The Craftswoman – for Peggy

I wrote this poem after the death of my mother-in-law on 16th October 2018.  I was really pleased that the family liked it enough for my brother-in-law to read it out at her funeral this week.

In her youth she learned to make things,
Oh yes, her boys were testament to that.
Her needles clicked to keep us warm,
and her machine trundled stitches,
turning tailored suits for working life
and childhood clothes for grandchildren.

With painted nails and silk threads she wove
bright flowers, embroidering colour
into all the corners of her home,
where friends and family shared the yarns,
those times that knit a life
worth wearing.

And all the while her garden grew.
Every plant, she knew, by name,
their differing hues and habits,
like children sown with confidence and skill
the clematis, fuchsias and scented stock
all flourished in her daily care.

Her nimble fingers now lie still,
the crafts she loved abandoned,
and in that belovéd garden
the last roses sadly droop their heads.
Yet her flowers will still bloom in spring
and fond memories will forever warm us.

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I didn’t have a sixteenth birthday party
I’d fallen out with me dad
Over a Beatles song
Who knew a man could be so mean
To snap his purse shut
For being proved wrong

Did he love me?
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Well, he said he did
But he wouldn’t pay for a party
For an ungrateful girl
Who disagreed with her dad

So while hippies swayed at Woodstock
And the man walked on the moon
I sat in my room and cried
Over my own stubborn streak
And a dad who didn’t
Please me.

The Flock

There were geese this morning.
In the field behind my house.
I heard the noise first.
That cackling and squabbling
of disgruntled old ladies.

Then through a gap in the hedge
they came into view.
Sixty or so I should think.
Fat Canada geese lost in the dry fields
of Nottinghamshire.

I rued my lack of long lens
as ten took to flight,
gliding not six feet above the ground until,
daintily lifting their undercarriages,
they cleared the boundary on the Eastern side.

Ten more followed the first, while
the others waddled on,
‘til, in synchronicity, they rose
chattering and flapping and nimbly forming a line
that went clear across the morning sky

Their bodies, too heavy for the ground,
looked sleek in the currents.
I waved them off, though they didn’t see me,
aimed as they were, with their arrow heads pointed
towards their mysterious, distant, destination.

The Fading

The bedroom window lets in
night drafts, the double bed is cold,
downstairs though, the room
is cosy and warm,
though no real fire now,
just radiators drying clothes.

The kitchen is full
of unused things.
You can see the garden from there.
The overgrown grass and
the dandelion heads nodding
amongst the rosehips.

Still the birds come
and find the insects and crusts.
Bathing in the puddles on the
cracked path,
they still sing,
oblivious to decay.

The woman who lives here
painted bright walls beside her love,
filled the nursery,
sewed the curtains,
kneaded bread.
Alone, she remembers

party balloons, Easter egg hunts and
trips to buy Christmas trees.
Collecting up the toys, then
getting tipsy and curling up
after the children went to sleep.

Moving from her old armchair
is difficult, but the carer lifts
her gently, and reminds her
that’s it’s time for bed.
She makes the cocoa
then closes the door behind her.

It doesn’t have to be that complicated

Neatly, tidily tuck away the treasures
Fold and press out the creases
Polish those brass memories
as though they were gold

pick up the broken pieces
close the curtains, shut the doors
and turn the key in the rusty lock
trip down the fusty garden path

Move on to clear spaces
open roads and green fields
where soft breezes cleanse the air
to give an oxygen high

The cottage by the sea
barefoot on the sand
dancing in the dark, simple,
grow your own life

 

 

 

When you go

I’ll go to the shore to scream
at the belligerent sea
and the hostile white horses will gallop and rear,
starting at that curious sound.

Or I’ll climb a grey mountain
and wail from the top of that mighty rock
which will tremble and threaten,
and cause distant crowds to run in fear.

Maybe I’ll crawl into the blackest cave
and the echoes of my howls
will wake the foul creatures there
and send them out to scare the innocents.

But most likely I’ll sob
soundless puddles into my pillow,
sending no ripples into the world,
alone and vexing no one.