• "You Cannot Dry the Whole World's Eyes": Selections from the poetry of Neil Mochrie

    Christ the Redeemer
    Christ the Redeemer
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    Neil Mochrie, a prolific Scottish poet who lived from 1935 to 2005, has much to teach posterity. One hundred of his poems, some of which are written in Scottish, are collected in the posthumous volume Selected Poetry & Verse (published privately in 2018 and edited by Alison Clark). The following is taken from Clark's biographical preface:

    "An early master of the standard poetic forms - sonnet, ballad, Burns stanza - Mochrie had an excellent ear for rhythm and rhyme... together with [a] quirky sense of humour and love of puns. [During his lifetime,] he published some pieces in school and university magazines and in The Glasgow Herald as it was then entitled. Some are included here.... Neil Mochrie wrote to seek to understand himself and to explore and express his thoughts and feelings on everything from the personal to the political. Poetry works best and is, paradoxically, more universal when it addresses the particular. When his poems focus on an individual person, a feature of the natural world or a particular relationship, Mochrie is at his most successful."

    I have chosen a few poems from section 6 of the volume, "God and All That," admittedly my favorites [and in the chronological order determined by the editing] but difficult to choose from this outstanding collection that also includes sections on "Nature, Life and Love," "Family and Friends," "Thinkers, Seers and Poets," "Fun and Games," and "Ye Ken Noo." Thanks to Neil's daughter Mary Mochrie for sharing this wonderful collection with me.


    - 2004 -

    He moves between the sunlight and the shadows, 

    staffed but stumbling down the shattered street.

    His way is marked by traces in the sand:

    the dark stains placed there by His wounded feet.

    The pale tracks left upon His dusty cheek

    mark sweat or tears " impossible to say.

    Flickering in and out of time and space

    gingerly He steps and makes his way.

    A mother in a cluttered, doorless, doorway

    hugs tightly with her one still useful arm

    her infant daughter's small and stiffened corpse

    still, to the last, protecting her from harm.

    He stops and kneels down in the rubble,

    gazes with love into her dimming eyes.

    She sees within them as her vision fades

    the opening gates of Mahmud's Paradise.

    Above, the marshalled ghosts of honoured dead

    hang down their heads in silence and in shame

    that all they died for has drowned in the mire

    of greed and power that's set the world aflame.


    - 1985 -

    I do not wish to be a sorcerer

    Conjuring you up

    Using my need for a spell

    Out of the subnatural depths

    Conjuring you up

    Out of my broken fragments of imagination

    Conjuring you up

    To face me here across my kitchen table.

    Sometimes you come unbidden.

    Sometimes when I call in pain

    Or in the dumb hurt of singleness

    You come.

    I am afraid that what I call

    May not be you

    But my own phantom.

    I am afraid of my successful sorcery.

    But sometimes you come

    And seem more real than I am to myself.

    On these occasions I reach to take

    The hands you offer

    And the love.

    "Come to the table!"

    I call to whoever may be in the house.

    "The guest has brought wine and bread

    And news from beyond the world."

    You look deep into me

    Saying with laughter

    "All is well." 


    - 2001 -

    He sits across from me and smiles:

    he knows the vagaries of man.

    He nods while I digress, and smiles:

    all is unfolding as per plan.

    I show my sorrows and my pains,

    my tears, grimaces, trembling hands.

    my passions lost and duty's gains.

    He smiles and nods and ... understands.

    "You loved your father but he wrought

    despair and violence in your life.

    Your mother loved you, so you thought.

    Why did you never take a wife?

    It's time to live now for yourself:

    sufficient is the cure of one.

    Leave others' burdens on the shelf:

    life should contain a bit of fun.

    You cannot answer for us all,

    You cannot dry the whole world's eyes.

    We each must stumble, trip and fall

    upon our way to Paradise.

    The halt, the lame, the blind may fail

    and perish somewhere on the path.

    The single-minded will prevail

    and harvest all the aftermath."

    He says my dream of sacrifice,

    of self transcended by surrender,

    is but the clumsy artifice

    of an ingenuous pretender.

    The power, the glory are not mine.

    I'm free to come down off my cross:

    my pearls are barely fit for swine,

    my fiery words unkindled dross.

    He sits and nods, another smile

    that says he knows more than I can,

    and thinks his trickster sleight and guile

    are equal to the Son of Man.


    - 2003 -

    He did come back you know.

    I met him at the turn of the Millennium.

    We had been thinking about him a lot, I suppose,

    And those who believed that he might call again

    ere all stirred up.

    I didn't pay all that much attention.

    I admired his work and life of course

    and much of what he'd taught.

    We were brought up to do so,

    although I found in adulthood

    the gory details had been sanitised a bit

    and no-one seemed to realise

    we had recreated on a truly global scale

    The kind of world he'd lived and suffered in.

    I was walking the dog at the time.

    He fell into step beside, almost like an old friend,

    Asking me how I was and so on"

    He seemed to know the family.

    It took me some time to realise who he might be

    And when I did, I stopped.

    The dog licked his hand.

    I asked him why he had come

    And he said he'd never really gone away,

    Only for the few days when things got really rough.

    I wondered what he was doing these days.

    He said he still looked out for people, like he used to,

    and looked after his father's "many mansions."

    "Collecting rents?" I asked.

    "In a sense" he replied "and doing repairs".

    I got caught up in the earthy reality of this exchange:

    "New builds?" I enquired.

    "Those too."

    There was a long silence.

    "What kind of people live in them?"

    "Anyone who really wants to".

    We were at the door of my house.

    I hesitated, unsure what to do or say.

    "Thanks for the chat" he smiled,

    "Perhaps we'll meet again some time."

    He continued on his way.

    At the crossroads he half-turned and waved.

    I wish I'd asked him in.


    - 1993 -

    Hear the god's truth, the bad news!

    this is the gospel of wrath

    that you had ignored or forgotten:

    the unrevealed darkside of love,

    the frozen blackside of joy!

    Here is the terminal judgement

    on man and on his creation

    when the sole available counsel

    is dead or gone off on vacation

    and Justice, who sees all things clearly,

    her blindfold untied, loose and fallen.

    prepares to make up her own mind

    since her scales are perpetually broken.

    The lion has eaten the lamb

    but experiences no satisfaction.

    The hunter who dropped his prey swiftly

    has turned his slow hand to slaughter.

    He shoots, intending to maim,

    his enemy's three year old son

    who is toddling after a mother

    who walks far too fast to follow

    as she clutches a small loaf of bread

    and a jerry-can half-full of water.

    He starves without knowing or heeding

    his bosom friend's teenage daughter

    who nurses her crippled lover

    unaware that her unborn child

    is withered forever within her.

    The oil-fired white knights of power,

    their tanks painted pallid for peace,

    confide to electrical ears

    that this is not war as they know it.

    The howl that comes over the aether

    Is not merely a technical defect

    but a voice from the Pleistocene past

    crying out across the millennia

    trying to shout very clearly

    "This is what war is for."

    Mothers in shell-shattered shelter

    mix into some brown sewer water

    the dry-as-dust denatured milk

    of humanitarian kindness

    for children who move and breathe weakly

    but utter no noise, not a whimper

    in the cellar's least insecure corner.

    Here is the back door to Hell

    in the alley which runs from despair

    where the trash cans are thoroughly clean

    and the rats and the cats and the dirty dogs

    and the scabby dead donkeys are gone

    and the fleas and the lice and the cockroaches

    are looking for much better quarters.

    Elsewhere a barking mad godman

    yelping loudly above his white collar

    makes one plea for peace on earth

    and ten for a yen or a dollar

    to buy Bibles in Serbo-Croatian

    to be trucked to the scene of the conflict

    or send missions to maltreated Muslims

    offering baptism under slow fire.

    This is the last wagon to roll

    (we go as far as the Moon

    but the stars are too far away).

    This is the Last Chance saloon

    try one last throw of the dice

    put your stainless hands in your pockets

    for discounted guns, bombs and rockets

    or, if you want to be nice,

    bandages, aspirins, rice.

    This is the closing down clearance

    these are the final reductions

    this is the LAST DAY OF SALE!

    Hear the Big O at the end

    (Z is for zero my friend)

    Look at the scroll rolling up:

    here is God in the Garden

    weighing his long pruning shears

    gauging the tall Tree of Life,

    there is the dead branch of Man,

    leafless and fruitless in summer,

    waiting on high autumn winds 

    to know what He meant by the Fall.

    (also published August 8, 2022, at OpEdNews: https://www.opednews.com/articles/You-Cannot-Dry-the-Whole-God_Poet_Poetry_Wholeness-220808-784.html)