This poem was written as I looked forward to a continued recovery from two years of serious inflammation of the brain.
The illness has destroyed many memories. Images from the past have helped restore a sense of self and well-being.
Foot soldiers, rarely loth to steal a joke; we did
our “national service” – not in khaki – but on foot,
the regular irregulars, not even that, outside
the Yorkshire Grey. “He’d been an intuitive horologist…”
“Always drunk, especially in the house.” “What, yours?”
“I thought you said…” Films heard of, never seen.
Celebrities encountered in unlikely settings.
Disgraceful conduct by the best of men.
“Large enough to mean me too…” “Anything but!”
Trapped eels and valiant salmon, outfoxed rabbits
taken more by luck than judgment.
”You knew where you were with an apple…” “But a pear…”
“…or peer…” “…nursing a pint and a grudge…“ “Up Queer street!”
“…in a quandary and an ill-fitting suit.” “Not exactly cheap!”
“I think it was raining…” “Think?” “Had been, surely?”
“…was incapable…” “Or thought he was.” “Though sadly,
not of speech…” “…when, during the fruit course…”
“…nor even the finest of China…” “Nothing untoward I trust?”
“The most shabby of sordid acts in surprisingly decorous language.”
“It was during the war…” “Not the one I knew?” “A modest wit.”
“…sub-fusc…” “Half-wit more like.” “That’s a second book, then?”
“If there is one.” “As in, time for?” “How did you start that…?”
“What rot!” “Put on the brakes!” “Talking of which…”
“Not even time to…“ “In verse?” “A love song? To Fitzrovia?”
“Shut it!” “Hard to find…” “… a good egg…” “Right!
Let’s push off!” “The office calls.” “Dread words…”
Mad for me to cast out things I’d kept in case
they’d prompt or take the place of memories. And me,
and all that stuff but no recall, was truly mad. I thought
those others were the same, could summon times
from objects; maudlin disappointments with a myth;
excited by discovery of songs or shows I’d recommend,
a blush with each repeat, becoming natural when you laugh.
A sorry tale? A cooks ‘s knife sharp enough to cut
this hand that feeds and feels. My view’s shut off
by mounds of put-by books or stacks of sound
placating absences where culture could have been.
Daylight – a sad interior – outside, the world…
Those others dream, or say so. Still-born into
stillness. I must edit and I won’t until I do.
A merchant said I mustn’t ask for trust – umbrage
might expose to all just how he made his crust.
Debase that coinage, none could thrive; moreover,
riff-raff were not harmed by scrapping, had to stay alive.
So God gave us a baby, to a mother not-yet-married and
a man, despite all thinking she’d have dallied…
fled with her out of danger into danger; to what end
he couldn’t, and we can’t, foresee or understand;
it’s not for me, or anyone, when such a gift is offered.
Thoughts torment in case, for good or ill, we’re tricked…
untrusting – nothing can be done. To say: “No thanks;”
to pass it by; get on with business. Worn out;
like sharper’s coins; we talk of being overtaxed;
the little coming in to help us out.
photos Jane Dunster