By Stephen Kingsnorth
The beetle carried rainbow, iridescence in the black; it scurried from my bootstraps, submerged, buried beneath muck. Colour frequent underground, stealing treasure from our eyes, good reason for us digging, to unearth the pirate’s horde. I notice it when talking to shy backward-stepping folk - reluctant rays from limelight, momentary centre stage. The few words heard show wisdom, reflections glittering stars; that bow hints widespread ranges, revealing the crock of gold. Our ears, sometimes poorly tuned, miss the prompted melodies - not quite our choice of music, because not a chamber choir. Though concert dress is missing, black tie not tight ringing neck, winged collars kept for angels, but who knows where they might sing? The stranger insights given, observers of people-ways - who walk to-us cul-de-sacs, off the hard earth beaten trails. There, away from street lighting, stories told, mind scribbled down, a record in brain notebooks, spoken truths, but rarely called. I seek out those well-hidden, under layered fallen leaves, slight stagehands, scripts forbidden, sounds lacking harmonies played. If clothes are sold as jumble, wide ramblers search untrod tracks, tall buildings cast weird shadows, voices ring with rainbow’s arch.
His nibs inscribes father’s obit recalling that, Dad’s tag for him. Writing with ink of history, the fountain Quink of former years, the downy terms he feathers now can never quill the moulted flight, full justice give this balding grey - though never grey his hero swan, goose insufficiency to style - eternally paternity. The point he brings to clay the task, but cannot hieroglyph the soul on paper, foolscap watermark, for columns or the preacher’s plan. He may not illustrate by paint, draft laughs at indiscretions past, the quirky ways of family jokes, or merely hint at ill-known facts - just to record those sterile dates, disservice to his gracious ways. The tales he told to factory fence, the thoughts that mustered under cap, his smouldered hopes, tamped bowl of pipe; white smoke mere curl then dissipate, few seconds they grace-cloud the air - beyond control by any script.
More fifty on she’s in a home - her lip, flared cold sore, stole the brain; for thirty years she has not known her former crazy zingy style. Back then I was conservative, for sixties boy, strange, jacket, tie, while she believed I should break free, sport freaky pink, flare trouser flowers. I couldn’t change, forbore to wear both flashy shirts with dangle bows which she supplied, her first pay cheque. I still recall that pain she showed, and I, pained look, she failed to see my blazer, old brown corduroy, were me and not a fashion show. The irony that, now retired, on visits to her addled mind she thinks me fourteen, still a child.
It started with the Christmas gift, toy bugle, which I blew at will, but mother said the sound was shrill and put me in the street or yard, where I could share thrill with myself. But in the house, my playing banned, so followed on the windless years; those trumpet blowing days were gone. The baton passed to younger son, my brother’s guitar, plectrum pick and strumming strings that pulled the girls as other ballads filled the space with scores on sheets and harmonies, harmonics from mnemonic lines, that every good boy deserves fun. As he played I hummed the blues, in my mind, a lonely room, the language of silence overruled, he on stage, but I a monk, sunk in myself until too much. They played a bugle, my farewell.
My stare fell on the bowtie, satin cushions, plumped, displayed; sad tale is of an upgrade, from snack bar, plush eatery. Where market folks had watered, strong-brewed tea, smeared wellie boots, they found the decor altered, refined, salubrious space. But waiting to be seated by black velvet round the neck - where now to fill the thermos, eat packed lunch, spam sandwiches? Cinnamon fascinating, spoils any builder’s mug mash. Taste best with conversation, just maybe laid gingham cloth - as spread on scullery table, granny’s butter, jam on bread. Shared memories make banquets - self then, now, and soon to be - with folks whose chequered stories no bar to companionship. Clean ok on the menu - disinfectant knows its place not spray-painted on my plate - frequent smiles are not amiss, while nod, shake, or shoulder pat can grace good god’s sign of peace.
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had pieces accepted by over a dozen on-line poetry sites; and Gold Dust, The Seventh Quarry, The Dawntreader & Foxtrot Uniform Poetry Magazines. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/