No Longer There

I wonder if a change has come about.
No longer do I feel that she is there
As physical a being in her chair
To me as I to her. My words ring out
And they receive no answer but they flout
The silence of the grave. I’m still aware
Her presence thwarts self-pity and despair:
Her spirit still bedecks the house throughout

With declarations that her goodness wore
And every kindness that set her apart
From you and me. Each day I thank God for
Her warmth and for the wellspring of her heart.
I like to think her soul, unknown to vice
Is welcome this day forth in Paradise.

 

 

Unlike the Cheshire Cat

Unlike the grin upon the Cheshire Cat
Her smile for me will last a thousand years.
While all the rest so shortly disappears
Somehow it’s easy to forget all that
While we had so much time to sit and chat.
As eyesight fails internal vision clears.
But now she’s dead and no more sees nor hears
I never knew the world could be so flat.

And she deserves my sorrow and my tears,
Deserves them all through my remaining years,
Deserves to know I think of her and grieve.
Though she receive no pity please believe
My sadness lies unsought upon the shelf
Because she bore no pity for herself.

 

 

The Courage of a Lion

I wish I’d told her long ago how brave
She was before quietus, her godsend.
Her lion’s heart insisted that she spend
Last Christmas dying but alive, to stave
Off death that day and spare her children, save
Her grandchildren, by force of will contend
With her extinction and delay the end
To mitigate their pain beyond her grave.

A sad end met the courage she displayed
Yet this was one more way she proved her worth,
And nothing did she covet on this earth
But happiness in others she purveyed.
Now all around her know she truly found
Her peaceful ground aloft by heaven bound.

 

 

Peter Hartley is a retired painting restorer. He was born in Liverpool and lives in Manchester, UK.


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27 Responses

  1. Leo Zoutewelle

    Such words of beauty and love – though your own, they must give you peace and comfort! God’s blessings upon you.

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      Leo – your comments are gratefully received and always so sincere.Thank you.

      Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      Mary – Thank you for your comment and particularly for the comparison with music which I oftenfind so much more pictorial than pictorial art can ever be.

      Reply
  2. Julian D. Woodruff

    Heartfelt and finely wrought, Mr. Hartley. Especially impressive to me are the lines beginning “And she deserves …”

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      Julian – Thank you very much for your comment. The bit that you mention is one of those that comes straight out of the head and straight onto the paper without even thinking about it, as very occasionally happens on a good day.

      Reply
  3. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Peter, these sonnets are smooth, flawless, and full of admirable poetic device, yet the form never once detracts from the message they convey. A brave and selfless lady is immortalized in a series of wondrous images that say so much in their beauty and their brevity. The words shine with a love that transcends mortality – words that humble me. For me, this line says everything about grief; “I never knew the world could be so flat”. It makes my heart ache. Very well done, indeed.

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      Susan – Thank you so much for this thoughtful and accurate summary and generous appraisal of my three little poems. The message as you have interpreted it is spot on, so too the emotions you describe are exactly those I wanted to invoke. Any beauty in these lines though is solely a reflection of the nature of their subject, as their brevity lies in the strictures of Petrarch. It is I who should feel humbled that you can be so moved by what I wrote, and so fluent in your ability to express it.

      Reply
  4. E. V. Wyler

    Peter, please accept my heartfelt condolences on your wife’s passing. The beautiful sentiments you crafted will (no doubt) help others who also grieve the loss of their lifelong partner. The final sentences in your 1st and 3rd poem are extremely powerful.

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      E V – Thank you for your condolences. I’m afraid, though, that my ill-favoured efforts are unlikely to help anyone until I am famous and I won’t be famous while there are so many fine poets at SPC so far ahead of me in the queue. Thank you so much for your kind remarks and encouragement.

      Reply
      • Peter Hartley

        Margaret – Thank you for your comment and particularly for the astute observation that, unlike the first ones, these three poems are less about death and more about their subject, as with time the memory of the last few days and hours and minutes recedes to allow memory of the life as a whole to bring a little perspective to the unremitting sadness of that final scene. And your comment about the internal rhyme in the last couplet is a useful reminder that it isn’t just a form of decoration but should be used in the right place as a kind of emphasis too, the best place to put adjectives we want to stress as strongly as we can.

  5. Margaret Coats

    Very beautifully done, Peter, and unlike the earlier group of sonnets on this subject, these are not about death but about Dina. I feel I know her. These sonnets may be Shakespearean, but in “The Courage of a Lion,” you have added a truly Petrarchan touch with the internal rhyme perfectly placed in both lines of the couplet. The Italian poet adds a little something like this at places where he wants a very special effect. It’s easy to see that you are aiming for truly unique effects in everything about these poems.

    Reply
  6. James A. Tweedie

    Peter, As with Part 1, you have succeeded in touching our hearts by opening your own heart to us. What makes these poems so effective is that they give every appearance of having been being written for your benefit rather than ours. The irony of love is that the deeper it is, the greater the pain when it is lost. The depth and beauty of your love is manifest in your pain—which, in this sense, is also beautiful. And the love and the pain are both exalted by the crafted beauty of the sonnets themselves.

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      James – You articulate my aims in composing poetry far far better than I do, as evidenced, inter alia, by the thoughtful words above. Even at your most prosaic you pen prose like a poet. You write above that “The irony of love is that the deeper it is, the greater the pain when it is lost”. Another of the ironies of love is that we wait till those we care about most are dead before we suddenly discover the virtues we ignored or took for granted while they lived. Death is the usual opportunity for the bereft to appraise the virtues of those they care about, by which time it is too late to do anything about it in response.

      Reply
      • Peter Hartley

        Evan – Have you had any more thoughts along the lines of publishing a) my mouth-organ and b) my highland bagpipes?

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Peter, I’m still waiting for the marvel of your lyrical mouth organ and wonder of your poetic highland bagpipes. I’m trusting Evan will thrust these promising pomes into the limelight soon.

  7. Peter Hartley

    Susan – I’m sure Evan will succumb in the end. After all we share a penchant for Handelian opera and diatonic semi-tones, and Jimi Hendrix did once move in next door. Btw there was a rare typo in your last post that had me stuttering nervously for an hour or two till I’d had all my injections. I know a pome is a botanist’s term for a member of the apple family and I thought that can’t be what she means, so I looked it up in Chambers, to be confronted with “the enlarged fleshy receptacle enclosing a core formed from the carpels (bot)…. ” I thought, I’m not reading any more of this filth. Anyway after a couple of sedatives I felt more able to cope with things.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Ah, my cunning plan worked. I knew immediately your fine, literary eye would home in on this delicious linguistic treat and chew over this tasty lexical morsel for a future opus. One person’s “filth” is another person’s fantasy… “pome” has so many possibilities. I am sure (after just one more sedative) you’ll produce a pome piece that will eclipse all mouth-organs and bagpipes!

      Reply
      • Peter Hartley

        A gnome had a cranial dome
        And a peristome broad as a pome,
        When a metrical foot
        Was applied to his butt
        It would save him his taxi-fare home.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Peter, congratulations! The internal rhyme in the opening two lines is genius, and I bet no one has used gnome/dome/peristome and pome together in one poem! I do, however, feel the RSPCG (the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Gnomes) may well have something to say about the the metical foot.

  8. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Peter, if you mean my comments, I have three – they’re #7, 16 & 18 from the top of the page.

    Reply
  9. Peter Hartley

    Thank you, Susan. Number eighteen decided to go AWOL on a short break into the troposphere for a few hours but has now returned bearing the tan of a trecento walnut.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Peter,
      There is definitely a ghost in this machine. For some unknown reason Sally Cook’s comments disappear from Susan’s iPad while they are in full view on mine. This place is haunted.

      Reply
      • Peter Hartley

        Susan – There you go again: “refreshed and blessed with the zest of…” How can anyone compete with that? You could alliterate the birds from the trees and assonate them all back again. Mike – It may be because your wife has what looks suspiciously like a double-barrelled surname. I-pads find them notoriously difficult to handle, but what might work is a sharp blow from a 2 1/2lb lump hammer centre left. Then take it back to PC World and tell them it was already smashed when you opened it.

      • Susan Jarberry

        Peter, please don’t let my name dictate the destruction of your iPad – I’m changing it to Susan Jarberry in the interest of keeping the lump hammer from smashing its screen.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Ah yes, I see it! It is indeed looking sun kissed, refreshed and blessed with the zest of a Sicilian lemon. I’m glad it’s back where it belongs. 🙂

      Reply

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