Scenes of Beauty Recollected
Context: The Dane John Gardens, Canterbury.
Summer and Autumn, 2021.
Autumnal confetti of amber leaves
Flutter down from slowly disrobing trees,
While flower beds, now monochrome brown
Lie denuded of blooms, once carnival
Brilliant, dazzling displays delighting
Passers-by, brief-smiling at the profusion
Of vibrant-bold colours in a public park;
And so, dear friend, I send you a photo
Of recent summer scenes recollected,
To share in moments of welcome respite,
For as a bard, insistent, reminds us:
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?1.
CODA – a dialogue of anxious, questioning voices:
Your rhyming lines are all very well,
One friend responded in gloomy mood;
But in this era of Nature ravaged, disrespected,
Spring’s renewal, Earth’s replenishment
Can no longer be taken for granted.
I paused, considering how to respond
To the weary resignation in his voice:
Your point is valid-disconcerting;
But let the bard’s homage to Nature’s
Cyclical passage prompt us to defend,
Honour, mend Earth’s ravaged resources,
Inspired by the beauty that flowers
When Humanity and Nature
Work in harmony together.
Can we not agree, my Brother,
On the urgent need for this endeavour
To rank local-global supreme
On crowded-contentious agendas?
Well, he mused, your point is well taken,
But only if the required momentum
Accelerates unimpeded, sustained
Long-term, at international level.
To those warning words, when action needed
Is deferred, avoided, though vital-essential,
Came my response, still stubborn-optimistic:
It appears we share a common perspective,
So, to honour those scenes of beauty,
Public-accessible in an urban park,
Let us roll up our sleeves and join our efforts
To turn this tide of encroaching destruction,
And bring hope, to the hearts and minds of children
Despairing, alienated, angry-frustrated,
Hope nurtured by wisdom, understanding,
Across countries, continents, generations,
Inspired by the beauty that flowers
When Nature and Humanity
Thrive, in harmony, together,
Fruitful co-operation displacing
Broken systems of greed-barbaric
And false nationalisms, welded
Only when Nature and Humanity
Can work, in harmony together
Will this nightmare cease, extinction interred
In a consummation creating
The conditions for a new beginning,
Where loving empathy takes precedence,
As the guiding principle, serving us
Steadfast along the odyssey of life.
Let us become instruments of holistic
Healing, while Time Finite affords us the chance;
And empty flower beds, monochrome brown
Wait in patience, for a New Spring to dawn.
1 “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”. is the iconic, oft quoted last line of the poem “Ode To The West Wind”, by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)
2 “…Nature ravaged, disrespected” – when writing those words, I became aware of the influence, indeed the poetic presence of the Ogoni human rights activist and environmentalist, Ken Saro-Wiwa (1941-1995), who, as President of The Movement For The Survival Of The Ogoni People (MOSOP), campaigned tirelessly for restorative justice and reparations to be made to his People, their lives, livelihoods, land and streams devasted by the brutal and brutalising impact of Royal Dutch Shell’s activities, with covert and overt support from the self-aggrandizing political mis-leaders of a neo-colonial Nigerian state, a process which for Ken resulted in two terms of imprisonment, a kangaroo court and his execution, along with the executions of eight other key Ogoni activists. Former British Prime Minister John Major referred to these court proceedings and outcome as “judicial murder.”
Ken Saro-Wiwa was not only a “Green Original” and indomitable activist, but inter alia, a successful businessman, a university lecturer, a playwright (for both stage and television), a Rivers State Commissioner, a publisher, a novelist, an author of a Memoir, in the form of a Detention Diary, a writer of children’s books and a poet.
The following lines from his poem “Keep out of prison,” once read, have remained etched in my memory. They have regional, national and international resonance:
… “But while the land is ravaged
And our pure air poisoned
When streams choke with pollution
Silence would be treason” …
See – Silence Would be treason. Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa. Second Edition. Daraja Press, 2018. p.168.
3 “Will this nightmare cease…” – Some years ago, a Spanish student, talking about his youthful peregrinations in the U.S.A., looked at me knowingly-mischievous, then referred to curious, controversial graffiti he remembered seeing on the New York underground. The words below have stayed with me. He knew they would: “The American Dream is the World’s Nightmare.”
What the endangered planet we inhabit so desperately needs is systemic change, an end to false nationalisms, imperialist meddling, the profiteering hegemony of global monopolies, ruthlessly exploitative of Nature, the Environment and Humanity, a tiny minority of obscenely affluent billionaires and tricksters, imposing systems of obscene inequality, on alienated majorities.
It doesn’t have to be like this. The Nightmare is real, but unsustainable, can and must end, our present, our planet healed and reclaimed, our future liberated and liberating, as together we create a viable renaissance for children of a wiser, happier generation.
© Hilary Rouse-Amadi