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Sunday 30 January 2011

A Day Out at Hamptoon Court.

Time Change Evolution - this week's challenge set by NanU, who is driving the poetry bus for a second week.

The day begins
fishing with my largest net
and paddling along the bank.
A lot of wash from passing boats.
lost in thought and coming
unaware to where
the bank and bed together
form a slide of slimy clay.
I'm in the water grasping the net
as though my life depended
on it. Floundering.
Far out. Beyond my depth.

My Gran is picnicking and has not seen.
Somehow I splash and thrash
and find the bank.
Bedraggled      find my Gran      who loses it
divests me of my clothes.
replaces them with her great ginger fur...
Why fur on such a sunny day?
How should a lad
who is not yet out of shorts,
but out of salts, know that?

Homeward on the bus. The 152.
Hampton Court and Home are its two termimi
(that fact essential to this treat:
to climb aboard, to be
the very first, and wait for it to go).
Upstairs. Front seat. The way we came.
The way we always travel for this trip
but doubly necessary now
to hide the shame of wearing Granma's coat.

This much is what the world already knows.
Now hear the missing seconds tick away.

White noise
buzz and smudge
I side between them as between two sheets
two seconds or two hours
to swallow water           thrash
of arms and legs.           I see
the sky below             faces
peering up at me           blurred           indistinct
and one of them my gran?    
picks his way into my brain    
enters through my ears
then hammers to get out    
the buzz          or the water         unburdens itself
plays on a vinyl the sound of people talking
distant           through waves of needle scratch.
Water rolls out           drains from ears and eyes.
I see again          people           diminutive
sitting on stone chairs          spread
from bank to bank across the muddy bed.
The Thames is silent and they chat in silence.
People of stone, some stony as the chairs,
others crystal like water.
It is a city that I see           a city without buildings
a city of people           not bricks and concrete
not stone and steel, but only
of people.           There
on the very mid-line of the river,
a wave           frozen           out of time
a sculpture      an   installation           a gallery exhibit.
Like but unlike           it, the wave of death,    
divides my family
they sit on either side of it.    
I know it as the final transformation
shapes         unshaping themselves           moving
from known to unknown          each repeating
the very last words
that he or she had said to me - and me not listening -
then or now           except in snatches.          So they sit,
but not in water but in light.           A crystal light.
A heavy light, one carved by craftsmen and supporting
the great weight of water piled above it.           Magical.
This is a cave in which I'm breathing air  
Fresh air          ice cold           refreshing.      Refreshing
the thought that I, who cannot swim, will die.
I look for the wave, but now I do not see it.
In its place a rainbow hangs           No, not one    
but hundreds of.
Fragments of.
All the colours of.
And flaring
glaring from the dazzle of
fisheyes           like mini suns           unsparing eyes
unsparing of the eyes           or skin.
and either side of it           or them
the crystal people are reflected there
and are reflecting them     .      their colours
as their colours spread
like hues in  watercolour paintings
or water stirred in artist's jars. The brown
and muddied River Thames becomes the rainbow -
Is a rainbow - arced above
and only I am here to know the fact
and celebrate it to myself.

What happened to that land, that stage
in my mutation
from dreamless boy to dreaming man
as nightmares turned to fantasy and fantasy to fun?

How long I thrashed
and sank and rose
through pipe dreams, trance and watery world
to splash my way to shore           who knows.

It was not half as bad
not half as terrifying
as was the wearing home
of Granma's ginger fur.


Rachel Green said...

What a delightful piece. The terror of the child followed by the embarrassment.

So very well told, dear sir.

Shadow said...

as child, embarrassment of fur surly does overwhelm the terror... great telling once again, dave.

Linda Bob Grifins Korbetis Hall said...

powerful imagery,

ginger fur, wow.

take good care, Happy Sunday!

Madame DeFarge said...

Maybe it was a boy thing. I'd have loved to be allowed to wear my Gran's fur when I was little.

Rose said...

Wonderful! I love the imagery of this piece - your description of almost drowning is magnificent. And of course the mortification of having to parade in Ganma's ginger fur .... well I really felt for that little boy :))

Windsmoke. said...

Fantastic imagery especially the near drowning and the wearing of gran's ginger fur coat very embarrassing for the poor young chap :-).

Dave King said...

The embarrassment - more potential than real, as it turned out - is what lingers most strongly.

Thanks for that.

Much appreciated. Have a good day.

Madame DeFarge
It is most definitely a boy thing. I perhaps wouldn't have minded wearing it in private... but in public?

It's just occurred to me that I haven't told anyone outside the immediate family - and maybe not even them! - until now.

I'm not sure how close I was to drowning, of course, but I thought I was.

NanU said...

I love this poem story and Gran's ginger fur coming back at the end, wrapping up, an icon.

Jinksy said...

I even liked the way the lines made waves washing in and out across your page! So many senses were needed in the reading of this - let alone the writing...

Louise said...

Great images through this exploration. It was all great, fur coat in summer and all, but for some reason, I loved that you always got to pick the front seat on the bus upstairs, there and back. Not every child can have their own bus!!1

Titus said...

What an astonishing narrative, and I wasn't expecting the drowning section at all after that beginning! I really liked the wash of all London time through it.
And yes, who couldn't love the fur detail! I had a Great Aunt with a ginger fur and I can remember the smell on wet days to this day!

Dave King said...

Yes, you have it exactly: Gran's fur did become an icon for me, I'm not sure, though, whether that was because of or inspite of my ambivalent feelings.

Do you knnow, that was quite unintentional. I did look at the finished poem and think that I liked the patterns that the lines made, but it still didn't occur to me to associate them with the waves, but you're quite right they do echo them - and also the tide going in and out, I think. Many thanks for pointing it out.

120 Socks
That's true, but that is what made this particular outing a regular favourite. The bus started 2 minutes walk from where we lived. It waited there at least half an hour between trips - it might have been longer, I can't remember for sure. If neither front seat upstairs was vacant, we simply waited for the next one. Hampton Court was at the other end of it's journey, though coming back it was more difficut to be sure of a front seat. On the day in question - a hot summer's day, the fur notwithstanding - we left very early and had the bus almost to ourselves.

Another good point. I had actually almost forgotten the small, but yes, it was part and parcel of the experience! I think it was loaded with gran's perfume!

Totalfeckineejit said...

Funny that embarrassment was the lingering feeling, not fear! Front seat of the buswas a special treat. I graduated there from the back seat that I haunted on the School bus. An intense and interesting poem Dave, I marvel at you poetic memory! Even physically it has a river like presence, with hidden traps and dangers. Deserves to be read a few times.Strangely I wrote about a river too.