Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Gladiators

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Channel 4 have been running a superb advertisement for the 2012 London Paralympics which start tomorrow. The advertisement is based upon the fact that the British Paralympic athletes are superhuman. Think about it; just for a few seconds please stop reading and think about it;

These people have a struggle to do things many take for granted, things such as; getting dressed, traveling to and from work, even mundane things like having a bath or going to the loo and that is before they start training. Each of them has adapted to, and overcome their personal difficulties and then gone further and learnt to compete at the very top of their chosen sports. This takes guts, determination and a singular focus on their goals.

These people are truly inspirational. In my eyes, the eyes of someone who finds just getting to tomorrow a struggle, they are magnificent, and yes they are in every sense of the word, Superhuman. My poem is dedicated to all of the Paralympians representing Great Britain, Go Team GB.

Gladiators

They stand proud.
Clothed in national colours
they form one body,
and that body exudes confidence.
The smiles on their faces betray them!
For these are smiles that know;
‘I can – I will’ and ‘I have’.

This knowledge;
born of unfathomable hardship
underpins all.
True - carbon fibre, plastics and alloys,
support bone, flesh and blood
but all are useless
without the knowledge.

So believe, British Gladiators,
believe and be proud.
And I will stand behind you
with a Nation that believes in -
and is proud of - you.

John Carré Buchanan
28 August 2012

Friday, 24 August 2012

The Walk

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This poem was inspired by the line “We walked here when the trees were saplings” which I heard at a recent poetry evening in a poem called 'Sark Revisited' by Joan Ozanne. I decided to write about the woods I used to walk in on the ridge above Minden when I was based in Germany in the late 80’s.

During the many walks and runs I had along the ridge I used to marvel at the way in which the ground cover would vary. I remember the riotous colours of autumnal leaves, The way in which the trees could become coated in ice in the winter, the springs bluebells and snow drops and of course the magnificent views out across the green valley below when Hang gliders launched from one of the cafes in the summer months.

The poem caries several meanings for me, I hope you can find your own.

The Walk

I walk here; with you beside me.
Leaves tumble from the heavens above
as if bearing messages of love.
They leave a brightly coloured carpet of
rubies, bronze and gold at our feet.
Thinking of the riches
with which I’ve been blessed;
my mind wandered to a time,
when the woodland floor
bore diamonds and sapphires.
Yes;
We walked here when the trees were saplings
and looking back,
I wish I’d held your hand.

John Carré Buchanan
24 August 2012

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Endurance

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One of the skills I have been working on has been to relax into those moments when my body least feels like relaxing. This is an extremely difficult skill to master, but at the same time it is a skill which chronic pain sufferers need to master if they are to rest or sleep.

I have been taught many different ways of doing this, none of them work every time but my toolbox now contains methods such as; transcendental meditation, Emotional Freedom Technique, distraction, progressive muscle relaxation and breath control. Using a combination of these has helped me through some difficult times.

I would urge any other chronic pain sufferer to learn how to relax. I suspect that most readers will not truly understand this, but fellow sufferers will understand and hopefully be able to follow my advice.

The following poem aims to describe the conflict between pain and the ability to relax.

Endurance

The silence is deafening,
Silently the clock ticks,
The TV and radio lie mute
even the keys on the laptop
remain still.
Time just slips by.
Each exhaled breath
re-enters the world
at its own silent pace
as it slips through taught lips
in a measured, controlled stream.
The pages on his lap don’t turn.
It is as if time itself has stopped.
Yet in his mind a fire burns
The primal scream lodged in his throat
remains unissued, caught as if
it were that of a terrified young child
with a monster under its bed.
The constant cycle of the eyelids
As they contract and relax
betrays the singular effort
of a mind fighting for control,
relax, relax and again.

John Carré Buchanan
23 August 2012

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Flag Etiquette

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Flags play an important role in national identity. From colours on the battle field, to claiming land or identifying embassies flags continue to play their part. With this in mind I have to admit that one of my pet hates is British people flying the Union Flag upside down.

Flying any flag upside down is inappropriate unless you are in distress, as it represents a direct insult to the nation the flag belongs to.

During the recent bout of national celebration, starting with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations and followed by the Olympics, I was dismayed at the number of people carrying flags upside down, particularly the small plastic flags sold on a short stick which had been manufactured incorrectly.

Failure on the flag etiquette was not confined to the crowds and athletes, I noticed that in the main arenas the flags flying around the stadiums and pools were inconsistent in terms of what was construed as up. This showed incompetence and laziness on the part of those that positioned them.

I find it sad that so many people in Britain do not even know that our flag can be hung upside down. To me this is something that should be taught at schools as flags play such an important role in national celebrations and forming national identity. Surely people who go to the length of painting the flag on their faces or carrying a 20 foot mast with a flag on top would prefer to fly it correctly. Anyway enough winging here is my poem;

Flag Etiquette

They stand and wave our flag with glee
these people, so proud of our country.
So proud they fly the Union Flag
upside down, as if it were a rag.

When a flag is inverted
people should be disconcerted.
For it either means they’re in distress,
or they wish an insult to express.

It’s not hard to get it right
It’s all about the amount of white
That sits atop St. Patrick’s Cross
(That’s the red one that goes criss-cross.)

On the side next to the pole
More white should top the red
Which means that at the floppy end
more white should hang below, my friend.

Oh, one other thing – my last;
To fly a flag at half mast,
Just drop it down the flags own height
from the top of the mast, that’s right.

John Carré Buchanan
19 August 2012

Friday, 17 August 2012

Harvest

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A friend of mine works for Handicap International; today he posted an article on Cluster Bombs which inspired me to pen the following poem.

As a veteran of a number of wars I have seen the effect of mines and other ordinance which litter the ground long after wars have been fought and ‘won’, (as if anyone can truly win a war).

I strongly believe that these weapons should be condemned by every nation on the planet and I would like to see the manufacture and use of such hideous weapons stopped permanently.

Unfortunately big money and a reluctance to enhance and enforce laws banning them means that their continued use, particularly in the fields of poorer nations, will lead to innocent people being maimed and killed.

Clearance of such ordinance often falls to self-help and / or charities such as Handicap International and the Mines Awareness Trust. I would encourage you to support these organisations.

Harvest

The grass grew tall this year.
Shadows flow like waves
across it’s golden heads,
as a warm breeze passes.

The hay crop’s lost this year.
Shadows cross his face,
across his sun tanned face.
As a deep frown passes

The war passed by this year.
Shadows flashed above,
the compound left in ruin
the field fallow evermore.

For the crop changed this year.
seed pods scattered wide,
hidden amidst the grass
hanging around to harvest.

The grass grew tall this year.
Shadows flow like waves
He’ll have to plant next year
as a warm breeze passes.

John Carré Buchanan
17 August 2012

Thursday, 16 August 2012

An Analogue Person In A Digital World

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Having not written much recently I thought that I would have a go at the themed poem for the next Guernsey Poets Open Mic. It is an interesting theme for someone who enjoys the digital world as much as I do. That said as I wrote; I did find myself coming down slightly on the side of the analogue world. I’m now looking forward to hearing what the other poets in the group made of the theme.

An Analogue Person In A Digital World

Everything’s going digital
It’s either noughts or ones
A string of undecipherable
Electronic off and ons.

An analogue wave is constant
It ebbs and flows with life
But the digital signal’s a sample
As if cut like a salami slice.

Analogue music is better
It has a much warmer sound,
but digital music is easy to download
or so its proponents expound.

Old TV’s used analogue waves
which always battled through
but a bit of stormy weather
and the flat screen says ‘screw you’.

You glance at the watch upon your wrist
If only to discover the time
in a digital world it’s 08:57,
in analogue - it’s just before nine.

The digital world has far more choice
Then most of us will need.
It’s driven by the rhythm of oscillating quartz
Which underpins our greed.

Oh - I’d rather live an analogue life
and savour every moment,
then live my life in a digital world
at the whim of a Japanese component.

John Carré Buchanan
16 August 2012

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Four Years On

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This post is written to thank all the people who have stood by me during the last four years. Without their love, guidance and support, I would not be here today.

Four years ago I was knocked from my bicycle on the way to work. What followed has been horrendous for both me and my family.

I have lived in continuous and severe pain which has gradually worsened since the accident; my medical support team tell me that it will continue to worsen. What should improve is my ability to live with and manage the pain.

I have lost my Job, the ability to do all the hobbies I once enjoyed, but far and away more important I lost the ability to partake fully in the lives of my wife and our two beautiful, loving young children. The guilt associated with being unable even to ascend stairs to kiss them good night is hard to bear.

I started writing in attempt to give myself something to do; I also conducted a massive soul search and realignment project which aimed to redesign my inner self, my soul, such that it could live in the new, less capable, body.

This uncomfortable and often dangerous journey continues. So far I have become a Christian, found new friends, who are there for me before I need ask. I have plumbed the very depths of despair and surfaced again. I constantly endure pain which despite using powerful Opiates is sufficient in intensity to make me black out at times.

Despite all of this I am still here.

The following poem is - believe it or not - a poem of hope; it serves to remind me that I never was a quitter. I hope you can find something in it too.

Four Years On

The memory is not important
Screech of breaks, shattered glass,
burst of fear, anger, pain;
that is how it started,
she just pulled out.

The loss that’s what truly counts
Feet pound along beautiful cliff paths,
bicycles, kayaks, water skis;
that’s what was lost,
everything I enjoyed.

No, It’s deeper, much worse
The essence of everything loved
Wife, Children, Friends, Job;
all of them suffer,
Torn asunder, shredded.

Self image, destroyed, hated
unimaginable pain, imaginable,
insomnia, tears, vomit;
these unwanted parasites,
devour all joy, never cease.

Every day, a new battle
continuous cycle of pain management,
exercise, therapy, stretches, drugs;
just to stay stable,
the gradual decline evident.

The one desire, end it, end it all
screech of brakes, shattered lives,
pain, despair, guilt;
tortured soul
fight, don’t quit, pray.

Put cares aside, trust the Lord,
true friends lend shoulders and listen,
plan, strive, achieve;
Four years on,
Pain worse, but hanging in.

John Carré Buchanan
08 August 2012

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Otto And The Great White Duck

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My wife and I were visiting her parents in Norfolk, They were building their house at the time and so we checked in to a very nice local hotel which had substantial gardens complete with a beautiful duck pond.

We had chosen the hotel because they allowed their guests to bring dogs with them which meant that we were accompanied by Otto and Freyja our two Bernese Mountain dogs. On our last evening we enjoyed a superb meal in the hotel restaurant and then prepared to retire.

Naturally this meant giving the dogs one last walk around the garden. The poem below outlines what happened next.

By writing the poem I am not trying to celebrate what the dog did, there was no excuse and to this day I still feel a twinge of guilt when I think about it. What I am celebrating is the way in which the duck stood its ground and managed to survive a tussle with a very large Bernese Mountain dog and then had the affront to stand on the lawn the following morning as if to say ‘get off my Land.’

I guess I will always remember carrying a very muddy dog through the reception along the corridors and to our room whilst being covered in mud myself without being seen and without leaving a muddy trail to our door. It was truly a night to remember. The best bit being the duck was not physically harmed.

Otto And The Great White Duck

Somewhere in the dark a scuffle broke out
It involved my dog without a doubt.
There in the pool of silver moon light
Otto and a duck were having a fight.

With duck in his mouth, the mud he churned
as he fought to gain purchase, his efforts were spurned.
He thrust his head forward, again and again
to swallow the duck - in one, his aim.

I entered the pool’s deep black ooze
forgetting I was wearing my best evening shoes.
I grabbed the collar of the mud covered hound,
he twisted and squirmed around and around.

I towed him back to the grassy bank
And then it hit me, we really stank.
My wife arrived with a large beach towel
and great concern for the missing fowl.

Wrapped in the towel the big dog struggled
as to our room the package was smuggled,
Thuds, bangs and howls were heard for an hour
As the three of us shared a late night shower.

The following morning the hotelier was told.
His only concern was for his Muscovy old;
As we drove away with the dog in the back,
The great white duck let out a loud quack.

Which clearly meant; ‘and don’t come back’.

John Carré Buchanan
09 August 2012

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Ode to Narcotic Relief (ONR 20)

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One of the downsides of chronic pain is the need to use powerful pain killers which bring with them risks of unpleasant side effects and even death. Sufferers who have been taught pain management techniques usually try to minimise the amount of drugs that they use. That said even the best of us occasionally need to use drugs.

The type and dosages of drugs differ dependant on the individual and factors such as; the current state of pain, activity levels, state of mind and even something as mundane as the weather or barometric pressure.

I have recently taken a short holiday with my family which involved considerably more movement than I would normally undertake. During the break I had to significantly increase the quantity of painkillers I was using.

Whilst consuming the drugs I became acutely aware of the importance of getting both the dosage and the timing of each dose correct. Making such calculations is extremely difficult when every brain cell is screaming in agony. As if that was not hard enough the added temptation to take follow up dosages early is extremely hard to control.

On completion of my holiday I had to perform a vital task, namely work out a plan to safely come off the increased dosages, without going into cold turkey. Whilst doing this I became aware of just how dangerous these drugs could be in the hands of a sufferer of Chronic pain during a flare up or setback, this inspired me to write the following poem;

Ode to Narcotic Relief (ONR 20)

They bear a mark
ONR 20
and look so innocent
so tiny, so dainty.
Just knock back a couple
sit back, wait a while.
Twenty minutes later
I’m on the junk pile.
For perhaps half an hour
I can raise a smile,
Then the pain’ll be back
and I’ll taste the bile
and start to clock watch
whilst reeling in pain
waiting for the next dose
to relieve me again.
I’ll crave for more
But I have to take care
For these tiny capsules
could answer my prayer
and help me find peace
either up or downstairs.
They bear a mark
ONR Twenty
and as demon or friend
they could help or kill me.

John Carré Buchanan
03 August 2012

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