I bring this out at this time because it occurred at Christmas, and because it has become associated in my mind with Christmas - and with the anxieties that Christmas can bring for some.
Old pots, old bits of crackleware
you'd take them for, those heads she'd etch
and etch with the one trait that marked
them out as kin, their foreheads deeply
gouged by compass, pin or pencil-
sharpener blade as if a cat
had scratched repeatedly. Or then
again, more savagely than that.
All they ole hair roots dangle doon
and smothering us brains, she'd say -
and crackles too, from fir cones chewed -
and eyes tight-shuttered as she drew.
Some days I'd find her ruler nibbled
half away. It doss me 'ead in,
straight it doss, she'd say, all they ole
centimeters allus staring
up at I, givin' I the evil
eye. Sometimes I daresn't niver
even lift me desk lid up! Where'm
all us English inches gawn? All
bin eaten, az em? Her cousin,
mute, with felt-tipped plough, would furrow
pages into fields of corn, then
turn the plough into a wand, and
from the fields of corn bring forth
landscapes of magic realism,
while she, remembering, as he
did, Edens past, would commentate,
identifying features as
he drew - each one a property
of some past Heaven they had lost
but never left. The day their fathers
said Tomorrow we move on, he
mouthed or whispered with her: scroggs... now
spinney, Berts ole wilderness, dry
bunny, dummock, loff and lay. She
grinned: He know they country words right
well, he do, for they is soft and
tender like a mother - whiles town
words shout and hit out like a father.
D. A. King
Glossary (as far as I have been able to work it out):
scroggs : rocky ground covered with brushwood
bunny : a small stream flowing directly into the sea
dummock : a rounded hill
loff : a lake
lay : pastureland
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