The Poppies


At peace with the poppies..

The Poppies

 And in the distance the cannon fire

of our old lives fell silent

The searing artillery melted into brushstroked art

And our legion of long service cares

emerged blinking from behind the worry lines

to fraternise with hope.

That Sunday afternoon after the armistice of knowing

that love could be part of the sunrise

we left the bondfires of Lewes

to explore the smoke that smoulders within.

We were at peace with the poppies

whispering like moths wings on a perfect Sussex hillside

Feeling the fairy stems caress our legs

like a repeated yes, yes.

And amongst the dragonflies and chalklines

we could hear echoes in the landscape

A Copper Family chorus, a shepherd’s whistle

Trickling down the folds in the chalk, Beacon to meadow,

bloodspot poppies dabbed amongst the Marjoram and Thyme,

tiny chips of time preserved in fleeting chalk

as we moulded the moment

like diligent and gentle flintwall makers

Uncorking time profligately like post war refugees

Allowing it to pour as a navigation trickle,

a bead from a furrowed forehead to a burnished amber estuary

buzzing with insect chatter over balmy dew ponds

here in the green dough folds of life after conflict

slumbering in the afternoon haze on the hottest day of the year

when the poppies silkily kissed our skin

pressing their smell on us like fine opium

And we paused to inhale the moment

taking it deep inside

marking the stamen heartbeat

remembering the Cenotaph paths and the McCrae words

that didn’t dampen pneumonia or cure a war

as his poppies bled in Flanders a century ago

where wholesale death

was bartered for peace at any price.

So we stood to attention in the sun

In deference to the millions of could have been lives

the wraith-like regiments walking towards us

wishing they were us

watching us scythe despair down in warm blood

so that the poppies could become flowers again.


Roy Stannard 17th July 2013

Hear it on Soundcloud here:

Hear the live version originally broadcast on The Whole Nine Yards 18.7.13 here:

It Was Darker Then

Theatre, Minsk

The National Opera & Ballet Theatre, Minsk – creating the building before creating the art

It was darker then

It was darker then

The day dulled before the dawn

As I pulled up the flap of the future

memories crawled like maggots towards my heart

abandoned like fresh roadkill

in the path of the emotional bulldozers

clearing the way ahead, blinding the traffic

in the glare of the new Glasnost.

We were all party members in the old days

Card carrying pessimists, romance politicals,

Intolerant love Bolsheviks in a red mist of fury

Our angry love demanding manifesto pledges

Ahead of marriage vows as protest marched on.

It was darker then

In the no men and women’s land

Between the trenches of the past and future

When the red seeped into the white

Like an embolism of emotion

Bruising the perfect untouched ideas of a generation

Used to pumping blood in vain.

And as today’s clarion speeches are left in toilets

And whistle blowers purse their lips in dismay

We wonder why the great barricades

Look designer-made, as the would-be heros

audition on reality TV

and the everyday Watergates burst open

with tiny pustular pops and the dogs of headlines

whimper and eye the storybones with suspicion

 wondering what teeth are for when we are all vegetarian now.

It was darker then

When I brokered my first love deal

And gingerly felt the mutual bumps of our ambition

Debating great men and their place in dialectical materialism

Writing rapier essays that hurt to read

Because the words we used were the clubs we belonged to

And the blows we clubbed with

We were the boys of the Brigade

Part of the loose, easy movement, falling like the Berlin Wall

And the statue of Stalin fleeing St Petersburg.

It was darker then

With love blocked by Communism

And the father of future Milibands altering his salutation from Adolf

leaving Warsaw for the West End watering holes

While the State in Capitalist Society plays Polo by Ralph Lauren

And Tariq the Street Fighting Man

Plays Glastonbury in an ash and chestnut yurt

Whilst the reluctant fans of austerity hurt

and blurt out their pain in little red books

From Redchurch Street, E2.

It was darker then

Before the revolution of the revolving doors

And the advent of the insurrection chic

Standing in front of the tank tops in Trafalgar Square

Not backing down until the petition is signed

100,000 times online

we operate behind the lines

we are the subversives, submerged with guilt about coming out on top

we leak quietly like a million twitch-eyed whistle blowers

in a silent movie by Dali and Bunuel.

I screamed in silence for years

exploring the blade-edge in avant-garde suffering,

an impressionist pavement preacher in Paris

painting love in angles and tears, until I met you,

until the sunlight floodlines filtered into a new Perestroika

in the smallest empire in the world

called you and me.

Roy Stannard 4th July 2013

Live on air reading TW9Y 4.7.13 here: