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Taking down tinsel
and other decorations
is the thing to do, perhaps.
can be evoked if they’re left,
dusty though they be.
They speak of the hopes one had
about friends and family-
How sad to dispense with those
festoons of good will.
When you vacuum the glitter,
you eradicate your dreams.
Something so simple
as the capital changing
made everyone move,
except for the redundant.
fell into rack and ruin.
Men were uncertain.
Suddenly they all shifted
right back to where they’d come from.
was found to be limiting.
You can bet your boots
old houses were not re-built
in terms of former grandeur.
An old post which seemed to bypass most of my present followers:
It’s dark now that the clocks are about to be changed and in the evening
all one can think about is activating the wood burner and settling in with
the hope that something interesting will be on the television. I go out
scavenging for wood- from skips, with permission, -or just appropriating
blown down twigs and slender branches. After a walk I look like a
babuschka trundling home in a Chekhov landscape, or Babuschka Baba
Yaga, to be more precise.
When I was little I was unfamiliar with the concept of a wood burner, but
very au fait with the actuality of a coal fire. Here is a poem that I wrote
The Coal Man
Once a week the coal man called with his sack
of bulging hessian, a shouldered sheep
wrapped round his sooty neck, his black back
bent double. He left a glistening heap
in bunkers, bawled on like a hoarse banshee.
Peeping from behind the curtain, my eye
would meet his own and in childish fancy,
its balefulness predestined that I’d die,
cursed by the red-lipped golliwog’s* fixed stare.
His load was the object of poker, tongs,
its coke-corrupted, crackling dross the flare
of a chimney fire; feeling which belongs
with hearth mythology, childhood’s subtle
fears of elemental forces. The guard
was prohibition’s symbol; the scuttle
source of adult power to ignite flames barred
to the uninitiated. Daybreak
began with vestal rituals, the sweeping
of ash, its careful wrapping. I would wake
to a smoky haze, the first blue leaping
through yesterday’s newspapers. A stray spark
had to be stamped before it took its hold:
individuality’s searing mark,
product of the dark trolls, Vulcanesque gold.
God took His own delivery; the sky
rumbled as His cellar filled with tinder
and this child, captivated by a lie,
trembled. The Coal Man might note smut, cinder
in grimy heart of smallest sinner-a
companion set no talisman or charm
against His briquettes’ out-poured brouhaha,
or sudden brilliancy which caused alarm.
The Grimy Giant’s voice was the thunderclap
Which sent one to the haven of a lap.
* no longer PC, but in the Fifties many a child had
a golliwog, so this toy, held in affection, was of its time
and that was its name, whether one approves of it, or not
in present times.
( PS Beware of burning wood unless it is super-dry oak
which has been seasoned for two years and has been
properly stored. I was exposed to bituminous, evil-smelling
smoke from others’ chimneys and my lung function in
my lower airways deteriorated to 56% and steroids did not
really help. Had to move house in the end. Wood smoke
particulate is highly toxic.)
(RMS_Queen_Mary_Long_Beach_January_2011.jpg David Jones
derivative work 2011 File Upload Bot Altair 78(talk))
Grandfather sat at the prow of my bed,
his pipe smoke furling from a brown funnel.
Tell me again: what was the very first thing
you had to do, to build The Queen Mary?
(single-handedly, I probably thought.)
Och, it’s all about rivets – lots of them.
Sitting up, I tucked the quilt round my legs,
replicating the outline of a hull.
We sipped tea from imaginary cans,
eating chocolate wafer Blue Ribands.
His narration of yard life, like Yarrow Boilers,
never ran out of steam; their flow increased.
The fog came down. Make the noise! Make the noise!
And he would drone the deep ‘A’ of its horn.
We flitted round The Grey Ghost arm in arm,
measuring the umpteen miles of carpet;
swimming in the pool and dancing, dancing,
at The Starlight Club. What’s a Turkish Bath?
Enthralled by the bright sparks of his stories;
strengthened by many blow-by-blow accounts
of what lay beneath the dimpled surface,
I never felt held back by rusting chains.
I was swaged and took on his impressions. So,
now, decades later, I am assuaged,
having been sent down the slipway of life,
christened and launched on that maiden voyage,
into a specially widened, dredged channel,
to follow my White Star: plated and sealed
and watertight through the symbiosis
of the riveter and the riveted.
A lucky four leaf clover propeller
directed my course down the Clyde and out
into the North Atlantic. Now retired,
far from home; docked like the grand old lady,
I have righted myself from past rogue waves-
listing, but not sinking, because of him
and the ballast he laid down in my hold.
Below my Plimsoll Line, when fog comes down,
I still feel the pistons of his heartbeat,
attuned to my own and powerful still.
Art Deco, Celestial City, Clyde, Clyde-built, dredgers, Dumbarton Rock, Flybe, Glasgow airport, Glasgow University, John the Baptist by Da Vinci, Kilpatrick Hills, Luftwaffe, Paisley, River Cart, Singer Factory, soor ploom, speug, Titan Crane
Yes, folks, I’m back. Here’s a wee poem for you, describing my thoughts as
Flybe took me out of Glasgow Airport:
SHE’S LEAVING HOME
Instead of a speug’s* view at ground level,
I have a skewed vista doon the watter.
There’s a lump in my throat like a Soor Ploom,
as my keen eye picks out Dumbarton Rock,
before the plane’s wing and cloud wisps obscure
the Ben and those Kilpatrick Hills – cradle
of my childhood. The tributary Cart,
where mighty hulks dragged their chains,
buoyed up those liners that would cruise the world,
while dredgers kept the channel free of silt
and every vessel seemed to be Clyde-built.
A solitary crane marks the spot
where political tourniquets strangled
the life out of industry and population.
Patchwork fields look as if they have been stitched
into a quilt by a local giantess,
the boundaries hemmed in by Paisley thread,
before Singer stopped treadling out machines
and its Art Deco clock had its hands tied,
as the shriek of town sirens was stifled.
I see my house, my school, the High Flats,
where Luftwaffe rained down a thousand bombs,
before I saw the light of day. Yon spire
of Glesca Uny soars toward the sky;
beckons to a Celestial City,
just like the finger of John the Baptist:
a pointer to a life outside the frame.
Education – the sky was the limit.
And now I can never come truly home.
Photo by Stephen Sweeney, Wikipaedia Commons