Love

Do I dare speak?
How shall I begin?
Soaring from some great height
An exalted fl ight –
Sweeping you off your feet
As I usually do.
Or shall I begin softly
With tenderness, on tiptoe
With my head covered in white silk –
Shall I come tall as an Alpine day
With huge mountains blocking
My way to your heart –
Or shall I be small
And perfectly untouchable
In my beauty –
Or shall I stumble,
Lurch into mistakes and fright –
Leaving you to weep
Such sad weepings –
Shall I be buoyant
And fl oat into you
Like an ocean would –
Filling your being with enough
Power to surmount every problem
Trying to force me out –
Or shall I not come at all –
And leave you free to cast yourselves
Into the seas of circumstance,
Where you will sink
And never know about me –
Would that be fair?
For although I do not offer fi delity
Only a promise of a kiss –
You should not miss my lottery tickets
Five for two-shillings on a hot day
For you might win.
I have always been a gamble –
But you might win!

Shänne Sands, Grass (extract) ‘Fragments of Desire’ – FootSteps Press

 

Innocence

Our innocence was kept in a blue vase –
Holding chrysanthemums with heavy heads –
Or over gas fires making toast and reading Flecker
Or lying on narrow beds comfortable with happiness –
Books littered with petals and ‘notes’
About coming ‘home’ late –
Piping a recorder in the dusk of that autumn,
When words spun to the ground with united pleasure –
Only the flowers fell one by one –
The words were never weak –
Only the autumn’s changed from then till now;
As vases hold other flowers and our innocence
Is no longer found within their blueness
On a high mantelpiece,
But is a piece of jagged glass
Broken yet still beautiful –

Shänne Sands, from Night Song published by FootSteps Press

Sign Here or Make Your Mark

The sky is blue its summer-time
Sign here or make your mark.

The sky is grey the following week
Sign here or make your mark.

The benefit book all dates and stamps
The post-office queue all sour and damp
Sign here or make your mark.

Over the road the Co-op waits
To take your benefit for food
The sky above the traffic-fumes
Is poisoned with a deadly glare

Don’t moan, don’t stare, just wait
Sign here or make your mark.

The shoes are pieces of old scruff –
The sweat-shirt loose and stained –
Benefit day has come once more –
In spite of sun or rain –

Just before you die
A tin like voice will say –
Sign here or make your mark
Then take the book away.

Shänne Sands, The Silver Hooves published by FootSteps Press

For My Poor Sick Brother Allan Edwin

I have not seen an angel
Or heard an holy voice –
Or witnessed a miracle –

Nor seen a saint –
But I have felt a peace –
A tenderness –

A token-wind of faith –
I have known a place –
Where a spirit played
Deep on my heart –
Played in my brain –

A touch of joy sped me along –
A path leading upward to His Cross –
And on my knees or standing
Near his church – I have felt
The nearness of a truth –
Confl ict is banished into ash –
And high above reason, time or year
His precious call repeats
The message of a world to come –
‘My people hear, oh! Hear’

Shänne Sands, Fragments of Desire published by FootSteps Press

Allen Edwin had a schizophrenic episode in his thirties and, when on his medication, became a devout missionary. He died in his early seventies, alone in Cheltenham, England.

So Many Lies

A new proxy war between Russia and America in Syria, the first major one we know about since Afghanistan – and that one turned out brilliantly for the Americans. Another mass shooting in a school which proves, obviously, that teenagers should not have easy access to guns as they get frustrated and angry way too easily. And Johnson, who learned to speak in front of boys at Eton, where majority opinion is always Conservative, telling everyone how to save his political career for another fifteen years until he can retire and tell the news programmes of the world how he steered the UK brilliantly in to the 1950s.

Elon sends a car into space, a man who really needs publicity? A space already filled with junk. I hope he brings it and some of that, back. Or is he trying to get to a geodesic on Mars where the billionaires will hang out in 80 years time when the Earth is uninhabitable if you want to sun yourself in the Pacific and whore in the Mediterranean.

Somewhere in all this, a blog carries the words of a poet. Shänne Sands, a rare voice of truth.

Somebody Asked Me

Somebody asked me
The other day about you, saying
With that knowing look in their dim eyes,
‘You can’t still love him
After everything that’s happened’
My thoughts left the conversation and went ahead –
Could they really know ‘everything’ that happened –
Oh not the quick insult
Or the vapid lie –
Or the ‘others’’ taken in a fit of sex –
Or the endless separation built
On my calendar like huge ugly steps
Higher and higher into my life –
No they didn’t have a clue
About what really happened –
How one day in April ‘61 in England –
By the Thames –
From some obscure patch of darkness
You came into my life –
A torch flared not easy to put out –
When our bodies touched
That same torch, became
A dazzle cast about our bed –
How the back of your head slightly bent
Moved me beyond words –
Or how your sour face
Cross or tired suddenly made me chuckle –
How in a fit of white-hot love
You’d strip me bare and throw
My body across a fitted carpet –
Better than any mattress on the pretty bed.
Could they know how we laughed
At life’s grim ‘handouts’, because our
Love was massive in a small untidy
World of petty shadows –
And that my heart could carry
Your soul along every problem,
Every sad mistake –
Because we had sung a song my love,
Across a wooden table; piled with
Plates and flowers turned to a fable
That was us.
And when they ask me silly questions
I want to yell,
‘What do you know of love?’
But I turn my head away
And slowly think of you –
And wonder in this rather lonely minute
If you remember April ‘61 and that river too!

 

Shänne Sands, from Night Song, a selection of her poems published by FootSteps Press

Whispers

Whispers my inner-self
To all I have become,
Where did you find the shelf
To hide from the one
Who you loved most?
Through ages of my heart’s
Calling, calling to a ghost –
How weary, tired, cross love departs –
Leaving nothing, but a wrinkled brow –
Leaving nothing, but a falling tear –
Nobody ever tells me how
Or why true love must disappear –
Yet I suppose there is a place
Where my inner-self will find your face –

Shänne Sands, ‘Moonlight on Words’. FootSteps Press 2010.

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’ selection of poems published by FootSteps Press

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’

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