Bob Ward – A Ballad of Bassenthwaite

Bob Ward
A Ballad of Bassenthwaite

Halfway along one side of Bassenthwaite in England’s Lake District stands an old inn, The Swan. Up on the nearby steep fellside, two white-painted boulders can be seen. These mark where a Bishop and his Clerk came to an untimely end on a stormy night.

                                        Our Bishop’s dining at The Swan
                                        Where food is of the best
                                        He lifts a final brandy glass
                                        To lend his mission zest.

                                        Across the table see his Clerk
                                        Who serves the Bishop well
                                        When traipsing round the diocese
                                        Through dale and over fell.

                                        ‘I have spare room, the beds are fresh,
                                        You should stay on tonight;
                                        Rough winds come rattling at the door
                                        To leave now can’t be right.’

                                        ‘Good Landlord so you say,’
                                        The Bishop thumps his fist.
                                        ‘But I will ride to Lorton Vale
                                              –    Fetch horses, I insist.’

                                        Another gust, a slash of rain,
                                        The Clerk he looks askance;
                                        He fears the Bishop once resolved
                                        Will always take his chance.

                                        ‘The hour is late, winds gather strength,
                                        Your Grace, it’s better we should stay.’
                                        The Bishop quells him with a glance
                                        One might dread on Judgement Day.

                                        ‘I need ever take God’s path
                                        Led where the Spirit flies.’
                                        The Ostler whistles through his teeth,
                                        The Landlord rolls his eyes.

                                        Gaitered, upright on his horse,
                                        The Bishop waves farewell,
                                        Behind him trails the anxious Clerk
                                        As they approach the fell.

                                        Steep, steep the path around the rocks,
                                        Ahead the slopes of scree,
                                        The Clerk recycles quiet prayer,
                                        Grips tighter with his knee.

                                        Their horses falter, get urged on,
                                        Why pick this awkward track?
                                        But Bishop with a mind made up
                                        Accepts no turning back.

                                        Scree slides, the lead horse overturns,
                                        Falls on its mate, all suffer harms!
                                        Two travellers pitch headlong straight
                                        Down into their Maker’s arms.

                                        ‘Didn’t expect you back so soon,
                                        There are more souls need be won,
                                        What a cheek, to think you’ll sneak
                                        Into Heaven just for fun!

                                        Now I’ll pop you both in Limbo
                                        Till I get the next supply
                                        Of hymn-sheets for daft people
                                        Far far too keen to die.’

                                        Hence the Bishop stands a whitened
                                        Rock repainted every year,
                                        Though silent in his pulpit
                                        His message stands out clear:

                                        ‘However high and mighty
                                        You must shun the sin of pride.’
                                        (While the Clerk still ranks beneath him
                                        Lower down the mountainside.)

Thea Nikolova – pray for rain

Thea Nikolova
pray for rain

i dance across the cracked cobblestones
wildly, and without restraint, summoning clouds.

i am so big in my love, and hungry too,
i pray spring rain washes the prints of my grubby hands off your skin

i don’t know how to keep my hands to myself,
i come to you, heart in hand, jumping in puddles

i hope spring rain drowns these noises out
i hope i stop screaming, brakes screeching as

i skid to sudden halts on my knees before you: let me walk out of this love alive,
i pray spring rain will heal me, please i had tried to cast my eyes away

i had hoped to yearn more quietly, to be more worthy
the sun peeks above those sprawling cotton candy clouds

i pray the spring rain is quiet as am i,
i pray you let the aftermath be swift

i pray to be less hungry, i pray you kinder
i am struck blind by your teeth flashing in a smile

i had not known my own desperation, until you quieted it
i didn’t even know i was in love

i write us into happy mornings, street lamps breaking into glittering lovelights
i walk alone in the drizzle

i leave my marks on you, impermanent, my lipstick in your bleached hair
i dance across the cracked cobblestones wildly, and without restraint

i pray you out of my heart and i pray for rain.

Amlanjyoti Goswami – At the butcher’s

Amlanjyoti Goswami
At the butcher’s

I can smell rain, mutters the butcher
Cleaving the shoulder.
Does rain have a smell, asks the younger man,
Learning the ropes.
Where you make the incisions, where the
First chop must fall.

Yes, the wet earth, I step into
The conversation, a stranger to the ways of knife and blow.
The fragrance of earth, he remembers,
As one more deft stroke
Cuts to the skin of the matter,
As the flow dyes the wooden block,
A shade darker.

We wait patient in the shadows, for umbrellas
To spring to life.
This dead afternoon quiet, where ants prowl lonely,
And flowers stay thirsty.
This dry blaze of May
Rain far as Marrakesh, or Persia.

But he felt it, that is true, as he cut deeper
Into cloud, poking the open blue,
Reaching the emptiness from which all things must spring,
Rain coming, soon,
and filling our borders with music.

Fiona Jones – Twinkling

Fiona Jones

For most of a century, urban legend has held that the Inuit have a hundred words for snow. Whole armfuls of different linguistic units, each with its own fine-lined nuances, distinguishing one snow from another by temperature, thickness, flake size, adhesion, building potential… Because the landscape that shapes our lives should also channel our language, and the weather should feed our wisdom.
      I wanted it to be true. It isn’t.
      But here I am living in the UK, where rain shapes our experiences as much as snow shapes anyone else’s. We see rain often. Thunderous downpours and grey-clouded drizzle, sleet horizontally driven, large spattering drops that blotch the ground and bubble the water. Alternating sunshine and showers, and that long, dreary, drenching rain that spills autumn over into winter. The very word ‘weather’, untempered by adjective, defaults to mean ‘rain’ for us.
      Situated as Britain is—on the boundary between continent and ocean, in the meeting-zone of conflicting air masses—we can receive our weather from Siberia one day and the North Atlantic the next, carrying its Caribbean influence of warmth and humidity. And so we see rain not only frequently but also variously.
      Incidentally (or not), we also have armfuls of words for rain—dialect words, slang, euphemisms, onomatopoeia, metaphors, traditions: April showers, a splash or a soak, nice weather for ducks, bucketing, pelting, chucking it down. Scotch mist on a dreich old day, spitting and mizzling, liquid sunshine to wry optimists leaning toward irony. Rainstorms, cloudbursts, deluges, dropping down cats and dogs, the old man’s snoring. A fresh phrase if we need one for every rainy day in the year.
      There’s an empty space here for just one more word: a name for that ambiguous, almost imperceptible twinkle of moisture from an open sky—less than drizzle, hardly more than dryness, a half-sensed droplet or two like a sneeze from a butterfly.
      Twinkling: brief, negligible rainfall that leaves you never quite sure if you felt it or not.                 AQ

Ben von Jagow – Druthers

Ben von Jagow

I like the sun in the morning
the patter of rain before bed
and sugared flakes of snow
as they drift past the porch lamp.
I like a breeze when it’s hot
clear skies when it’s not,
and a dark, dour day
should I start to feel ill.
I like storms, thunder, blustery winds
my warm forehead pressed
against a cold window pane.
I like change,
but most of all, I like the days uncertain
where clouds jockey the sky for space
disclosing nothing if not perspective,
where curtains draw shivers
and every break bears warmth
from a momentarily forgotten sun.

Sean Winn – Grass

Sean Winn

Technicolor lime green optimism pushing up through the stubble.

Mellow forest green later in spring. Happy, fat cows. Calves frolic like puppies in the pasture. Feeding can cease, welcome to both pocketbook and daily grind.

Wilting struggle as blades stagger forward in the Texas heat. Pray for rain. Anxiety turns forward as hay needs to be gathered for winter. Pray for no rain. Once the grass is cut, it will rot in the field if soaked. Luck is needed.

A second burst in early fall, welcome respite from the heat. Seedpods protrude, swaying above the sea below, waves seeking a beach. But waning hours of light, cooler evenings mean the end is near. Calves, too, are off to market, another generation passing through the fields, having taken sustenance from the growth.

A different palette for winter. Yellows and browns set against a dark backdrop; trees at the perimeter stark and naked in absence of leaves. Overhead, a grey wash of threatening clouds. Underfoot, the crunch of boot on withered dry stalks. Nourishment gone, the fields are only filler for the truly hungry. Mothers heavy with calf, struggle against the elements to bring forth life.

Technicolor lime green optimism pushing up through the stubble.

Bryan R. Monte – Lake District Photos

Bryan R. Monte
Lake District Photos

During my English Lake District holidays, I have had the opportunity to visit literary and historical sites, and my friend, the writer Neil Hughes. The District’s suddenly changeable weather, from bright and sunny one moment to cloudy and stormy the next, has always amazed me and sometimes caught me off guard.
      As a result of this picturesque landscape and its chimeric weather, I always keep a camera at the ready. Below are photos taken with a Canon SK 130 IS in natural light. The first is of clouds descending on a landscape with Two Wanderers Along Coniston Water. The second is of clouds, landscape, and a bit of Lake Windermere taken from a window Reflection, Wordsworth House, Rydal Mount.

Bryan R. Monte, Two Wanderers Along Coniston Water, photograph, 2014


Bryan R. Monte, Reflection, Wordsworth House, Rydal Mount, 2014

Carolyn Adams – A Frequent Winter Chill

Carolyn Adams
A Frequent Winter Chill

I’m not from a land of snow.
Where I’m from, you’re lucky
to hit freezing twice a year.

I don’t know the great loneliness
that sets in, mid-winter,
when the outside is only
a long monotone.

I don’t know the struggle
navigating drifts,
pushing aside boughs
heavy with stones of cold.

Now, in these lovely wilderness valleys,
there’s a flurry sometimes,
and a frequent winter chill.

When snowflakes fill the woods
with soft ash, when they float
in a tremour of white wings.

Crunching on ice, glad for my boots
on a day like this, I love
the bone-shiver in the air,
the vast silences,
the lace and blades
contouring trees and underbrush.

I love long walks
in the deep alone.

Brittney Corrigan – Weather Patterns

Brittney Corrigan
Weather Patterns

Here, where Oregon’s winter is
consistent and predictable, like a bowl
of rice set at the table for every meal,
all that is needed is to part the curtain
slightly or extend an upturned palm
into the day. So each morning I check
the weather in other places instead –
landscapes that hold the people I love.
Colorado, where one day might crest
with snow and the next stream with sun.
Where clouds rise off the mountains like
steam, and wind talks through the aspen
as it rushes down the foothills to run
through the tawny, dry grass.
Orcas Island, volcano-made, tucked
into its rain shadow, buoys up
my family in cool salt air.
Soft waves slap the ferry landing as if
greeting a friend; cormorants stretch
their wings into slantwise sun.
And Michigan, adrift with flurries,
hunkers my relatives under ice.
They rub palms together, blow their
secrets into cupped hands, place
fingers on each others’ cheeks
to ease the chill, melt what’s frozen.
Knowing all this makes the grey centre
of winter, the distance of those I love,
almost bearable. Somewhere, a snowflake
balances on the cuff of a coat, orients
itself like a compass in my direction:
the symmetry, the patterns, the dark spot
it will leave when it goes.

Sigrun Susan Lane – Hurricane

Sigrun Susan Lane

The alchemy of water doesn’t change
no matter where it lives.
It fills what it wants,
enters all low things.

The wind can be wicked like that.
Once it blew away half our house.
We lived in the other half, watched
our rooms fly away, screaming as they went.

Rain came after,
bedevilled us for days—
filled the streets up to our knees,
made us dance for it, our shoes on our heads.