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Cath Campbell – The Colours of Freedom

Profile Cath Campbell LE Mag July 2019

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The Colours of Freedom, poems by Cath Campbell

Cath Campbell lives in Northumberland, close to the coast, and loves it. A retired probation officer, Cath wrote reports for the courts for thirty years. Once freed from the tedium of the formulaic she studied for an MA in creative writing, but never wrote poetry until several years later in 2015, after accidentally joining an on-line poetry group. She says that her poetry practice is about simplifying syntax without losing depth. Cath has had poems published both on-line and in hard copy magazines. Her favourite on-line sites are; I am not a silent poet and Poetry 24. Her work can mainly be found in Obsessed by Pipework, Erbacce, Prole, and the Angry Manifesto.


The Colours of Freedom

It’s the colour of white deserts at noon,
the peace therein for those who are left.
It’s the colour of tumbled blue oceans,
of the creatures who sweep their depths.
It’s the colour of a vast green forest,
the wealth of life that inhabits it yet.

It’s the grey of the mountains straining
towards the snowfall speckle skies.
It’s the colour of dark thunderclouds,
and the birds that fly in endless highs.
It’s the colour of rubies, of coal, of gold,
it’s the sum of our deeds, our lives.

The colour of a heart fighting for justice,
it’s strength of resolve against slavers,
defence of our downtrodden and weakest.

This dream of freedom grows as distant
as the moon, or the sun, or the stars.

On the Last Day

On the last day I shall not whitewash my windows,
or get behind the mattress and hide under the stairs.
I shall not become angry, or sad, or fall to despair.

I’ll play Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen endlessly
and upset the neighbours one last time for free.
I’ll sit in the garden with my wee dog, counting daisies.
I’ll say goodbye to sparrows and blackbirds with seeds.
I’ll eat black olives, and home-made bread with cheese,
and sip from a china cup the very best Yorkshire tea,
and, perhaps, have a slice of blackberry pie with cream.
What I won’t do is worry about the state of my health,
the leckie bill, overdraft, or how to increase my wealth.

I shall not waste time whitewashing the windows,
plumping the mattress, or cowering under the stairs.
I shall not become angry, or sad, or fall to despair.


Human

The bird with a broken wing,
picked up early Sunday morning
by a woman on her way home,
is not safe and well, but safe and dead.
The lengths to which she went
to get a vet to stop the pigeon’s pain
was the best part of human.

It’s the least I can do, she says,
because other suffering is too far away
across oceans, mountains and deserts.
She understands it is the ‘high, out of reach’
who make those calls to bomb and break.
She cries at the news when children die,
and sobs her heart out for that bird.

Reflection

We are at the place we have never been before:
Where fact wavers to fakery and fleas feed on lions.

Where flowers have no scent, and are grown
against the natural order of the natural season,
their wild beauty tamed in uniform glass houses.

Where schools become shooting galleries for the mad.
Where a reputation instantly sinks into a bed of nails.

Where a child’s life is worth less than a drop of salt
in a monster’s eye, teeth gleaming, sharp as acid,
and winter snow in hardened hearts kills the weak.

Where if you object, you are Wrong! Wrong! A fool!

We are here, in this place of mirrors from long ago,
when our ambitious thoughts formed the universe,
where we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Where, if we look close enough, creation will look back
and say, there is nothing that cannot be undone.

Where change will come on a firefly whisper,
to take us to a place we have never been before.


Coal Town

Once there were giants in this town
with massive picks beating out a rhythm,
and boulders for their breakfast
rolled among vats of monster grain.
They strode the streets with pride,
and built a nation’s wealth,
mined earth in sweated concentration
until the pits, forced again to sleep,
no longer carved the song of coal,
and they grew old. Shoulders sloped,
knees buckled, crooked backs burnt
with the shame of nothing left to give.
I have never seen a giant since.

War Does Not End Because We Give it a Different Name

It’s warm here in the British summer time.
The FA cup distracts us, a civilised conflict.
After that we’ll watch tennis at Wimbledon,
and then ride Le Tour for three weeks.

We’ll sit in our gardens drinking wine,
and perhaps read a novel, or mow the lawn,
grousing at the growth of those unwanted weeds,
far away from the wars that supply our needs.

We’ll not go to bed dreading, fearing the dark,
or death come in the violent dawn on silver wings,
nor fall to despair at the lack of food or water,
the destruction of our roads, hospitals and homes.

Having changed the name of our incursions,
we will call them Kill All the Dictators,
Let’s Build a Democracy, Call of Duty.
We are rooting for you from our armchairs.

And we cry like crocodiles into our dinners
at the loss of life this dubious cleansing brings,
levelling the ancient, tearing down the beautiful,
so great corporations, unhindered, can roll in.

If only you hadn’t had gas and oil.