My father’s recent move away from the village I grew up in meant another goodbye, though my impressions of the place live on in me, and my writing. I like to share an old, bitter-sweet lyrical poem, which recalls an aspect of my experience growing up in a village. It leaves out the lake, the mountains, and the church-bells – their marking of time could make an epic- their melodic ring still sounds once every quarter of the hour, and every hour in full from morning to midnight, so that people should not lose themselves in relative time.
The Village Poem
Through the veil of time I drop to the heart of my village,
child again, inhaling dust and summer-heat.
Drawn to the bright blue tiles in the dairy, I suck cool air,
watch the jet of buttermilk spool from pump to cup like silk.
The milkmaid frowns at the antics of our pianist, whose mass
of silver hair trails dangerously close to a display of camembert,
while her left hand swings a crystal pendulum, her daily rite
in search of resonance. I hold an image of her fine hands
striking keys on a white grand, giving air to Bach and Brahms
below the star-lit night, painted on her study’s cupola.
She is my link to otherness, the unseen in me, the odd child,
who rejects the cream for the undercurrent of her dream.
Crisp greens at the grocer, white roots, red fruit and purple aubergines.
The woman flicks brown paper to a cone, scoops pickled kraut:
‘Take it, to nibble on your way.’ Warm wafts of steam rise up
from the cellar of the bakery, a scent of cinnamon lingers in the street.
Taming and bonding takes place; it’s easy to love and be loved
when food is bait and the tongue’s code for paradise is taste.
In shops, daily gossip thrives, turning the fate of familiar faces.
Sweet tongues do sour talk – the time it takes to pay – a hero is made
or falls from grace. Spells are cast: ‘No good will come of it,’
and refrained, ‘Just as I said, I knew it form the start.’
Confused, I veil my face and seek the last shop in the street.
Here my village becomes the village and its many tales can be read.
I inhale the vast promise of virgin books
and a smell of print more exciting than bread.
* * * Ashen
An areal photo of my village, taken by my father.
Then there is me with my mum at the lake …
And a class picture, taken around that time, from primary school. You can click on the images here to enlarge them.