After a couple of busy weeks in Bath the graduates in their gowns, hoods and mortar boards have departed the Roman city and have taken the weather with them. Coloured macs and umbrellas are the order of the day in York Street. All is dry, and all is calm here within the gallery as the rain hammers down outside.
I treasure a photo of my mother on her graduation day. As, evidently does the poet Sharon Olds…
I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head, I
see my mother with a few light books at her hip
standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks,
the wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its
sword-tips aglow in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,
they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
I want to go up to them and say Stop,
don’t do it—she’s the wrong woman,
he’s the wrong man, you are going to do things
you cannot imagine you would ever do,
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you have not heard of,
you are going to want to die. I want to go
up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
her hungry pretty face turning to me,
her pitiful beautiful untouched body,
his arrogant handsome face turning to me,
his pitiful beautiful untouched body,
but I don’t do it. I want to live. I
take them up like the male and female
paper dolls and bang them together
at the hips, like chips of flint, as if to
strike sparks from them, I say
Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.
I go back to May 1937 Sharon Olds
This week marks the celebration in Ireland of Lughnasa, one fo 4 ‘fire’ festivals, this one marking the end of the summer and the start of the harvest season. Director Kathy Burke, who once appeared in the film Dancing at Lughnasa, visited the gallery a few years ago, and within a few lines of conversation said ‘You’re from Donegal’. She had obviously done her homework for the film…
The woman is walking herself home from town in the dark
No one she knows knows where she is or what time
she exects herself back. It’s a free world and we’re free in
The influences infinite; the choices multitude. She’s coming
Across the parade ground, an empty lawn with the sea at the
end of it.
Maybe only 6 times today she’s thought of the lover she lost
this time last year. There should be some kind of signal
when it’s the last time we’re actually looking at a particular
A sound. A smell. A change of colour.
Some voice that says, ‘Look hard here; it’s the last look’.
How when you’re leaving a town in a country you might
go back to, you know enough to stare hard at the light on
the village square.
You take photos. You stand on the corner and look back
a long time
Like those two sisters walking out of the family home in
to never return. The sister stood in the doorway sprinkling
holy water saying the names of the ones she was leaving
Carol Potter It’s a free world (after Dancing at Lughnasa)
..and apropos reminiscing, on parents and children, or in this case fathers and sons…
October. Here in this dank, unfamiliar kitchen
I study my father’s embarrassed young man’s face.
Sheepish grin, he holds in one hand a string
of spiny yellow perch, in the other
a bottle of Carlsbad Beer.
In jeans and denim shirt, he leans
against the front fender of a 1934 Ford.
He would like to pose bluff and hearty for his posterity,
Wear his old hat cocked over his ear.
All his life my father wanted to be bold.
But the eyes give him away, and the hands
that limply offer the string of dead perch
and the bottle of beer. Father, I love you,
yet how can I say thank you, I who can’t hold my liquor either,
and don’t even know the places to fish?
Photograph of my father in his twenty second year by Raymond Carver.
Thank you again for reading.
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