Sometimes, we see the reality of relationships and sometimes, we don’t.
TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT
If, carefully, I made a blue Chinese junk And put it at your feet Very tenderly. Would you take it into your hands And keep it safe. Or would you breathe upon it a small wind To make it float away from you.
Or would you, Very gently, Maroon it on a waterlily And let it rot.
This poem came to be written because I’d been thinking about a music teacher we had at school. He was a very diffident man who had to try and teach some elements of music to a crowd of children for whom, by and large, music was a closed book. He stuck in my mind because I liked him and liked what he was endeavouring to do. Of course, a couple of years later came rock and roll, the whole world of music opened up to us and then we were all music, music, music!
Mr. Espalier, our music teacher, Took himself very seriously, So we had to take him seriously, too. He would sit at the piano, strike a key, Muse, ‘Top C’, do you see?’ Then launch into a melody so beyond us, Only every now and again would a phrase catch our attention, Stopping the tapping of pencils on teeth, Lulling us into a silence that made us stop and listen.
But Mr. Espalier was full of surprises, One day swinging into music that followed us home, Curling all around the council houses, Weaving in and out of the pink ‘Peace’ roses Flowering in almost every garden, Dogging our heels, scaring the unwary, Banging on front doors and demanding entry.
We flung the doors wide enough, of course, For every note to march straight in. Until, like Mr. Espalier, this friendly, beaming stranger, Demanded our full concentration before it would begin, Almost carelessly, to give us its family name.
It was Dave Brubeck and Fats Waller, Moody blues man, Muddy Waters. Chopin and his mazurkas, Ravel and Woody Guthrie. Honky-tonk, rock’n’roll and Gospel Mahalia. Sibelius, with the drowning beauty of his ‘Finlandia.’ ‘Ophelia! Oh, Ophelia!’ Silky Peggy Lee and lovely ice-cool Ella. Stravinsky in the Spring and Arnold Schoenberg Whose every chord sent a flurry Of exclamation marks flying through the air, Filling every child there full of astounded questions. Then, ‘Stand to attention, you lot at the back,’ For here comes Elgar, As this glorious new family member Claimed our hearts once for always and for ever.
It isn’t only the immediate pain, It is the acquired pain That troubles and torments the pockets of the mind With its terrible, unending energy, Of memories that hurt and burn, scald and bite, Feeding on our disasters, Growing fat and greedy on our cataclysmic tragedies.
At least, this is what we think As we survey the wreckage behind us And the very uncertain structure that lies ahead, Of a life that has somehow accommodated A train crash of gargantuan proportions, Or, maybe, to others, a bump of Lilliputian dimensions Blown up like a balloon.
Until that fretful thinker suddenly says, ‘Ah, sod it,’ and finally lets the whole of it float away, To leave behind a nice, clean life sheet to scribble on. Oh, what joy to start again. To forgive as many times as we need to.
These mountains enfold peace. All that can be heard are the far away sounds of birds and water, the sound of the wind, and the rattling of loose stones as they are dislodged by even the most careful feet. Then, quite suddenly, a jet aircraft screams through the sky, weaves around, swooping so close until you’re convinced they’ve come to give you a lift, then they’re gone. And we look at the eagles hovering, balancing on the air, letting the silence return.
It is wild up here. The wind and the rocks and the dry grass Do not care Who sees them, Nor how far you have come.
They are going nowhere. They can wait Until you have gone.
But when you’ve gone, Like silk, The rocks will tumble Into lovely shapes.
A veil, A waterfall, A plume of stones To lie on the dry, dry, grass. Making the mountain beautiful.