|Moving House||Dympna Pyle|
|home||A A Marcoff|
|Home Alone||Rosemary Wagner|
|Identity crisis||John Whiting|
|Our house in France – 10th September 2010||John Whiting|
|Between Moors and Mills||A Earnshaw|
|FIRST NIGHT ALONE||Sylvia Herbert|
How long does one have to live in a house
to call it "home"?
Here we are, children long gone,
in the cottage John Jupp the miller left
to his two unmarried daughters.
to add the Victorian frontage
with their long sash windows;
to throw out a scullery here, a wash-house there,
a little coach house for the dog-cart.
Did they plant the weeping ash
and that towering pear-tree?
How can a house be "ours"?
Soon, in any case, to fall into other hands,
who, no doubt, will build a new conservatory,
or make a wet-room where Lizzie the servant
once slept; re-model the garden:
"the trees are too tall".
And even now, in troubled dreams
I find myself back in the
terraced house of my childhood
in a dull desert of suburb
where no trees grow.
Early morning cup of tea, shared duvet,
view from our window, this home into yours,
and yours, and yours -inside, outside.
Behind leaded lights an arm stretches
into today's shirt, the geography of a tie maps
the lit space between half drawn curtains:
a private act to an unseen audience.
Below, boys meander to school, slung bags
heavy with ideas; a gingham-frocked girl,
half their size, follows, waits at the road edge,
looks right, left, hesitates ... cold tea travels
the constriction of my throat.
These empty rooms, with dust across the floor
and blank-eyed spaces on the wall, once bore
the loving imprint of our lives. They knew
the warmth of our embraces, welcomed too
our friends and neighbours through the open door.
We fitted them with built-in dreams, planned more
extensions, furnished them with hope, before
fine hairline splits from shifting beams shot through.
the emptying rooms.
No solid structure underpinned us, for
the fabric slipped away, revealed the flaw.
You mortgaged our shared holding to pursue
another's en-suite smiles, failed to renew
our lease. No dream designer can restore
these empty rooms.
"That's the beauty of it, you see
the freedom, the unknown -
uncharted territory." His hand
wagged up and down, like his beard,
beating the table for effect.
Trying to see through his eyes,
I seemed to listen, but the blank
spaces refused to be filled.
My freedom lay in walls,
enclosures, safe confines.
Seeming calm and compliant
as I must, I cried inwardly.
Tears dowsed my dreams.
My man was more tolerant
than most - never beat me,
always praised my husbandry,
indulged my fancy for flowers
and soft furry creatures. I worked
at pleasing him. Fine dresses
and fine fare were my reward.
How should I leave my home,
this sheltered yard, the worn stone
paths where cats sunned themselves
beside the herbs? I closed my eyes.
No childish footsteps pattered over
this paving. My infants slept
beneath cold slabs close by.
Here alone lay my life, enclosed
within these stones. To prise
me away would imprison me.
He still talked on. Fire glinted
in his eyes: he saw bright scenes
of distant sunlit lands expanding
towards unseen horizons. Heaven
on earth lay waiting there for him.
He rose. "That's settled, then.
We embark next week." Smiling,
he embraced me. My heart
unsettled, I bowed my head.
No, nothing left behind, I assured myself
As I turned and made for the door.
I sensed a faint tap on the shoulder.
A voice that was nowhere said,
"What about me?"
"What about you?" I said to myself,
Turning to face the bareness.
After all I was leaving a great deal behind,
Half a lifetime and more.
The furniture, carpets and curtains had gone
But hundreds of thousand of stories
Slipped out of the woodwork
To furnish the rooms one more time.
How could a space so empty
Still seem so full
And silence so rich with sounds?
Was that grandfather back in his chair by the fire,
Reciting the Ingoldsby Legends;
Delighting a ten year old boy
Who kept begging for more?
And that noise from the kitchen;
Had grandma returned
To make just one more pot of jam.
This was the house
That had always seemed part of Christmas;
With painted eggshell baubles
Hanging on the years of trees.
The Christmas present toys
That grew older with maturing years,
Furry bears dissolve
And then the boring shirts and ties of growing up.
I knew the long case clock was in the van,
Yet still it ticked,
Passing the time in the corner.
And as it ticked and chimed
The scene began to change,
And Grandma nodding the passing years in a chair.
Not here or any other earthly place.
"It's too late," I said to the house.
"They've gone and I must too.
I share the secrets in your walls.
New history begins for you tomorrow,
And me today"
"Good bye old friend".
And shut the party door.
2nd October 2002
The scullery looked out on gray slabbed steps,
the flagstone floor - eroded by high tides
loosed from the faded red bucket, sponge mopped -
glistened with sugar-sized grains, black as night,
on the days the coal men came, grimed faces
spectacled in white, gritted caps pulled down,
shoulders bowed under the hessian sacks
that left dark brushstrokes on the white paintwork
all through from the front door to the coal shed
out the back where layered anthracite roared
each time an upended sack shivered free;
beyond the steps, the garden grew unchecked,
the lilac tree was always in blossom,
the apple tree anchored me to the ground,
held me on patient limbs not yet buried,
blackened, turned into fossilised remains.
20th June 2006
The woven cotton bedspread
in blue-green stripes,
the cushions with chain-stitched
make the bed against the wall
a stylish couch.
Bookshelves are sideways boxes
crammed with motley
spines in an egalitarian order
based on balance.
Posters are hung - misted trees
by the window,
Snoopy blue-tacked to the door,
affixed to the chest-of-drawers,
The Chianti bottle, stoppered
with a candle,
weeps, daisies in a paste jar
talk of home.
17th September 2010
the white sonata:
A A Marcoff
No, I didn't get too cold
sleeping alone last night
and the night before
and the night before that.
Yes, I did manage to dig up the leeks
from under the snow
and not set fire to the house
or forget to lock the back door.
I did go for a four-hour walk
all by myself and ate lunch
on a bench at the Dolphin
in a sunny interval
between snowfalls. I also shopped
half-heartedly and read
a shallow book
on how to avert ageing,
watched Lark Rise to Candleford
and an outstanding programme
on Iran. I cooked very little
but had two long, hot baths
listening to the Archers
and music. I also heard many
weather forecasts on a theme
of snow, with variations.
That's about it, really,
except the rooms have all
grown larger, and at night
I have heard unusual creaks
on the landing; my guts seem
to have twisted themselves into a tight
little ball, and a curious ache
has appeared in my heart.
I suppose it all started with my love of gadgetry.
I thought that it would simplify life at home
But now things have got into a tricky state.
It is probably my own fault, but
I see the fridge as the main culprit.
I linked it into my computer
to keep a check on our food. Immediately
it demanded a bar code reader
as well as a direct link with Tesco online.
It then needed to know what nights I would be in
and three weeks notice of holidays.
I have heard it in discussions with the cooker
and microwave and there is always an eerie silence
when I walk into the kitchen.
They say that it is to serve me better, but
if some nights I only fancy a baked potato
they get touchy, pinging messages
between themselves and the computer,
they rate the vegetable basket as low tech
and potatoes don't have bar codes.
Also, since buying a large plasma screen,
the television has developed delusions of grandeur
and an intense rivalry has developed
between it and the computer. This I am convinced
is a battle for dominance of the home
entertainment centre, I didn't know I needed.
If I'm not eating out I now sit peacefully in the garden
cooking barbeques with meat smuggled in.
With winter coming I know I will need
to spend time indoors again.
I've been chopping up wood for the fire.
I'm convinced that the cooker
has been talking with the central heating system
and I'm sure they are setting up a deal
with the gas company.
The first fuzzy spot of morning sun winkles
its way thru the bedroom shutters to firmly
poke the generous right buttock
of a Botero woman. On the mornings that
follow the sun gets lazier and starts
further and further up the wall poster.
For years we had puzzled about mouse
droppings found between window and shutters.
It was only whilst once observing early morning stars
that a close encounter revealed our fellow resident
as a bat. We were both startled.
Now, when we close up to leave,
we wish batty a peaceful winter. Next spring
we shall be back to share the house with
bat, martins and swallows.
Ours is just a brief tenure.
school playground at dusk
the closed curtains
of the Wendy House
haiku first published in Three Lights Gallery
your distant island -
waves of whispered light
through common reed grasses
You were always the one who wanted to see the world while I preferred to stay close to home. And I'm still here. I find new grains of surprise along these well-trod footpaths round the outskirts of our town. The leaves are falling along the river margin to the place where that sudden view always startles.
mist on the hills-
Traveller's Joy just turning
to Old Man's Beard
haibun first published in Presence 42, September 2010
I was born between moors and mills; Yorkshire,
a West Riding lad, and both spell home to me
though it's the moors which pull me, the bracken and the sky,
broad acres dotted with sheep, or clouds,
and the companion fields, dry stone wall edged,
leading gently down to the dale below
or up to bleaker heights
Resident these many years in wooded country,
the Downs are also home, the clear light on Ranmore
competing with many a grander sight
in my travelling minds eye,
the sudden break from cover a welcome feature,
landscape laid out like unrolled fabric
and in the valley, where the road climbs towards Leith Hill,
edging into or out of town,
a house, tile hung, local,
© A Earnshaw
They've all gone now -
the men in overalls and trainers
breathing hard as chests and wardrobes
wobbled up the stairs
and sofas thumped in place.
Six mugs unwashed upon the draining board,
crumbs scattered on the kitchen floor,
recall their noisy presence.
Rough, good-humoured, leaving finger prints
on polished tables.
At last, a steady quiet laps around,
furniture stands awkwardly, like me,
unsure in unfamiliar space.
Bare bulbs glare down on rooms unused to me,
Carpets and curtains that I did not choose
say "Do not disturb".
I light the fire and watch the unsteady flames
slowly bring life to frozen hands and feet;
my cat leans timidly on folded paws
and wonders "Is this home?"
Silence feels good, I sense the house
begins to like me
and the tension slips away.
Tomorrow ,work will start
to make this place my home:
tonight, I'll sleep and let the spirits come
to whisper "Welcome, and goodbye"