Here is a selection of my poetry for April.
Riding spring tides, sucked into Severn’s mouth,
they’ve braved Atlantic storms to swarm upstream :
this mass of squirming grey translucency,
glass eels, whose every heartbeat can be seen.
Rare pike and wading herons eat their fill,
and, on ebb tides at night, lone fishermen
come out with lights, attract this shoal
close to the banks and dip-nets’ caging pens.
Spring’s river harvest time in bygone days
saw elver-eating contests at the pub;
sold cheaply by the pint to working men,
these baby eels were starving families’ grub.
Today, ‘though fewer make the nets, the catch,
a writhing, frothy mass, is ferried home
by van in plastic tanks and old tin baths
to sell, as special Easter treats, to gastronomes.
My father : slower now,
grey haired - stooped and seventy -
retains the body of an active man.
Hands still powerful are now impaired -
a tremour frustrates delicate work.
He watches as I set the ladder straight
and climb stiff legged to reach the sill.
First I locate a place to grip, then clean the pane.
My tentative reach with soapy sponge,
cackhanded smear with squeegee,
from other men would bring disdain -
"Let's have a go, I know the game," is all he says.
Scorning my tools he fetches chamois and scrim,
the very same that in the past have seen
thousands of windows pristine clean.
Leaded or shop glass - all the same to him;
bays and bows, fanlight or mullion he has cleaned.
Ignoring feeble protests he swarms
the ladder with a practised tread.
Years slip away with every step.
Transformed : muscle memory conjures up
this younger man still working at his peak -
as he'd been when I was just a lad.
Balancing and stretching, further he sways,
reaching to the window's distant edge.
Rhythm and power; economy in every stroke,
this craftmanship admired below.
Ten feet above my head I watch his flow :
balance, grace, confidence - decisiveness with every pass -
sureness of touch I couldn't match.
And I am grateful when he's through
for cleanliness of glass - a job well done-
and sharing with me this hidden younger man I knew.
My Father would've been 96 on April 13th.
FROM THE FAMILY ALBUM
Flanked by large carcasses and cuts,
forbears pose stiffly for the lens
below my Mother’s maiden name
emblazoned on their butcher’s shop.
The sign says, Lapington & Son –
his mutton chops beside the beef;
her bonnet, apron pristine white –
but of the son there is no sign.
Life in a bottle brought him down,
this black sheep who soon got the chop –
his birthright lost, a fortune gone,
the shop sold off by maiden aunts.
They, in their turn, gave all away
to feed the dogs at Battersea,
ensuring devil’s progeny
would not receive life on a plate.
WHEN AMBER LEFT
She left behind a trail of glinting light.
Marking each place where she had stepped, sequins
Shine up like tiny sparkling jewels from mats,
Carpet and chairs. Shed with each dancing step,
Each twirl, each laugh, it was the magic trail
From Disney’s fairy wands flashing down
To trace her joy in this new princess dress
The one she hoped the Easter Bunny’d bring.
It’s true the label warned, Decorations
May detach when washed but not from joyous
Prancing… Like Cinderella I sweep up
And watch my busy Dyson’s innards gleam.
Beneath sad skies and gently falling rain,
the only sound the joyous song of birds
on air so still no breath of wind can stir
the late spring trees unfurling fresh green leaves.
A charm of finches flashes gold and red
towards the valley where hedged blackthorn blooms;
up on the hill, wet glazes plough’s fine tilth
and cowslips thrive beneath the plum and pear.
A slick of oil washes down the lane,
rain heals gouged verge where dying nettles lie,
a shattered grill and glass spill from the ditch
near scattered flowers from a last “goodbye.”
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