Update, Feb 2017, and an excerpt from Les Murray

Everything except language
knows the meaning of existence.
Trees, plants, rivers, time
know nothing else. They express it
moment by moment as the universe.

From a short poem by Les Murray published in Poems the Size of Photographs, and also on the author’s own website: 2002 www.lesmurray.org/pm_tme.htm

Update – what’s going on at Ground?

First, thank you to those who have submitted poems and are still waiting for a reply. I will reply this week and may be able to publish some of them. There are also a couple of poems already accepted and scheduled to appear later in the year.

Ground is not currently accepting new submissions. I apologise that what was intended to be a short break has become an extended one. Over the next few weeks (after adapting the design so it can be viewed correctly on smartphones) I plan to add to the site a number of classic poems, and excerpts from contemporary and twentieth century poems which are still copyright, while I continue to mull over the future of the magazine. I’m also planning to make it easier to browse previous contributions and additions by author and theme. There’s such a richness on the site already, and I’m more than grateful to all who have contributed.
If you have any thoughts about Ground’s future, feel free to add comments below or on our Facebook page, or to email me.

Chris Fewings, Editor
19 Feb 2017

An apology to mobile users

The web designer’s lot is not a happy one. I can’t see directly what you see on your screen, which may be a different size and shape to the ones I have. Your device may impose a different font from the one I intended. I don’t know whether or not you will magnify the font. I can’t predict where you expect to find links.

Any feedback you have on reading poems (or using the forms) on Ground is gratefully received – particularly if you just can’t see the poem properly. To be helpful, you need to say what device you are using – ideally this will include the model, but the main thing is to know if it’s iPhone, iPad, Android phone, Android tablet, Mac PC, Windows PC, etc.

I have been lackadaisical this year in keeping up with changes in technology as they affect the site, but I was forced to do an update yesterday, and will follow through. This will take some time. For the time being, the site is best read on a tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

We are asked to draw God, a poem by Hilary Hares

We are asked to draw God

Andrew draws a stick man with a beard,
Rupert tries out a donkey with a cross.

Phoebe has done an angel with a halo
and a cloud. I stare at my empty page.

Do you need help? Miss Fossett asks.
I shake my head.

Andrew hands in his stick man with a beard,
Rupert his scribbled donkey with a cross.

Phoebe goes up with her angel and its cloud,
although already glitter’s coming off.

I sign the bottom of my empty page,
pass it across.

Heavens above, there’s no-one there,
Miss Fossett says.

© Hilary Hares

Hilary Hares lives in Farnham, England. Although she has her doubts, she also believes that faith can move mountains.

Mountain Top, a poem by Jennie Owen

Mountain Top

I came to meet you,
knuckles corrugated
over brown leather and smudge print.

I’d packed you away in a stained glass box,
wrapped in wafers
so your edges did not slice,

so the sour couldn’t go down my throat
with the blood.

I came back here to meet you again
but there is no glowing face,
just scuffed knees and worn velvet.

No answers and when I look down,
my hands are bones.

© Jennie Owen

Jennie Owen lives in Mawdesley, England.

Void, a poem by Martin Evans

Void

It’s thirteen billion years
since time became measureable.
For me it passed really quickly.
Mostly as a silent, black void
but then a light came on
and I was looking out at a busy place
through infant eyes.

I’ve been observing now
on and off
for fifty odd years.

I know it’ll end soon enough
and it’ll be back to the black again.

© Martin Evans

Martin Evans lives in Meifod, Wales. He believes Homo sapiens is a phenomenon of the laws of physics – that we are as bacteria in a petri-dish, mushrooms in a damp cellar. He’s a film-maker, humorist, poet and founder of the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society.

The Carpenter’s Vision, a poem by Helen Freeman

The Carpenter’s Vision

Sycamore carpenter, cedar builder,
I sense the line of wood, breathe its craft,
know its every whorl and knot.

You watch from your rocking chair,
trace your finger along chiselled patterns,
a laden vine and pomegranates, ripe

with seed, royal garnets of promise.
You cradle your swelling belly, tuned
to the thrum of mallet and adze,

the robust smell of polish and sawdust
warm in the sun and crushed by sandals.
I cherish the tongue-and-groove of you.

Together, yet so nearly sawn apart,
we design and shape, whittle and carve.
With the curve of my cheek pressed to timber

my eye follows its length through the open
window. I hear the rasp of ripsaw.
I see the crossed beams, the last nail

hammered in and our son ingrained,
hands stained deep red, building
a lamp-stand, mansions, a whole kingdom.

© Helen Freeman

Helen Freeman lives in Edinburgh and Riyadh. She believes she’s part of a kingdom that is not of this world.

Kyle of Tongue, a poem by Anne Boileau

Kyle of Tongue

In the beginning was the Word.
We waited stock still
to watch the sun
burst through the groove on the hill.
Our stones threw shadows
just as they should
and we turned and turned where we stood.

The call of our horns
the voices of drums
spoke back to us from the hills.
Men sang deep-throated,
women in tongues,
and children the song of the young.

We travelled all day
first our clan, then the tribe.
We followed our burn to the sea.
And the waves washed our feet,
we held hands as the sun
sank in its blood, went down.

Where tide sucks the sand
we heaped up driftwood.
Flames danced our faces,
fish crackled and spat – the moon
rose full and it pranced
on the twist and swell of the sea.

As we ate with our tribe
our mouths found shapes: we spoke
fire and flesh and bone; we spoke
blood and mother and milk.
And the song of our hearts
was the hum of the World
as she turned. And the Word was God.

© Anne Boileau

lives in Coggeshall, England. She grew up on a farm in Suffolk and learnt about hierarchy and communication from their pigs, horses and chickens. For her the sacred dwells in the natural world, and a sense of place.

‘Kyle of Tongue’ was originally published in Anne’s book Shoal Moon (Grey Hen Press, 2014).

Sunset at Kyle of Tongue, Scotland
Kyle of Tongue in northern Scotland
© Copyright Dorcas Sinclair and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. www.geograph.ie/photo/9892

Warm Stone, by Belinda Rimmer

Warm Stone

My father, a builder, loved angular lines,
the feel of a brick in his hand. Mud heavy boots
always stood on our doorstep; wheelbarrows,
hods, and spirit levels cluttered vans
so there was never anywhere to sit.
Things happened across the years:
wounds, emptiness.
But always he was my father.

And then he was dying. I searched
for him among the discarded tissues,
the bottles of pills, but he was all wrong,
his skin all wrong:
yellow, like scorched grass.

Afterwards, I tried to make sense of where he’d gone.
For months I sought out possibility in all the cracks
between night and morning.
It seemed he’d gone nowhere.
There’s always a place in Heaven
for God’s children, the vicar reassured.

But what if my father’s colours were different,
or if he wasn’t really all that good?

That autumn I took to walking in the hills.
One day, near the watering hole,
I came across this man, bathing naked
with the sheep and lambs.
I couldn’t tell if he saw me.
For a time I thought he might be Jesus,
just from the simple fall of his hair,
his kindness.

Later, I followed him, walked in the shelter
of his shadow until he disappeared. Then I pressed
my lips to where he’d stood – the warm stone.

Suddenly the sky seemed to fracture.
There it was, an image of my father’s face
illuminated on the side of the cliff. I lay down,
hooked my feet around a rock, traced the contours
of his nose, the scar on his chin, every last inch
of his fading features.

There’s no way to know if I imagined all of this,
like you can imagine strange smells with no origin,
or taste raspberries in a cup of plain tea.

© Belinda Rimmer

Belinda Rimmer lives in Cheltenham, England. She isn’t a regular churchgoer but prefers to worship privately. She’s had a varied career, including psychiatric nurse, counsellor and creative arts practitioner.

from Mozart at Greenbelt by Malcolm Guite

The opening lines of a sonnet by Malcolm Guite for All Souls Day.

from Mozart at Greenbelt

We lie upon the grass on God’s good earth
and listen to the Requiem’s intense,
long, love-laden keening, calling forth
echoes of Eden, blessing every sense
with brimming blisses, every death with birth,
until all passion passes into praise.

[…]

© Malcolm Guite

You can read the whole sonnet on his blog, and listen to Malcolm reading it. It is also in his 2012 book Sounding the Seasons: Seventy sonnets for the Christian year.