In the halflight come the halfmen carrying their mirrorware
Their gew-gaws, their fairings and crystal
Cushions gaping their stuffing, all is muffled and hefty
At this candlelit sale.
White elephant of thought, auction of shivering
Shackled by feeling, the body’s old memories
A gavel comes down
A drachma, a pfennig, a shilling to smash it!
How much is this fruitbowl?
How much is half of it worth?
So muffled in fluffety bobbles, balaclavas, mittens
Umbumbling the streeteys yellow and whitey
She comes like a wombling thing, a non-woman
A never-never on her lips, painted all scarlet and wonky
Is Gertie, so laugh-she.
Is heat. Is smell. Is so unpeeled and possible sectioning
She is crinkled and crusty and hopeless with handbags
15 radios all on the table, none working, she handles the wiring
Does no-neighbours, no-telling and squinting
When knocks at the door.
Under the cretonne and unfumbling curtains
Lives an old lizard carved out of bog oak
Jam sandwich, red letter from Energy
So cold bakeybeans.
Cats fighting for biscuits breed flies on the inside
Ringworm on leg-pieces, carboardy flitterings
Bitchbang on the ceiling for loudness
Sing God help the Queen.
Of course, we had to go there, through the peeling hot paths of June
The flickering glitter of hotheaded you, and me – your little old Polly
Under the dust we found some things; jars,beads and rings
Oh you and your towheaded softheaded sunbeaded head
Me, with my henna red hair and my signature polka dot brolly.
Under the sky, I knew I would not last, wilting and shifting
Like a burned out poppy, eating a sandwich of day old bread
Warm coke, warm hands- you were far too demanding
I was never a hothearted girl, just a lost sad lass
Even the picnic was folly.
She wonders about small things, loose change, houses
Which turn into bright windowed reliquaries
Cold turns the day inside out, night rumples the bedding
The spectral hammock of stars.
Sleep will not alter the past, it just brushes out
Its tangles, hot neck, chilled feet walk in childhood’s shoes
To lost towns which rise on steep moors
How will she ever get there?
The sky is all cross stitched
Unpicking them takes too long.
We used to get quite excited when we were going there. We would get out our nice coats and put them on so we felt good walking together. Mum had lace tights and a woolly dress which was specked with colours. She had a long violet coat or a beaver lamb she could hardly stand up in. I had a hideous rabbit fur coat sometimes or a persian lamb one from a jumble sale with a musquash collar.I had pink ostrich skin boots.
We would park outside the house with the pargeting that looked like carved ice-cream and enter through a small door.
It was a very good kind of a garden with winding gravel paths and topiary yews. One time we went and all the statuary had been vandalised and smashed up… that really upset us. It made us feel very angry and I imagined the vandals suffering horrible curses and diseases from their stupid behaviour. Hubris leads to nemesis, I thought.
It made us feel too close to the New Town, as if our family was only a toy castle with feeble portcullises and moats which were all too easily breached.
That violence visited me in truth a little later, and scarred my face forever.
Most times the garden was was empty apart from some hoppity blackbirds. It had a strong presence and you could feel the old ones walking nearby, swishing their invisible long clothes and barely disturbing the air with the small breaths which are left over when words have long since been uttered and lost.
Mum and I would hold arms and we would walk along near my brother. He would make us laugh occasionally.
We would sometimes go up in a wooden walkway above the trees, but its bones were a bit rotten and old so we didn’t always bother.
Mum would sing a song or two or we would hum the same tune rather listlessly. We were watching for robins, thrushes and wagtails. Squirrels popped up and down and we would make the ‘skitchee’ sound they like. Or don’t like. It depends on your point of view.
It was hidden, secret, no one was much bothered except some invisible gardener.
It was good on dark days, in twilight, in mist.
Yews loomed in small vistas, little paths led here and there. Stone was lichen covered and patchy with age and bird droppings. Putti raised cornucopia on fountains which had dried up, urns coruscated with interior light as though lit by glow worms. Everything was like flats on a stage; one of those ballet-operas where the trees are applied to gauzy layered screens which drop down and down creating moonlit wonder out of moth eaten shimmering, until the nymphs drift in pursued by shepherds.
At night, when I lie in bed I wander down the paths and along the parterres again, so comforted and alone, that feeling of oneliness which pervades the never-known.
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Click this link for Veronica’s website
I just updated my website and hope you enjoy looking at it.