Why chocolate box that so attracts –
the honeyed stone, a cottage thatch,
by packhorse bridge, pink pastel walls,
with hollyhocks, delphiniums,
wisteria, bunched purple grapes?
Is it wanting outside latrine,
ash to clear daily from the grate,
the damp patch creeping up the walls,
the gentle rot of window frames,
or candle store for frequent cuts?
The old forge bellows forgery,
steps chapel pulpit, dry-rot spread,
the pointing sucked by ivy creep,
a coven met behind the pub,
black magic circling village life.
The fondant creams and caramels,
pecan pralines and kirsch liqueurs,
all pictured in the flavour guide,
tucked under lid, tight cellophane,
tempting to taste what under wraps.
The bus has left the memory,
light window sights, start weekend trip,
though Common holds important place –
blackberry stains, like smokers’ tan;
caught flutter-by in hanky thrown,
the haversacks, small khaki bags,
old flasks, with cork and grease-proof plugs,
the pepper, salt, screwed either end.
Rare thrill of journey out of town –
norm Saturday, bored window shop –
past Biggin Hill and Spitfire rest,
to heat and bracken, skylark top,
a snake in grass, V warning signs,
peacock landed straw brimmed hat.
Now low budget darkens streets,
stripped lighting from the pavement poles,
I recall sunspot, curtain pierce,
that comforted when sent to bed.
Lighthouse when few drove a car,
even when dun smog clogged the air,
we second lamppost on the left,
a drunkard pushing key to post.
Local dogs all knew it well,
too bright, sister’s boyfriend farewell,
not yet the amber glow to come,
this one white light, and on for all.
Collector of I-Spy books,
train-spotting for my urban eye
became pedestrian pursuit,
when noticed number on the box.
How many lads, walking pet,
paused at each post, though tugging lead,
to juggle notebook, pencil stub,
record the roadside numerals?
From toddler through teenage years
I never knew the lamp to fail,
the time switch worked from dusk to dawn,
those early nights, brought warmth to sheets.
Nan let go from her village round,
frank esquire scribed covers gone,
life without weddings, telegrams,
postcards arriving after home.
She missed the wait, friendly red,
a leaning post while hurried legs
breathless, caught the last, smile with thanks,
and explanation who and what.
No warn warm gold tops on the tiles,
but prone inside beyond cord reach;
some, only daily at the door,
forgot to knock, stamped postage due.
Emojis for ink curlicues,
pen fountains now a biro stick,
the spin, shots, junk she weight-lifted,
mat, recycle box deftly thrown.
Convention passed, track overgrown,
no longer fair port in a storm;
her daughter now interprets talks
when month her Dan pops, visit Nan.
His posts social media trade,
he budgie sings, poor parrot tweets,
sends now-pictures, gram channa dal,
snap chat retorts, match playing cards.
That leap too far, the step too steep,
so Nan retains her postal vote;
alarm, pre-dawn, will not return,
and evenings stretch, no early nights.
To woo, to flirt, to roam about
without plan, yet scheming prompt,
neither punctual, punctilious,
provocation, off the mark.
So far removed from gallant start,
vagabond who gallops, gads,
convention faced then flies away,
wing from sound, drab wise advice.
So leave the temple, rubric staid,
prop a pillow, sleep on lake,
wonder weddings, peer sycamores,
stand beside the woman stoned?
The circus clown may trip about
only though meticulous
laid plans, props and timing plot, but
he not entertaining troops.
Autolycus has come to town,
unconsidered trifles now
acquire, themselves, vitality,
none are left on shelf, alone.
So gallivant in Galilee,
but pause, staring at a tree –
then vacant days are filled again,
emptiness is hope revealed.
Journey for boys becoming men,
we, parcels sent, travel pass rail;
the goods arrive, report to train
for national service, soon parade.
To quartermaster, earliest call,
to lose own clothed identity,
seen uniform from this point on,
where major square, changes afoot.
Stripped, rank bed blanket only base,
where plain brown paper used to wrap
civilian wear, to send back home,
shirt, trousers, bundled pants, worn socks.
Overcoat friends, regrets for them,
as mollycoddled, wrapped up warm;
to tie the duffle, bind with string,
toggles wobble, escape from skin.
First task to package former life,
from home to Mum, who wets the space
above the wardrobe, missing case,
the luggage gone, and baggage missed.
Secrete wrapper, handwriting saved,
and even knot which I had tied,
treasure in case, the worst occur,
in fear that I catch the last post.
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had over 140 pieces published by on-line poetry sites, including Academy of the Heart and Mind, printed journals and anthologies. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/