I. About a Stranger

A Russian man interviewed

In a documentary,

Filmed along the Yenisei

From its sources in Altai

Three thousand miles to the sea,

Has stayed in my mind for days.

He told a lonely story

Abandoned on an island

In the lower Yenisei.

He had no-one bar his dog

But he had something to say

About the vast indifference

Of nature in the frozen waste,

Of his masters faraway.

Who knows how his life ended?

Maybe the spring flood water

Washed him and his dog away.

II. In Memory of a Friend

Among the sadness and grief

For an unexpected death:

Our gossips lopped off part way.

III. Political Polarities

The small but many people,

Easily twisted and taught

To misplace their frustration

On the colour of strangers

And the beliefs of others,

Are the ones whose lives get spent

In the latest experiment

By their heroic leaders,

Convinced of their right to rule,

Always secretly afraid

The mob will remember

How to add up the numbers.

Rulers draw dividing lines:

‘Here’s the new map, the new creed,

This is how we now believe.

Listen to our new story.’

IV. On the Ebb Tide of History

The war dead, the famished dead,

The unnecessary dead

May be counted fortunate

By those living in despair,

Old certainties in shreds,

Watching how the lies are spread.

V. In Search of Better

We all live wrapped in stories,

The ones we tell and are told:

Mother Hubbard’s cupboard’s bare,

The president has no clothes:

The ones no-one dares mention

Except the daft old woman

Cast up on alien shores

Howling with the winds of change,

‘Accept the necessity

For breakdown, chaos and loss

Of redundant connections.

Melt into the crucible,

Shelter in the chrysalis.

Re-forge, reform kinder dreams.

From the grey mess of ashes,

The phoenix will surely rise.

New stories must build new worlds.’

Morven Ash

March 2017