2010 Poetry Challenge

National Poetry Month

Peter Willowdown

Lullaby and Poet's Reply

Hush now, laddie, do not cry,
Mother will come back to comfort you by-and-by.
First she must go soothe the Moon
and all the lost children crying in its craters
when they lost their mamas and papas.
And all the flowers that need water too
- it has not rained on the Moon now
for tens of thousands of long dry years
and all the buttercups and daisies are parched;
infact the fairies of all the flowers
that used to grow there have quite forgotten who they are
and all the dear lost children have forgotten how to cry
but simply sit all day in the shadow of tall mountains
trying to recall colours, smells, the sound of laughter,
the taste of butter, things that you
and other happy children take for granted.

Hush, hush, my bairn, be brave and do not
let your Mother see you weep
- the task before her will be long and ardduous
but much good will come of it.
You may have to be brave for quite some time
for the unhappy children on the Moon
have never had a Guardian Angel before
or heard a loving word since the Moon Forests vanished
and all its seas and oceans dried up
and all its merry birds and fishes went away...
you wouldn't begrudge them a little joy, would you?
Be a true and valiant boy
and wait for your Mother with patience
- she will come to you as soon as she may,,
if not tomorrow then in a few days,
if not in a few days then maybe next week,
if not next week then maybe next year...
you are really very small in the great scheme of things
just like gemstones that shine so brightly in the sunlight
are really no more than grains of sand
upon a vast, immeasurable beach, although
if one thinks too long about such things
it is difficult not to be saddened by it
and even for an old woman like myself
understanding can be very difficult...
Perhaps when I finally return
you will be a fully grown young man already
- wouldn't that be grand!

Or, and I will not lie to you, perhaps
I will not be able to return to you in this life at all
and we must wait for some new age to dawn
before we gaze again upon each other's face
in some unfamiliar and possibly quite new, unfinished place.
If so, we must be vigilant, my child,
for we may not at first even recognise each other.
Examine each stranger very carefully therefore, my little one,
for who knows which one will actually be your Mother.
Oh what a grand adventure that will be!

Hush now, laddie, do not cry
- Mother must be going now.
While I'm gone I'll ask the fairies to bake you a pie:
cherries and pears, you favourite!
When you eat it for breakfast think of all
the unhappy Moon children I will be helping.
In all probablity most of them
will never have tasted such a lovely pie
but I will tell them all about yours
and what a brave and beautiful boy you are!


Mother, I am a grown man now
and have been for several years
but still I wait for your return.
Did you really go to the Moon,
as I believed for so many years
or did you simply pass away,
leaving me with a beautiful fairy tale
to ease the long and weary days
that followed your departure?
Even had I had a brother of father
they could not have made up
for the beauty and wisdom that I missed
sitting at your sequinned knee
or the cool caress of your fingetips
upon my sometimes fevered brow.
Yes, the owls still come to visit me,
although not as frequently as they did
did when I was young and the world was still whole
and Owein the large grey silverback
seldom comes at all...
I have not seen him now for almost nine years,
if indeed he still lives.
Sometimes I wonder if I dreamed
both them and you
but then at odd times I seem to catch
some distant echo of your laughter
beneath the murmur of the sea
or some stray song the birds
are singing in the trees
and looking up to the Moon at dusk
I speak your name and wonder
as a little thrill of mystic flame
flickers up and down my spine
and I know beyond doubt I am no madman at all,
as some of the village folk insist on calling me,
but am heir to an old and remarkable power
as high and elusive as the scent of summer flowers
or sweet rain falling at midnight.

I imagine you tending to the needs of the Moon Children
and somehow I know that despite all your work amongst them,
their number grows not smaller but larger every day,
as so many children die in wars and famines here on Earth
and are carried aloft by merciful Angels to yon silvery sphere
to wait upon God in its once beatiful flower gardens,
still a heaven of sorts despite the ruin and desecration wrought
long Ages ago by the Antichrist and His Sister.
Yet still, for all I know you are doing His work,
I wish sometimes a great mythological owl
would come and carry me to the Moon
that I might see you once more and walk by your side
if only for the smallest handful of ordinary, mortal hours.
But, of course, all the adult owls are engaged
in the Great War against Asmodeus
(though none of the mortals who live in my country
or the various regions that border it
know anything of such high and lofty matters).
Sometime I chafe at being a mere minstrel
and would like to take up blade myself against great Satan
but song too can be a weapon of sorts
and when I have achieved mastery of my craft
I will leave this little cantrif on the edge of the Turquoise Sun
and travel to the great Court at Lazange to offer
my voice to the High King, as my Father did before me,
according to the little bits of lore you sometimes
inadvertantly let slip or that the bears and lynxes
of the desert whispered sometimes in my ear
when I lay half asleep and dreaming in the Pavilions of Dusk
or I half overheard in sibiliant song as mermaids
played on lutes of spindrift and foam
as I paced in sleep the shores of the outer shell of the world,
so like the sweet, bruised apple of autumn
clinging yet the branches of its native tree
whilst elementals and questing spirits of the coming winter
tap at its skin and murmur to it of frost.

Father, did it grieve you much to leave my Mother thus,
much as, surely, it must have grieved her to
abandon her own true son and give herself in service
to all the neglected sons and daughters of Man's shame?
These are questions I often ask myself,
especially when I find my eyes 'lighting upon
some sweet feminine form - a merry-making maiden
laughing without care or simple sheperdess of the vallies
with sunlight gleaming on her face and hair,
lovely and unspoilt by the fawning ways of palace or court.
Fortunately my heart has not as yet been gravely smitten
and I am free from any great demands upon my life
from that direction at least...
sometimes one or other of the mocking-tongued lads
in the village laugh and ask me if I wish to be a priest.
'So long as I do not become a monkey, like thee,' I reply
'and surrender the beauty of my true humanity
to the knuckle-grazing beast within!'
- an answer they generally like not althouugh, of course,
I am well-able to look after myself now,
indeed I am the tallest lad in the village
and the wisest of my earlier tormentors have learned,
from past experience, to give me wide berth,
though like me, they are quite grown men now
and some even boast to the young men of other villages
whom they meet at country fairs, of my skill at song
and how they schooled and tumbled in the meadows with me
although of course 'he is undoubtedly a bit queer in the head
but what can you expect from a songster and a poet?'

Apparently too, I have a sister somewhere,
a travelling bird once told me.
It seemed an honest and a reliable bird
and I have no reason to doubt it.
It even told me her name: Lucinda.
I hope one day to meet and embrace her
and trade my early memories with her
for surely there must be much, I think,
that we might learn from each other.
Has she too heard the Calling of the Moon, I wonder?
Is she older or younger than me?
alas my little feathered friend could provide
no such intimate details other than to tell me
you were pretty and generous with corn.
This at least is comforting as I am quite
fond of corn myself and often nibble other grains
as I sit in this or that quiet corner
practicing my chords and seeking to fathom
some elusive rhyme to a song I am composing.
But now I fear I am rambling...
I promised Old Mother Hengist I would
stop by at her cottage to cut some wood for her.
It is still but the middle of September
but already the night's are drawing in
and soon it will become much colder.
Mother Hengist likes to bake me biscuits and cakes
to reward me for the little tasks I
sometimes do for her but my greatest reward
is when I see her smile and cock her head
as I take up and strum and mandolin
and an appreciative gleam dances
in her old, near-blind eyes.
I passed a fox in the forest earlier
and he told me she was baking me a pumpkin
and cinnamon pie...
farewell, my erstwhile listener, I would
invite you to share a bite with me
but Mistress Hengist is uncommonly nervous of strangers.
I wish you good cheer and a merry heart.
If you are walking in the Ancient Woods
beware the tiny darts of the Very Small Folk -
they are innocuous enough unless you scratch
the little blisters they raise,
in which case you will suffer with pricklings for days
and needs must seek out some wizard or doctor
to give you a lotion or powder.

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