Poem 169 – I Collect People

I collect people.
Not in an album like
a stamp collector, or
macabre jars like some
demented serial killer,
but in my memories.

Childhood friends stand by
eccentric teachers that
inspire and shape my path.
Loved relatives are filed
with heroes of the stage
and teenage heartbreakers.

Congregation members,
that walked with us awhile,
together with neighbours
who passed our window daily,
their names undiscovered.
Did they know each other?

Time to time I take
them out and dust them down,
revisit, reminisce.
These familiar faces,
both intimate and distant,
make up my life’s matrix.
I am in reference to them,
embedded and defined.
There is no island life.

A conversation at church about personalities who have been part of our family over time prompted the phrase ‘we collect people’. This stuck in my head and eventually prompted this poem.

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by Raj Rana on Unsplash (Original in colour)

Poem 156 – Twelfth Night

Tonight come tear the tinsel down
Twelfth Night is nigh, now is the time
The curtain call, the climax of
Our festive feast, is finally here

The cards are crumpled, cast aside
The lights are loosed and limply tossed
With cardboard characters created through time
On toilet roll tubes with cotton wool tufts

Stripped bare to the bark, its boughs devoid
Our tree is trashed and turned outside
Its baubles boxed and banished upstairs
The house is harrowed, hoovered throughout

No food to feed the family remains
Instead our stomachs stretch our waists
And prick and prompt our pilgrimage
To push and pull and pound at the gym

This fullstop flung confounds our fun
Its hangover hangs and haunts our heads
As Winter’s waves unwelcomed wash
And dark descends and dampens dreams

The house seems strangely bare today…
This is a rewrite of yesterday’s annoyingly twee effort. Switching to alliterative verse gave it back its bite.

© Ben Quant 2023

Poem 155 – Four Candles

Sunday we’ll light four candles,
Our perennial joke,
Anticipated for weeks.
Someone will shout ‘nah, fork ‘andles’*
And we’ll laugh. Again.
It’s strangely fitting. Back then
No one saw it coming.
Now we hold our breath and
Open doors until Christ’s
Born; God’s Son, the perfect
Joke who laughs with us
Divine anticipation.

In the church calendar, this Sunday is Two Ronnies Day, or at least it is in my head (*If you don’t get the joke, you’d better watch this: https://youtu.be/CNTM9iM1eVw). The following Sunday is Christmas Day, the day when God caught everyone by surprise.

© Ben Quant 2022

Poem 150 – Merry Christmas

Some thirty years ago. The first text.
A simple ‘Merry Christmas’ changed the world.
One SMS and now we’re glued to both,
Our screens in digital isolation and,
Each other in a myriad of ways.
In Bethlehem, the birth of a different sort
Of revolution, was in a manger laid.
Two thousand years ago it needed angels,
And shepherds with their sheep to share the news.

Today is the 30th anniversary of the first text message, a simple Merry Christmas https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-63825894.

© Ben Quant 2022

Poem 149 – Fine Margins

Did it cross the line they ask?
Some say yes and others no.
The difference? Joy or sorrow.
The wings of feeble butterflies,
Can change the world one flap at a time,
And sliding doors the path of love.
Our lives are precariously balanced,
On the precipice of decision.
One step is all it takes to start,
An avalanche of consequences,
With cascading implications.
The right of this depends upon,
The angle of our vision, so,
Be kind my friends and act with grace.
The weight of this weighs down upon,
Their shoulders too, the ones that you,
Are quick to comment on. Be slow,
In case the camera turns on you.

I found myself drawn into last nights dramatic and controversial events in the World Cup. Was Japan’s goal a goal? Did the curvature of the ball cross the line or not? I don’t know! Got me thinking of the film Sliding Doors, Doctor Who’s ‘Turn Left’, Ray Bradbury’s ‘A Sound of Thunder’ and the Butterfly Effect.

© Ben Quant 2022

Poem 147 – November Walk

Four pm. November walk along
The Lea, the light is fading fast and all
Is dim. Like children’s plasticine the colours
Merge, the palate turns to shades of brown.
The sky blends with the gently lapping waters.
By naked trees who’ve shed, their colours bleed.
The air is mute, its voice is muffled, dull,
Only the Christmas lights dare interject.
From bankside windows, hope defiant flickers.

To end a period of Covid isolation, I took a walk along the River Lea this afternoon. I’ll never get bored of how the same stretch of water changes throughout the year. I didn’t think to take a photo, this one is from the same time last year, towards the river.

© Ben Quant 2022

Poem 145- (This is) Our Christmas Song

It’s the season of Advent (in the church calendar, this starts four Sundays before Christmas, not on the 1st Dec.), and so to celebrate I’ve finally organised a proper domain name for this site (www.odefortheday.art) and written a Christmas carol:

Verse 1:
What did it mean for you our holy king
To put on human flesh and leave
Casting aside eternal dreams
To be born the son of Mary

Verse 2:
Experience our hopes and fears
Share in our sorrow, our sufferings
Embrace the passing of the years
To be born the son of Mary

And so we sing, our Christmas song
Our praises ring, all season long
For the Son of God has come to us
Immanuel, now one of us
Yes this is, our Christmas song!

Verse 3:
You came obedient to the end
To a manger bare in Bethlehem
The gift of God by Father sent
To be born the son of Mary

Verse 4:
An invitation in your hand
Offering the chance to begin again
Sing out the news across the land
About the son of Mary

And so we sing, our Christmas song
Our praises ring, all season long
For the Son of God has come to us
Immanuel, now one of us
Yes this is, our Christmas song!

This is a first draft, no doubt it will evolve, but it was fun trying something a little different to a straight poem. It came about as a result of a challenge to write a Christmas song that sticks to the original story without too many cliches.

© Ben Quant 2022

Poem 142 – An Ode to Greenbelt ’22

Black ants process along the guide rope of
Our holy canopy, where angels throng
Joint pilgrimage, a quest for nourishment
Of souls and stomachs, set forth in hope and prayer

A lazy dragonfly flies by, whilst up
Above the sun beats down and walks amongst
Visiting us in chance relationships
Forged over camping gas and mugs of tea

A poet finds his voice once more, relieved
As with a T-Rex roar the crowd roars back
Priestly connections made between two worlds
In flesh upon the lawns, presence restored

Debating democracy and climate change
Reversing alarms sound out. Ironic
But can the church evolve, and should it?
Wake up! Jerusalem can be renewed

Advice is given, go and goof around with
Dead poets, the deader the better
Forgive and be compassionate to yourself
And don’t forget it’s not all about us

The mic is muted, accidental silence
The air is filled, its tense anticipa…
…tion breaks with cheers, the crew
Thrust unexpectant on the stage, our heroes

We sit and listen to those we disagree with
In hope that we might learn something we’d missed
By existing only in our echo chambers
And from this dissonance we reach for more

And then to end the boundaries blur, the stage
Dismantled means as one we lift our song
And bid farewell ’till next time when we gather
‘Cause, this field never fails or disappoints

Greenbelt Festival is an annual gathering centred around artistry, activism and belief, currently in the lawns of Boughton House, Kettering. For me it’s an regular retreat, a place I go to be refreshed, provoked and encouraged. It’s part of my punctuation and I’ve missed it the last two summers. In these verses I’ve tried to capture something of this year’s experience. Naturally, it will make most sense if you were there with me, as it references a variety of incidents and highpoints, and maybe the odd in joke. If you were there, you might spot some of them. Confession, some of the lines have been nicked…

© Ben Quant 2022

Poem 141 – In the Red Corner…

A bloody fight transpires
My rumble in the jungle
Or at least the study

We skip around the ring
Sizing each other up
My fingers on the keys

We huddle close and grapple
Before I’m thrown against
The ropes, punch drunk and reeling

I persevere like Jacob
Refusing to let go
Until I find a blessing

Grunting we slug it out
Two combat weary veterans
Down vocab cul-de-sacs

I seek the combination
Of phrases, killer blows
Incisive turns of words

Finally inspiration
An Archimedes moment
That charts the path ahead

At last! Wounded I rise
And cast the Muses down
Upon the page and stagger

Struggle, the constant companion in my study, work and play. Are we best friends or enemies? Both I think, often at the same time.

© Ben Quant 2022

Poem 134 – Held Tightly

It isn’t long until you tie the knot
Exchange your rings, say vows that bind you tightly
I hope you find them not constraining chains
But liberating promises, security
Like tape that holds a graft firmly together
Until the two infuse becoming one
Releasing you to look ahead not back
To check your knots have not become undone

In just a few week’s time I’m conducting a marriage. This is always a privilege, but even more so this time as it is my daughter’s! Not surprisingly, I’m mulling over the question of what to say and pass on.

© Ben Quant 2022
Photo by Jeremy Wong