Sylvia Herbert is a retired Modern Languages teacher. She has always had an interest in poetry and the magic that language can convey. She writes mainly for pleasure, but has had some poems published in anthologies and magazines. She is currently working on her first collection, "Poems of Praise"
|THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS|
You hardly notice it in daylight hours,
A blackish smudge , set in the granite wall:
Pass by for Evensong at Candlemas -
The window glows with light against the dark,
The old man sees the radiance of the Child-
The Temple Presentation is revealed
Through the beauty of stained glass.
Go closer to see Anna standing by,
And on the step the cage of votive doves;
Above them all, Jesus, on Mary's lap,
Is bright with blessing.
So Simeon has seen his heart's desire
And will depart in peace.
You hardly notice it in daylight hours,
Except inside the church
When morning sun streams through
And Christ is our light again.
A jasmine plant, her grandson's Easter gift,
Stands fragrantly within the silent room,
Reminding her of spring and flowers in bloom.
The gardens that she loved now seem to drift
Across her clouded memory, nor shift
Her saddened spirit from engulfing gloom;
Each moment draws her nearer to the tomb,
Glamour and pomp too far away to lift
Her royally back to this world's empty dreams.
Except the undying love between the two
Nothing she has is really as it seems.
She guided him and showed him all things true;
The living plant on which the sunlight gleams
Gives back at last to her what is her due.
Harsh blue sky and hard, red earth,
Contrasts of heat and cold,
Where hawks and eagle-owls hover eerily,
Scooping the bowl of light - Medinaceli.
An elemental, high-perched place
Where cultures clashed long years ago,
Shield and swordblade resounding still in emptiness.
Above the glaring plain where shepherds trudge
Proud Romans raised their triple arch of triumph
- in Medinaceli
Spearheading Islam in the northern world,
The Moors of old set up their fortresses:
Pushing aside the vandals and the Goths,
Matching their fervour to Mohammed's will;
Creating there an Arab city of Heaven - Medinaceli.
And later still, the Spaniards held sway,
Printing in stone their Catholic victory
In Church and Creed and sober granite walls,
A firm confession of their Christian faith,
By lowly priest and peasant, and by the haughty Dukes
Night drops its shadows with the sinking sun,
The dome of heaven is adorned with stars,
God, Allah, Jupiter surveys man's paltry glory;
Locked in the lofty landscape his soul's dreams;
And presently the morning cocks will sing again
After Luxor, the winding road,
Red desert sandstone; not a tree.
Heat; sky like dark denim,
Arrival at nowhere.
"Follow me", says the guide.
Obediently we flock behind him.
Then, majestic in the rock
The temple of the Egyptian queen
Miniature transport takes us further up
To the mouth of Rameses' tomb
We're swallowed up into the hillside
Like the Pied Piper's children,
Down into the dim chamber, strange and silent
Watched by royal shapes and hieroglyphic birds
This is their world, not mine.
I feel I am not wanted here.
They force me out into the dazzling light.
A final push and I fall against the lintel of the door,
Grazing my cheek. My head is spinning.
Shocked by the clumsiness of my intrusion
And the sudden sun, gasping for breath,
I stagger to a shaded seat and look around.
more tombs to visit.
There's Tutenkhamun's resting place.
I think of Lord Caernarvon and the Pharoah's curse.
The dead are all around
Flashes of light on slate-blue water
Dart quicker than the greedy gulls above;
The low board jetty, a carelessly thrown stick,
Half-in, half-out where creamy swans assemble
Like a foam-edged wash, demanding bread
From tourists unprepared for charity.
Slowly the last ferries of the day
Move gently into harbour, gratefully
Disgorging passengers, who glide away
Hopeful for food in some green-gardened guesthouse.
Now the dark lake collects the silence of the trees
And draws into itself like a snail into its shell.
A swift skims softly the black silken sheet,
Then slips into the night like a forgotten dream.
Only the boom
of the far waterfall
Near it, can you hear it
and the chatter and the clatter
and the rat-a-tat-a
of the chill spill of the rill
on the stones now lifting,
sometimes even drifting;
splatter of the spindrift on the rock
and the crash, splash, dash
of the cascade,
My head's chock-full of the sounds
that pound like hounds
over the bounds
of human hearing;
and the rainbow ricochets around.
Water gushing from the vortex like a spout,
in and out -
and the slip, slop, slap
of the lap of the waves in the caves,
where the spirit of the river,
the taker and the giver,
creates a sudden shiver
of reverential awe.
This grey and rainy day
holds me in limbo:
Yesterday, a death, a cruel death
cast me in gloom.
Today my mood is dark;
zombie-like, I mooch around,
All hope below the ground.
The one I counted on
How can I go on?
Nothing will be the same.
My room is full of light,
Everything seems right.
Somewhere bells are ringing
and I hear voices singing.
"He's here!" they shout, "He's here!
There is no doubt
Come and see himfor yourself."
I feel a power surge
and I breathe the sacred air,
I do not see him,
but I know he's there.