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Monday 30 July 2012

The Starling Proposition

dull toll
like funeral bell
calls the faithful to their prayers.

Sounds ring - shine
like blinding light
into the ears of corn
waveward oil seed rape
and poppy-pupilled meadow grass.

Bell waves
stir the dust
in churchyard graves
permit the ghosts
to walk again.
They make their way to church.

Above them
are the mimed
the almost silent
footsteps of the faithful.

Only the ghosts
are called by name
hear their names
in the long list of names
the slow toll of the bell reads out.

Are not the meadowlands,
the woods with their green corridors
and canopies
the warrens that the rabbits make -
all this and more
is this not something of a broader church? I'm asked.

Above the dark hills
a galaxy of starlings
whirls in a crazy gravity
forms patterns - a geometry
like fish nets cast
or dancers' veils in fishtail winds.
Upon reflection, I decide: it's answer of a sort.

Yet still the bell tolls on,
its more considered voice
the basis of an argument for some design intent.

But disembowelled,
supine upon the stone grave
I just happen to be visiting,
a tiny saviour,
spiny corpse of hedgehog stretched
out X-wise on the slab,
victim of...
argues vehemently
countering the Starling Proposition.
Nature teems with crude solutions to the problems posed by life.

The epitaph
tells that his postate killed him.
(No first year engineer
would ever have come up with such a crude device -
arguments based on design
can work both ways...)

Within the yellow-lighted church
among the flickering candles,
perhaps where incense burns
debate is stilled
and faith less focussed than before.


Brian Miller said...

very evocative piece man....the bells...the calling of the faithful...the epitaphs...it is a familiar feel and atmosphere and puts me right in it....

love that line on nature teems with crude solutions as well...it jumped out at me...

A Cuban In London said...

I know that the poem is about a church and yet the first line reminded me of Kuala Lumpur. The first time I went in 2008 we were coming into the centre of the city and suddenly there was a call to prayer from a nearby mosque. It was such a beautiful sound, made even more beautiful by the suddenness of it.

I loved the last stanza:

"Within the yellow-lighted church
among the flickering candles,
perhaps where incense burns
debate is stilled
and faith less focussed than before. "

Faith less focused than before. Indeed. :-)

Greetings from London.

Daydreamertoo said...

I loved the intimate descriptions of all the things growing, the corn, the wild poppy, and rape seed.
The imagery of the ghosts answering the call of the bell is stunning.
Poor little hedgehog laid out on its back, disemboweled by the Starling was so vivid, I could see it in my minds eye.
Such a fabulous word painting Dave.
Loved all of it.

Anonymous said...

This is one of my favorites of yours, Dave. Just beautiful - the tolling of the bells calling the dead by name was probably enough for me, but then you go on with the church of Nature, and the hedgehog--it really is just a terrific poem, thoughtful, beautiful. k.

Dave King said...

very pleased that you picked up on the nature teeming with crude solutions idea. I was anxious to know how that would be received. Many thanks for your other encouraging comments.

A Cuban in London
The poem is about a church, but could as easily have been about a mosque - except that I began with the bell and the bell determined s lot of what followed. We have had several visits to North Africa and I understand completely the point you are making about the call to prayer.

So good to hear that you like the final stanza. Thanks for your comments.

The intimate descriptions , as you so kindly call them, are for me the heart of the poem. The hedgehog, too, is central to the argument of course.
Thank you so much for your valuable observations.

Thank you for another heartening critique. Your thoughts are ever helpful and very much appreciated. It's always good to know that others appreciate the lines that have pleased me - as here with the bell calling the dead by name.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Solemn and penetrating, sharp, reneforced also by great alliterations.

And at the end the ineluctable fact that "faith is less focused than before" supremely and paradoxically reinforces faith.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Powerful poem with a penetrating force, the unfocusing faith at the end, just for its strong admission, reinforces it.

Dear David, you have a "comment moderation" due to which I am not sure my comments reach you!

Eileen T O'Neill ..... said...


I was immediately there walking through the grassy paths leading to the church. Very evocative of many country churches with the interesting headstones which all tell a story. Untended but there in the present and in the presence of the living still.
An excellent piece which I enjoyed reading Dave.


David Cranmer said...

I agree with Brian: evocative.

Dave King said...

Thanks for your contribtions - both received.
It was good to recieive your kind and valuable comments on the poem.

As to the moderation, rest assured your comments are reaching me, but life is such at the moment that I cannot always clear them for posting as quickly as I would like. Infact, the moderation itself was entered into with great reluctance only after word recognition failed to deter the sadly sick person who was bombarding the the blog with streams of abusive rubbish. So myapologies for having to introduce it.

Thanks again.

Thank you for your most valued critique. It is so good to hear that a reader has derived from a piece exactly what was intended - not that I have a problem with readers seeing there aspects or possibilities that I had not thought about. That, too, can be good! Much thanks.


Anonymous said...

The constrained pace of the first eight verses really helped introduce the ninth on.

Great word and sound choices! Assonance and alliteration were on point.

Laurie Kolp said...

Eerie, gave me chills... well written, Dave.

Ygraine said...

There is something mesmerising about a church bell, isn't there?
Here, you have introduced so many layers to that singular sound; each one of them linked, yet totally individual.
That poor hedgehog!
It's no wonder the sight of it's tragic little corpse unfocussed their faith at the end!!

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Oh Dave this is one of your writes that make me swear with the brilliance of it.

Beautifully crafted and intensely wise.

Anna :o]