It was my mother’s birthday yesterday. The last day of the year. Perhaps that’s why even as a child I always liked the New Year celebrations much better than those at Christmas. My eventual explanation for this was that this was the influence of the Celtic elements in my identity.
Another explanation could be that there were bad days in my childhood but even in the worst of days New Year’s Eve seem to carry the silver lode of celebration.
And now I have shrugged off the bad days of my childhood and we are here into 2021. Despite a universally tragic 2020, New Year’s Day in 2021 seems to me to be a good day to press on with my own Work in Progress. My mother would say 'stop fretting – keep working!'
I am just now working my critical way through a selection of poems which – with the help of my friend Donna Maynard – I have harvested from my notebooks going back 50 years. Originally I never labour labelled these short line pieces as poems. It always seemed too pretentious by far. It comes from a habit of noting down in words how I see things what is happening – like bullets of experience in short lines.
In retrospect it so happened that through the years this collection of short line pieces took a form that other people – with more literary, poetic nous than me – have viewed them as “poems. The collection will be called With Such Caution - A Life Glimpsed in Short Lines.
In this recently assembled collection there are more than 60 of pieces going back to 1962. And during the confinement of Lockdown I have been working my way through them – polishing here, clarifying there. This has been something of a voyage of discovery.
I have discovered that the short-line pieces range across all aspects of my life – both imagined and – in the world sense – real. They include inner thoughts and fantasies, and outer experiences. On reflection I suppose many might be seen as autobiographical, but, like a good deal of any writer’s output, much of it just might be entirely invented.
My mother – always called “Mam” – crops up with a certain compelling frequency in this sollection.=. My brothers and sisters are there – some would say projections and retrospections perhaps growing from my storytellers mind. “Mam” crops up several times as I certainly sense that I can remember her right back to the day I was born. And then, even after she died too early, the writing here shows how much she featured in my life, in my dreams.
I realise now that I spent my childhood very hungry for her approval. I was still hungry when, as a grown up, working and with children of my own, I gave her my first published novel Lizza to read in publisher’s proof. She told me she sat through the night reading it to the very end. i was relieved when she approved and informed me that I’d got most things – the novel was set during the 1926 strike – right! Thank you Mam!
My poem here below Translucent Butter-Muslin reflects on a dream I had of her many years – and 16 books – later. Sadly, I lost Mam before she had a chance to read all the other novels which succeeded Lizza.
My mother – her name was Barbara - was always a great reader and I can feel at her at my shoulder now as I wish all the beloved readers and writers out there are very creative and satisfying year in 2021.
Here for you is a poem:
I wake up trembling - time ringing, vibrating,
calling the angelus. In my dream
I see you standing there, all in yellow,
arms raised - backlit in translucent butter muslin –
a vision pulsing before me
manufactured by stars twinkling
the sky at night,
Now I see you standing smiling.(My father
stoops over you, his arm slung
around your shoulder). And I see you
standing at my school-gate wearing
in a fluffy white coat, red hair blazing.
Then I see you in a blue crêpe party dress
at the neck in amber.
I see you smiling at my brother’s wedding,
wearing a blue hat, its brim upturned.
Best of all - I see you standing up straight
- blue uniformed and silver-buckle-belted.
But here and now I see you standing here
at the top of my stairs in translucent butter-muslin –
arms raised towards me.
|Me thinking a lot on her knee.|