Growing older and having survived cancer at 40, a long time ago, certainly focuses the mind on the future and I was very aware of this when I wrote the poem FUTURE TENSE. I've always loved writing and still remember the excitement of the first longer piece of work I did. It was very experimental and I was certain it wouldn't get published. It probably wouldn't have but one of the small magazines, who did such great work for new writers, took that piece and many others. But that wasn't all they did. With infinite kindness, they often pointed out where I could improve my writing.
My first book was a picture book, MATTHEW AND HIS MAGIC KITE, but after that, I started wanting to capture the humour and interest of where I lived, so PRIVATE-KEEP OUT came next followed by KNOCK AND WAIT and ONE WAY ONLY. They're not biographies because all I wanted to do was to catch the spirit of those times.
It would be good if everyone wrote an account of their lives so their times are not lost. So many valuable histories unwritten and unread.
When I was a girl, I loved the American writer, BETTY MACDONALD, with her very funny accounts of her family and her life in the 1940's. But NORMAN MAILER's, 'THE NAKED AND THE DEAD' spun me up to the stars when I stumbled across it in the subscription library I belonged to at fifteen. ERNEST HEMINGWAY's 'CHRISTMAS IN PARIS 1923', was so sublime and beautiful it was like a torch for writers and the Toronto Star Weekly must have published it with joy in their hearts. I wonder if there still is a Toronto Star Weekly?
That plump little woman standing in the doorway Was, to all intents and purposes, simply opening up the shop.
But those who knew, those who watched From the lace covered corners of an innocent window, Knew she was waiting for her lover, her creamy cheeks A sudden flush of pink as he came striding, Strong, imposing and beautiful, smiling at her. Someone else’s lover, yes, but longing to take her, And she, longing to be taken.
The early morning street was silent, the brick and stone, The wood and shining glass of the great Bank behind him Waiting for him to return one minute to opening time.
Only the sudden scream of brakes of a lorry labouring past them Disturbed the peace, echoing the scream of her own heart As he stepped out of the shop doorway, one minute to nine.
Going back. Returning. Returning to where he would always come from, That place where she didn’t exist. So, here she was then, the hidden widow.
I love the sea, so I have always been very fond of this Norse myth
of red monkeys under the ocean feeding iron bars to the serpent. They
did this because when the world was made it was too heavy, so the serpent
was given the task of coiling around it to keep it together. However, the
serpent would get hungry so the red monkeys were given the chore of
feeding it iron bars to stop it uncoiling in search of food, as that would
have been disastrous!
SAIL AWAY TO NOWHERE
Little boat On the horizon Sailing away to nowhere
Rough winds Send you skirling Across impatient waters
Fiery suns Smash colour rainbows Into the roaring silence
Darkening skies Threaten spiteful rain To savage and to sink you
Under the ocean Red monkeys feed iron bars To the world’s serpent
Respect the serpent Whose coils save the world From abrupt and violent ending
Little boat, come home Steer quietly into safe harbour Where I am always waiting
When I was a girl, I was sent away to Kent, to a kind of hospital school to make me better. I was only there a year yet that year has given me memories for a lifetime, good and bad. The Kentish woods helped me settle because they formed a link to my much loved woods of home.
I walked the spine of morning Whilst the birds slept. Their little feathered bodies Absorbing the melody of leaves, The quiet breathing of grass, Waking to the delicate sounds of light changing, Their tiny anthems gathering strength Enough to fill the woods with song. Drowning these cool Kentish pathways With joy and praise.
Where, last night, a falling star Tumbled through the trembling leaves Shoring up this world’s quiet beauty.
I saw it fall. The little wren and the robin at my shoulder, The nightingale singing into the morning light. Our eyes clinging to the long radiance Of Jupiter and Mars shining briefly Onto that star ridden path.
Setting that quiet Kentish wood ablaze With the glory of falling stars, Of little birds singing.
When it’s all over bar the shouting, When the last tear has fallen And the shocked heart has settled Once more to its beating. When the requiem for the lost Has played its final bleak murmuring And sorrow brings the broken to their knees, That is when all that is left is love, Love is all that is left.
But what good is left-over love To the shattered heart? What good is hope Lying broken in the darkness?
Out of the darkness come the rains To fill the dry beds of rivers With water moving silky as young women sleeping, Rolling and twisting, twisting and turning, Their long bony feet stretching thinly behind them; When trees come to leaf like young men leaping Up branches to touch the first floor of heaven, Strong hands full of leaves, now full of flowerings And dry deserts blooming.
So when all is said and done, The requiem over and silence soft fallen. That is when all that is left is love And love is all.