Saturday, 19 January 2008

Half a brick . . .

I felt in the mood for writing today. Poetry. It just came to me when my brain was in neutral. I wish I had a photo of the place which is in my mind's eye. I wish I could remember the NAME of the place which is in my mind's eye. If I can find the scrap of paper it is written down on, I will update you. My daughter and I found this when we were scrambling up a steep hillside to pick gorse blossoms for wine (Nancy and all Stateside, gorse is incredibly prickly, but has beautiful lemon yellow blossoms which smell of coconut, and seem to flower almost all the year round. There is an old saying, something like when the gorse doesn't bloom, love's out of fashion. Meaning, never! It used to be used as feed during the winter months, and at St Fagans, the Museum of Welsh Life, near Cardiff, they have saved and rebuilt a gorse mill, which used to crush and chop the gorse and make it edible for livestock). All that was left of the house was as described in the poem - just a shadow of a memory of times past. Later we looked it up in the 1881 census and found the family that had lived there then. This poem is for them:


Half a brick. That’s all that was left of what had been a home

When Victoria still reigned.

Half a brick. A house platform cut into the slate bedrock:

The flat face of a back wall, frost-cracks blackened by rainwater.

A spring nearby: not far to haul a bucket.

A pallor of Snowdrops in the woodland above,

Once gathered by childish fingers.

A trackway to it: blocked by fallen trees that were saplings

When he laboured in the fields below.

The same wind which blew the children’s hair,

Made tangles for the taming brush,

Now sweeps the hearth clear,

Makes the bracken nod where three girls played and a mother smiled.

Homes that were once neighbours still remain,

Sunk into the hillside like dumplings in stew.

But here - names in a census, and half a brick,

Tell no tale.

For the Lewis family of Ffosgrech.

The Spoon in the Antique Shop

An oil lamp gleams on a kitchen table, as a fat ginger cat lurks beneath,

Snickering through his coat with teeth like dirty ivory.

The suck and pop of a pot of porridge vies with the stuttering tick of an old clock,

And there is the jarring scrape of spoon on metal.

Hands dry as sandpaper from bricking the front step tighten apron strings.

The cat’s basilisk stare fixes on a wailing toddler.

“Hush now my babby, we’ll soon have you fed.”

The scrape of spoon on metal becomes a childhood anthem,

As it stirs soup and stew; apples and custard; chutney and jam.

It is an extension of the mother: her identity.

It is the last thing packed on moving house, the first unwrapped.

It survives funerals and weddings and christenings;

Gaining a personality of its own.

On the shelf in the antique shop it has wooden spoons for company;

The embrace of a Keiller’s Marmalade jar, and

A rolling pin rubs shoulders with it.

I pick it up, noticing the wear patterns, the chipped edges; the price tag of £4.

£4 for a woman’s soul . . .


Mrs.T said...

The poem is lovely and really captures the mood of such a place. Here in New England, there are many such places out in the woods... we call them "cellar holes"... where one can see old stone foundations and other small evidences, like your brick, or an apple tree, or a lilac bush, that once there was a home on that spot.

Thank you for sharing!

MammyT said...

Oh, Jennie, it takes my breath away.

MammyT said...

Ah, You added another. Again, I was there with you, in the shop and in the ancient kitchen. Your heritage gives you such musical names and picturesque words. It's like being in another time. In sepia tones.

Kim said...

They're lovely poems, BB, I especially loved the 'Spoon'. How true and so moving. Thank you.

Kim x