By Stephen Kingsnorth
I’ve noticed, despite forty years, how scene in seen by different eyes; whatever episode we share, attention’s paid from other lists. I note the old, sway hardboard walls, the makeshift stairs, strained bannisters, while she absorbed, how cast decked out - the clothes as worn, not battered props. I listen hard to follow plot while commentary, design of frock; I watch unfold the story told, while she dislikes the wallpaper. And so it is when shift from screen, one pastels, other primaries - I see the clouds, think umbrella, she light and shade, the dappled mix. I see some couples overtalk, soliloquies dressed as conversed, but I think complementary verse, gold sovereign, both head, obverse.
My first flight, fright and fight dismissed, but overwhelmed by odds at night, was blocks away - file any plan - put miles from my adversaries. There was threat, thud noise from the sky, rounds, echoed pot shots, ricochets, but fleet of foot, flightpaths well known - the weary pilot knew his ground! It made me angry - just a few, but holding fast, all in their grip, protection bought, extortionate; that runway flight brought time, but fear.
I am the host, but wafer thin, received from fingers on the tongue, too soon to melt in enzyme mix. And then a draft from open mouth, a hint of incense in that air, as draught from cup of red is here. A slip by Adam’s apple, core of why this counts, to alter things, turns to a torrent in the throat, the deluge inside me, wash, drown, a soaking and absorbing sea; like fountain spilling from a tree, as fresh rain and mythology, transform us, both my host and me.
My personal nightmare, that I live long enough to see globe trashed by wanton fools, the bequest left to those I love, my children’s children, and their heirs. Creation groaning - hear the scream - at self-destruction, planet race, who do not know the final tape will wrap around their breathing space, a strangle hold, strange victory, declared, as lying in their tracks. Excuses void, out of the dark, enlightenment ignored, now paid in death of star, mere satellite, that thought itself at pinnacle, reduced to valleys, death engorged.
Footprints mark the soul of a place, genius loci, where they walked, like trench art of departed soles, balls of feet sunk into boots. The bridge, an arch, way through to heal that fast-held drag which few escape, imprinted since our mother’s breast. Regret is where the dead rule throned, for bow, scrape to what might have been had serendipity changed course, not interfered or intervened. The haunting is of memory, those taunts of failure to reply, to give a good account of why, we treated not as we would be.
How like a human body, built to breathe, feed, breed, associate, yet present selves as best they can, those private parts not on display, our homes, street seen, life’s factories; our raised up scene, best clothed, as due to comfort ways as please the eye. So why, designs on privacy, expose the inner workings, tracts? Why mirror gutters, drains of poor as stand out progress, city plans? Why entertain a view behind as focus on digestive tracks, those air-conditioned tubules, when elementary canals could feature less, behind dressed flesh? Our breathing buildings, occupants need no prize, functional design, but content folk at work and play. And we the architects on site.
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church due to Parkinson’s Disease, has had pieces published by on-line poetry sites, printed journals and anthologies, including Academy of the Heart and Mind. His blog is at https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/
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