To everyone who made it to the opening of the Patricia Shone/Nathan Ford exhibition on Saturday last, with particular gratitude to those of you who made long journeys to get here. As we had visitors from New York and from all over Britain, I thought this weeks poems should reflect that…Patricia’s pots always remind me of the patterns and runnels cut into turf, very familiar as I spent a brief period unearthing same. Regular readers will know what is coming next…..
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
S Heaney ‘Digging’
Other guests on Saturday included four of the subjects of paintings in the show. Joachim was one…
Reuben was another star guest..
From paintings of teenagers, to a memory of adolescence from Californian poet Ada Limon
Some days – dishes piled in the sink, books littering the coffee table –
are harder than others. Today, my head is packed with cockroaches,
dizziness and everywhere it hurts. Venom in the jaw, behind the eyes,
between the blades. Still, the dog is snoring on my right, the cat, on my left.
Outside, all those redbuds are just getting good. I tell a friend, The body
is so body. And she nods. I used to like the darkest stories, the bleak
snippets someone would toss out about just how bad it could get.
My stepfather told me a story about when he lived on the streets as a kid,
how he’d, some nights, sleep under the grill at a fast food restaurant until
both he and his buddy got fired. I used to like that story for some reason,
something in me that believed in overcoming. But right now all I want
is a story about human kindness, the way once, when I couldn’t stop
crying because I was fifteen and heartbroken, he came in and made
me eat a small pizza he’d cut up into tiny bites until the tears stopped.
Maybe I was just hungry, I said. And he nodded, holding out the last piece.
And whilst we are on the subject
And finally with February done and dusted, the evenings lengthening, it won’t be too long before we can heave a collective sigh over the summer heat. But for now…
The Sun at noon to higher air,
Unharnessing the silver Pair
That late before his chariot swam,
Rides on the gold wool of the Ram.
So braver notes the storm-cock sings
To start the rusted wheel of things,
And brutes in field and brutes in pen
Leap that the world goes round again.
The boys are up the woods with day
To fetch the daffodils away,
And home at noonday from the hills
They bring no dearth of daffodils.
Afield for palms the girls repair,
And sure enough the palms are there,
And each will find by hedge or pond
Her waving silver-tufted want.
In farm and field through all the shire
They eye beholds the heart’s desire;
Ah, let not only mine be vain,
For lovers should be loved again.
A Shropshire Lad X by A E Houseman
Thank you for reading