A Day in the Life by Ceri Stafford

Sitting alone in the throes of the winter,
Whispering words that died with the sun,
Staring with eyes that are stinging and bitter,
Crying inside, for the music has gone.

Walking alone in the curve of the coastline,
Cursing the demon that murdered the fire,
Cold as the heart that is dying inside him,
Mad as the heart that gave birth to the liar.

Standing alone in the kingdom of tears,
Watching for life through the knives of the rain,
Dying in memory, silently waiting,
Hate for himself growing strong with the pain.

Leaving along, left alone in the storm
By a dove disillusioned by silence and stone.
Racing through crashing night, chased by a man
who will always be spurned, who will never be home.

by Ceri Stafford

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Match My Moments by R. S. Thomas

That time
the soldier broke in
to my room and I,
the sword at my throat,
looked up from my sums
and theorems and smiling
said: Spare my designs.

That time
in the rusting bracken
the road ran with sheep,
a woollen river but vocal,
saying in its raw baritone
to the man on its banks:
We give our life for the shepherd.

That time
the queue winding towards
the gas chambers, and the nun,
who had already died
to this world, to the girl
in tears: Don’t cry. Look,
I will take your place.

That time
after the night’s frost the tree
weeping, the miser in me
complaining: Why all this washing
the earth’s feet in gold? And I,
my finger at my lips: Because
it is what we are made of.

by R. S. Thomas
from Mass for Hard Times (1992)

Poppies by Nesta Wyn Jones

August, in Brittany,
And in the breeze sways and pirouettes
A red ballerina.

Brittany
As if someone
Had thrown tiny pieces of red
Tissue paper
Over the hedges
And they’d all unfolded
Flaming
In the sun.

August
And my hand itched to gather them,
But I knew, if I did,
There’d only be the stain
Of red
On my fingers
When the dew lifted.

Twilight, August in Brittany.
Into the dark staring and staring
I see their purple bruises
In every corner
Quaking
To the rumpus of crickets.

Here,
There’s a wreath of plastic in the rain…
It’s not that flower that’s plaited in it.

by Nesta Wyn Jones

(b.1946)

All Souls’ Night by Gillian Clarke

Wind after rain. The lane
is beaten lead. Nothing

is any colour. Hedges
are scribbles of darkness.

Not a cow or sheep in grey fields.
Rain sings in the culverts,

slides the gate-bars, brambles and grasses,
glints in tyre-ruts and hoof-prints.

Only the springer’s fur flowers white,
will o’ the wisp under a gate

across a field short-sightedly
reading the script of the fox.

A sudden wheel of starlings turns
the hill’s corner, their wings a whish

of air, the darkening sound
of a shadow crossing land.

At a touch my bare ash tree rings,
leafed, shaken,

the stopper of ice dissolved
in each bird-throat,

the frozen ash
become a burning bush.

by Gillian Clarke

Additional information: All Souls’ Day, also known as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed and the Day of the Dead, is a day of prayer and remembrance for the faithful departed, which is observed by Roman Catholics and other Christian denominations annually on 2 November.

Examples of regional customs include leaving cakes for departed loved ones on the table and keeping the room warm for their comfort in Tirol and the custom in Brittany, where people flock to the cemeteries at nightfall to kneel, bareheaded, at the graves of their loved ones and anoint the hollow of the tombstone with holy water or to pour libations of milk on it. At bedtime, supper is left on the table for the souls.