Today is a day of celebration. Summer Solstice. A time for lighting fires and giving thanks that the wheel of life continues to turn. In pre-Reformation England the fire was dedicated to St. John but this was a gloss that the church placed on earlier celebrations.
For the past half year the day has slowly been getting longer. My Grandmother used to say that the day grew or shrank by a cock’s stride, either side of the equinox. For the next six months the days will shorten-until I am back at Avebury celebrating the sunrise. Giving thanks for another year.
The title of the post is taken from Rudyard Kipling’s poem. Peter Bellamy added music in the 1970’s. Here is a version of it I have just found by the wonderful Fay Hield.
This first poem is an observation. I watched the whole thing as I waited at the station.
due to earlier congestion the next train will be fifteen minutes late…
turn disaster to advantage,
he’s read that once in a book,
so he talks to the woman
who’s folding down her bike,
and gives it his best shot.
Across a pair of train tracks,
on another platform, I watch
him launch into a complex story,
his hands talk, she smiles,
perhaps this is his lucky day.
The poem did not come easily. I had to work out the most effective angle. What do you think?
I am not sure if I have posted this next poem before. It was written in 1987 and was again a difficult write. What made it work in the end was my realisation that it needed to be pared to the bone. I had to remove all extraneous information, to distil the whole experience into just seven lines and to use the voice of a participant rather than the observer I had been in life.
to the steep house
in the anonymous row
affluence will come
and love will go
closing the door
hiding the key
I’ll blame you and you can blame me
It is one of the few of my own poems that I can recite from my head. I am always impressed by people who can stand there and speak their work. I think it adds a layer of intimacy.
These two poems came from a workshop in our local theatre-sadly now closed. The workshop took place in a gallery that had an installation of dresses. We were asked to write about which ever dress caught our attention. For me it was the mermaid’s tail fastened to a top and it looked like the whole thing had been sloughed off. The other was a dress covered in cigarette burns which I found very disturbing.
THE MERMAID’S POEM
inevitably there was some cost
nothing is free
that life had accumulated
dried my scales to the point of combustion
I sloughed my skin
and do not remember the pain
After the party.
After you had left,
As I circled our shared rooms
For a trace of you,
I saw the dress:
On a hanger;
On a door.
The first burn was pure anger.
I could have passed that off as a mistake,
But not the movement of my cigarette
From point to point,
On the ruins of your dress.
What do you make of them? I think I find the second one as disturbing as I found the original artwork.
On a lighter note here is the new video from Alela Diane. She has a new album out soon and is touring. If you have never seen her live then you are in for a treat.
I am going now to set a fire and celebrate the wheel of life. Have a good week.