see & hear

The Ballad of William James

See Hylda read On Not Writing My Novel >>here<< and The Ballad of William James >>here<<

Top Floor

This morning there are three men on the roof
next door, chimney pointers. I expected
to be alone, with no external proof
that I exist, to potter, undetected

a nobody, a mouse, unheard, unseen
undressed, unwashed, the luxury of seclusion;
but we’re a two way television screen
a face-to-face, a parallel occasion:

them, edging round the tower of bricks
like tight-rope men, in muddy bobble hats
and donkey jackets, pausing now to mix
new mortar, light up, hands around the match

and me here, sneaking coffee, timid guest
in someone else’s airspace, dispossessed

(from Sayling the Babel)

On Not Writing My Novel

I get up, puzzle on a little poem
I eat a bowl of yoghurt, wash my clothes
then fetch the post and make the bed, too late
by now, I think, for getting down to prose

which can’t be dreamed up in the bath; deadlines
is what I need – exactly what I’ve got:
dead  lines, espaliered, rootless, black on white
to  rearrange in miles of well-turned plot

all bedded in and diligently pruned
with every  branchlet tensioned on a string
meanwhile the sturdy poem grows and blooms
self-watering, an independent thing

not much to do but turn it to the sun,
its stems will straighten up, its petals sing

(published in The Poetry School postcards series, & Sayling the Babel, Hearing Eye, 2006)

The Ballad of William James

William James was sent to public school
had to stand in line for assembly in the morning
a surly sea of grey full of fidgeting and yawning
buzzing through his brain went the telling off and warning
while somewhere in the sun we kids were having fun… at Summerhill

William James would dream of girls in class
sent a silly note with F-words as a feature
when he got found out said It wasn’t only me sir
got beaten by his chums and a caning from his teacher
it’s not against the rule to swim naked in the pool… at Summerhill

William James could never tell a soul
couldn’t tell his pa for he’d surely get another
had to be a man, not go blubbing to his mother
hid it in his head like a corpse inside a cupboard
but someone’s always found to to put your arms around… at Summerhill

William James goes back to school today
had a troubled night with dreams of blood and thunder
had to take a pill to keep his breakfast under
screwed his face up tight so he wouldn’t make a blunder
the first kids to arrive, run shouting down the drive… at Summerhill

William James grew up to be a judge
underneath his wig a pile of bones lay hidden
screwed his mouth up tight as he sent boys off to prison
got the OBE as a man of strength and vision
but every child of mine gets love sent down the line… from Summerhill

(see for more of Hylda’s poetry)


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