Art

This is a life,
Where poet, writer, painter,
Heat their hands from flames
Burning from the brain’s fire –
Earth’s very sky is held still
As they turn sea to words –
Rock to paint –
Wine and beer wash throats
With song and conversation –
In a bodily exchange for art –
Where to belong you climb a broken ladder
And give to words, paint, music, dance
A fire-washed agonised-pure soul –
Creation banged out of marble
Poems burning from a special womb –
Covering every last thought
With chalk-white burnt-out dust –
Until a huge soft pile smothers you
Into a deep and grateful sleep –

(after an early lunch one
Sunday, Nov 1963 with poets
painter, journalist. Lamorna
Cove, Cornwall . Much talk
much wine.)

 

Shänne Sands, Moonlight on Words published by FootSteps Press.

If Smells are Insipid

If smells are insipid –
Then the landlady’s cooked supper
Lacks frankincense –
A pole-cat scent touches the ceiling;
The room is redolent with sour pork –

If streets are named after saints –
This crabbed avenue wears no halo –
After sunset the council-house tenants
Wear a wish-washed frown –
The children mostly look like pickled peppers
And the mothers are ill-flavoured lollipops –

If sounds mean sometimes melody
The ice-cream van gives me a concert
Per minute of discordant flats –
Jarring bells help sell a thousand icy treats
The driver-musician plays road minstrel
From morning into night –
As cheap cars and motor-bikes
Add noise to noise –

If idealism comes from an intellectual mind –
Only the ghost of my dream now walks –
I cannot view this scene with intelligence –
Only a troubled stare takes in the crowd –
My reverie is cornered like the fool –
And held in chains that no-one can undo –

If the pulse-beat of the city is its people
Alas, the heart of this city is flickering to death –
Only the sea snatches the wind
And blows it across the grey cement –
Only a restless gull shrieks discontent –

Occasionally the day seems
In possession of itself
Until the newsreader tells the time –
And I feel all the seconds lost –
The whole city is up-for-sale –
There’s an economy in selling cities
And tucked inside the Treasurer’s pocket
Are press-cuttings from the local press
Telling of the merchandise of souls –

If cheapness speaks of poverty and debt –
This booty is the grand prize –
A million untidy, unemployed people –
Walking in the rain –
Their resistance and my own –
To adversity in cities like this…
Is to enjoy the rain –
Receiving it from Heaven, then
Washing our hands of affection and favourite spots –
We are divorced from life –
Seclusion in our walk is all
I now respect!

Shänne Sands, Fidelity is for Swan (FootSteps Press 2010)

The Unseen

The Unseen

Here, unseen
My words fade into air,
Falling with autumn leaves –
Birds peck at their edges –
People walk over my words
Careless of what could be
Under their feet –

Nobody, not even I,
Speak the fallen words
Aloud, strangely the woods
Echo their meaning
Almost by love –

My words fall into rivers,
Where water-spirits sleep
Upon them, where small fish
Try to eat them –

My words swim with the ripple
Of cool streams –
Yellow irises protect them,
Unseen, here
My words mark their destiny –

 

From Night Song a selection of poems by Shänne Sands published by FootSteps Press. Find it here

Siste Viator

Stop Traveller –
Boredom evaporates desire
Even as fire burns itself to ash –
Your feet will touch and stay no longer –
Losing interest in maps and charts –
Peoples and their towns of historic value
Will nudge your boredom and at daybreak
You will take a look at castles plus churches
Then hurry to get some lunch with
Aching eyes from too much sun –
An irreparable damage to your heart
Makes you depart from all your longings –
Nothing holds the virtue that you’ve lost
And travelling become the countenance
Of lost truth –
Too many cities, too many days from Persia
To Peru, across to Samoa or Siam, through
Uruguay or Tunis, Romania and Venezuela,
Yugoslavia and all the lonely way back –
With postcards of Sarawak –
Words blow like a flag in your mind
Vestigia nulla retrorsum
You have left nothing behind –
Taken nothing away –
You will not return this or any day
For your footsteps left no traces
Backward or forward you remain
Only bored
A strange peace mocks the empty suitcase –
The day the traveller stops

 

Shänne Sands – from Fragments of Desire, FootSteps Press 2012.

On Reading Ben Johnson

I have loved faces silvered with gloom
Faces dipped into light stolen from the moon –
I have loved faces humoured by the sun
Flickered by sunbeams as the day has run.

I have loved backs like perfect trees
Straight and fi rmed to thighs and knees
And hands where fi ngers like fl owers
Sway away unpleasant hours –

I have loved eyes that shelter tears
Before they fall as fall the years
And merry eyes full of happy laughter
Eyes that sorrow cannot master –

I have loved voices that only echo right
I have loved voices heard in darkest night
Voices not deformed by angry lives
Voices free from vulgar thought or bribes.

I have loved lips that moulded rhyme –
Kissed the poets’ words from every time –
Even if furious demons invent my pain
I shall love all these again –

Shänne Sands,
from the selection of poems Fragments of Desire published by FootSteps Press

Bombay City of Sandals

FAIR BAY

Bombay is a hot, sensual city, where everything and everyone moves in time to the swaying palm trees. Endless crowds drift through the hot, dusty streets from dawn till sudden darkness for no twilight softens the abrupt ending to an eastern day. A huge burning sun’s heat breaks across their backs warming at the same moment dozens of mangy cats, millions of over-fed, over noisy crows, green parrots, tiny sparrows that seem strangely out of place in an eastern city. Untold variety of tropical birds adorned in lovely exotic feathers and packs of hungry, unloved dogs even more mangy and rabid than the cats.

Insects that outnumber all other living creatures fly or creep or bite or sting. Buzz and hum over pavements, along marble floors, up and down walls, drift on silky threads across ceilings and dangle from big, black electric fans that look like monsters all twisted with cobwebs as they twirl out warm, windy air from spicy smelling rooms.

With the inevitable sacred cows pushing for their honoured place along the roadside near a not so holy buffalo cart. Stray chickens enjoy a brief escape from a wicker basket left unattended for a moment in a back street bazaar. They pick at sacred droppings while squirrels with a touch of England about them, run up and down the trees keeping time to the rather mournful sound of bleating goats, whose tormentors, flies and ants are everywhere. Fair Bay or Great Mother, Maha Amma is known the world over as Bombay. Like most Indian cities she is a difficult Great Mother, churning the emotions. Quick to anger, quick to love, quick to tears, even quicker for the dying. Saris twirl past the old, narrow streets. Streets alive with cockroaches and huge black rats that procreate themselves almost as fast as the swarming flies around the heaps of stale dung, left in odd corners.

High in the trees the bright green parrots cackle a kind of tormented song. The sun with its cruel power, becomes a dictator burning the body and each day except for the monsoon weather is a copy of the day before. Hot. Flame hot. Hot. Flame hot. Until the sun leaves the sky falling abruptly into an overheated sea.

Millions of insects humming and ugly bite into the warm flesh as you sleep. You become a sun-drenched idiot always damp with sweat. Unable to forget the heat you play with the air conditioner’s switches and drink like a bibacious fool, cursing the tropical city, where heat and dirt and too much humanity separate you from any kind of charity towards the poverty.

One beggar becomes the same as another beggar. One hungry child just another poor Indian to look at taking your pick from millions, feel hopeless about their lives, shudder at the sores and filth, curse the state of undeveloped, backward countries and then pass on and yet again on, leaving perhaps a few small coins of little value in a brown, soiled palm. The poverty-stricken, dark-skinned ones cannot escape from the wheel of incarnations, cannot go back far into ages lost and forgotten. Back into the security of the ancient forests they left in other lives so long ago.

Back to the warmth of their sacred fires to dance their dance of existence before Lord Krishna and ask to be lifted from the gutters. To raise their beautiful eyes to a hopeful sky. Not to be poor and desireless with Hindu pessimism, but to be filled with certain desires. A certain joy that life was meant to be a richer experience than to beg at the foot of another Indian who simply places a beggar’s fate in the lap of one of a thousand gods or one of a thousand Castes.

But I will try to wake the gods up. Shout their names for sound is pleasing to them. I will ring my bells till their ears ache. I will cry to Siva the great god who is Lord and Master of asceticism, who wears the Brahman cord and whose forehead is often marked by three horizontal stripes with a third eye staring from its centre. I will cry to him to come with me. Also to Parvati the daughter of the Himalayas and Siva’s gracious, brilliant, but sometimes inaccessible goddess wife. A feminine divinity of Hindu power. I will cry to Brahma to turn from stone. He who is the creative god, the father of all gods and men, shall leap from his temple and Vishnu asleep on the snake Ananta Sesha will wake, arise before dawn, wash their feet and come through the streets. To see the sleeping poor and the fresh born walking to a day of nothingness. To listen and hear the Cries of India coming down the centuries, touching Buddha’s mouth at the corners as he smiles softly at all these people waking to the chant of an old, bent beggar man.

Forgetting for a second the large important houses that glitter white against the blue sky. Forgetting the busy offices and opulent apartment blocks that tower above the heads of the poor. Forgetting that poverty is a supposed natural law hardly cared about or maybe not even noticed by most Indians and foreigners, who accept suffering, because India is such a ‘poor country’, left desolate by too many invaders. Forgetting all the words and schemes and lost ideals. Dead political giants and glorious Hindu saints. Forgetting even the corrupt grain merchants and dreaded money lenders from the Bania caste who come from desert cities in Rajasthan to become successful merchants in Bombay. All hiding behind the backs of obese, white trousered black marketeers!

Chapters 1 Bombay City of Sandals by Shänne Sands

Where Leaps the Flame

If this poem was an element,
It would be fire –
A million scarlet tongues
Would be its flame
Each hot flicker to proclaim
A martyr’s name.
Not martyrs of the Cross
They are re-born in stone
But martyrs of camps of hell
All unknown, un-named
Shall in this poem
Be crowned with flame
The atoms from each soul
Will fly the unknown tombs
Fire and flame raised from bone
Even beyond eternity –
Free to the outer-rim of space and time –
Sings the martyr’s cause
Now yours and mine.
Each name spelt out from fire
This poem not of desire, but honour
Mercy, love, where leaps the flame.

Shänne Sands

From ‘Moonlight of Words’

Power

A sour-air hangs over this tower –
Bitter-herbs are brewed with poison as litter-bins
Hour by hour are filled with the dregs of power.
Stings of hatred burn against the people, winning
Only voices, millions endless millions ever lonely
Voices, in history’s pale indifferent winds of no-rejoicing
Only deep black whirlpools suck and spin around a stoney
Joyless humanity trying in desperation to hoist
Their battered souls above their votes, trying to care –
The world’s song is a marching-song against the wise –
Bare are the breasts of dying dreams and where
Skies are storm-torn and cruel, men tell lies –
Beware! Climbing the stairs of this tower –
The staircase narrows, spirals, suffocates by the hour –

 

Shänne Sands

Success

You know how I love to talk
About myself –
My ego is ulcer-ridden,
But I have organised my
Conversation to suit my moods –
I’ve worked for years to get where I am –
Many caught my kick on the way up!
I live now in the twilight of
Half-truth daring to tell no one
Too much in case I lose my mystery
And become like everyone else –
I am ruthless –
Well, you know that’s how one must be –
19
Nothing must stand in my way –
I have no compassion
For king or beggar –
I put puppies out in the coldest rain
And watch tears fall down
Lovely cheeks without wiping one away –
I am skin deep –
I last only for today –
If I stop for one brief moment and take a rest,
They will forget my quest
And my ego will become obsolete –
So I must rush, must haste,
Must pack my case and flee –
Towards the winds that beckon me –
But I see a threatening, impending doom –
Standing silent in my room –
And I struggle with my laces
To make my getaway –
Without looking back –
I hurry, hurry to any convenient station
To catch the eternal train
Back to where I started from –
There was the same doom –
And the train had gone!

 

Shänne Sands, part of Shadows and Realities a Dramatic Poem, in Fragments of Desire published by FootSteps Press.

On a Lock of Keats’ Hair in a Texas College

Poor dear Keats your hair, silken red-gold still –
As Leigh Hunt snipped that lock with kind respect –
Long ago, were you standing on a hill?
Your weak chest aching from pale love’s neglect –
As Leigh Hunt spied your glittering hair sun-bright –
And for us kept this strand of silken poetry –
With other poets’ hair, who fl ew like kites
Their thoughts across heaven to set us free –
Now, in a Texas college this relic stays
For American students to glance at –
Keats would not have understood their modern ways –
Their ‘sophistication’ would leave him fl at –
Beneath a Texas moon, no high Greek song is sung –
Keats’ red-gold hair is wound around an English tongue.

Shänne Sands, Moonlight on Words, published by FootSteps Press

 

You Would Understand Why

You would understand why –
Why lilac and Chopin go together –
Just before spring or after winter’s
Retreat back into the earth –
Our beginning and our end –

You would understand this –
This sudden sadness and lack of will –
When my body feels full-up with stones –
The bricks and mortar of a soul
Heavy with old places and faces;
Not to be loved again –

You would understand how –
How to fly across the rain
To a burning sun –
How to laugh wine out of green bottles
And break glasses into thousands
And thousands of happy pieces.

You would understand now –
All you refused to need before –
Before the floors were swept
With new bright brooms and our rooms
Were changed, our furniture sold
And out hearts broken because hearts
Always break –

Now it’s almost lilac time
The pubs are closed till ‘opening time’ –
‘Our’ books are waiting to be written –
Beneath this smile there’s a scar –
You would understand – the importance,
The importance of ‘emotional pens’

Lilac and Chopin before love-making
Or after a long journey and sleep –
Quick as a flash a fast car
Passes the window
Quick as a flash time leaves us old –

Shänne Sands, The Silver Hooves, published by Footsteps Press

You Are Not The River

You are not the river
I am not the mountain
We are flesh, we are blood.

You are not the universe
I am not the infinite
We are life, we are death –

You are not the rain
I am not the ocean
We are skin, we are bone.

I take your flesh
You taste my blood
Our bones and skin
Our life and death touch.

Then an ocean fills with rain –
Infinite is the river
And a mountain grows from us.

Shänne Sands, Fidelity is for Swans published by FootSteps Press

The Broken Clown

Really it was my child’s toy
Thrown on the floor –
With a grin knocked off in fun –
A leg half torn with stuffing
Weakly coming out –
A bright red nose bashed in –
A broken fool dim-sighted –
Shallow with absurdity –
Tomfoolery left on the bedroom floor –
Clown’s intellect was only to laugh –
Nothing astute could ever touch
That wide red gap of mouth –
Or straighten those hideous legs –
Bent with colour –
Broken in jest by my son’s rough hand –

Really it was you; There
On the grey lino –
You as a doltish clot –
Childish with silly pranks –
All your stuffing mere wool
To keep together heart and soul –
Inconsistent and dull –
From old sentiment
I’ll sew the broken leg up –
Replace the stuffing –
But its impossible to do
Anything with that gaping mouth
And those wide sad eyes –
Filled with mirth.

Shänne Sands, from her selection Fidelity is for Swans published by FootSteps Press www.footsteps.co

Come And See

Come and see
Come and see
The roads are pushing our fields away –
Today
Today –
Come and see
The decay
Of the city.
Come and see
The social security see-saw –
Human-apes
Stupidity plus stupidity –
Come and see
Our broken down economy
Rather old policies
Balance of payments
Not achieved, cheer, cheer
And try to explain inflation –
Come and see
Come and hear!
The failed master plan –
The behaviour pattern
Of aged ministers of State –
Too late
Too late –
Sing the song of the out-of-work
The three day week
The endless rain –
A country going down the drain –
But tighten your seat-belts –
Switch on your colour TV
And to the hounds
With wages and prices –
All clap hands
For the ‘Common-Market’
And pick your nose
When no-one is looking –
Come and see
The decay of a country –
Export the flag –
And try again –
More rain
More roads –
Surprise, surprise –
Academic exercise
Stretches the mind –
But recognise
In time
Sales for the home-market
Has to shake hands
With the people!

 

Shänne Sands

The First of Many

I stopped writing my old blog in 2012 after three years with 150,000 unique visitors a year. Mostly because I was tired of thinking of something to write in 300 words everyday while looking after my mother, Shänne Sands, who had become bed-bound in 2008.

Let’s start as we mean to continue. On the first anniversary of her death 21st July 2017:

 

Where is your soul, mother mine?
The patient smile
The vibrant laughing
The morning tea

How I long to walk with you
A dog by you side
A smile for clouds
A handful of Bluebells

And the hope that tomorrow
Humanity will arise and find
Its sorrows were all of their own making
Because they did not hold poets
Higher than monarchs.

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