Shapeshifting writer, branching into poetry from the murky world of script-writing and self-indulgent prose.
At four o’clock daily I was summoned to the keeper of the words Stately he sat in his throne in the bay window I approached with the traditional offerings Sweet tea, rich tea, and the latest scrolls for our perusal News from near and far lands, of allies and enemies, Also horse racing results The keeper of the words had begun my training eight years before Rigorous daily practice turned beginner’s frustration Eventually into the joy of the initiate The interpretation and scribing of those once impenetrable glyphs Became second nature and now at ten I could read almost every word in the Guardian Yet the keeper of the words was always wiser, more knowledgeable No question he couldn’t answer, no word beyond his spelling I, his apprentice, feared a lifetime’s study would not be enough Not enough to take his place as ruler of letters and stories Master of pen and paper and typewriter Knower of all the words As usual after the exhausting ritual of paper and ink we rested This novice perched on the word-keeper’s lap The devoted ascetic gladly bearing the discomfort and resting her head On scratchy wool, scattered with lumpy cardigan buttons and infused With the holy scent of cigar smoke and newsprint The five o’clock snooze On waking, something is different, acolytes in panic The keeper of the words has lost his words Once they flowed readily; now he opens his mouth And only garbled gibberish emerges The look of confusion in his eyes is an unwelcome realisation: My mentor is not invulnerable They call for the healers; they take him away I am terrified. He hasn’t told me all the words yet. How am I supposed to keep the words if I don’t know them yet? He must recover, he must finish my training. I am not ready. I am not ready. I visit the keeper of the words in the healing house. He is bereft of words. A mask holds them in his mouth. Hands too weak to hold a pen or book. I feed him words; a story I wrote at school, and some colour returns But without his own supply he shrivels and greys And vanishes. No tomb or memorial to visit. To trace the letters of his name. But I have the words to remember him by. I will be the keeper of his words.
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