My First Poem in Three Years
for Alan Morrison, whose Emergency Verse inspired it
Mother in the mirror of another I saw you,
Bespactacled, bent, burrowing into a book
Like a mole snouting grubs in the churned marl
Your stick by your side, the twinkling in your eye
Always ready with a sly fiver to slip in my palm
And your dogged pride, a Durham miner's daughter
Bequeathing to me the ghosted template
Of Methodist Sundays, Hunwick the hamlet
You grew up in, seven siblings to share, speaking
A tongue I could never master except “Haway, man”
Your teetotal Bible-punching father, turned Quaker
In old age, taking me for walks down hidden tracks
To lost villages where the stones spoke syllables
To the doomed skies and museless I cried
With the wheeling rooks in their spring tide.
I learned your canny ways years after you died,
Lonely in London and exiled, when I saw your face
In the mirror of another I cried and cried
And would not be denied.
Someone has been tearing up the autumn,
Its ripped leaves ripple across the road
Flip like hinged cards in the moist grass.
The rain-varnished houses vanish in smoke.
Drift on the air like blown-out breath in gusts:
So we forget frog-ponds and nut-gatherers,
Remember instead that weather's for us
Who know well its intentions, wind-keen
Intense as the first frost hardening
Stubble grass to a tacky ice-blanket.
Listen! In bed we hear the swollen trees totter,
Dropsical-limbed, murmuring outside the window
Like Catherine's insistent ghost voice
"Let me in, Let me in!"
Barry Tebb © 2011