Week One Poem Post

Where I begin

Today I took a photograph of the Lily of the Valley growing at the back of my husband’s allotment plot. I had noticed the plants the day before and they had reminded me of the garden I lived in as a young child. The same day my parents gave me some more family photographs to add to my growing collection. They have been sorting through their photograph albums for some time now because I had expressed an interest in putting together a simple family history. It has been very much a work in progress in my thoughts rather than a realised project. I needed to find something that could work in tangent to the task to motivate me. I think linking to a poetry prompt which I shall forward to both a poetry stanza group and another two groups I belong to using social media tools and email will work.

What prompted me to begin

The photographs came in a smart, shiny blue box. I thought as they handed me the box that it would contain chocolates. I was a little disappointed but not for long. The photographs themselves are not particularly interesting but a couple of lines from a poem came to my mind as I walked home with them.

What will survive of us is love

What will survive of us is love.

This is the last line from Philip Larkin’s, “An Arundel Tomb“. In these days, as I now refer to them, in these Covid-19 days when so much art and cultural happenings are going digital, I wonder about touch and tangibles things such as tombs, heirlooms and souvenirs. What place or future do keepsakes or physical archives have now?

This week’s theme

Is walking.

The rhythm, the place you are going, the watching of someone else, perhaps you recall trying to walk with crutches after an accident or teaching a child or laughed at the way competitive walkers wiggle their hips. It might be the walk you do every day or the shuffle walk in a supermarket queue.

I took my parents shopping to them during my hour of daily exercise. I walked through East Park. My local park. When I realised that the purple box contained photographs I asked if any were of Holtby Close. That is the first place I remember as home. Mrs Green lived next door to us. In her garden was a border full of Lily of the Valley. It was dense and always felt damp. I knew this as I often had to retrieve tennis balls from the leaves. Even though I would see the place the ball landed it was never found at that spot. Mrs Green’s daughter Marchelle baby sat sometimes. She must have been at university. I was around five years old and was fascinated by the way she put her hands in her jeans with the palms facing outwards so are arms looked twisted. I would have liked to include a photograph of Holtby Close, but I am not sure I can get there and back here in an hour.

The poem that follows is by Alison McVety from her collection The Night Trotsky Came to Stay.

How you can know a place

and not. How you can know it
through your feet, through the pitch
and crack of pavement, through games;
their stones and sticks,
through hopscotch numbers
scratched on flags with chalk or coal.
Through the clip of ropes on kerbs,
The tap on grids, through the clap of hands,
The toll of dustbin lids, the spark
Of stud boots. Through Messerscmidt
And Spitfire arms, strobed or flecked
With rationed sun. How you can see a thing,
Defined through shadows,
The twitch of nets, the very thick of it.
Through the snatch and flare
Of two fags lit with the same match,
Through the warden’s bawl
to put that bloody light out,
to shut the flaming door. How one shell
can re-shape the place you know,
shift a shelter three feet north,
so you dig for the man in the tin hat
in the wrong place. And how
when they lift your father,
caked in dust, there are no cuts,
no bruises. This is how a man drowns
in earth, this is how you know a place.

You can see how McVety uses the word through repeatedly in this poem. It steps through the poem keeping a regular pace. Today Captain Tom Moore has been celebrated as he reached his hundredth birthday and a staggering amount of money raised by his walking around his garden. Is references to behaviour in the blitz comparable to our shielding and social distancing?

Watch here Neiel Israel -reading “When a Black Man Walks” for a different view of walking

read “When a Black Man Walks” here.

We are in the fifth week of what is referred to as lock down. Life is becoming for us routine. The imagining of the future is beginning. We are thinking about how we will meet people when this pandemic is still active, while this virus is still without containment other than social distancing and hand washing.