A poem for Ricarda Huch
iron scrapes on ice and halter-bells chime with the trot
of horses. The sledge slows on the steep track,
at the top – a click of tongue – the reigning in.
One window shines in the black yard. Off the sledge,
I drop back in time and nearly slip on frozen muck.
Inside, the woman serves hot stew; she says, matter of fact,
‘Stay up, read, that’s fine by us.’ They have an early night.
I feed the fire in the hearth, wrap up and settle near the light
of a paraffin lamp. ‘You love books?’ This is how it began,
‘Ricarda left books, enough to span the valley to the farm.
You must visit us.’ I was keen, though mother held mistrust:
‘They’re odd; famous relatives don’t take away from that.’
A hiss, a splutter of flame, the antler’s shadow shifts on the wall.
Morning sun, books in open crates, scattered across the floor,
nibbled at by Billy goats – how had they opened the door?
Three dog puppies jump and bustle on my bed, gnashing holes
into the eiderdown. They grin at me, feathers on their snouts,
Their eyes propitiate. I let rip and belly laugh. From the hall:
‘It’s all right; our creatures can wander in and out as they like.’
The southern window glows opaque with frosted fern and flowers,
cold grace melts under my breath and hand, unveiling a frozen
lake, and beyond the valley, a curl of river and the white rim
of Alps like a parade of porcelain elephants under the pale sky.
From the blue … Ricarda’s voice: ‘Poetry is perception unbound.’
It will take years to feel at home with no rules but my own.
An unashamedly romantic facet of my childhood. For several years I used to spend parts of my school holidays at a ramshackle estate close my home, because my parents had a business and could not always find the time to attend to me as they would have wished. The treasure in that special place (owned by relatives of Ricarda Huch) were the amount of books, stacked up in crates because no one had the time to sort them into shelves. For me, this was an exciting and oracular milieu.
As is the case with 99 percent of images on my blog – the image of the snow tracks is my own.