I know the smoke and steam of
industry. Tall chimneys, the cordons of terraced houses. Shift changes: men in
caps and thick jackets leaving or returning home in the dark.
The cover of Frances Angela’s
new chapbook, Philip Street, evokes these
memories of my hometown in South Wales. I recall the streets named for
landowners, builders and benefactors. Remember the kids we were warned against playing
with … they didn’t like me playing with patsy
o’malley they said her family were thieves and rogues[i]
And there was the library too: the library just for the smell[ii]
I know that smell: dust,
polish, paper.But then my childhood
path diverges from the one that unfolds in the subsequent pages: a children’s
home, a catechism class, whiskey. This is not my story. Yet somehow, it is my
story, the one I imagine, the one I experience through my senses… pub night the dark heap of mother’s clothes[iii]
… and through empathy and compassion for hope forbidden
and lost. a girl i wanted …
‘What’s the word for the sky in your house?’ my granddaughter asked as I was putting her to bed.
‘The sky in my house?’ And I looked up towards the ceiling, imagined the open space above it, between floor joists and the roof’s wooden rafters, and I saw what she was seeing, saw it confined there as if it had forgotten to move before we’d converted the derelict barn to a home. ‘Ah, the attic,’ I said.
Fifteen years later I live in a house with no attic and sometimes I stare at the sky and wonder about all that time it was living with me and I hadn’t known.
In his Afterword to The Wonder Code Scott Mason asks, ‘… where does wonder begin?’ And answers, ‘I believe it begins with a sense of discovery.’ discover (v.) from the Old French descovrir, which meant, satisfyingly in the above context, to unroof, and also to unveil, to reveal.
We discover things when we lift the veils of self-importance, fear, indifference, cynicism, intolerance, impatience. We discover things when we do no…
Sometimes life and poetry intersect naturally. I had a brutal wardrobe clear-out yesterday, as witnessed by the pile of clothes hangers in the centre of the bed and a bulging large carrier bag destined for the charity shop. And then, through one of those random extended internet excavations, I came across this haiku by Annette Makino, published by tinywords a few years ago which I'd commented on briefly.
hanging in my closet the person I used to be
Reading it again still elicited a similar variety of responses: laughter, recognition, resignation and sadness. And this time part of ‘the person I used to be’ was neatly folded at my feet! Most of us keep clothes that no longer fit us, or suit us. I still have an ostentatious, ostrich feather bolero that I bought in the early 1980s and will never wear again but hold onto from a sense of nostalgia. But the haiku also propels me towards imagining clothes that belonged to someone else, a husband, wife or partner who may have left, or died…