In the high street you turn from Ursula,
that small wreaking bear in a fine old coat:
well worn dichlorobenzenated reminder
of an otherwise wasted life.
Up and down she pads, from dawn to dark,
claws clicking past embarrassed charity,
rather proffering that magnificent maned neck
to the limp lasso of wet and greedy punters.
Her hunted life is heft and loaded into BMWs,
to be stuffed and tipped back later, sore and sober,
that fabulous bear coat torn and taken from her,
the remains of its wilderness scratching at her back.
I last performed a hearty hub
to background sounds of a country pub,
those noisy vets, yet how I roared,
my stance so solid and assured.
My voice was neither fast or shy,
for two whole hours i was truly I.
But where were you that dauntless night?
Hunkered low in pain or fright?
Holed up in trouble, clothed in fear?
The mirror twists and you appear.
And so we two performed as one,
for loathing will not silence song,
beaten low – as silver snakes,
thrown – soaring birds, or what it takes.
Work with me in meditation,
hear my voice in contemplation;
we’ll rise and leap and crest and fly,
til you are You and i am I.
Though on the surface splashes only briny wave;
there is one regret,
stirring darkly in the deepest corner of a cave.
Though I pull my eyes from the oily fear I find;
there is yet something,
scratching saline places hidden well and left behind.
If I might switch and dive my life to swim again;
on that returning tide,
I would void my lungs to wipe away one dreadful stain.
We meet to consider old stitches;
knotted to the past by red thread
which, dangling still between us,
is tensioned by remembrance.
Our fragile family quilt,
sewn haphazardly by unpractised hands,
requires the nimble unpick of constituent parts
and the renewal of worn twine.
Too long we sensitive seamsters
put aside the intricacies of a trying task,
when the damaged beauty of our creased cloth
can be redressed with candor, and restored.
My memory is
a tailored suit black cuff button rolled
flipped and wedged between dusty wainscot and wooden floor.
It is four heavy old pennies balanced and stacked
beneath the leg of a lopsided make-do desk.
And then I may take the middle of a punched paper hole
scuffed and left by the soul of a Brogue.
In perpetuity it will bear faintest traces
of the stale scent of slim cigars
emanating from a plastic-lined basket-work bin.
It will not be wiped either
by its one string slither of a shedding mop.
There will be a sound too –
a sound insistent as a stylophone;
like the thrum of Anglia cars through thin windows.
And oh yes, its colours will always be orange –
orange and bottle green.
These two hands are both my boundaries and my open gate
raised up to signify life and catch my breath, and as I ponder
they take the pen to write, dipping sotto voce ink,
and hearing hidden passion with sentient finger tips.
How these two friends push and press and work together,
folding over dough in pas des deux parenthesis,
gathering to cup a warming brew or comb through hair,
iced blue in deep snow pockets, in summer – full red and ripe.
Comfortable in prayer, who would judge these anguished two
for uncommon deviation; a desperate grab in tightened times?
Ignited in knuckled protest, closing angry fists as if to fight?
Look down then to your left and to your right.
My industrious two return to sew and knit and thread
and wrap and cut and spread and meet and reassure
and weave between expression and caress.
And when you go they’ll wave and wipe, go mix a cake.
Each day they pick and pour and weigh, these two hands.
In doubt they shift and shy, but regrouping bear me up,
my loyal retainers, remaining after fair has faded,
brushing ebb and flow as time is plucked and dropped.
So mounting life we’ll screech and ride and burn
careering round the country without lights
we’ll roll our bikes get up and spit and learn
and dash on through the dark dragging our rights.
When we are younger helmets guard our thought
as down those lethal hills we shift and fly
our heads are strong our muscles flexed and tort
as hairpins bend and buzz us round and by.
Chicanes defied we leap our faith and nerve
and pay no heed to riders left or felled
unhindered by the boulders and the curb
past flags and friends as though we are propelled.
When whipped and lapped by attitude we swear
at step and crossroads, brake and all but chunder;
footfaulting in our sudden wheel of care
we grip the bars to stop us going under.
Our Birth Day breaks,
pouring sand through quickened senses,
restoring shine to tarnished self-belief.
Wrapped in miracles we become anew
beautiful in a small animal way,
and stride with eyes lifted in purpose,
opposing damaged feet.