25 May 2014

Upton Sticks

Full uniformed, six stand and scowl,
   contesting threats with grimmer growl,
wild weaponry awaiting shout
   to thrust both sides to raucous rout;
the signal sounds and all advance
   on fearless feet in potent prance,
encircling enemies awhile,
   with fiery eyes and scornful smile;
and then – thwack-thwack! – the stalwart six
   wage Cotswold war of striking sticks,
weave right left, windmill all around
   the entertaining battle ground;
ragged reports in echoes tell
   of flooded fields where fighters fell,
accompanied by rising wails
   as steam train passes ghostly trails;
yet this is not a dance to death,
   to end exhaling broken breath,
instead all fight off gleefully
   in time of camaraderie.

* * *

This poem was inspired by watching Happenstance perform their last set at Wartime in the Cotswolds. This was at Toddington Station, during the late afternoon of Sunday 27 April. Alas, P-i-R was a little late to the event due to ill-health, a common scenario.

The piece is performed in iambic tetrameter and it has five verses. I use semi-colons to divide the verses, rather than a full stop and a blank line, to recall the relentless rhythm of the train as it travels through the Cotswolds. The rhyme scheme overall is AABBCCDDEEFFGGHHIIJJ.

The dance ‘Upton Sticks’ seemed a good fit with the theme of war, as some of its elements are pretty fierce! I include the train itself for hints of ghostliness, the steam and the whistle, and the flooded fields as a nod to Flanders, or any fighting grounds.

I muse often on war, not only WWI and WWII, but all conflicts to the present day. However, Wartime in the Cotswolds aimed to present ‘a lighter look at wartime life’ (http://www.gwsr.com/news/latest-news/a-75-year-journey-back-in-time-on-the-gwr.aspx), so my poem ends in the same spirit.

Requiescat in pace,