Few weekend miles I pedal bike
through juggernauts, a colporteur,
of imaginations, peddler,
to change her library books, as scout
to scour travel shelves for tomes,
to take round globe poor-sight shut-in.
I, from saddle, expedition
lead, survey routes, change climate, clime,
prepare her passage, appoint path,
sail wave, hack jungle track, tent desert
waste, ice, cliff edge, white water
raft from terraced house wheelchair pitch.
Flesh-jabbed Atlantic hail I push,
recalling warmth of lie-in peers,
ill-dressed for Lenten abrupt squall,
deposit last mind thralling tale,
rebuked I had not opus wrapped;
that strains my humour, wracks the mind,
my vest and pants feel wetter still.
In Easter days, in Devon lanes
where bank primrose glitter every bend
I pick a hundred butter gems,
deliver them in tissue wrap.
Recording reel-to-reel her call,
to open windows, handicapped;
excursion transfers, wheels, books, tapes,
clocked airmiles, trips without a tip.
P wears familiar granite grim face,
suggesting hormone-driven rebellion
just beneath his heavy brows.
Supportive, but only when he agrees.
We set off many hours before,
intervalled by moments, ten,
a small group, I in charge.
And so with corporate laziness,
catch up, joining force, and very soon
we early easily miss one contour
somewhere near valley, Badgeworthy.
I do not recall who assumes the lead
excepting leaden roof, lowering,
insolent, unknowing of its place.
Drumming rain soon invades
and we climb receding summits
past bracken and through
dragging brush and scratchy heather.
Little D encapsulates
surprised determined reservoirs.
Towards the set west I’s trudge
in bright yellow waxed bicycle cape,
dogged pushing on, of overweight,
chunky Bunter, globules drain
down his institution lens.
We trace scoured river beds,
stumble over abraded sods,
trip over granite shaped like setts
and choose tussock clumps
through boggy sphagnum or peat
though unaffects wetness complete.
S just keeps his bounce along,
bright eyes in mousy draining face
undimmed by spasms of
lashing horizon waves of rain
or the slow, steady relentless drench
which constantly is with us, sweats.
Demoralised, dawning comes
we have passed these rocks before,
this now frothy water trickle
and familiar combe,
and are retracing territory
and our footsteps of some hours ago;
at our gloomiest moment, we pause,
our attention caught by the edge close above.
The sun setting and hidden by the cut,
our foreground in darkness, dank,
three magnificent stags make stand,
silhouette clear, equidistant part,
observant masters of the glen,
we, unleadered unacquainted herd
but passing interest to them.
We know in this shared moment
that we will not forget.
I imagine J, curly, broadest burr,
narrowed eyes in unwashed face,
patrol’s rough diamond
from amongst jungle estate,
has never seen a single deer;
will have offspring scattered by and by,
for army train, maybe for country die,
and will not on Exmoor fail.
These three, each his commanding officer.
Without inviting the near despair of circumstance,
this is sight that would elude us.
Like something Narnia born,
these beasts have allowance made,
themselves be seen,
and we humbled, status lowered
by those whose situation is
beyond our control.
Our last campward dusky stage,
guys guided, sod cloth greeting,
Two Calling/Colly Birds
How many calls can a blackbird make?
Her dusky flute,
the dawning song
reminds she joins a chorus line.
Lying in my bed it wakes,
singing strong about my ears,
knowing notes will come my way.
My tenor calm,
I seek more sleep
but know the trill will not abate.
She knows when another cat’s about,
or some circling preying eye,
with warning flight,
alarmingly she fetches on.
Another bird will make her nest,
maybe cuckoo supplant the rest;
for now content, two in hand
and more in bush.
her cell’s been barred,
I’ll make the call,
and she’ll come flying,
Bird lime, catching her,
ready to do bird for her.
Then back on street,
though she’ll not rest,
suspecting me, reading phone,
how many calls can my blackbird make?
Sparklers swooping as she turned,
describing halo round her neck;
far the days when Jack had jumped,
her guy slumped in the corner dumped,
as usual puffed like drunken slob.
Blue light glancing, wailing cries,
at end of wick, the candles lit;
golden rain the tears at height –
what use her baubles, bling and glitz –
enough above to sparkle sight.
Forks and bangers, smoulder hash,
the firelight took her, night he went,
passing by the attic sash,
framed body where the window blind,
sky light polluted, breaking stars.
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had pieces accepted by some thirty on-line poetry sites, including Academy of the Heart and Mind; and Gold Dust, The Seventh Quarry, The Dawntreader, Foxtrot Uniform, The Writer’s Café, A New Ulster Poetry Magazines, Vita Brevis Anthology ‘Pain & Renewal’ & Fly on the Wall Press ‘Identity’. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/