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Wednesday 11 May 2011


We thought it was the wind                beating the shutters
making arris rails and fence posts rattle               until
we went outside
                         and could not feel its breath upon our cheeks -
even though the tree tops rolled
                                              like waves upon an ocean shore.
The past is passing by, a passing lady said.
                                                               We laughed.
He's right, my granddad said.
Next morning he was dead.

For twenty days and nights the past passed by,
stripping the tree tops of their leaves,
and then one morning all was quiet.
By then Granddad was buried -
                                             "somewhere out of sight",
as was the custom of the family
("as close as possible, just out of sight"):
                                                           two fields away
the slight rise to the furrowed ridge.
                                                      The "matriarch"
called in the priest
                          to exorcise the spirits of the past,
which worried us who thought that Granddad might be one -
      until the priest
said Granddad was long dead and had moved on.
      (Since when was twenty days so long? I asked.)
The exorcism caused a great uprush of air.
      The weeping willows by the stream
threw their branches skywards,
                                              arms brushing past their ears.
I was surprised to think the spirits
      might have been carried upwards in that way.

He'd taught me much:
to feel my way into a forest;
to think my way across a moor;
that the place to walk
      is where the ground beneath you falters;
that the grass is greenest when you close your eyes.

When I closed my eyes
the grass was greenest
      and the land beneath me faltered most
      two fields away
beyond the slight rise to the furrowed ridge.

Then when I went
                              to visit him
and walked among the stones
                              above the bones
the feedback was,
                              what shall I say?
completely positive.

Long after you are dead, he said once,
still your story's being written


Wusel's... said...

...gave me the creeps... great, great, great!

Jim Murdoch said...

“The past is passing by, a passing lady said” – great line. Not so sure about “feedback” – the word seems too modern for this poem. The earliest quote in the OED (with the spelling 'feed-back') is from 1920, appearing in Wireless Age. See here.

Raj said...

that the grass is greenest when you close your eyes. :)

strange. i have been thinking of exorcism for a while now dreaming of posting on it and here you are showing the way. coincidence? i sure hope so!

Mary said...

I also loved the line "The past is passing by." The last two lines of the poem give me food for thought. I THINK I agree.

CiCi said...

What a symphony of stories of those who have gone on.

Other Mary said...

Since when was twenty days so long?
This really touched me David. Not so much the exorcism as the implied relationship between you and your grandfather. It makes me think of my long-dead grandpa, with a smile and a few tears. Thank you.

Anna :o] said...

Ecellent Dave - a story well told.

Anna :o]

Rose said...

Out of sight but never out of mind = the place to walk is where the ground beneath you falters = the grass is greenest when you close your eyes - You tell great poems:)

Bagman and Butler said...

I also liked the idea of walking where the ground falters and how that wove through the rest of the poem. It has a powerful mood that sticks with me.

Corinna said...

a wonderful tribute to your granddad.

Windsmoke. said...

Very, very spooky, creepy and enjoyable :-).

Rachel Fenton said...

Cool (chilling?) take on the ballad. Really enjoyable and entertaining read.

Unknown said...

Powerful, efficient, and excellent storytelling, or is it real? And where in the sand is that line drawn? Poetry has a life of its own too that the writer leaves it to the reader to write in their own head.

Unknown said...

creatively wonderful...

check out short story slam and welcome your submission.

Jinksy said...

For aren't we all a part of one big, ongoing story?...

Dave King said...

Hi, good to have your comment. Thanks for it.

I take your point re "feedback", although it is used by the narrator, not one of the principals. However, now that you have shone the spotlight on it, it does seem to stand out awkwardly. I probably will look for an alternative. Thanks for the observation.

I shall look forward to another exorcism.

In truth they were an afterthought, but did impress themselves upon me.

Indeed, an anthology I would love to get my hands on!

It's true: I had my actual grandfather very much in mind. Loved the comment. Thanks.

Anna :o
Hi and welcome to my blog. Thanks for commenting.

Thank you. Your comments are very much appreciated.

Bagman and Butler
Encouraging comments. Thank you very much for them.

I hope it was in character, but more what might have rather than what was.

Thanks - just what was intended.

A really encouraging piece of feed back. Thank you for it.

Not REAL real, I'm afaid. I drew the line very faintly!

Bluebell Books
Will do. thanks.

Indeed, yes.

flaubert said...

Love the ending of this piece, Dave.


Dave King said...

Just in case you didn't get to see my replies before Blogger first removed and then - presumably -lost them in the great melt-down, please accept my thanks to all who responded with such telling comments. They were all very much appreciated.