Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Cnut Raises His Hand

Henry of Huntingdon, the 12th-century chronicler, tells how Cnut set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes; but the tide failed to stop. Cnut leapt backwards and said "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws." He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again.

There at the blowing edge of land
pushed forward in hope, they brought me
enthroned in gold on trickling sand.
The broad sky decreasing; the infinite sea.
Wind whinnying over the Marram dunes
its cold, striating, whiplash tunes.

I raise my hand to the thoughtless sea
where grey waves curl, collapse, build;
come back voracious, oblivious to me.
My throng at last stand quiet and still.
I lift my head, my eyes, I drop my hand:
No sea has stopped at my command.

A wooden cross will wear my golden crown,
while I before a truer King kneel down.


The old woman picked "Pomegrenades"
carefully holding the handle, securing the pin,
she placed them in her basket.
Gingerly avoiding the land mines,
she moved down to the salad garden. The rocket
launchers were growing tall: higher than last year's bazookas.
She heard a blackbird sing from somewhere within
the camouflage netting cast over the fruit cage.
The vine was heavy with bullets: ("Grapes Of Rage");
she must return with her trug and a magazine.
The nail bombs looked like artichokes -"Jerusalem"
it said on the tag: she placed one into a bag.
Looking at the sky she felt the dusk
cosseting in. She should pop to the shop
before it got dark. Light the fire, think about tea.
Leave the garden locked up securely.

c. Marc Woodward

Editors Pick at '' 12/2009
Published in 'Making Contact' poetry anthology, Ravenshead Press, 12/2012


The roof is leaking.
Fred will mend it
with a storm-flung slate
relinquished by the barn.
Inside the kettle creaks
on the stove near simple
Aunt Leticia keeping warm.

Margarine, linoleum and oil
seep from the wallpaper like fog.
Two tomcats sizzle by the boiler,
troubled dreams disturb the unloved dog.

The rain sings on the iron roof
above the animal shed.
It runs between the crinkles,
down the gutter to the trough.
The matted cattle within,
restless in their excrement,
stamp and steam and snort and cough.

Quiet in the hay barn,
warm enough out of the wind,
John hangs lifeless from the rafters,
waiting, turning, for Fred to find.

first published in 'Otter, New Devon Poetry.'
c. Marc Woodward