It has taken 16 years to get to this moment. I know it’s a compromise, to publish secretly, but I can’t yet find the courage to do more. Apologies to Ted Hughes for the mind fox – he stands over me like a Himalayan peak, breathtaking and unreachable!
In order to write poems, I have had to tell myself that they are no more than photos – people are quite ready to share those without embarrassment – too ready you might think – so why not poems? My visual imagination is very limited and I find I can record experiences and hold on to them better when I use words.
My beginning was when I reached 50, mid life crisis well under way. I was in a bit of a state after the end of my marriage. I decided to walk the coast to coast path and that it would be good to record my emotional progress across the country and not just my physical journey. I did have the idea that it would be good to leave the poems of my journey at suitable staging posts on the route but lacked conviction. You may see why….
This is the first:
Hunched, grey pressure surrounding, I set out
in a taxi’s cavern, wrapt in my own
fears. The metre counted out time’s progress,
a chosen inevitability
an external movement, even advance,
to disguise the paralysis, frozen
above shattered fragments of the past.
The pilgrim’s burden, I feared, marked me out
As an object of ridicule. Clearly
It was too and heavy for someone
Of my age. My aloneness was shaming.
God knows, the empty carriage brought relief
leaving me free to watch the urban sprawl,
Rose-bay willow herbs, rusty rails, litter,
abandoned rolling stock, all were constant
to the child being taken along helpless.
The train’s motion rocked me. Anxiety
ebbed and revealed the sun shining across
the drab farmland of Cheshire. Odd people
came and went on their errands of duty
and pleasure. Hints of poverty, narrow
horizons, smoke filled brick clad anoraks
in childlike preoccupation, blind to
the inter-city sophistication.
a relief to see the Lakeland mountains
the first sign of adventure and escape.
After the last department store was left
safely in Carlisle, the train scraped and groaned
through dismal towns, hugging the coast, distant
from challenging obstacles, postponing
real engagement. I felt safe from people’s
attention until stepping from the train
I instinctively headed towards the sea,
And away from the possibility
of conversation. The self conscious fear
returned but I forced myself back to knock
on the door to a night’s camping, strangely
to sleep lawn bound amidst the suburban
poppies, lupins and neglected greenhouse.