How’s the poetry going?
Is a giveaway question
on the pavement.
It signals you
have not read
Or otherwise you have,
and now on meeting
on the pavement
you wonder, this
that the poet
has written recently,
is any of it about me?
There is a post often shared on social media among the writing community that reads something to the effect of, “Do not upset a writer or they will kill you off.” Whenever I re-read it, I chuckle a little.
Of course, writers are not without fault and many (of greater wisdom than I possess) certainly look to their own foibles to create villains or draw inspiration for their work’s darkness. However, inspiration also comes from circumstances and experiences lived. Yes, for me there are some people’s comments and actions that have spurred particular imaginative turns. This works best when the initial situation proves a spark for an augmented parallel vista, such as in my recent series of short stories (see Gone are the cars Running in the wood Hand-tie Fenstone’s Flower).
I don’t expect most of the people who engage in daily small talk with me to be avid followers of these blog updates, though I do suspect (and can attest, from being asked) that when they do read my work, there is curiosity as to whom or what it might reference.
So here’s a clue: there just might be something I’ve written ‘about’ you.
It is a long climb up the stony mountain, through biting mists and pounding midday sun. From the crevices mountain flowers cheer the weary and tumbling water droplets happily refresh those travellers who whisper of their thirst. The higher the climb, the more the climber’s bones and muscles groan and yet everything sings until the oxygen needed for breathing is taken up for singing.
Here stumbles another traveller, lightheaded with a promised view that is always but a few more steps. She stares ahead on the path, turns a bend and there before her looms a vast pair of doors across the path. They are heavy, imposing wooden doors with large hinges. The doors open. Since there is no other way around the path but to climb up the mountain, our traveller takes off her hat, wipes her arm across her face and wanders tentatively inside.
The darkness is cool. The air is freshened by a faint smell of jasmine. A warm light pulses at the end of the walk. A figure sits in the light-
Our traveller approaches.
“Good morning, but may I ask, What are you doing on my path?”
“On your path? Hmmmm,” pontificates the figure. “Am I on your path? Are you on my path? Are we perhaps just meeting?”
“Well,” puffs our traveller, “You look as though you have answers.”
“And why do you say that about me?”
“The doors, the light, the Hmmmm-ing”
“What are your questions for me?”
Our traveller scratches in her bag. She pulls out a dog-eared notebook and a red-and-black striped 2B pencil.
“So you are a list writer?”
“Aha,” she replies absentmindedly as she inscribes.
She finishes one page, then a second. She pauses to think, then scribbles out a third. She tears all three pages from the ring-binding. As she hands over the demands in a flourish and a triumphant “There,” the little tear tassels flutter in the jasmine air.
“Are you in a hurry?” asks the figure.
“Well, I want to see the view.”
There is a pause that lengthens into awkward silence. Our traveller shifts her weight from right foot to left, left to right.
“Well, I hope you going to read my list of questions.”
The figure looks at each page very intently, very carefully. He squints, he stares.
“And?” asks our traveller.
He turns the pages upside down, vertical, horizontal. Our traveller begins to tap her impatient foot a little.
The figure continues to scrutinize the pages, as if he is trying to see between the fibres.
Finally the figure holds out the pages.
“What? You want me to take them back? But those are all my questions. About everything. I thought you had answers.”
Another of those pontification pauses.
The figure replied, “But where is the question for me?”
Our traveller turns over the pages before stuffing them into her bag. She turns to leave and try her luck climbing up the mountain. As she turns, she notices that the figure is no longer in the light but is standing next to her asking –
“What is your name? How are you? How can I help you?”
And the air was still fresh with the faint smell of jasmine and questions.
A climb up Kili
Only it’s Archway Hill.
King prawns in chilli butter
at Café Rouge –
At the end of last year I was searching for this poem amongst my papers. Although distressed at the loss of the original gem (Where is it? I kept asking on Twitter.), I attempted an alternative take on the subject.
But good news! While typing up the handwritten drafts for this bumper month of 2×52 poems, I found my five-line treasure. I was so pleased – and am delighted to now share it with you as the penultimate verse in this week of London poems.
This micro-poem was written in reply to a friend’s question, posed when we met for a catch-up lunch. At the time I was volunteering at Lauderdale House, a community arts centre in Highgate.
Next month I will be one of four poets reading at Lauderdale in support of a fundraising campaign towards renovating the house. The reading will be at 8pm on Wednesday, 26th February. Tickets are £5/£3 concessions. Further details are available on Lauderdale House’s events page. If you are in London, it would be fun to meet you.