with late corn – and at night the Milky Way returned
as our Mother of Stars, the Compassionate One;
offering us meteors as messengers of hope.
And this is how Gaia stands always.
There is dark and there is light and there is change.
Earth is both fury and forgiveness,
compassion and the implacable gaze:
somewhere there is destruction, somewhere else
a woman is saving whales.
We grieve for the lost summer of the world
but at this Autumn equinox there is beauty still, still
we are offered the slow fruit of harvest, sudden light,
Even when the year’s darkness closes down on us
we can remember this, and know that our constant love
can make the changed world beautiful again. In due time.
This was the action of the crazy woman.
That morning when the swans came she ran
all the way to the dairy, filled the big pewter jug
the shiny two gallon one, she filled it with milk.
Then she came rushing, staggering with effort
– for she was only a spindle-shanks herself –
she came to the lake milk spilling over her cracked shoes
and the swans raised their heads interestedly, like snakes,
pure cold white snakes their necks weaved at her.
One great bird roused up and beat its powerful wings
then they began to sail towards her as she lifted the jug
and poured a huge white arc across the brackish water.
Milk splashing sheer white as snow, not cream
but salt white and the ice brightness of the swans
drifted into its curve as she stood calling out
O my White Queens, my Beauties, my lost wild songs,
O loves… So she stood, calling out their miracle,
and they dipped their red beaks, siphoned the milk
as I believe whales suck krill, or flamingoes ingest
the tiny red crustaceans that fire their feathers,
so the swans drank the whiteness off the water,
their amazing necks scooping, dipping.
She placed her jug down on the thin grass,
stretched out her hands as if the plumage
of those frosted birds could warm her, while beyond us
the people who had come to see the swans cheered
and someone sang. Others threw our black seed bread;
it is wholesome, but the swans refused it.
All that day, people came running down the broken roads,
came by horse or van just to watch the strange birds
skim and glide the water. When the milk was gone
the lake seemed calmer than before, black, quite polished
and the swans were doubled in its mirror. That night
they shone luminous as moons under the willows,
and we kept watch. At last, our children understood
the grace in the constellation of Cygnus.
The swans were with us three days.
Afterwards, the snow came again
and it grew intensely cold – cold as poverty.
This Town had a purpose towards joy.
It sat quietly thinking at the edges of meetings
listening to new ideas for urban planning
and the knowledge – serious as great bells –
of right living. This warmed the Town’s heart.
How, after threadbare times and makeshift
some integral caring could arise in its place.
So the river could cease sickening
and be brought back to health; working out,
turning energy, giving its bright ions
and light to dragonflies and joggers
or those stumblers who are confounded by wonder
and stutter along paths beside shining
telling the children to love it all: flow, tumble, flood.
The Town’s wind will grow up, up…
catch hold of its power and pass it on,
linking up to the grid. Clever systems
of waste and heat (yours, mine) will spin
ceaselessly, turning in and out on themselves.
Nothing will be lost. All will be remade.
Curved streets and allotments, zones
of serendipity: homes for the real future,
houses working for a living. And beyond
these tons of strong structures, wood, glass,
stones, straw, fleece beyond this mind of strong will,
still the town has a purpose towards joy: hopes
for dancing dresses of cherry trees lining the High Street,
frilled white blossom in Springtime, birds singing
good dreams in the leaves, red fruits for harvest,
street party celebration at the turning year,
town mouths stained sweet luscious with cherry kisses.
I ask all the animals to open their mouths
to howl this prayer for peace
I ask all the birds to lift their songs to the winds
and sing this prayer for peace
I ask all the trees and flowers, all that is green growing
to open their hollow throats where the sap runs
to call this prayer for peace
I ask the rocks to dream this prayer for peace
I ask the sand to rearrange its grains
and write this prayer for peace
I ask the ocean wave to shout this prayer for peace
or whisper it on the lonely listening beaches
where the rivers will send it upstream
in the willing breath of fish
I ask the deep wells to give rise to this prayer for peace
I ask the holy hills to toll this prayer for peace
I ask the stars to shine the spelling
of this prayer for peace
and the moon and the sun pause in the sky
as night and day, as right and left, as east and west
as all that is opposite yet may still come into balance
in harmony with this world, and in time
I ask for every candleflame to ignite this prayer for peace
so that this prayer is in the world and of the world
and becomes the world and the world is peace.