Visiting Neil

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Visiting Neil


Hello old friend. I’m sorry that it’s been a while.

I can’t pretend that this cold place is easy on the mind.

But nonetheless you’re always there, somewhere,

underneath and in the darkness; thinking through philosophies,

searching out those sparks of why and wherefore

to eternity.


Who me? I’ve done OK, The usual, you know - job, house, car

 - relationships; the ordinary stuff of life.

Though I always held a candle for you.

Your memory sometimes hides

- but never fades. You’re set in stone. And now and then

I call your name, and wonder if you hear. and know

that in my memory,

you’ll never really be alone.


What’s in the bag? Oh just some things I brought for you

I thought you might have missed – comforts, more for me than you


“Benedictus benedicat”:


 a firmament of winter stars

a skylark’s hymn to spring-mown hay

a summer blush of giggling girls

a patch of bluebells fallen from the cloudless air of May

an autumn sunset, stained with ripened fruit

warm rain, lightning slashing at a charcoal sky,

a seastorm’s anger, three coins - a wish from Rome

plainsong heard across an Oxford lawn

a playground full of laughter,

a valley’s eiderdown of mist at dawn

a scented silver trail of woodsmoke,  leading home.


Neruda’s words – (pour them gently in your ears)

Elgar’s melodies for English hills

a precious vial of unguent tears - scalded with rage

 - and frozen by a mother’s loss

a moondust footprint from a giant’s leap

a nation’s roaring heart one afternoon in sixty-six

a pillow, dewed and warm with woman scent

a skyline waltz of starling wings

the molten kisses of love’s first fire -

as hot, and fierce, as hornet stings.


 café chatter, jokes and bottles cracked with friends,

a generation’s theme tunes,

leaked from a letter box in Abbey Road,

church bells and confetti

strewn across a village green

two golden circles – interlocked

with nothing in between,

a child’s warm hand,

to flutter like a new-fledged bird in yours

strawberries, ice cream

melting in a July afternoon,

the Sunday scent of bacon

that tiptoes up a stair

a barefoot walk

in meadows wet with dew

a patient fathom

that waits beneath the dapple

of the parish yew

and love,

love enough to outlast every dying sun

and fading moon

wrapped in the words

of an agnostic’s faltering prayer.



I can’t take you home – that gift was never mine to give;

just your story, and the memory of you

to remind a world you too once laughed,

once loved,

once lived.

So goodbye old friend,

I’ll light that candle for you

for hope,

 and remembrance

of a long-lost cause

we’ll meet again

one day

I’ll cross my darkness

where you wait

for me

in yours.


Author's note:

In general I believe that the explanation of a poem can detract from its sentiments and message, although I have often wished for one. In this case however, perhaps that rule is worth bending. Not because it adds anything to the poem, but that the story, in and of itself is one that should be told. In order not to further extend the length of this post those who are interested will find it here:

◄ . . . of varts and tickers

An interesting read - for the competitive . . . ►


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Hilary Walker

Sat 14th Jul 2012 17:51

Hi Anthony, just checked you out because you commented on my poem (thanks) and found 'Visiting Neil'. I've never heard of him before and was so moved by his story and then I discovered your poem - beautiful, absolutely beautiful and I'm in
great need of a bag like that - thanks I really enjoyed reading it.

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Petrova Fairhurst

Wed 16th Mar 2011 08:18

Wow! Just read this again after reading the story of Neil Moss.

There's so much more to it now. What generous gifts you wished for him. I have seen a waltz of starlings' wings as they pirouetted over one of Blackpool's piers, it's an amazing and awe inspiring sight.

For years I collected "smallest" things for my son, Joseph, who died the day after he was born, he was the smallest of my three children; a tiny pebble from a beech and a perfect bivalve shell, translucent in it's thinness; a snapped bud from a bunch of flowers; a minute toy car and a diddy bath time duck from Christmas crackers; a perfect, polished, unstrung little conker. There's quite a list - everything precious, everything treasured. Trying to capture moments that he might have had.

As a scuba diver, who once got left behind in the dark over 100 feet inside a shipwreck, I can imagine for a moment Neil's terror. My air supply was limited too & without a torch it was unlikely I would have got out. Luckily my buddy came back for me and I live to tell the tale...

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Petrova Fairhurst

Tue 15th Mar 2011 21:54

Amazing Anthony so moving, I loved and wanted everything in that bag, gifts infinitely poignant & precious, I am in tears again!

What a genuinely graceful way you have with words, modern day sonnets these!

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Thaumaturgically Charged

Sat 29th May 2010 04:14

A gifted poem, your words provide delicate justice to the emormity of the tragedy, I appreciate the link to the explanation.TC

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Val Cook

Fri 28th May 2010 21:15

Thank you Anthony for providing the story around your poem. You have a true gift with words. Your poem was excellent,sad, compassionate and memorable. I know Neil Moss will forever be in my thoughts from now on.

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Greg Freeman

Fri 28th May 2010 19:38

I feel quite overwhelmed by this story, Anthony, one of the most poignant I've ever heard. It gives your fine poem even more resonance

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Ann Foxglove

Fri 28th May 2010 19:16

Oh God, the explanation is more heartrending than the poem! x

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Dave Bradley

Thu 27th May 2010 20:22

A marvellous piece of writing, and a remarkable story which really should be kept alive. So vivid and moving. I've been through the Cheesepress in Long Churn. Bad enough but kid's stuff compared with what Neil was doing.

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Thu 27th May 2010 18:13

I agree with Isobel... Beautiful writing and sentiments Anthony.
I am moved beyond words.

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Thu 27th May 2010 14:02

I feel I should have said something else - superb writing - the sort that touches you inside and leaves you feeling like you can't say enough...

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Thu 27th May 2010 13:54

I'm glad you posted the explanation of who Neil is and how he died - it helps to understand the poem better and the sound effects.

I liked the introduction - like a conversation with an old friend before you launch into the meat of the poem.

I would have liked the echoing effects to diminish or cease from 'a firmament...' onwards and then pick up again towards the end. I say this because the words were so beautiful, I wanted to hear the weight of them without the distraction of the echo.

I think the echo effect represented perfectly the sounds you'd hear trapped in a cave - also the slipping in and out of consciousness of a dying mind.

I found the poem incredibly moving and yes I cried... There are too many beautiful lines to comment on, so I will just leave it at that. x

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Thu 27th May 2010 13:25

what can we say - I'm sure you can hear the applause. B

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Cate Greenlees

Thu 27th May 2010 12:38

Beautiful. Just beautiful. Such a wonderful richness of language and imagery, and this poem will touch so many people on so many different levels. Anthony you have surpassed yourself!!
Cate xx

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Thu 27th May 2010 12:17

Oh just some things I brought for you
I thought you might have missed – comforts, more for me than you

The whole poem is very accurate but, yes taking gifts to a grave side is a most devastating moment in life

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Alison Smiles

Thu 27th May 2010 10:47

I'm soft. My eyes welled up too. In a good way.

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Ray Miller

Thu 27th May 2010 10:30

Beautiful, I love such poems as these, and though it seems churlish to crib it, I shall anyway. The excellence of the poem lies between "a firmament of winter stars" and "an agnostic's faltering prayer". I think if you ended there and abbreviated the intro somewhat you'd have a great poem.

darren thomas

Thu 27th May 2010 08:20

Yes, this is superb. Its language, its pace but overall its theme which resonates with me as I lost a childhood 'best friend' when we were both just 15.

Great writing Anthony.

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Chris Dawson

Thu 27th May 2010 07:45

Me too ... absolutely wonderful. Love it!

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Ann Foxglove

Thu 27th May 2010 06:43

What a wonderful poem Anthony. Made me cry. Those last four lines particularly. x

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