Richard Longstaff: ‘A Curlew Calls’

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Richard Longstaff submitted the following selection of his poetry. Taking inspiration from nature, ‘A Curlew Calls’, and accompanying poems, are part of a 40 poem collection on the author’s relationship to the natural world.

photo of a small tortoise shell butterfly with bright red, orange and black spots amongst blades of grass

Photo of a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly taken at Pleasley Vale by Richard Longstaff

Richard says: “I have Asperger’s syndrome and dyslexia so have kept my work to myself but my hope is to find a publisher that is disabled friendly.

Nature offers me a escape from the pressures of this ‘normal world’ in which we live. I find comfort in the beauty of simple things all around. I also use my disability to find things that inspire me. I find the autistic mind sees things that others miss.”

 

A Curlew Calls

The landscape rolls before my eyes,
a patchwork quilt made by Gods hand,
dry stone walls reminiscent of stitching
crimp along the edges of lush green fields;
wafting on the evening air of summer
comes the lingering call of the curlew.
Overhead the lolloping flight
of a lone raven catches my eye.

The road shines from a brief downpour
and a chill casts it’s spell on my soul.
The purple gown of dusk slips across the earth
and slowly the day closes.

A short-eared owl lets out a hoarse cry
and sets off to pursue the night,
soft clouds are framed by a milky moon
as they drift by, the heath land calms
and stills, preparing for rebirth.

A vixen clambers the wind-battered
creaking post and rail, a distant dog
barks to prove his vigilance
to the half sleeping farmer.
Lights from the urban sprawl
impede on the rural like a larval flow.

Headlights twist and turn, grappling
the corners and hairpins;
a courting couple seeks the solitude
of intimacy in the remoteness,
a fine drizzle caught in the glow of habitation
turns to beads of amber.

Dawn breaks with yellow so bright,
intense and yolk-like,
heather bobs and dances
on the clean freshness of a new day.

In the dew soaked grass of the fertile meadow
the curlew calls.

 

Seamus’s Kite

The landscape of the autistic mind, blue hills,
yellow rivers and birds with six heads,
trees with leafs of tolerance
and the cold wet bark of injustice,
paths, mazes that lead to the left front lobe
of empathy, lacking and weak.

The steam engine of memory with long-term brilliance
and rubbish tips of emotions,
flowers that speak of immaturity and the poor ability
to read facial expressions,
new towns of social obstacles that are granted
planning permission on green field sites.

Motorways, junction three for adolescents
with a diversion causing delays for adulthood,
service station car parks full with no likelihood
of space in the near future,
pay and display, penny for your thoughts
and a tenner for your acceptance.

Railway sidings of nerve ends in the land
of well-read Betjeman, tower blocks
of creativity on the mundane estates of Larkin,
landing on runway nine, Seamus Heaney
on the silk of a purple kite.

Dark valleys of anxiety, cliffs of night terrors
grow with the loss of employment,
the odd, outsider slapping his fists on the steamy
windows of Café Normality,
closed sign flipped over and the key
of diagnosis turned in the door.

The bridge of self acceptance lies beneath
all of this, time is on my side
for once, so I dictate the soft and gentle
pace of living, the rush hour of social interaction
thins as the lights change.

 

Before Last Light

The mellow light of September
falls the length of the river bank,
completion of the harvest
is greeted with God-given thanks,
a willow bows to the water
like an elongated finger of a giants hand,
gulls head for landfill feasts
and a lone wader
scours the sands.
Autumn.

Plain song drifts on the cold air
through the valley from a distant church,
a wren seeks shelter from the elements
in the ivy-clad stump of a fallen birch,
hedgerows brown with hints of crimson
formed by a creeping decay,
pale sun lost in the clouds
of this endless grey day.
Autumn.

Leaves float and scatter like jewels
thrown from mounts of a golden crown,
fields lay barren like the womb
of an old maid, a crow cries above,
the harbinger of winter, circles
before the onset of night,
purple, pink and sulphur yellow
herald a shepherds delight.
Autumn.

Ponds and pools capped with wafer-thin
ice incapable of bearing weight,
repressed thoughts of stolen summers
carved into the farmers gate,
ghosts of coal and steel
are now fragments in minds that are old,
frost encrusted flint paths
carry red faces and feet, so cold.
Autumn.

Fir trees dance on hillsides
and the Yew lets out a painful moan,
the crunch and snap of twigs underfoot
are lost to me as I think of home.
In the Vale below a kingfisher
breaks his perch into rapid flight.
Geese let out nasal calls in V-formation
as they head to roost before last light.
Autumn.

Now enveloped by the cruel, deep,
despairing dark, the landscape has gone.
Individual pieces of nature are merged
seamlessly into the blackness of the
faint light from human dwellings
licking the edges of my ragged reasons.
There is a rawness to my being,
magnified by the coldness of the season.
Autumn.

 

Work End

Dim lights from small misted windows
guide the army of aching feet,
homeward journey past the dancing
colours of stationary traffic.

Calls of “Evening post” echo off the
marble art deco town hall,
a boy racer taps the leather-clad
steering wheel, to a thunderous beat.

A bag lady looks to the bus station
for a nights rest,
a taxi driver idles over the days news
and checks the results.

A youth, anxious, awaits his date
continually combing his hair.
She arrives with butterflies
fluttering in her brand new dress.

A shutter comes down with a deafening
metallic crash, locks checked,
keys slipped deep into warm woollen pockets.
Gloves secure hands from the gathering
force of the evening chill.

The man quickens his pace, whilst lifting
his collar, towards the bank with the days cash.

I slumber to rest as the days deeds are done.
The fire becomes the focus point
of my attention and friend of my solitude.

The tiring crowd depart from wet streets
that shine like coal,
the working mile so hard and long
has finally been run.

 

Bland Ward

Bones on a bed in a bland ward
of rigidity, clink of cups
and a warm smile allay fears
of the surgeon knife, grasping
at a grandchild so that God
will let you live.
Bones on a bed.

Bones on a bed in a sterile side room
with large windows,
the passing sky and the cacophony
of squeaking shoes,
files, blue and green moved on trolleys
by boys half your age.
Bones on a bed.

Bones on a bed waiting for the outcome
to be announced,
removal of the tumour and a neat pocket
of bowel left behind,
pulling through and going from strength
to strength, thanks to ice cream.
Bones on a bed.

Bones on a bed clinging to the pallid skin
of a retreating soul,
spiral into weakness and chatter drifts
like flotsam on a gale torn sea,
thin arms move without control or reason
and you fall asleep.
Bones on a bed.

Bones on a bed that in the early hours
die alone, phone in hand,
ready to call a lover
that played you for a fool with ease.
They wait until all eyes close
and then remove you to pathology.
Bones on a bed.

 

Day Out

The times that have passed, long gone
and never to return,
brief images of what once was that
no longer exists.
Night fall before day with every chance
to raise its head,
gone in the blink of an eye like
the retreating shadows of dusk.

The complexities of your life
became so simple in the end,
stripped back to basics like an old
pine cabinet that bred contempt,
laid out for carefully chosen love to
see alone, excluded
from the circle thanks to the petty
arguments of yester year.

How they admire you now and salute
your brave spirit and suffering,
never knowing you nor wanting to, but
willing to shed the crocodile,
accepting they should have done more
and exchanging run of the mill pleasantries,
promises to keep in touch and grow
these shallow bonds into tight bindings.

Fruit cake and a brief look at the well preyed
face of the sister,
Irish accents, mild and huge appetites that gorge
on the wake,
Remarkable memories of all you did for them
and no one asks of their own contributions,
out doing each other with the why’s and wherefores
of who loved you the most.

Flowers die, become brittle and float out over
Oxfordshire,
A day out, get together with the added bonus of
a country pub,
cost viewed in fuel consumption and the plastic
sandwich on the motorway,
behind us now, soon placed into a box in our
deepest subconscience,
Just the grey forlorn skies, so distant,
tell us you were here.

 

My Mate Lee

Lee likes to drink and wears his
heart upon his sleeve,
attempts to reconcile his relationship
must be deemed naive.
Lee likes to drink and to him
there’s nothing wrong in that.

In Winter you find him in the park
wearing the most outrageous hat.

Lee likes to drink you can tell
from speech and wobble when he walks,
the type you can never escape
if you’re stupid enough to engage in talk.

Lee likes to drink but he gets up
to take his children to school,
to some the loveable rogue,
to others a pest and a drunken fool.

Lee likes to drink alone on a Thursday
or Friday night,
most of the time he’s very affable
but occasionally it leads to a fight.

Lee likes to drink and now he lives
with his dear mother,
the cider and the spirits drove a wedge
between he and his lover.

Lee likes to drink a litre or more
before he heads off to bed,
“One day the drink will kill me”, he says
“and I’ll wake up dead”.