Birthday Flowers

Frangipani by Aidan Smith

Frangipani by Aidan Smith

I have, my Love, no flowers for you today,
Small summer flowers from cool green country lanes,
No lilies of the valley which you love,
Sweet peas and honeysuckle, wild dog rose
And ragged robin tied with buttercups.
These things we love and for a time have left
And know instead the burning tropic sun,
The rains upon the palms and warm salt wind.

Take then these poems, their garden is your love,
Your sweetness gives them life, for you they grow.

Seychelles 4th May 1969

Branchage

Potato fields
Are empty;
Haulms turn brown
In the sun.
All along
Country lanes
Sickles cut
Deep into
June grasses.
Red campions
And nettles
Fall with vetch
And yarrow.
The shorn lanes
Are wider
And sadder.
Tomorrow
Men with rods
Will pass here
To measure
The clearance,
Fining each
Landowner
For any
Obstruction.

1971

Under the cherry tree

Come under the cherry tree with me
To rest within its moving pools of shade
And listen to the passing summer wind
High in the leaves.

Nearby, within her cot,
The baby sleeps, dreaming of lives unlived
And faces not yet seen. Hers is the time
Of total innocence, of rosebud promise
And of quiet content. Yours is the time,
When after fears and pain, come flooding joy
And peace and renewed motherhood.

14th August 1976

Tiananmen Square

The Student’s Poem

Last night as I slept in Tiananmen Square
I dreamt a new age had begun.
White peonies bloomed in forests of jade
And a bridge joined the earth and sun.
Our bicycles flew on butterfly wings
And they carried us far and high,
On currents of hope we floated along
Like kites through a cloudless sky.

But daylight breaks early in Tiananmen Square
And our time for such dreaming is done.
The tanks start to roll with the first morning light
To the crack of truncheon and gun.
A blind man cries out: “I can hear rifle shots
And I smell the smoke on the air.
Oh, tell me, please tell me, what do you see
In the vastness of Tiananmen Square?”

How blessed the sightless! “The smoke pall hangs thick
On the bodies of wounded and slain.
The petals are bruised and the peony heads
Are bowed down to earth by the rain.
The butterfly wings are crushed in the mud
And our blood flows away to the sea.”
Oh, the tears are flooding his sightless eyes
And my own bitter tears blind me.

Deng’s Poem

When I was their age
I was crossing mountain passes
Deep in snow,
My feet wrapped in straw,
Doubled up at night
With cold and hunger,
Soaking
my swollen chilblains in urine
To relieve the pain.
When the thaw began,
We were all captured
And the Nationalists
Clubbed us black and blue.

Now from where I sit
On my lacquered chair
Upholstered in saffron silk,
I hear the gunfire
In Tiananmen Square.
In fact, you should know
My hesitation
Was short-lived,
For the choice between
Men and orthodoxy
Is not difficult to make.
We, too, paid a price
For all we conquered.
We turned the country
Upside down but now,
At my age, I don’t
Really want to live
Such turmoil again.

In the dark, still pool
Below my window,
A giant carp swims
In constant circles.
He was there before
We began our march,
He will still be swimming
When I am gone.
Give me your arm
And walk me to the pool,
And bring some pieces
Of rice bread with you.

The Mother’s Poem

I begged him not to go
But how could I
Expect him to obey
When all around
The youthful current flowed
So swift and strong.
Last night on my old sheets
He wrote in black
His hopeful testament
And by sunrise
This morning, he was gone.

This is his only
Picture I possess,
Taken by the Gate
Of Heavenly Peace
In last winter’s
Early snowfall,
Not far from where
He fell and died today.
They cradled his head,
Red as a poppy,
Then bore him away
On a builder’s cart.

He was my only child
Which pleased the Party.
Now they have taken
My one child away.
Alone, I hear
His footfall at the door
But it is only
The night wind
Trying to enter.

Reciting the poem in Tiananmen Square in 2005. Celia Cummins, Judy Smith and Victoria Smith

Reciting the poem in Tiananmen Square in 2005. Celia Cummins, Judy Smith and Victoria Smith