Six poems by Peter Kocan:

1 . “To a Woman Reading The Wind in the Willows

2. “Name”

3. “Cathedral Service”

4. “The Social Workers”

5. “Them and Us”

6. “Dylan & Caitlin”




To a Woman Reading The Wind in the Willows


Peeping through the door an inch ajar,

I see you curled-up with your favourite book.

I wonder where precisely now you are,

What green, familiar, friendly path you took—


Ignore them, the neurotic and the driven,

Who’d say your book’s a trivial escape.

What harm if an imagined land is given

A simpler ethos and a gentler shape?


What fitter story could a grown-up find

Than one which makes uncomplicated sense

Of things like being brave and being kind,

Of virtues so important and immense?


And just as stories help the young rehearse

Their courage at the level they can bear,

They do the same for us—except we’ve worse

Than boogies in the shadow of the stair.


Our Wildwood is truly dark and deep,

And no adult who knows it will deride

The fact you find it comforting to keep

Ratty and Mole and Badger at your side.


© Peter Kocan




The name ‘Wendy’ was invented by a little girl who died at the age of six.


Margaret Henley never knew

Her singular achievement,

So little time there was between

The birth and the bereavement.


She never knew how wide and far

Her baby-talk would carry,

The future of the funny name

She told to J.M. Barrie.


She said her special word and then

Departed, never knowing

How many little girls would bear

The name she was bestowing.


She only added to the world

One unique and harmless touch.

How many glittering careers

Contributed as much?


© Peter Kocan




Cathedral Service


I’m only here because I wandered in

Not knowing that a service would begin,

And had to slide into the nearest pew,

Pretending it was what I’d meant to do.


The tall candles cast their frail light

Upon the priest, the choir clad in white,

The carved and polished and embroidered scene,

The congregation numbers seventeen.


And awkwardly I follow as I’m led

To kneel or stand or sing or bow my head.

Though these specific rites are strange to me,

I know their larger meaning perfectly—


The heritage of twenty centuries

Is symbolised in rituals like these,

In special modes of beauty and of grace

Enacted in a certain kind of place.


This faith, although I lack it, is my own,

Inherent to the marrow of the bone.

To this even the unbelieving mind

Submits its unbelief to be defined.


Perhaps the meagre congregation shows

How all of that is drawing to a close,

And remnants only come here to entreat

These dying flickers of the obsolete.


Yet when did this religion ever rest

On weight of numbers as the final test?

Its founder said that it was all the same

When two or three were gathered in his name.


© Peter Kocan




The Social Workers


Hyenas will encourage a stampede

To see which ailing zebra falls behind.

They’re nature’s social workers, and inclined

To feel most altruistic when they feed.


© Peter Kocan




Them and Us


And still the elites betray us every day,

Despite the fact that they need hardly bother,

For they’ve discovered many an easy way

Of prompting us to betray each other.


© Peter Kocan




Dylan & Caitlin


The poignant photograph is one

Of them reclining in the sun —

Their intimacy showing through,

Unposed, unglamorous, but true.


Yet with a tension in it all,

As if they had agreed to call

This little truce in passion’s war

Beside the heron-priested shore.


Forever, as the moments pass,

Their shadows rest upon the grass.

These two remain forever caught

In pensive attitudes of thought.


And just before the camera’s blink

She might’ve said, “How strange to think

Our pictured selves will never know

What happens when we rise and go.”


“They’ll seem to know,” he might’ve said,

“For everything that lies ahead

Will cast its retrospective ray

Upon these phantoms of today.”


— Bereft of colour, motion, sound,

Their world is burgeoning around,

The teeming year of Fifty-Three

Whose end he wouldn’t live to see.


            © Peter Kocan



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