NaPoWriMo Brief 25: to write a poem after listening to James Schuyler’s “Hymn to Life”, following several suggestions which can be found here.
“Why don’t you pick up your feet when you walk?”
I sense his irritation rising. Apologetic I try to walk better
But don’t understand what the words mean. Like when they say
“Is a bell on a bicycle necessary?” It’s just sounds.
And spring mocks your grief as though it doesn’t matter at all
That they are dead. Life goes on
And the breeze in the silver birch trees helps the baby to sleep
So too, the bumpy path in the park. Leave the pram in the garage,
Leave the leaves to rot down. “Years, it takes”, they say. Leaf mold
There’s another one. As dandelion seeds float through the air
Like wishes, dispersing as they go. And we tell ourselves
That the traffic on Meanwood road is the sound
Of waves crashing against the cliffs. Treacherous
Yet reassuring at the same time. Winter doesn’t last for ever
Because nothing does. One day we will all turn grey
Our skin I mean. And lose our glow. And mourners will gather
And feel guilty that they are able to laugh and joke
But find themselves drawn to the humour, as inappropriate as it feels.
Life goes on. The same clothes go on. Some from when he was still alive
When he turned the whites grey from putting a colour in with them.
Do it wrong enough times and you won’t be asked to do it at all.
Now there’s a tactic. “Do 90% only of what you’re asked. Never more.
The boss will always want more.” He taps his finger on his forehead.
Tactics. Tictacs. Rainbow drops. Ice pops. The sweetest pleasures
From the shop over the road. The cricket always on the TV
And often a man, leaning on the counter,
Stepping aside as you approach with your rainbow drops.
It’s nice to have company. Although some days he doesn’t talk at all.
You never know what mood you’ll get – non-stop chat or just the nod.
“I do miss the company, but I get by. I have the carers twice a day,
So I’m not on my own all the time. And the telly.”
Black and white with a dial. “Don’t stand there!
It messes with the aerial!” “I’ll come down soon – it’s my favourite programme.”
“They’re ALL your favourite programme!”
At our house no meant no. Full stop. Capital letter. Start again.
Never-ending. And when is it really the end?
You won’t know til it’s passed. But some know,
Like when the likelihood of surviving the operation is 15%
You have a fairly good idea and then you cling on to that hand
With a desperation that is palpable. Something I have learnt
Is always to be in the room when the consultant is in.
You don’t want to miss that bit. That is when you get the news.
That is when you get the details and you can ask questions.
Don’t miss that bit. The news today is that the rowan flowers are out
And many cherry trees have shed their blossom already,
It lies on the ground like snow. Although some are still resplendent.
That is a new word for me. To do with shining, or ‘dazzling’.
It’s been two days since I walked this way and already
The path is starting to look overgrown. In summer
It will be impassable. Unless I do something about it.
Birds in the sky are joyous to behold. Not so, trapped between
Our house and the house next door, injured and flapping in panic.
Scarred for life I am, when it comes to birds. I call it a ginnel
But maybe you don’t. On a sunny day, all you smell is bonfires
And exhaust fumes. Not a recommended way to die
But we all die one way or another.
Pity on the person who finds you though, dragging you out of the garage.
“Not again.” He’s tinkering with his car again. Always out there,
Tinkering. More often than not I see him. It’s a good day for cutting the hedge,
For tidying up. And shoots sprout up from the stump in the garden –
Obstinate. Ever hopeful. “We must get together some time.” “Yes lets.”
Two girls walk past and giggle. I immediately assume they’re laughing at me.
An old hang-up. Wall flowers show off, growing between the pavement and the wall
True to name. Not so the blackbird with its orange beak
Less black than the crow, but owning the name. There is something
So tender about a male friend peeing in the woods. Why is that?
Well I’ve gone and missed the best part of the sunset again
Too busy fussing and preparing and eating beyond the point of fullness.
The gulls circle and land where the breadcrumbs were strewn earlier.
Between the paving slabs there are nettles, buttercups, wild mustard
And daffodils, past their best now. There’s a strict rule of one in one out
The same is true at the greengrocers at Chapel Allerton,
The queue stretching up the road, even at 9am. A friend cuts another’s hair
“It’s not quite right this time, but I’ll get better.” Practice makes perfect
And other such sayings that have the same effect.
Another quad bike powers down the path on Sugarwell Hill,
Leaving a string of rolled eyeballs and tuts in its wake.
‘There is a rainbow in your eyeballs’ is a popular song in Indonesia.
I’m recently back from there. Getting further and further in the past.
Just want to experience a different culture, get some fresh air,
Have a bit of a clear out. Once I have more cupboards –
“Then I’ll be happy.” A hook rack, fast draining sink, a new carpet.
That same dog barks its deep bark. I never think of it
But when I hear it, usually as I lie in bed at night.
The same with fixing my bike – the thought is gone as soon as I’m back home
And surfaces when I’m out the door and down the street.
“It looks so beautiful out there. I’ll just sit and enjoy the dusk light.”
Midges put pay to that. You think you love nature? Here it is –
Midges, mosquitoes, may flies, ants. Wasps and bees and rats.
You want to cherrypick your favourite bits. You romanticise nature
Like you romanticise love.
But the countryside smells of manure and sounds of tractors.
Just like the people you love will annoy you. I live alone.
That dog again. The one night I don’t let the dogs sleep in with me
I wake to find my wallet and my phone have been taken.
My old faithful nokia, set to wake me up to catch my train.
Train tickets in my wallet. “These things are sent to test us”
So they say. “How grown up we’ve been! I’ve never had such a mature break up.”
Famous last words. Or maybe you just never cared that much in the first place.
Down in the woods is a burnt out car – the most poetic thing to find.
There’s a story there. There’s a story. Interesting because it involves humans.
And illegal behaviour. More interesting than a tree that just grows.
But if that tree could talk, it could tell us a thing or two.
Only, would it want to? The car is burnt out but life goes on.
All I ever wanted was to be good enough for you.