Lily – a drawing 

Lily

my dear father was long winter’s Equinox; he mixed into mother mine; last Moon of the Year.  

i remember this; their coupling made me. head in the sky and roots in the earth; i am Lily.

my feet have not travelled but these toes, in the soil, challenge cold Death. at your ending i will be there. i keep faith with your truth; a bodied spell to cast your soul out to lover and enemy the same. there are days when that is all i am, a funeral flower in a cave of gloom.

and depression dresses me.

but my breath was Cloud and i was drunk on Rain kissing my throat when Sun first rose. he is light reflecting beauty of the cosmos and bringer of life.

he turned the world, animated me, painted me. he held me still.

he drew me from my cave and created me as his wife. i empty out my mind in the strength of his zenith. i am joy.

myriad winged things pay court to me, paying for my stores with stories from places beyond my sight. i am their fragrant, excessive, plentiful perfume of survival. they fly slower, lower as Sun goes down. heat stays in the ground though autumn arrives spying for my secrets. there is the first footprint smell of damp that will lead to winter’s whispered myths of ending and decay.

tonight my five petals make a star against the night. as darkness starts I wait. with the rising night, from the silent hills, comes a whisper. the voice of Wind. from his first lullaby to his final storm he is the constant formless rebellion to the turning of the year.

tonight he promises dancing, asks me to leave my roots.

first draft – road home 

road home

empty house, no-one’s calling
dreams are maps; I am sleepless,
drowning at the end of the world 
choking on strangers’ needs

days inside the machine,
nights in a foreign bed,
looking for the road home

seasons pass, rain grows cold,
bricks and stone are prison, 
the moon cannot catch me,
my fear poisons the black 

days inside the machine,
nights in a foreign bed;
looking for the road home 

your phone rang out in silence,
the door’s open, window’s wide,
demons followed me devoted,
made my hope their home,

heart stopped then, I am falling,
damp house has rotted my heart,
plant no seeds; I am hopeless
cannot find my strength

Holly’s punk

Not far from here there’s a managed woodland.  There’s a careful, english, beauty about it.  The right mix of ash and crab apple, sycamore at the margins, birch and beech; intentional mistletoe.   And holly.

In the body of the plantation there’s holly.  Creamy, variegated holly.  Gently kept in check to make a large shrub. Around her it’s autumn; the leaf fall is heavy.  The day is dry and there’s the scent of open fires.

There’s enough undergrowth for the native animals to seek shelter; there are bins by the wooden play frame and the cycle path is lit.  Hard working hands have shaped the path, parts are wheelchair accessible. A brook runs through it and forms a pond.  Even with autumn’s leaf fall the water remains clear, a duck dabbles in the weed. By any standard of human development it’s perfect.

By the storm drain, near the sub-station there’s another holly.  A gardener’s careful and unpaid hands have cleared the brambles from the earth on one side, her trunk forms an uneven shape against the rough concrete.  Already she runs to maybe thirteen feet, forms a loose archway over the bridleway.  She’s thick with perfect red-berry fruit.  A song thrush practices his balance as he feeds.

One branch reaches back into the woodland; holds hands with an oak.  Every other branch, reaches out.  To the houses, the aluminium railings, to passing cyclists and dog-walkers.  Onwards.

The almost-black leaves start to shine their deepest green in the late sun.  There are berries fallen to the path, flesh pulped by passing feet, seeds naked; waiting for long, cold germination.

All There Is

A poem, and it’s not about singing …

All There Is

I wasn’t old. But enough;
enough about years.
They pass to silence.
To sing. I knew;
pitch, phrase, breath.

All of it.

That day. No more or less.
A series of disasters.
I was too small.
So many other singers;
loud, laughing.  Ready.

Better.

To sing alone; the last.
Skin cold, breath tight,
failing heart shallow.
Far easier to fall.
Fear. Fear. Fear.

Fear.

From the past; a gift.
A friend’s voice; still clear.
“You’ve been okay before.”
Freedom in that
to step forward.

I sang.
I sing.

a draft thing

So here’s a thing, a draft thing.  I’m not sure who the characters are; I can probably guess their ages, but not genders as yet, but I know they’re close to each other.  It’s been a long time since I’ve written any long prose; it’s a bit like being drunk or lost; easy to fall into; harder to get out.

Hearth

The hearth is warm stone; made so by the passage of years, each autumn in its turn, every fire that we left to burn overnight.  The dog grate is new, or relatively so, pock marked only by a little rust, a year or two of spring rains falling hard through the uncapped chimney.  Its metal feet sit less than square against the mortared joints of the flags.

You’re not far away; the heart-beat irregular lick of the flames begins against charcoal embers.  Beneath the grate is clean, carefully so.  As you started the fire you stood here, leaving behind a few leaves from the dark garden, trapped now beneath the coal bucket; extra random reds against this year’s rag rug.  These scents followed you in; sunshine against October damp, pruned apple wood, thick grease from the gate.

Over the chair hangs the green camouflage jacket that we’ve both worn at different times.  In the left pocket there will be jute from the garden.  My hands remember the harsh thread; the days spent waiting for your return; my fingers busy making hard, unstructured knots.   There will be cigarettes in the inside pocket, yours, from the spring.  Half hidden in a mutual deception as to how much you still smoke.

There’s not much of my tour guide work remaining now; just the Saturday mornings.  This has left my reading to slide into an untidy heap; periodicals and books; occasional newspaper clippings.  It will wait now for the cold nights.  You’ve left the post on the chair.  Unopened.  I see a bill and some stupid circulars.

They go, where they live, on the kitchen side but avoiding a small run of condensation from the kettle.  Beads of water grow on the white metal finish.  By it the old pyrex bowl holds batter, the sugar jar sits by it, my favourite pan is shiny with melted butter.  And I know you’ve gone out for oranges.

 

Middle of Nowhere

A poem because my cat died.  My cat that saw me into an empty house of an evening for ten years of workdays and sat with me on afternoon for eight years of children.  I smashed some old teacups and it didn’t work, suspect you have to use the best ones.

 

Middle of Nowhere

Summer sky through green leaves suspended,
hammock swinging, bare foot and shoulder;
absent without leave from my own life.
Smashed pots lie quiet by the wall.

Birds sing verses of ordinary pleasures,
cars park in the street, children laugh;
the kitchen clock marks continual hunger.
A raven pours her blue eye over me.

Favoured notebook and blue pen by me,
tea cooling, the quiet house beyond;
this space too small for maps or legends.
Reason’s left me ringing empty.

Deja Vu and 1918.Une Montre

So.  I underwrite.  Not a wasted word or overstated sentiment.  Which is grand, except that sometimes it renders what I write incomprehensibly abstract, obscure, evasive.

So here are two poems that centre round the same idea of emotional return.  The shorter one I wrote first.  And then a friend remarked upon the abstract nature of what I write and I saw that, for what it sometimes is, a kind of cowardice.  So I wrote the second one.

As ever, all feedback humbly appreciated.

Deja Vu

Already I
heard the wheat rise with the sun,
flirted with your well shaped phrase.
Dreamed these pictures,
read the signs;

went away.

Already I
salted squash to watch it weep,
shared cheese, broke bread, kept the faith.
Counted the stars,
heard the song;

went away.

I can see Saturn’s oceans,
a boat house lying empty,
packed tack and stored limes,
the perfect stormy course.

 

1918
Une montre

My great grandad; short, yorkshire stone and dour, back from war.
His spoils; medals, a hatred of adventure, a gift for his youngest.
For the twelfth child of a long settled traveller; badly housed, poor;
a treasure wrapped in muslin, in a oxo tin.  A diamanté watch.

And a stew of phrases; san fairy ann, TTFN, the quality of mercy.
But une montre to wear with dark hair, blue eyes, flappers beads,
to time her batting for the county team, for dark-room work days.
Till the workings failed and it shone only in the past tense.

She told this last grandchild of that watch, of other ways and roads.
Over years we scrapped carbon from toast, watched blossom fall
and she taught me all the French she knew.  Merci beaucoup.
Ca ne fait rien.  A demain.  Je t’aime.  If it pleases you?

And it pleased me, the shape and taste of it; pictures in my head.
Hungry then to learn and for adventure.  To get beyond the 31 bus.
Her lifetime condensed to highlights, thirst and hunger. Defiance.
Added a colour animation to this shy clown; my own subtitles.

I planned and dreamed and grafted.  That working class imperative.
Ambition aimed me, set my sights on London on the way to Paris.
The south of England brought sandals in October. Freedom. Debt.
A taste for cheap wine. Love for a man with blue eyes and dark hair.

As I fell I forgot that unconditional love asks nothing and gives all.
I stayed with him because he asked it.  Gave in, gave up; got lost.
London was enough I said and used false reason to kill hope.
In others nightmares I found restless sleep and sadness.  Ennui.

An echo from a London friend brought me back through years.
“Birds and snakes. An aeroplane. It starts with an earthquake.”
Again I burn toast, listen to the radio and shop for a watch.

I stand on the shoulders of my own gods and dream in colour.