By Stephen Kingsnorth
Higgeldy history my herd,
cottages hugging by the sward-
play place for boys, both buckler, shield,
of nightly virtue, on the verge –
grown up now to framed panes cleaning,
climbing ginnel rooves, swear-slating,
complaining of the price of nails;
crossword streets, by square set laid out
are unknown strangers to our air.
Above, the blacksmith, bellow noised,
barging the lad collecting mare;
canal not far, coal narrows pulled,
ropes slack, horse took round the bridge hill.
Dawn ovens caused the baker’s wall
seep, Ebenezer’s rising heat;
warmer than foggy Bethel’s breath,
just thirteen congregants now left
for benefit of rival pews.
Those in service left for trench when
butler aprons swapped armaments.
Round the bend Jones-the-plumber sits
near where cobbler made his last stand.
Chalk scrape for tab tapped by the bar,
girls with slates taught, backs rodded, buns,
nothing spared, no one spoiled, next to
texting Sunday School, Bible class.
Chickens, pigs, old maid’s knee, cackles,
by-back-door grunts, from livestock too.
Tin-tinker’s son still hammers pot,
piano tuner, grander seat,
from where he rout-planned the quell, trounce,
score brass band foe, far end of row.
The doctor schemed in forty-eight,
knowing his village cast reset.
As Calon Lân and Hyfrydol –
a pure heart and cheerfulness –
were making way for alien songs
the folk museum found its call,
space for a past of piggeldy.
It may be nine tenths of the law,
but it’s through grace I hold my store.
I’m told these things of no import –
agreed no value, even scrap –
but worth their weight, demented days,
for signs of times long gone before,
as triggers, synapse, galleries.
Patina of both sweat, dry dust,
the whorls of those who knew my trust;
odd saucer which once bore her cup,
the Kodak which grandfather snapped,
his button, trench art, once soaked blood –
receipt, my garage sale at five,
another from gran’s own cookbook.
Their meaning lapses when I pass –
but shards at dig are more than glass,
and torque, some filigree of love.
One child will post as eBay lot,
another dump, as curse that I
failed promise – label and relate;
but tag cannot conjure delight.
You could say that blind will follow,
they deaf to sounds that livened us –
strange tales to ways, their offspring days.
So what of ours will they hold dear,
which memories form our bequest;
what diggings from the places stayed,
pearls, grit amongst the buckets, spades?
Mirror, Mirror, Off the Wall
Her mirror was a triptych glass,
so she could catch the errant curl
and firmly wrap behind left ear
without the loss, full frontal face.
And she, a peering straight ahead,
could eye-swipe shifting shadowlands,
his body language telling tales
when he imagined, unobserved,
whether another, fairer friend.
So hinged the wings on which such hung,
reflecting too much honestly,
though litmus test interpreting,
distorted image measuring,
was no more skill than choosing men;
the offered bands were ringlet worth,
a setting placed, today at least.
Her haven for neurosis daze,
she eased the side flaps forth and back,
a stage-set apron, eyebrows arch,
lime sightline zigzag, daily course,
her veins pulsating, drams induced,
the circus tumbler, clashing ice.
Sighing, gulping, mascara stream,
she braced her frame from waste, a gain,
if only pain tutorial.
The curl escaped her lobe again.
They stared at roof-fall, ember grow,
unwonted Pentecostal fire,
ejected bombs, their target missed,
waste ordinance, like scroll of ten
commands in gold, back pulpit wall;
amongst the stars, strange blue-light sky,
dawn holy zodiacal sign?
Fire-watchers saw (least Dad and bike),
but brigade crossed the county line,
and hoses failed to fit the screw,
another gauge, and other crew.
So low the church, aground, inflamed,
the home, where gran once leading light,
community which understood.
My cradle followed after war,
bomb site my area for play;
we sang our hymns, past Sunday School,
the hall which I thought sanctified,
no wonder what the scar next door;
free standing wall, convenience,
what did he feel, though I relieved?
I did not know – I was not told,
Dad’s lifetime treasure, pilae piles;
wail siren thought excitement whine,
the lifeboat, holiday alarm,
at Biggin Hill, call, aerodrome;
though mother shivered, closed her eyes,
I had no clue, connections frayed.
A phoenix, named the Spirit, rose,
from funding, sales of work, bazaars,
but twenty on that dove had died,
bran tub, the lucky dip awry,
flown doodles, demolition site.
I never joined the dots in line,
and that concurrent theme remains.
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had over 160 pieces published by on-line poetry sites, including Academy of the Heart and Mind, printed journals and anthologies. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/