No 8 - June 1999
Understanding the first law of thermodynamics
A canal morning: wake, gently rocking,
under beech trees, to sun through layers
of overarching leaves, green on green.
Make tea and sit,
cradling the cup in my lap,
peering through condensation
into a millefeuille of light, and think
of Muriel, how she was last week
half paralysed since the stroke
sitting in her bungalow
in the village in the Rhymney Valley
where she has lived all her life.
Neatly suited, hair drawn back
as always in the old familiar bun
but now half the size it was
when, unloosed, it reached your bum
and rose a blue black crackling cloud
to meet the brush each night,
before the parlour mirror with the rainbow rim
in the days of your vanity before
you saw the light, with the help
of David Brooks the butcher s son
who had been to Oxford and studied
and held bible class on Wednesday nights.
Of course, you’d been a chapel goer
all your life. What else?
There were fourteen in the village
I counted when I was eight and
on Whit Mondays we’d all march out together
in our sunday best and white ankle socks, up
the hill to Zion
and down again, to our separate bun fights.
Later, when television replaced chapel
as Sunday entertainment,
and your flock reduced
to a few old women
and a visiting preacher but still
you practised the hymns
on the parlour piano
every Saturday night and then
belted them out on the organ
Sunday morning and evening, singing
loud enough for ten.
Later still, when ministers grew scarce,
you preached yourself. Why not?
You knew all the sermons off by heart.
By then you’d sold the post office
with its great sloping mahogany desks
bare floor boards and posters
of colorado beetles, for five thousand pounds
to someone who, to your disgust,
imported birthday cards and such, but
then the pits were closing so all the village
still came to you in your bungalow
to get advice on claiming benefits.
It was not a crown office,
you tell me. No pension.
But there were compensations.
It seemed to me that you had seen the whole
when all I knew was Barry Island
on a wet bank holiday.
I still have the wooden windmill from Holland
though my daughter has
inherited the silk embroidered
postcards of flamenco dancers
you used to send from Spain.
But you could make a walk over the Penlloen
to Blackwood, or a train
ride up the valley to Brecon
on a half day holiday and back again
in the snow, an adventure.
Your window looks out now
on a plain green hedge.
Behind it a row of poplars
and you tell me how lucky you are
to have such a view, because
the clouds remind you of the mountains.
You can watch absorbed all day.
It comes to me with a kind of wonderment
that I have never heard you say
a word of malice or complaint.
We talk of how you used to mash
the cauliflower and the greens together
for sunday dinner.
It seems important to tell you
before it’s too late,
that’s the way my children like it too.
You tell me you have read your bible
three times through now, since the stroke,
and I detect at last a faint impatience:
that you cannot quite understand why you,
who have never sat,
should have to sit so long
You are ready to get on.
All my life you’ve
turned my values
upside down and inside out
and yet remained the one fixed point.
And now, this morning, peering at miracles
through a smeared window
I find that, though
I left your faith long ago,
I cannot doubt, for you, He will come soon
and take you into the heart of light.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The