Tag Archives: memories

Pass Into The Past

Pass Into The Past

And when you look around,
and when you look within,
when sure of what you’ve found,
then you can begin.
Somehow you are allowed
to pass into the past.
The people in the rooms
thought what they had would last.
The portraits on the walls,
the pictures in the frames.
Whoever made those calls
did not leave their names.
The statues in the rain,
the dark red violin,
the white cloth with a strain,
the old toffee tin.
These stories are not yours
you seem to know so well.
With keys for all the doors,
you find more to tell.
And when you look around,
and when you look within,
if you fear what you’ve found,
you cannot begin.
The wolves are in the wood,
you cannot go there.
Cold and heat battle in your blood
as you climb an iron stair.
Aware of a ticket in your pocket,
you enter a railway station.
Confused by all the trains,
you wonder if you have a destination.
When will you ever know,
come near to understand,
what screens and mirrors show,
a world strange and grand?
Those paintings that they stole,
those signs they daubed on doors,
that flag hung on a pole,
raised between the wars.
When fear heats your heart,
your lamp begins to dim,
the waves still fall and part
where the dolphins swim.
And when you look around,
and when you look within,
the marks etched on the ground
tell you who will win.

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Sniggery Wood

Sniggery Wood

Sniggery Wood is not much of a wood but I always liked its name. To snigger means to half suppress a secret laugh. That suggests to snigger is to feel superior to the one who is sniggered at. Sniggery is not in the dictionary. If it was, maybe it would define sniggery as being in a state to snigger. I searched for sniggery on line. I found the word snig. A snig is a word for a small eel I read. On another site, I found that snig is a word for a grass snake. That makes sense, I thought. A grass snake looks like a small eel, one that lives on land and not in the sea. Flowery means abounding in flowers, so sniggery could mean crawling with snigs, more commonly known as grass snakes. Slippery, slimy, words associated with snakes, add to them, sniggery. Sniggery Wood could mean a wood crawling with grass snakes. Someone named it so sometime. Maybe a farmer or a land owner who knew there were snigs in the area. If you have not seen one before, a grass snake looks like a small eel. I can imagine walking through the wood to be suddenly startled by a snig on the path, a grass snake soon to slither away, not to be seen again. It is all right, the fright will soon pass.
No, Sniggery Wood is not much of a wood. It is just a long, narrow strip of stunted trees, twisting up, too close together, roots hid in tangles of bramble and nettle, that divides one flat crop field from another. Planted on, ploughed, harvested, and left to fallow through the seasons, the fields show signs of tractor wheel work. Crows and seagulls swoop low to nab worms, unearthed, exposed in the furrows to be eyed by winged scavengers. Slug slimed stone sat on by a newt, watching insects flit, skim stagnant surface of the mud brown water of the reed hidden ditch that runs along the west edge of Sniggery Wood and splits through the north fields.
I remember the secondary school cross country run for secondary school boys, sweating in shorts, vests and pumps. We ran as fast as we could, to get it over with. We thudded and clanked over the bridge of wooden planks that spanned the foul smelling ditch at the south gate of Sniggery Wood. I had a stitch in my right side, a sore throat, stiff, dry leg bones, blisters on the soles of my feet. My brain sagged in my head like a dust bag. The event seemed like a punishment, even to those who were thin, athletic. Round Wood Wall we ran, along the hard pavement that bordered the roads, until in the school changing room, we finished.
Further back, I remember the picnic we had in Sniggery Wood. Must have been summer. That means in the stuffy wood, there may have been moths, butterflies, bird song, unknown to us, possibly a snig in the grass. In my memory glass, I see me, my mother, my sister, and from next door, Mrs Cook, her son and daughter, and their rough coated small white dog, Louie. Maybe we did carry a picnic basket into the wood. Egg sandwiches, tomato and lettuce sandwiches, pork pies, we ate, maybe, swigs of pop, as we called lemonade, we drank. It is what happened after the picnic I remember most.
We strolled up the dirt track in the bright air, away from Sniggery Wood, on our way to the small village of stone cottages called Little Crosby with its Saint Mary church. I lagged behind. The others strolled on. I stopped, looked south, watched a moth fluttering on the edge of a crop field. Whatever it was the farmer grew in the field, wheat, barley or rye, I did not know. I just liked the way the long yellow stalks swayed and rustled in the low breeze. I did not want to follow the others. I wanted to walk in the field of stalks that were taller than me, and smelt better than bread and flowers. So I stepped forward, off the dirt track. My right foot failed to find hard grassy ground, only air, and I fell, down, into the stink and mud of a ditch I was blind to, that ran between the south edge of the dirt track and the crop field, for the summer growth of reeds and grasses kept it hid.
I squelched and struggled in the stinking mud that was up to my chin, my hands had nothing to grip on. The side of the ditch was steep and slimy.
“This is it,” said a low, cold voice, hardly there, thin as the reeds. I expected to die in the ditch. Help, I cried, more than once. They will never hear me, I thought, too far ahead. But the dog did. Louie barked above me. The hand of my mother lifted me up. Caked in mud and ditch slime, I could not speak. I stared all the way home, my brain blank. Amazed I still lived.
No, Sniggery Wood is not much of a wood but it was all we had, nearby. It is a gate to some memories. It is not far, a short walk away, but I have no wish to go back there.
“Enter these enchanted woods, ye who dare.”
I liked the line. It made me pause, smile. The rest of the poem and the poet who wrote it is shed from my memory. The line made me feel sad, too. I knew those woods could only be found and entered in fiction, a tale or a ballad, or in a dream, not in what is called the real world. Even in a forest of fine trees, there are no magical beings or mythical beasts to be met, no goblins, dwarves, elves, wizards or fairy folk. Certainly there is no enchantment in Sniggery Wood. I once imagined a tramp in a long black coat slept in a ditch near Sniggery Wood, and an old woman who lived in a white cottage not far from its miserable borders was a witch. With other children, I ran, scared by her front garden gate. The children we were are gone now. Sniggery Wood remains, will stay where it is. Its only threat is a snig in the grass.

Turn Backward Keys

Turn Backward Keys

You cannot get back there,
not to your childhood.
You cannot run to the fish pond,
be told not to fall in,
when world was the school yard
and the end began to begin.
You can glimpse the gate to the garden,
hear cries over the wall,
but you can only walk by
for you know too much now
and you are too tall.
O my, you loved it when all spun round right.
Now you dig the dark earth
in search of a lamp,
but the day is dim, there’s not enough light.
If you got back there,
you would want to stay,
till you saw all those who were there with you
have all grown, gone away.
Windows and harbours, bell towers and trees,
things that enchant you become turn backward keys.
But there’s something you always knew, anyhow,
the best time is now.

In My Winter Chair

In My Winter Chair

In my winter chair,
I think of what was there,
and will not be forgotten.
I may be mistaken,
I am almost sure,
but cannot be certain,
that I saw a nightingale in summer,
perched on a tree in my garden,
its song finer than that of a spring piper,
stirred me more than the retreat
of an autumn drummer.
Swifts and swallows flew south for shelter,
but like the sparrows, I must stay,
and endure the winter,
but I have the memory
of a nightingale in summer.

Are you buying any of these things?
If you are, who are they for?
In this world where there are paupers
and there are kings,
what would you do if you knew all things?

The Old Woman Of Yerevan

The Old Woman Of Yerevan

I stood in the kitchen,
up early to catch my plane,
to fly from Armenia,
back to England again.
It was mild for November,
no sign of snow or rain.

The silence was broken,
I heard a noise, far below,
a steady stroke on hard ground,
a slow scrape, to and fro.
Puzzled, I took a step,
looked down, out the window.

I saw an old woman,
sweeping dry leaves in a heap,
in the glow of a street lamp,
with her broom worked to keep
her city of Yerevan
neat while it was in sleep.

Her wrinkled face was calm,
she did not know she was seen.
She had made it her chore
to keep her city clean.
I saw the strength in her stoop,
that her mood was serene.

Sometimes when I am still
and silent in my room,
I see the old woman of Yerevan,
sweeping streets with her broom.

Dint In The Flint

Dint In The Flint

O ye bins and badges, herons and badgers,
ye throstle throated thistle thorn tub tenders,
ye clapped cloud cymbal tinkle tappers,
hear ye of the knight in the green shadowed wood,
at rest from the quest of the quibbler,
his head on a mound asleep to trickling water sound,
sheltered by his first star of summer shield.
Ye blue sky wind blown wing flyers,
awaken and wash my youth eye in my wise age,
let me follow a leaf through legend’s rural page
to embark on a rowan stage.
And ye that walk but cannot be heard,
talk on a higher pitch than bird,
let me sense you are there in some far off dell,
let me sway secure inside your chrome city bell.
O ye wind jammers on the wet pyjama seas,
O ye pelican bills on the pecked pirate parrot trees,
let me fetch berry baskets back
from the last black berry picking outing
when there was pleasure in the smile,
joy in the shouting.
O ye sparrows and finches
that chirp in the backyard near
take me back to then to be clearly here.
O ye attic bards, basement bards,
O ye walrus whiskered wine merchant
watching Wagon Train on Wednesday
when the weather forecast is due.
Better wrap it up while the vintage
tastes fine as any antique brew.
Ye that are finished with perfection
detect a dint in the flint that no one knew.
The birds have gone from my garden
as if vacuumed from the air.
I pledge my heart will not harden,
still a child bare foot on the stair.

Armoured Knight

Armoured Knight

Armoured Knight stands guard on my sitting room shelf.
His post was once on my bedroom window sill.
He is part of my past.
An ornament I bought in a gift shop in Woolacombe
on the North Devon coast.
Souvenir of a summer.
1970. I was eighteen. Worked in a hotel kitchen,
my brain blown open by ocean,
I pined to find words for what I could hear in sea gull cries,
far and high in the sky,
yearned to see white sailed boats voyage out from coves
to Atlantis.
Photographs of sunsets never developed well.
My camera could not capture
the hues of heaven I saw on the western horizon.
Armoured Knight I brought home in my haversack.
2017. Sixty five now.
Years ago, I somehow managed to break his lance.
Now his right hand grips only air.
Once I had to glue him back on his black plastic stand.
But why now the mention?
Recently, late one evening, I turned my CD player on,
leaned back in my arm chair.
My body light, forgotten, I attended to song,
became just an eye,
my spirit clasped by the top joint in the stalk of my spine,
aware only of words and notes in the air,
my gaze came to settle on Armoured Knight,
stood guard in his place on my sitting room shelf.
His helmeted head suddenly moulded into a mask.
The mask melted to reveal a bare face,
that of a man, a captain of soldiers.
He stared at the ground. His face pale, bony, stern.
His thought on battlefields behind him,
wars he had witnessed, weapons used by men,
from bow and arrow, sword and spear,
rifle and cannon to machine gun and tank.
He grew more macabre than a ghost,
a foul portent, ill omen,
till he could be given no other name than Death.
There he stood, Death himself.
Cold, battle boned, sword sharp, hard.
The spell broken, the vision vanished.
Armoured Knight restored himself.
An ornament. Nothing more.