The Tower

Draft September 2021

Part I The Interruption.
On a train I am tempted to think of more than work

Platform One, Monday rain,
Bored aboard the London train
Coach A, seat 2, "Oh hello."
Drip-dry, sit-sigh, off we go.

Facing front, window seat,
Socket, table, trolley treat.
Eyes down, luggage stowed,
Headphones in, avoid her toes.

People to see, places to go,
Money to earn, things to know.
Wallet, phone, case, keys?
Water, change? Tickets please!.

Professional, be-suited, smart, keen,
Tapping on my mobile screen.
Reflecting, cool, calm and collected,
Acting as man unaffected.

So it’s "Judgement, Evidence and Review,
Analyse, Plan, Act and Do."
Monitor, evaluate then intervene,
What do these words really mean?

This a moment I know too well,
Wandering mind, emotions swell,
Work is lost, a broken spell.
Snap shut laptop, "What the hell!”

Glancing through the glass, I see
A derelict tower, in burgeoning trees.
Suddenly, flashing past,
A tower mesmerises me…

“A man may look on glass
And on it stay his eye,
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then a heaven spy.”

Grafton Tower (the closest image of what I saw)

Bemused, I ponder on The Tower.
It fills my head, a puzzling hour.
Still seeking out an explanation,
The buffers nudge St Pancras Station.

I speak of My Tower to good friends,
Chaucer's longen folk, on pilgrimage we wend
Offering clues to the mystery,
My companions' words enlighten me.

Rambling through ruins and mountain ways
Even Rupert from Nutwood rhymes do play.
I read their notes and know I'm blessed,
Their gifted thoughts unravel my best.

Work continues in a minor key,
My mind keeps wandering away with me.
Jobs done swiftly, clear some space
For creative urges to rise and race.

Shaping patterns from complexity.
Scribbled verses unrolling free,
The rhythmic pulse for each new phrase,
Is Rupert's doggerel from childhood days.

In slow motion recall, no train is thundering,
I sense My Tower, I'm calmer wondering,
It's absurd interruption, an intimacy.
A landmark, mind-mark, with meaning for me.

Oh, still column of solace in the gentleness of rain,
Do you tempt me from my life of gain?
Hauntings amass through shattered glass.
My life is flying by too fast!

Thanks to a friend on the Isle of Skye.
The Tower becomes a metaphor for, Why?
Then back to drudge, swap pen for PC,
Then, deep in work I suddenly see...

A seer-woman, rising from her sleep
Chanting a Global Oath and ethics deep.
Then Leafman with his Abacus is stumbling back.
Stirred by Schoenberg, Yeats, Fleetwood Mac.

It's my muse awake! Her whispering voice
Coaxes my hand. I have no choice.
Released and granted freedom of the page,
I channel these lines from my inner sage.

Yeat's Tower (Thoor Ballylee, near Gort, Co Galway)

Part II The Night-Film dream sequence
A Woman, Leafman, Professor, and Pilgrims meet at the Tower.

Dream-weeks later on Cuillin ridge I climb.
A blurred ‘Night Film’ reels in my mind.
I soundtrack scenarios in minor arpeggios
With operatic arias and slow crescendos

New built our Tower in moonlight shades
As ancient trees sway in a glade
Green hills curve round in human form.
It’s dark, dew-damp but not yet dawn.

The pilgrims' camp awakes it seems,
Whispering, still stretching out for dreams.
They’re waking worried, dressing to mourn.
Tattered banners ripple on the Tower's lawn.

In the early light of this colder dawn
Last night's campfire cannot warm,
They'd lived in hope, but learned despair,
Most were giving in, some couldn't care.

Yes, they’d gazed into those golden flames,
Made new friends and learned their names,
Vowed, 'One last push, one last try,
One more march, before we die!'

Reality dawns too, deep down they know,
It’s back home now, to reap and sow.
Joy lost again with the song and dance.
You can't feed a family on romance.

As early dawn-light, reddens up the skies,
“I have to climb the Tower,” a woman cries
"Let me pass, let me by”
A maternal love-light glistens in her eyes.

Exhaling clouds of helplessness and hugging on their hope
The pilgrims turn and watch her amble up the slope.
A morning glow lights her and banishes the night.
Is this the moment when wrongs begin to right?

She weaves her barefoot pathway in the glistening dew,
A guide murmurs, “Let her pass, let her through,”
And as she walks she softly smiles,
Remembering one she knew.

As she moves they hear her whispers,
"Onward, upward, brothers, sisters.
You will see, you must see,
The quest isn't just for me.”

At the Tower's door she waits,
Then turning slowly, hesitates,
“Make me strong, make me strong,
I must now sing the soulful song".

The slip of her feet on the steps of the stairs
Echoes her breath as she disappears
Climbing, she mouths the words of her song.
Then calm, at the top, almost done,

Suddenly on the parapet her dawn-lit face.
Stills the silence, fills the space
Then she sings "TheTower's Grace"

And though her voice was eerie
Her notes were clear and bright,
And though she was so weary,
Her aria ended night.

“I must sing, you must sing,
For me, for us, for everyone
And yes, for everything!”

Most stood silent, stunned and still
Something in her grace had eased their ill.
Others didn’t hear, remaining strangely sad.
A few moved to leave when seeing others had.

Then one stood up and cried, "Do not go!
Let this one speak, for he will know
Then Leafman stumbled forward,
He spoke in tongues. His patois roared.

"The night-song she sang for you
It makes me hope of what and why
It make me sense. We must sing too!
And climb Our Tower high!”

"I know after my listening
Her song-poem of belief.
I must share my thinking,
In the story of my leaf!”

Raising a leaf from his Hawthorn crown,
A shadow, silhouette on the moon
He kissed it twice and lay it down,
Humming her gentle tune.

Next Professor stepped up to lecture
With a logic, all his own.
His mask a study inflected
In a loud stentorian tone,

“Functionality and formality
Was my work, published with pride.
I referenced Verklärt Nacht's reality
To prevent my suicide."

"I was vulnerable in my selfishness,
Your night song made me see,
There is purpose in togetherness.
We need interdependency!”

And from his breast he takes a book
Handwritten in copper plate,
"Read this, now in simpler sense, please look,
Perhaps it’s not too late?"

The watchers frown shaking heads
“What must we do? What does this mean?”
And wanting peace but fearing dread,
They puzzle the breaking scene,

An embarrassment of unanswered questions
Pulled more to the silent wood,
Leaving the Three Illusions,
Rooted to where they stood.

The romantic trio were strangers
When they met at the moonlight hour,
Now bound together by common goods
In the dawnlight of The Tower.

Just standing there and being there
With those who knew of good,
Bonded an intimate friendship,
Of strangers in that wood.

Then, from the shadowed tree-line
The others come back to view,
Moving with new purpose,

Barefoot in the dew.
Uplifted faces, calmer, empowered,
Harmonising from the wood.
They smile and begin to sing,
"We understand - you understood!"

Brushing silver Desire Lines
On the moonlit woodland grass,
They sang, "We too must climb the Tower
Let us pass, let us pass."

And as they came they carried gifts,
Each with a shyness proffered,
And placed them gently on the grass,
Where the leaf and book were offered.

And then from atop the Tower
A dishevelled chorus broke
They sang in amateur harmony
And as they sang they choked,

It was laughter at their performance
It took hold, to their delight,
Tears ran down happy faces
Cleansing their fear of night.

“I must sing, you must sing,
For me, for us, for everyone
And yes, for everything!”
“We must sing, you must sing,
For me, for us, for everyone
And yes, for everything!”

Tears then laughter, laughter then tears,
The balm that heals us down the years.
They left, of course, and went their weary ways
Vowing to chant the Tower's Grace to end their days

The Woman, Leafman and Professor watched
Then whispered their deepest thoughts.
"Something has been done that had to be done
But what learning have they caught?"

"What means this Tower we gather round,
And these gifts laid on the dew?
How do we encourage even more
To bring their offerings too?"

Part III Deliberation
The trio share their thoughts.

My Leafman answers first
In his awkward, stuttering way,
Still juggling words to approximate
What his muse was trying to say,

"We search in hearts to find a gift.
Once hidden but now found.
These things we love and value
We lay for others on the ground."

“How many with talent are wasting?
Losing their skills of life?
We must find… How do you say?
Escape from pain and strife”

The Professor nodding agreement,
Spoke with a new integrity,
“I can explain this Tower’s meaning
Or, how it seems to me...”

“The ground floor was mine, all mine,
Selfish and just, ‘For me’.
Blinded by ego,
I simply could not see”

"The second floor was, 'For us, just us'
But in cherishing my chosen few
And giving only them my trust,
I was sadly rejecting you.”

“On the third floor, ‘Everyone’ comes to mind,
And here is the truth I see.
We'll only thrive as humankind,
Living interdependently.”

"When we reach the Tower top
'Everything' is understood,
A climate, wisdom and nature on earth
All shared for our Common Good."

The Woman smiles, embracing her men,
“You see my meaning now?
Everyone and everything
Is the Why? That leads to How?”

“Leafman, caress your Hawthorne leaf
Lift it lovingly from the dew.
You must always cherish the physical,
It’s the gentle touch for you.”

“Professor, you think in hierarchies.
Science and research, are your measure,
Go, relish the cerebral,
It’s where you’ll find our treasure.”

“And I will stay in this Tower to sing,
For all who have a gift to bring,
For me, for us, for everyone
And yes, for everything."

The Tower. (Oil Painting - Unknown artist)

Part IV The Moral
How seeing the Tower could change us.

Alone, much later, I ponder
Of my Tower and what it meant,
Revealed, in a glance of wonder,
I found conscious intent.

In the struggle of these verses
My life and work became one.
Not a metaphor but a purpose,
Caught in the Woman’s song.

By chanting her words I'm believing
Knowledge is more than seeing.
Life is watching, learning and living
Doing, embracing, caring, giving.

Tomorrows are too soon yesterdays.
The Tower signposts desire,
To map out the better ways,
The paths that lead us higher.

So, connected, together, linked, entwined.
The physical and cerebral make humankind.
When we walk and think with an open mind,
Ideas and thoughts will be combined,

We can only empower when connected.
And our common goods are resurrected.
Working with sisters, strangers, brothers,
Friends, enemies, neighbours, others.

I vow from this day of writing
I'll honour the Tower sighting,
I'll do more of what I believe and say,
And ask others to walk this way.

So, clear time to climb and sing,
Find your voice and let it ring
'For me, for us, for everyone
And yes, for everything."

With enough time you can walk anywhere.
Even up and away from this despair.
Seek out a Mountain or a Tower,
Rise up, see further, share your power.

Repeating mistakes is insanity
Striving for good is humanity.
So, rest awhile, in your higher place
Sit and chant "The Tower's Grace."

Samagoan Temple Nepal 2014

John Pearce
First draft July 2010
Latest/last September 2021

Notes and challenges from The Tower...

"The Tower" is based on an actual sighting and experience. It was like seeing The Leafman retold in an earlier poem and short story The Leafman.

I was on the early morning train to London in 2010, deep in work. Then I saw it, in the middle of woodland and I sensed a sudden and deep significance in the image. Intrigued and puzzled at my reaction, my first challenge was to make sense of what I'd seen and felt. So, I began to tell friends about it and ask them what they thought. Many seemed to understand because they offered thoughts, quotations, references, even music. Many of these thoughts were referenced in the first drafts of the poem. Thank you especially Hal Sheets, John Squires, Simon Brister, Pippa Manson, Phil Holmes, Coreen Morsink, Jill Boyle, Marian Birkett, Vanessa Rowe, Dave and Pam Ward, Peter Pearson and Zoe Elder, Dodo Pearce, plus many others later.... (And The Next Stage Radicals in 2021 led to this latest edit.) My second challenge was to write and explain the sense I was looking for. It started as a poem about a tower, became My Tower, and ended as The Tower.

Never have I spent so long on a single piece of writing. It still entices and inspires me as an image, a metaphor, and task.

In 2012 my interest waned - it was proving tough but fascinating. Was it worth the effort? Then, in my friend Pippa Manson's house, she asked me to read her a poem - any poem.I I selected a poetry book, at random. It fell open at W.B. Yeats' poem "The Tower". I was stunned into rethinking and redrafting. It became obvious then that Towers, Mountains, and "getting up high to see it all clearer" is a common muse. My quest to complete the poem reignited,

I made a more direct link to The Leafman story. John Squires, my writer friend, who has stayed the course from the beginning, made some comments and as a result, I tidied up some lazy rhymes and inconsistent use of punctuation, whilst retaining the rights of a maverick poet, to break convention. I also added a final section where the man decides to act, to DO something tangible as a result of the interruption.

The real interest, for me, was how the poem was beginning to link, in one theme of interdependence, everything I believe and do at work, in my workshop, play, and at leisure, especially trekking in high mountains, That has been a powerful, reassuring personal insight I would not have had without the sighting.

I met Coreen Morsink in Athens in 2015. Coreen is a composer, who found the poem, liked it, and offered to write piano music as an an accompaniment to each section - we are collaborating, still, on a mixture of words, music, and images. The challenge to complete a musical version with Coreen remains.

Another lull came in 2016 and The Tower remained a dormant work in progress. My challenge to add more was refreshed after the echoes of despair I, and many others, felt, in the Brexit debates and vote. Then Trump, and the increasingly selfish, hateful, and nationalistic world in the UK, suddenly without Jo Cox. The theme of humanity's interdependence was already in earlier drafts but one version (February 2017) powered it up somewhat. The ideas, frustrations, and influences on me are well (or badly) chronicled in my blog and increasingly in my professional writing. It's all about us DOING things to make our little personal and the wider world better. It's about NOT being #SilentWitnesses to bad stuff - we are interdependent. We must speak out!

Later rewrites tried to capture the sense of despair with the Climate Emergency and more wars, deaths, and destruction. Not to mention the invasion of social media, attacks on privacy, and bullying in, oh, so many areas of our lives.

The March 2020 version tried to strengthen the lead-up to the song and added the title of the aria as "The Tower's Grace". I like the idea of it being a chant, a prayer, a grace to be said at mealtimes, or the start and end of days. It’s like a non-religious prayer, or meditation chant.

I am beginning to believe that this September 2021 edit is the final version. A special thanks to Hannah Rooke, proofreader, copywriter and daughter, for her sensitive, sharp, perceptive and dutifully pernickety corrections, nudges, ideas and humour. She has brought to it a unity and, hopefully more readable feel

What next?
Your challenges, dear reader, are first to get through the damned thing. It is long but think of verses as tweets - there are 66 or so. Second, I'd appreciate your thoughts about how, if at all, it affects you. Experience suggests the best ideas find their way into later drafts.

A call to action.

Finally, the challenge for us all. It is just too easy to become a depressed observer of life. People are drowning out there and too many of us are describing the water. Let's not kid ourselves we are doing something as a mouse clicker, a chat room responder, a bar room commentator, a signer of online petitions, a moaning complainer.

At worst we are #SilentWitness to wrongdoing. We know, deep down, none of this makes much of a difference. Even poets and protest marchers achieve little - unless they, we, act out, in daily lives, what we believed we were marching for. Meanwhile, and perhaps because of our relative apathy, they are building bigger walls out there and the borders are closing in on us.

Finally... don't give up on you, me, us, everyone and everything.