He walked all around the White Tower
His conquered ground in the midnight hour.
The eel tide of the River Thames
Laps the grill of Traitors Gate.
The lion’s roar for bones and meat
Dead companions spring to their feet.
Crying, A’ Becket, in the lurid light
In chains, they encircle the walls all night
Griffiths crushed head shrieks at the wall
He had no escape, only a fall.
Dragged by a mob of Jacks and Jill’s
They hung Treasurer Hales on Tower Hill.
IT IS LIFE – THE LIFE OF THE CROWN
It is life – the life of the crown.
It is rebirth – the rebirth of a nation.
It is death – death because of religion,
death because of love,
death because of treason,
death because of vanity.
It is sacrifice, to change the course of history.
It is power – the power to change events.
It is might – the might of a people.
It is choosing – the choosing of the fate of a nation.
It is fear – the fear in the night of the unfortunate.
Friday, August 14th 97
The river, the fear and the death,
The chains, the insecurity in the breath,
The bitter twist in the fortunes, in love,
The birth of a queen with venom in the blood.
Sat Aug 15
Sent off down-river on Palm Sunday
Arriving at Traitors Gate, she stopped to say
That she was no traitor as water oozed
Over the steps and over her shoes.
It was not for her to choose the Lord Treasurer spoke
And because it was raining offered her his cloak
She rejected it, putting her foot into the lair
“Here landeth the truest subject that ever landed at these stairs”
“Oh, Lord, I never thought to come here a prisoner.
I pray you all – good friends bear me witness that I
Come in here no traitor but as true a woman
To the Queen’s majesty as any now living”.
Secretly by barge, through a darkened gate
Into a Tower and a room of iron chains,
The mortar of flagstones is the sweat and blood,
Bitter tears are the refreshment of prisoners.
Peradventure you row through traitor’s gate,
The cold muddy tide beneath you,
Lost in the shadows that cover’s the ripples,
Behind you the moonlight on iron spikes.
Will you see the red sunset from Tower Hill?
Will your flesh fade beneath the cold grey stone?
Will your bones crack under the yeomen’s feet?
Will Kings and Queens walk over your grave?
Did you die for standing in the way of what was meant to be?
Were you brave, or foolish? Was it for right or was it for wrong?
What’s right or wrong for Kings and Queens?
That walk down halls of blood and jewels?
What is normal for monarchies?
Whose thrones must stand the test of time?
Do you die terribly wronged as raven’s caw?
Falling from the power that consumed you?
Was your loyal cause your undoing?
Did you anger a queen by rejecting her?
Now you see the pit, your thoughts are reeling,
The pit of stone and death in the vortices,
And in that darkness the final pit,
The pit of royal non-existence.
16 Aug Sun
TOWER PROTECTS TOWER
Tower protects tower; wall protects wall.
White becomes black; stone becomes oblivion;
Refuge becomes night-mare; nightmare becomes grave;
Flags ride the endless winds in the timeless sky.
Walls say nothing, cannot speak and cannot see.
They are the same today as yesterday.
Atmosphere unchanged in the mood of stones,
That steel and blood and fists beat down on.
Where the shadows of a nation close in,
They flutter with the banners of pageants.
The helpless, the outcomes, to loose, to win
When history releases its victims to the sea.
Laughter is a leaf floating in a bleak abyss,
Intoxicated by the colours of short-lived life.
Power enclosing upon a lesser power.
Celebration fades like candlelight in a bedroom.
King steals from King, courts lie to the Thrown.
How deep are their secrets under tower roads?
How old are bones and tears dried in sockets?
Is justice a rusty key behind a walled-in room?
When history turns in its dreaming sleep,
When history cries out, pursued in its maze,
When history has nightmares echo off walls,
When history is calm, a nation becomes one.
So many choices and so much darkness.
How is it is that some King’s rule while others fall?
Whose dark force will whisper in what ear?
What remedy will put right the rotten event?
When brother kills brother and husband kills wife.
What harness of darkness shuts off the light?
Whose life is better for the ruling of a people?
Whose child is chosen and whose is not?
Behind the wall, the voice of conscience;
Inside, the silence between grinding teeth,
Where the love of people cannot reach them,
And the life of a nation changes without them.
Did it change because it was meant to?
Did it alter what was meant to be?
Was it fought for bitterly to keep to a plan?
Would things be better or worse without it?
Tues 19th April
THE ROARING OF BEASTS
The heartbeat of a tower, the roaring of stones
The butchery of meat for the beast –
A lion’s heart in a Kings breast?
Causes the darkness to take fright,
And the moon to flee the skies?
through ripping teeth power surges
Power enlivens the slashing claws,
The hammering thighs jab at the prey.
From a secret passage power explodes,
From the spark of a dream for the violent death,
The roaring tower shakes its missiles.
Who can harness the incoming tide?
Its dark power unites with dark power;
The sultry summer sky thunders down the valley,
And fate is given it like a hand steers a wheel.
Like a blunt axe that brings terror,
The course of humanity is allowed or checked,
The motives of Kings are fought over for control,
The fat is pared away from the meat.
Deep down in the well of the darkness of the Tower
he beasts are roaring for the food of Kings,
They stride the pavement with mad impatience,
Their thoughts are red from swallowing saliva.
Who decided to lock them inside?
These wild beasts ruled by their stomachs.
Those asleep in the middle of the night,
Dreaming of fugitives, followed by shadows,
Awake with a choked back cry of terror
To hear the roaring from behind the wall.
LADY JANE AND GUILDFORD DUDLEY
She saw him led to his execution
She saw his body brought back to the chapel
Lady Jane passed the dead carcass of her husband
Going into the chapel, but allowed no fears or tears.
Blindfolded she could not find the block
The help of the hangman forbidden, guided by an onlooker.
THE CHAPEL STOOD NEXT TO THE BLOCK
The chapel built next to the block,
The clergyman stood in the chapel,
They lined up the headless bodies,
-The bodies of Dukes and Earls.
The block awaited its next victim,
The sister of a Queen, the daughter of a King
The clergyman waited, what was he thinking
As the ceremony of slaughter screamed in his ears?
The innocent Lady lifted her head,
No sign of defeat, everything neat.
Her maids were reduced to a rubble of tears,
And chaos ensued during her last moments.
As candles flickered in the cold chapel,
In the heart of the Tower, smelling of pain,
As the corpses increased in the black of insanity,
And the wind of traitors continued to blow.
Side by side, the chapel and the block.
Side by side, royal sister, royal brother.
Then the marriage for national aims
The ceremonial horses on crunching gravel.
WALLS ENCIRCLE THE NORMAN TOWER
Thick walls encircle the Norman Tower,
Cold-water encircles the outer walls.
Count the years and the remember
The growth rings in humanities trunk
Severed for all to see . . . . .
Bleeding from the battlements,
The heat, the shock, and the spirit
Rising into the invisible sky.
The dark tide shimmers under the bridge.
Against the tide the Royal Barge sails.
A prisoner steps onto the stairs.
Traitors Gate is a crocodile’s jaw
A razor-toothed mouth on the River Thames.
Into the castles rings she is taken by guards
Into the heart of the power of rulers,
This source of power, of terror and dread.
Where a heart of steel is needed,
A sharp pen of wisdom must write
Wisdom penetrates the heart of government
A man is excused the ordeal in the darkness,
Where darkness sails through darkness
Erasing the face of every prisoner
Their fate of lineage, wealth and rulership
That turns the grave like a grinning omen.
THE WHITE TOWER SUPPORTS THE SKY
The White Tower supports the dome of the sky.
The Wharf holds back the rising tide.
Cameras gnash at the battlements.
A man looks down from a window perplexed.
Secrets like oysters are picked out of their shells
By thousands of shiny single-minded tourists,
A mass imagination swarms like a plague,
Flies thickly through the cracks of every door.
The libraries, the literature of Earls.
The carvings, the coffins, the inscriptions.
The cannon, the flags, the rats and ravens.
The memories, the duties, the uprisings.
The people sitting writing letters.
The endless queue at the West Gate.
The boat trips on the river, the tourist guides.
The foreigners relax in the restaurants.
The sudden sharp bayonet of a guard’s voice.
You move away shaking in your shoes.
The gates menace you, the shadows cover you.
The river sends you urgently on your way.
LOST UNDER A SEA OF TROUBLE
Lost in a sea of trouble; found in a prison of calm
Waiting for the day of execution to end
The adventures that live beyond ordinary life,
That threaten extraordinary experience.
Down into the circus of shadows
Beneath the platform of public life,
Into the emptiness that only exists
In minds that fear of the supernatural.
An ordinary voice materialises,
Speaks of ordinary loves and fears,
As light and shadow seek order
A voice speaks out in humility
To the higher royal arrangement
Of the Life that gives it power,
Of the weakness that cause it sorrow,
As time brings order to life and death.
In the voice, life and death is constructed,
To place a law in its self-expression,
As the inevitable day draws near,
Love irrigates what is neglected.
A word appears that was never known,
That heard the voice but went unseen,
That poured through the breach of the wall.
Light, fluid as water flows in the darkness,
Left at last; and with a short time to go,
For the vocal tool to dig for its truth,
It unearths the words that have not been heard,
That covered the eyes with shadow,
And in waiting, a grace appears,
That makes the daytime seem short and full,
Enclosed by words that exists as actions,
To imprison, prevent and control the breath.
WE NEVER SAW YOU DIE, OH QUEEN
We never saw you die oh queen dethroned.
We felt the wind whisper through us,
We heard your cries echo through the sky.
Will you forgive your brothers and sisters?
Those also die as traitors like you
As branches that tear up their own roots.
If face-to-face, you meet them again
Will the crown jewels still come between you?
Will jealousy for power bleed you?
When the world is one, will you fight it?
Will you slaughter your niece and your cousin?
To be next in line as the owner of armies?
A thousand subjects’ hearts stopped
At the precise moment of your execution,
Are they yours, to bury with you in your tomb?
Look to the place where they bury you,
The palace that preserves a misfortune’s grief
In precious records, carvings, and relics.
But why is grief in your welcome death?
Who also caused grief in your fearful life?
To the security of a powerful nation?
Now we disperse from below the walls
We walk the windy road to our homes,
Carrying the loss in confusion and fear.
LIARS, SPIES AND SAINTS
Liars, spies and saints
Have lived and died by its strength.
From the well dug deep beneath the keep
To the ravens who cannot fly.
Scholars, magicians and poets
Have played on the field of Kings.
From the dungeons in the damp oblivion,
To foursquare weather vanes in the sky.
Tourists, onlookers and spectators
Witness the life and death of its prisoners.
The siege, the mob and the coronation
Hurl fire and music at its walls.
The raven Master finds his dead bird;
The Constable finds a suicide:
The chief of torture weeps
For the gentleman hanging on a wall
And resigns his office and goes
With wife and children far away –
From the cannon, the armour and gun-smoke
From the secret message’s, the intrigues.
Does a future sovereign cry aloud to the walls?
And the walls hear but with whose ears?
As a night of dreams chills the Yeoman
And the Wharf is squeezed in a thumbscrew.
And a prisoner becomes one with the rats
Drinking the water of the rising tide.
And a Duke walks along the walls
Dressed in silks stitched up by steel.
Composing a sonnet and preying
And his words will drift on the wind.
The terror, the acceptance of death.
The twitch of a body, the beat of a heart.
The smoke and the mist with the cry
The gasp of night, a cold senseless wind.
And why someone asks, and how?
Before he sleeps and dreams of nothing.
The power creeps under his feet
A slow mist from the river.
And the jewels glint like a serpent’s eye
In the sceptres of long-dead kings
Who move forward like shadows
Into the hall of mirrors.
A BLACK HOLE IN A SUN
A black hole in a sun
Growing brighter, then dimmer.
Around an imperishable destructive force,
Generating intense gravity then releasing it.
Deaths, fame, wealth,
Circle and fall into its hidden heart,
Or disappear for eternity into the darkness.
Who survives? Who is indestructible?
Who is worthy? Who is game?
A Royal residence, a court,
Circulates and breeds,
Decorates and ornaments.
But out of the window see
The rivers and the skies,
The hills and the streets,
The thousands of ordinary people,
The responsibility, to shirk or not?
To laugh at or to cry with,
And the evening comes,
And who knows about the night?
Go ravens, go
Fly away into the night
Set free from your vows.
Your wings repaired
Fly into the eye of the storm,
Fly ravens, fly.
He funeral of another princess,
Unlucky in love, beloved.
The fairy tale princess.
Another one, who found disfavour.
Who followed the fates,
Who followed the furies,
Who followed the princess
Into the holes of an earthquake
Pursued by the voices of dark forces,
In awful retribution
Upon those strayed from Royal courts
Pursued by centuries of protocol.
Into the eyes of wreaths and tears
Into the future paradise
To rub shoulders with the common man.
Another princess, another tragedy,
Another victim of worldly power.
Ravens come home.
Ravens return now to your masters.
DOES THE MIND GRASP FOR TRUTH?
Does the mind grasp for truth?
But cannot find a way out?
Does the mind think silly things?
That cannot make sense.
Do the eyes look at familiar things?
Their hopeless tears for consolation?
But do your feelings rebound,
Is there madness in your loss?
Does your spirit feel empty with no grasp on reality?
Do you grieve and not yet know?
There is a Kingdom for all to go to
Where love is regained and loved ones will live
So, do not grieve as the others grieve
Do not be as sad
SHE HAD THE GATES LOCKED
She had the gates locked,
She kept the keys close to her heart.
She wanted peace and security
But her home was her death cell.
Cracks in her family keep opening,
Growing like an earthquake.
Her world opens and swallows her,
Her memory will be smeared,
Her loveless family need her dead
Legally and quietly she goes
After her husband, after her loved one.
Another princess, another one,
Marries without royal consent,
She sleeps with the ghost of civil war
Counts invisible armies to help her sleep
Her love, her gold, her blood,
That is in her heart are tears.
Her marriage is made illegal,
Her offspring declared illegitimate.
Worse still, terror is in her steps,
She soils her clothes in dread
At the sight of the executioner’s block
She cries herself to sleep each night.
Like an oak tree hit by lightning,
Split downs its middle, smoking
Her family, her own dear family
Are her jealous enemies
Are determined to be Sovereigns.
And any fee they’ll gladly pay,
They will gladly ruin their father’s home
And lops off branches of the family tree.
Then you will see the flag flying
As the bareheaded pretender weaves his way
From the corridors of darkness
Stained with the blood of brother and sister.
THE LITTLE EASE AND THE TORTURE ROOM
The Little Ease and the torture room
The chapel and the block
Spins round like the spinning dice
Of those who gamble with iron fate.
From Devils Tower, a man stood alone
Watching from a window above the ceremonies,
The Lieutenant escorting the trembling prisoner
Into the hands of the executioner.
Who was that saturnine man in black?
What did he feel about the butchery?
Of ego’s and of innocents
That fills the Tower continuously.
The rich prisoner who lives on his wealth,
The poor prisoner who starves in his cell,
Whose side was he on in war?
Whose side was he on in peace?
High up in the Devils Tower
He saw them arrive; he saw them dispatched.
He heard their cries, their quarrels
The prayer book in the blood.
The observer dressed in black
In harmony with the death scenes,
Watching friends and relatives in the game
Passing down into the hungry grave.
They are the same that cheer on Tower Hill
The spectacle of the gallows
Who cheers for armies marching
To fight the enemies of their nation.
The same mob who stand and stare
Who gasp at heads rolling
Who waves on the heroes of the day
Leading armies into battle.
The mob of the common man
They leave their homes, their boredom
To watch men die, to cheer them on
Into eternity, into oblivion.
They eat their bread and drink their ale
They compare celebrity with celebrity
Then they go home to the candlelight
And dare not sleep to dream of it.
State religion, Crown and clergy
Have their roots in this Tower
Holy Roman Empire, British Empire
Came to blows in this dark hour.
This side of death stands the brave
A man’s conscience would stand and fall
Loyalty would be put to the test
Martyrdom and sainthood believed in
A portcullis of thunder would fall
A voice from heaven would thunder
A star would shine and move on
With armies into power struggles
what is left behind? Who was neglected?
What dreams were blown away
like mortar shot into the river?
And the river reaches this moment in time
Rising and falling for the millionth time
Where a capital city grows and sprawls
Like a tree and can this tree last forever?
And in the tree the raven’s nest
And the omen is carved on its’ bark
And can the archbishop explain this fear
Or know what eggs are hatching?
Fly raven fly, here are your wings, now fly away
Then the Raven-master awakens from his nightmare
To finds the castle a sudden ruin of rubble
What could bring such destruction, how?
The Tower, strong through all these years
Living, like a part of us, a heart of hearts
A firm friend, a protector of the nation
Secure, unchanging, in a fast-changing world
Her banners fly with the foursquare pride
Of her long existence and endurance
More than just a reminder of the past
She puts the past right down in our laps
When times are bad and moods are ugly
We think of her dreadful history
When times are good and people are happy
We visit in our thousands through her gates
The Tower just down the road from Old Bow Bells
The East-Enders Tower, The people’s Tower?
In the shadow of its unfolding history
Who’ve booed and cheered at the fortunes of fool and saint
Set on the divide between East and West
A clear division between working-class and wealth
How amazing, how amazing
That she has never taken sides
The Tower, a guardian angel made of stone
To the English people, for how long will you live?
For how long will you be remembered?
Could there ever be a ruin of you?
So many Empires have been and gone
Yet she stays fully stocked and ready
What would those, who have known you, think?
To see you today, so loved and famous?
Amongst all the attractions of London
She keeps her meaning and integrity
See, world, The Tower of London
The toughest castle in humankind’s history.
Edward and Henry, Elizabeth and Mary, Sirs
See, it is still here waiting for you
Richard and John, Stuart and William, Sirs
See, it waits for all eternity!
WITHIN THE WALLS
Within the walls
Dreams break apart at daybreak
Like pieces of a pot
Who could get
Within those dreams
Whose parts span the universe
Fragments of lost perfection
Like rocks in a net
Then that feeling
Deep inside and long ago
A seedling in a hailstorm
Within those walls
A fleeting vision of real life
An aching vision of real life
Within every, every wall
Dreams, do dreams have scent?
Is that scent the fruit of love?
Broken dreams, fragments
Blossoming images picked apart
By a beast in its teeth
The invisible non-existent beast
A shadow from what will take over
Dreams, life, love all shaken up good
Truth, so misused, is all that remains
Like a mysterious light in the darkness
Calling out to the dead
THE POWER IN THE MIND
The power in the mind
Of he who seeks it
Keeps the hope like steel
Linked into it, strong
Positive, sure that it’s fierce light
Is calling with a deep sound
It has you and you unite with it
To be plucked out of confinement
Awaiting death, it covers you
Protecting your heart and mind
Your words like steel in the eyes of jailers
Opponents cannot surround your heart
To crush you because of weakness, fear
The power will draw you onto its throne
The life and death that you loose
Will be the life and death of the world
The power linked into you
From eye to eye, from heart to heart
Invisible bird spirit power
Not alive, not dead, leaping the generations
Into the heart that is open to it
The heart that can only be open
Because the office of the power as opened it
The quality is that it opens
And it is open with the quality
YOU ARE OR YOU ARE NOT
You are or you are not
You are one or you are a zero
The chopping block is the symbol
This cannot change that
The judgment is made
A circle of flowers
Above the circle of stones, the altar
Fallen and broken below the living sky
There forever is the sky
While the condemned one walks beside his executioner
His shadow, your shadow, of the face
That shines above you, behind the problem
That you are or you are not
You are a one or you are a zero
You have to decide for yourself
THE LINE OF KINGS, THEIR NAMES, THEIR ARMOUR IN A ROW
The line of Kings, their names, their armour in a row
Wooden horses’ side by side in a dimly lit hall
There they were, all together to be ridden together
Had my foot stepped over into limitless memory?
A brief suspension of reality
Had I been here before, never, why this
From where did I remember this theatrical stable?
The succession of Kings ready to ride together
Placed in a line in this exhibition display.
The wooden horses pawing the ground, snorting, eyes wild
When their riders come to them, where will they ride?
Together, all these Kings, riding together, were riding out.
Look for their faces, listen for their voices
When the visitors are gone and the room is closed.