CISE Heritage Collection

Poetry by Alun Robert

Channel Islands: “Warming up in Guernsey” 
Ireland: “Off to the Cemetery at Rathcooney”
Scotland: “Beware the Wolf” 
England: “King Oak Reigns in the Wilds of Norfolk”


Warming up in Guernsey (CHANNEL ISLANDS)

Abandoned greenhouses
across the Bailiwick of Guernsey
bear a painful reminder
of a horticultural heritage
once vibrant; now collapsed

through EU protectionism
cheap produce from afar
improvements in plant ecology
enhanced hothouse technology
and rampant global warming

for it’s the curse of today
according to popular media
and politicians seeking votes
from redundant market gardeners.

Off to the Cemetery at Rathcooney (IRELAND)

I reprise Father’s footsteps
Dublin to Cork
navigating gentle hills
avoiding rocky roads
sheltering from squalls
squelching over bogs
meandering through corpses
negotiating streams and rivers to cross
the Emerald Isle
east to the south
circa one hundred fifty miles
tracks, country lanes and paths
taking me back a generation
dallying en route
picking up on the craic
diluting my Dublin lilt
ingesting sweet ozone
wafting from fields
keeping my distance from cattle
especially brave bulls before
arriving Cork at crepuscular
feet blistered and pungent
heart pumping with expectation
my heritage to discover
following tales and explanations
rumours, rationalisations
excuses without eye to eye contact
lies and half-truths
about Father’s departure to Cork
the reason for his diaspora
the memories he took
the memories he left behind
to invoke a new identity
new name, new back-story
knew nothing of the new man
enshrouded in mystery though
I pray the Rathcooney cemetery
can proffer some answers.

Beware the Wolf (SCOTLAND)

By banks of Lunan meandering
through the feus of Gardyne,
she hand-spins flax. Her Mother did too.

Like her maternal Grandmother
generation after generation,
the artisan of spinning perches
on a rickety wooden cuttie, alone
with a slither of natural light
at the bottom of stone stairs
intent on her labours
Monday through Saturday
(the Sabbath for rest) in
prospect of prosperity
for her and the family.

Yet rumours fly rampant
like a contagion of Spanish flu
in the village and environs
from gossip at wynd corners
to inside drapers and ironmongers
that a beast crouching on the horizon
like a wolf in the woods
is a mechanical spinner of linen
to eradicate her vocation
to deliver new poverty
for her and her family.

Though for now she hand-spins flax
earning modest wage. In two hours
she will cook supper. Her Mother did too.


King Oak Reigns in the Wilds of Norfolk (ENGLAND)

Time’s taken its toll     I know, I feel 
          limbs bending at will
               creaking, breaking

in the wild haven of Norfolk
the spinney at beach walk
next a Broads stream stagnan
       pungent, cyan
source of sustenance for
     my aching rutted trunk
my armour d’amour
nine centuries perhaps less

preserving my regal crown
by multi-pollarding
though my mass of leaves
     flutter each fall
feet deep into mulch
     bed for clews of worms
as my feet spread to roots
aerating, twisting

like a generation of entwined vipers
escaping from the damnation of hell

for I am much gnarled
caressed by eagle’s-claw lichen
infested by coral-tooth fungi
     in my heraldic crevices
as kaleidoscopes of painted ladies
     hover in the breeze
blown across from Salhus
over feral fields to my throne

home to ducks and noctule bats
insects in their multitude
my acorns satisfying scavengers
     doves, squirrels, a fold of jays
while I thunder at trespassers
     as they meander on by
replicating their utterances
if not their behaviour when

               creaking, breaking
         limbs bending at will
I know, I feel     time’s taken its toll.


first published in The Blue Nib International Literary Magazine in June 2020