He shows me a photograph of his father sat on a boat.
A mess of net piled on the bow, a morning sun spilled into sea.
“Each life carries the next, like an infinite lift of waves, generation
to generation,” he said. “Even if it means to carry a coffin of bricks.”
I saw his figure later in the day, stood at the highland edge,
his arms held out wide to the spread of blue expanse before him.
And that night, I woke to waves, their hush on shingle,
to winds running through alleys, homes, cathedrals.
A chorus of a thousand lives, sea shanties from children,
husbands, wives, forever carried on a gentle tide.
Photograph taken in Port Isaac, Cornwall, UK.
It was as if someone pried the lid from a tin
and the day contained inside was glossed, golden,
the surface clean, untouched and taut and sweet,
and we could savour the soft dawn and cool dusk
or prize those in between moments that slip by life
like water striders too swift for photographs.
This bridge we cross has carried many.
Some stood for photographs to be framed,
others declared love with a name-etched
padlock locked to the railings, the key tossed.
How we’ve slipped by these meetings, these vows,
and simply drifted downstream, leaving the smallest
ripples in the water to smooth and fade when we’re gone,
knowing it was only ever us.
Forgive me, for capturing you.
Snapped. Framed. I heard,
although you did shout,
that someone forgot to lock
the car, and you were sent
ambling back. I was after
the architecture, actually,
and to show a pewter sky
doubled in the river gloss.
The swans came soon,
and the water purled from
their bone-white plumes
as they drifted the river,
but I had to go before
I was invited to read at a poetry night earlier this week in Bradford-on-Avon. It’s a small town of lovely architecture, quaint shops, and humble history. Whilst I only had a few minutes to walk through the town, between arriving and the poetry starting, I had to capture a part of it.
At some point, we think we’ve experienced it all.
The generosity. The greed. The loss. The love.
And then we pick up a book, cradling the broken spine,
careful of faded pages, nursing the tattered front,
and it’s only then
do we discover
how much of being we have yet to encounter.
Sometimes, I have a thought, or perhaps,
a thought has me, and it bores down to bone,
runs through the length of marrow.
This particular idea, one of truffle rarity, like hearing
a lone wolf howl, inappropriately called
when I planned to sit and read for lunch.
I had a few books of poetry, all crisp and clean,
spread across my lap, ready for digest
(even the lamppost leant in curiosity)
but this thing called and begged for company,
to be penned when potent, to be grasped by the scruff.
Keats. Auden. Plath. I’m sorry. I can’t sit and read.
The hounds are calling me to write.
Let me describe the orchestra of a Friday morning.
A crow, shaggy, black as coal, caws a throaty, gravelly caw
from her lamppost, as if she begs for a lozenge.
Below, a sack barrow rattles on the cobble, clumsily
nursing kegs of stainless steel and wine bottle boxes
that clink, clang and cheer as they go.
Panting, a jogger rushes past with ABBA blasting
through his mobile phone, his heavy footsteps striking hard,
firing shots that echo and pierce the crisp morning air.
You pause to unlock the shop. The keys jingle. Your mind
still waking, eyes still opening, a belch ready to blow,
and the sun has entered, quietly crept through the archway
and spread itself across the pavement in a bright, butter blanket.
It’s there for five minutes, to politely gold the potted primrose,
to gift the weeds with warmth, to dry the beads of dew,
and then silently exits.
To one person passing they see a man ready for a date.
A bouquet of bright flowers cooly resting in his arm,
a weighted box of chocolates held in his hand,
awaiting the door to open, to be greeted with a kiss
and welcomed in, for her to be happy with the thought,
Another person, the one with a tough, knitted brow,
one who has faced the loneliness, now and then,
will not expect the door to open, for they can see
the heavy tulip heads and their drooping bow, tired,
wilting, paired with the chocolates bought at half-price,
We overhear the body and bowl connection,
muffled words of technique and tactic
as one man strings a stare to the far end.
The jack, alone. Parched upon the ground.
The knee bends, an arm swings slow,
casting a cradled bowl low in the palm
to the ground, departing hand to shadow,
a quiet transit, swift without a sound.
From all the years of practice, the fights,
the conversation, the rebellious spurs,
the regretful aftermath, he knows,
and quite rightfully so,
not to throw the bowl too hard.
We never made it to the top. You and I had both had too much
and together we slumped against the cobblestone,
let the bottles fall from our hands and roll down before us,
their clinks and clatter rupturing the silent night.
No more, you said. No more of this routine,
where intoxication takes over
and the stars simmer and spin
and the eardrums ache
and the mind is left tender
and the heart is left raw,
no more, no more.
Your final words as I fell asleep against the railing,
and the morning rose in warmth and birdsong.
Last week, I heard from a friend that you got a job,
and I saw your sister in the pub the other day
and she said you moved out
and that you quit drinking
and that you finally cut your hair.
Looks like you made it to the top.
Keep going, mate.
Go on without me.